Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Don't Judge a Parent by a Picture

Negativity can wreak havoc on people like you wouldn't believe. Sure, I've been one of the people that think I know everything about parenthood. I had plenty to say back when I had no kids. "My kids will never do this and my kids will only act like that. I will dress them perfectly at all times. My kid will be extremely well behaved and will be the best kid in church and the store."

Well, I had kids! Agh! Very little went as planned. Some days I had to walk out of a store because my kid was embarrassing me and throwing a fit. No matter how much I train I still have to deal with attitudes every now and then. I still have toddlers to teach basic self control skills to.  I have preteens to STILL teach self control skills too and also managing their thoughts.  What we allow to nest in our minds. 

Kyle fell sleep at store window during photo session. View from outside mall store.

No way am I a perfect parent. Yes, I still have kids that love to wear their costumes to a store.  Yes, the costumes can get completely worn out and look like they should have been thrown away a year ago.  Have you ever had a little 4 year old beg for you not to throw out their favorite Batman costume?  Have you wondered how people would look at you because your kid wants to wear a Batman costume to the store?  One that's been worn so much that the yellow Batman logo is completely worn off?  I have.  My son Kyle used to have this favorite costume and I wouldn't throw it out till I found another to replace it.  The costume wasn't dirty.  Just worn. 

As I'm typing this I have a 5 year old playing on the piano and an 11 year old practicing on his drums for his upcoming band concert.  Lots of noise everywhere.  It doesn't mean my kids are out of control.  Kids come with noise.  I can't expect them to sit down and shut up like some would think I should do.  If it bothered me so much to have kids and noise I would just go buy some ear muffs and happily be about my business caring for them. 

I love to glean wisdom from people. I think people get confused with "giving wisdom" and just being "overly critical."  I'm a very teachable person.  In fact, any time I get around people that grew up in a large family, get ready for it because I will ask a lot of questions.  I want to know how they did their daily work, how mealtimes went, handling the laundry demon, and how the older ones interacted with the younger ones.  I tend to find two different extremes.  One extreme is the mom who expected their older ones to care for the little ones.  Even going to friends' house they were expected to bring the little siblings.  Mom was off in the laundry room, cooking, or cleaning all the time.  The way she had a perfect house was her taking care of all that while the other cared for each other.  That's one extreme.  The other extreme I've seen is to where the mom does EVERYTHING and kids just play, play, play.  You'll literally see the kid throwing stuff over their shoulder and the mom behind them picking it up and putting it away.  Mom sacrifices sleep in order to do it all and make sure her kids completely enjoy the innocence of their youth.  Not really training them to one day be adults but instead trying to completely preserve their childhood as long as possible.  Mom is completely worn out and kids grow up not knowing how to care for their own household.

Okay, so I've taken those two extremes and figured there had to be a happy medium.  So, how to do I this?  Well, I figured that although it's good to care about each other as siblings and do kind things for one another, I've never put them in charge.  Because I've made sure they know that I AM mom, they tend to beg to have the opportunity to mommy a little one out of their own desire, not something I force on them.  I use the Buddy System in order to teach them to show sibling love and care about someone besides themselves.  This means when we are out, just keep an eye out for their chosen buddy and make sure they stick together.  The older ones are not asked to take over for me and take care of all the little ones.  They are only given one buddy and the buddy system is only used when we are out and about. It means if 3 year old Caleb needs to go potty, 11 year old Ryan is the one that takes him.  Ryan loves it and each kid had a choice of their buddy.  Someone they got along with well.  You should see the wonderful bond that has formed between Ryan and Caleb. Ryan isn't resentful because he doesn't have to do EVERYTHING. 

Caleb sitting next to big brother in church

Chore time?  That's easy.  The house is split up into sections.  I know it's tempting to just have the older ones take over since they tend to clean up right.  I can't let that happen.  I give each kid a chore I think they can handle for their age.  That means 3 year old Caleb's chore is just to pick up shoes and put them in the bucket.  That's what he can handle.  It doesn't mean I have Chaz and Ryan doing everything because it's easier than finding where the younger ones are hiding because they don't want to do chores.  It's WORTH training each and every child.  None of my kids put away my things.  I don't use having kids to be my maids.  I take care of my own stuff and plenty, plenty more.  I don't do chores for kids just to make their life harder and mine easier but because I want them to not be afraid of work when the time comes for them to have to work a job.  It BLESSES me greatly when someone tells me that my kids did a fantastic job helping out somewhere and they don't seem to be afraid of work. That they worked with great attitudes.  Then I KNOW I'm doing something right.  Recently the boys had to do some landscaping to earn their way to a Navy Seals Base in a different state.  Rather than just pay the money from mom and dad, they were proud to have worked for it.


Of course I will make mistakes.  I'm human.  I know it's easy for people that don't have kids to feel like they have it all together or for parents of parents to have tunnel vision and criticize. Don't you think it's better to encourage?  To show by example rather than send hate mail?  Believe me, I have lost sleep over trying to make sure I raise my kids right.  I've read over a hundred books.  I've asked grandparents. I've asked grown children.  I've prayed about it.  I've searched the scriptures.  I've researched the history of different styles of parenting.  Most importantly, I learn each day in each circumstance.

I may be biased but I don't feel like a neglectful parent who can't care for her own kids.  I can't help if in the hate mail people say they feel sorry for my kids.  I can't help that they only know my family through pictures, or through my blog, or watch from a distance.  They don't live in my house.  No, my children are not starving Africans.  No we are not on government assistance.  On that note, stop attacking families that are.  You don't know their situation.  Especially as a Christian we should be praying for families going through financial hardship.  It has not been an easy economy.  Maybe, just maybe, a family started out great and then a job fell through.  You must think, "There go I but for the GRACE of God."  Pray for families, pray for parents.  Don't sit back in the computer chair and spread gossip and hate disguised as knowledge and concern. 

By the way. I'm new on Instagram!


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

I just love that Batman picture. Sometimes I do get judge-y about other parents. It's usually when a child is misbehaving and a parent is doing NOTHING about it. I mean... do something. I don't really care what, but if the behaviour is not addressed, I know you don't care about the people around you or even your child's future behaviour.

Karen said...

Great post! I agree...I did not have kids to have slaves...and I want them to be able to care for themselves and their things when they are grown-up...so we work to find the line between freedom and responsibility. :-)