Sunday, April 28, 2013

Day 24: Family Dynamic Now vs. Family Dynamic Then

There's only six days left of my 30 Days of Random Blog Posts.  It seems weird that for three weeks, not one time have I had to sit at the computer and ponder what I'm going to write about.  OK, some topics have been more interesting than others - but I've had fun writing all of them.

Having only six days left means that at the end of these six days, I should be able to share with you my big news that I've been putting off for a month.  Where I'm sitting right now, it seems very possible that I will - indeed - be able to go forward with my plan of doing the big reveal on the 31st day.  Fingers crossed.

Today's post is what I consider an interesting one.... I get to compare the family dynamics I had growing up to that of the family dynamics I keep now as a mother raising my own children.  Am I model after my own parents?  Am I the complete opposite?  What situations did I go through as a child that I now use or refuse to use with my own kids?  What is my relationship like with my significant other in comparison with the relationship of my parents growing up?

Interesting, right?

And before I begin, let me give a little disclaimer to my mother - who I know will read this:

Mom, please don't take any of the following information to be offensive.  I'm sure I'm going to say some stuff that may cause some hurt feelings... but they are not meant to.  At the end of the day, I had a great childhood.  You were and are a great mother.  Just because I live somewhat differently to how I lived as a child isn't a shot to how you raised me.  Many of my parenting techniques I took away from the best teacher I had.  You.  There are just some things that I don't want to impose on my household the same way you do in yours...and that's OK.  They work for you, they just don't work for me.

OK...let's do this.

Like I just said to my mom, I really did have a good childhood.  Of course, I complained many times as a kid because I thought certain things weren't fair... but now, as an adult I understand them more.  As the oldest of six kids, I had quite the responsibility.  Luckily, it was really only for a short time - as the youngest two kids came along towards my approaching adulthood, so I didn't take care of them near as much as I did my other brothers and sister.

I had chores.  I had to keep my grades up.  I learned to cook and clean and change diapers and feed babies at a very young age.  However, I wasn't a slave to my family.  I was allowed to go to sleepovers and friends' houses, I did a lot of extra curricular activities, and friends often came to stay with me.  I was a happy kid.

Those same values I instill on my own children.  They have chores, they have to keep their grades up.  Peanut learned how to change diapers and feed a baby at a young age.  She spends a lot of time taking care of Jelly, but her rewards are countless.  She can spend time with friends, is involved with many extra curricular activities, and I shuttle her friends around when they need it.  Butter has his own set of privileges that he chooses which usually involves playing outside or playing video games.  His social wings are still in development.

The only difference that comes with how my life was back then and their lives are now are my appearances at extra curricular activities.  Because both of my parents worked long hours when I was a kid, they were unable to show up to concerts and games and events that I was in.  I had a strict rule after my kids were born that that wouldn't be the case in my house.  I would be there for as many games, concerts, and activities I can.  Which is just about all of them.  Of course, it's a lot easier for me being a teacher than it was for my parents.  However, even when my kids were younger and played t-ball and softball, I was there.  I even coached softball for two years.  My time strain was immense, but it's just something I felt I had to do.

One thing I do feel strongly about, which is something I got from my father more than my mother, is my kids being able to take care of themselves.  The only chores my kids have are chores that involve taking care of themselves.  They wash dishes.  They do their own laundry.  They keep their rooms clean.  Butter takes out trash.  They clean their own bathroom.  All valuable life lessons they need to have.  Some people think it's mean that I make my kids wash their own clothes, but I had the most terrible problem with spending hours doing their laundry only to find it all over their floors the next day.  Making them wash, dry, and put away their own clothes has helped with that issue.  Jelly is only 5, but has already been well emerged in to learning some valuable life skills.  She's become obsessed with learning how to wash dishes, and often helps the kids.  She is also having fun learning how to get her own drinks, make her own sandwiches, get her own snacks.  Of course, both of the older kids went through these fascinations - and learned the harsh lesson that they weren't special privileges  they were life lessons.

There are a few minor rule changes that vary in my house compared to the rules I had when I was younger.  One of the rules I had - which I hated - was not being able to talk on the phone outside of ear shot from my parents.  Don't ask me why, it was just something they felt strongly about.  If I was going to talk on the phone to friends, I had a time limit and it was done where they could hear my conversation.  I'm not sure it was a trust issue more than they didn't want the phone tied up for hours.  Knowing I had to talk in front of them, with only a 15 minute time limit took care of that problem.

Peanut definitely doesn't have that rule.  She had a phone in her room before she got a cell phone.  We did limit no phone calls after 11pm, but that's just to make sure the girl slept.  Butter would have the same privilege  too, if he ever used the phone.  But he doesn't.  His friends call me occasionally on my cell phone, and he's free to take the phone in his room to talk - if he wants.

One thing that hasn't happened yet, but Hubby and I feel strongly about is the extension of trust we will have on our kids...and their ability to enjoy their teen years.

This is where, Mom, you have to take everything I say lightly..m'kay?

When I was 16, I got my first job away from family.  I had worked in my grandfather's restaurant prior, but now I was branching out to the world of fast food.  Once I started working, stuff in my house changed.  My parents starting imposing more rules.  I had more restrictions.  I started to feel like I wasn't trusted, even though I had done nothing to show them I shouldn't be trusted.  My parents made a rule that if I was going to be working, I needed to pay to live in my house.  I also wasn't allowed to hang out with friends as much on my days off, because my parents felt that I was out of the house quite enough just going to work.

Now, once I started to feel my trust was being tested - I have to admit, I made stupid mistakes.  I figured if I was being made to feel there was a reason not to trust me, I gave them reasons not to.  I started lying about my work schedule in order to spend time with my friends.  I would tell my parents that I was working when I wasn't, and then sneak off to my friends' houses.  Yes, it was stupid, but I had my reasons.

Because of the stupid mistakes I made, I refuse to impose those kinds of rules on my kids.  If they have the gumption to go out and get a job when they are 16, I will be jumping for joy.  They won't have to pay me to live in my house - but they will be able to start being more responsible with their money.  Like paying for their own car, gas, insurance, entertainment...stuff like that.  If they want to go and hang out with friends after work or on their days be it.  As long as I know where they are and who they are with - I'm OK with it.  I'm making the firm promise that I will never give my children the thought that I don't trust them - unless they give me a reason not to.  If that does happen, then God help them.

I pray to all things holy that the relationship I now have with Peanut stays firmly in place.  She shares her life with me.  She feels comfortable talking to me about anything and everything.  She doesn't feel embarrassed to have me around her friends.  The quite opposite in fact.  I just hope that as she continues to develop in to her teen years that the bond stays in tact.  I understand she probably won't share everything with me, or want me around when she's with her friends.  But, if she feels comfortable having them all at my house to hang out - then that works for me!

So, hand in hand, there are only a few minor changes to the dynamics I had growing up to the dynamics that take place in my house now.

Now, let's talk adult relationships.  Again, Mom...take it easy...

Hubby and I couldn't be any more opposite to my own parents.  It's obvious that my parents love each other, but their ways of interacting with each other just doesn't work for Hubby and I.

For the most part, my parents are very happy together.  But, when they're not, you know it.  You can walk in to the house and feel tension in the air.  Their way of solving arguments are one of two options... sit and stew on them, or fight about them.  That's it.  Which, from my experience, is the dynamic in probably 99% of households.  People that have been together as long as my parents have just know which buttons to push to tick each other off.  They know their style of solving problems.  They know the looks and body language that warns others that danger is approaching.  They can tell when there's something on each other's mind - but for the most part act as the world is peachy until an explosion happens.  And I mean explosion with every sense of the word.  If my mom gets mad, she yells.  If my dad gets mad, he yells.  They, then, yell at each other until they're done yelling, and then it just gets swept under the rug...never really accomplishing anything.

That is NOT what happens in our house.  In fact, I'm very happy to admit that in the 8 years Hubby and I have been together, we've never fought.  In the sense of the word fight.  We don't yell and scream.  We don't say hateful things to each other.  We don't go in to bouts of silence, waiting for the other to apologize.

That doesn't mean we don't have problems.  Oh, we have problems.  Any couple that tries to tell you otherwise are either liars or completely oblivious.  Being the product of my parents, I often have the feeling of wanting to scream and yell and pout when stuff is bothering me.  Hubby and I have been together long enough that he can see the signs as they are emerging.  However, his take on the situation is something I'm still trying to get used to.  He wants to talk about it.  Not yell or scream about it.  Talk.  Tell me what's bothering me.  Tell him why it's bothering me.  And tell him how he can do something to make it better...or at least compromise to something we can both agree on.  In fact, he won't talk to me if I'm yelling.  He wants me to go and cool off and then come back again when I can have a civilized conversation about it.  The same can be said for him.  When something's bothering him, he tells me about it.  He knows I may not like what I hear, but I always love the fact that he's honest with me - and explains that in order for us to get through our problems we have to confront them.  We never walk away from a dispute without a resolution.  We never go to bed angry at one another.  We never just agree to disagree.  We communicate and resolve and compromise until we are both happy with the results, and we know darn well that there won't be any lingering resentment.

That works for us.

Now, I'm not saying my parents way of dealing with stuff is wrong.  Heck, they've been together long enough to know that it works for them.

Our lives are just completely different.  Hubby and I both speak to our exes...the ones that we're still friends with.  We have friends that are of the opposite sex.  I can go out for a night on the town with my girlfriends while he stays home with the kids.  He can go out and ride his motorcycle for hours while I stay home with the kids.  We have our own individual likes and dislikes.  We can openly make comments about members of the opposite sex being attractive with each other.  And it's totally OK with us.  It doesn't bother each of us one bit.

My parents are a little more old fashioned in that sense.  They don't do things the same way.  And that's OK for them... just not for us.  And that's OK too.

I'm OK with the life lessons I took away from my parents.  Some gave me an understanding of how I wanted to live my life, others had the opposite effect.  I don't think that my family dynamics now are any better or worse than the family dynamics I had growing up.  Times change.  People change.  But, the values my parents instilled in to me are strong and dominant in my adult life.

I'm sure that when my kids grow up, they will have similar takes on some of the things Hubby and I do as a couple and as parents that they will use and won't use with their own families.  And that's the circle of life, really.  As long as my kids are as happy as I was as a child, I did the right job.  As long as my kids can have healthy, happy relationships as adults, I've done my job.

I don't expect my kids to completely follow in my footsteps, just like I'm sure my parents didn't expect the same for me.  Every family has it's own dynamics...and how they are molded and used in the future are a compliment to those that first started them.

And I have a wonderful family now, because of the wonderful family I had as a kid.  Period.


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