Category: Parenting

Imperfect Parenting 101 – I Think I Wrote the Book

Posted on Oct 21, 2014 by No Comments

I am not afraid of a lot of things. I can pick up snakes, calm a panicky horse, walk through the dark house in my bare feet knowing the kids were playing with legos…

The one thing that terrifies me is screwing up my job as a mom. I mean, you only get one chance at this parenting thing. There are no do-overs, no take backs, and no moments that “don’t count because they’re just practice”.

When I was in my 20s and 30s and my kids were small, back in the BT (before teenagers) stage, I saw the years stretching ahead of me with plenty of time to get things right.

Now that I am in my 50s and all but one of my children are at least to the teenager stage (FIVE are over 18. FIVE of them.) I don’t see that long season of parenting. It’s gone from a leisurely stroll down the sands of time to being sucked down by quicksand.

I’m not even sure when it happened.

That is the real stress of parenting. I don’t get stressed about my kids messing up so much as I get stressed about reacting the wrong way to it. I mean, what if I over or under-discipline? What if they don’t take me seriously? What if I ruin their lives forever by grounding them for a week?

I know that I am not the only one that has this mental anguish. I can’t be.

The thing I am trying to remind myself of is that although I am imperfect I adore my kids more than anything else in my life. I am pretty sure that they are within nano- centimeters (wait, is that a word?) of God on my priority scale. I am convinced that they are one up from breathing — and I really like to breathe regularly.

Yes, I am imperfect but I am raising imperfect children. I am hoping that it works out algebraically and two negatives make a positive.

We learn from each other. Somehow imperfect parents raising imperfect kids usually manage to succeed in helping to create responsible adults. We learn to ease up, they learn to be more compliant, and everything comes together at some point and we realize our job is over.

That’s a part that I really don’t like, by the way. I enjoy parenting even if I am not very confident about my parenting skills. So far, so good — the finished kids are creating successful lives.

If you don’t feel confident about your parenting skills then you are probably in the majority. We have a tendency to compare ourselves with everyone around us and for some stupid reason we compare our weaknesses to their strengths. That’s not going to work on any level!

Don’t compare your parenting to the other parents around you. Compare yourself today to how you were yesterday, if you must. Try to improve yourself a little each day in every area of your life, not just parenting.

It’s never going to be perfect but it can be really, really good.

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When Your Teen Screws Up

Posted on Oct 20, 2014 by 1 Comment

How do you handle it when your teen screws up?

Not just a little thing, either. I am talking about big stuff. The stuff that puts you over the top and makes you feel like you are going to explode doesn’t usually happen often but when it does it can be devastating.

I do not have a history of handling this type of thing well but my fifth child just turned eighteen so I tend to think I am bullet proof because I have seen it all.

And then someone comes up with something new.

Two things I do differently now than I did in the past is that I don’t let myself react to the circumstance and I don’t let myself take it personally. I don’t know about you but a lot of my parenting “failures” have been caused by my concern about what kind of parent other people would think I was.

God forbid that they think I am a horrid mom!

Teenagers don’t do stupid things because they want to make us look like bad parents. They don’t do stupid things because they want our friends to whisper behind our backs when we walk down the street. Teenagers do stupid things because, quite frankly, they are teenagers and it’s part of the job description.

Stepping back and not taking it personally allows us to see the screw up in perspective. It might be a big thing now, or it might even be one of those big things that will follow them the rest of their lives but when we, as parents, react violently and emotionally we are creating more trouble than what’s already there.

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Kids, Sugar, and Halloween

Posted on Oct 16, 2014 by 1 Comment

With Halloween around the corner, I think back to my favorite treats.

I was never a candy corn fan. It made it into my family’s “do not like” bowl. When we came home with our hoard of candy, we’d pick through it and fill up the bowl with the stuff we didn’t want.

That was our parent’s candy to eat, and they seemed to like it all.

Now I find that some of the candies I liked best then are on the Least Favorite Halloween Candy List now, like Sugar Daddys. Yes, they were sticky, but their sweeter-than-caramel goodness lasted. Good and Plenty is another candy for the reject pile according to the list, and one I still buy occasionally today.

The biggest surprise on the list for me was “any” hot cinnamon candy, since that was and is a favorite for me. In fact, I recently bought a package of Atomic Fireballs for in the car on vacation.

All in all, I liked all but two of the candies that made the reject list and all I can do is think of my parents with that “do not like bowl.” They liked everything we put in there, and now if you filled a do-not-like bowl with the candies on this list, I’d eat almost all of them.

Even though I still have a sweet tooth, these days I lean more toward things like homemade cookies. Back then, it was like I could just keep eating piece after piece of candy, if my parents let me.

Turns out there is a biological reason for that and the research shows that our tastes actually do change regarding sweets as we grow older.

Recent scientific findings show that kids who are still growing have a “heightened preference for sweet-tasting foods and beverages during childhood.”

That same study says, “The liking for sweet tastes during development may have ensured the acceptance of sweet-tasting foods, such as mother’s milk and fruits. Moreover, recent research suggests that liking for sweets may be further promoted by the pain-reducing properties of sugars.”

That pain-reducing property may be why I go to sugar when I’m feeling down, but that’s a story for another day.

It’s no secret that kids like candy, and that they can eat a lot of it if we let them. It’s up to us to make sure our younger kids don’t overdo it.

Around age 15 or 16, when growth has stopped, the study showed taste preferences similar to adults. As a mom, I’m not so sure those findings are quite accurate.

Photo credits: Thomas

Knowing When to Bend the Rules

Posted on Oct 15, 2014 by 1 Comment

I don’t know if you have seen the news article on the teen that got frostbite during a fire drill but it was pure stupidity. The girl was in the pool at school when the fire alarm went off and she was rushed outside, in Minnesota, in only her wet bathing suit and a towel.

The temperature was 5 below zero with a windchill of -25. Here’s the crazy part. It is school policy that the students stay in their assigned places during fires and fire drills so she was kept out there for the full ten minutes rather than being allowed to sit in a car or have her mom come get her.

Is this insanity or what?

My children know what to do if officials of any kind are endangering them. They have my full permission to totally break whatever rule they need to break to be safe.

If a teacher or official stops them, they will deal with me and it won’t be pretty. I don’t want my kids to be disrespectful but when adults can’t think for themselves they are no longer worthy of respect. Sorry.

There are times when we have to bend or break the rules for a variety of reasons as parents and as adults. We are supposed to have the ability to reason and to know right from wrong — it’s one of the things that sets us apart from animals.

There are time to break the rules, to bend the rules, and to overlook the rules, but apparently society is finding it more and more difficult to do so.

If I was this mom I would own the school at this point. The principal and every teacher that had seen my daughter’s situation would be in serious trouble. I would sue the school district and every adult that saw what was happening and was too stupid to handle the situation responsibly.

This isn’t the only case, you know. It doesn’t take many news articles before you see that a lot of what is wrong with the world today is because of people following the rules without thinking.

Although it usually isn’t newsworthy, parents do the same sorts of things at home. We make rules and then mindlessly enforce them without taking each individual situation into consideration.

When rules are blindly enforced in every case we do more damage to our relationship with our kids than we know. Sometimes we just need to apply a thick coating of grace to the situation and move on.

If your teen gets in past curfew, and the consequence for that is two weeks of being grounded do you enforce it no matter what? What if they were talking to a suicidal friend? What if they lost track of time this one time? Where do you bend the rules?

I think that having a set of rigid rules is a sign of weakness in anyone, any government, any entity. It means that you don’t trust yourself to make a wise decision on a case by case basis or in an emergency.

Do you tend to maintain rigid rules or are you a flexible parent?

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Teach Your Child Restaurant Manners…Please

Posted on Oct 13, 2014 by 1 Comment

The other day we decided to take the kids out to breakfast before school. It really isn’t that we are just that cool as parents — our older daughter had an out of town softball game and had to be at the school at the ungodly hour of 6:15 AM. Since it is a 20 minute drive to the school we decided to take everyone at once and the only way to kill time at six in the morning is breakfast somewhere with unlimited amounts of coffee.

Thank you, IHOP.

It’s amazing how few people are actually up that early. We were immediately seated by a sleepy eyed waitress in the nearly empty restaurant. I knew what I was getting — didn’t even need a menu.

While everyone else was deciding what to order I began to do that writer thing and look around at the characters, I mean people, in my immediate vicinity.

We weren’t the only family there. Another family was in the direct line of my site and I wondered if they were there for the same reason we were. They seemed pretty normal until the food came.

The kids were facing me while their parents were facing the same direction I was. These kids, who were teenagers, chewed with their mouths open and talked with mouthfuls of food. I swear it was like watching a glass fronted, front loading washing machine filled with anchovy paste and guacamole.

I kept waiting for the parents to correct them but they never did.

So many of the common courtesies and manners that were just taken for granted in the past are gone. Things like holding doors for others, speaking in quiet tones in public, and chewing with your mouth closed aren’t that common anymore. Are these courtesies unimportant?

What are your thoughts?

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How to Survive Boot Camp… for Moms

Posted on Oct 10, 2014 by No Comments

There are three questions I am likely to get asked at any social event.

  • How do you make money as a writer?
  • How can you handle having so many kids?
  • How in the world do you handle your sons going into the military?

The last one is plural. I have two sons in the Air Force and one son is in the Navy. I have five sons altogether and my three oldest are military men. The other two are young teens so I’ll have a while before I have to worry about saying goodbye to them.

I thought that I would answer the last question because by now I am pretty experienced with sending kids off to Boot Camp and most moms only have to get through it once.

I went through Boot Camp myself so I actually have an understanding of what is going to happen and how it’s going to go down. Luckily, most of the time when your child signs up you’ll have six months or so to prepare yourself before you actually send them off.

That’s a good thing because as it gets closer to the time for them to leave, they are going to become adults in their minds and act accordingly. By the time my child actually leaves the house I am ready for them to go. God, the universe, or nature has a way of getting us ready.

Boot Camp is tough and your child is going to be subjected to a lot of head games. You aren’t going to get many letters, if any at all, but you’ll need to write a couple of times a week because it really sucks not to have a letter from home when everyone else is getting them.

Resist the urge to send cookies, candy, or anything other than a plain letter in a plain envelope unless you want your kid to be singled out. Being singled out is something that you never want in Boot Camp, trust me.

You’ll cry hard for the first day, on and off for the second day, and after that you’ll gradually be tear free unless he calls, you get a letter, or you find his baby book. Stay away from the baby book!

When he graduates you’ll be the proudest mom on the planet and, a couple of years from now when your kid is a responsible adult and the other kids his age are searching for the meaning of life you’ll realize it was all worth it.

True story.

photo credit: The U.S. Army via photopin cc

Dealing with a Mommy Tantrum

Posted on Oct 9, 2014 by 1 Comment

Have you ever had a real, live, full-throttle mommy tantrum?

I am talking about a serious, no-holds-barred hissy-fit of magnificent proportions — one of those moments when you suddenly realize that if your child was doing what you were doing there would be serious consequences.

You might as well admit to it because all of us have probably had one at one time or another. It’s one of those things that you quickly ask forgiveness for and then feel guilty about for weeks.

It’s not a good situation, of course, but it isn’t seriously damaging to your child unless it is a regular occurrence.

How to Get Control of a Mommy Tantrum

If you do find that you are losing it on a regular basis you need to figure out why. I know that when I am on edge it’s usually because of a stressful situation that I am not dealing with well or hormones.

Once I can identify the core problem I can begin to deal with it and the outward symptoms, like losing my temper, go away.

That’s great for the long term fix but how do you stop a mommy tantrum in its tracks when you are in the very middle of it?

  • Take a deep breath and close your eyes. Do not allow yourself to speak for three minutes. It gives you time to diffuse.
  • Leave the room. Lock yourself in the bathroom or your bedroom until you can handle things better.
  • Whisper.
  • Go and get a glass of water.
  • Take a bath.

How to Minimize the Frequency of Losing Your Temper

The best way to get control of a mommy tantrum is to know what triggers them and make sure that you get rid of the triggers. Usually it’s some situation that you don’t have control of.

I know for a fact that the last week of the month is tough for me because of deadlines. I plan on eating pizza, mac and cheese, and sandwiches that week because if I try to do anything other than concentrate on making deadline, I am frustrated and stressed.

If I know early in the day that life looks like it is heading out of control I lower my expectations for that day — and for myself.

Being more organized helps, too. As a food writer I am often trying to fix a dish and photograph it before I lose the good light of the afternoon. It makes me totally crazy when I reach for a measuring cup and it hasn’t been put away properly. I can’t tell you how many times I have just about exploded when I couldn’t find the rolling pin!

I remind the kids to put things away properly and I try to have certain times when I cook. I allow myself plenty of time and try not to do things at the last minute.

Head the problem off at the pass by being aware of what’s going on. If you are having a day where the kids seems to be getting into more trouble than usual and you can feel your temper building, stop and watch a movie with them.

These are things that work for me. What do you do to handle your temper tantrums?

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The Perils of Finding Affordable Child Care

Posted on Oct 8, 2014 by No Comments

One of the biggest burdens on a working parent’s household budget is the cost of child care.

The cost of care for a toddler can run between $4,000 and $15,000 per year, depending upon your location and the type of care being provided. Even when your children are school age, you must still pay for care when your kids are sick or when school is not in session.

It can be tempting to cut costs in this area by having school age children stay home alone or care for their younger siblings. However, the National SAFEKIDS Campaign believes that children under the age of 12 are too young to be left home alone.

Even if a child is old enough to be left home alone, this does not mean he or she is mature enough to handle the responsibility of caring for a sibling. Consider carefully how your child would handle medical emergencies, fires, intruders, and other dangerous situations.

If your child is easily frightened or panics under pressure, he or she is probably not ready to be left in charge of younger brothers and sisters.

Another potentially risky child care arrangement is having your child’s grandparents provide babysitting services. Grandparents are usually pretty eager to help with child care, but this doesn’t mean you should accept their assistance.

If they are in poor health, they might not be able to physically keep up with your kids. The arrangement could also be risky if they’re prone to forgetfulness or simply refuse to follow your requests regarding modern safety protocols.

If you’re struggling to find safe and affordable child care for your children, you may want to look into seeing if you qualify for daycare assistance for low income parents. Every state has assistance programs available, but each state has slightly different rules for how you can qualify. Visit Benefits.gov for details.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Mom Hides Baby in Truck to Avoid Ticket

Posted on Oct 8, 2014 by 1 Comment

Police in Lauderdale Lakes, FL spotted a Dodge Stratus driving with a headlight out. They attempted to pull the car over, but the driver drove for almost another quarter of a mile before coming to a stop.

It turns out that the driver, 19-year-old Breona Synclair Watkins, used that time to have a 14-year-old male passenger in the car stash her 5-month-old baby boy in the truck because she didn’t have a car seat. She was trying to avoid being ticketed.

When the car came to a stop, the mom gave police a name and birthdate that did not check out. It was the name of the owner of the car who later said she hadn’t given permission for Watkins to use her car.

Watkins finally gave them her correct name and they found she didn’t have a license. They took her into custody and placed her in the backseat of the squad car. It was then that they heard crying and found the baby in the truck along with a tire iron, a used gas can, plastic bags, and other items.

What started as a routine stop for a burned out headlight turned into her arrest for charges including child abuse, resisting an officer, driving without a license, and failure to have a child restraint. I think if we asked her now, she’d prefer a ticket for not having the car seat.

Why on earth would any mom think of putting their baby in the truck? The fact that Watkins was already in the backseat of the squad car when the police heard the baby crying makes me wonder what she would have done if the baby didn’t cry. Would she have said nothing to keep herself out of more trouble? I can understand she was afraid, but the choices she made were not in the baby’s interest.

According to Watkin’s confession, the baby was originally being held on the lap of a 14-year-old minor when the police turned on their pursuit lights. She told the teenage boy to hide the baby in the trunk so she wouldn’t get a ticket for no car seat. That was all going on for the quarter mile the police followed them with lights flashing.

She bonded out on $7,000 and last I saw relatives are awaiting custody.

Photo credits: Hezakya Starr