Yesterday and this morning were hard. I'm not saying it was hard like the-girl-at-the-end-of-the-exit-ramp-on- Plymouth-Road-with-a-photo-of-her-baby-daughter-on-a-sign hard. I'm just saying it was hard for me.
My sons present behavioral challenges. They are rambunctious and ill-mannered at times. They are wonderful and capable at other times. They (pretty consistently) embarrass the shit out of me.
As children, we were ruled by iron hands. You can't really do that anymore. If the authorities didn't get you, your conscience would. It seems that our generation has a harder time being parents. Just parenting. Being the bad guys while still being even-handed, fair and not freaking the hell out when our kids act like maniacal ee-jits. And they do. And I love my kids and think they're brilliant in their own ways, but damn, it would be way better if they'd just shut the hell up and sit the hell down.
I took Henry to breakfast this morning alone before school. Jeff and I have been doing this for a couple months now about once a week. We switch off kids. Henry can sometimes be sweet, compliant, gentle, interesting to talk to and plain old wonderful. Then there are days, like today, when I run into an old friend. Henry dipped under the table and just stayed there while I was chatting for a minute. I'm like, what is he doing down there? So I investigated. He was under the table eating butters. The little plastic single butter containers. When I removed them, he started drinking the coffee creamers. When I took both things away, he started jumping on the banquette and removing photos from the wall. He finished with a round of spoon-on-glass xylophone. All before 8:20am.
I look around at my friends' kids. They can concentrate longer on tasks. They are more academic. They are not challenged by a need for constant sensory input. Some of them have nice manners. Some do not.
But I realized that I'm not much of an advocate for my own kids sometimes. I often am just plain embarrassed by their assyness. Yes I wrote ASSY-ness. That is my new favorite adjective and noun.
Then I remember that most parents understand that we have only so much control over another human--even the smallest ones. Even if we read every parenting book on the shelf, employ every great technique, Love and Logic the kids through a tshirt on a 10-degree day, they are still individuals capable of their own decisions. Some of them ain't pretty.
That's when the 'shoulding' comes in. I should be better able, They should be better, I should know how to handle this situation better, I should be able to extract better behavior from them. We call this 'shoulding all over oneself' in the program. It's basically just an exercise in shaming and blaming.
Whenever I get super pissed at my kids, I go to the St. Jude's website and read stories. I know it sounds awful, but it gives perspective to my struggles. My kids are healthy. They'll probably outgrow this assy phase (and then move on to ANOTHER one). But the important boxes are checked for today. That's really all I have.
The fact is, parenting is hard. It's much easier from the
outside looking in. There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect
kids. About the best I can hope for is daily incremental improvement.
Two nights ago at Panera, Elliot tipped the entire table over and slid onto the floor when I had my back turned. All the while, he and Henry were giggling furiously.
So, I guess we've got no place to go but up. Literally.