Bekah and I stared down at the normally adorable face that had scrunched itself into a sneer and was spewing forth complex sentences that all ended in, “you are not the boss of me!”
“Was I like this at eight?” she asked as a look of fear crossed her face.
“No,” I assured her. “You had your own issues, but this wasn’t one of them.”
I thought back. “No, actually, when neither of you went through this Boss of Me phase I thought I was doing a pretty good job as a mom. Now I know better.”
She put her arm around me. “You’re a good mom.”
I hugged her back before addressing the verbal tirade falling out of the scrunched up 8-year-old’s mouth. “I don’t know how good, Honey. I’m flawed.”
“That’s normal, right?”
I sighed…heavily. “I hope so.”
Back in the mid ’90s, when the first stick showed a Yup, Preggers sign, I came up with a few theories and plans for my children. My strategy was simple: Take all the parenting tricks that my parents had used, toss out the ones that I hadn’t liked, get together with Brian and cobble together a parenting plan of our very own.
That plan was flawed.
Like the theoretical birth plan that said, “Limited pain medicine,” most of the pre-child strategies went out the window when faced with actual wailing, yet heart-melting children. I appreciated the Theorizing Phase; it got my head in the right place and helped me realize that parenting doesn’t just happen. Like a marriage or any relationship, I had to work at it. Give, take, listen, understand … all of the same skills.
And a lot of thinking on my feet.
I’m flawed, I trip on my feet.
I think one of my biggest missteps, and the thing that took me the longest time to learn is this: What works for one kid might not work for another.
The punishments and incentives that work on Luke don’t work on Bekah. One of them thrives when they are around people so being sent to their room is a hardship; the other one thinks it’s a reward. They are different people. One strategy does not fit all.
The second part of that misstep: Just because a strategy worked on a kid when they were six, doesn’t mean that it will work when they are 8, or 14 or 16.
But when I think about it, how they have rewarded me as a parent at 6 or 8 or 14 doesn’t work for them now, either.
The rewards of sticky jelly kisses and, “I wub hue”s have turned into, “thanks, Mom” or a quick hug before they head out the door. Now my heart melts at a fearful expression when they think that they may have put me through emotional turmoil when they were eight.
I can mirror that expression.
I am flawed.
It takes me a while to learn things. I’m scatterbrained; I unintentionally disappoint. When pushed hard, I have a short fuse. Most of the cuss words my kids know, they learned from me. I spend too much time online. I don’t always do as I tell my kids to do. My verbal filter is very weak and I say a lot of dumb things before thinking them through. I unapologetically watch trashy TV; I’ve let all my kids watch PG-13 movies before they were 13.
I am flawed.
But accepting those flaws? Getting up when I stumble over them and forging ahead smarter and with love?
That’s what makes a good mom.
Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, go thehistorychicks.com.