Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

Archive for the tag “bad mom”

Don’t Call Your Kids Rude Names, Even Though They Earned It

You have a problem with me, Mom?

“Be careful when you open that pop,” I warned Dear Husband.  “They kids were in the pantry shaking it up today.”

“You know that comedian you don’t approve of, who calls his kid a that name?”

“I just don’t think you should call your kids that.”

“You have to admit he has a point.  People who take your favourite drink, shake it for no reason so it loses all it’s fizz and  sprays all over you when you open it, and then puts it right back so you don’t know, well, let’s be honest. That person is an ass    .”

In response, I just looked at him and pursed my lips, which means, Yeah, maybe you’re right, but push it and you’ll find yourself in all kinds of wrong.  But he does have a point. If your children keep acting like children once they reach adulthood, they would correctly called all sorts of nasty names.

Like this kid:  She comes home and tells me that she won’t use the school bathroom stalls, because she is sure that the lock will fail and she will never get out.  This, of course, is crazy.  I try to role play asking for new pants from the Lost and Found, when she runs upstairs to use the — you guessed it — bathroom, knocking the humungous package of toilet paper off the stairs from which it was to be carried to the — guess again — upstairs bathroom, leaving it in the middle of the room.  She comes back 5 minutes later, interrupting me to shout, “WHERE’S THE TOILET PAPER?”   I pointed to the floor, and I went back to making supper.  Imagine my surprise when I found that package lying right where it fell, with just one roll clawed out of the package.  If you do that when you’re 35, there’s a name for you.

Oh, and remember sweet, little Princess?  After playing with her for nearly an hour, I tried to sit down and listen to an interesting audio clip posted on the Dumb Old Housewives blog.  She walks over, squeezes onto my lap, and asks all these questions about the stock photos that are playing, so I can’t hear.  Finally, “How looong is this?  It’s sooooo boring.”  Meaning:  You are welcome to entertain yourself, as long as it also entertains me.  Again, if you’re pulling this stunt anytime after the 3rd decade of your life, it’s not going win you a nice nickname.

But, they aren’t bad kids, just kids.  This is childish behaviour.  Immature.  Juvenile.  They aren’t doing this because they have decided the world should revolve around them.  It’s just that no one has taught them any better.   The teaching being my job, the job of a parent.

I would like to say I always treat my kids with respect because I am such a morally developed person.  But really, if I call them a jerk, they’d probably just look me in the eye and ask, “Oh?  It must be how I was raised.”  I have enough trouble with these kids without being shown up by the under 11 set.


Pursuing Failure

Remember the sunscreen!!!

I sent the kids to camp this week.  Overnight camp.  Like 4 nights and 5 days overnight camp, and for the third year in a row.  I caught my Sweetheart’s eye as Tall Girl and Sweetie Pie queued for the bus.

“Ripped right out.”  I pointed at my heart.  He nodded.

“I thought it should get easier, but it doesn’t.  The logistics do.  But this?  No.”

Why do we do this every year?  I mean they have the time of their lives and make all these friends and develop as great human beings.  But is that all worth their parents’ grey hair?  Or sleepless nights?  Come on — who wouldn’t trade a week with a Slip ‘N Slide with a bunch of cranky preschoolers, for a giggle sleepover on an island on a bug-infested lake?  I mean really.

Plus, we sent Art Girl to Taekwondo Daycamp, so I’m stuck at home auditioning next school year with the bottom three kids.  This gives me an opportunity to try out my “Why you can’t watch anymore TV” arguments.  Eventually, I know they will get bored of sitting on the couch staring at that black, matte rectangle, commanding it to light, and wander over to the kitchen table to take out their frustration on some playdough.  Until then, between that and the heat, it’s going to be a long week.

Are my children secret cave men?

Compound this with my Walk Guilt.  As I wrote last time, I’ve been trying to get back into some kind of shape after being left floundering on the carpet with back pain.  Tall Girl is now a certified babysitter, so this summer I’ve been taking the Baby in the stroller and leaving big sis in charge for 40 minutes.   Which is great for about 10 minutes, until I start feeling like the World’s Worst Mother for leaving them.  What if they are fighting?  Speaking rudely?  Just today, Big Boy demanded a pencil of me.  No, “please”, “may I”, nothing.  Is this what goes on when I’m not here?  They revert to troglodyte cave kids?  I’ll come home to grunts and people painting on the walls, eating raw meat.  It hasn’t happened yet, but maybe I’ve just been lucky.

I had thought, that once the kids were older, I would start to take some time to “do some things for myself.”  Except, I can’t seem to leave.  They’re all fine, independent, moral human beings.  But I’m a crazy woman.  I just can’t go.  I was thinking of whether I should get a job.  I can now know that unless someone is prepared to pay me to run around after my own offspring, it’s probably a no go.  Actually, it’s definitely a no go.  I always figured that some kind of worldly success was hiding inside of myself, but when I actually looked, I found someone who was happy being a failure, if it means more time with her kids.

I know that one day the girls and boy will grow up and move on and leave.  I’ll be sad/happy, but that’s part of life and that’s okay.  But I can’t rush it and still be all okay with life.  Come back soon from camp, girls.  Your Mom wants to make sure you brushed your teeth.

What Makes a Good Mom?

Letting a baby play with a plastic bag probably wouldn't qualify as good Motherhood.

This last week my chest felt like it was in a vise, but not from anything physical.  I was fighting off anxiety over the kids’ crazy baking schedule.  Brownies for Tall Girls’ class on her birthday, stollen for Sweetie Pie’s class on her “Share a Bread” day, and gingerbread cookies for Art Girl for her presentation on family traditions.  I tried to convince Art Girl that our new family tradition was hiding in bed trying to ignore all the coloured sheets of paper in her backpack announcing more school “FUN!!!”, but she didn’t buy it.

I know what you’re saying.  “So, Mrs. Busypants, just say no.”  But no one wants to be the Mom whose kid doesn’t bring the treats on her birthday, who’s presentation didn’t include the snacks that the student teacher suggested that you could provide (in a letter to the whole class, by the way.)   Motherhood has become a competitive sport with kids as our proxy players.

But why?  How did things get like this?   This debate was brought to my mind by the whole “Never worked a day in her life” kerfuffle.  Which then reminded me of the times when I was out with my stay-at-home mom peers and heard that Moms with nannies, “don’t love their kids as much as us.”  And the time my friend worried aloud if her son’s autism was due to the TV she let him watch.  Or the sadness I felt reading that Veronique at Vie de Cirque she went to Grad school in part over feeling “that (she) was a rather lousy mother,” (which I totally don’t get because her blog always makes me feel like a couch potato slacker.)

This self-loathing coupled with drive-by character assassination and the endless busy-busy-busy, is due I’m sure to that the fact that are target is worse than just moving.  It flies around the room like a laser pointer piloted like a toddler, landing on everything for exactly 3 milliseconds.  There is no consensus on what makes a good Mother.  When is your job done?  What do you owe those little angels of yours?  A college education?  A Tiger Mother study schedule?  Non-stop “advocating” until they are placed in the gifted class?  A TV?  Trans-fat free diet?  Perfect spank-free discipline delivered in a monotone voice?  Three meals a day and roof over their heads?  Lots of money?  Frugality and simplicity?  Really, I ask what?

And God forbid if you get it wrong.  Your adult children have the licence to go on about how their mistakes in life are somehow due to you.  (Thanks Dr. Freud!)  And that’s what we’re fighting against:  someone someday looking at our messed up offspring and thinking “what kind of bad mother let’s that happen?”  After all the sleepless nights, the money spent, the stretch marks from here to your ankles, this is what just might come your way:  a judgement of failure.  You should have done more.  What that more might be, that’s not so forthcoming.  But judgement, as a society we’ve got loads of that.

What makes a good Mom?  You try your best with what you have.  Period.  Really, what more can anyone do?  But more importantly, we are about to pass this toxic hate cult on to the next generation.  I’m not sure how happy I’ll feel watching my daughters fall as casualties in the Mommy Wars.  While I’m not sure where this all began, I feel deep down in my bones that this is where is all should end.  I believe we need to have a conversation on the Philosophy of Motherhood.  As a society children are now (mostly) fed, clothed and sheltered.  We need to look at the opportunities this affluence has given us and decide what we are going to do with it.

Because I can’t believe that God and nature intended Motherhood to be a guilt laden taxi-service marathon, and until we figure out otherwise, that’s just what it’s going to continue to be.

Escape from Perfectland

If you buy my house, I'll thrown in my laundry!!

I was agreeing with Elizabeth Esther’s take on Mommy Bloggers and their “oh-so-natural” lives, when I started trying to figure out why we do this to ourselves.  Any Mother who’s been on the Internet knows what I’m talking about here:  all those ever so perfect blogs with the lovely pictures of the great crafts, the repurposed toddler dresses, the homemade educational toys, the organic gluten-free everything to eat, the hand painted baby’s room mural.  And just as Elizabeth points out (the other one,) as soon as you’ve been around the block a few times, you know that this isn’t the whole story.  It can’t be.  Motherhood is a messy, tumultuous business, with lots of fibs, and fudges, and milk spilt all over the organic steamed broccoli that no one will eat anyway.

I ruminate upon this as I scrub my house within an inch of its drywall.  Part of the reason that this poor blog has been put out to pasture for the past week is that we are desperately trying to list our house as soon as possible.  Part of the work required, as anyone who has tried to sell a house in the last 4 years will tell you, is that it must look Perfect.  As is in “Wow!  I didn’t know that a structure could be occupied continuously for 30 years, and have no one ever set foot in it.”  Every single picture?  GONE!  Kids’ toothbrushes in the bathroom?  HIDE THEM!  Kids’ toys anywhere?  BURN THEM!  Tiny little toe prints on the hardwood?  WHAT??  YOU MEAN YOU ARE STILL ALLOWING YOUR CHILDREN TO WALK IN YOUR HOUSE?  (And you said you are serious about selling?  Parents.)

Over and over again I keep coming up with the news that people, especially younger Gen X’s and Millennials, want perfect and they want it now.  They want a starter home with slate counters, stainless steel kitchens, and some kind of rare rainforest hardwood that can only be harvested by indigenous tree climbers on alternating Full Moons.  And they don’t mind paying mortgages for 35 years to get all this, either.  Because which is worse, being owned by a Bank or having to wait?  It seems that most folks are picking Perfect over Free.  And what’s true in real estate, is just as true in Motherhood.

“So, what?” you might be saying.  “Hasn’t it always been like this?  June Cleaver and 2.5 in the neat and tidy house?  Pot roast on the table and Dad gets his pension 65?”

But, back then everyone wanted the Perfect Life, but everyone agreed on what the Perfect Life was.  Children, Mom at home, Dad gainfully employed, ownership of a modest house, a car in the driveway.  Now, no matter what Perfect you seek to emulate, someone is there telling you how wrong you are.  Stay-at-home?  That’s nice, until your kids need the programs that your extra income would have bought.  Birthday party?  Oh sweet, actually too sweet, since all that sugar will ruin their health.  Put them in hockey?  Fine, unless running to all those games means you eat too much fast-food in the car.  But I suppose if good health isn’t a priority for you…..

I once heard a mom of Baby-Boomers proclaim that, “As long as they graduated high school, we knew we had finished as parents.”  Could you imagine how great that would be?  That we could define success in Motherhood as raising adults that have finished high school, got a job and moved out?  And we as parents could only be required to provide a home environment that would allow them to do that.  Everything else, the organic diet, the homeschooling, the musical theatre camp, was just an “if you want”?   Maybe we would have fewer adults graduating with their second Masters without any prospect of gainful employment, and thirty-something parents asking their kids’ Grandparents for “help” with the mortgage.

All this uncertainty, married with a paranoia of unknowingly making a mistake, is fuelling this “my lovely life” blog-o-frenzy.  That’s why, as evident in many of the comments in Elizabeth’s original post, these ladies respond as if they are the ones under attack — because in their minds they have responded to this feeling of never being good enough by drawing up the lines of their own battle and fighting back.  Except, that by doing that, they unwittingly become soldiers in the enemy’s army.  You don’t overcome June Cleaver Perfect, or Celebrity Mom Perfect, by substituting Crunchy Momma Perfect.  We need to remember that some of the greatest human beings ever to live never had Mothers who cared about how white the toes of their socks were, and as for diet — only cared that they had one.

All this Perfect is costing us our freedom; freedom to be happy, to enjoy ourselves as Mothers, to make choices based on what we think is best rather than on how we will be judged.  So I’ve said good-bye to Perfectland, and never looked back.  Let me tell you, the grass, even littered with dollarstore toys, fruit leather wrappers and the occasional Happy Meal wrapper, is still a heck of a lot greener.

Parenting Advice I Learnt from TV: The Christmas Edition

I’ve learnt a lot about parenting from television, but not from an “expert” giving me the latest advice.  No, I mean from the actual medium of television itself.  And quite a few lessons applied this Christmas, for example…

Commericals Really Do Make Kids Greedier

I never really noticed until we got rid of commercial television during the spring and switched to Netflix/Boxee/iTunes.  For some reason, I honestly thought that by shouting back “No” to their constant chorus of “Can we get that?” I was dealing with the gimme problem.  This Christmas though, our kids gave us sensible lists early on, and everyone was genuinely grateful after the gifts were opened.  Having grown up watching hours of commercials I never realized what a corrosive effect they had on my childish wellbeing.  It’s shocking to think that my lifelong dream of a house with The Clapper in each room, may ultimately have originated outside my soul.

Nice Things Don’t Make Kids into Good People

It’s one of the oldest plot devices out there, whether prime time soap, Masterpiece Theatre, or reality TV — super rich people acting badly.  They have everything you could possibly want, all the advantages, all the toys, and they still stoop to worst behaviour possible.  And on the surface, I don’t think that anyone would disagree with this.  But spoiling our kids just feels so good, it’s pretty easy to start sneaking in a little bit of justification into the mix, too.  I mean, it would be great to be the hero of Christmas and make our kids into living saints.  Which would be acknowledged by all after they receive the Order of Canada for jumping into a frozen river to rescue a toddler they saw on the way  home from volunteering at the soup kitchen.  Alas, I have never heard a selfless person upon reflecting say “I did it all because my parents gave me every damn thing I wanted.  Booyah!”

If It’s Not Working, It Gets Cancelled

No matter how popular a show was, as soon as the ratings do a nose dive, it’s history.  So too with holiday traditions that just don’t work any more.  No one likes Grandma stuffing recipe with the pecans and dates — gone!  No one can sit still without whining for 4 hour of present opening — figure a way to speed it up!   Kids cranky and irritable waiting in itchy dress clothes for 8:00 o’clock formal sit down dinner — comfy clothes and dinner’s at 4!  Just like syndication, you’ll always have the memories, but life is too short.  Make space for stuff that you actually look forward to doing.

“Inspiration” is Not Theft

Ever notice how two or three of the same “theme” will appear in different shows on different networks each fall?  TV folks know that if it seems like a good idea over there, it just might work back home.  While I tend to decry this kind of creative laziness, I’ve decided that in parenting it’s OK!  So, if you see something cool that another family is doing — cookie decorating party, Christmas treats for the birds in the yards, carolling parties, whatever — take it!  It’s yours!  There is no copyright on Christmas fun, baby.  Now, go for a walk tonight and see if you can get any tree ideas from the people who haven’t drawn their curtains.

Tradition is Framework for Innovation

Here’s an example:  the award show format.  Every year the producers try to mix it up.  But think if they decided to go “crazy” and have two stand-ups ad lib the entire 3 hours, who told us who won everything in the first 15 minutes.  Even if it was the “best thing ever,”  it would stink.  Why?  We want an award show to follow some simple rules — the change up comes between the parts we expect.  Christmas with kids is the same way.  I love to be spontaneous.  However, you have never heard a room so quiet as when I suggested we get together on Christmas Eve, rather than the 25th.  And my husband had to duck for cover when he floated the idea of roast beef instead of turkey.  People like what they like.  Put the new and improved between that stuff.

Hopefully this proves that all those hours in front of a cathode ray tube has not rotted my brain, but in fact made me a better Mother.

And extra TV time for all who agree.

Death by a Thousand Cheque Book Paper Cuts

Hey -- you enjoy that! It cost good money.

Back in the day, my Grandma would call Trick or Treating “Shell Out” (she would also call Canadian Tire “The Tire Corporation” for some inexplicable reason.) As we donned our homemade costumes, she would be at the door. “Shell out, shell out,” she’d call. I thought it was strange and embarrassing back then. Little did I know she was warning me what my life would be like in 30 years.

Oh, I lie to myself. “Now that school has started Liz, the expenses will drop off.”  “It’s just Christmas. When January comes you’ll be able to save LOTS of money.” Yeah, whatever. The cheques are ripped out and handed off.

Scholastic Book Order


Girl Guide Sleepover


Pottery Field Trip, Museum Field Trip, Skiing Field Trip


That was a skiing and snowboarding trip, remember?

Right – RIP

School Christmas Gifts


Winter Activity Registration


School Book Fair


Should I put the 4 and 3 year old in Kindermusik?


I don’t begrudge giving my kids stuff, and all of these expenses are worthwhile.  They’re all educational, memorable, and brain building.  That’s the problem:  How do you say “no” to the good stuff?

I’m not wasting money on kids temporary hair die, or those plastic straws full of sugar.  It’s the costs of all the great trips the school organizes, thank you’s to great teachers, birthday party gifts for great kids.  This is all the stuff that you want to say “yes” to as a parent.  And it’s not just an issue because I have a ton of kids.  When I just had two, I had them enrolled in music, dance, swimming, and gymnastics.  We went weekly to the bookstore, and bought a shelf load of Sharon, Lois and Bram CD’s.  It’s easy to say “no” to the candy aisle, and a lot harder to say it to cello lessons.

But at some point, you have to.  Even if you are a stay-at-home mom with two nannies and a gazillion, billion dollars, it is humanly impossible to buy and do everything of value that will cross your kids’ path.  You can’t fit that much activity into a 24 hour day, and where are you going to house all those math games?  Parents today are both blessed and cursed — blessed that we have so much to help us parent and enrich our children’s lives, and cursed that we have so much to choose from and have to say “no” to.

So, I have a confession to make:  I recycled the book orders this month.  I did cave on Sweetie Pie’s new Christmas Dress, but she needs it for the school Christmas Concert.  The same concert that I bought fundraising raffle tickets for.  And we did stop at the book fair, but I limited the kids to one book.  A piece.  Plus some for the kids at home.  And some erasers.  But I swear that’s it, and I mean it.

I’m going to go order some more cheques now.

Uber Mommy Guilt — The Christmas Edition

I know….it’s not even Christmas.  But I thought that we were being smart by leaving the Toys ‘R Us catalogue around, so that we got some decent Christmas Lists to share with Santa.  Previous years’ lists read like this: a Canary, Purple Soap, nice Socks, a doll that waves Good-bye.  In other words, stuff that doesn’t exist.  Or we aren’t getting (we have enough feet in the house with 8 people, without adding paws and talons, thanks.)  Even this year our 8 year old told us that she wanted an orange for Christmas.  She was reading The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate and learnt that oranges were a very prized gift back in the day.  The day being over a century ago.  And yes, she did ask for an orange as she was standing in front of a bag of oranges on the counter.  So to help us adults out, we “leave” the catalogue around so that the Christmas Lists are a tad more accessible for those of us who are at Walmart at 10:37 on a Friday evening.  Or packing up the sled at the North Pole.  Right.

But, there is a time limit on how long the catalogue should be hanging around.  When the lists have a good 5-10 items with 3 super-really wants on them,the catalogue should magically return from whence it came.  However, that is it should disappear.  It didn’t.  The kids’ lists are now 30 items long. and the catalogue is in a place of pride in the children’s books — a classic to be thumbed over and over.  A scripture of materialism for the young and greedy.

I totally know that things have gone too far when I get the “Litany of the Gifts” thrown at me.  The Litany of the Saints is the part of Mass when the Priest asks for the prayers of many of the Church’s oldest and greatest Saints, and the people respond “pray for us.”  It is usually chanted in the Benedictine tradition.  The Litany of the Gifts however, goes like this :

Polly-Pocket-Spa-and-Shop-Set :

R. I want that


R. I want that


R. Give that to me

Part of me is, of course, terribly upset by my children’s greedy, gimme ways.  But the other part is guilty:  guilty because when I look through the toy catalogue, my dream shopping list doesn’t sound that much different from their Litany of Gifts.  Chip meet block.

I had similar pangs while on-line clothes shopping yesterday.  It reminded me of a tradition that has fallen (excuse me, been pushed) to the wayside around here:  new Christmas Eve PJ’s, and matching fancy outfits.  When we had just two, it was so much fun to match everyone up.  When we had three — triple fun.  Cost was totally worth it.  When we had four — really, really cute, but OMG that cost a lot more than I thought it would.  But with five and over — too much money for a whole lot of unnecessary laundry.  Never mind that we already have tons of sleepwear, and dressy clothes.  Yet I still feel a pang of regret, that we aren’t shelling out $300 plus tax for nothing more than the chance to take some really cute pictures.  While it’s totally irrational, I still can’t shake the feeling that I should be doing these things.  This new clothing angst was compounded when two of my kids came down for school, several days in row, dressed all in hand-me-downs.  Sweetie Pie (8) started recounting how proud she was that while completing an assignment to visit one of those “Earth footprint” websites, she could check “Wearing all hand-me-downs” in the clothing section.  She smiled.  I faked it.

I doubt that I am alone in my guilt.  Maybe the trigger is different, but the guilt is the same.  We have good lives.  We are happy.  We are blessed in a multitude of ways.  We have tons of material comforts and diversions.  So do our kids.  So why all this angst?

I have since hidden the catalogue.   It is nice to have all those web order numbers handy or I would have tossed it.  And I am trying to think of a new tradition for Christmas Eve that involves something new but small and cost effective (fluffy socks?  ornaments?  any ideas would be appreciated.)  As to the guilt:  I’m ignoring that, too.  Because I finally learned, that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, when it comes to kids, it never goes away.

I now have proof I love my kids

Why?  Because I remained exceptionally calm when my 6 year old came up to me this morning and said:

“Okay Mom.  You have a test.  When does Sparks start?”

“6 o’clock.”

“Good!  Now don’t you ever be late again.”

And she walked away…

Sometimes, everyone looks like a bad Mom

As you can gather from yesterday’s post, I spent a lot of time in the Emergency Department waiting for someone to stitch up my boy’s head. We were finally settled in a room waiting for the doctor, when a nurse came in to apply the topical anesthetic. “Do you know any songs?” she asked, trying to distract him. I tried yelling “Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, Row Row Row Your Boat”, but it was too late. “Tiny Lion Man!” was his reply. And I knew I was doomed.

Let me back up. Our family loved the Mumford & Sons‘ song Little Lion Man when we heard it on the radio. In other words, the radio version. We liked it so much, that we downloaded the entire album from iTunes. Which included Little Lion Man, the “Explicit” version. Not really explicit — just one particular word right in the middle of the chorus.  Our Big Boy loves this song too, and especially enjoyed hearing it over and over. Then one day we noticed something disturbing: he was singing along. With the correct lyrics.

Well, kids get bored of things fast, we thought. We’ll find him a new favourite song, then this will pass, we reasoned. Yeah, sure.

Anyways, after the nurse left us alone, we still had another two hours to wait. Two hours of me trying to stop my boy from shouting, in his little sing-songey voice:

“…its your heart on the line,

I really f——d it up this time

Didn’t I, my dear”

(He places extra emphasis on the third word in the second line.)

Yep, what I sight.  My kid’s head is split open, bleeding all over, singing a song with a swear word.  Nice job, Mom!

In the past, I have had people approach me to pay compliments on the the kids behaviour. I’ve even a lady come up to us in a restaurant to sign our parenting praises.  “What a lovely family you have!” they’ll often say.

I want to shoot back, “Think so? Just hang around for while. You’ll change your mind.”

One thing I’ve learnt, is that everyone will look like every type of parent at least once. We may think that we can judge a mother by how she hissed at her kids during Mass, or how nicely she speaks to them in a restaurant, or how distracted she is during the school Open House. But we really can’t, because that’s just a small slice of time in a complex, long term relationship.

I try to remember that during those times when I want to judge another Mom. I remind myself, that there is no way that I can have the full story, and like me, she’s just trying the best with what she’s got. Likewise, when my parenting image is less than stellar, and I begin to feel the prickly feeling of judgement creeping up my neck, I remind myself that these people don’t know me.

I once heard that to be a good parent, you had to be prepared to be embarrassed.  Amen.  And as for my little rockstar, I think it’s time that album “broke.”


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