I’m Not Your Friend, I’m Your Mom
Most days I feel like the “Mean Mommy.” I stop myself several times during the day and try to recount all the times I’ve said, “no, No, NO, NOOOO!!!” Each time I recall disciplining my children I have such mixed emotions about it. Am I doing it the right way? Am I too hard on them? What things should I let slide by? Are they going to hate me someday? And I used to think to myself, these are questions that all parents ask themselves, so I’m not alone. But the more parents I pay attention to, the more I am convinced all parents are not in the same discipline boat.
I’ve been at this parenting thing for a mere 8 years, so I’m certain I have plenty to learn and equally certain the day my youngest walks down the aisle I will still be wondering if I got it sort of right. My first child was basically a guinea pig in the development of my parenting style or an even better analogy…she was the first pancake. You know how pancakes get better as you make a few (I totally stole that one, but I thought it was hilarious)? I decided when she was little that I was not going to be my kid’s friend. Lump in throat. I had a Dad who was our friend and it was great when I was seventeen, but as an adult I look back on it and realize he didn’t do us any favors and honestly after I had kids it really hit home about how I was ripped off in the Dad department. When my kids have a mortgage and their own babies there can be a version of friendship that I will welcome and cherish, but even then I’ll be Mom first.
My three year old asked me yesterday “Mommy, are you my friend?” and I answered, “No, I’m your Mommy.” He looked at me like I had just told him he was never going to get candy again and I felt horrible for about a minute. Sure I could have said I am his friend, he’s three, what’s the difference if it makes him feel good. But that’s just the point, now isn’t it? Our generation doesn’t want our kids to feel bad, ever, and we want them to like us always and we go out of our way to keep them happy. I’m not his friend and telling him I’m not his friend shouldn’t make him not like me. It should actually be comforting to know that he has parents who play a different role in his life than the role his friend’s play. I don’t want to minimize the importance of friends. God knows some of my friends are like family to me. But my friends never taught me that I had to share with my sister and not throw sand at other kids in the park or to not drink and drive when I was in high school (and frankly neither did my Dad, if you can see where I’m going with this).
Saying “no” and not always being popular with your kids isn’t fun. I wake up in the middle of the night and worry that when they get older they will resent my boundary setting style of parenting and rebel against me, but I’m hoping for the opposite. As I’m being strict I’m dishing out as much love as any parent on this planet can dish out. I had a friend ask me once if I tell my kids I love them and I didn’t hesitate to say “every single day of their lives” and she teared up and said, “good.” Along with telling them I love them, I’m trying to show them how much I love them by giving them some tools to know how they should act and sometimes even more importantly, how they shouldn’t act (all of this is presuming I know how to act of course) in this world. I want my kids to be little citizens and not, I hope, little entitled nightmares who have never experienced someone telling them “no.”
I’ve said it before, but it’s worth mentioning again, my kids might end up being ax murderers some day, but they’ll say please and thank you when they’re in Home Depot buying the ax. I am not implying for ONE minute that my-kids-are-better-than-your-kids at all. My three-year-old comes unglued about 8 times a day and most times I can only stare at him wondering what I can do to piece him back together. I am just getting through the day like the rest of you child owning people. But, so far I can boast about a 90-95% approval rating on my daughter’s behavior which is why I am taking the liberty of espousing my two cents on the topic. My youngest rates in the good column about 85% of the time and I am going to be honest, I can’t factor in the aforementioned middle child or you’d stop reading right now. But he’s been showing some promising signs in the past three months, so there’s hope.
Mean Mommy that I am, is trying to live by the phrase “Mommy does what she says.” This is a double edged sword for my little angel children, but it is to show them consistency. Mommy will put your little tushy in time out if you hit your brother again, not fun. Mommy will give you a cookie if you finish that chicken nugget, fun. It doesn’t mean the brother isn’t going to get whacked again and many tears have been shed when the chicken nugget is still on the plate and the siblings who ate their nugget are eating a cookie, but they know they can count on whatever I’ve said will happen. It’s a very non-friend oriented approach to parenting and frankly, it’s really hard to stick with. But I think kids need consistency and boundaries in developing relationships and building security.
Here’s a famous example of my “Mommy does what she says” promise. My daughter was almost four and we were in the car coming back from errands one evening and she asked me if she could take off her shoes. I told her she could not because I had a lot of bags to carry in and I needed her to walk in the house. About 30 seconds later she asked me again. I said, “If you take off your shoes, that is your choice, but you are going to have to figure out how to get them back on or walk in with only your socks on because I am not going to do it for you and I’m not going to carry you in.” It was early December. Don’t you know, the next thing I hear is, drop…drop, “Mommy, I took my shoes off.” I pulled in the driveway, unbuckled her from her car seat and got my bags and calmly said, “OK, come on.” To which her reply was, “Mommy, it’s too cold for me to walk in without shoes on!”
I reminded her about what I told her and asked her to come with me one more time and when she refused, I walked in the house and waited inside the back door for her to walk in by herself (so someone doesn’t call child welfare on me, I could see her the whole time from my back door, it’s all of 30 feet from my driveway and it wasn’t 20 below outside, but it was cold). She was out of her mind, couldn’t believe I was doing this to her, screaming like she had been stabbed, begging me to rescue her and all the while taking the tiniest steps she could across the walkway to the door. When she got about two feet from me (which took about fifteen minutes because she was so stubborn), I picked her up and brought her in because I felt she had gotten the point and I was getting cold standing with the door open. To this day, when we’re in the car no matter what the weather is like, she will ask me if she can take her shoes off before she unties one lace.
Now, I know there are a bunch of you thinking, “You traumatized your child that’s why four years later the poor baby is still asking if she can take her shoes off in the car, you MONSTER!” You’re entitled to feel that way, but if you spent five minutes with her, you’d know that isn’t the case. Not to say that I won’t traumatize her in other ways in the future. I just feel strongly that kids need parenting instead of a buddy who doesn’t want her kid to be mad at her. And I’m going to go out on a really not PC limb and get something off my chest. The parents who think saying, “don’t Lisa, stop Lisa, quit that Lisa, I’m going to tell your dad if you do that one more time Lisa, come here now Lisa, you’re really in trouble this time Lisa, if you do that one more time you’re not getting dessert Lisa,” over and over and over and over on a loop should realize once and for all your kid has been ignoring you for years. The ignoring you started right after she stopped laughing at you when she figured out there is no real punishment at the end of your threats.
So I’m going to keep at it, especially with my middle child Wyatt, who is, well in need of some tough love that I accept I am not trained in, but am brushing up by taking lessons from other tough love Mommies and I will keep you posted. I had a little flashback a couple of months ago as a matter of fact involving Wyatt. He and I were in the car and incredibly having the same shoe conversation I had had four years earlier with Peyton. Furthermore, it ended exactly the same, tears, begging, the whole thing. My daughter was inside the house with her Dad, she hadn’t been in the car with us, but heard everything as I was standing at the door waiting for him. When he finally came in he gave her the play by play and she said to him with this voice of experience, “Mommy always does what she says, you’re lucky it wasn’t winter. Haven’t you learned anything from me yet?” If nothing else, it’s a great story for their baby books.
Author: Shari Dabby