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Mothers are closer to God the Creator

It’s been three weeks now since Anni tagged me to participate in the #RockingMotherhood challenge.  I hadn’t forgotten about the challenge–I was just thinking.

Because it IS a challenge, in a society that’s hell bent on making mothers feel that they are never quite good enough, to focus on the positive.  And it can be intimidating to toot one’s own horn, especially since I just did not long ago.  Plus I am a perfectionist, and am far more likely to be berating myself for my motherhood failures than congratulating myself on my wins.

So to get myself in the proper frame of mind, I decided to ask the people who ought to really know the answer to this question: my family.

My big kids all wanted time to think up a good answer.  I’m still waiting. But William’s answer to the question: “How am I a good mother?” was just what I needed:  “How AREN’T you a good mother?”

Seriously, y’all, William is my biggest cheerleader.

Lorelei said, “You feed me,” but that’s a pretty low bar for motherhood, I have to say.  She did add, “You look at my pictures,” and allowed that I could translate that into, “You support my artistic pursuits,” which I think I can work with.

John had two answers, and since they were the two things I’d already thought of myself, I considered it a sign that I was on the right track.   (I marked those with a *)

So here, without further ado, is the list of some ways I am #RockingMotherhood.

  • I am a good advocate for my children.*  William has an IEP.  I show up at meetings with an intimidating-looking binder full of research/ammunition and an attitude.  Yes, I am That Mom.  I don’t care if anyone at the school likes me and some of them probably don’t, but most of them understand and appreciate parents who educate themselves and are engaged in their children’s education.  I was not always as good at this as I am now, which leads me to my next point . . .
  • I learn from my mistakes.  I am not under some kind of illusion that I know everything about parenting.  In fact, as the years go on I really feel like I know less and less.  I don’t see anything wrong with apologizing when I don’t get it right, or with changing my approach from kid to kid or even from week to week.
  • I have (mostly) figured out the truly important aspects of parenting teenagers.* You can read more about that here.
  • I know how to provide the right kind of support for my adult kids.  I didn’t tell my big kids where to go to college.  I didn’t tell them what classes to take or what to major in.  I don’t pry into their personal affairs or tell them more than once that I disagree with a choice they have made. I DO give advice when requested, feed them when they are hungry, help them with adult things they haven’t learned about yet, and provide financial support when requested if I can.
  • I celebrate and support my kids’ interests, even when I don’t share them.  It’s easy for me to support Emily’s interests in literature and writing, since I love those things too.  It’s harder to remain enthralled by William’s fascination with all things Godzilla.  But I listen and learn.  I consider it a privilege that my kids want to share their passions with me.  And you know what?  You can develop an interest in anything that is loved by the people you love, if you try hard enough.
  • I don’t live a life that revolves around my children.  My kids know that my relationship with their father is important and that he and I will be spending time away from them frequently.  They know that I need time alone.  They know that I have interests and passions and they are expected to pay attention if I want to share about those just as I listen when they tell me about their passions.
  • I model faith, morals, values, and principles.  My kids have seen me go to Mass every Sunday and they’ve watched me march for causes I believe in.  We have conversations about politics, ethics, philosophy, and theology.  They know I am a person of strong opinions and they know what I think about things.  With this foundation, they are learning how to think (not WHAT to think), and the importance of having their own strong beliefs in these areas and standing up for them.
  • I love my children and they KNOW that I love them.  That may sound like another baseline requirement for motherhood–and I truly believe it’s a rare mother who doesn’t love her child–but the second part is just as important.  They have to know they are loved, just as they are and no matter what.  They have to be hugged and kissed and listened to and affirmed, and I am confident that I have done all those things, notwithstanding the impatience and the screaming and the inconsistent discipline and all the many other mistakes that I have made.

Here’s where I tag other bloggers to participate in this #RockingMotherhood challenge!

I am nominating:

Yanique of Kiddie Matters

Kim of This Ole Mom

Kim of Knock It Off Kim

Crystal of So-So Mom

The “rules” are simple:

  1. Thank the blogger who tagged you, and provide a link back to them;
  2. List 10 things (plus, or minus) you believe make you a good mother;
  3. Tag some other bloggers to participate in the challenge.

I picked these ladies because I KNOW they are rocking motherhood–but there’s no punishment for not participating in the challenge!  And if you weren’t tagged, feel free to tell me how you rock right here in the comments.

And here, by the way, is my actual MEDAL for being a good mother–part of a custom necklace that my sister gave me for Christmas, made from an antique French medal still given out to mothers of many kids today.

mother award necklace

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I didn’t write anything about how awful people were when the little boy fell into the gorilla enclosure.  I didn’t say anything about how quick people were to judge the poor parents whose child was killed by the alligator.  What finally put me over the edge were the comments on an article about the most recent instance of a baby dying in a hot car, left there by her father due, as usual, to a change in the family routine.

It was an accident, terrible and tragic.  Witnesses saw the father sobbing in the driveway.  His child is dead.  Nothing can change that.  And although it WAS an accident, he will forever believe it was his fault.  He will never stop going over that day in his mind, imagining what he might have done differently and wishing that he could have a second chance.

And yet the comments on this article were vicious.  Inhumane.  Merciless.  People wrote that he should be locked up forever–or in a hot car for a few hours.  They accused him of lying, said he did it on purpose, called him a terrible father.  How could he, they asked.  I would NEVER forget MY kid, they said.

The same hate that has polarized the country over issues like gun control and presidential politics has seeped into every area of public discussion.  We are all firmly entrenched in our little self-righteous camps, unwilling to listen to one another or to extend any benefit of the doubt or God forbid any mercy to ANYONE.

Loudly judging other parents arises from fear.  It’s our way of saying that we are not like THOSE parents and that something like that could never happen to OUR kids.  It’s a way of asserting control but it’s just an illusion because no one can control everything.

Chances are your kid won’t fall into a gorilla pit or be eaten by an alligator.  But let me tell you, at some point a Bad Thing will happen to your child.  Maybe he will break a bone, or be in a bad car accident, or flunk out of school, or use drugs, or shoplift, or get caught drinking underage.  Maybe she will wander away from you in the mall and get lost, or turn into a Mean Girl, or develop an eating disorder, or experience an unplanned pregnancy.  And if people find out they will talk about how you weren’t protective enough, how you weren’t paying attention, how you didn’t raise that kid right, how there must be something wrong with you, how that would never happen to THEIR kid.

And you will probably be telling yourself some of those same things.

Let’s cut each other some slack, shall we?  Let’s accept that we are human and make mistakes, some of them with tragic consequences.  Let’s concentrate on what we really CAN control–loving our kids and offering mercy to those who need it.

Blesssed are the Merciful- Showing Mercy to Parents Who Need It

 

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What NOT to Say to the Parent of a Picky Eater

You know, I’m not really a big fan of all those “what not to say” posts.  Because I think that most of the time people mean well, and the people who don’t mean well are going to keep right on saying whatever they want to anyway.

But hey! There’s a first time for everything, right? And today I feel like ranting about What Not to Say to the Parent (that would be me) of a Picky Eater (that would be William).

So what should you not say?  Probably pretty much anything you are thinking of saying.  Just don’t say it.  Because William is 14, and you can be pretty sure that whatever you are dying to tell me I already know about and it won’t work.  If you want a list:

  1. Don’t tell me he won’t grow or that he will be malnourished.  He is almost 6 feet tall, he’s had his blood checked, he takes a vitamin every day, and I cannot remember a time he had to visit a doctor for an actual illness.
  2. Don’t tell me that if I just don’t give him the food he wants he will eat the other foods I want him to.  There are things that William will NEVER eat.
  3. Don’t tell me to force him to eat vegetables or else.  See above.
  4. Don’t tell me that I’ve spoiled him by not making him eat whatever you think he should eat.  When you have a child who is this picky, you feed him whatever he will eat because he needs calories, even nutritionally inferior calories.
  5. Don’t tell me what YOU would do if you were me.  Let’s make a deal, okay? You do what works for you with your kids, and I’ll do what works for me with mine.

How picky is William?  He won’t eat any vegetables except baby corn cobs.  He won’t eat any fruits.  He likes pasta with salt and pepper, but only angel hair (spaghetti under duress).  He won’t eat hamburgers, pizza, or macaroni and cheese.  He likes crab, canned tuna, most chicken, rice, Asian food, ice cream, milk, some juice, bread, and most (but not all!) sweet things.  This isn’t a complete list, but you get the idea.  William’s pickiness is difficult enough that it has an impact on his life and his family’s.

William has ALWAYS been picky.  This is not my fault.  I did not do anything different with him than I did with my first three kids, who are now grownups who eat pretty much everything, and who were not particularly picky as children.  Shortly after I introduced William to solids, he started spitting out his baby food.  In would go the spoon, then squash (or whatever) would spew through the air.  It didn’t matter what I tried.  Even bananas! What baby doesn’t like those?

It’s a good thing that he was breastfed, because that continued (no lie!) to be his main source of nourishment until he was about two.  For a long time the only things he would eat were butter and sugar sandwiches and he wouldn’t drink cow’s milk unless it was sweetened too.  So really, I look at what he eats now and feel like we’ve come a long way.

I realize now that William wasn’t just going through some kind of phase like I assumed back then, and that this isn’t something that he is growing out of like I’d hoped.  He has actual issues that cause his eating difficulties, and had I realized this back when he was a baby there were likely therapies that could have helped.  But I cannot beat myself up for what I did not know, and now William is an adolescent who can try new foods himself if he decides that he wants to.
NaBloPoMo November 2015

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Lorelei is all about making videos lately.  She has her own YouTube channel, with a weekly posting schedule, and she has custody of my iPhone more than I do.  Today she was telling me that she no longer enjoys watching the videos made by one of her subscribers, because they all involve makeup, whether she is putting it on her American Girl dolls or herself.

“You know what I really don’t like, Mommy?” Lorelei asked me. “Before she puts on her makeup, she says ‘Ugly!’  And she isn’t ugly.”

My heart sank.  The little girl she was talking about is ten years old, just like Lorelei.  She shouldn’t be wearing makeup AT ALL, in my opinion, let alone thinking that she is ugly without it.

When I was a little girl, my Catholic school did not allow us to wear makeup (a policy they should have maintained, if you ask me).  I did not start wearing makeup until the middle of my first year of high school, and most of the other girls didn’t wear much either.

By the time I graduated from high school, though, I wore makeup daily–eyeliner, shadow, mascara, blush, lipstick, powder.  I didn’t go out without “fixing my face.”

I think it was after I started having kids that one day I realized that I thought of my naked face as ugly.  And I didn’t like that.  I knew it was wrong to think that my real face, the one that God gave me, was too unsightly for the outside world to view unless I “fixed” it first.

So you know what I did?

I stopped wearing makeup.  I stopped wearing makeup until I could look at my naked face and see “normal” instead of “ugly” when I looked at my reflection.

These days, I wear makeup for church (if I’m not running late) or for special occasions.  When I put it on I feel dressed up and fancy and pretty, but I don’t feel ugly when I don’t.

I told Lorelei all of this, but she still seemed a little anxious when she showed me a picture of the little girl in question–a BEFORE picture. “See, Mommy?  Isn’t she pretty?”

Of course I said she was, and it was true.  A ten-year-old face cannot be improved by makeup.

If you ask Lorelei (as I often do), “Who’s the prettiest girl in the world?” she’ll promptly respond, “ME!” and she might even add, “In the UNIVERSE!”  What’s wonderful is that she believes it.  When she gets on the scale it’s in the hopes that she will have GAINED weight because she’s proud of how big she is growing and she will tell that number to anyone who asks her.  She might even volunteer it.

I don’t want the world to take that confidence away from her.  But I know it will.

The Prettiest Girl in the Universe

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Featured on BlogHer.com

Am I the only person in America who is having a little problem with this?

Please understand, I am NOT bashing this mother.  I am sure she loves her son and was concerned for his safety and his future.  I’m not accusing her of abuse, or saying that her parenting caused her son to be a rioter, or advocating that he be removed from her care.

I am thankful every day that there are no video cameras recording my parenting.  I have slapped my kids.  I have screamed at them.  I have said mean things to them.  Sometimes these tactics were effective at stopping whatever misbehavior motivated them–temporarily.  I doubt they produced lasting change, or if they did it wasn’t for the right reasons.

But seriously, am I the ONLY ONE (I think I might be, judging from every comment I’ve read on this video) who sees the irony in applauding an angry and violent outburst against a child who just engaged in an angry and violent outburst?  Aren’t riots themselves proof that violence begets more violence?  If we want justifiably angry people to channel their anger into peaceful solutions, isn’t that the behavior we should be modeling?

violence quote

Please join the discussion on this post at BlogHer.

Fridays Blog Booster Party Featured

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Free Range Is Not the Opposite of

You know, there’s an awful lot of sneering about “Attachment Parenting” on the Web. (Actually, there’s a lot of sneering about all kinds of parenting, for that matter–and I’ve done my share!)  But most of the snark seems to stem from a misunderstanding of what AP even is.  So let’s talk about it–and how a self-proclaimed slacker mom such as myself, who openly advocates for Free Range parenting and benign neglect, can also embrace (as an ideal, mind you) Attachment Parenting.

So here is what AP is, from the actual website of Attachment Parenting International, and with a link to click if you want to know more:

Attachment Parenting International’s Eight Principles of Parenting

Prepare for Pregnancy, Birth, and Parenting
Feed with Love and Respect
Respond with Sensitivity
Use Nurturing Touch
Ensure Safe Sleep, Physically and Emotionally
Provide Consistent and Loving Care
Practice Positive Discipline
Strive for Balance in Your Personal and Family Life

Doesn’t sound as crunchy and weird and extreme as you thought, maybe? It doesn’t mean that you have to breastfeed your six-year-old and have a family bed until middle school.  It does mean that you don’t leave your baby propped up with a bottle in a crib alone in his own room as soon as you possibly can.  It doesn’t mean you have to give birth unassisted at home.  It might mean that you do a little research and preparation for birth instead of just believing every word that falls from the lips of your doctor.  It doesn’t mean that you are a failure as a parent if you ever raise your voice.  It does mean that screaming and smacking aren’t the preferred choices in your parenting toolbox.

For me, it meant extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and staying home with my kids, but you can practice attachment without doing any of those things.  One thing AP theory stresses is following the cues of your child.  Some kids don’t sleep well in bed with someone else.  Some babies self-wean early and never look back.  It’s not AP to force your children to conform to some ideal that that has nothing to do with the people they are.

Which brings me to the Free Range part of this post.

Free Range parenting also gets mocked online by parents who call it neglect, who would never leave their kids alone for one second, who hover over their big kids because they are so scared of the big bad dangerous world.  But Free Range doesn’t mean leaving your baby in the car in the Kmart parking lot for an hour, or abandoning your six-year-old to fend for herself for the day.  Simply put, according the website:

The short Free-Range Kids and Parent Bill of Rights is this:

Children have the right to some unsupervised time, and parents have the right to give it to them without getting arrested.

Now, how does that go along with AP?  It’s all about listening to your child’s cues.  That means when your kid WANTS to stay alone at home, you let him.  You don’t go off for the day.  You make sure he has a phone, and knows what to do in an emergency, and you go to the grocery store five minutes away for half an hour to begin with.  When he wants to stay in the car and listen to the radio while you pick up some milk at the convenience store, you leave him there.  When he asks to walk down the street to play with his friend, you teach him about watching out for cars and you wave good-bye.

A securely attached child, in my experience, is very likely to want to do all those things, because she has learned from experience that you are there when she needs you.  She hasn’t been raised to be fearful, because her needs have been met, she has been listened to, she knows the world is a good place, and she is confident.

Our society is seriously messed up.  We put babies in cribs alone and expect them to sleep through the night and do our best to put them on schedules and make them conform to our needs, and then when they are teenagers we won’t let them out of our sight.  Think about the animal kingdom.  Mammals keep their babies close at the beginning, then start teaching them independence a little at a time, and eventually actively push them away.  That’s the way it is supposed to be for us too, and if you DON’T give your kids a little freedom at the right time, just watch how they will push YOU away.

Free Range v. Attached

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1000Speak-Building-from

When Lorelei was very little, she’d get mad at her big brothers and yell, “Shub up!  Beeg bully!” With four older siblings, it’s not surprising she’d heard the phrase “shut up,” but I’m not sure how she already knew what a bully was:  someone bigger, stronger, more powerful, higher in the pecking order, who uses their position to pick on someone else.

Of course, older siblings tease younger ones.  Lorelei was never subjected to the systematic bullying that devastates so many childhoods.  My own experience with bullying took place on the school bus.

I was an extremely precocious child, and in my earliest memories of riding the bus, when I was a first grader, the big kids (8th graders who appear as adults in my memory) made a big fuss over me, calling me to the back of the bus and having me read passages from their science books aloud.

But what was cute one year was bullying fodder a few years later.  I think I was in the third grade when some of the middle school girls on the bus began picking on me.  I remember some nasty name calling, and once being smacked.  I remember some of the girls who were involved (kids from good families whose parents would probably have been shocked by their behavior), and not much else, except dreading the bus ride home.  I told my mother everything, and I’m sure she talked to the principal, and I think I ended up not riding the bus for awhile.  I know that I was lucky:  people listened, and eventually the bullying stopped.

I never bullied anyone myself (except my little sister, as she loves to remind me), but I often regret that I didn’t try harder to befriend the kids in almost every class who were bullied.  I do remember trying to talk to some of them, and in my memory they often repelled friendly overtures.  Perhaps they distrusted me, or maybe that was part of their self-defense mechanism, or maybe it was their own difficulties with social interaction that made them bully magnets.  I don’t know.

As parents, we are proud of our children for taking a stance against the bullying of some of their classmates.  Our kids aren’t perfect, but they are kind. I wrote here about how William dealt with a boy who was bullying (or perhaps constantly annoying) him.

While my sister and I both laugh at her stories of how I picked on her, but I also feel bad.  And I think sometimes about the girls who bullied me.  Because I went to a small Catholic school, and still live in the town where I grew up, I don’t have to wonder what happened to them–they are still around.  And they grew up to be nice people.  Do they even remember the incidents on the bus?  Was it was the big deal to them that it was to me, or was it just an amusement and quickly forgotten?  Do they ever think about it when they teach their own kids how to treat others?

Being bullied led me to be kinder to others and to teach my kids to do the same.  I hope that the reformed bullies from my past DO remember and model kindness for their kids.

For more entries in #1000Speak: Building from Bullying, click here.

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