Recently on a run, a friend asked me for parenting advice. The timing was interesting since – on this particular run – I was internally decompressing about my own parenting. Having 9 teenagers in the home makes life fun and interesting, it keeps me young and ages me. People comment often: “I don’t know how you do it and stay sane!”, “You have such a big heart!”, “You have it so together!”. Bull. Who says I’m sane, have a big heart or have anything together? People assume an awful lot. Kids don’t come with a manual, I didn’t remotely “see” much of life’s curve balls coming, if I could go back I would do things differently and on and on. If there is a daily quota of screw ups, I’d exceed it most days. I’m too loud – in general, but this means I get loud, fast when I’m upset. So I’m the yeller, but I’m not mean. I try to be diplomatic, I try to let the kids give input, I try not to jump to conclusions, I try to make everything (even chores) an adventure. And I don’t always succeed. I give my all every day but some days my 100% in parenting is a fraction. It sucks to be pregnant and filled with hope and somewhere along the way realize hope is all you’re clinging to some days.
My kids have been complaining lately – about each other and how much, when there is lack of a parent in the home, they’re not nice to each other. Let me rephrase “not nice” and be less PC. They are mean, swearing, belittling, demeaning little PITA’s to each other. I was stunned when we started putting all the individual complaints together. So this past weekend D and I took advantage of family dinner time to set some parameters and open discussion.
- First of all, where did you even learn to talk to each other that way? If you didn’t like the way that person made YOU feel when you were treated that way, why would you turn around and perpetuate it?
- Video/audio tape each other. And know you’re doing it to each other. We want them caught in the act, we want to watch it, we want to show it to them and make it clear why the consequences are what they are. Not only do we want to see them in this “new” light, we want to share the experience with them. Hopefully this will do two things – they won’t want to get caught, so the behavior will get better; they will get caught and we can more easily dole out a consequence instead of the he said/she said process.
- Siblings can assist setting discipline. If you’re mean to one of them, how would they dole out consequences. Do you really want the sibling you’ve been beating on to choose your consequence?
- No one wants to live here. D and I included now. Why would anyone want to live in a home where people are mean to each other? If you really feel that way, I’m sorry you have to bide your time until you’re 18. I do too and being a Mommy was a labor of love so I feel the sting. What do you want to change? How can we make the change? What can we do to get back to a good place?
- We didn’t know it was happening so as much as kids want to blame parents for the lousy job, these kiddos are doing it to themselves. So lets start the two year old tattling again. Awesome. Missed it so much. Who wants to go first? If you’re really that mean to each other when adults aren’t around, let’s hear about it. Throw each other under the proverbial bus. Bring it.
- By the way, when your 5 year old sister acts a certain way or says things – now we know where she’s getting them and there will be hell to pay. Since apparently all my kids are swearing up a storm now, hell is the least of the language I need to curb. But hell it will indeed be. Welcome to the side of your Mommy that talks like a trucker. New phase of life now commencing. If you think you know how to swear and be mean – I invented it.
There are few things I know for sure about parenting. I DON’T KNOW!!!! I wish I had all the answers. I wish I knew the best way. I don’t want you to treat each other badly. I LOVE YOU. Not just a little. More than it’s possible to explain. I wanted you, I’m so glad I have you, I’m sorry it doesn’t always go super duper awesome, but I love you. I TRY. Every day. I’m human, I’m imperfect. See point #1 (I don’t know) and realize I hope you grow up, learn from my mistakes and become a better parent. Do it by a landslide, please. I won’t cry. I want you to be better than I am. In the meantime, let’s get back to a place where being a family was fun, you were nice to each other and home meant something great.