Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Revealing Interlude

My plan was to post more today on consequences, but I think instead that I need to take a brief interlude - possibly highly overdue. (I promise to get back to the discussion of consequences tomorrow.)

I think the most illuminating way to start is to tell a short story:

Back when my kids were much younger, I was really struggling with how to improve my parenting skills. Perhaps the specifics of how bad things were are best discussed in another post, but I really needed to improve. I started attending parenting classes like "taming your child's dragon" and "dealing with the spirited child." I ended up going to a number of these classes, convinced that they were helping me along the the path to perfect parenthood. (Just one more class, and I'll finally get it!) 

This was a big deal for me to be gone for entire evenings, because I was definitely an attached parent, and our kids were all closely spaced and needed lots of parent assistance for the evening routine. I felt a lot of guilt leaving H to deal with them alone, but I knew that I was working for the greater good. 

One night, a couple of weeks after I'd gone to yet another parenting workshop, I was standing in the kitchen. We were having our usual bickering back-and-forth, when G looked at me and said, "Mama, remember when you went to school to be a better parent?" Yes, I remembered. He looked at me with his big, round, honest, innocent eyes and said, "I'm sorry it didn't help."

How do you write the sound of mental glass shattering? I thought I was doing so good, and my kids saw right through me. (If you want to see what I thought I'd be when I started this journey, read this post.) 

I won't tell you about all the times all three of the kids and me were in a heap in the middle of the floor bawling our eyes out (at least we were together, right?). Or the times that I'd put G in our glass-door shower stall for "time out" (water off), while I sat outside so he could see me and I cried, because I didn't know what else to do. (It was the only place where he couldn't hurt himself or anyone else.) Or the times that I'd sob on DH's shoulder saying how I'd made a big mistake having kids, that I was a terrible mother, and that I was failing my children. 

Or the time that I was standing in the kitchen when, in a flash, I realized that if I died that day, my kids would only remember me as an angry mom.

For a long stretch, there were tears every day. (Oh, and the kids cried too.)

Let's just say this. I'm a better mom than I was yesterday. And yesterday I was a better mom than I was last month. And last month better than last year. And last year better than five years ago.... But before I had kids, I was the best mom of all.

Let's also say that these days I don't have a lot of BMDs ("Bad Mommy Days") or FAP Days ("Failure As a Parent") anymore. My good days significantly outnumber my bad. That's not something I could have said not too long ago. So I'm making progress!

I'm human. What that means for me is that I love for people to see my successes and hate for people to see my failures. However, I've had so many parenting failures and been so vocal about them on our local attachment parenting list that I feel like I've established a reputation for being a, well, shall we say, less than perfect mom. I forget, though, that lots of my fellow friend moms don't know me through that list, so they haven't seen my self-inflicted disemboweling over the last number of years.

What this blog is about is not what an expert parent I am. It's not about how I have all the answers or that I'm any different from any other parent in the world. 

What this blog is about is what I've learned in the trenches. From being thrown into mommyhood 14 weeks too early; to having an off-the-charts Tasmanian Devil, high-needs child (and I mean that in a good way, of course LOL); to having three kids under 4 years old all in cloth diapers at once; to having a kid who was diagnosed with a neurological disorder. 

This is about what worked ... but mostly about what didn't. I tend not to write about what didn't, though, because I've tried so many things that didn't that I'd be here for years. Besides, it's embarrassing. :)

So when I have friends who joke about having me keep their children for a month to turn them into perfect children it always give me a mighty chuckle and sometimes a serious guffaw. What goes through my head at those moments is usually, If they only knew! If they only knew!

Sometimes they think that my kids have ended up being perfect children. They are ... in the sense that all children are perfect. They're definitely not in the sense that most people think of perfect children: that they never argue, never procrastinate, never make me (or each other) crazy, never do something they shouldn't, never forget to do something they should. They're just kids. Normal, average, lovable kids. 

And me? I'm a normal, average, loving mom who has learned her lessons well. After reading stacks of parenting books dozens of feet high, and taking parenting workshops to make things all better, and venting and discussing parenting strategies with other harried moms, I've found some things that work for us. I've also found a ton of things that don't. (And I enjoy spouting off about all those things.)

My kids are they way they are because they're who they are. Not because I have some magic and not because I have all the answers (certainly not because I have all the answers).

So that's me - and that's what this blog is about. A fellow mom who figured out a few things through a lot of trial and error, who makes tons of mistakes and has had some serious disasters, and who got lucky with the kids she got because they're very forgiving. 


  1. You always keep it real. I LIKE that! Thanks for not making me feel like the gum on the bottom of motherhood's shoe, lol.

    Don't feel bad about the kids having cried everyday. That's just God's way of letting us know they're still alive :) .

  2. Camille, I have benefitted from every little interaction we've had including the little ones at TCS all those years ago. Your honesty, intelligence, sensitivity, and compassion, make you one of the most amazing moms I know. AND, I think if you were willing to take A in, I'd send him into your home-school! I have these battles too, and I have started thinking "WHat would Camille do?" these days!! A is very very full of enthusiasm and good humor and playfulness, all the time. Can you imagine sometimes it seems too much?! FOr instance, we're trying to get out the door to school, and he suddenly decided to blick the doorway standing on his head. After the hundredth time, this starts to annoy me a bit!!
    And ofcourse I have endless guilt that I don't have the same good humor to enjoy it every time.

  3. Oh, you don't have all the answers?? hmph! Now you tell me :) I am coming to get my kids back. Be right there.

  4. Camille, thank you for this post! And THANK the universe for forgiving children!

  5. I had to chuckle at the image of all four of you in a sobbing heap on the floor. Love your honesty -- and your willingness to share what you've learned!