My Mind May Wander But My Values Remain

I’m  in the middle of planning my Fourth And Final First Birthday Party for Little S on Sunday. Page Six predicts it to be a spectacular gathering of our city’s most beautiful and dazzling… no wait, that was Pamela Anderson’s party, her birthday is the same weekend. As far as I know our city has no equivalent to Page Six and if it does I prefer to remain unaware. Little S will celebrate his Seuss themed party at our bar, hopefully on the patio, but who knows in the ridiculous humidity.

In the midst of this I am also feeling some pressure about how I raise my teenage daughters. It may be unintentional, but it is still stressful. No matter how confident you feel as a parent any indication that you may be doing something wrong can make you question yourself. Being bluntly told that you are a bad parent feels like a punch in the stomach. I had never experienced it until a few years ago but I will never forget that feeling and now even less harsh criticisms sting like salt on a wound.

As I paint, cook and craft in preparation for the party I have too much time to think. I’m not used to this anymore and my mind wanders easily. I have never been a typical parent and that only becomes more obvious as my kids get older and more numerous. My goal has never been to raise the best behaved children, but rather, I choose to raise decent and loving people. Their good behavior seems to be a side effect of that goal. My kids are normal kids. They throw fits, roll their eyes and talk back. Sometimes they fall down begging for shoes that they never wear after the first day or haircuts that they hate within a week. I’ve walked out of stores in the middle of tantrums and thrown my hands up in exasperation. I’m not trying to claim a Mother of The Year Award of portray my children as angels, but honestly, they really are good kids. They do normal kid things, appropriate for their age, but they also do  exceptional and amazing things that make my heart swell and fill me with pride.

Every parent has different goals for their children. That is why we parent so differently and judge each other so harshly.  My goal is to raise people that do what is right, not out of fear of punishment or repercussion, but because they know it is right. I want them to be open minded and tolerant but not so tolerant they accept situations they know are wrong.

Like all parents, I also want to protect them from danger, Again, we all have different ideas about what is dangerous and how to protect them. I don’t want to shelter my children because I feel that can be as dangerous as not protecting them at all. Just as exposure to illnesses builds our immune system and exposure to the cold builds our tolerance, exposure to life builds our strength to endure and thrive. It’s difficult to find the balance between allowing them to experience a full life and protecting them from serious harm.

Not one of us will get it right. Not one of us will be the perfect parent. And even when you come as close to your goals as you possibly can someone else who does not understand your viewpoint will judge the situation from their own.

This isn’t how the thought process plays out in mind, for the record. I bandy about the phrases “judgmental pricks” and “just wait until their kids get older” quite a bit. That is one thing people never seem to understand when they do not have children or their own children are still very young. My teenagers are my babies. I feel just as fiercely protective and loving of my 17 year old as I do my tiny almost one year old baby. My 13 year old daughter is not one speck less important to me than my toddler. When I consider my parenting choices I am fully aware that they are teenagers but you must also realize that  not so long ago they were not the young ladies that roll their eyes and stomp away, they were tiny babies learning to walk and precious toddlers saying silly things that I wrote down so I would never forget.

Our children learn and grow and become new people everyday. Every phase, every moment, has its ups and downs, but inevitably every phase ends. It’s a somber thought, as you consider your baby or toddler, laughing and hugging and loving with abandon the way only the very young can. But this phase, no matter how much you love it, must end in order for your preschool child to amaze you with her many talents that you did not recognize in a younger child or for your pre-teen to impress you with how he handled a bully at school or for your teenager to blow you away with her understanding of humanity. And someday your children will be adults, and maybe have children of their own, but they will never stop being the baby you rocked to sleep, the toddler whose owies you kissed, the child that said “I love you, too” for the first time.

How can we be expected to stop baby proofing their world?

But we must. We must allow them to live and learn and grow from their experiences. Just as I joked that I skipped the foam rubber padding on our coffee table and let Goldy learn the hard way not to run around the furniture, I must also let them learn to navigate outside our home and outside the somewhat controlled confines of the school.

That doesn’t mean I have to do it your way.

My daughters are still young but they are old enough for me to know that for all of my questions and all of my mistakes I must be doing a pretty damn good job. I won’t do everything the same with my sons. I’m at a different phase in my life, too. The world is already a different place. The only thing I can say for certain that I will do the same is to parent according to my own beliefs and my own goals.

I’m going to have my baby’s first birthday in a bar. I’m sure people will talk. I want them to know this is my Fourth And Final First Birthday Party. “This ain’t my first time at the rodeo.” I have my own set of values, my own set of goals. I don’t need yours.

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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Brooke
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 17:58:43

    As eloquent as ever. You are a good mom.. no one can prove otherwise.

    Reply

  2. Juan Pablo Verdugo
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 18:11:38

    Awesome read! makes me glad that there are others who share the same outlook to our children and the need to give them our all! What makes it even better is KNOWING that I personally know someone like that! keep up the great writing 😉

    Reply

  3. razfabulous
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 18:18:22

    “No one can prove otherwise” haha, ‘Cause I hide the evidence!
    I’m just kidding. Thank you, both. I’m always incredibly flattered by the feedback I get. Well, exceptt when it’s from judgmental pricks. 😉

    Reply

  4. Aggie
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 21:19:07

    Couldn’t have written it better myself you are an awsome mom and if anyone says different there wrong

    Reply

  5. Suzy Q
    Jun 29, 2012 @ 02:10:57

    You seem to enjoy every stage your kids go through. That helps make you a really special person. Your kids have a very good mom, the kind I wsh I had had or could have been myself.

    Reply

  6. dana
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 13:46:05

    This is amazing. “This ain’t my first time at a rodeo.” 🙂 I just want my kids to be better than me in every imaginable way. Hard to teach what I don’t know, though. Thank God for outside experiences. Thank you for sharing this. 🙂

    Reply

  7. Vanessa
    Jul 02, 2012 @ 19:00:09

    I have been to a baby shower in a club before. It’s expensive to throw parties. You either have to have one at your house (trying to cram everyone into your living room/kitchen) or pay to rent some place that will cost hundreds just to use for a few hours .. or you have one at your place of business for so much less money … I say good for you for having it at the bar 🙂 Just because you are in a bar doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is getting plastered … but I’ll admit my family is a bunch of drinkers.. if there isn’t a case of some type of beer in the fridge or cooler at any of the kids birthdays it wouldn’t be normal.

    Reply

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