Monday, March 18, 2013

Raising Kids: A Manifesto

This morning, right after the coffee kicked in and before the kids left for school, I had an attack of the Mondays.

For a normal person that might indicate a return to bed and pulling the covers over your head Garfield-style, but for me Monday morning is a joyful time, full of promise and hope, a new beginning to the week and endless possibilities of how to make it a successful one.

That, and everyone leaves the house, and I get it ALL TO MYSELF.  This phenomenon is well-established here on this blog.  If you care not to read any more about it, just know that I am in love with Monday mornings for this one reason only.

So anyway, I was high on life and decided to treat my children to a little Chicago-themed solo song and dance party.  By Chicago I mean the band and not the racy musical about women killing their husbands. They loved it, and by loved it I mean that they were embarrassed for me and tried their best to ignore the travesty that was happening right in front of them.

So off they went to school, and all was quiet.  With the quiet came the reflection, and with the reflection came the guilt over the fact that I may quite possibly be overdoing my naked delight of staying home without my family.  That I may be giving them, and everyone else, fuel to doubt my love for them.

It’s a precarious balance, keeping a part of yourself while at the same time sacrificing all that you are for your family.  For the past twelve years I have adapted a new identity of Mom into my current identity of Wife and Sister and Daughter and Friend.  My Self has morphed around these other people I call Family.

I am protective of my Self, I admit.  Maybe because of that I was not Mommy to my kids for long; I do not forbid them to grow up.  I am protective of them too, but not overly.  I do not hover.  I allow them to make mistakes, and tell them they deserve it if they get rightfully disciplined at school.  I admit that sometimes I don’t know what’s best for them.  I accept they will leave me someday, and truthfully there are times I wish that it was sooner rather than later.

There’s the fuel.  Fuel that causes people to ask me why I ever had kids in the first place, since I don’t seem to enjoy them very much.  Fuel that may cause scorn for not helping out much in my kids’ schools because I don’t like dealing with groups of kids, for being realistic about not handing my kids every opportunity just because it’s there.  These people are puzzled about why I would work in a church nursery and as a substitute preschool teacher.

The truth is that I love kids; they make me laugh, and there’s not much sweeter to me than a smiling baby or a well-timed toddler phrase.  Older kids amaze me with their beyond-their-years intellect, and the maturity of even the youngest teens astounds me.  I love my kids the most of course, and I want what’s best for them.  We planned to have them.  I cried when they were born because I didn’t know how else to express the love that I felt for them.  Not many people can make me laugh like my kids.  Over the years I have loved them through doing and teaching, through hugs and kisses and special times spent, through gifts and generosities that I never knew I could provide.

But I don’t think my kids are the brightest and the best.  I expect them to earn any accolades, and while I may be cheering the loudest for them, I am not working behind the scenes to manipulate their getting them.  I love my kids enough to not do everything for them, to watch them fail, to tell them that I will not help them with their homework for the fifth night in a row because they need to tell their teacher why they don’t get it.  I love my kids enough to show them how to do laundry, mow the lawn, and prepare a meal.  I expect them to make their beds every single day.  Because someday they will have to do all of these things for themselves, and I prefer not to let people out in the world who can’t or won’t do any of it because they were waited on their whole lives, or because they weren’t taught that certain things are important.

Like the confidence that comes after accomplishing something difficult.  And the interpersonal skills and the humility you need to communicate that you are having trouble understanding.  And the patience to know that even though some things in life are boring and tedious, it is the same for everybody and you just have to do them.  And the awareness that you are not all things to everyone, and that the world does not revolve around you.

To me, being Mom is not just doing for my kids.  It’s teaching them, sure, but it’s also stepping back and allowing them to fall.  In my eyes, pushing them out the door into the world with a little dancing and laughing does more for them than keeping them cocooned in our little house where they only experience what these four walls and my own limited experience can bring them.

But I do admit that I could probably tone it down a little when they’re leaving on a Monday morning.  Maybe the dance party could include a slow ballad or two next time.



  1. Andrea, your kids go to school and I homeschool, but you spoke for me in this post! I said ditto after nearly all of your points. You sound like a marvelous mom. (Okay, that sounded terribly self-centered since I also said you spoke for me, but I'm sure you understand.) Keep being the mom you are and keep sharing. I'm glad I clicked on your avatar and found your blog.

    1. Thank you so much for being there with me - I am in good company! I love that as a homeschooling mom you are willing to present a real side to having kids at home with you, that it's not all puppies and parties. Although that would exhaust me too. :)

  2. Aw, I knew you were a big ol' Mommy marshmallow on the inside. As always, I love your honesty. Any mom who's being honest has to admit to at least a few moments like these when you do the dance of joy because your kid is quiet/at school/asleep/doing something with the other parent/whatever. My daughter went on her first official "play date" over the weekend and it was all I could do to contain my excitement at the prospect of being home alone for two hours. Alone. For two hours. It was blessed. And then I missed her...

    1. Congratulations on your first official playdate! It was heaven, yes?

      I never thought I'd ever miss my children because we spent so much time together and during that time I felt like they were consuming my soul, but as they get older, the more I miss them when they're gone. It's no fair at all.

  3. Love this so much.

    The era of the Pinterest-worshipping super mommy sometimes makes me feel unsure about my decision to be a little more hands-off with my kids. But I know it's best for all of us if I don't feel overly invested in their lives. Also, I told a friend the other day that even tho I love them more than life, 2 kid-free weekends a month is definitely the silver lining of divorce!

    1. I avoid Pinterest like the plague. It just seems like a lot of work.

      Weekends without kids - I try to approximate these when I call "girls' night" every once in a while. It never happens regularly, which is maybe why I spend so much time dancing the happy dance on Monday mornings. Silver lining indeed!

  4. I'm thinking I should perhaps get my kids to make their beds once in awhile. Mind ... I don't make them either - they just don't get made - so there's no waiting on hand and foot going on here, but ... perhaps they should be capable of making their beds.

    1. It's all in what you prefer. If an unmade bed doesn't make you squirm, then they might push back on doing it. But maybe remind them to find a mate who also doesn't mind an unmade bed, so they don't have to spend time being "trained" to do so by a neatnik.

      Take it from me - those years my husband spent learning just how crazy a messy room made me were no fun.