Sunday, June 19, 2011

The myth of the 'perfect' parent.

Earlier this week, I suggested new titles that can follow Adam Mansbach's Go the F*** to Sleep book. Like most parents out there, I laughed (and laughed!) when I heard Samuel Jackson read the book -- it was fucking hilarious! Clearly, I'm not the only one who thinks so, with 400,000 (and counting) copies in print, a lot of other parents appreciate the comic relief Mansbach's book provides, allowing us to crack a smile at a situation that does not feel funny in the moment. Humor aside, I think the book acknowledges a reality that most of us rarely admit: parenting *is* hard (and exhausting, and frustrating, and I'll stop now before this post gets too depressing). I think it's refreshing to acknowledge something that is universal to all parents, and I think it's important. This book challenges the myth of the 'perfect parent', and that's what makes it so great. For once, the pressure of being perfect has been relaxed a little, and it feels good.

I came across a blog post last night that suggested not everyone sees the humor in this book, while I didn't pay too much attention to the blog post itself (the auther is entitled to her opinion), the ensuing discussion caught my attention. There were a few commenters who agreed with the author, but the majority did not (no surprise there!). What caught me offguard were the disclaimers most (all?) women seemed compelled to inject into their comments, that while they might *feel* frustrated with their children, they most certainly would never act on those feelings, they would never want to make their children feel like a burden. Sure, we can laugh at the frustration we all feel internally, but heaven forbid any of us externalize it, I mean, can you even imagine? Once again, the myth of the 'perfect parent' has been restored, phew!

Well, I'm going to go on public record and admit that not only do I feel frustration in certain situations with my kids, but sometimes (now, brace yourself!), I act on it (the horror, the horror!). I am not a perfect parent, in fact, I am far from it. Sometimes I yell at our kids. Sometimes I say things that I regret (and yes, I often feel absolutely horrible about it afterwards). As much as I wish I could count to ten and breathe deeply when I feel the frustration coming on, I don't seem to be equipped with that particular coping mechanism. When I was pregnant with our first child, if anyone would have ever told me how impatient I could be as a parent, I would have never (ever!) believed them.

I think it's an absolute shame that parents, particularly mothers, hold themselves up to a standard of perfection that's unattainable (and it is). If anyone suggests they never get frustrated with their kids, they're either lying, or they don't spend a whole lot of time around them (Gwyneth Paltrow, I'm looking at you!). I think it's good to be honest about everything parenting entails, the good, the bad, and the ugly, Mansbach's humorous approach to bedtime woes is a great way to ease new parents into the reality that parenting is not always fun or easy, for that reason, I think it would make a fabulous shower gift -- watch out Sophie the Giraffe, you've got competition!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

F***, parenting is hard!

Kudos to Adam Mansbach on his runaway bestseller, "Go the F*** To Sleep", a hilarious read that details the frustrations all parents (with the exception of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, I'm sure) have experienced at bedtime. To be blunt, bedtime can be hell. To be more precise, bedtime can be f***ing hell. I was reminded of that last night when two of our four children managed to stay wide awake until 10:30, bombarding me from their beds with all sorts of excuses in an effort to prolong the inevitable:

"I'm thirsty."
"I'm not tired."
"I'm too hot."
"I had a bad dream."
"I need to pee."
"S/he (points finger at the other one) is being too loud."

And the list goes on (and on, and on!). Between my trips upstairs to beg & plead with Owen and Grace to just go the fuck to sleep, in an effort to stop myself from seething in anger (and I was, I spend the whole day looking forward to bedtime, it's what keeps me going, people!), I thought of other book titles for the inevitable "F***, Parenting is hard!" series that I assume has already been picked up for a multiple motion picture deal (starring Johhny Depp, of course).

Leave my S*** Alone.

Apparently, what's mine is theirs. Not so, my little friends, not so. You would think that people who guard their own possessions with the ferocity of a rabid dog would get this, but it doesn't work that way, nosirree! We recently hosted a birthday sleepover for my oldest daughter, without my knowledge, my makeup (which I hardly ever use, but that's beside the point) was used to facilitate 'makeover time'. How well do you think ten year old girls treat shit that's not theirs? Not very well, as it turns out. What's mine is mine, leave it the f*** alone!

Flush the F***ing toilet already!

In an effort to conserve water use in our household, we've tried to teach our kids "If it's yellow, let it mellow, if it's brown, flush it down," emphasis on the word tried. What we actually seem to have taught them is "Don't flush the toilet until the toilet paper is level with the toilet seat, mom will clean it all up anyway." On a regular basis, the leaning tower of toilet paper is topped off with a turd, like a cherry on an ice cream sundae. A thoughtful touch, no?

Shut the F*** Up.

We all anticipate our childrens' first words with such excitement. First comes one word, then two, and before you know it, your little chatterbox has an ongoing case of verbal diarrhea that ensures you will never enjoy a single, solitary second of silence as long as your child is within earshot. It gets even better (er, worse) when you have more than one child (stereo!), and they all try to shout at you talk to you simultaneously, usually spouting a stream-of-consciousness soliloquy peppered with sobbing fits because you're listening to someone else and IT'S NOT FAIR!

Stop F***ing Fighting, You're Driving Me Crazy.

The kids are at a point where they bicker constantly. If I had to break it down, I'd say for every one minute of sibling affection, there's approximately ten minutes of sibling rivalry. What do they fight about? Oh, the usual:

"She won't stop looking at me."
"She's breathing at me."
"She's copying me." (insert echo: "She's copying me.").
"She got more than me." (sidenote: kids have some sort of portion-related ESP that enables them to detect when someone else has more of something than they do. It's kind of impressive. Annoying and impressive).

Good times, I tell you. One day, I will let them fight each other to the death. I'm just kidding (or am I?).

I could go on (and on, and on!), but I'll stop now. I love our kids dearly (don't we all?), but nothing could have ever prepared me for just how annoying they can be. They're good kids, don't get me wrong, but they're kids, and they annoy me just as much as my siblings and I annoyed our mother (something that I know thrills my mother, because she tells me it does). I think that's why Mansbach's book has struck a chord with so many parents -- no matter where you come from, or how you approach parenting, we all face the same obstacles, it's certainly more fun laughing about it than crying about it!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teaching kids tolerance.

In this day and age, stories like this amaze me.

When I went to high school, I remember learning in sex education that 'one in ten' people are gay. At the time, not knowing anyone who was gay, that statistic scared the bejesus out of me. Being gay was presented as an affliction, there was no discussion about tolerance, or resources for gay teenagers, none of that! I distinctly remember looking around me wondering which one of us was gay -- as stupid as it sounds, I worried it might be me (seriously -- I thought I could wake up gay one day, surely that's how it must work!?!). Fast foward seventeen years (ouch!), and I'm a little wiser about how the world works. As it turns out, I actually knew a few people who were gay in high school, I just didn't know it back then.

Our kids have been brought up knowing that you can't help who you fall in love with. Sometimes, men fall in love with other men. Sometimes women fall in love with other women. A close family member is gay, and I am thankful for the opportunity it has provided to teach our kids tolerance. They have witnessed different kinds of non-traditional relationships between people who love each other, and it is as normal to them as any relationship between a man and a woman. Our kids know that no matter what, we will support them in their happiness, no questions asked (as a parent, I consider this one of my top priorities!).

I think it's wonderful that a group of students wanted to volunteer their time and effort to educate people about homophobia, it's an absolute shame their school didn't recognize their efforts for what it was, a selfless attempt to promote tolerance (I think God would be proud, don't you?). I think it's incredibly courageous to stand up for what you believe in, and at such a young age! I can only hope our kids turn out so well. Hopefully the Roman Catholic school board has a change of heart about their ban on 'rainbows'. Schools should concern themselves with more than the basic 'reading, writing, and arithmatic' -- if kids can't get the support they need at home, they should be able to get it from school.