Just yesterday, I wrote how I could not recall Peanut or Butter's first day of school. An important day to many was somehow erased from my mind - forever lost. It got me really thinking about what defines a "good" parent. Was my forgetting those days somehow an F on my parenting report card?
If you're a devout reader of my blog, you know that my children don't get much exposure in my writing. A lot of that has to do with protecting their identities....some of it has to do with not sharing that part of my life. I feel that some things are made for blog writing, and others aren't. But, if we're on the subject of being a good parent...like I am today....then it's only fitting that I examine some of the evidence of what makes me a great parent. Oh, and I am a great parent by the way. Regardless of the jokes and bantering - that is one thing I am sure of.
There are some things that I allow my children to do which would raise some eyebrows, cause a few uncomfortable coughs, and automatically label me as a "questionable" parent. But, I know my children better than anyone else. I also know the people they are becoming and I monitor and adjust to those changes.
Let's look at some of the evidence, shall we? My official Parenting Report Card. Oh, and grab a cup of coffee...maybe two...this is going to be a LONG one!!
Peanut is 11. She's entering that stage of liking boys (yes, already...can you believe this? Ugh). Peanut loves watching scary movies - has since she was a little younger. Yep - here we go, I believe I heard the first of the throat clearing. Who lets their 11 year old watch scary movies? Right? She also enjoys playing games on the Internet, and spends quite a bit of time chatting to friends on Facebook. Gasp! I allow her to chat online? She has no set bed time. Just recently, we gave her a phone in her room... because we don't believe she's ready for a cell phone - but we wanted her to have a way to talk to friends and family. She's at the age where she needs those social connections.
I'm pretty sure everything I wrote there would earn me a big fat D- on the parenting report card... but before the judgements fall....let's look at the girl my Peanut is.
Every morning, she wakes up at 6am. She then proceeds to empty the dishwasher and wash any dishes that may be in the kitchen. She gets Jelly clothes out for the day. She then gets herself ready. All on her own accord, I might add. When she comes home from school, she tells me all about her day - and then spends some time on her Net Book (that would be Facebook time)...until dinner time. At that time, she spends time with the family. After dinner, we watch TV or occasionally, we play some cards. She also enjoys playing video games with her dad. She will then ask Jelly if she wants a shower or bath - and then Peanut takes it upon herself to bath Jelly. By 9pm on week nights, Peanut is in bed....again, all of the above on her own accord.
Peanut is a straight A student, and in the Gifted and Talented program. She loves school, and when she's not doing any of the above - her nose is stuck in a book. Every Sunday and Wednesday, she chooses to go to church with her friends.
And...despite all of that....here's the part that, in my opinion, ups that grade on the score card...
Quite frequently, Peanut comes to me with "Mom, can I ask you a question?" The way she says it tells me that she's feeling a little awkward - maybe a little embarrassed. The question that follows will be something she needs to talk about, get off her chest....it could be feelings she has for a boy, or her not being sure about something her friends are involved in, or she's seen something on TV or read something online that has raised questions. All difficult in nature - for both of us - but only one thought jumps into my mind: She came to me. She's able to ask me those questions, and she knows that I will talk to her about anything that's weighing on her mind. Sorry, folks, but in my mind - that gives me a big, fat, whopping A+.
Now, let's discuss Butter.
Before I go into much detail - let me first pose you this question: What would you feel like if for 5 years, your child is hurting.? Not a physical pain, but an emotional pain. A pain that can't be fixed with a kiss or a hug or a band-aid. A pain that can't be pin pointed to a specific area. A pain in which the reason can't be defined. If you child has no idea why he feels the pain, or where it comes from. What would you do?
This, my friends, is Butter. For 5 years, he's been dealing with an enormous pain in his heart and in his mind - a pain that has no rhyme or reason. We have taken him to countless doctors, counselors, psychiatrists....all of which bounce him around - never giving a straight answer as to what could be causing the problem.
It started in Kindergarten, and for every year since - the pain has been growing in intensity. What started out as mild defiance, has now manifested to full blown angry, dangerous mood swings. He was placed in a special school almost two years ago, that specializes in children who have behavioral challenges.... but even they couldn't understand the uncontrollable blow-ups, the anger, or the behaviors that manifested with no triggers.
For five years, I have dug into every resource and parenting book out there to try and help: Positive and negative reinforcement, loss of privileges, therapy...the list goes on and on. I did everything in my power to try and ease the pain that he was feeling - even though he had no idea where the pain was coming from or what was causing it.
Finally, a little over a week ago, the behavioral school threw their hands up in the air - after another very serious outburst - and looked at me with the same confusion and frustration I have had for the past 5 years. I had been backed in to a corner with only one available option left: I had to call a hospital.
It was the hardest decision I have ever made as a parent. But now? Only one week later, I'm kicking myself for not doing it sooner. After looking at the extensive history Butter brought with him, the hospital called in one of the best pediatric psychiatrists in the state. The doctor met with me, discussed Butter's case - and after finding out a few things about my family's history he was able to diagnose Butter.
Butter has a form of Tourette's Syndrome and is bi-polar. A few months ago, after receiving yet another medication from his previous doctors, he started having slight tics. The tics were disregarded as a side effect to the medication. After talking with Butter's new doctor, it is now apparent that the disorder has probably been going on for a long time - but because of another medication he's been taking, the effects were not apparent.
Not getting all scientific and medical - both diseases are in the brain. He's been dealing with a pain in his mind that is unknown in cause - and his behaviors have often been out of his control. It all makes so much more sense now.
Even though it's heart wrenching to have a child in a psychiatric hospital - I finally feel, for the first time in 5 years, that he's getting the help he needs. He's finally getting help for the pain - and the pain has already subsided immensely. I'm not sure how long he's going to be there - but with the pain of him being away from me comes the joy of him getting better.
I did what I had to do, as a good parent. For the past several months, I had a son that screamed obscenities at me, declared how much he hated me, and wanted nothing more than to be away from me. I kept pushing, searching, trying everything I could to get help for a child that was screaming for help in his own way - but no one seemed to have any answers. Now, after only one week in the hospital - he's making great progress. He's calmer, he's excited to see me when I visit, he calls me almost every night to share his day, and he's confident (as am I) that he's on the road to being able to manage two incurable diseases - with his dad and I right beside him.
Having a child with this type of history is bad enough - pushing through, never giving up, and making an extremely tough decision to get him the help he needs: Another big, fat A+.
And believe me, the past 5 years haven't been easy in the least. I have cried and screamed in frustration and anger... but I never stopped believing that I would find the answer. I'm still not all the way there, but I truly believe I'm on the right track.
Wow - this is much longer than I expected it to be....
Lastly, there's my little Jelly. The baby. She's spoiled rotten....often getting her own way. She is not, however, treated any different than Peanut and Butter were at that age. Time will only tell what my future report card grade will be like with her.... but I can already tell that she's going to be independent and smart. She watches too much TV, but because of it - she can count to 10 in Spanish, and say several phrases in Spanish and Mandarin. (Thanks Dora and Kai Lan). She's polite and loving - always flowing compliments and "I love you" out of her mouth.
She tells me I'm beautiful, I'm the best, I'm awesome. She tells Peanut that she's the best sister in the world, she's beautiful, and she constantly tells Peanut how much she loves her. Butter is her play mate, her pal. She has missed him so much since he's been gone - but walks around the house talking to him on her toy cell phone every day. She curls up on her dad's lap to play video games with him, and loves to spend the day with him now and then when I'm at work.
She plays with all of her dolls and stuffed animals and treats them with kindness and compassion. Her toys get fed and changed and warm blankets to lay on (all over my living room floor). If anyone touches those toys with anything but kindness - as in picking them up and throwing them in a toy box - watch out!! You will then fell the wrath of Jelly's maternal instinct.
And here's my current reason for my A+ on Jelly's portion of the report card: When Jelly grows out of some of her clothes, or she comes across a toy she no longer plays with, the first thing out of her mouth? "Mommy, we should give this to other kids". The kid is already a humanitarian - and she's only 3!!! Eat that those who are judging my parenting skills!!
So, after this extremely long explanation of my parenting skills, hopefully I have made the point that parenting isn't easy - it's not "one size fits all". Even though I chose to parent one way, doesn't make it right or wrong. It's what fits my kids. They are the kids they are because of me...and their dad, I guess I better give him a little credit.
So what if I don't remember their first day of school!? So what if my parental ethics are a little skewed from those provided in all the parenting handbooks and from the "experts"? There is only one expert on how to raise my children: Me!! (OK, again, I'm being selfish - their dad has a little input)
I know, in my heart, that my parenting skills are a reflection of my teaching skills. I'm a damn good teacher - and I'm a damn good parent.....I don't care what anyone else says!!
So the next time you may be feeling a little doubt on your parental skills....take a second to reflect on your child. Don't dwell on what you can and can't remember. Don't dwell on having to miss an important event because something else came up. And NEVER, EVER compare yourself to anyone else. You are the experts....you know your children better than anyone else. You make the mistakes, you learn from them. Just the fact that you care is half of the equation....the rest just falls in to place.
Till next time. ;)
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