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Thursday, March 7, 2013

I Cannot Be My Mother

My mother did EVERYTHING for us kids. Seriously, everything--laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, you name it, she did it. Yes, I was VERY spoiled. By the time I left home, I knew how to dust and set a dinner table. Please don't judge my mother by this. She was an only child raising six children. I firmly believe she was doing the best she knew how and those were different times.

Because of that, though, I decided that as a mother I would do things differently. My children would learn how to do for themselves, and for the most part, they have.

This morning started out rough and led me into my mother's life (for the second time). Let me explain....

We, the Warden and I, began with a conversation surrounding the topic of a habit one of our children is adopting that might not bode well for the future. Such is the case with bad habits, right? In discussing this, I explained my opinion that this wasn't something that could be forced. We had to somehow help this child come to the conclusion that this wasn't a good thing and that the child would have to somehow decide to change it. We could not force the change. All we could do was explain and attempt to persuade.

We finished our conversation, and I went to talk to the child. Things were easily understood, and an agreement was peacefully made. Phew! It honestly took about two minutes. But, I also added that if what we had agreed upon didn't work, we would have to come up with something more to take care of the problem. That also was understood. Did I already say "Phew?"

All was seemingly handled, but then it unraveled before my eyes. We walked to the kitchen, and the Warden completely sabotaged my efforts. That child stormed out of the house and walked to school--no breakfast, no lunch in hand, nothing. Ugh!

I'm sure the Warden didn't mean to sabotage me. We hadn't even had a chance to discuss the terms of the treaty I'd pushed for yet. Did I already say "Ugh?"

image: tumblr.com
Add to this picture the fact that when said child walked out the door, I thought all that had happened was that the child had gotten into the car for the customary ride to school. I sent #7 out with a peanut butter sandwich (very like my mom would have done), so that the child, who has sports after school wouldn't collapse while doing said sports.

#7, after a few moments, rang the doorbell, she had accidentally locked herself out. We opened the door, and there she was standing there with her little blonde head against the wall, tears spilling onto the uneaten sandwich. Her words as she sobbed: "[Child]'s not there."This was when I understood how angry the older child really was.

image: theatlantic.com
Let's add to this picture, shall we? Immediately after that car drove away with its occupants, the last remaining children were milling around the kitchen. One of those kids comes to me and says, "We never have breakfast." In other words, we never have sugary cereals anymore.

That was IT! Really? Why is it that no one else around here can do what I do? I mean, that was the idea behind this motherhood thing, right? Teach them to do for themselves? Are they really this helpless?

image: mrbreakfast.com
I walked into the kitchen and showed the breakfast-less child the English muffins, oatmeal and bread. I explained about a dozen things that could be done with those ingredients.

I would like to step back in time for a moment....

Back to this, which was my rebuttal to some really ugly comments on this from March 4, 2011:

image: wakemedvoices.org
I confess
I made my 2nd grader go without lunch today.

My children make their own lunches.  They are given enough lunch money through their accounts at school to buy four lunches or one lunch a week for the month.  This particular child overdraws his account monthly.  It's to the point that the recorded voice from the school district calls and leaves messages daily about his account being overdrawn--they call until it's been paid off.  I only pay on the first of the month, so sometimes we're five days into the month when the calls start in.  He was warned last month that if he overdrew, it would be his last month with lunch money in his account.  So, you can see what happened.

Today, I volunteered in his classroom.  He came to me and told me he'd forgotten his lunch.  I told him I wished he would have told me earlier, so I could have brought it with me when I came to volunteer.  It was then that I found out he hadn't even made one.  His teacher was standing there--sweetest person in the universe.  She told me that he'd forgotten yesterday too.  She explained that she hadn't called because she was pretty sure what I would say.  This teacher is very good friends and a former co-worker with my mother by marriage, so she knows how things roll with the Hesses.  So #5 went hungry at lunch yesterday too.

I have full confidence that he'll start getting this.  Yesterday his teacher gave him some crackers to get him through the afternoon.  I thanked her.  She said she could do that again.  I asked her to please have him do something for her to compensate her for the crackers.  She agreed.

Do I sound like the worst mother in the world?  It all goes back to the idea of feeling entitled.  I don't want any of my children thinking that they can have what they want if they manipulate the system just right.

So, there will be a nice, healthy snack for him when he gets home today.  Like I said, I sure hope he learns this lesson soon.

Have I softened since that time? Maybe, but I don't think so. I am stressed about a child who goes off without breakfast and won't be home until after 5:00 tonight and will be doing sports in the meantime. I, however, wouldn't stress about a child who's had breakfast and misses lunch to come home to a substantial snack and dinner a couple hours later.

But, the child that went off without, set me off.

I decided that I'm tired of being sabotaged. I decided that if I'm the only one who cares, then I will be the only one who works. I will become my mother for awhile and see if there's maybe something I'm missing. I will touch every base. Every child will have a clean room and will be well fed. I will make sure of it ALL. They will wear the clean clothes I picked out for them.

At this point, I've finished four loads of laundry and three loads of dishes, fed seven people breakfast and four people lunch, put dinner in the crockpot, wiped tables and put clean tablecloths on, picked up #7 from preschool, visited the bank and deposited some checks, and welcomed two friends at my door. There is much else to do, and like my mother, I won't sleep tonight until they're done.

image: nairaland.com
I have to confess that doing this for a day makes me feel great love for my family. I now see why my mom did it for us. It was her way of showing selfless love, and in this I find my confusion. In serving them, I feel love for them, but what I've learned from teaching my children to do for themselves is that the greatest thing I've given them is self-esteem. When they are self-reliant, they come to see their own capabilities.

Is one right and the other wrong? I'm not sure, but I tend to think not.

Am I being a martyr? You'd better believe it, but I quickly learned that I can't do it grudgingly for very long. It has wrought a bit of a change on this morning's upset heart.

So, I wonder, will they notice my work and jump in to help? Yah, I doubt it too, but there was a little glimmer of hope this morning.....

#6 got up after all of this had gone down, having afternoon Kindergarten has its benefits. He asked what there was to eat. I told him about the bread, English muffins, and oatmeal. He immediately went for a bowl. He didn't sit around whining, begging me to get him a bowl, or to make it for him.

image: michelleprice.ca
Being in the mode I was, I think he was surprised when I took the bowl from him and poured the oatmeal and again when I took it from him as he was heading for the water and did it for him. I then took it, after he'd pulled it from the microwave and took over the job he was already doing of putting brown sugar in it. I think he was a bit confused as to what was going on. I think he wondered if I somehow found him incapable.

I was grateful to see that his natural tendency, at the age of six, is to do for himself. It isn't in his nature to sit around wondering who's going to serve him. He serves himself.

I have learned that my mom was wonder woman. How did she do this day after day after day?

Yes, I will continue this through today--picking up after everyone, every little thing they put down--but I don't know if I can do it like my mom did. Actually, I know I can't. I know my kids are capable of much more than sitting around, but this little perspective makes me appreciate my mom that much more. It reminds me to love and appreciate my family and all that they do and to overlook all of those things that I have been viewing as sabotage.

Maybe I need to find some balance--somewhere between me and my mom.


Jamie said...

Thank you for this post. I am often reminded of how much my sister and I took for granted our mother who worked 40 hours a week plus did all the housework, cooking, cleaning, laundry, dishes, shopping, bill-paying, school activities, etc. Kids don't realize how much their moms do until they are older and on their own. At least, that's my experience. Hopefully you can teach your kids to pitch in more. I think it's so important that they learn these skills early on.

kristi said...

Wow, hard to believe that was two years ago. I understand people having different opinions, but putting people down like so many did, I'll never understand. I don't always agree with everything, but I have learned so much. I realized the "harm" I have done when my son (almost 17) called me last Friday night while my husband and I were having dinner with two other couples. He was home alone. "Mom, you didn't leave me any thing for dinner." Note: there is plenty of food in our house. I explained all his options. His response: "But, mom, those are all things I would have to make. Thanks for not caring, Mom." I will admit, having my son learn a lesson or two by going with out lunch for lack of making his own may have gone a long way toward helping him become more self sufficient! Don't get me wrong, my son is a wonderful young man, I just didn't do him many favors by always doing. Keep up the good work, Julie. Be open to adjustments, but don't be guilted into changing your values.

Crazymamaof6 said...

fabulous post. i missed the smack down for the confessional when it happened. it's totally reasonable. seriously. makes me wonder how many kids those ladies have?

i see where you are coming from. doing it all is exhausting and unrealistic, but making them do it for themselves is tricky. most of mine can do for themselves just fine, but sometimes, they want to be a little pampered. and when they do, they ask dad at our house. something as simple as him making a peanut butter sandwich when they are perfectly capable of it, makes them feel loved. he doesn't always do it, but when they ask he does. everyone shows love and receives love in
different ways.

having them do for themselves makes them feel capable and confident. My mom always had a maid, to help keep the house in order while she did her crafts and stuff. I didn't do the dishes for the first time until i was 14 at girls camp, it was a rude awakening.

i don't make my kids help enough. sometimes it's easier and less stressfull to do it myself, and yet their time in my home is so short, how can i send them on missions or to get married not knowing how to sweep properly or do the dishes, or make a meal? i think you are on the right track, there is a happy medium.

hugs friend. you are an amazing mother i hope I grow up to be like you someday.

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