I think every parent should have two primary goals to achieve while raising children. Your first and most important goal – your kids don’t kill you in your sleep. My personal fear is that my daughter will smother me with her panda pillow pet (the must have girl accessory for winter 2011) or my son will bludgeon me into an irreversible coma with his X Box limited edition Halo controller. The secondary goal all parents should strive to attain is that their children don’t end up calling your basement home. Of course you want to shoot for the stars and raise a child that will change the world. But, really, c’mon what’s more realistic is raising a child that remembers to flush the toilet, brush their teeth (I would love if they would mature into adults who would also floss, but dare I dream that big?) and the good Lord willing, the ability to hold down a job. Everything else that happens is pure gravy with a side of Texas toast.
This month much buzz (and by buzz I mean millions of mothers weighing in on blogs etc with their outrage, shock and I think a whole lot of jealousy) has been generated by a new book called: The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua. In it Mrs. Chua, a very accomplished Ivy League law professor, shares the inside story of raising amazing children and her two daughters are indeed that. One of them performed at Carnegie Hall at 14. Let’s compare that to my 14-year-old who forgets to wear socks with his shoes in winter and them proceeds to walk in a half foot of snow. Advantage – Mrs. Chua. Her secret – she’s a big bully and her kids do what she says so they can continuing breathing sweet, sweet oxygen. Bravo for Mrs. Chua. I wish I had the balls to force my children to practice their instruments for 3 hours a day and browbeat them so they had the highest grades in all of their classes. But, alas I’ve been a ball-less parent from the get go. I couldn’t even do “the Ferber” on my kids when they were babies. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Feberizing it’s a sleep ritual started by a Dr. Ferber where to get your infant to snooze through the night you let them cry it out in intervals. Nope, I lasted about five minutes of my baby crying before I rushed and hoisted the red-faced, sobbing, snot smeared, cuddle monkey out the crib into my bed. Which means a number of horrible things about me, including, that I’m a big pushover and that many nights you can still find my ten-year old sleeping in the “marital bed.” Oh yeah, you read that right – ten-year-old in my bed, right in the middle of my husband and I. Can you say I’m a horrible mother? Oh yes, I am because right now, in the dead of winter, I’m glad she’s in my bed. The kid is a human electric blanket and the extra body in the bed seems to lessen my husband’s snoring. So please do not leave any comments pointing out the long-term damage I’m doing to my daughter and my marriage. I’ve already pondered those possibilities and moved on.
Now, wouldn’t it be great if instead of getting all worked up over how other people raise their children we could just agree to disagree or even better admit, that at times, all of us have sucked, big time, at being parents. Imagine the time it would free up, all the worry, guilt, and competition it would exorcise. I know, I’m asking a lot of everyone. It would be the equivalent of a nationwide parental We Are The World sing along. Everyone would have to check their sanctimommy at the door and join hands as we croon love and acceptance of other’s parenting strategies. Just in case this doesn’t work I do have a back up plan. Let’s blame science for everything our children do that is less than awesome. It totally gets us off the hook and we can stop doing a daily compare and contrast on how other families run their lives.
I even have hard science to support me in this plan. It’s been proven (right now by me)that no matter how incredible loving and supportive you are, or no matter how hard you stress success to your kids, or the fact that you throw amazing birthday parties and deliver a Christmas that would make Martha Stewart weep with envy, chances are you’re still going get a kick in the ass by at least one of your children. It’s 98% nature and maybe on a good day 2% nurture.
My findings are based on visiting with friends over the holidays. Out of the six of us we all had at least one sibling that was either cuckoo or borderline cuckoo, two who were living with their parents and three that were total losers. It’s what I like to call sibling roulette. I’ll use myself as an example. I have two wonderful, amazing parents and 3 siblings. We were all raised exactly the same way, but out of the 4 kids, 1 is crazy (surprise – it’s not me) and 1 is currently living at home with my parents (once again not me). My parents are batting 500 which sounds crappy unless you take a look at my husband’s family. He has 2 siblings and they’re both well, I won’t say crazy, but I will say loser and borderline loser with an overture of could be wearing crazy pants soon. Thus proving my theory that as parents we have no control over the final outcome of what our children will grow up to be. It’s all up the magic of DNA. Oh sure, there are always some families that will prove my theory wrong with each sibling being outstanding, (and I’m sure it’s your family that will do this), but if you’re honest with yourself I think you will find my data is beyond reproach. Now if by chance you have a child that does grow up to be President or something else amazing DNA be damned. It is your God given right as their mother to take credit for each and every accomplishment.
Meanwhile, as you wait for this to happen I urge you to sit back, relax and know that no matter how many times you drill your kid on their spelling words, break out the flashcards or pay for SAT prep classes you and your child bear zero responsibility if they are successful, happy, productive members of society. It’s science and if things don’t work out the way you hoped then you can blame science. Which is so much better than blaming yourself or more importantly blaming your child. Isn’t that what we’re looking for, forget the fountain of youth (we’ve found that and it’s name is botox) we’re on a 21st century quest for blame free parenting, who I’m a kidding we want a blame free family, where nothing is our mistake and especially never ever our kid’s mistakes. It’s is beyond better than the alternative – admitting that at times we all suck at being parents and that our children are actually capable of being less than perfect. It’s the truth, but this way is so much better – isn’t it?