Sunday, April 25, 2010

Strong Legs, But Never Quite Sure Where I Stand

As a mom, you have to be strong. Actually, just by being a mom, you are. You recover from the birth or adoption process by landing firmly on your feet and taking care of the needs of your child. When your kid is sick, no matter how severe the illness or what orifice is spewing at that particular moment, you never show how bad it is. You never show how utterly grotesque what you’re seeing makes you feel. When your kids make mistakes, you don’t show disappointed you are. When they mouth off, you temper the hurt feelings you have by saying, “Well, they’re just kids.” When they wrestle or bite you (while playing), even if you express dismay, you rarely, if ever, tell them how brutal the pain is or how many aspirin you needed to take to get on with your life. When your children have tantrums, they get over the episode much quicker than you ever will. My kids may be over the outburst; my stomach will churn for hours.

So while I need to stand strong, there are many times that I’m not quite sure that what I’m doing is correct. Sometimes I just don’t know where I stand. Two recent instances bring this to mind:

1) Junior is pitching in his baseball game for the first time. He’s on the mound, staring intently at the hitter. He’s chewing his gum as if it’s tobacco and he looks, for all the world, like he should be in the middle of a major league stadium. I’m SO proud of him I could cry. I yell out, “Go Pitcher! You can do it!” thinking I’m being supportive only to be lambasted by said baseball player later for “embarrassing” him. Ok. New rule, Mom – don’t talk to the pitcher (or him when he’s a catcher) during a game. Sorry, dear. I was just trying to encourage you.

2) Junior is running for an office on the Student Council. Once again, I’m SO proud of him for challenging himself. I’m proud of him for putting himself out in public. So little sister and I, with the candidate’s permission, make signs encouraging voters to vote for him. We attract attention hoping it’ll spill on to him, along the lines of any attention is good attention. I go to both assemblies and give him the “thumbs up” while he’s on the stage. I want to be there for him. I want to show him, as much as I tell him, that I’m proud of him no matter what. Again, I’m reprimanded for “embarrassing” him.

Now I’m not a Mrs. Benson (ask your kids about the character of Freddie’s overprotective mom on ICarly) and I try not to hover. I keep an eye on him when he’s playing with his friends – but from a respectable distance. I keep an ear out for what’s going on during playdates – again, without getting in the kids’ faces. I only videotape and photograph public things the kids are in when I can get a clear shot. The latter is an important point because I was yelled at by Junior when I failed to record his Winter Concert. Sorry, but the violin section was blocking you, kid. I give him plenty of decision-making power, provide ample opportunity for him to make choices (and live with the results of those choices), and refrain from showing his baby pictures to his peers.

I just wish I knew, specifically and on a moment-to-moment basis, where responsible parenting and healthy child independence meet. That seems to be territory that varies daily. I wish kids came with some kind of visible approval meter, like a traffic light, so that I, as a parent, would always know where I stand.

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