I always swore that I’d never turn into one of those preachy, nagging mothers. The ones who illicit eye rolling and groans from their children, who’ve stopped listening three seconds into the conversation. I firmly believe that children need to make their own mistakes, not be tethered to or limited because of their parent’s past blunders. They’re smarter and more resilient than we adults give them credit for. Besides, life today really is different from what it was back in the day of the dinosaur. The best parents are those who listen, rather than lecture.
That being said, I’m embarrassed to say that I have, indeed, become one of the very preachy, nagging mothers I used to scoff. Becoming one was a gradual transition. So gradual in fact, that I was completely unaware of the metamorphosis. And to make matters worse, not only do I preach, but I find myself repeating the same things over and over again. I resort to using tired cliche’s. My witty, opportunistic daughters take great delight in twisting my words and proving me wrong every chance they can.
WTF Parenting Advice Blunders from this past week included:
1. Last week, while walking around the high school track we enjoyed this lovely view of Mt. St. Helens. My middle daughter, who had been unfairly torn away from reading Manga and forced to come along, complained that she was bored and wanted to go home. I expounded on the virtues of fresh air and exercise. I pointed out the lovely scenery. I reminded her that mosquitos are more apt to bite stationary people.
After only two laps she sat down in the grass next to the track and refused to budge. The run/walk wasn’t appealing to me either, but I would never let the girls know it. Instead, I handed her my phone, camera, water bottle, keys and anything else in my hands or pockets, then kept going. All went well for a while until I looked over and couldn’t see her. My pile-o-crap was still there though. A rather ugly, hurried rush to the spot revealed that she’d actually only moved a few feet away and had layed down in the long grass. I just couldn’t see her from the track. I didn’t really care that she was laying down, but momentary panic, combined with physical exertion from slogging over to her made me grumpy. I snapped at her to “sit up” and “stop moping!” To which she replied, “I’m just enjoying the scenery from a different angle mom.” She had my camera and was taking pictures of flowers, grass, etc. Touche’ A2!
2. A3 does not like sleeping in her bedroom alone. Many nights she falls asleep next to me in my bed, and is later moved by my DH. The next morning we usually find her sleeping on the living room couch or curled up in a ball near the edge of one of her sisters’ beds where she’s stealthily tried to sneak in during the night. Up until she was five she preferred sleeping alone in a dark room, now the thought terrifies her. She has nightlights, a bedside light, we routinely check the closets and look under the bed, but she still doesn’t feel comfortable. I’ve recited every speech known to parents about there being nothing in the dark that isn’t there in the day time. Upon finding her in living room several mornings ago I launched into one of my speeches. Finally, in an exasperated voice, she told me, “I’m not afraid of the dark, Mom,I just don’t like my room!” What’s not to love? It’s pink, has a castle on the wall, she’s surrounded by her favorite toys! She then rattled off a list of reasons why she doesn’t like her room. She says that the tree outside her bedroom window looks like a face and it creeps her out, which would explain why she repeatedly closes her blinds during the day after I open them. “Ridiculous!” I told her. “You’re exaggerating! It’s just an ordinary tree and nothing to be afraid of!”
Um, maybe she has a point. The tree, does indeed, have a face. A grouchy, frowny face with a big mouth. We won’t let her watch Poltergeist. Ever.
3. Remember childhood songs like, “Great green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts…”, or “Comet, it makes your mouth turn green, Comet it tastes like gasoline…” and “Don’t ever laugh when a hearse goes by, or you may be the next to die”? I’ve taught my girls all of these charming lullabies. Well, the other day while in a Portland suburb I got the giggles when we spotted this car.
A1 saw what I was laughing at and said, “Mom, you’re not supposed to laugh!” Which, in turn, got A3 upset. Apparently she took the song seriously. But I couldn’t help myself. The details on the car were morbidly hilarious.
I proceeded to tell my girls that the song only applied to hearses currently in use with a real, live, dead body being transported. This is obviously (I hope) someone’s personal vehicle so it doesn’t count. Once A3 was assured that I wasn’t going to keel over while driving we all started singing the song together.
4. Raising three daughters to be confident, independent young ladies not obsessed with the shallow trappings of peer pressure is hard. From an early age Disney relentlessly bombards them with images of princesses who need to be rescued and whose lives aren’t complete until they marry a prince. Girls’ toys aren’t much better. There are toys like Bratz dolls that look and dress like cheap hookers, or mall shopping games that include pretend credit cards. One oft-repeated lecture in our house is, “You need to go to college and be able to take care of yourself, there are no knights in shining armor. They don’t exist!” Last week during a walk they spotted this fellow looming in the trees. Excitedly, they pointed out that it was a real knight and that I was wrong, they still existed. My only comeback was, “That’s no knight in shining armor, he’s all rusty!”
This thing was huge! It had to be 10 feet tall. If he hadn’t been on private property we might have ventured a photo alongside him, oxidation and all.
5. Frogs rock! I grew up in the middle of a cranberry bog with a maze of irrigation ditches and sumps just full of the critters. Collecting mason jars full of murky water to hold frog eggs, frogs and salamanders were favorite pastimes. That being said, we decided to share some love with this local amphibian when we found him during a walk.
After reading about my endless rantings against princess mentality, this appears hypocritical on my part. A point not lost on girls. I told them we were just appreciating the frog, and that we weren’t looking for a prince. However, this frog was huge! Had he turned into a prince then he might have worn the armor shown above.
6. Why pay someone else to do something you can do yourself? Thriftiness has been a way of life for us both by choice and necessity. I’ve done everything from hanging and finishing drywall, to coloring my own hair (since I was in high school on the latter). In light of summer I decided to blend some of my “natural highlights” with fun, sunny blond shades. Yesterday my eldest pointed out that I looked like the Bride of Frankenstein.
Oh, well, it’s only hair! I’ve seen worse come out of salons.
7. Finally, I told A1 that while young we all do things that we’re later embarrassed about. Last week I sucked it up and took her to the mall so spend some early birthday money she’d been given. I hate malls. A visit to Hot Topic had me feeling a little self-conscious. There was nobody else over 30 in the whole store and most people had multiple piercings and donned black plether. Being the dutiful mom I held our bags, phones, etc. so she could explore. At one point she asked me to hold something for her, so I stacked it on top of the pile. No sooner had she walked away when a very bouncy, male clerk popped up next to me and loudly exclaimed, “You’ve got Bieber Fever!” WTF? The “item” A1 had asked me to hold was this bracelet.
Isn’t he that pre-pubescent boy who always has hair hanging in his eyes? We couldn’t pay and leave fast enough. Someday I hope she cringes at the thought that she wore this.
p.s. I still knit sometimes