When Good Parents Grow Ugly

It all started with a friend’s Facebook status update.

“[I’m] mortified. Poor screaming baby on the flight with mom yelling at him ‘Do you want me to go get the pilot & have him come take you??’ Nothing says love like threat of kidnapping.”

badparentsThe comments that followed ranged from outraged to humorous, but one or two were actually empathetic toward the mom. “Until you’ve been there, don’t judge,” said one dad. Because no matter what you might think of the flying mom’s parenting tactics, can’t we all relate to ‘growing ugly’ at one time or another?

Whether you’ve screamed with reckless abandon, said things you wish you hadn’t or completely shut down when the kids needed you checked in, parenting can bring out the worst in us. “K” isn’t proud about “throwing a fit during the family advent reading” this year… “C” admits that the drama surrounding her child’s preschool Christmas show was enough to send her on the first train to Emptythreatsville. “I threatened my poor son that if he didn’t shut his mouth, I would keep him home from school (decorating gingerbread houses and his Grandma is coming to help) and that his grandma would have to help some other little boy.”

And who hasn’t been busted growing ugly by unexpected onlookers? One mom admits, “I start in about how when we get home they are going to bed IMMEDIATELY and how embarrassed I am by their behavior, only to glance over my shoulder and realize [my son] had rolled his window down and that the people trying to get into the car next to us are staring.”

On a recent trip to an indoor play area with a friend and my three kids, I witnessed a father of four boys unraveling rather quickly, snapping at his kids over what appeared to be absolutely nothing. But as I noticed the critical glances coming from other parents, I couldn’t help but empathize with his ‘bad dad’ moment and made what I hoped would come across as a supportive comment. Within just a couple of minutes, my friend and I could visibly see a change in the dad’s behavior, now engaging and laughing with his little guys; proof that a little understanding can go a long way.

Because like any difficult situation, parental mishaps also come with an opportunity for growth. In fact, psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser says it’s actually a good thing for kids to realize that parents aren’t perfect. “Admitting to our faults and taking responsibility not only teaches our kids that it’s OK to make mistakes, but can help them become more compassionate adults.”

Besides, who says that the second we have kids, we’re supposed to behave like saints, suddenly free of the baggage we’ve carried around for years before the title of “Mom” or “Dad”? I personally wish someone had pulled me aside at a young age and explained that parents and teachers are no different from kids, all just trying to find their way as they go. I think my high expectations of adults in general not only set them up for failure in my eyes, but often left me disappointed and discouraged.

That’s not to say we should just let it all hang out. “While it’s natural to make mistakes, we also have an obligation to provide a loving, secure environment for our kids,” says Kaiser. “Find an outlet to work out frustrations and you’ll all be better off.”


4 Ways to Respond to Ignorant Comments

catNot a week goes by that I don’t see another post on a parenting site instructing the world what not to say to those living within certain personal circumstances. Whether its 10 Things Not to Say to Adoptive Parents, What Not to Say to a Working Mom or 10 Things Not to Say to Your Childless Friends, there are so many dos and don’ts that I fear all of these demands will ultimately beat ourselves into conversation submission, worried about every little thing we say. Seriously, we need a score card to keep track.

But it’s The Stir’s 35 Things Not to Say to a Mother of a Child with Autism that’s finally forced me to step on my soapbox and take on the topic. THIRTY FIVE things not to say? Wouldn’t it be easier to just list the two things we are allowed to say?

It’s not that I don’t understand. Being a working mom with three kids — one internationally adopted, one with autism and one with life-threatening allergies, I am proud to be part of a generation of parents who serve as advocates for their children and their needs. And if writing a post would miraculously cure ignorance and stupidity, I’d be all for it.

But it feels like we’ve become so obsessed with being politically correct, never mind terrified that our own children might actually have to experience an uncomfortable moment or two during their lives. Instead of trying to school a stranger in human relations, it’s a better use of our time and energy to teach our kids how to handle these situations as they come. Because the only way to raise independent, confident adults it to show them how to face adversity head on; not expect that the rest of the world will suddenly play nice, just because we tell them to in a blog post.

4 Ways to Respond to Ignorant Comments

Why Do You Ask? Oftentimes, people are just making conversation or unfamiliar with something and let curiosity get the best of them. These four little words are a polite way of putting the onus back on them and will often provoke an apology or backtrack when they realize they may have traveled over the line.

Laughter is the Best Medicine While this option can err on the side of passive aggressive, it’s sometimes the best choice if you’re in a public place or in earshot of a child. This was choice of response one time in our local grocery story after being asked “How much did your daughter cost?” A lighthearted “what a silly question to ask” guffaw did the trick and the woman was on her way to insult someone else.

It’s Personal If honesty is the best policy, this is the way to go. There’s not much more to be said when someone clearly and kindly informs you it’s none of your business. And for those rare occasions that doesn’t work…

Have Fun with Sarcasm I’ve been known to stop a truck in its tracks with a quick-witted quip. And there are times I’m just not in the mood or the person doesn’t take hints #1-3. A couple of examples:

“Where is her real mom?”

I’ll tell you where she’s not… rubbing my baby’s back in the middle of the night as she projectile vomits or saving for her college education.

“He has autism? He seems so normal.” At least someone does.

Then there was the time I was pregnant with my first son and celebrating a birthday at a French restaurant in Los Angeles. “It’s okay to have wine when you’re expecting,” the waiter informed me. Wow, you wait tables and earned a medical degree at the same time? That’s impressive.

No matter which option you choose in dealing with intrusive comments, remember this: The best way to change others’ attitudes and behavior is to help open their hearts and minds to seeing things in a new way. But before we can do that for someone else, we must do the same within ourselves. We’re human beings who all make mistakes — the benefit of the doubt can go a long way.

Love, Marriage and Jazz Hands

[Caption Contest]

Ten years of marriage. A whole decade. Our tin/aluminum anniversary. Who would have thought Jeff and I would pack so much life into ten short years? Let’s see, we’ve lived in four houses, had three kids, survived six surgeries… we’ve experienced more love, loss and growth than I could have ever imagined. I can’t even think about the next ten without smiling and then breaking into a cold sweat when I think about how things will change over the next decade.

[Don’t miss 5 Random Wedding Fun Facts from November 30, 2002]

During our recent Thanksgiving weekend family photo shoot (with the ridiculously talented Renee Bowen Photography), we decided to take a couple of shots to express our feelings about our ten year anniversary. Now your job is to caption it!

Comment by 11:59 pm on Friday, November 30. Our top 5 picks will be shared on Facebook for readers to judge (through Sunday 12/2) and the top vote getter will get a little holiday gift from me (don’t worry, it won’t be tin). Good luck!


The Cure for Working Mom Guilt?

For eight years, I worked from mostly from home and went to almost all activities, events, appointments and therapies… worked in classrooms, chaperoned playdates and cooked well balanced meals.

For the last five months, Daddy has handled it– a drop in the bucket in comparison to all I’ve done, right? WRONG. Today, my kid informed me he doesn’t remember a time when I wasn’t “always working.”

How do I deal with it? Thinking about flying to Hawaii for a month alone to bask in the sun, accompanied by a frosty Pina Colada. Hell, if that’s how they’ll remember it anyway…

20120912-211110.jpgHow do you handle working mom guilt?