Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Parental Baggage

It's nice to have a blog.  It's like a confessional for protestant hack writers.

In talking to other parents, I've come to realize that we all approach parenting with baggage. If your childhood was perfect, maybe you don't.  But the rest of us were raised by humans who didn't get quite everything right. 
  • In households where parents didn't argue, children tell themselves that they will hash things out with their future spouse so that their future children will know how to resolve conflict.
  • In households where there were too many children and not enough money, children tell themselves that they won't have a family until all of the education funds are set aside and there is a substanial "emergency" fund.  No child of theirs will miss out on one sports activity or summer camp for lack of funds.
  • In households where a child was inadequately homeschooled, homeschool isn't an option.
  • In households where children had to share a bedroom, bunk beds (and more than 2 children) are strictly forbidden.

I've been trying not to be critical (just observant) of others' parenting convictions even if I want to say, "Oh yeah, well what does the Bible say about that?"  Maybe as I listen to others, I will see my own parental baggage and try to moderate it - with God's help.  

So I confess.... The first hang-up that comes to mind is my No Sugar Rule.  You see, I didn't learn the best eating habits from my family so I want to give my children a good start... that doesn't include an addiction to sugar.   I know that I could go to the extreme and forbid birthday cake and popsicles in the summer, but I don't want my children to leave home and binge on M&Ms and Mt Dew because they never learned moderation.  I also don't want them to tell my future grandchildren, "Eat all the Cocoa Puffs* you can stand!  Would you like some more chocolate milk?" 

Have you discovered your hang-ups? 

*For the record, I do buy sugar cereals (on sale with a coupon) and we eat it for an occasional treat.


Wednesday Blues

How do single parents or single-because-your-spouse-travels-for-work parents do it?  My husband recently started a job with a gentleman because his business was too busy for just him.  Well, it seems it may be too busy for just him AND my husband.

He's been working very long hours and I have been the primary parental unit for over 3 weeks now.  And there's no end in sight.  Being the only one who maintains the house, cooks the meals, diapers the bottoms, corrects the behavior, weeds the garden, buys the groceries, taxis the ballerina, etc... is plain exhausting.  I feel as though all of my parenting resolve is out the door and has been replaced with a "whatever makes you stop screaming" attitude.  That's bad, right?

While I know their little characters are important, I'm really hoping these last couple of weeks will fade from memory and that they will not become sluggards who consume only processed food and neglect personal hygiene.

I love them.  And they make me tired.  And I think bedtime is at 5:30 because they all skipped naps today.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations

I have found that when I have unrealistic expectations, I get disproportionally disappointed.  I primarily speak the love language of gifts.  This doesn't mean that I require expensive baubles or overpriced flowers.  On the contrary, it means that gifts I give are *hopefully* thoughtful.  And I'd like to think that those closest to me know that I like to receive tokens of their thoughtfulness. 

like when my friend gave me "Happy Due Date" Flowers when baby #4 was staying put and another friend who sent a card with kind words and coupons I needed. 

or like when my husband brought me that cinnamon muffin from The Kettle in Enumclaw when I thought he was just going to renew our license plates.  

or like when Seth (age 4 1/2) brings me dandelions from the yard.

or when Korynne (age 3 1/2) offers to wipe off the table.

These are not extravagant gestures, but they indicate to me that I am special or important or at least thought of by people that I care about. 

So when Hallmark holidays (like Valentine's Day or Mother's Day) roll around, it's nigh impossible for me to put my expectations asunder.  I have them.  I try so hard not to.  I would love for my husband to make breakfast and bring it to me in bed with a flower and something shiny in a blue box.

But I'm not a movie star and my life is not on the big screen.  My life is pretty average.  Sure, we have a lot of small children and that sort of makes us stand out at the grocery store, but otherwise I am not extraordinary... to you or the general public.  I would however, like to be occasionally regarded by my family and those closest to me.  I want them to know me well enough to know that I like flowers for my garden, I like good chocolate, and I have all the kitchen gadgets I need (and any more I need I'll get at Fred Meyer's bogo sale this week).  I want them to know that a quiet afternoon in my own home is a gift, someone else doing the dishes does not go unnoticed, and that the floor does need to be vacuumed... again. 

So what am I waxing philosophically about?  Well, our culture sets up unrealistic expectations.  Seriously... did anyone get breakfast in bed and a little blue box on Mother's Day... or any other day for that matter?  Why do I, as a stay at home Mom, expect my husband, the sole income for our family, to drop a hunk of change on a blue box?  Why do I want him to be distracted from his God-given responsibility of taking care of his family?  After all, he's given me shelter, money to buy groceries, and a vehicle to get around in.  I wanted to be a Mom and he's given me 4 beautiful children and the means to clothe them. 

And don't for one second think that I don't feel loved and appreciated... 

When he comes home exhausted from working 60+ hours with knuckles bloodied from the day's tasks AND kisses me like he kissed me that first time almost 9 years ago AND converses with me over a meal AND plays with our children AND fertilizes the grass, I feel loved and appreciated.  I feel loved and appreciated 99.998% of the time (if only the laundry was always in the hamper). 

Is it possible that requiring men to be 
good gift givers 
ballroom dancers
diaper changers
Sunday morning chefs
emasculates them?

Going one step further, will I teach my sons that they are not good husbands unless they buy into the culture's idea of consumerism and permit their wives to be lazy?  I think not.

Disclaimer:  If you are a Father and did not show some form of appreciation to the Mother of your child(ren) on Mother's Day (which was yesterday, May 8, 2011), go directly to the store to buy her favorite (chocolate, flowers, coffee, whatever) and give it to your wife as a peace offering.  Tell her that you appreciate her everyday, not just on Mother's Day.  That should help.