I went to bed last night shedding a few tears of frustration. Why? Because sometimes I get tired of being The Bad Guy and carrying the weight of my children’s world on my shoulders. If my kids don’t care about their personal development, why should I?
This all came about because of my not so successful attempt at a family meeting to go over the new summer schedule. Being the mother that I am, I get excited and maybe a little too ambitious about all the potential fun and learning that comes with having my children all to myself for three months.
Unfortunately, the enthusiasm isn’t always mutual.
Sure, my kids like to be at home and have time off from school and homework, but they aren’t quite as excited about my ideas of reasonable bedtimes during the week and “taking care of business” in the mornings. (Translation: instrument practice, household chores, and summer workbook pages.)
Now that I have a full blown teenager (and a pre-teen who frequently follows in her footsteps), I get a lot more flack, push back, and attitude than I did when all my children were “little” and thought I was the bestest, nicest, smartest mother on the planet. Back in the day I could get them to do anything as long as I used a happy, sing songy voice and a smile. They aren’t so easily persuaded now!
I think when all was said and done last night, I may have muttered something under my breath to my husband like, “Fine! They can just sit in front of the TV all summer, eat junk food, and turn into WALL-E people!” Don’t get me wrong. I have great kids in every way, but they are still kids. And that’s the part that wears me down: feeling responsible for helping these four undisciplined individuals grow up to be healthy, well adjusted, hard working, responsible, and happy adults. It’s a big job! And I’ve found it requires a pretty thick skin.
Catching flack for trying to encourage responsibility and self-discipline is just the beginning of a long list of things in motherhood that require thick skin. From patiently enduring the crying and tantrums of younger children to absorbing the eye rolling attitude of teenagers, moms have to learn pretty early on not to take anything too personally.
In fact, sometimes it seems like there is a direct correlation between the effort exerted to try and help our children and the amount of grief they give us back. It is not unlike training a puppy or pruning a young tree. As mothers, if we really are intent on our children succeeding in school, learning how to work in the home, developing their talents, and knowing how to care for their bodies and their stuff, we may just as well count on being The Bad Guy sometimes.
Do you remember being a young child? A teenager? Did you like cleaning your room? Doing your homework? Practicing the piano? Saving your money? No! Most of us wanted nothing more than to eat, sleep, play, repeat. (As my husband likes to say, “It is the way of our people.”)
Believe me, I’d love to wake up in the morning and not have a single thought for anyone other than myself, but since I chose to have four children, I chose to have my heart walking around outside of my body for the rest of my life. How can I not want to help my children be the best they can be? But the harder I try and the more that I care, the greater it hurts when my “love” isn’t immediately received as I would like by my children.
Have you ever been told “I hate you!” because you wouldn’t let someone go to a sleepover you didn’t feel good about? Have you ever had to drag a child out of bed for an early morning obligation while they shot daggers at you with their eyes? Have you ever stood over a child doing their homework or instrument practice as they begged incessantly to go play outside? Congratulations! You are a thick skinned mother, and you’re doing a great job! (Even if –maybe especially if–you went to bed in tears feeling like a horrible mother!)
Yes, it would be easier to let them eat Cocoa Puffs in front of the TV all day every day this summer (and we may have some days like that), but because I want more for them, I will continue to push them–despite my own natural inclination to let us all drift along.
And that may mean push back. And tantrums. And attitude.
But that’s okay. I’ve got pretty thick skin.
QUESTION: Do you ever feel like The Bad Guy? Do your kids ever give you flack for trying to help them be the best they can be? How do you handle the push back and the attitude?
CHALLENGE: The next time you have an “unpleasant” interaction with one of your children as a result of your efforts to teach and to train them, try to remember that being a good mom requires thick skin. Keep trying and don’t take it personally!