Some days, as a parent, I find myself wondering if anything I do is right. Today is one of those days. Because yesterday was one of those days. Unfortunately, it happened at the end of one of those weeks where it seems like all you get is eye rolling, attitudes needing adjustment and disrespectful back-talk. It had been a long week…but I had been looking so forward to yesterday.
My husband and I had gone to the city for a show with my parents (Jersey Boys – which was excellent!), and left our teenage daughter in charge. We got home around dinner time to find that the younger three had neglected the entire day to do the things they typically must do on any Sunday (shower, brush teeth and – we found out later – feed the pets). We told them they’d go to bed early for not showering and brushing teeth, and gave them tacos that we’d brought home for dinner. I went into my bedroom to change…and saw red.
Literally. Red lipstick. All. Over. My. Bed.
My new, white, high thread-count, beautiful duvet cover – the one I had splurged on because I felt my husband and I deserved it after years of sleeping with a ratty comforter. Did I mention it was white? Our bedroom was covered in the carnage of several tubes of lipstick and lip gloss (and also, chewed up orange rinds). Our dog, probably starving and obviously lacking supervision, had gotten into our room and decided my makeup looked like a suitable snack. We started lecturing the kids on animal responsibility, which is when we found out they hadn’t fed the animals all day. Now, this is not a one-time thing…they are always forgetting to feed the animals. It is a constant struggle with them…so when I heard that, and realized that clearly they had completely ignored the dog (that they had begged us for) all day…well there was no countdown-to-launch. I was one mad mama.
I took their plates and what was left of their tacos (about ½ of what we had given them originally), threw them in the trash can and told them they could go to bed and see what it felt like to have the person they relied on for their food not care whether they ate or not (I’m kind of dramatic when I’m mad). I ranted a bit about responsibility and respect. And then immediately I felt bad. Not because I said anything mean or untrue, or because I think it’s horrible to send your kid to bed without dinner – but because I knew that before we adopted them, my youngest 3 had gone without many meals, and I just couldn’t do that to them. So I did something I’m not even sure made me feel any better…I grabbed the paper plates off of the top of the trash can and took the wrapped tacos that were left and told them if they wanted more to eat, they would have to eat those. And they did. I know. They were still wrapped, and had not touched any other trash besides the paper plates they were on. But still. Not my proudest mommy moment. It’s taking everything I have to not erase this entire thing, because the last thing anyone wants someone else to see is their faults. But because I want this to be a place I can be real, and because I hope some other parent out there who might think they’re alone in making mistakes in raising their kids might see this and know that they are not alone. We all do things we are not proud of, things we regret, things that make us feel like a bad parent.
That story brings me to the point I’m trying to get at I guess. Every parent struggles. Even the ones who pretend on the outside they’ve got it all together…I call bull crap. I don’t know one person in my real life that hasn’t had a mom melt-down. I’m pretty honest with myself. I know I’m not the best parent…I know that I struggle to do the right thing when it comes to setting rules, restrictions and discipline, and I especially struggle with losing my temper. I am a loud person when I’m mad…I’m a yeller, I come from a long line of yellers…and I make snap-decisions regarding discipline, and they are usually really over-the-top. It is something I am continually trying to work on. I also know I’m not the worst parent – I know this intimately, because my younger kids did have it worse. But last night after we went to bed, I could not stop crying. I’m so tired of fighting the same battle. I’m tired of feeling like a bad parent, tired of feeling guilty for wanting to take a little time for myself because I know something won’t get done if I do. Sometimes it feels like I’m treading water…small issues that really shouldn’t be a big deal, but turn into a big deal. Something has to change…I have been working on myself, and even though sometimes I doubt myself, I know I have been learning and growing. Learning how to parent damaged kids is difficult. But I have changed for the better, and they have too. And I know I can continue to do so…I definitely know I still have work to do. But in the meantime, we also need to find ways to help our kids work on the things they still struggle with, like normal people stuff. Sometimes I forget that they didn’t learn that stuff like they should have. They are still learning.
So, to help save our sanity (hopefully) and their lives (ok that part was a joke), my husband decided we needed to come up with a plan which will stop the need for us to remind them constantly about their chores (and as a result stop the fighting/yelling when they don’t get done or have to be reminded 20 times. And hopefully will prevent any repeats of last night.) I truly feel that if we could get over that bump in the road, the disrespect and attitude issues would be easier to tackle. So we are devising a plan…some kind of family center where we can have a chore board, calendar with everyone’s activities (and what disciplinary actions are currently in place…because that is an area we struggle with also – remembering what we’ve grounded who from and for how long…so then they in turn don’t feel we’re serious about discipline and continue their bad behaviors), and possibly a daily checklist of things they should know to do like brush their teeth. That way there will be no excuse for them ‘forgetting’, because all they had to do was check the board. I hope this works…because I’m just about one breath away from the funny farm.
I have also decided my husband and I both need to have some “me” time every day…30 minutes of solitude in which we can go on the porch or into our bedroom, close the door, and just meditate, pray, read…whatever. We really don’t ever take that kind of time for ourselves, and I know it’s not healthy. When the weather gets warmer, I also want to start walking since exercise is a stress reducer.
Anyway…that is the plan. I will post updates, and pictures once we get our family center worked out. In the meantime – anything (helpful) you’d like to share would be appreciated!