Sunday, May 12, 2013

3 Parenting Tactics My Mom Used On Me That I Would Never Use On My Son (But That I'm Truly Thankful For)

Act #132:  Celebrate the diversity in mothering and parenting.  No one person has it all figured out.

She made me go to the store alone when I was 6.
As a child, I was painfully shy.  It hurt just to look someone in the face.  I remember starting 1st grade at a new school and hiding in a janitor's closet for what felt like an eternity because I was terrified to go to my class.  My mom was, and is still, one of the most extroverted women I know and she was at wits end in her efforts to help me adjust and adapt to my social surroundings.  So one day, when I was 6 years old, we ran out of bread and my mother asked me to go the store to buy bread.  By myself.  Granted the store was just down the road from our apartment and she watched me through my entire route, I still thought I was literally going to die.  Looking back, that was definitely a turning point in my childhood - I discovered that people might actually listen when I had something to say.  I discovered that deep inside of me I possessed an untapped courage to navigate the big, scary world (aka our neighborhood sidewalk) on my own.

She didn't talk to me for a whole week.
When I was about 9 years old I went through this phase where I lied.  A lot.  About everything - you name it.  I lied about taking baths (gross, right?), whether or not I finished my lunch at school, how I was doing in math class.  I don't know what I was going through but I couldn't stop myself, it was almost compulsive.  My mother tried everything from spanking to denying me of my toys and privileges, but nothing worked.  The final straw came when I forgot an extra pair of gym shoes on the school bus during a field trip and I was too afraid to tell my parents the truth.  So naturally I told them I had no idea where they had gone.  Maybe somebody had broken into our home to steal my ratty pair of gym shoes (and nothing else).  Of course I was found out when the school returned the shoes to my parents....and I lied again - I had no idea that they were left on the bus.  Some kid must have taken them out of my book bag and hidden them on the bus just so I could get in trouble.  So when I woke up the next day, all of a sudden my mother stopped talking to me.  She wouldn't respond to my questions.  She barely looked at me in the face.  My heart was broken and I felt invisible.  And when she began to talk to me again 7 days later, I never lied again.

She cheated when we played board games.
So I was apparently a pretty sharp kid.  My mother tells me stories of family board game nights where I would 100% consistently beat both my parents.  You name it - CandyLand, Simon Says, Superfection (clearly I was a child of the 80's), I kicked everyone's butts and I was starting to get a bit cocky about it.  So one day my mother cheated.  Yes, that's right.  When I wasn't looking, she manipulated the Gumdrop Path to beat me to King Kandy's Palace, with the sole intention of making me feel what it was like to lose.  And that I did.  And while at first, I was devastated, I survived.  And I learned that day an important lesson in humility.  I learned to lose gracefully, and more importantly I learned that there was so much more to life than winning.

My mother was a 23-year old new immigrant working two minimum-wage jobs and living in an apartment in the suburbs of Chicago when she had me.  When I had my son, I was 12 years older, owned my own home, and with inflation, I was earning about 5 times as much as she was.  I had also paid $300 for a parenting class and read about 12 books on the topic before I even gave birth.  My  instructor would cringe at the parenting choices my mom made, and if I had to be honest, I  won't likely use any of these tactics on my five-year old son.  Especially since he's not nearly as brilliant as I was at CandyLand.  But I can't imagine what kind of adult I might have become if my mother hadn't made the choices she did.  I'm thankful that she did the absolute best she could, with her skill set and unorthodox ways as a young mother, to instill in me valuable life lessons about courage, honesty, and humility.  I'm thankful that to this day, she continues to believe in my strength (even during the times that I don't believe in my own), holds me to the highest level of integrity, and never ceases to remind me through her words and actions, that if you focus entirely on the destination, you may just lose sight in the beauty of the journey.

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