Over the last 17 years, I’ve heard a litany of reasons from my sons of why my parenting style is wrong…incorrect…misinformed…not like Timmy’s mom…not like ANYONE’S mom. Apparently, I am causing my boys no end of consternation most likely requiring years of therapy to repair the damage I’ve inflicted. I’m tempted to save them money and admit it now, “Yes, it’s your mother’s fault you are the way you are.”
I guess I am a little bit guilty. So, with half a nod to David Letterman, here’s the Top 5 Reasons Why My Kids Think I’m a Bad Mom:
#5 I make my sons wear “church” clothes even when they aren’t at church.
Well, whadda ya know? Slacks or nice denim, dress shoes, polo shirts or button downs are actually good for holiday dinners, special family celebrations, and college interviews – even if you’re the only one wearing them; as my sons constantly point out.
Generation Y is definitely a casual bunch – sweats at school, slippers at the grocery store, baseball caps forward, backward, sideways, every way; but, I wanted my guys to learn there are times when some spit and polish are appropriate. I usually hear complaints about this rule on occasions where other young adults will be present. As teenagers, my boys have certain clothing preferences for certain events (especially if girls are involved). Jeans? Check. T-shirt? Check. Coolness is what counts. Style? Not so much. But I am wearing them down. I got an interesting text from my oldest when he went on a recent admission interview for the University of Southern California. “Mom, guys showed up in hoodies and tennis shoes!” he texted me, “Wow, glad I’m not making that first impression!” Without being told, he had worn his “church” clothes. Yes!
#4 I make my family eat dinner together most nights.
Like your family, mine is B.U.S.Y. Baseball, theater, community service, social stuff, homework, jobs. We make an extra effort to be home for dinner or to wait dinner until we can all be home. For the most part, the boys don’t mind this rule, but they don’t always like that they are expected to add to the conversation, oh, and to use their napkins not their jeans.
The worst part of trying to converse with your kids is the dreaded, “What did you do today?”, and its typical response, “Nothing.” To alleviate this, I used to start a dinner conversation with “What was the best thing that happened to you today?” I
stole adapted it from a scene in the Bruce Willis/Michelle Pfeiffer movie “The Story of Us”. The answers made for some fun talk, like, the time the oldest said, “The best thing was going to the emergency room and having the doctor take my tooth out of my ear.” (An essay for another day, I promise.) The brief chats kept us updated on our kids’ daily lives – before we became Facebook friends, of course. Because bad moms always make their kids accept their Friend request. And sometimes check up on those kids’ Facebook pages. And still make sure their dinner napkins are being used.
#3 Fast Food Fridays
I admit it. I’ve done it. I let my precious, growing bundles of joy eat processed, greasy, tantalizing cuisine. I have almost no willpower when faced with a Big Mac and a chocolate shake. Why should my kids be any different? When the boys were younger they regularly asked for fast food. I wish I could say it was for the toys, but, hey, they have my junk gene, and, because I was tired of hiding my McDonald’s breath and Jack in the Box wrappers, I started Fast Food Friday. (Technically, in elementary school it was Wednesdays, but Fast Food Wednesday doesn’t have the same ring to it.) I let my kids have Chicken McNuggets, Breakfast Jacks with fries, Burrito Supremes and cinnamon twists, even soda – caffeine free; which I convinced myself was healthier. As they entered high school, Fast Food Friday was replaced with leftover pasta and salad, PBJ’s with fruit, orTurkey on white, sometimes all on the same plate. They still scarf down an occasional chicken tender but it no longer holds the allure it once did when their bad mom let them nosh. For fun, I still occasionally park down the street and pig out on a Big Mac – old habits die hard.
#2 I embarrass my sons at all costs
I don’t mean to, well, not much anyway, but I like to think I’m a pretty hip mom. Do they say “hip” now? Do I mean “hep”?
I’ve run theater lines with the oldest, doing my best Meryl Streep emoting imitation and recently even tried out with him for a fashion show. His take on my catwalk strut? “Mom, you have absolutely no swag.” It’s safe to say I’m not quitting my day job anytime soon to take Hollywood or Paris by storm.
I’ve given the youngest batting tips when he’s in the cage. When other players are present! He pretends the machine is too loud for him to hear; after all, I’m just a girl talking baseball. But when a coach reiterates something I’ve said, I make him aware this girl knows her stuff. He doesn’t have to know his hitting coach gave me all the tips in the first place.
But, the part I’m most ashamed of, the part that seals my candidacy for Bad Mom of the Year: I let the boys control the radio when they’re in my car. My friendly buddies of KNBR sports talk are replaced with the Pandora sounds of Emenim, LMFAO, PitBull, NeYo, Gym Class Heroes and more. Problem is I LIKE the music.
So I sing. Out loud.
And I chair dance while driving.
My sons’ friends get a kick out of this. At least, I think they’re laughing with me. Oh yeah. I don’t confine it to my own family. I embarrass a lot of people’s sons.
And, the #1 reason I’m a bad mom:
I’m not the “Good job, Johnny.” mom
I want my boys to grow up with healthy self-esteem, but I think its okay for them to fail. And I’m not going to praise them when it happens if they haven’t given it their all. I’ve shocked you, right? I know, I’m the worst mom because of my political incorrectness (Can you say “old fashioned”?) but sometimes I wonder if their generation understands consequences.
I’ve participated in the “never fail” parenting style; taken the forgotten homework to school before the class so he doesn’t get marked down; brought the baseball cap to practice so he didn’t have to run laps; covered for them with their dad. But I realized how can they learn about, and appreciate, success – and life – if I never let them fail? If they don’t have a natural consequence to their actions? You and I know life is difficult. It’s okay for them to know it, too.
I’m honest with my kids. If they haven’t given a task or goal everything they can, I admit I find it hard to offer unmitigated praise. I want them to try their best – regardless of the outcome or reward – because it’s the right thing to do. The true prize isn’t the excessively large trophy the little leaguer gets for coming in last place. It’s knowing you did everything in your power to increase your grade, to get the acting role, to improve your skills and make the team. It takes hard work, commitment, and dedication. And, yes, sometimes, your goal still doesn’t materialize. That’s life. That’s when they need to hear, “Good job. Be proud of yourself.”
But, hey, the same goes for us adults, too. Look at me and this parenting thing; trying my hardest, giving it my best; failing more times than not. Maybe I’ll have it mastered before they have their own kids and they’ll call me up and say, “Good job, Mom. Are you using your napkin?”
Question: What times do you feel like a bad parent award winner?