Monday, March 30, 2015

5 reasons I am not the mother I want to be

The other night after a very lengthy and overly dramatic tantrum about me not letting Lila spend the night at my mother's house, She looked at me and said the thing I have secretly thought but tried not to allow myself to worry about. 

"You're a terrible mother" she spit at me through hot tears.

And although I feed her, clothe her and otherwise look out for her best interests 100% of the time, there are still many ways that I fail her as a mother. 

Here are 5 of them:

  1. I don't think my maternal instincts ever really kicked in.  I am not a very nurturing person by nature.  It takes a lot of awareness to remember that kids need lots of hugs and kisses and I try to provide those to her at least daily.  But when the waterworks start over something that I consider trivial, it is not my first reaction to comfort her.  I tend to get frustrated with her and tell her to knock it off.  I tell her things like, "crying isn't going to make me change my mind" and "your father would never put up with this little tantrum."  My mother has pointed out that I seem like I totally lack compassion for things that genuinely upset her but to me it is just her being overly dramatic.
  2. I don't know how to have fun with her. I will never be the fun parent.  I don't have any ideas for things to do that we haven't done a bunch of times already.  We go to the zoo, to the bookstore to pick out books (which she used to enjoy but suddenly now she hates reading as I have documented here) and to the park.  We go mini golfing in the summer and to the beach.  But I don't think she has much fun with me.  I don't enjoy these things.  I do it because she needs to get out of the house.  I honestly think I lack the ability to let loose and enjoy myself. 
  3. I allow way too much attitude from her.  I realize every time she mouths off to me that I am going to have a real problem on my hands when she becomes a teenager but she is a seriously  mouthy bitch sometimes.  But I have yet to find a suitable way to deal with this besides yelling at her and sending her to her room to cool her ass down.  This clearly doesn't work as she is still mouthy and often just cries and denies that she ever said anything mouthy to me in the first place.
  4. I let my mother influence my rules and never for the better.  Lila eats dinner in front of the TV, not with me.  She drinks soda more than I would ever allow.  She will refuse to eat anything that we are eating for dinner and instead insists on one of only a few meals that she is willing to eat.  As I live upstairs from my mother, we eat most meals with her.  I have expressed all of these things as problems for me but she has made it very clear that she isn't going to change.  So as long as I live there cheaply, I have no choice but to accept her way of doing things when it comes to my daughter.  My mother believes it is cruel to let a kid go to bed hungry so if Lila doesn't like what we are having for dinner my mother happily cooks her something else (which is basically every single night). My mother lets her watch whatever she wants on TV and so Lila hates coming upstairs for the night because I tell her that after dinner is grown up TV time.  The tantrum about spending the night at my mother's was about this very fact.  I don't let her watch whatever she wants.
  5. I am lazy.  We don't have a lot of traditions around the holidays.  I don't color Easter eggs or carve a pumpkin at Halloween.  I refuse to take her to the St. Patrick's Day Parade because it's cold and I hate the crowds.  I figure her father (who is the fun parent anyway) will do these things with her and he does.  We don't cook together or really do arts and crafts as I suck at these things.  Part of this one stems from my depression which although medicated is still a dark cloud over me and it often just all feels like so much work.  When I come home from work at night it's all I can do to not collapse into bed and I still have to make sure homework is done and give baths and do our bedtime routine. I do these things because I know I have to but since homework is often a battle I absolutely hate doing it.
So there you have it.  I struggle often with feeling like I am a shitty mother and I know I am not alone in this.  What are some ways you feel like you fail at motherhood?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Because it's complicated.

She asks me again after a quick stop at Ben's house to pick up a couple of things for the week. "Why aren't you guys friends?"

This has come up about a hundred times.  Every time that she wants to tell me about hanging out with her or whenever Ben is with her when Lila calls him she asks me.  She wants to know why I'm not friends with Ben's new girlfriend.

"It's complicated," I tell her.  And it is.  I don't think I would know how to explain it to her 7 year old brain so I don't.  Hell I am not sure I entirely know why we're not friends.

Part of it is how I found out they were an item.  Ben and I had been split up for about a month and I saw a picture of them together on Facebook.  You see, she is someone I went to high school with so I was Facebook friends with her.  I contacted her asking her what the hell was going on because I was still holding out hope that Ben and I just needed space and were just taking some time apart.  Granted, we didn't ever say that.  I mean, moved out.  But in my own little delusional head I thought that he loved me so he was as confused by the split as I was.  I was wrong on that one. 

She replied that they had been seeing each other for MONTHS.  Her tone was bitchy.  I was blindsided.  Turns out that in the time that we were still living together, they were spending time together and now that I had moved out she was ready to come out as a couple.  Several rounds of confused questions and completely bitchy responses ensued and it ended with us blocking each other on Facebook. 

That was the last conversation I had with her.

That was almost 2 years ago. 

Since then she has come to birthday parties and school concerts, she and Ben always sitting separately from me and basically we just ignore each other.  We don't even acknowledge the other's existence.  Ben and I will chat after the school concert as if nothing was out of the ordinary and we go home.

But every time Lila asks me why we aren't friends I kind of wonder the same thing myself.  I don't harbor any feelings for Ben.  I am glad that he has found someone that he is happy with.  In fact I assume that they are in love (as much as I cringe to think about it).  Lila said that he talked to her about the girlfriend someday possibly becoming her step mother.  Although a little freaked out by that (as Ben never wanted to marry me) I would be happy for him if he chose that path. 

So why aren't we friends?

I just don't see myself doing what would be necessary to be friends with this girl.  I would never pull her aside and be like "listen, I have no plans on getting back with Ben so it is stupid for us to act like we hate each other.  Let's just call it a day and be pleasant to each other." 

As I am typing that it seems like it would be so easy to say but I don't think I am ready to do it yet.  I don't know that I ever could do that. 

I suppose I could tell Ben to deliver the message that I am not bitter and that she is welcome to any of Lila's events that she wants to come to. 

Maybe I will just send him a link to this blog post and let him figure it out himself. 

I don't think we will ever be BFF's.  I don't see myself calling her up to hang out or anything.  But there's no reason that we can't be in the same room together and be polite and make small talk.  If this is someone that Ben intends to have in my kid's life the least I can do is put in the effort to tolerate her.  And maybe I will find out I actually like her. 

And it's entirely possible that this girl thinks I am a total psychotic asshole based on the Facebook conversation and I'm sure what Ben has told her.  I mean, I wasn't at my best for a lot of my time with him.  So maybe she would still give me the cold shoulder even if I did extend an olive branch. 

There's only one way to find out though.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Not sure when this happened.

I don't know what I did wrong.  I thought I did everything right.  I started reading to her when she was about 6 weeks old-long before she could possibly understand what I was saying to her.  I read to her every night.  I took her to storytimes.  First in Arizona when she wasn't even big enough to crawl around and later to the toddler and then preschooler story times at the local library.  I have purchased over a hundred books for her.  First those sturdy little board books, later those expensive picture books and most recently chapter books.  I thought I did everything right.

How is it then, that my kid is not a reader? 

Lila does not like to read.  Up until a few months ago we did story time every night at bed time and I thought she would carry on that habit when she became old enough to read on her own.  But she hasn't.  She has traded in those last 20 or so minutes before it's lights out time for an extra 20 minutes of TV time.  Most nights it's not even something she wants to watch.  I will have Seinfeld on and that's perfectly ok with her. 

How could this have happened?  I worked at the freakin' library for 4 years of her life for Christ's sake! She always sees me with a book in my hand and I often read while she does her homework or plays after dinner. And yet those fill in lists the teacher sends home to chronicle the books she reads remain empty and sitting there piling up on her night stand. 

Last night I told her we were going to start a new nightly tradition.  I thought that if I made it sound special that she might be on board.  I told her that 15 minutes before bed time we were going to turn the TV off and we were each going to get a book and read together on the couch instead of watching TV.  She reacted as if I told her that I was going to strip her naked and pelt her with a bb gun.  She actually cried about it. 

How could this daughter of mine hate reading so much that it causes her to cry about spending just 15 minutes a day reading?  And remember, I only have her half of the week so it's not like it's even 15 minutes EVERY day! 

I worry that this is a first of many.  Up until now, she has happily and naively wanted to be just like me.  She wants to carry a purse because I carry a purse.  She wants to put on makeup with me because I am doing it.  She wants her hair to grow longer because I have let my hair grow out.  But here begins that divergence from her happy little parallel road.  Now she doesn't love reading just because I have made it clear that books are one of my favorite things.  I am still a little in shock.

I mean, I did everything right! We make monthly trips to the bookstore and she always pick something out but those books never seem to be read.  They are piling up on her bookshelf and collecting dust.

I dread the painful season of summer reading when she has to read like 6 books over a few months.  How am I going to force her to sit quietly and push through titles she doesn't like when she won't even spend 15 minutes a day reading a book she picked out? 

Anyone else have a kid who hates to read?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Feeling lazy today.

Because I don't have an idea for a fresh blog today, I am going to share Sunday Stealing with you today. 

Today is the Threes Meme.

1. Three things that scare me: 

Depression, Unsolved Mysteries (the TV show-thanks Mom) and my student loan debt.

 2. Three people who make me laugh: 

My kid, Jim Gaffigan, and Chris Rock.

3. Three things I love: 

My kid, naps, lasagna

4. Three things I hate: 

loneliness, my shitty inner critic, getting stuck at train crossings.

5. Three things I don't understand: 

Japanese, the stock market, my kid's dramatic antics

6. Three things on my desk: 

Coffee, calendar, computer

7. Three things I'm doing right now: 

Thinking, typing, answering phones.

8. Three things I want to do before I die: 

Visit Italy, get published, become super-mom

9. Three things I can do: 

whistle, tree pose, write

10. Three things I can't do: 

sing, dance, walk in really high heels

11. Three things you should listen to: 

Your mother, me, that voice in your head that tells you to go for it.

12. Three things you should never listen to: 

That other voice in your head, a kids whining, politicians

13. Three things I'd like to learn: 

Mandarin Chinese, how to paint, how to knit

14. Three favorite foods: 

Lasagna, Chicken Parm, my mom's spaghetti sauce

15. Three beverages I drink regularly: 

Coffee, water, chocolate milkshakes

16. Three shows I watched as a kid:

Scooby Doo, Justice League, Josie and the Pussycats

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Free Range Parenting or Child Neglect?

You no doubt have heard about the couple in Maryland who let their children, 10 and 6 years old, walk a mile home alone and had CPS and the police called on them.  Well on Monday the state weighed in on their case.  They are charged with "unsubstantiated child neglect".  They don't appear to be receiving any kind of sentence for this charge but it is something that stays on file with them at CPS. 

Am I the only one who thinks that this is bullshit?  I'm not what you would consider a "free-range parent by any means, but in my opinion a 10 year old is perfectly capable of walking home alone.  He is even more capable of walking home in the company of another kid. When I was a kid, I walked home from school with other kids my age starting at around 8. In fact up until I was 8, I walked home with my slightly older school mates who were about 10 or 11.  And the thing is that kids aren't in any more danger now than they were when I was a kid.  In fact there are studies that show that things like random kidnapping are down since the early 80's when I made the 8 block trek home unsupervised. 

What the hell is wrong with us nowadays where we think that the world is such a dangerous place that it is considered child neglect to let a 10 year old walk home with his little sibling?  If 10 is too young, then what is the proper age?  12?  15?  18?  By the time I was 10, I was free to ride my bike with my little friends all over the neighborhood unsupervised and wasn't allowed to come home until dinner time.  My parents had no idea where I was for most of the day and they never worried that they were being neglectful because at 10 I was mature enough to know to look both ways when crossing the streets and not to get into a van with a guy offering me candy.

I think that this is just ridiculous.  I refuse to be one of those parents who is paranoid every time that my kid walks out the front door that she is going to be in danger of being kidnapped or run down by a crazy driver.  My kid is allowed to go outside to play alone.  She has a little friend down the street and when she walks down to her house I don't feel the need to watch her.  She will get there just fine.  And when they ride their bikes on the street I don't worry that a car is going to come and snatch her up because that would be crazy.  She would never get fresh air if I worried like that.  But with this attitude prevalent among parents and apparently officials, it's no wonder kids don't play outside anymore. Our kids need more sunshine and exercise, not leashes and helicopter parenting. 

If you want to read the article that got me going, it is here at