Thursday, April 26, 2012

Life in the Motherhood

Who are all these kids and why are they calling me mom?

I used to be this woman: young, formerly cute, with a bad attitude and a mean face. I started out with great theories on raising kids. Then one day I found a 25-pound bag of sugar spread evenly on the storage room floor. The kids and their friends were ice-skating in their socks over the slippery crystals.

Chalking it up to bad outside influences, I kept them isolated from naughty neighbor children. The next thing they designed was a swimming pool. They covered the shower drain with a towel and let the water overflow onto the bathroom floor. The plan was to fill up the bathroom and swim like fish in an aquarium. The resulting flood ruined the tile, and the carpet in the next room.

Experts on child-rearing have never bothered having children. If they did, they'd know nothing works. My theories toppled like blocks in a playroom.

When the corner of the boys bedroom started attracting flies, I investigated. Hmmm ... what was the stinky, sticky liquid that had stiffened the carpet and eaten away the carpet pad ... even the floor boards were dissolving ... Could it be that animals lived in this room and had marked their spot with urine? These could NOT be my children! My children were obediently doing their extra reading at bedtime, not filling their toy box with bodily fluids!

Insanity is hereditary. You get it from your kids.

There were emotional issues, too. One kid had a conniption fit when the tub drain was released, convinced that he and all of his loved ones would be sucked down pipes and live in the sewer muck forever. He could hear the plug being released from any room in the house and broke into screams of terror. Another kid refused to take baths. He sat fully clothed on the bathroom floor and stirred the bathwater so it would sound like he was washing his sweat-stained arms.

Fears of wind, car washes, and vacuums ran rampant at our house. Two kids "rolled" their heads in a rhythmic effort to sooth themselves to sleep ... for hours every night! I sat in darkened bedrooms to scare away bad dreams, and laid in darkened doorways to rescue sleepwalkers.

My bad dreams involved taking them out in public. Mom rearranged the furniture one year for Thanksgiving. She hauled the ping-pong table upstairs to the dining room, and set it with her lovely silver and china. The meal got underway, with instructions on where to sit and thanks to great-grandma for her homemade watermelon pickles. "Everybody fold your arms. It's time for the prayer."

I scanned the room for my cute little boys while my sister searched for hers. Suddenly the decorative metal room divider lurched towards the table. As we all looked up in horror we saw four little monkeys clutching the aluminum scroll-work as it fell from it's place between the ceiling and the half-wall. In the nick of time, our husbands caught it before our sons became the centerpiece. Turkey time.

I childproofed the house but they keep getting back in.

I'm not telling these stories to brag. I just want to establish my credentials as an honest-to-goodness mom. Thirty years of on-the-job training taught me that most naughty behavior is just a stage. Happily all seven kids grew out of all conduct unbecoming, and now it's entertaining to watch them deal with their own little rascals.

But what do you do between "the baby just rolled over!" and "he's going away to college?" My dad used to say, "Just love 'em, and make them mind." So, how do you teach them to mind? What works? Time outs, grounding, incentives, threats, taking away privileges, little chats? What's fair? What if you're inconsistent? Is there a place for spanking? (If I was a young mother now I'd be turned in for child abuse for sure.)

(All illustrations here are from the darling book Jillian Jiggs, by Phoebe Gilman.)

As a parent or grandparent, you've been on the front lines and your experience, good and bad, is valuable. If you're not a parent, you were a kid. How did your parents handle tantrums, lying, bad grades, curfew, swearing, speeding tickets or whatever your vice happened to be?



Grandma Cebe said...

Only one mode of discipline stands out in my mind. I was probably about 13 or 14 and kind of mouthy. I had been told by my mother that I couldn't go to a church dance. I must have gotten pretty disrespectful with her, because my father warned me that he'd wash my mouth out with soap if I didn't stop. I pushed the limit. My father marched me to the bathroom and grabbed the Palmolive soap and shoved it in my mouth. Nasty tasting stuff.

VickiC said...

I read through your post and then gave a little time thinking over some of my kids' misadventures.
I feel like I need a nap.

Mom tried to reel me in by yelling. Just stoked my engine. But Dad would give me that slight look of disappointment and I would stop dead in my tracks and change my ways. --Don't think it worked quite so well on my brother and sister.

Amanda said...

When I was a kid I was scared of going down the bathtub drain, too! My mom would always take me out of the tub before she pulled the plug so that I wouldn't scream and cry. Well, my dad is a long haul truck driver so he was rarely home. One night, he was home and I asked him to give me my bath. He didn't know about my fear of the drain and as he reached to pull the plug, you can guess what happened... After a few minutes he had me calmed down and I told him what I was afraid of. He promised that he would hold me the entire time the water was draining if I stayed in the tub and that I wouldn't get sucked down. With one arm wrapped around me, he pulled the plug and I bravely stood there :) Hooray for parents helping children overcome (sometimes silly) fears!