I recently bought new fabric for Mireio and shuttled it down to the studio the minute it arrived. I feel like I have to keep on top of the incoming supplies, otherwise the store has a tendency to take over the house. So, on my way downstairs, I holler up to IZ in his office, “I’m going down to the studio. If you want to see this fabric, you’ll have to come to me.”
A few minutes later, my boy is standing in the doorway.
Me: “Whatcha doing?”
Boy Wonder: “I’ll look at your fabric if you want me to.”
Apparently he thought I was being a bit neglected, so he came for a visit and oohed and ahed… Which made me smile. I’m pretty sure he couldn’t care less about fabric. But clearly, he cares a whole lot about his mom.
They taste so much better than my photograph suggests!
Yesterday I mentioned bribery as a parenting tool. I’m sticking by that word. In the past, I would have used the word incentive. But, really, if it involves sugar of any kind it’s a bribe. Pure and simple.
I’ve always been one of those mothers who wouldn’t buy you a chocolate bar in the check-out line no matter how you howled and cried and lamented Â “you not a nice mommy!” And while I firmly believe in incentivizing—-my kid has always been a junior banker. If there’s not money in it for him, he can’t be bought. So, my incentives usually sound like, “If you don’t clean up that room, I’m going to take away your computer and Â your candy privileges.” You see the subtle difference, right? In one, I’m bribing you to be good. In the other, I’m reminding you of your responsibilites and the consequences for not meeting them. Or, that’s the case when I’m not desperate.
That would make me a wise parent if my child wasn’t so oppositional. He can try the patience of a saint, and his mother is far from being one. Despite my well-intentioned parenting philosophy. Lately,(since he turned 13!!) no amount of incentivizing (threatening, hounding, preaching, lecturing: Oh yeah, those are all in my arsenal too!) can entice him to focus appropriately on his schoolwork.
This brings me to my end. He’s a smart kid, but so dang lazy. And while most people figure out by the time they’re his age that unsavory tasks are best done quickly, this child slowly pulls off the band-aid of schoolwork. He’s waiting me out. Watching to see if I explode. If he can just push me over the edge, then the focus shifts to conflict resolution, not doing his schoolwork. I swear, he’s a born lawyer!
So, yesterday, I beat him at his game and resorted to bribery. “If you get all your schoolwork done by 3. And that means your German, Math, History, and Programming, then we can bake. If you don’t, no baking for you!”
We had a nice, conflict free day. He got his schoolwork done in a timely fashion. We spent some time together baking and talking. All of which is incentive enough for me to use bribery again very, very soon.
The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity. ~~Albert Einstein
It’s probably because I’m the mother of just one, but in many respects, my new years start in December. I mark time by the birth of this child. Only 6.5 lbs at birth, he was large and robust for a 5 week premature boy. He’s been a fighter since the beginning—I have the stretch marks to prove it. “He shouldn’t . . . ” has been a part of our vocabulary from the beginning. But he has. He’s thrived despite being premature. He’s communicated despite not really talking until 3. He’s endured, despite being different from the rest of his peers. And he continues to push me and challenge me and inspire me.
At no time, in all the battles and disappointments, have I ever wanted anything but him. And I have known from the moment he came on the scene that he was my calling. I’m not perfect. I’ve had my moments where I’ve wondered if I was the right mother for the task. I’ve had moments where I’ve wanted to abdicate parenting all-together. This child thinks he can parent himself, let him.
But for all his head-strong ways (he proudly redefines stubborn, my friends. He considers it his life goal to be contrary. I have no idea where he gets that.) he remains one of the most inspiring people I know. He questions everything. And I refuse to see that as a bad thing.
Ok, unless he’s questioning my parenting at 11 pm. Then I draw that line—but in general, I’ve made a choice to see the good in this child. To not buy into the labels outsiders have tried to stick on him–questioning the wisdom in seeing his gifts Â as “deficits.” Â To focus on his progress, not constantly point to his struggling. Surely, there is a way to see the remarkableness Â in another human being and Â support it? Even if we don’t really understand it and it drives Â a bit gray before our time. Surely we can see past homogenized ideals (sweet little kindergartners, Â compliant, sitting nicely at their desks) and embrace the different (Yes, baby, your green eyes mean you have superpowers)? Maybe we can even teach this child who questions everything, and everyone, to question the Universe. Maybe, we can teach him to channel all that disobedience and “to hell with authority” attitude in the right direction? Maybe, we can parent him with love not judgement, joy Â not shame, support not derision.
Who would parent a child with judgement, shame, and derision? More than you would imagine.
Choosing to see the good does not make me a fabulous parent. Quite the contrary! My child once said to me, “Mom, every kid deserves parents who believe in them.” He’s right, every child does. But every child doesn’t get it. Trust me on this.
No, believing and supporting doesn’t set me up for the Mother of the Year award. From where I stand it sets me at the starting point of good parenting. It’s everything that comes after that will determine if we succeeded at the task. And only time will tell. My child, who still feels so brand new to me, will grow up and judge my actions—and he will be able to tell you if I was a good mom.
I hope he’ll say yes. Not because I was perfect. I’m not. But because I continue to talk with this questioning child of mine. I own up when I fail. I apologize when I’m in the wrong. Â I continue to test the boundaries and release more and more of his life to him. Letting them go is the hardest part. And I hope that he will be able to look back and see how I’ve been letting him go from the moment he was brand new. Not because I didn’t love him. But because I knew, that this premature fighter wasn’t going to be mine forever. And if I was lucky, I would parent him to see beauty. To seek joy. To do justice. To know love. To Â dream and inspire others to dream. To choose to see the good. And to never, ever stop questioning.
My mind is whriling today. I’m torn between busting an Acorn move (order, orders, orders), pouring new candles because I have an idea, and deep cleaning my pitiful house. It’s appalling. I’m embarrassed and shamed by the grime.
Yet, here I am blogging. I’m the Queen of Procrastination once again.
My Â child is turning 13 in twelve short days so, Â I’ve been thinking a great deal about motherhood — and by extension, the process of blogging about mothering. Although, in lots of respects, most “mommy bloggers” are really blogging about their kids, it’s still a practice (we hope!) of reflection. Â The premise is, you become a parent, your bundle of joy arrives without an instruction manual, and you blog your learning curve as a way of journaling your frustrations, joys, and serving as an all-around precautionary tale to the rest of parenthood.
Plus, your kid is damn cute, and that kind of cuteness should be shared with the world!
Well, that’s how it would have gone down if blogging had been around when I was a brand-new parent. However, by the time I entered the scene, my child was quickly becoming an oppositional 3 year old and I didn’t really want to tell the world too much about his clever attempts at thwarting my authority. I mean, it’s OK to admit you’ve been out-maneuvered by a toddler once in a while—but everyday? I had no intention of becoming Â your favorite train-wreck of a read.
We were also in over our heads learning to parent a child who had different needs than our parenting philosophy met. And that kind of pain, for me at least, was private. So, I seasoned Evidently with bits of my child. Mostly the good bits. Because when you are parenting a child who is Â borderline (our eternal thanks to the firm yet understanding Psychologist who put us on the path to wholeness.) oppositional, it’s important to see parenting as a LONG term process and to focus on the positives and the potential. Progress, not perfection became our family slogan.
I’ve taken some flack for it. Ocassionaly I get a snarky comment (delete, delete, delete) or an angry email suggesting my “boy wonder” is too perfect. All because I choose to see the progress and the potential.
He’s not perfect. But his failings are none-of-your-business. No matter how funny or charming or witty they might seem in retrospect. No one wants their mother to broadcast every point of their growth curve to the world. No matter how funny or charming or witty their mother makes it all sound in the writing.
So, I’ve been very careful about saying too much. Too much good, too much not so good. Because I wouldn’t want to read a blogger who can’t shut up about how great her child is, any more than I’ll read a blogger who is non-stop negative about parenting. And mostly, because there are boundaries to be maintained. Each of us must establish them for our own relationships. Your child might not mind your constant blogging about them. My child, at almost 13, does. And we’ve established the do’s and don’ts of blogging about him. I still write what I write, but I’m respectful of the boundaries he has set for telling his own story. (I can write about the past without censure. The present is off limits for the most part. And always read to him prior to publishing.)
Because ultimately, these are his stories. His life I’m writing. Sure, I’m reflecting about the process of mothering—which is my story. But I am not alone in it! At two Â and three and six and seven, we get, as parents, the ultimate joy of telling our story. But with that joy comes some responsibility. I still read several bloggers who will be paying for therapy in the near future for their sweet cherubs. I bite my tongue, because unsolicited advice is never welcome. But I’ll throw-up a warning flare on this blog: be careful what you write (and say!). The internet is forever, and you may think you have a shoe-in to a forever relationship with your child by simply being their parent. You DO NOT. Trust me on this. Words can be forgiven, but they cannot be unsaid.
Some of you are chronicling, in the most loving and refreshing way, the stories your children will want to hear. My child still loves to hear stories of his past. Even the hard stuff. “I did that? Noooo!” Â Or, “Wow, mom, that was really bratty. I’m sorry.” or “Ha! I was kinda smart at five, right?” Yes, yes you were. Â It’s a worthwhile endeavor, if done with some sense of propriety—although finding the line, and crossing it seems to also be part of the process.
But my child is not two or three, he’s not six or seven. His shoe size and his willingness to reflect on his babyhood with some perspective points to what has quickly become my reality: I am parenting a young man. And with that, comes more challenges, more joy, and probably a lot less of me talking about it in public.
If we’re lucky, he’ll find his voice and tell you all about it on his blog. In the meantime, I’m going to quietly marvel at the progress we are making at establishing an adult relationship. We’re not there yet; but then again, perfection is not our goal.