“Am I ruining my kids?” I think to myself as I’m scrolling down Facebook and see a post from an awesome and deservedly proud Mommy that I know. It is about her 5-year-old child, the same age as my boys, who has decided out of the kindness of her heart, to raise money for those in need. I’m in awe! I see this post on a day, where keeping my boys from killing each other is considered a victory.
Some of my top goals as a parent:
- To raise happy children who love their parents unconditionally
- To raise kind people, and will help improve the lives of others
- To raise respectful people
- To raise hard-workers
At the end of every day, I reflect and rate how my day was. I have concluded that I experience 3 types of days;
- The “I’m an awesome mom Day”, when I feel like I’m finally succeeding at reaching my goals above. These days include giving my kids my undivided attention, cooking them full well-balanced meals, and keeping the happiness level to FULL MAX.
- The “Average Day”, when I feel like I could do better tomorrow. Or, that my kids are just kids after all. These days might include crying over spilled milk (sometimes literally), having to put them in a time-out for talking back, or raising my voice when I’ve asked them to clean up and it hasn’t been done.
- The “I can’t do this Day”, when I feel like I’m not able to be the mom that I want to be. Or, despite all my efforts, my kids are horrible and need to see a specialist. These days can include, non-stop bickering and screaming. Cold peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for supper and a skipped bath to expedite bed time.
From the moment I saw 2 pink lines on not 1, not 2, but 3 pregnancy tests, I was a Mommy. I was put on preventative leave from work, because I worked in a daycare. And, was also put on bed rest at 13 weeks with my twins, due to bleeding. So, what do you do all day alone in bed? You read. What did I choose to read? Pregnancy and parenting books. Why not learn all that I can, to be the best parent there ever was? I began to see parenting as a science, that one had to study. As a test, that one had to ace. And if you didn’t, you would have awful kids, that didn’t listen, and would make your life hell.
I put a lot of effort into being the kind of Mommy that I wanted to be. My twins were born, they quickly turned one, then two, then three, then four. Most of my days were categorized as “Awesome mom Days” and “Average Days”, which were also okay, because hey, I had twin toddlers and I’m only human!
Then everything changed…
They turned five! They started school! Their baby brother was born! They saw a lot less of Daddy!
My days have turned into mostly “I can’t do this Days” with a sprinkling of “Average Days”, and a rare appearance from “Awesome Mom Days”. Sometimes I feel so defeated. It pains me so much because I put so much effort into this job starting way back during my bed-ridden days, as a hopeful 23-year-old new mom of twins.
Did I do something wrong? Did I not follow-through enough? Did I not punish enough? Did I punish too much? Did I not develop a close-enough bond with both kids? Was I too close, and coddled them too much?
My husband tells me that I’m not strict enough. My mother tells me that I’m like a drill sergeant, making 3-year-olds make their beds and put away their shoes when we come in the house. I have others telling me to start yelling or smacking bums. I have my grandmother telling me to stop yelling at them and I should be boosting their self-esteem more.
I’m clueless now. I’ve read too much. I’ve received too much advice. What is the right way? Is there a right way? I’ve read books that say not to punish at all. When your child misbehaves, to tickle them. The worst thing you can do is send a kid to time-out all by himself, and let his anger grow, while not teaching him any valuable lessons. I’ve also read books that say to count to three and if they don’t listen by three, to send them to time-out or take away a privilege.
After much experimentation, I’ve concluded that one of my boys responds well to 1-2-3-TIME-OUT, because he needs the fear of impending doom to come to the realization that the current situation he’s in is serious business. And with the other, 1-2-3 TIME-OUT just makes him furious and lash out. He has less anger when I forego the time-out, and instead, calmly provide an explanation for why his behavior is unacceptable or provide him with some independent play time, where he can color or read books in order to calm down). But how can I punish one and not the other? Is one of these methods wrong and causing me to mess up my children? Is parenting supposed to be this hard?
After many of my “I can’t do this Days”, I start looking up child psychologists. And then, the next day happens to be a better day and I put that idea aside at the back of my brain, only to resurface again after my next bad day. Many times I think that my kids are just reacting to so many changes happening in their lives all at the same time. But am I just making excuses for them? Am I ruining my kids? Sometimes I feel like I can’t do this alone.
But then, at the end of the day, when I check in on them sleeping and looking like the innocent children that they actually are, I am so filled with love and content, which fuels me with the power and desire to get up tomorrow and do it all over again. I can do this! I’m ready! Bring it.