Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best Mom Tip #168: Be intentional about how you raise kids

Although I don't really know if this is true, you are probably doing a fine job of parenting.  Unless, of course, you're not a parent and you're just reading this because you know me.  But otherwise, you're probably doing fine.  The thing is, there's no real way to tell if we're doing alright.  And there's certainly no way for those outside of your family to be absolutely sure that you're not wacko.  We probably won't know if we've succeeded until our kids are 40 and we're watching them parent their own kids and we think, wow I'm not not sure I would have bought little Jenny that stripper pole for "exercise".

Our culture tends to over-encourage parents by pretending that we're all o.k. and whatever you decide/believe/do is right for you.  As though there are no absolutes or best practices when it comes to relationships.  There may be a wide spectrum of ideas, but there are some absolutes.  Trust, for instance, is a pretty key component of any relationship worth having no matter who is involved.

My best example of the "love is all you need" mentality from today is this article about Beyonce and Jay-Z's new baby.  In it, one of the other children of destiny calls Beyonce a "wonderful mom."  Now, I'm sure she's a lovely person and all, but isn't that kid like a week old?  How could she be a wonderful mom already?  As long as the baby is fed and cleaned, you've reached motherhood perfection with a week-old baby.  Which puts you right on par with cats.  When your child is a newborn, as long as you haven't abandoned your family or resorted to abuse you've pretty much got it nailed.  Why comment on her ability as a mom?  Just say the baby is precious and let's move on.

This whole I'm-okay-you're-okay crap in our culture is why it is also a news story that Paula Deen has type 2 diabetes.  Of COURSE she has diabetes.  Have you seen what that woman has been eating/cooking for the last decade?  And that's just what was on television.  There are obviously consequences for putting two sticks of butter and 4 cups of sugar in every dish you make even if they're vegetables.  Likewise, there are consequences for allowing your child to have a cell phone at 8, a Facebook page at 12, and a brand new car at 16.  These consequences aren't necessarily all bad.  Paula, I'm sure, is quite happy that her fat-based cooking has made church pot-lucks everywhere tastier while also making her lots of money.  And while your kid can call you from elementary school if she needs to be picked up late, she will also have opinions on the best apps for tweens and stunted spelling due to text-speak.

I realize that most of us want to be told we're doing a good job because our culture also offers unrealistic expectations of motherhood. We are taught that we should be Martha Stewart at home (without the jail time), Hillary Clinton at work (without the philandering husband), and some combination of the "Sex and the City" girls with our spouses (without the angst and sexual over-sharing).  But who cares what everyone else is doing?  You will raise the best kids possible with the following three steps:

1. Love them enough to be willing for them to be mad at you
2. Respect them enough to see the moment from their point of view, and
3. Teach them some actual morals and values.  In our household we've focused on integrity, faithfulness, generosity, independence, and a sense of adventure.

People with those qualities are people I want to know.  They are people I want in charge of my community. They are people with whom I want to go on vacation.  Which is good, because I have to take my children on vacation with me.
The details will work themselves out. Or not.  Despite my best efforts I could wind up pulling a granddaughter off the stripper pole anyway.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Best Mom Tip #167: Stop using the couple WE

European kings used to refer to themselves in the third person and as though they were, in fact, more than one person.  They called this quirk the "royal we."  For instance, "WE are not pleased that you looked at our wife the wrong way and now you will be beheaded.  WE are going to lunch."

The idea was that they were the embodiment of the state and, as such, represented the entirety of the nation they ruled.  That divine right of kings concept must have been pretty heady stuff if you happened to be born into the right family.  Louis XIV of France went so far as to have the courtiers at Versailles face him in the chapel while he faced the altar.  They worshiped the self-titled Sun King while he worshiped God on their behalf.

But you (and I) are not royal.  WE are parents and partners and owners of minivans.  WE are also guilty of poor speech patterns.  You probably began using what I like to call the couple WE sometime after your marriage if not before.  WE had such a great time in Barbados-WE hardly even noticed the jelly fish stings!  Or WE just love the new Biggest Loser-WE think the ex-football player will win.

This kind of WE is totally appropriate if your spouse is standing next to you and is mute.  Otherwise, it is just annoying to the people around you.  I first became aware of my use of the couple WE while talking to single friends at work.  Did I really need to say WE started a new diet and WE are having a hard time with it?  Why couldn't I just start talking about my own point of view and leave my interpretations of Jay's thoughts in my head?

Unfortunately, it gets worse when you add parenthood.  WE are working on the letter C this week.  WE are potty training at our house.  WE are a little overtired.  Really? Because you are 35 years old and if you are uncertain about the sounds the letter C makes or where to correctly place your bowel movements I think our association is just about over.

I know I'm guilty of too many WEs, but I'm drawing the line at this one: WE are not pregnant.  I am pregnant.  Really. I am pregnant. With our fourth kid.  I'm sure there will be more about that later.  Until then, WE are not barfing up our really yummy looking smoothie.  WE are not feeling the waistband of our jeans dig into our belly ALREADY because, honestly, how loose must those stomach ligaments be now on this fourth go-round?  WE are not dreading being enormously pregnant in July in Atlanta.  Again.

I will grant that WE are probably both terrified at being outnumbered two to one.  But I don't know for sure because Jay doesn't usually have any visible emotions.  Which I like, by the way.  It allows me to be the whiny/crazy one without interruption.

WE are having a baby.  WE will never sleep again.  WE will spend more time at the doctor/dentist/soccer field than WE ever will in Paris.  But WE are not bloated and grumpy.  Or if WE are, I don't want to know about it.