The Sins Of The Mothers

In view of Mothers Day in the UK yesterday, I thought I’d tell you about a funny little conversation I had with my son last week. For those of you with younger kids, be warned that like me you will reach a point with your almost-adult kids – usually at the end of  seven years of testosterone-fuelled silence with boys – when they believe they have a right to use the limited wisdom they’ve acquired in their twenty years, to judge your choices and more poignantly, your parenting skills.

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And let me assure you, it’s too soon.

 

I mean, I’m glad that my son feels he can reach out and share the disappointments of his young life with me. I assume that means we’ve forged some bond, (although with his ADHD, saying what he thinks has rarely been a problem), that he is comfortable about airing his views about the not so finer points of our journey together. But what I know – and what he has yet to find out, (and when he does I will be thousands of miles in a world of silence in a nunnery in India), is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to parenting.

 

And I have learned from our time together – and unless I become one of those fifty-three-year-old women that fall pregnant in menopause because I haven’t been punished enough – the wisdom I will take away from him is not to try and mold our kids into our expectations, not to catastrophise too much about their refusal to conform. I would also recommend making friends with the local policeman, hiding the car keys once they have their license and access to Valium at all times.

 

We were in the car the other day, unusually only one row down about where exactly he is going with his life, when out of blue, he turned to me and said, ‘Remember when you changed the pin on the Disney channel, Mum? I’ve gotta tell you, that was badass. That scarred me.’

 

‘Well, you were becoming like those Disney brats with your whatevers every time I asked you to do anything – like go to school.’

 

‘You mean, you made me the victim of your own anxiety about bringing up a brat?’

 

‘Maybe…,’ I said, ‘Anyway, changing the pin didn’t work, did it?’ I said with a cheeky grin.

 

‘No, but it made me hate you for a really long time. A boy needs his daily dose of Hannah Montana,’ he said with a wink.

 

‘Mylie has a lot to answer for then.’

 

And I lectured him reminded him about how none of us parents really know what the fuck we’re doing most of the time, and while it definitely would have been a smoother ride if I’d had a textbook Dr. Spock kid, the rules of parenting keep changing anyway. (Although it never gets easier – I’ve lost count the number of times my fifty-something friends and I have spotted the toddler tantrum in the Coles cereal aisle and been forced to abort our Pods mission).

 

My parents didn’t have to worry about the influence of The Prince of Bel Air or that their daughter would think killing people on Grand Theft Auto (while they believed I was at school) outstripped education on every level. And in the same way that I look back and think my parents had it easier – because in the seventies you could put your needs ahead of your kids and you didn’t have parenting psycho-babble bullshit pushed in your face each day – my kids will probably say the same thing each time they dump the grandkids on me in the future and do a runner.

 

‘Yeah, remember how you hid my PS controllers as well?’ Kurt went on, obviously really bitter.

 

‘And how did that fuck you up, exactly?’

 

‘Lets just say I wasted a lot of time hunting through your cupboards, finding shit I didn’t need to find at age of eleven – if you know what I’m saying,’ he said, eyeballing me. ‘That was pretty scarring.’ I was forced to look away.

 

‘Well, that was a pre-meditated life lesson?’ I lied. ‘In a perverse way, my anxiety about you getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by the age of twenty taught you not to invade the privacy of others. How is your thumb, by the way?’

 

‘We both know that’s not why you did it, Mum,’ he said. ‘You did it to be mean. It was a power trip. But do you think any of that shit actually worked?’

 

‘Probably not,’ I said, ‘but it felt really good at the time.’

 

 

 

Scoring Parenting Points

Scoring Parenting Points
This photo makes me cackle bitterly. Photo by thegreenhouse2009 at flickr.com

It seems a double standard to me that each time I have disciplined Kurt since my return from holiday, I have been accused of ‘nagging’; yet when the old man does the same thing, he calls it ‘confronting’ bad behavior.

 

Do you and your partner score points against each other for your parenting skills, or lack thereof?

 

Because there’s been a massive shift as to where the old man views his level of importance in the parenting hierarchy since my trip away.

 

As we deal with our son’s special needs on a day-to-day basis, I have noticed a few judgmental shakes of the head lobbed in my direction and several of his now-legendary tuts, because suddenly, (and after twenty-one years of wearing an invisibility cloak whenever one of our children has dared to be in his vicinity), the old man has suddenly proclaimed himself a perfect parent.

 

Even when we have our parental pow-wows, when we hide and whisper in our bedroom to plot our latest dastardly punishment for the most recent of Kurt’s crimes to parenthood, the old man tries to assume leadership and condemns all of my suggestions like some autocratic parenting top dog.

 

Worst still, he has started to undermine me in Kurt’s presence, with snide little pity smiles that suggest I haven’t got a clue what I’m doing, which I know is a criminal offence in parenting law.

 

And even though it is obvious that there was little (if any) guidance, boundaries or dare-I-say-it, interaction, between the old man and Kurt while I was away, our son appears to be revelling in this new, tough-love dynamic that goes hand-in-hand with the old man’s new role as primary parental carer.

 

Or perhaps he just loves their new-found bromantic alliance. AGAINST ME.

 

I might add that while he was supposed to be ‘parenting’ in my absence, the old man took two weeks holiday from work to cope, never discovered the vacuum cleaner nor the Spray N’Wipe and sourced all foodstuffs from the local fish and chip shop, which fortunately has an extensive menu as long as you like hot chips with everything.

 

He didn’t have to cope with the pressure of work or the pressure of the school Rottweiler who tracks down truants in our area like the child-catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and then gets her weekly kicks out of calling parents to remind them just how feral, disappointing and sociopathic their kids are.

 

Kurt probably slept until lunchtime most days as well.

 

I am grateful that he was able to finally experience the role of being a father to our son. Actually I’m not…I’m peeved that my son can’t see through his father’s unrealistic approach to parenting and his laissez-faire attitude, (that really means he’s given up), which has zero chance of working with an ADHD adolescent.

 

Of course life was “chill” when I wasn’t around and he was allowed to do whatever he wanted, I tried to explain to a confused Kurt this morning when I asked him nicely (biting down hard on my tongue) to hang his towels up and refrain from feeding the dog his leftover Nutrigrain because she gets diarrhoea.

 

It’s becoming clear that we need to find some middle-ground in our parenting styles for our son, somewhere between the old man’s archaic die or swim attitude and my need to over-scaffold.

 

I agree that with Kurt’s eighteenth birthday looming hideously closer it is time for the boy to demonstrate some responsibility and to face consequences for his mistakes, but we don’t have to push him over the side of the nest blindfolded and with stunted wings just to score parenting points.

 

Parenting Strategies For Your Dog

Cute Dog By Amaury Laparra at www.flickr.comWe’ve had a complaint about the behaviour of the Princess from the building management company of Dysfunctionality Box.

 

The shame of it. Don’t they know who she is?

 

Apparently, when we were away she made some noise that resembled a bark each time a resident breathed within a radius of 5kms from the block and one of the old snooties that we’re surrounded by, (who obviously just doesn’t understand the deep-seated anxieties, protection instinct and attachment disorder of the Princess’s long line of royal canine stock, or has nothing better to do), wasn’t prepared to take a more sympathetic stance.

 

Sometimes the Princess likes to do impressions of her forefathers to keep her culture alive.

 

So much for pet-friendly!

 

God knows what the residents of Snooty Box will do once Kurt starts drumming. When he thought that 7.30am was an appropriate time to play the Red Hot Chilli Peppers this morning, I must have developed wings such was the speed with which I flew down the hall to tell him to shut the fuck up castigate his poor timing.

 

Although the building does accept dogs, it obviously does not understand the needs of a highly-strung dog and the time they need to  adapt to new environments. I’ve received some death-stares in the lift and I am certain that the Princess, being the sensitive soul that she is, must be picking on up the animosity lobbed in her direction. She’s certainly not herself. She even refused her afternoon coconut macaron today.

 

So I am trying to train her as I have trained the children.

 

Obviously if it was the children, I would simply threaten her with 24 hours time-out in the storage cage, but the Princess is too intelligent for such primitive parenting strategies.

 

So I have bought bags and bags of dog treats rewards that I have placed around the apartment and I shove one of them in her gob the minute she so much as opens her mouth to growl. I play Beyonce on Youtube to distract her when I go out, because Beyonce is her icon – that dog just loves to ‘put a ring on it’ – and I try to wear her out with regular ball-throwing Olympics at the local park.

 

But this little problem is turning me into a paranoid mess. Obviously, if this was Kurt, I’d have no compunction about finding him another, more suitable home. But this is the Princess. I put her in doggy daycare on Monday and she had to mix with common mutts! She was distraught when I collected her and only a pepperoni (no mushrooms) pizza from the take-out shop next door would calm US down. 

A pepperoni pizza.
A pepperoni pizza. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It was the building manager who dobbed us in and I find it hard to disguise my disgust at his treachery, especially when I’ve dug out my best smile for him every morning at 7am en route to the Princess’s toileting duties.

 

I am re-thinking the bottle of red bribe I was going to surprise him with at Christmas.

 

It feels as though everyone in the building is out to get us, stab us in the back and have us evicted onto the streets. Even the building Jacuzzi doesn’t feel like a safe zone anymore and Kurt keeps threatening to wee in it in retaliation.

 

Any strategies worked with your dog?