Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Can't There Be One Right Way?

I wish there were one right way to parent to ensure each and every child comes out feeling safe, loved, appreciated, wanted, smart, talented, and unique.The things we all want to feel.

If this were the case, the day we give birth to a child, the hospital would simply hand over The Parenting Handbook and we'd all know exactly how to stimulate, educate, inspire, discipline, and grow perfect, healthy kids.

Unfortunately, the closest most of us get to any kind of teaching in the arena of being parents is by doing what our parents did. In my case, that's not going to work.

My mom was selfish, critical, mean-spirited, and angry. I was, as they put it back in the Sixties, a Love Child, never quite as good, ashamed, afraid, misunderstood. I don't think my mom hated me, but I think she had to warm up to the idea of loving me, and ultimately the way she expressed that love was in trying to control everything I did. If I did something wrong, she would explode in a fit of terrifying anger. I was definitely afraid of my mom. Afraid of what she could or would do to me and afraid of what she might do to herself.

My whole life I have battled my own expressions of anger, to the point, that I had mostly learned to swallow my anger with the people I love and let things that drove me crazy slide because I loved them.

Then, I had a child. And in my efforts to guide and teach him, I've found we are two stubborn peas in a pod, and as parent, I feel the need to assert my dominance over him. It's my job to help him turn out okay. He gets a ton of love and affection, praise for all the good things he does. And, he's a little spoiled. I do things for him that he should probably be doing for himself now. But I'm aware of that, and working to correct the problem areas.

Unfortunately, every now and then, I blow my stack. I yell, stomp my feet, and act in a way that I know must be very scary for him. It's all usually over in a matter of seconds, then I apologize, and try to explain why his behavior made me angry. The last two instances involved his intentionally spilling his yogurt all over his puzzles after I had expressly told him not to spill his yogurt and refusing to pick up his trains and put them into the box where we keep them. I asked him several times and finally lost it. What's really frustrating to me about his refusal to clean his room is that his preschool teacher is constantly telling me what an awesome job he does picking up toys at school. She says she doesn't even have to tell him to do it. So, I know this is a power struggle and as parent, I feel it imperative that I win the battle. Problem is, I don't know how.

Obviously, blowing up isn't the solution. I don't know what is. And that's very disheartening. I should know my child better than anyone, know what motivates him and what doesn't.

A few nights ago, Scott and I were discussing it and he says he doesn't understand how I can lose my temper with Brendan. He also says he thinks I'm too critical, that I am way more critical than his mom ever was of him or his brothers. In my mind, I'm criticizing B's behavior, not him. Scott thinks two and three-year olds can't discern that difference. Maybe he's right. I hope not.

The only time I've actually criticized my son was when I told him he was being a baby for refusing to sit on the potty. And I told him I'd take away some big boy privilege of his if he didn't sit on the potty. It didn't work. Again, a major power struggle and I'm at my wit's end. I felt horrible after that day and didn't even mention the potty for a whole month.

I don't want to be my mom. Who does? So, why is this such a struggle for me? I love my son more than my own life. So, why can't I find the right ways to encourage and motivate him to do the things he needs to do? I'm not trying to change him.

I don't want to crush his spirit, dampen his defiant nature, or discourage his persistence. I do want him to sleep at night. Clean his room. Respect adults. Listen. Be nice to his friends. Share. Love. Keep his brilliant sense of humor. Use the freakin' potty and be out of diapers before school starts in the fall. That's it for now.

I don't think that's so much to ask. So, why do I feel like a horrible mother? Hopeless? Like I can't do this? And Good Lord! If I can't do it with the one I've got, what the hell am I going to do when I have another?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off to Work I Go!

For a couple of years, I have been struggling to find enough freelance work to bring in enough money to pay for a few of life's luxuries: health insurance and health care, haircuts for me and the boy, a manicure every now and then, clothes, babysitters so Scott and I can get out once in a while. I'm very lucky to be able to stay at home, but it has meant cutting back on a lot of the things I used to take for granted. Because Scott is self-employed, health insurance has been our biggest financial burden and headache. I worry about it a lot. And I pray about finding work so that I can help take some of the strain off my husband's shoulders.

Mostly because finding freelance work is a full-time job in and of itself and I have a young child and a house to take care of, I've found that I rarely have the time I need to find the work I need. I have a few regular clients that keep coming back, but that means one or two projects a quarter.... Not really enough to meet the goals I've set for myself.

Well, suddenly, and thankfully, out of the blue the work is starting to come in. I've got two articles I'm writing for a relocation magazine, plus another possibly on the horizon. Another magazine, Atlanta Dog Life, hired me last fall to write a column about dogs with jobs, but after writing my first article, I was told their funding didn't come through and they were putting the magazine on hold. Two days ago, I got a call from the owner of the first dog I "interviewed" who told me that she had gotten a call from the magazine about advertising. So, I called up the editor and she told me we're back in business and they definitely plan to have me write for them, though I'm not sure if I will still be writing the same column or not.

Now, here's the most exciting event of the week. And the most flattering. Renee Palmer who co-parents Miss America, the first dog I wrote about for ADL is also co-owner of Camp Woof, the open-play boarding facility where we board our darling boy, Cooper. Renee's partner, Patsy McGirl, is the other co-owner. They're awesome and foster a lot of rescues. And Cooper loves staying at Camp Woof.

Anyway, Renee called me yesterday to ask me if I might be interested in authoring a children's book about one of their dogs. It's a long story and I can't go into all of the details, but ultimately, part of the proceeds from the book would go to fund scholarships for disadvantaged African-American students from our community.

I'm so excited and so flattered to be asked to do something like this. Granted, I have no experience writing for children, but I've actually been thinking about it some the last few years. I figure I can try.

So, I'm just very thankful today to have so much wonderful work on my plate. Even though I am still feeling very sick and very tired. I'll just do my best and muddle through. Thank you, God, for all these wonderful blessings raining down upon me all of a sudden!

Monday, April 24, 2006

I'm Sorry, So Sorry

Okay. Having had all day to think about this, I realized I don't know why I was so intensely angry over a small-minded person acting in a petty manner.

I realized that I, too, was being petty in expressing such vitriol toward someone I barely know just because we don't see eye-to-eye on a particular subject.

So, I'm sorry I subjected y'all to my anger. I'll try to do better next time.

Rockin' the Suburbs

Man, am I pissed!

I am the co-president of my neighborhood association, a job I took thinking it would be a great way to get to know my neighbors and possibly network a little. I was crazy. This unpaid job sucks.

I have neighbors who call me to complain because someone else's dog is barking. Because someone drove through their yard. Because one of their neighbors had a party and cars were parked up and down their street. They all expect ME to do something about it. Are they three? Do they really need mommy to resolve their arguments?

Now, get this! We're an older (30-years plus), well-established neighborhood. Maybe 5% of the residents are the original owners of their homes. Our homeowner's association dues are only $20 a year. A pittance.

Today, I got an e-mail from a guy in the neighborhood who does nothing but complain. Today, he's complaining because the neighborhood association has plans to make a banner to hang on our front entrance congratulating all the 2006 high school graduates who live in the neighborhood. He thinks the kids' parents should pay for the banner. He also suggested that if the neighborhood association paid for it that we should exclude anyone who didn't pay their $20 dues.

A freakin' banner only costs about $75 or $100 dollars to make. Cheap! This dude told me that he thinks the dues should only be spent on things that benefit everyone. He fails to see how this does.

Dude! Does it not benefit you to be a nice guy once in a while? Or how about the fact that it makes our neighborhood look like a warm, friendly, caring place to live?

What a total jerk! I'm so mad right now! I just don't see how people go through their lives being so selfish!

The thing is, this guy always wants to do our neighborhood directory and have his hand in different projects we do. That's all about to change. If he's going to be so selfish, I don't want to use up any of his precious time or resources. I'm going to seek out other volunteers. People who are happy to be involved and do things that benefit everyone who lives in the neighborhood.