20 July 2012

The Hazards of Educating Yourself

About a month ago I sort of hit a wall with my parenting style. What I mean to say is I realized that my parenting style had become the Oh Shit What Do I Do Now style. This generally results in a lot of household unhappiness. Jack begins to desperately scream out for boundaries, I get my buttons pushed a little too hard and start getting mad and yelling a lot. Jason retreats with a bottle of Jameson...no, no, not really. But the household did take a nose dive for a while. Right around the time it was getting crazy I got this great email from a parenting newsletter I'm subscribed to. Usually the topic of this newsletter has something to do with fun activities for you and your kid, but this particular issue was a very serious call to parents who might be up against a wall.
This very brave lady who composed this newsletter admitted to probably thousands of subscribers that she was guilty of hitting the wall as a parent, guilty of Oh Shit What Do I Do parenting, and even guilty of getting so mad at her kids that she spanked them. She said that she just really wanted to remind her subscribers that parenting is hard and she wanted to remind us that when we hit a wall, instead of hitting our kids, we should hit the Internet and find another way, go back to the drawing board and research new parenting styles, pick up new tricks, look for some new things to try because our bag of tricks is empty. But most of all she was adamant that we not punish ourselves for making mistakes. It was something I really needed to hear at the time. I always feel like an asshole after I yell at my kid, and my inner dialogue goes something like, "hey congratulations asshole, you just messed up your kid for the rest of his life by yelling at him."  

So, inspired by this letter of support, I hit the Internet and started a fierce campaign of research to find some new tricks for my bag, some new thoughts and philosophies about parenting, some new techniques. Within a week I was signed up for 9 different blogs, had bought 2 books, and had read probably hundreds of pages on websites pertaining to "positive discipline" and "gentle parenting". The resources are astounding, and actually when it comes right down to it sort of overwhelming. And boy if you thought people were dangerously divided politically in this country then you have yet to read the comment sections on mommy blog sites. Moderates, liberals, conservatives and Zealots Tea Party folk are a well disciplined, amiable collective compared to this gang. But, I digress.

One Gentle Parenting blogger I was following started a Facebook conversation on a new topic. She reposted a story she read about a mother who watched a 3 year old push her 2 year old and how she dealt with it in the absence of help or attention from the offending child's parent who was on the phone and shrugged at them in passing. (The Mother helped her kid process it just fine, as any half way intelligent and caring human would.) What I'm expecting now is to read a heated discussion on how annoying it is to encounter parents who don't address their children's bad behavior, because we as attentive parents do address bad behavior when we see it. To my utter shock the conversation that followed started with a comment from the author of the blog, the mediator and "parenting expert", that had to do with her "deep concern" for the aggressive child in the story. According to the parenting expert (who was not present to witness the event, only read a synopsis of the event like the rest of us) the aggressive three year old has deep emotional issues and should be the object of our pity. She goes on to subtly suggest that it's children like this who grow to be bullies and that there must be great dysfunction in the home, yada yada yada. 

If that hasn't dropped your jaw yet as it did mine then let me also relay to you a comment from the goddamned peanut gallery of parents who sign up for this ridiculous blog. Aforementioned comment is paraphrased thusly: it's a well known fact that kids like this often go on to be bullies and committ DRIVE BY SHOOTINGS. 

Drive by shootings. Drive. By. Shootings.

Attention Parents: if your child pushes another child for no apparent reason he will very likely grow up to committ a drive by shooting. 

Now I want to puke. Now I'm MAD. Listen, let's replay the friggin scenario here: I'm on the verge of imploding, I'm telling myself I'm a horrible parent because I yell at my kid, I get inspired to make a change and find a better way to relate to my child whom I love more dearly than anything, I sign up to get daily inspirations from the "experts" and what do the "experts" do? They tell me good luck with your child who is to be pitied, is deeply disturbed with emotional issues, has a mother who hates him and is headed the way of the hardened criminal. Are you fucking kidding me??? 

My child is a sweet, sensitive silly little boy who processes big emotions constantly and is still learning. He gives lots of hugs to his friends, he says hi to his friends, he wants the approval of his friends, he craves companionship, and sometimes (not always, and not often but sometimes) he hits or pushes his friends. He's three

Future Drive By Shooter

Needless to say I'm now browsing and scanning the articles from the experts for only the pieces that resonate, I'm very careful NOT to read the comments, if I come across an article that sounds full of judgement I move on immediately rather than engage in my usual rubber necking at the site of impending train wreck. In other words, I'm educating myself cautiously and with many grains of salt in my back pockets. Which I suppose is as it should be.

One of the best parenting books I have read is called "My Mother Wears Combat Boots, a parenting guide for the rest of us" by Jessica Mills. It's been a long time since I wore combat boots, but the core of who I am is still generally that genre of people. The people who sit on the fringe of what is popular or mainstream.  'What to Expect When You're Expecting" very quickly annoyed the shit out of me when I was pregnant. I always envisioned the author with a shoulder length bob haircut in a minivan wearing a pink polo and saying shit like "When life gives you lemons…make lemonade!" Even the ever popular Dr. Sears books made me want to poke bamboo under my finger nails. I guess I just needed (and still do need) something different.

And that's also a big reason I've started this blog. It's something different. Parenting according to the lay people in the trenches who got handed a diaper and were told "Good Luck!" No expert advice here, just what we're learning along the way.


  1. Kerry, I have really enjoyed these blog entries. My kids are mostly grown now; 24, 22, 18 and 10. I only have the 10 year old and the 18 year old at home with me now.

    I made a myriad of mistakes. Too many to list. And, it's likely that you will too. All parents do. And there will always be someone (many someones) out there to tell you that you are doing it all wrong. But, here is what I know absolutely to be true. Your children will survive any mistakes you make if you are willing to admit them and if they know, every day, that your love for them is total and unwavering.

    Family dynamics are unique. Children are unique. So how you and your husband parent your children must also be unique. It has to work for you and your children. What worked for me won't work for you. What works for you won't necessarily work for someone else.

    And, the most important gift you can give to your children is the gift of forgiving yourself when you screw it up.

    Today, my adult children are incredible people. They are the sort of people that I would want to know and love even if they weren't my children. That is the greatest triumph of motherhood; to one day look at your offspring and say to yourself, "I raised a remarkable human being. I really like this person!" My two younger children are well on their way.

    You'll know that feeling too. Often in small ways as he is growing up, and, sooner than you think it's possible, in a very big way when he is all grown up.

    In the meantime, I'm going to continue to enjoy your blog because I have been there and done that.

    1. Lori thank you so much for your kind words and support. You are seriously my hero, having FOUR! children and still accomplishing so much. What you have said rings totally true with me but it's so easy to forget when you're in the midst of making a bad parenting mistake. I believe forgiveness is key and I believe that relationship is king, so the goal is to never sacrifice relationship while forgiving yourself when you do something stupid. Good thing I'm going to get a lot more practice, 'cause I sure need it!! Thank you thank you again!