I’ve never worried I would be like my parents. Because I’ve always vowed that I would not be like them. Looking back at that statement, it may appear as if my parents, were awful, horrible, people, but that’s not the case. They instilled in me core values that I still live by and carry with me today. My love of God, and complete and utter reverence for Him? That came from my mother. The fact that if I am in a room with three people, and I decide I am going to buy myself something to eat, they too will have something to eat, on me if necessary, that’s from my dad. We don’t leave anyone behind or left out. It’s just not cool. They both taught me to love and respect everyone, respect my elders, and don’t do dumb shit. Albeit, in their own ways, they did the best they could with what they had. But when it came to discipline, that is where they differed. My dad’s type of discipline was more “corporal,” I won’t go as far as to use the word “abuse” even though it may be appropriate here. But my mom? She was something different. While she too believed in some sort of “corporal” punishment, it was nowhere near as extreme as my father, and she was more inclined towards what I like to call “psychological warfare.” While if the situation called for a spanking, she was for it, her typical drug of choice, would be one that would be a huge mind-f#$%.
Nevertheless, when I started having kids, I made it my mission to do it differently. I was not going to be like my parents. I would not physically harm my children, and would not wage a psychological war with them. Now that I am older, and have three children of my own now, I’ve started to think about the differences between my mother and me, when it comes to rearing children. Let’s talk some more about that.
“I’m not your friend, I’m your mother.” If there was one statement I would use to describe the way my mom parented, that would be it. I could end this article, with just that statement. But just because, let’s dig a little deeper. My mom believed children, were children. If they had emotions about things, they didn’t matter. I don’t believe I ever asked “what’s for dinner” in my household. If I did, I’m sure it was ignored. My mom would come home, enter the kitchen, move around a bit, make some noises, and then dinner would appear. Usually, the only way I could tell what was for dinner before I entered the kitchen and it was placed in front of me, is by the smell that emitted from the kitchen, or lack thereof. So contrast number one. Yes, I believe my children, are children and should stay in a child’s place. But I’ve operated under the impression that they have feelings and emotions that they should be allowed to express. So, I typically ask them what they want for dinner. I’ll talk more about where that has gotten me later.
Choice: an act of making a decision when faced with two or more possibilities.
Just looking at that definition makes me laugh. Out Loud. The two or more possibilities actually are what give me the chuckle. Church. Or Church. Those are my two possibilities. Eat this, or Eat this. Yup, two more. When you finish your cereal, you will drink your milk. Why? Because I said so. I remember sitting at the breakfast bar in our home when I was smaller for three-plus hours because I didn’t want to drink the milk from my cereal. It was a stalemate of some sort, that I was determined to win. I watched my little sister and brother, eat their cereal, and drink their milk and go off to play. But I was not going to. I hated milk. So I wasn’t going to drink it. One of the things I hate about punishing my kids is that it feels as if I am on punishment too. In that same scenario, if my kid didn’t drink the milk, I would sit there and watch them until they did. Not my mom. Psychological warfare remember? My sister and brother were able to go off, upstairs to our room and play. My mom? I don’t know, doing something somewhere else. I was left alone, with my thoughts, and the sounds of my siblings playing happily, while I stared at my bowl of milk. Why didn’t I just pour it down the drain while no one was looking you ask? Because I wasn’t stupid. And while corporal punishment wasn't her thing, she knew a thing or two about it when the situation called for it.
She never wavered. If I say you can’t watch tv for a month, guess what? No tv for a month. She was always concerned with the state of our “mind.” Let me explain. There were these Christian Romance books that I used to love to read. Loved. And they were just that, Christian based. So no smut, no pornographic images, explicit language, faith-based. Just the type of book you’d like your teenage daughter to get into right? Wrong. What was it now? Oh yes, “you’re reading those books too much, you’re living in a fantasy world, life isn’t really like that.” Those were the words I heard as I watched my mother gather up every single book in the household and donate them to goodwill. Goodwill. Did my crestfallen and devastated face deter her? Did the glistening of tears that were surely on my face crumble her resolve? HELL NO.
Here’s where the differences between my mother and me are paramount. That same scenario with the books? My child’s crestfallen face would have crumbled my resolve. Yes, I give my children choices. If I say my daughter can’t have her tv for a month or her phone, the moping, the sullen attitude, and the utter despair she is in, makes that month turn into a week. And I do it thinking, I’m not like my parents. My children will be able to talk to me, express themselves, have feelings, they are PEOPLE.
Here’s how that’s working for me. My teenager doesn’t trust that I’ll keep my word when she is punished. I take the phone away, she walks around the house sad for three days and I cave. What does that mean? She keeps doing the same thing over and over again. I ask her not to lie, she keeps doing it. I want her to be dedicated to school and put less stock in talking to her friends, she doesn’t. When I cook something that she and her brother don’t like, he won’t eat it, and she will pick at it, typically with an attitude. And for some reason, this enrages me. But it’s a condition that I have treated, with the wrong medicine. It’s of my own doing. Why? Because somewhere along the lines, the lines between “friend” and mother, have been blurred. I’ve been sooo caught up in not being like my parents, that I’ve loosened my grip on my children. Now are they horrible, and out of control? No. Do they listen to me and are they respectful of other people? Yes. But remember, that is something that both my parents have instilled in me, its the only way I know how to be towards people. It’s quite possible, they’ve just learned by example, especially since it’s the only thing they’ve ever seen from me.
“I’m not your friend, I’m your mother.” Whenever my mother used to say that I’d roll my eyes, to myself of course, (again, not stupid), and think: duh. Of course, I know you’re my mother, who else are you? But that statement means more to me now. Did I come to my mom when I had boy trouble? Or to gossip about the school day? No. We talked about things, and if I had a real issue, I would come to her. But there was always this “invisible barrier” that I knew not to cross and was afraid to. My mom was not my friend, it was her job to make sure that I had food to eat, clothes on my back, believed in God, was good to people, made it thru school with decent grades, had shelter, and didn’t do dumb shit. She was responsible for me. If indeed I did do dumb shit, it was her who the repercussions would be stronger for, her who would have to deal with the brunt of the fallout. Because she was an adult, who was responsible for me. Your friends are not responsible for you. They aren’t obligated to care for you or do ANYTHING for you.
I’m 34 now. My mom is one of my best friends, and still my mother. It's kind of cool. I can call and gossip with her about the dumb things my friends are doing. I can tell her how much of an asshole my husband is being, and get advice from her. I can go shopping with her. Hang out. Talk about things. What’s the difference? The responsibility is gone. She has done her job and her role has transitioned. And I have to say, I’m a pretty decent person. I do what I say, say what I mean, and I respect people. I love God. I believe in doing the right things, I work hard, I'm cool to be around, yeah, I’m pretty decent.
I always wanted to be considered “cool” to my children. My mom, while I love her to death, wasn’t cool. Not at all. She only listened to Gospel music, (which means only I could too), didn’t believe in buying expensive brands, doesn’t like to eat out, didn’t watch MTV, VH1, anything like that. I’m going to be cool, I’m going to listen to my children, we’re going to listen to the same music, hang out with each other, they are going to have choices, we’re going to express our feelings they are going to be my friends.
Yeah, no. Your children are not your friends. They are precious gifts from God, who are your responsibility. It is your job to rear them, help mold them, and form them into decent human beings. To do that, you have to have a strong resolve. Believe in discipline. Sometimes meet them where they are, but never let them meet you where you are. Because they are not on your level. How can they be? Think of what you have to do on a day to day basis to care for them? The things you think about. Ok, I only have $100 this week for groceries, and the kids need lunch for school. Aiden has basketball practice this evening and his uniform isn’t washed. Aaron’s pants are getting a little high, I need to go to the store and buy him some new ones. The dishwasher’s broken, let me call the plumber to have it fixed. The mortgage payment is due. The light bulb in Aaliyah’s room is out, I need to replace it before she gets home so she can read at night. Aiden’s night light is out, gotta get batteries, he can’t sleep without it. It took me 34 years and having children of my own to realize my mom was right. I always used to think she was too hard on us. GIVE A LITTLE PLEASE! She just wanted us to be stronger people. To prepare ourselves for when we’d have responsibilities and little ones of our own to think about. Now, she seriously is my best friend. And that is super cool.
Your children are not your friends. And that’s ok. One day they will be. For now, it's ok to be a little like your parents. Go freaking figure. Thanks for listening.