Anyone who has them knows kids are a full time job. A job that never pays you and give you no sick days or vacation. If you don’t have kids, imagine you punched in to work and on your time card there is only an “IN” box, no lunch breaks or “OFF” box and standing behind you are your parents, laughing at you…and you smell like sour milk and exhaustion. So I’m not here to lament on the hardships of raising our children. Instead, I thought I could lament on how I learned to raise my children (at least up until this point in their lives).
I never cracked the spine of a ‘What To Expect When You’re Expecting’. I vehemently refused to listen to any advice offered from “doctors” on television. Where I learned the finer points of parenthood was from my mother.
My mom once explained to me her role as my mother. Not one for beating around the bush, she told me, “I’m not your friend. I’m your mother. Don’t forget that.”
Growing up, my Mom was tough and she never worried if my sister or I liked her. She had us live by the rule, she ruled. There was no grey area in her rules unless she had decided to shade them as such. To negotiate with her was to negotiate to deaf ears. What she said she meant. Democracy was for politicians. Mom once clarified to me why she had to be so militantly vigilant.
“You’re my baby. Whether I am giving you a bottle and getting you to burp or watching you eat everything in the kitchen and listening to you burp on your own, you are and will always be my baby.”
She loved me. That unconditional love was coupled with a borderline delusional worry for my well being and her job of forming me into a productive, respectful, and intelligent member of society (my years spent in college not withstanding). She would go on to put in plain words, “You could not possibly know how I feel until you have kids of your own.”
Blah, blah, blah. All I knew was if she loved me so much, she wouldn’t make me come up with one monster of a lie about where I was going to be going that night, she would just let me go.
I vowed I was going to be so much cooler to my kids. I would most likely start with omitting all broccoli, cauliflower, lima beans, and Brussels sprouts from their diet. Bedtimes? Ha! We’d be watching ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’ together (it seemed like that show had lasting power…what did I know, I was 16?). I was going to show her.
Then I had kids.
It took me about as long as it took the sound of the running vacuum cleaner to put Hannah to sleep for me to understand what my Mom was talking about. I fell in love with my girls instantly and instantly understood my wife and I were all that stood between my girls accepting academic awards and scholarships or accepting a waiver form from Joe Francis.
With each explanation about the dangers of licking electrical sockets or lecture about the dangers of eating random items from the floor or the ground the lessons my mom taught me seeped further into my warnings to my children.
I inserted my mother’s favorite word as my sister and I were growing up, “no”, into 90% of my responses to any question posed by my children (It was no and some other curse words which she told me I was not allowed to repeat, even today, so I won’t).
“Daddy, can I have marshmallows for breakfast?”
“Daddy, can I paint the dog?”
I have even broken my canon of “Things my Mom did that I will never do to my kids” scripture. I used the, “because I said so” excuse (and somewhere my mother cackled with glee) and use it at least twice a day now.
I have developed a well polished growl of “behave” while out in public.
The idea of “timeouts” seems ridiculous to me.
I spank my kids when the situation deems it necessary. Before you begin dialing social services or Dr. Phil on me, I said spank, not beat. If you have not tried spanking your kids, you should. Take an open hand and introduce it to the fleshiest part of their rear ends with the force to singe their nerve endings enough to drive home your point. Its amazing how motivating and long lasting one crack on the hindquarters can be for your child (and as an aside to this point of parenting, I have not had to spank my children in 2 years, they are 7 and 4 now).
I enforce ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’ vigorously.
Like terrorists, I do not negoiate with my children. I bribe children but do not negotiate.
I allow television and video game time. It can be a great short term babysitter as I am trying to go to the bathroom or cook dinner.
My kids know we can fool around in a department store, play hide and seek in the clothing racks and giggle down the underwear aisle. But in an instant can be told to settle down or knock it off (in the same polished growl as my “behave” if need be).
I worry incessantly about their well being and safety. Though I’m not sure if I see the humanity in baby leashes, I understand why you might want to garrote your children while walking through a crowded mall.
I swell with pride when a teacher or another parent tells me how well behaved my girls are behaved.
Nothing brings more joy in to my life than a kiss and an impromptu “I love you Daddy” from my girls.
Since day one, Alicia and I never subscribed to a set list of rules for the kids. We thought it better to take a cue from pickup games of Nerf football and make up the rules as we go along.
I have been a good cop and a bad cop.
I have told my kids to “walk it off” after a scooter accident (that one is all my dad) and I have dried their eyes and bloody knees after worse accidents.
Hannah and Emma know what happens when I count to three, or at least they have a pretty good idea of what might happen if I say three.
I love to snuggle on the sofa with them.
And above all else, they know the only grey area of what their mom or I say is shaded by the two of us and not by the two of them.
In a world of Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, sexting, and exercise routines on stripper poles, I need to be tough. I am here to protect them. I am here to give them all the love they could ever want. And I am here to make sure they don’t become the next Tila Tequila or cast member of the Jersey Shore.
When the kids tell me, “Daddy you’re mean. I’m not gonna be your friend!” I tell them, “I’m not here to be your friend, I’m here to be your dad” (and I shudder just a little at that response because I heard it so often from my mom). I explain to them I am mean because I learned everything from their grandmother. That woman who let’s them eat candy before dinner. The woman who has yet to cook them a stalk of broccoli or one Brussels Sprout, at one time, was meaner than me.
Me. “You should blame your grandmother, she’s the one that made me this mean.”
Them. “Nuh huh Daddy. And we’re tellin’ Grandmom you said she’s mean!”
It took me twenty five years before I was willing to admit my mom was right, so I have some time before I am able to bask in my children’s epiphanies for my tatics.
In the meantime, I’ll have to be bad cop, field medic, snuggle buddy, and drill sergeant. I know I can be mean and that’s okay because I know they are showered with love. I know I will undoubtedly tell my kids, “because I said so” and growl “behave” for another 10 or 20 years. I know I’m bound to be more disliked the closer Hannah and Emma get to adolescence. I know my chance to cackle with glee will come. And I know what my mom was trying to tell me all those years ago because now, I’m telling it to my kids.