Thursday, April 23, 2009

No Clue

Posted by Anonymous.

I have no clue what the hell to do.
Do I play with them? How long should I play with them? Let them play by themselves in the yard? Leave them alone? Let them go to the park across the street without me? I've been a mom for 6 years and I feel so lost.

I have no example to go from.

I didn't have a mom from 3 until I was 11. Well I did, but she was drinking, drunk or passed out. Her mood depended on time of day and drink of choice. She wasn't volunteering to be the Cookie mom for scouts. She wasn't helping my class. She wasn't chaperoning the class trip or teaching us about art. She wasn't taking me to the park. She took me to the store down the street occasionally, but only when she was out of her drink of choice. She was either passed out, screaming at me to do stuff around the house, or telling me I was a waste.

I hated staying home sick.

Don't even ask about other family as everyone was working full time when I was born.

I remember being three, sitting on my Holly Hobby comforter and watching I Love Lucy and eating Oreos and Pepsi for lunch because she was already drunk and passed out. I was hungry and had to eat what I could reach. Or the time I had to tell the bus driver for my Early Childhood program that I couldn't go because I had no clean pants. Or having to go to grade school in clothes that didn't match because that was what was clean and I had to get my self to school on time so the school wouldn't have to call home and say I was late. How I stayed in that house is a mystery to me still.
I had a dad, but he had to work to keep us afloat. He came home each night, judged what had happened that day and took over. Did he have to cook dinner? Pick my mom off the bathroom floor? Check my homework? Take my mom to the hospital? Figure out where I was? By the end of all that, he was exhaused and just wanted to watch TV, not take his kid to the park.
So I have no clue how to be a mom to my kids. I still don't have it figured out at this point. What do I do? How much should I be involved? Am I too involved? Are they in too many activities? Too few? Do I step back and let them be more independent? Less independent?

The parenting books don't handle this. Their father is no help as he was raised by his grandma while his mom was busy making sure the younger brother stayed alive and his dad worked constantly or was drunk and passed out. Their father thinks I'm doing fine. I have my doubts constantly and frequently.

I am so confused.


Tricia said...

Just play with them until they don't want you to anymore - they will let you know by exerting their independence. I think risking erring on the side of "too involved" versus "not involved enough" would be the way to go.

But mostly, just love them and listen to them. :)

Allison said...

Well, you know what kind of mother you don't want to be, so that's at least a start. There's honestly no "right" way to parent, but you definitely know the wrong way. As for activities, involvement in their lives, etc., honestly you need to listen and pay attention to your kids. Don't make them continue activities they don't like, don't smother, but don't be too distant. Every mother has their doubts, insecurities, fears, etc. This is actually normal and the fact that you even care says a lot about what a good mom you are.

Unknown said...

My children are grown and I have a brand new baby grand daughter. I'm sorry I really don't have any advise for you, everyday and every child is different. I think just the fact that you are questioning your mothering abilities shows you are a good mother. You obviously love your children and worry about their well being. The only advise I can give is, give yourself a break. Beating yourself up and second guessing every move you make will not help. Take a deep breath, give yourself the credit you deserve, and enjoy your family. They grow up fast.
Good Luck

mentallyunavailable said...

Being a parent is hard enough to begin with let alone not having an example to go from. I would say that you can tell when you are too involved with you kids by listening and observing. You have to let them be strong and independant people while at the same time watching over them. It is NOT easy. I feel the same way you do lots of the time. If your kids are comfortable talking to you they will let you know when you should get "in there" and when you should hit "the bench"! Take a deep breath and just do... if you want to talk, i offer to listen...

Michelle said...

Just the fact that you are asking these questions makes you a good mom. Do you have any friends that are mothers? Have you thought about joining any "groups"? Being involved is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Check to see if you have a community resource council. They are more than willing to help you and give you examples.
They give you the "resources" to help you be the best parent you can be.

Anonymous said...

You're already miles ahead of your own mother. You're doing fine. Have faith that your kids will grow up knowing that they have a mom who loves and cares about them and most importantly is PRESENT for them.

My husband and I each grew up with alcoholic parents and with our son we say that we're already giving him a huge leg up by not repeating those patterns. It counts. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

I can so relate to you. For all intents and purposes, I had to be the adult when I was little since my mother was so screwed up (no dad in the picture). It was just her and I. If I messed up (a.k.a. forgot to unload the dishwasher), she would get angry at me, yell, and not talk to me for 2 months at a time. Once, she even tried to push me down the stairs because I didn't dust right (at 8 years old). I have 2 boys now, and I have all the same doubts you do. And while I don't get it right all the time, I know one thing: I LOVE my kids, and they know it. There are days when I can give more to them than others. Some days I play with them a lot, and others I can't bare to because I'm so tired or drained. But I love them, and I do the best I can everyday. I give them kisses and hugs and say I love you (my mother never did that - she didn't like to be touched). I always doubt myself, but like everyone else has said , I know I'm a better mother already than my mother was to me. And it sounds like you are, too. Just love them. Show them you love them. Tell them they are special and amazing, and treat them that way.

Anonymous said...

I can relate, to a certain extent. My mom was also an alcoholic when I was young and although she was functional (she held down a job and was mostly responsible), she was very cold and distant. She never told us (my brothers and I) that she loved us, never hugged or kissed us. Never read us bedtime stories. As an adult, I know have a hard time expressing any feelings because of her distant attitude. For a long time, I was afraid to have kids because I felt like I wouldn't be able to show them the love that they deserve. I didn't want to repeat her mistakes. But, after much soul searching, I realized that because it's a trait that I can recognize, it's also one I can change. It's like GI Joe said, "Knowing is half the battle." Just keep a positive attitude and show your kids you love them. I'm sure they'll turn out just fine!

tadpoledrain said...

The fact that you are asking these questions, the fact that you care -- that shows that you're on the right track.

I just want to add something to what others said above: Listen to your kids, yes, but also listen to yourself. Tired of playing with them, watching their videos, reading to them, driving them to activities? It's OK to stop, to cut back, to draw a line. You are your own person. Don't feel like you have to be the complete opposite of your mom, that you have to dedicate all your time and mental space to your kids. You'll be setting a good example for your kids if they know you love them and love spending time with them, but they also see that you are independent, a whole person with other interests outside of them.

Anonymous said...

my husband had no father from the time he was 2 years old (his dad left then and never pursued a relationship with my husband), and before our son was born he was incredibly fearful about what kind of father he would be.

fast forward... our son is now 4 and my husband is a great father. he commented the other day that he has now made it as a father twice as long as his dad. and i told him that he is the best father our son could ever want. we talk about it a lot, he asks me to tell him if i think he's missing something... but the fact that he's concerned means that he really keeps himself on track quite well. (and while we're at it, he's a great husband, and never saw an example of how to be a good husband either)

CatrinkaS said...

Parenting books aren't made for those sorts of realities.

Instinct is what you go with. Relax and trust it. As a 98-yr-old pediatritian (practicing! Really! And a woman!) told me when I brought in my infant son, "a cow knows how to take care of her calf, and she can't read! You kids get way too far away from instinct! Throw away all the books!"

Keep them safe. Give them space and time to be themselves, and hold them close when they want that. No such thing as too much affection. Read to them often. Talk to them long before they can understand you, and often.

Let them be in activities, but not so many that any of you are frantic. Don't forget that you are in the equation, too.

Anonymous said...

Trust your heart and you will know what to do

Anonymous said...

I'm with ya - my mom was often passed out on the floor, and now I struggle with all sorts of mothering questions on a daily basis. One thing that helps me is something I learned in social work school - the idea of "the good enough mother". You don't have to be perfect, you just have to be good enough. From the sounds of what you wrote, you have already achieved that goal.

LegalMist said...

All moms have self-doubts. Even those of us who grew up with relatively "good" parents. Try not to bury yourself in your doubts. I bet you are a very good mom.

The goal is to see your kids for who they are and try to see what they need. There is no "one size fits all" rule about any of it. Some kids might need you to play and read to them for hours. Others might need more independent play. Some kids might be ready to play by themselves at the park across the street at age 8; others not until age 12 (and it depends on the neighborhood, and also on how well you can see them from your home across the street, too). 5 is definitely too young, I think. The point is, there is a range of reasonable, and room for disagreement about what is "appropriate" for a given age, and it may vary depending on the individual kid's personality.

Try to judge what your own kids need based on how well-adjusted they seem. Can they play alone? If not, you may need to provide more opportunities for that. Do they interact well with other kids? Make sure they have a chance to practice that, too. Do you have dinner with them as often as possible, given your schedule? Do you play with them occasionally, when you have time, doing activities you all enjoy? Take them places occasionally where they can run and play together or with friends? If so, you are doing fine. Some families like to have a set "routine" - a game night and a family outing day. Others enjoy a more random approach.

I bet you are doing a wonderful job helping your kids feel safe and loved, since you are so aware of the types of things you want to avoid -- unwarranted criticism, too much responsibility too early, and so forth.

But do try to give them responsibility that is appropriate for their age. You'll know it's appropriate if they are able to master it reasonably well within a reasonable time. Even little kids can help you sort socks and unload the dishwasher. Slightly older kids can take responsibility for feeding the dog, cleaning their rooms, and so forth. Pre-teens can help you cook dinner, vacuum, sweep, and mop, and clean the bathroom once in a while. Teenagers can easily be expected to do their own laundry, take out the garbage, and keep their bathroom clean and even cook dinner once a week or so. Just don't dump *all* the chores on them -- give each kid two or three important tasks, but let them see you cooking and cleaning, too, so they know it is a family effort to keep the home running smoothly.

One resource I like is "The Family Almanac," a weekly article in the Washington Post, available online at in the style section. If you read through the archives, you'll get a real sense of the huge variety of personality types and issues that arise, and some common sense ways to approach giving a kid reasonable responsibilities, helping the kid feel loved, and helping them develop a healthy sense of independence and self-worth.

Also, keep trying to talk with their father; he sounds like he might benefit from reading some of the articles and thinking a bit about what is a good approach, rather than just avoiding the drinking pitfall that hounded you both as kids.

And, I would echo some of the comments above: you do not have to be perfect. Just hug your kids often, tell them you love them, and do your best, and don't beat yourself up for any small mistakes. Consistently being there over the course of their young lives will go far toward allowing them to develop normally. You needn't be "June Cleaver" or a 2009 career-woman/supermom to raise good kids. Just be your best self, treat the kids with kindness and respect, but also let them know you are in charge and you make the rules, and set reasonable limits, and it will all work out ok.

Hang in there!