The “Grounded” Family

According to Merriam-Webster the word “grounded” is used to describe a person who is sensible and has a good understanding of what is really important in life. I really appreciate that definition. In fact I’d like to say I relate to that definition. However the word “grounded” has had a very different meaning in my house lately.

Ever feel like all of your kids’ brain cells have gone on the fritz at the same time? I mean, there’s one child I expect it from, but ALL THREE?! AT THE SAME TIME?!! How is this fair? What did I do to deserve this? (Pity party begins.) I have gotten used to grounding the youngest. He is an independant, strong-willed, boundary pushing child. Lately if he isn’t grounded it’s momentus. That’s why when I got the call from his teacher I wasn’t shocked. Instead I was thinking what can I take away now? He’s already grounded! Apartently a mom of one of the girls in his class emailed the teacher saying her daughter and 3 of her friends heard him say the “C” word with definition. WHERE would he have even learned that word? It’s NEVER said in the house. I asked the teacher if she had ever used the soap-in-the-mouth method (on her own children, not her students…relax) and if so what kind of soap did she recommend.

That was a Thursday and yes I did stick a bar of soap in his mouth, but only for 15 secs cause MA had me worried that any longer and he’d have diarreah for days! He didn’t like it. AND he had to write an apology letter to his teacher. Nevertheless, relief was in my sights because his dad was going to have him ALL weekend and I would get a break…so I thought.

B and I shot a wedding that Saturday so we were on our feet from the time we woke until past midnight. I had already designated Sunday as my cleaning day and thats when I found it. I walked into the twins’ room and there was a piece of paper on the floor with and arrow drawn on it, “For mom” written under the arrow. It pointed to 2 more papers turned upside down. I turned them over to discover that they were letters from the boys and under the letters were their report cards. Before I read the first sentnce I knew. They had both done so poorly I wondered what planet the pod people came from that had obviously inhabited my kids’ bodies! J has never NOT been on the A/B honor roll and G had finally gotten on the A/B honor roll last quarter only to have one of those A’s drop to an F! WHAT?!!! Or more appropriately, WTF?!!! The letters gave me all the excuses as to why this happened. I actually teared up I was that shocked.

You know that advice you get to sleep on things and give yourself time to cool off? Well they came home that night so there was no sleeping on it, but I did cool off. Especially when I was taking their TV and XBox out of their room. And when they walked in the door and I confiscated thier ipods. (Insert minanical laugh here.)

I was going to write about the down side of grounding like the constant complaining that they don’t know what to do and they’re bored. Or them following me around. Or the increase in arguing without the distractions of technology. But instead I decided to list some of the benefits (end scene on the Pity Party):

1. I have a tv and xbox that I use every day to watch my shows.
2. B has a tv and xbox to play Walking Dead.
3. They have done a ton more reading and drawing and playing music. (Go creativity, Go!)
4. With their earlier bed times I have more ME/US time.
5. I’ve been able to see more of them and their personalities and have come to realize they’re pretty funny. That silly little kids humor is turning into HAHA humor (at least for me).

Oh and E is no longer grounded…for the moment.

OMG I Sound Like My Mother!

I remember the first time I heard my mother’s voice come out of my mouth. All at once I understood. I was being initiated into a secret society I didn’t remember pledging to and wasn’t sure I wanted to be a part of. But it was too late!

My twin toddlers undoubtedly did something that I had told them MANY times not to do and inadvertently opened Mommy’s flood gate of “THAT’S IT”.  If you ask me what those exact words were that formed in my brain and leap off my tongue, I would not be able to tell you. It wasn’t the words exactly, but the way in which they were said. They had her tone of voice all over them. Despite all my pronouncements as an adolescent (as most adolescents do) that I would NOT be like my mom when I grew up, I had indeed inherited some of her traits. And to my surprise it wasn’t as upsetting as I thought it’d be. Quite the opposite actually. In that moment of clarity I finally got her! And with it came a deep sense of appreciation.

For most of my childhood my mom was a stay-at-home mom. Not because she wasn’t a strong-willed independent woman (if you know her at all you’ll know I’m not lying), but I believe it’s what she and my father thought was best. I am so grateful that they did. There was a security that came with my mom always being there. She was able to be involved in our school activities. She made sure we had healthy social lives. She baked…not everyday but there wasn’t a Christmas that went by without our kitchen becoming a cookie factory so she could give trays of cookies away to everyone and their neighbor. She encouraged us creatively with messy projects. She was (and still is) a great story teller. And boy could that woman get mad! And quick! What I didn’t realize then, but do now, is the amount of work and brain drain that goes into being active in your childrens’ school activities, social lives, baking, messy projects and even making up stories. It’s exhausting! No wonder her fuse was short.

There is another side to sounding like my mother. My mom is always ready with an encouraging word. If you ever read the comments on this blog you’ll know what I mean. I don’t think there’s one post she hasn’t commented on, each more encouraging than the last. I love hearing her converse with her grandchildren (which I just got to do last week when she was visiting). There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that she thinks they’re the shiznit! It’s a trait I hope people will see in me as well. That and her compassion for others. She’s always been easy to talk to. She was, and still is, usually volunteering for one organization or another.  And I can’t tell you how many times we had people staying with us for a week or two until they got on their feet. My friends knew they had a place to go and my mom would accept them with open arms. She just had 3 rules: 1. No drugs, 2. No sex and 3. Don’t leave the toilet seat up. I’m pleading the 5th on whether or not those rules were upheld.

It’s funny how we as humans can have a hard time appreciating someone without walking in there shoes. Becoming a mom myself has been an eye opening experience and I know I have still barely scratched the surface. Both my moms have survived adolescent children, whereas I am just beginning that phase, and there are still so many stages yet to come: college, weddings, grandchildren.  I am fully prepared to be amazed by these two incredible women at each stage as I learn to appreciate them and what they’ve been through more and more. So sounding like my mom.. ain’t so bad!

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!

The Difference Between “Steps” And Stairs

It could have easily been a case of Step-Monster vs Rebellious Teenage Daughter. Especially with the first woman my father dated after he and my mother separated. She was nice enough from what I can remember other than the fact she didn’t want to share my dad with his kids. I have scenes from movies playing in my head where the single dad starts dating and gets engaged to a beautiful woman whom he thinks is great for his kids, only behind his back she is making plans to ship said kids to military/boarding school as soon as they say “I do”. Thankfully it never got that close, but still.

Truthfully I wouldn’t have cared much either way.  My dad and I had a REALLY strained relationship. (Like the kind where I honestly thought I hated him). It pains me to say that now, but that’s how deeply I felt unloved by him and thought I’d be better off without him. Besides I was more interested in having the freedom to hang out with my friends and flirt (ahem) with boys. My dad got in the way of that with his strict rules so the further away the better. Did I mention I was a somewhat rebellious, self centered, bratty teenager? Fortunately for us all he ended that relationship. Also fortunately for us all, she had a best friend who later became the love of his life.

It started out as a friendship that grew into a love I didn’t yet know was possible. There was respect and laughing and family time. A LOT of family time since MA (short for My-All) had 3 sisters who all had children and all lived within 10 minutes from their parents, Nanny & Pop Pop. It didn’t matter who you were, they were still Nanny and Pop Pop.  They were that family. You know the one that had a picnic for any excuse possible. They actually enjoyed spending time together. They knew everything going on in each others’ lives. I don’t remember ever being treated as an outsider or even a visitor. Until then my experience of “Family” had been completely different. Most of my family lived on other continents and I barely knew them. The ones that lived closer I saw on average twice a year. But MA’s family was what I imagined a “REAL” family to be.

As my dad and MA’s relationship progressed, my defiance started to lose some steam. MA made me feel like I was the daughter she never had but always wanted. She loved me even when I was being ugly (and I could get ugly!). She accepted me in my rebellion (which f.y.i when rebellion is accepted it not longer qualifies as rebellion). Even more than that she was able to express my father’s love for me in a way I could understand. She gave her ALL and it was the bridge that brought me back. I’d like to think that my dad and I would have eventually worked things out, but I’m not sure we could have without the help we got from MA.

In the 20+ years that my dad and MA have been married, it’s become even more evident that MA has a knack for operating in forgiveness and acceptance of which I admire and strive towards. Don’t get me wrong, that woman can get mad! I’m talkin’ the kind of mad that makes grown men wish they were in a dark alley in the worst part of the city…cause it’s safer! She’ll break a nose before she lets someone hurt her family! But if you’re family, or a friend of the family or a friend of a friend of the family, you can rest assured that she would give you the shirt off her back, or those really sweet shoes in her closet or her sewing machine because you mentioned you wanted to learn to sew.  She is a silver lining.

“There are no ‘STEPS’ in this house besides the ones going upstairs!” -MA

A Moment of Self Reflection

The other morning the boys had a 2 hour delay for a “snow storm” we had the night before here in NC. Seriously! We had less than 2 inches of snow and it was gone in the morning, but who’s counting? They were super excited, as is to be expected with the possibility of snow and no school. I even let them stay up later than usual because I knew they could sleep in and I’m an awesome mom (wink). I was equally excited about not having to wake up at 6 am. So can someone please explain to me why my tween son was mad that I woke him up at 8 am? And before you say because he wanted to sleep in later…ERRR! No! It was because he didn’t wake up early enough. And not only was he mad, but he was extremely grumpy, hardly said two words and growled at us! GROWLED! (You know when people try to console you by saying you’re not alone? Well I really think I am the only mom in the world with this problem.)

As I write about it now I can see the humor, but my immediate response was to get mad back at him. But WHY? This is the question I asked later when I realized how mad I actually was about his grumpiness and couldn’t give myself an acceptable answer. Hence the reflection part of this post.

It occurred to me that yes, I have done a ton of work to lessen the severity of my weaknesses and shortcomings, but it’s been focused on the relational issues specific to a significant other. There is still so much work to do with the other important relationships in my life, namely with my sons. Lest you think  this is the first time this realization is dawning on me, I doubt there is a day that goes by without me feeling inadequate as a mother in one form or another. If you’ve been following me for a while you may recall that one of my greatest fears throughout my separation and divorce was the fear of emotionally screwing up my children. While I don’t think I will completely ruin their lives anymore, I still want to have the healthiest possible relationship with them. Getting mad at someone for his grumpiness is not a healthy response. It wasn’t in marriage and it isn’t in ANY relationship.

Here what I deduced:

1. I got mad because I took his grumpiness as a personal statement that I am “not good enough”. Crazy that I would get that from a 12 year old growl, but I did. It seems to be a recurring theme in the story of my insecurity.

2. There is a stink of co-dependency in this story. It’s slight, but it is there. If my kids are happy, I am happy. If they’re miserable, I’m miserable. The odds are against me. There are 3 of them and the chance that all of them will be happy at the same time are equivalent to me finding a wad of cash in my mailbox. So why am I allowing their demeanor to determine my mood?

3. We should all be allowed to express ourselves when we are feeling emotional. He was obviously having a bad morning for whatever reason. I mean he is pubescent after all. He should have the freedom to be upset without someone else taking it personally and adding to the crumminess of the situation.

So there you have it! I am officially the best mom on the planet now, right? Ha! I wish it were that easy. If I could fix every problem by analyzing it, I would write a book and make millions. Pshh! I know it’s not that easy. Instead I’ll just work at being more aware of my reactions. I will still get mad when they pretend they can’t hear me tell them to clean their room, take a shower, brush their teeth. I will still yell loudly when they are fighting with one another in another room. I will still talk through my gritted teeth at my youngest 10 times a day for…pretty much everything. But if I stay aware and ask myself why I am reacting the way I am, sooner or later it will become easier to not react. Between that and asking my boys for forgiveness when I over do it, there is hope….for that best mom on the planet award!