Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sure, go ahead...make me feel worse

Recently, I shared my first true motherly heartbreak when my oldest son was mean to another kid on the playground at school. Hubby and I were pretty firm and really thought we'd done everything to make this a "defining moment."

Uh...apparently not.

Our playground bully struck again.

Only a week after the first incident, we picked Ben up at school to learn that he'd punched another child. What can I say? I was devastated. And angry. And again, sad.

He took full responsibility:
"I hit him first."
"Because I wanted to."


Now, you have to understand my child: he is really, truly a pretty neat kid. He is funny and sweet and a rule-follower. He asks permission before he uses his dad's sports bottles. He helps his team mates up when they fall on the soccer field. He says "please" and "thank you" without being prompted. But he is strong-willed. He is stubborn. He is scary-smart. And apparently, he still has not figured out that two Alphas in this house is more than enough.

So...Hubby and I sat down and made a very difficult decision. We decided that in addition to the last set of consequences (no books at bedtime, no outside play, no TV, and apologies to all involved), he would also miss his best friend's birthday party. And, to make even a greater impact, he'd stay home with Dad while he watched his little brother and I go.

And I would take pictures.

And I would bring home only his brother's goody bag.

And I would tell Daddy aaaaallllll about how greaaaaaaat the party was.

Yes, I know, we sound cold and uncaring.

That might've been what was going on on the outside. Inside? I lost sleep for 2 nights. I woke up the morning of the party dreading the coming day. And when I saw the ponies, the bounce houses (yes, plural), the real-live Spiderman? I cried. Not teary-cried. I mean, full-blown-bottom-lip-trembling-have-to-turn-away-to-hide-my-face-boo-hooing.

This was the point during the party when the mommy of the birthday boy (who also happens to be one of the greatest friends a girl could ever have and has known me forever) stopped taking pictures of her own kid to reassure me: "Stop it. You did the right thing. It will pay off. We will laugh about this at their college graduation."

The rest of the world? Not quite so supportive.

Can somebody please tell me why mothers judge each other so damn harshly? Why I was called (to my face) "cruel" and "harsh" and why people gasped (audibly) when they found out that we did, in fact, follow through with our threat and not take him to this party? Why is it that instead of supporting each other, we sit in judgment of each other? Isn't this job hard enough already? How can someone know what my kid really needs?
How is it that we live in a world where you can't tell someone when a haircut has gone completely awry, but it's totally okay to tell someone when you think their parenting has?

So here's the deal: if I don't ask you what your opinion is on a subject as sensitive as this, don't tell me. Okay?

I have no issue with the fact that our parenting style may not match others'. I have no issue with the fact that you might not agree with my parenting decisions. I may not agree with yours. That's cool. But the judgments? The name-calling? The gasps and eye-rolling and blank stares of shock followed by rapid, confused blinking? Unnecessary.

Even on a good day, I am not always 100% sure we're doing the right thing as parents. When a stressful situation like this happens, I think it's only natural to doubt yourself. So there is absolutely no need to throw some more doubt in there, trust me. I'm beating myself up over this just fine all on my own. When I stood there, watching what my boy was missing, imagining the shrieks and giggles that could've been, I was heart broken. I was angry. I doubted myself. I didn't need anyone to make me feel worse; that would've been nearly impossible.

When the weekend was over and the grounding had been lifted and we were ready to start fresh, I still wondered if we'd done the right thing. I wondered if he'd really gotten anything from the whole experience. I admit I was internally cringing on Monday afternoon when it was time to hear how his day had gone. The teacher said that not only had he had a great day, but she'd eavesdropped on one of his conversations with his playground partners-in-crime. He'd decided to come up with "a plan": when someone was making a "bad choice," the rest of them would tell that friend it was a bad idea. If the friend didn't listen, they'd "go away" from that friend or tell the teacher. And only if someone was "making a good choice" then they'd do it..."but only if they really wanted." I guess this plan went over pretty well with his buddies, because they decided they should share this plan with the rest of the boys in the class.

Well then...1 point for the parents.

Bottom line? Parenting is hard. Really, really hard. Most days, we're all just wandering around, a little bit lost, a little bit in awe of how we are solely responsible for these amazing little people we've made. I truly think we are, for the most part, all doing the best we can, and we all struggle with this job at least some of the time. I just don't think everyone admits to that. I know I'm just muddling through, trying my damned best to bring up two independent, happy, strong, caring men. And even when I'm pretty sure we're doing the right thing, it can be tough on all of us.


  1. Doing the right thing is hard, that's why so many choose not to.
    You did awesome. And your sons new plan is outstanding. Guess what? You just made a responsible human being.

  2. I don't know why moms tend to judge each other. It's crazy. I just wrote a guest post for a blog for next month about this.

    You sound like a very caring mama!

  3. YAY for you & Hubby for following through (and boy, oh boy - I know how hard that can be!). And this is why you have (and will continue to have) a great kid! The judgment is out there because those parents don't have the guts to do what needs to be done (and they know it) so they figure by judging you they don't have to look at their own shortcomings. Everyone always thought I was (and still am) hard on Man-Child - but you know what? He's a good boy - who, so far, makes good choices. Keep up the good work Liz! You restore my faith in parents today!

  4. Oh, Liz. Heartbreak and anger and sadness all rolled together and mixed up and muddled. Parenting IS hard. I never, ever know if I am making the right choices as a parents - if my judgment is on the mark or very far off.

    And damn those other mothers and their rolling eyes. And dammit this is brilliant:
    "How is it that we live in a world where you can't tell someone when a haircut has gone completely awry, but it's totally okay to tell someone when you think their parenting has?"

    This is one of your strongest posts ever, and most likely due to the fact that you are packed full of emotion right now. Bravo!

  5. Hi! I don't remember how I found your blog, but I did and am so glad!
    Ugh! I hate being judged by other parents. You did the right thing for your kid and the others should get their judgmental mouths closed! I was one of the first of my friends to have kids and I heard "I won't let my kids talk to me that way" or "I am not going to let my kids eat/drink/watch/play that". Now they all have kids and call me for advice! I love saying...I thought you weren't going to let your kid talk to you that way:)
    Never doubt, what I am sure are, your mad mommy skills:)


  6. I am so so PROUD of you for sticking to your guns and doing what you threatened to do. That is the ONLY way the kids learn. And as hard as it is... in the end it's right. I'm so bad at following through. I'm getting better because I SEE it works but I have a ways to go. But based on how Ben was at school yesterday, looks like you did right.

    And those eye-rolling, opinionated, sanctimonious moms? Screw them. Easier said than done, I know, but really, they'll always be out there and you can't let it sway what you know in your heart is right. I had to cancel HANNAH'S in school birthday party last year because of her behavior. Her OWN party! I threatened it, and I did it. Even the teacher's questioned this choice but I knew it was right and she definitely learned from it.

    Keep it up. You're doing great mama!

  7. Liz, YOU DID THE RIGHT THING!! When those parent's children turn into unmanageable adolescents, promise me we can roll our eyes together! You are right, it is hard, there is no harder job on the face of the Earth. But I've learned that the only one who can make qualified decisions about my kids is ME, and I don't need anyone's permission or eye rolling. Hopefully, Ben is getting it out of his system and it will be smooth sailing for a while. But kids test boundaries, even when they know what the consequences are going to be. That is part of growing up. And our job as parents is to be right there, in their faces (so to speak) reminding them of what honest, kind, and respectful people do. We are not perfect, we are JUST parents, doing the best we can. And you've got whole-hearted support over here!

  8. I'm glad you got your confirmation from your son's outstanding behavior on Monday. Eff those "other mothers" and their 2 cent opinions. You can give them your opinion when they're crying the blues about finding weed in their 12 year old's backpack. Being a parent is hardwork, being a child's bff is not and only hurts the child. Too bad they will find out the hard way. I only wish I were there so I could have told them just that (I JUST LOVE telling people to butt the eff outta my bees knees).

  9. Ugh, Liz, I'm sorry that you had to go through that cauldron of judgment. I know that every parenting choice I make is raked over by the women I know. And why? Sadly, I think they find joy in the times when I have trouble, just as they are jealous when I am happy. What does that say about their lives that they rise and fall emotionally based on what is happening to someone else?

    I know you're not asking for opinions, but I think your decision was admirable. Just look at how Ben reacted at school!

  10. I don't think it's just mothers. Women in general are very hard on each other. I'm glad you were able to let it roll off your back and stand firm in your parenting decision. As Ben gets older, you'll face more judgment, but it gets a little easier.

  11. Ohhh, as hard as it may seem YOU DID THE RIGHT THING. It IS hard to be a mom and you have to always be one step ahead.
    I have had those looks, those comments, those groans....but now that I am on child #4 (with 15 yrs difference in the ages of #3 and #4) I can say that I am pretty confident in my parenting abilities and so should you in yours. You are the only mom they have. You make the decisions regarding every aspect of their life journey and the lessons they will need to learn. Who do those other mothers think they are? Sitting in judgement of another mother's actions? Hmm, wonder who runs their houses!!!
    But I would have totally been crying right along side you sister!!

  12. I turned to my husband and read him about half of this post. When I got to the part about what the parents said to you he said, "why do people feel they have the right to judge? They do not know that person's situation." I agree wholeheartedly with him. You are doing exactly what you need to do by finding a suitable punishment.

    Oh, Liz, I wanted to hug you through my screen while I was reading this. I know your heart was breaking during that party but it was worth it.

    Keep your chin up. You are amazing. People and their opinions be da***ed

  13. Good for you fir following through eccentric though it was hard. I think if everyone did that from the start there would be a lot less bullying. Your son is obviously a great kid. You're just doing what you have to to help him stay that way.

  14. I SO agree with what you have written Liz, you did the right thing and well done you for sticking to your guns and following through with it....I am sure it was very hard for you.

    I hold my hands up and struggle with parenting every.single.day. Without a doubt. I never know if I am doing the right thing - and yes, it is very hard to admit it. Other parents often seem so confident, assured and relaxed about it all.....why don't I?!

    Clearly what you did had the desired effect on your son and he knows you took what he did very seriously. I have no idea why other mothers would react as they did....quite shocking.

    Well done Liz.....you made me feel better having read your post....and you are a great example of responsible parenting.

  15. [For: Harsh & Cruel. A: Let your boy go & hit her child once, will never ask a question again... llolz] Well, the situation sometimes gets worse than ever thought, i happened to deal with a similar problem but luckily found a solution early. I subscribed to the parenting magazine subscriptions & it was just awesome to have a guide with you for all your parenting problems, I guess that might help you to.

  16. Wonderful job! I get accused of being cold-hearted and uncaring all the time and you know what if that's the way the outside world wants to see me - fine - that's their deal not mine. But my house for the most part runs smoothly because I follow through with what I say. If you don't follow through with it - they'll never believe you and in turn you would be giving them permission to walk all over you. As an adult I see how we did that to my own mother and I'm heart sick over it. I refuse to allow my children to treat me disrespectfully or walk all over me and if I could go back in time - I would have respected my mother more. Hang in there - you are doing just fine.

  17. You and hubby are wonderful parents! It does no good to tell a child one thing and not follow through on it.

    I think, but don't know, that parents pass judgment on other parents because it is the only way to make the original's parenting decisions seem okay. If I did opposite of you and your decision is bad, I am okay. But if I did opposite of you and your decision is good, I am bad. No one ever sees the gray area.

  18. You are such a great Mom, Liz. Tough situation and you handled it well.

  19. I find this so bizarre. I just cannot imagine how ANYONE could disagree with how you handled this! You responded to a serious situation with a serious consequence (from your son's point of view).

    And anyone who thinks "cruel" and "harsh" are remotely reasonable assessments of a child being forced to miss a birthday party, are out of their heads. I think you did awesome.

  20. Hey! Just to let you know that you have been awarded a Beautiful Blogger Award... Link back to my blog to find out the details...

  21. Stopping by from SITS...as a former teacher and a mother, you did the right thing. My children are adults now and nothing is more heartwarming to hear them say that I did a great job and they understand now why I made certain choices with them. You cry now with worry, wait until they become wonderful adults, you'll cry with pride. :)
    Cindy at Lakewood

  22. You ABSOLUTELY did the right thing. We have also recently been having a bit of trouble with our 7 year old in school. Disrespectful. He's on his final chance with the bus driver. One more incident he will not be allowed to ride the bus again. No chances. Tried taking away recess, video games, toys, games time, many many things. We had the last straw when a note that was sent home by the bus driver (a MONTH late he game it to us) gave detail of what was going on and that he would be permanently removed from the bus if ANY further infractions occurred. So we did what I feel any parent with any sense would do....I cancelled his birthday party. No friends are coming. He had to tell ALL of them why. He got to tell grandma, grandpa, uncles, cousins, teachers that he was punished because of what he has done. We even cancelled the cake. So I commend you for having the strength to hold your head high walking out the door of your home and into what always to me seems like junior high all over again.

  23. I think you are amazing. Sure we don't know each other, but I totally admire how you handled this situation. Sometimes it feels like the hardest thing to do as a parent is follow through. Add into it the people who aren't a part of your decision-making who feel the need to vocalize their displeasure, and it's DEFINITELY the hardest thing to do.

    I'm tucking this story away because I know I'll need to revisit it when it's time to make tough decisions around here.

  24. I think you did the absolute PERFECT thing! Good for you, even though it was hard. Unfortunately, it sounds like it was harder on you than it was on him. Cheer up. You're a great parent and all those judgmental parents would think less of you if you hadn't punished your son for his moments of being a bully.


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