I've always relished this quote from Edward, Duke of Windsor: "The thing that impresses me most about America is the way parents obey their children."
A practice, quite frankly, I've never been able to get my head around, let alone fall in line with. My kids tell me it probably has something to do with the fact that I grew up in the Dark Ages, in a "democratically repressed part of the world." Personally, I always thought Hong Kong was pretty with-it.
When I was growing up, however, there was never a thought of having a "discussion" with my parents about what an appropriate punishment was when I came home later than I was supposed to... I just didn't get to go out the next time. When I was little, I didn't get a pat on the back, or a "good job, that's awesome" if I ate my dinner, took a nap, did my homework or helped around the house. We didn't get pizza if we lost a school sports meet; heck, we didn't get pizza even if we won a meet. My parents never volunteered praise for things they thought it was my job to do and I never expected it. Things were fine and I thought I turned out pretty well. Then, I got married and had kids of my own, raising them in New York. It's not that I thought I had any special skills to be a great mommy, but I did think I had a pretty good road map, courtesy of my own upbringing.
Boy, was I wrong. Three kids down the road - ages 15, 13 and 3 - I readily admit I have no clue what I'm doing. I'm never going to win a Mother of the Year award (though many of my friends think I deserve one, with two teens and a toddler under the same roof at the same time) and the truth is, I really don't mind, or care to change any of my maternal shortcomings. All I really want -- is a bit of peace and quiet. That, and to have a life every now and again. Here's a list of a lot of the don'ts I'm guilty of when it comes to my kids:
- I firmly disbelieve in rewarding good behavior - unless it's my own.
- I hated breastfeeding. Period.
- Sometime last year, I finally tanked and gave up on the whole "you need to eat a healthy dinner every night" notion. What's wrong with Frosted Flakes for dinner?
- I'm secretly thrilled when one of my teenagers refuses to eat the dinner on the table. Not only do I have to cook for them, now I'm expected to talk to them?
- More than once I've told my 3-year-old the park is closed - for the month. "How long is a month, Mommy?" she asks. "A long, long time," I reply.
- I believe in daily personal hygiene, except when it's me who has to give the baby a bath every night. Nothing wrong with skipping a day - or two. Builds resistance.
- I love hearing about what my little one did and played with at school; I just don't necessarily want to replicate the experience at home.
- Reading to your kids every night is clearly something folks did before the Disney Channel, ESPN and "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" was around.
- Being late to pick up your kids isn't so traumatic... and the shoes I got on sale that made me late... will make me a better mom in the long run.
- More than once, I've screamed, threatened, bribed and blasted each one of my kids. I didn't apologize, either.
- I've hidden things that belong to them that they love, but that irritate me. Then I blame the housekeeper. (Somewhere there is a treasure trove of PlayStation games, noisy toys and short skirts at home.)
- I admit -- play groups weren't really for the kids. They were merely the accessories.
Now that I've come clean, I feel a lot better. Bottom line -- I really do love my kids. I just want to do it from afar sometimes. I also really do want the best for them - as long as they share with me. Think I'll kick back and have that glass of wine now.