The Art of Raising Grown Ups

Recently I wrote a blog about “Raising Adults”. The idea is that we’re not just raising kids, we are raising young people to become strong and functional adults. When you realize that every decision you make could potentially shape the life of a future generation, that’s a lot of pressure that you put on yourself. Why do I take this approach? Because I’m a realist. I know that being a parent is a hefty job that carries a lot of responsibility. If you teach your kids that they don’t have to do anything and that life is going to just be sunshine and rainbows for the rest of their life, they won’t necessarily grow up ready for the world. Instead, I try to balance childish whimsy and reality to ensure that my children won’t contribute to that culture of “entitlement”.

It’s a rough and thankless job. Other people will always judge you on your worst parenting day. Your kid just threw himself down in the middle of the candy aisle because you had the audacity to say “no” to them? You get those looks. Sometimes they are looks of sympathy, of “we’ve been there bro”. But most of the time they are looks of “can’t you just give him what he wants?” and you put yourself in a dilemma. Do you give in to the terrorist’s demands or do you stand your ground? My gut always tells me to stand my ground. And I do.

Does your kid still have accidents? How is he not potty trained yet? Why does he still sleep in your bed? Why do we even have to answer these questions? Yes, boys are prone to have accidents for later in life than girls do. Yes, my boys were late potty trainers. I felt as though they shouldn’t be forced into it, rather nudged along at their pace until they were ready. Does that mean that I’ve failed as a parent? Yes, my child still ends up spending half the night in our bed and he’s 6. You can only fight so much before your body is too exhausted to care.

Those are the things I get judged on. I don’t get applauded because my oldest is a talented athlete and high honor student. I get judged because I have expectations that he does chores and does decently in school. I don’t ask for A’s. I ask for his best. I don’t get applauded because my youngest is the sweetest child who is adored by the moms and everyone else who meets him. I get judged because he’s a little on the wild side and prone to anxiety attacks. They perceive a failure on my behalf and they pounce on it. Moms are an especially easy target because we already doubt ourselves on a regular basis. We’ve convinced ourselves that we’ve failed miserably every day before we’ve even had our coffee. (Then we know we have afterwards.)

Instead of telling other moms about how every decision they have made failed their child, remember that every child is different. Not everyone has a child that comes with the perfect manual. We have to raise each of our children differently based on who they are. You think that just because you have 2 kids, you already know everything. But you don’t. They are each their own person, with very different personalities and challenges. I couldn’t take the same approach to raising my youngest as I did my oldest. That would be irresponsible. It wouldn’t work. What you need to do is find something that works for you. What helps you teach a specific set of morals and work ethic to your children. You can use 2 different approaches and still end up with a same result. The reason is because you adjusted your game plan.

It’s easy as parents to just think that you have to go at this one way. But you don’t. Being a good parent is about adjusting with the challenges until you find something that works. If you stick with it and keep your head held high, you can do it. You’re not failing. You’re trying. And that’s better than a lot of kids get.

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When Raising Adults

There comes a time, a very sad time, when your babies are no longer babies. You spend so much time raising your children and then they don’t need you anymore. But remember…. they do. It’s just instead of raising children, you need to start raising adults. Parenting is about the long game; the war, if you will. That’s the important thing to know about parenting. Getting through the day is about picking your battles. Winning the war is about standing strong on those battles that matter most. Bribing your kid with a smoked sausage firecracker treat to wear pajamas to school on Pajama Day is fine. Bribing your kid on the regular sends a message. Again, it’s picking your battles.

Earlier this year I wrote about raising teenagers. About how this is the time to let them sink or swim, hoping that you taught them enough to help them stay afloat. How you move more into an advisor role rather than an authoritative role. You can’t fix their problems for them anymore; you just hope that they have learned enough to figure it out or trust you enough to help guide them to the answers. That’s what you are doing when you are raising adults. When your child hits high school, they need to have the skills to “adult”. Trying to cram everything in with just 4 years to go is nuts, but a gradual lesson as they age into this milestone will make a huge difference.

For instance, when my oldest was tall enough to use the washing machine, probably around 12, he was expected to do his own laundry. I taught him how to do it, supervised him for a while, then I just trusted that he could do it. This is a life skill that he is going to need. I let him help cook in the kitchen growing up, teaching him recipes along the way. Now, he can do a decent enough job cooking some meals on his own though he’s never cooked supper for us (but I’m confident that he could pull it off). These are ways to raise an adult. I don’t want to raise him in a way where he expects his partner to take care of him. What if he never has a partner, loving the bachelor life? I’ll be damned if I’m doing laundry for my 30 year old child.

I started to “raise an adult” when they are a little younger. I was focused on how to make them into self-sufficient adults. I wanted to raise them with a solid work ethic but with compassion. It’s about the long game. Whether we like to admit it or not, everything we do as parents has an impact on the type of adult your child will become. It’s an insane amount of responsibility with an insane amount of pressure. This leads us to always second guess what we are doing. Guess what? We’re going to screw something up. Our kids are going to grow up just as flawed as we are. It’s about accepting those flaws and hoping that they learned enough from you to use their strengths.

Even in high school, our kids need us even if they don’t want to admit it. You can be firm about expectations for behavior or grades, but you have to be compassionate about the social issues that they are going to be struggling with. There’s peer pressure, bullying, and all sorts of things that will have a huge impact on your children for the rest of their lives. I can remember every bad bullying event that happened to me growing up, and it’s haunting sometimes. We have to make ourselves available to our teenagers, listening without judgement. They may not “need” you anymore, but they want you to still have their back. They still need to know that you love them. They need your support and guidance. They are not-so little adults right now and in 4 years, they will be entering college or the workforce and you need to do enough to prepare them for that.

How Have You Been Shamed Today?

I’m glad people are rising up against shame. Though, to be honest a lot of people that I see complaining about things like “mom shaming” tend to do a lot of that on their own as well. That’s completely besides the point, I think. Maybe not. I think I just shamed anti-shamers for shaming. I have too much of a headache already, but I promise you this isn’t a post about being disgusted with the concept of being shamed. I’m here to share with you about how I’ve been shamed today (generalizations, I just mean lately) in hopes that you will share your “shame”. We can bond over our shame and feel better knowing that you have a friend that feels the same way. Even if I’m just some random blogger.

It’s all about the weight.

Alright, admittedly I’ve been having a bit of a struggle with my weight since I lost a ton of it before moving. I could go on about stress, how medicines screw with your body, but apparently those are all excuses that I’m using. I shouldn’t work out though, because that’s bad for someone as fat as I am. All I need to do is more housework and I’m going to be super skinny again. My first question is: am I being shamed about my weight or my house here? Honestly, it’s probably both. Do I have unhealthy habits? Absolutely. Do I need to be reminded of that every day? Probably not. I know, I used to be so beautiful and skinny. I don’t need to be told that I’m neither anymore.

Listening to the advice of professionals is bad for you.

For a long time, I did get a lot of negativity by taking my son to get tested as requested by the specialists that I shouldn’t have had. He’ll talk eventually, he doesn’t need speech therapy, a developmental specialist, and to go to preschool on an IEP. They are just making things up to get more money and you just let them. So and so had this problem and they are perfectly fine now without all of this nonsense. Oh you’re allowing him to get screened by an occupational therapist? He’s fine, there’s no need for this. Oh he has anxiety? Why is that? What did you do that screwed him up? He is who he is and I’m going to do what I can to help him out. He needs a support system, not judgement. I need a support system, not judgement.

Can’t you just suck it up? (TMI INC.)

Females are conditioned not to talk about issues that they have with their reproductive system. Now with celebrities and movements like “SpeakEndo”, people are starting to talk more about their issues. My entire life I had issues with bad cramping and an obscene amount of bleeding which was made worse by the fact that it would come whenever it wanted. I could go months without one, probably why as a teen I didn’t even realize I was pregnant until late in the game. I was told I couldn’t even get pregnant so why put me on pills to prevent it or help my problem. Things got better before they got worse. I missed days at college because I just couldn’t make it out of bed. I had headaches that would blind me. Dizziness, vomiting, extreme pain. I’d find a pill that would stop it, until it didn’t, causing me to try so many different types of medicines that I did end up starting to gain weight from hormone switches and all that fun stuff. Finally, it would get so bad that I was practically bedridden for the entire 10 days that I would have this issue. I needed 3 heating pads, couldn’t hold any food down, and I was completely useless. Finally, something worked and here we are. But throughout the process and now, I keep hearing, “just take Advil and suck it up”. Do you know how many different types of medicines I’ve tried to stop the pain? I’ve had contractions that were less painful. My clothes and furniture always get ruined. People don’t understand, and shame me for not being tougher.

How can you live like this? This is a jungle.

Imagine a day, where you can spend the entire day cleaning. Your house is spotless. The toys are picked up. You have no dirty dishes. Your home is the epitome of clean. And then your kids and husband gets home, leaving trails of disaster behind them. And somehow, somehow, it always ends up looking so much worse than it did before you spend 3 hours scrubbing every aspect of the home. It’s always then, that someone shows up or you have to take a picture of something adorable that you want to share with the internet. Never share with the internet; it’s a terrible, horrible place.

Aren’t you too old to dress like that?

I’ve very capable of dolling up when I need to. However, I’m a jeans and t-shirt type of girl. I like my Chucks. I never want to not wear my Chucks. I want to be 100, wearing bright blue freaking Chucks and it’s going to be amazing. Yes, I do wear video game t-shirts and hoodies. I love D.Va and I will wear my hoodie despite the fact it has a slime stain on it, some chocolate stained on it, and it’s ripped. You can buy me a new one or a few of them to replace them if it bothers you that much. But I do have a soft spot for a cool and functional handbag. So I’m okay with that.

What do you mean that you make your kid do chores/discipline them?

I’m a believer in disciplining my children in a manner that will work for them. For my kids, time outs are typically the best approach when they reach of age to understand what they did. I ask them as they sit down what they did wrong. Usually they nail it, sometimes they need me to calmly explain what they did and offer solutions of how they could have handled it better. Sometimes I yell. Again, I’m only human. You would not believe the amount of hate that suggesting time outs gets me. I say “no” to my kids, picking which battles I want and what I’m willing to say “yes” to. Children need boundaries but they need a loose enough leash to learn. Yes, my children do have chores. My youngest feeds the dogs and cleans his room. My oldest is expected to do his own laundry, take care of the trash and recycling, take care of his cat, and tidy up our (very small) living room. Granted, my oldest hardly ever does tidy up the living room and it’s a fight to get him to change the litter box. But I have reasonable expectations for behavior and I’m willing to bend a little on the chores when they meet those expectations. Most of all, I want my boys to be respectful of others and show kindness. And I want them to make sure that they get their homework done.

So how have you been shamed today?

One Person’s Small Victory

When I had my first son, my big accomplishment would be making it to work without a gummy snack or some other food smeared on my clothes unknowingly. That was a small victory that many moms cherished. The moment that you can go to the bathroom or take a shower without an audience is a victory. I don’t think I truly appreciated these small victories as much as I should have.

Yesterday was my youngest son’s Christmas concert. This could have gone a few different ways. 1) He could have had a meltdown before going on stage, causing me to sit on the sidelines with him while the other classes performed their songs; 2) He could have had a meltdown while on stage (or standing in front of the stage), halting the entire concert and making a scene; 3) He would stand there, staring off into space, while doing something else that would draw attention to him; 4) He would be the perfect child, singing and dancing with his peers. I love my son, but holding out for option 4 was not a reasonable option. It would be great if that happened and I got fantastic pictures of my otherwise normally musical son performing. But I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I was okay with that.

The battle was a weekend long one. “I don’t want to go to school.” “I don’t want to sing.” “I don’t want to dance.” I considered bribing him into option 4. I’m not above bribery. I know I’m going to get the people that will tell me how awful of a mother I am for that. Listen, I’m just trying to make it through the day with what little sanity I still have.

I wasn’t going to make him sing or dance. I wasn’t going to make him dress up for the event. Part of parenting is knowing your kids; knowing which battles are really worth it. Fighting with him over going to sleep? Worth it. Fighting over a Christmas concert or dressing up for it? Not high on my priorities. I’m just trying to get through the day with as little tears as possible, from both sides of this table. Some kids were dressed in gorgeous dresses or looked way too adorable in full suits. Mine wore a long-sleeve shirt with a pocket and jeans. That was fancy enough. He wasn’t the only one dressed in normal clothing. He wasn’t even the only one who wanted nothing to do with the singing. He didn’t dance. But boy did that kid have a killer bow game going on. He knocked his bow (okay.. “bows”…) out of the park. Did I see him trying to do The Floss while up there? Oh, he definitely started. He looked out of place. He stood out. But he did his best. And I could not be more proud of him.

When you have a kid who seems a little too different from everyone else, it’s easy to feel self-conscious. It’s easy to ask yourself what you did wrong. I didn’t do anything wrong. I may be judged by the fact that I proudly recorded my son even as he stood and did nothing. Why? Because he was there. He showed up. He didn’t have a meltdown or freak out. He showed up and got up their bravely, happy that he saw his mommy in the crowd to support him. That’s my job. My job isn’t to change him. He’s not broken. He’s flawed, just like the rest of us. But he’s not broken. He doesn’t need to be fixed. I’m here to guide him, to support him every step of the way until he becomes an age where I have to sit back and hope that I did everything that I could. And I know that I am doing everything I can to build a solid foundation for him, because a solid foundation is what will hold him up for the rest of his life.

The Appropriate Adult Response

It’s hard when you think you are being judged, even if it may be all in your head. The idea of being the perfect mom and wife tends to conflict with the actual realities of the situation. You try to do it all and even when you get through 90% of your self-inflicted to-do list, there always seems to be that one person that reminds you of what you didn’t accomplish during the day. Then it’s the last 10% that you failed at that makes you crazy. That you obsess over.

It was that 10% that led me to the place where I sat on my kitchen floor amidst a pile of Lysol wipes that I’m allergic to, hands covered in rashes, having a mental breakdown in the middle of my kitchen. That’s an appropriate adult response, right? It’s all of those little things that accumulate into one massive meltdown on a random day. A day which I wish I could have said was a long time ago, because I’ve realized that I’m never going to be a “Supermom”. I’ve made peace with my place of mediocrity in the place of moms. But no… this was yesterday. Even after accepting my mediocrity in a lot of things in life, I’m still sitting here with “Unsteady” by X-Ambassadors and “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men on repeat lamenting over my perceived failures of the past month, year, forever. The voices of people in my head, reiterating how badly I suck at things. With every worry sitting on my chest, making me think that I can’t breathe.

It was a rough day. One I had to pull together because it was my oldest son’s 16th birthday. Was my oldest hitting this milestone a catalyst for my breakdown? I wish I could say. Was it watching my son get screamed at for waiting with his friends on a sidewalk before school, then watching him run anxiously in the back of the schoolyard? Was it the realization that I definitely wasn’t going to finish NaNoWriMo, thus solidifying my fears that I suck at writing and need to quit? The thing about snapping is it’s always a snowball of a dozen events that end up causing a blizzard.

It doesn’t matter that I did complete nearly 30,000 words of the 50,000 word challenge, which may seem respectable. It was a failure to me. It doesn’t matter that my house was “decent looking”, I failed to make it museum worthy. I burned some onions while making sausage, peppers, and onions for supper. Maybe I should quit cooking? Maybe I have been wrong my entire life about everything?

That’s the whole thing though, isn’t it? Other people make us feel like our best is never going to be good enough. That comment about your house looking like a jungle is something that you obsess over until you start believing that you are less than. When people put you down because of your job. When people point out your single flaw, you obsess and destroy your sanity over it. You don’t need to tell another mom how you think they are failing and telling them about how they could be better. Trust me, they already know.

Why? Why do we always do this to ourselves as moms? What lesson does that teach our kids? How can we tell our kids, who are having anxiety attacks because they think they are failures or broken, that they are perfect despite the fact we think those things about ourselves?

You have to be okay with yourself. As long as you are doing the best that you can every second of the day, then maybe it’s okay that everyone views you as some mediocre mom. You’re never going to be perfect. Sometimes being supermom is just about being super good at what your kids need and want, not what you think everyone else thinks you should be doing.

Why I Let My Teen Trick or Treat

But Brianne, Wednesday isn’t a blog day according to your schedule. Except, on my favorite and arguably only holiday I don’t complain about celebrating, I have decided to honor it with a lesson in parenting teens. Tomorrow, you’ll get your blog on Question 2. Today, I’ve decided to talk about another hotly debated topic: teenagers who go out trick or treating

I always leave the decision of whether he is “too old to trick or treat” to him. There are a few reasons why I do this and I will defend it forever. The biggest reason why, just shy of his big 16, I let him trick or treat is because there are worse things that he could be doing. He could be vandalizing someone’s house or at a party getting drunk or high. (I’d like to think that he would never do those things, but I’m realistic. I can’t be around him all of the time and you really never know what can happen.) Instead, I know the only thing he is getting high on is sugar. I feel as though that is a much safer option, especially considering he’s an athlete without an ounce of fat on him.

Then, there is the control factor. A major reason why teens lash out is because they feel as though they have no control over anything in their lives. Even though he is a teen, the general rules of child psychology and child development still apply. By giving choices, you are encouraging your child to grow up confident with the ability to make decisions. Even something as small as letting them decide that they want to trick or treat helps encourage healthy mental and emotional development. They feel as though they are in control over areas of their life and you don’t have to worry about everything being a power struggle. It shows them that it’s all a give or take.

Then, there is the point of letting him be a kid. I’m not sure why parents are always in a rush to make their kids grow up. I’m not sure why we put those pressures on them then wonder why kids are always in a hurry to grow up. I have the sobering realization that my child will be going off to college in just 2 years. If he still sticks to his choice of schools, one of them will take him out of state to New Hampshire. I’m not going to already have his bags packed. I’m excited that for at least another year, he’s still my kid. He’s going to grow up fast enough as it is. I’m not going to deny him his childhood while he still has it. I was a mom at 18. I didn’t have that luxury, but I’ll be damned if my kids don’t get that chance.

You may think that last statement means that I have an emotionally immature child that I baby even though he is almost 18. If so, you obviously don’t know him or read this blog closely when I talk about him. My son is the type of kid who goes to the dentist and asks for stickers so that he can bring them home to his little brother, because my youngest loves stickers. He’s the type that is always willing to help his friends or do something to help the world be a better place. He’s excited to help me cook or even prepare supper himself. My child isn’t stunted by my decision to let him still go out on Halloween. I’d like to think that maybe he’s just a little bit better because of it.

Remember these things when you see a teen roll up to your home. Think about how they could be egging your house instead of asking for candy. Think about how they could get alcohol poisoning at a party, or even worse drive home. Think about how quickly our babies become apathetic adults. And smile that for at least 1 day, they can enjoy what’s left of their youth.

Happy Halloween, readers. Be safe and have fun eating your candy tax.

And We Never Sent Out the Thank You Cards

Apparently even today, thank you cards are important even for birthday parties. The world ends if you forget. It obviously means that you are an ungrateful, horrible human being if you forget to do something that only takes but a moment of a time to send. How dare you?

How dare I. My youngest son had his birthday in September. I’m usually very diligent, sending out the thank you cards to the ones who like them within a week. To be fair, they were promptly written out. That’s the last we saw of those cards. Did we send them? My gut tells me no. My gut tells me that they were shuffled around in the hub of activity that is our house. There is the option of resending it, only the realization that I forgot a seemingly simple task over a month ago may have past the proper time to send it according to etiquette rules.

The fact is, we were busy. I spend more days that not reading emails from my youngest son’s teacher informing me of struggles he’s having in school. I have to manage the anxiety of my youngest son without letting mine get in the way. I have to spend more time than I’d like to admit in a day explaining that no, there isn’t a tornado or the fact that a paper was accidentally brought home isn’t the end of the world. It’s not easy like the days of monsters hiding. Now, monsters seem to be everything and there’s seemingly nothing I can do to stop it.

Every morning, I wake up at 6. I make sure my oldest is up and ready for school. I then start work. I’ll get started writing out blogs, most of which I end up tossing in the pit of despair known as the “Drafts” folder. I consider if I even want to blog today or revive the “Deleted Blog” series, where I put out those aforementioned blogs that I have (for whatever reason) decided not to post. I opt against it. (Though honestly, writing this now I probably will start using these as filler when I’m stuck with writer’s block or busy with appointments and can’t put a blog out, just for consistency’s sake.) I edit emails for clients. I lurk Reddit for Overwatch League/Overwatch news (and other things, because I’m now a constant Reddit lurker) to help me come up with ideas for blogs. I accomplish a lot in that one hour, which people don’t realize because “I don’t have a job”. I do. This is my job.

Then the morning gets crazy at 7. This is when I start the struggle of waking up my youngest. I listen to him cry and yell at me because we’re going to be late for school. Then as I walk him to school, some days I have to listen to him sob about how he doesn’t want to go to school. I walk back to the house to calm him down only to hear “WE’RE GOING TO BE LATE FOR SCHOOL!” By 8:30am, I realize that I have already been beaten down by failure for the day. It takes the rest of the day to work my way up from this feeling of being the worst mom on the planet. I spend the rest of the day working. I finish up my blogs and make sure they are scheduled to post on time. I stream to get my name out there, to raise my “brand awareness”. I work for my clients, writing articles and doing whatever else needs to be done. Sometimes, I don’t even finish everything I need to for work until 11pm. This includes family responsibilities of cooking, laundry, and trying to calm down my child because something set him off. If I’m lucky, I’m passed out by midnight. Sometimes the estimate is a lot later. Sometimes I wake up a lot earlier and get started.

At some points during this schedule, I have to handle making sure my oldest gets his overpriced class ring. I have to start getting him signed up for swimming. I have to research new ways to work with my youngest on managing his “quirks”. I spend a lot of time doing things that people don’t see. But, I obviously had time to mail out a thank you card and there’s no excuse for that level of inconsideration. It doesn’t matter that every day feels like you’re drowning because something has gone wrong so much that you sit back and wonder what you failed at to get to this point. The simple act of not sending out a thank you card epitomizes the guilt that I feel on a regular basis. The guilt that I’m not doing enough. I look at my house right now. It’s not a complete disaster, but it’s pretty messy. Will I get around to cleaning it today? That’s going to be a hard “no”, but I figure I’ll just not sleep tonight to get it done. Or I’ll pass out of exhaustion and get judged for another failure.

That’s the problem though. As a mom, I’m programmed to feel like I’ve failed at everything. We’re taught to think that our best just isn’t good enough. We’re supposed to feel guilty for our shortcomings. I spent too much time on my “not-work” because “writing isn’t a job” and I should have been cleaning for 8 hours while making sure I handle sending out a thank you card. My life is simple enough, right? We dwell on these perceived failures. I’ll probably think about that thank you card and wonder if it ever made it out all day. I’ll worry about being judged or have people think that I didn’t appreciate them because I forgot proper etiquette. I’ll worry all day about my child at school, who just now had a moment of hysteria about going to school. Because today, like yesterday, I have failed. Even if I didn’t really fail, I failed. If you know a mom, she probably feels like she failed today to. Let them know that they didn’t. They need to hear it more than you think.