"Mom, how does the Tooth Fairy fly through the air?"
"How do YOU think?"
"I think moms do it."
"But how can a Mom be a Tooth Fairy?"
"Good moms are lots of things, Princess."

Friday, April 30, 2010

Parenting the Masses

I had an epiphany this morning. About a lunch box.

I would describe my "real me" parenting style as Permissive Disciplinarian. I'm good at disciplining my children, because I'm good at problem-solving. But once when Buddy was nine months old I expressed my turmoil about whether to pick him up or let him fuss in his exersaucer knowing he wanted to be picked up, and my mom said,

if he starts to act spoiled you can go back and fix it. But you can't go back and hold him more.

So I picked him up. And since, I've really tried to say yes to every reasonable request, even if it wasn't particularly on my agenda.

And then The Girls Came. And my parenting style backfired. I quickly found out this is normal (or what passes for it). I've spent years parenting Buddy and the Cuddle Bear with the Real Me Mom, while the Therapeutic Mom has been parenting Princess and Peanut. Therapeutic Mom looks much more restrictive than Real Me Mom, because Princess and Peanut needed obvious and semi-permanent boundaries, immediate consequences, and lots and lots and LOTS of structure, or they would fall. apart. And it would be BLOODY.

I had to change EVERYTHING to parent them. And they are healing. And changing. Which means what? Change for me. Only I'm too slow on the uptake.

For instance, the lunch box. If the kids take cold lunch to school, they are supposed to empty out their boxes after school and put them away in the designated area. Buddy and Peanut both wanted cold lunch today, so I went to get their boxes and Peanut's wasn't there. Right away I knew where it was, of course: in her backpack. Where it evidently has been for the last three days. And I will admit that part of my decision-making involved my absolute hatred for dumping sour curdled milk out of thermoses. I left it there.

This morning as we were leaving I told Peanut that I couldn't make her lunch because she hadn't cleaned out her backpack, so she'd need to choose a hot lunch. She laughed and showed me her lunch box in her backpack. I said, "I'm sorry, but I can't make you one because you didn't clean it out." Her entire body slacked.

After the kids got on the bus, I came in and looked at the lunch box, and I thought, "did I really need to do that?"

No. I didn't. Yes, she was supposed to take care of it and she didn't, even though she had to look at it every time she opened her bag for three days. Yes, this is something she can do for herself at her age. Yes, natural consequences are a good good thing.

But I know full well I would have found Buddy's lunch box and cleaned it out for him, if it had been him. I cut Buddy a lot of slack because he's well-behaved, loving, and understanding. He usually does what he is supposed to do. The problem is that Peanut has changed, and I haven't changed with her. These days, she does what she's asked to do more often than not. She doesn't tantrum unless there's what I consider "a good reason." She's actually pretty responsible and respectful most of the time. That I now have a habit of being restrictive with her is not her problem.

It's mine.


  1. I do the same thing, and I know I do it. I have to really knock into my brain sometimes that not everything is a RAD behavior. The problem is those stinkin RAD behaviors are so sneaky... Ah well, we do the best we can!

  2. Well, I think you realized that it wasn't a good decision and you wouldn't do it that way again, so that's an important plus right there. We make all these decisions on the fly, and then you think, later, was it the right one? Yikes, this parenting can be hard stuff. Boy, when I get it right and I KNOW I've gotten it right, it makes my day. Some of the time though, I'm really wondering. Debbie Pokornik has written a great book on parenting and understanding your family, what makes parenting tough and how you can decrease the pressure on yourself. It's Break Free of Parenting Pressures" -- even has a free "parenting pack." I like the personal stories in each chapter -- makes things more real for me.

  3. My pastor preaches about being a "lunch taker." The kind of mom who takes their kid's lunch to school every time they forget it. Well, I have taken each of my five kids lunch at least once, some as often as once a year. I don't consider this enabling, and I never go WAY OUT OF MY WAY to do it, I only do it when I can easily. I like to think we do each other favors. It's so great to be at the point where you can do Princess favors. You are ONE AMAZING MOM - don't beat yourself up, ok?

  4. Developmentally my 15 yr old RAD daughter is only about age 6, so when she forgets stuff, or can't handle what would be normal chores or activities for a child her age (or even younger), I debate with myself between just doing stuff for her because she's "only 6" or treating her like her chronological age because she has to live in the "real world." I usually treat her as the younger age, but let her know if she has the responsibilities of a younger child then she gets the privileges of that younger child as well.

    Just a thought, but a child who is not potty trained should be treated like a younger child. It is not a punishment for my daughter, in fact it is usually a relief. She really is unable to emotionally handle the older stuff.

    Mary in TX

  5. Just realized the second part of my comment seemed random, because I was referring to a later post about Princess not bothering to use the potty. I'm behind on my blog reading so I'm reading the posts earliest to latest and it's confusing. Sorry!

    Mary in TX