Friday, September 26, 2014

“But, Mom, people really ARE annoying.”

OK, today I am not arguing this one. Today I am saying, yes, when people say this one particular thing to me, I get really irked. As I’ve said before (in a lovely blog here), I’m not naturally a super bubbly people person. I would rather be home alone with my books and skulls and bats and stuffed walruses. I do try to be more patient and understanding and outgoing, though. I do try to reach out to people and engage in the world around me. Most of the time, it works and I find that “fake it till you make it” works. Most but not all of the time.
How I feel some days. Just go away, people.
I know that for a lot of moms the real “I’m gonna punch you in the teeth” question is the “what do you do all day” question. Yeah, that one can be annoying, but I really don’t think the question itself is the problem. As a former working mom turned stay-at-home mom, I get it. I used to wonder what SAHMs did, too. I wasn’t being judgey. I was curious. And I think most of the people who ask me are curious, too. There are judgey people, but the question itself isn’t inherently judgey.

No, the thing that gets me riled up and has me grinding my teeth and doing mental back flips trying to come up with justifications for people saying crap like that is when people say to me, “well, you’re just lucky your kids were born so well behaved.” Um, no, they weren’t. Before I get into why this annoys me (acknowledging upfront that I might be overreacting, but whatever, I’m allowed to considering I don’t actually in real life flip out at people so how much am I really over reacting?), here are my rationales I run through in my head to stop me from saying mean things back to people:

  • The people are just trying to say my kids are not being poop heads. That’s a good thing. Take the compliment and run. Really. Just run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • Most parents are insecure about their parenting abilities and try to find ways of justifying what they see as failures on their parts. Saying someone else’s kid was born that way just takes a little of the burden off them and makes them feel better. Let them feel better and run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • People get mixed up about nature vs nurture and think it is an either/or thing. Explaining the way brains are wired and how we are socialized and the way we are a balance of inherited traits and learned behaviors takes too long. Just run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • Maybe they know I’m part Irish and eat way too much Lucky Charms? Who knows . . . now I’m grasping at straws. Just run. Don’t open your mouth. Unless it is to eat Lucky Charms.

Here is why that bugs me. I work really hard. Really. My kids, like all kids, were born as little screaming babies. Well, one was. The other wasn’t screaming because she couldn’t breath. But eventually she was a screaming baby. Point is they were not born preprogrammed to obey their teachers, raise their hands in class, do their homework every day, follow rules, respect authority figures, say please and thank you, not hit kids when they don’t get their way, etc. My husband and I make very deliberate decisions with our children (I talk about that more here) and work very hard to teach them how to behave. Can we control them? No. But we can try to instill morals and values and guide them. Are our girls perfect? Heck no! Do they have challenges? Oh, YES! Just because people don’t see the challenges doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We have had many epic battles with the girls at home. We have questioned our parenting and wondered if our kids will in fact grow up to be international criminal masterminds (even if they turn out evil, we expect them to do well). We have had sleepless nights worrying about our kids and wondering what to do. When we get to those bridges we can’t cross on our own, we get outside help which for our younger daughter has meant speech therapy and help with anxiety.
"She reads? You're so lucky." No, I had to fight and have
MANY conversations to find the right kind of books for her
to read and the right kind of motivation to get her to read.
It wasn't luck; it was determination.
Each girl has a different personality and different needs to be addressed. That is true for every child. Every parent takes the child they have and tries to parent the best they can to meet that child’s needs. For us, as we go along and learn we have had to adapt our parent strategies to fit the needs of our two very different children. This means swallowing our pride, researching parenting techniques, talking to specialists, meeting with teachers, spending countless hours listening to our daughters and trying to figure out strategies for success with them, explaining why punching annoying people in the face really isn’t a good solution (no matter how tempting it is). In short, we work HARD to have good kids. Our kids are physically healthy at this point, and that is partly luck (and partly careful parenting again), but that is where the luck stops.

I’m not saying we work harder than other parents, but I am saying we do work. Calling our kids’ good behavior “luck” ignores our hard work. It diminishes the effort and careful consideration we put into every day. I know sometimes parents say it because they are defensive about their own kids and parenting, but honestly most of the time I am more focused on my kids and wouldn’t have noticed their kids till they made that comment. Calling my parenting “luck” makes me think, “you think parenting is about luck not work? What are you doing with your kid? Sitting back hoping to get lucky and have him figure out on his own that he shouldn’t push my kid? No wonder he is acting that way.” And that is when I do get judgey. And I don’t like feeling judgey. And I don’t want other moms to feel judged. Being a mom is – or at least should be – hard enough.
Spending time with our girls, talking to them, trying to understand them
so we can guide them the best. No luck involved here. Just lots of time.

So if you come across some really well behaved kids who are eating a salad and not throwing knives at people, don’t be mean to the parents or snarky by calling them “lucky” or worse yet making a sarcastic comment mocking them. Either say nothing or just say, “what a nice kid.” Because chances are the parents had many battles at home before the kid would eat that salad in public.

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