The real-talk kind of mom.

I’m not in the parenting business to make friends, and I am okay not doing what other parents do. My children need to know that sometimes the right thing, is not what Susie and everyone else is doing. Sometimes the right thing is the least cool thing to do.

Personally, I envision my children as adults rather regularly, and some of those days are full of confidence and some of those days are frightening! I mean, let’s be honest here. Gage can cook a full meal, yet become annoyed with the task of sweeping the hallway. Cole loves to be in the mix with adults and young children, yet making him go outside and play with friends his own age – can literally open Pandora’s box. And, Gracie, she can basically do anything, and do it well, like really well – but failure, making mistakes, not understanding something, will throw her into a tailspin.

They may be teenagers today, but I’m raising more than that, I’m raising someone’s future spouse, parent, employee, friend etc. And, sometimes I think that our job in preparing them for success in these areas is forgotten.

Uncomfortable or not, I answer their questions.

The first time Gage asked as he giggled from the backseat if I liked hot dogs or tacos when he was younger, or when Gracie asked what rape was, I learned to be prepared to be uncomfortable. Gracie and Gage are two years apart, and their questions kept me (still, actually) on my toes. Some were silly, some were good, some were completely inappropriate, some I didn’t know and had to research, and some were embarrassing to answer, and took an act of god in keeping my composure. But, I did it because if they were comfortable enough to come to me and ask the question, there was a reason they were, and I had better be comfortable enough to answer it, honestly. Trust me, three teenagers keep the questions ever flowing and super awkward.

We talk about everything – ev-er-y-thing!

When Matt and Cole moved in, they didn’t talk about anything, and I do mean anything. The first time Gracie talked about her period, Matt was squirming and unsure if he should run out the door, or throw up. It was hilarious because for us it was second nature. Cole had at one point made a flippant comment about being among the kids in the world with one testicle. Matt laughed it off and told him he had two testicles, and they went on about their day. Literally, went on like nothing. I was in shock, telling him he needed to check, do something, but he swore he was certain he had two testicles. In his defense I remember that Gage had two testicles from changing his diapers, and that super awkward moment when he was two or three years old and called me in during bath time to inquire as to what that dot was between his legs – it was just a mole. It was also the last time I saw that area, thank goodness! But, I could see how seeing it once would make you assume it was still the same.

Now, while Cole is now every bit my son, then the idea of asking him to drop trou so his stepmom could investigate his nether regions was not appealing to either of us and he adamantly refused to let his dad. So… with football coming up and his need for a sports physical – I did what every other mom not wanting to see that region does, I took him to our pediatrician! One uncomfortable appointment with the pediatrician later, led to an even more uncomfortable visit to a urologist, and then a subsequent surgery retrieving an undescended testicle. You want to guess who talks to me about everything now? Yep, you guessed it, Cole! And, Matt too actually.

I think before saying: “You’re only a child, you don’t know.”

In my childhood home you were raised to be seen, not heard, to be pleasant not pretentious and that respect was given, not earned. Like with most traditional norms in your family that you were raised with and despised, you counteract those in your own family life. Some households may see that as not requiring vegetables, I on the other hand require open communication. The words “you’re only a child, you don’t know, or “you are too young to understand” will never leave my mouth. Because, I wasn’t too young to understand a lot of things, and even as a child, your mind still processes feelings, and emotions such as self-worth, love and acceptance.

I’m not their mom, I’m your mom.

What Susie’s parents let her do doesn’t matter to me, aside from possibly encouraging that friendship to continue. I’m not in the parenting business to make friends, and I am okay not doing what other parents do. My children need to know that sometimes the right thing, is not what Susie and everyone else is doing. Sometimes the right thing is the least cool thing to do. It’s not going to a party where everyone will be drinking, or where a parent allows that. Sometimes, it won’t be extending a curfew just because a friends parent did. This is teaching them that it is okay to be and do different, that going with the crowd isn’t always going to be beneficial, and that thinking for their self is more important than what others think of them.

I actively choose to give them a voice.

You’ve heard the saying “oh no, I’ve done something wrong, my dad is going to kill me if he finds out” and “oh no, I’ve done something wrong, I need to call my dad” well, I could never call my dad – and I refused to let my children down by continuing that as a mother myself. That is a priority in our relationship, confidence in them knowing I’m always a call away, no matter the situation.

We as parents learn something new every day, so how does it make sense to think that while raising our children we aren’t raising ourselves as well? I try to not suppress their voice, in fact I encourage it.

Open dialogue builds confidence. I’ve never been the type of parent who thinks I know more even when I think I may. Giving them the floor so to speak and allowing them to share what is on their mind, in their hearts, in a safe environment – is colossal in developing confidence. This voice will be what protects them, asserts them, what lands that job, what saves a life, what defends themselves or a friend, what talks someone out of a bad situation and most importantly the very voice that empowers and speaks love to themselves throughout their life.

I Pick my battles.

My husband loves many things about me, but this is not one. Picking my battles and saying yes more than no, are two things he and I differ on greatly. He is a “no” first kind of parent – he even said no to the boys to going to youth group once, before he realized what they had asked. We joke that if he were offered a million dollars, he would say no without even thinking because it’s like second nature to him.

I try for the most part to live with a motto of “I say yes, unless there is a reason to say no” and it has worked. This halts a majority of lying, it fosters respect and communication, and it teaches trust. When Cole first came to live with us, I said the words “I can’t stand up for you, if I can’t trust you, and I can’t say yes to you, if you’re showing reasons I should say no” until I was blue in the face and it has changed his ways almost completely. The little things can add up, and the big things can seem so minor when you break them down. So, I’ve learned to pick and choose what battles are necessary and why I am saying no instead yes. If I am saying no just because I can, it is the wrong answer. In my opinion the more we say yes in situations, the more opportunity we have for communication, lessons, mistakes etc.

I don’t hide all my mistakes or hardships.

It is essential that our children know that we make mistakes, that we do not have everything figured out and that sometimes in life things go badly. This is where they see you work through those hard times. Especially if your mistake is with them, they need to see you take responsibility of that, to not let pride keep you from being an example. Taking ownership, compassion and making amends are key factors to healthy relationships. You are who they will mimic when life gets difficult. If all your children ever see is sunshine and roses, what are they going to do when it rains, and that flower dies? They won’t just be ill prepared for the real word, but chances are they’ll feel like their childhood was a lie.

Parents who tell their children, “do as I say, not as I do,” aren’t giving their children enough credit. Children, especially teens still see, still know and still will most likely do as you did because that is natural. You can’t say don’t, then do it, and expect them to simply listen. That is where communication comes in, the “why” before the mistake is sometimes the magical deterrent. Also, personalizing the mistake, showing them that all humans makes mistakes, and that nobody is perfect, helps too. There is great power in saying I did this…, and this happened…, it was bad because…, I wish I hadn’t because it cost this… or caused this…, so when I say don’t – it is because I don’t want that to happen to you. You’ll have much better odds that way, versus just saying “because I said so.”

Religion vs. Relationship with God.

The greatest blessing of my childhood was being taught about God. As you become older and see the bigger picture in life you also see that all the answers you need are in the bible. Being raised catholic left a bad taste in my mouth in that not all things made sense, and being forced to believe what my family believed didn’t feel right, so I made a goal to not force a religion but instead introduce a relationship with God.

Going to church now more regularly, when they are old enough to understand what a relationship with God means is important, it shows that someones struggles may not make sense to us, or be visible to us, but that we still love them without judgment, just as God does us. It shows that we will have difficult times, but we are never alone. They are old enough now to ask questions, to put his scriptures into daily life and to see what true forgiveness means. That God, forgiveness and love all are part of the bigger plan.

Age appropriate responsibility.

Teens right now get drunk to hang out and have fun, have sex to be accepted and do drugs to numb and escape life. I want my kids to see that you can have fun without having a drink. That sex is more than how to “feel” loved and to live a life that never needs to be numbed or escaped. Their life can already be difficult with a variety of outside factors, but adding in these variables, only causes worse situations. There are reasons you get a license at sixteen, it is to get to a job. There is a reason you can’t drink until twenty-one, it allows brain development. And, there is a reason you wait to have sex until you’re married, because it creates an emotional and mental connection, it seals a covenant and promise and because it causes children!

Do I think that my children will wait until they are 21 to have their first drink, or until marriage to have sex? The drinking – no, but will I try and explain the importance of why they should until I am blue in the face? Yes. Teens these days are in a rush for everything which takes away the excitement. If you drive at twelve, what fun is sixteen? If you drink at fourteen, what fun is twenty-one? If you have sex at sixteen, and meet the man/woman of your dreams at nineteen, what are you giving them that is just theirs? With age becomes responsibility and if we rush these, the lessons are nullified in a sense. It is okay to hold hands before you kiss, to practice before you excel and to take small steps before a giant leap.

It starts at home.

I should not have to be in fear dropping my children off at school, that they may be a victim today because you were afraid to be a good parent yesterday!

What would you do or say if I called you right now and said your child told my child to kill themself today? That your child told my child to do the world a favor and simply die. That their only wish was that my child would be dead by the end of the school year. What would your response be??

Would it be “I don’t get involved in child drama” or maybe you’d say “kids say mean things, they don’t mean it!” Or how about this response: “your child is lying, my child would never say that!” Because, I know what I’d say, and how I would react and I would not be afraid to be the bad guy with my child, to discipline my child, to talk to my child until I’m blue in the face to explain that it’s not acceptable. I would do what we are expected to do as a parent sometimes; teach hard lessons!

IT STARTS AT HOME PEOPLE, IN YOUR HOME. And, the worst part is, it rarely ends there. WAKE UP!

Our kids see so much, that parents just turn a blind eye to. They either witness, run chance of being victims of or are doing one if not all of these things: Bullying, cutting, getting drunk too young, being sexually promiscuous and having multiple partners before they can even legally drive, drugs, suicide attempts, school shootings etc.

Do you know your child was too busy to get help from a teacher or counselor when he saw fresh cuts on a kid in PE class? Do you know that his reason was because he was too busy?? Too busy! Too busy to help, to care, to save a life! Who’s fault is that? Yours or his?

How about your child who gets drunk and makes it a point to sleep with or be promiscuous with other people’s boyfriends just to piss them off. Is that her fault or yours?

Or, how about letting your child go to a party where they get drunk and taken advantage of? Her fault or yours? His fault or his parents? And, vice versa.

It’s not just that kids need to start SPEAKING UP about potentially dangerous matters but also the uncomfortable ones. PARENTS need to start talking to their CHILDREN, open their eyes to witness their ACTIONS and for the love of all that is holy, monitor THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA accounts!! It can prevent horrific events in a childs life. We are supposed to protect them. God bless that grandmother who had to do such a hard thing by turning in her own grandson. God bless her for not respecting his privacy and reading his journal! And, God bless her for protecting our children.

You as a parent should be the first person to know something is off with your child. That’s your job!!!!

You as a parent should know your child is depressed/withdrawn and needs to talk to a professional or someone more qualified than you.

You as a parent should know where your children are at all times, instead of them getting drunk/high at a party, allowing them to get into horrible and unsafe situations.

You as a parent should know that your child is having sex or using their body inappropriately way too young! And, ask yourself why? Investigate that? Hurt people, hurt people! Think about it!

You should also know that you as a parent, not acting on suspicions, not checking social media, not wanting to piss of your child, or violate their privacy, not talking to your kids about every little thing and not getting them help when they need it, that you are just as guilty of your child’s actions if not solely to blame.

I should not have to be in fear dropping my children off at school, that they may be a victim today because you were afraid to be a good parent yesterday!!!

Not your typical sports physical…

This past week, I took my daughter Grace for a sports physical/well child exam. (apparently insurance providers are kinder to you if its simply a well child exam) I’m guessing a case of karma may have bitten Grace’s nerves since she had to wait in the hall during her brothers physical last year. Which she spent laughing and taunting him while the doctor was making him “cough.”  There was simply no reassuring her conscience that reassurance was nothing for the doctor to check down there, or to make her cough!

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He did as any mother would expect, he checked her reflexes, her weight and height, breathing and bones, diet and exercise etc. he made her walk heel to toe, and to the other side of the room on her tiptoes – which resulted in my telling her that the shorts she was wearing are going in the garbage as soon as we got home! They were way too short for my liking.  After her doctor stopped laughing he then did something that shocked me.  He didn’t fill out our paper and send us on our way. Nope, instead he folded his arms, and started a conversation with Grace. How fantastic is that? Does your pediatrician do that?

He started asking some rather valid questions. Questions such as: Can you talk to your mother, and father? Are you ever sad, lonely or depressed? Do you have a best friend? Do you have the confidence to say “No” when you feel pressured to say yes? Do you like what you see when you look in the mirror? To say I was impressed, was a huge understatement. Then when she joined in on this conversational rally of sorts with him, I just sort of sat back and took it all in. Man, is she growing up I thought to myself.

She trusted him, and was open enough to answer any question honestly and humorously – which might I add, she totally gets from me! For a second, it did make me wonder though, how many parents sit and ask their children these same questions? Could they answer these questions about their children? A slight sadness came over me in the thought that not every child has the opportunity or the openness that Grace and I have. The sadness was met with the appreciation for this moment though, and the realization that one day, it may change.

 

Quickly my thoughts were interrupted by her answers to his questions which she met them with such poise, intellect and witty retorts. During their talk, I was careful only to chime in when necessary, or an unavoidable humorous answer was necessary. Like, when he asked her “Do you worry” Are you a worrier?” I couldn’t help but share the answer of “Yes! She worries! She is terrified that if she doesn’t re-post those forwards on Facebook that says your mother will die at midnight, that I’ll die! Yet, here I am, alive in the flesh!”  We all laughed, and he explained as I have numerous times – those aren’t real.

He talked to her about periods, which I did ask if he could rush along, because the hormonal pre-teen stuff is simply too dramatic at times, he said no, damn it! He talked to her about sex, birth control, drugs and alcohol – literally these two talked about everything. He mentioned teen pregnancy and she responded with the hand gesture of throwing a ball into a basket and said “ I’m not throwing my life in the trash!” Laughing he said “Okay, I think were good then.”

The best part of this appointment, besides her overall good physical and mental health, was what he said as was left. He looked at me and said “You are doing a good job Mom, you have a really special girl here.” And, while I fought back the desire to dodge the compliment with a hilarious remark of “Yes, the helmet kind of special” I instead simply thanked him, and agreed.

Sure there is the possibility he says that to every mom, but I took it as the truth. It’s truth and validation come from the fact that I know she is a phenomenal little girl. As well as knowing, that I am a phenomenal mother to her. We as parents owe it to our children to know our worth as parents. Our worth in ourselves as individuals and parents translates them as their own worth. Take the time to be that parent who takes the time. The parent who makes the effort, who has the strength and maturity to answer those questions, remember when you yourself were a child, think of what you needed, desired and wished your parents would have done. And, by that I don’t mean letting you sneak out and drink at fifteen!

Look at yourself in the mirror, right into your eyes and say this “You are doing a good job!” Your kids will thank you for it.

I can CARE, because I CHOOSE to… Damn-it!

Why does my opinion matter, why does what I feel, the pain in my chest, or the tears that I cry matter, when I am only a step parent. I can’t possibly understand how it feels to love a child, to care for a child, to want so badly for this child to have the very best, because they are not my blood from my own body. How dare I even complain, or waste my time with things that I can never fix. The right to care ended the day my stepson came out of her vagina instead of mine, the day my husband married her and had sex with her, and shared the life long commitment of raising a child with her. They made this life decision in a moment of passion (dare I to speak it) and now that the marriage is over – and my husbands temporary lack of judgment has expired – we now get to deal with the never ending reminder of I have no rights – ever.

Lets put the fact that she is a mother who not only talks down my husband to his son, who forces her 3 year-old son to flip off his dad and tell him he doesn’t love him, or that she has moved 7 times in 3 years, or that she will drop him off with hfmd without even a mention to us, or how to properly care for him, or even the fact that she has totaled her car 2 times in the period of a year because she is irresponsible and reckless. Lets also put aside the fact that for 3 years, her grandmother is taking care of her and our son, she pays their bills, she provides a roof over their head, because she refused to work. But, why would that bother someone who doesn’t care? Why do I find it odd, that when their are two Parents, one that is living with a grandparent, and one that works, has their own home, provides for himself and his family, isn’t given the RIGHT to be the full time parent, simply because he has a penis!

Imagine being told by someone that simply because you are the dad, you are not going to get full custody. Actually, try it this way, have your brother who you have watched worked his butt off to be the best father to his child, and put up with more than his fair share of crap from the mother, and then watch him fight for a place in his child’s life, knowing he is the best place for your nephew or niece and then not feel sick or saddened when you hear that because he is a dad, he can only hope for a little more than every other weekend. Magnify that by an unimaginable percent, and think of that man being your husband, and watch him fall short, without saying one word, without having the right to say anything, do anything, just sit there quietly and soak in his heartbreak – but remember you are not allowed to feel any of this – because you are not his mother, you don’t love him the same, you don’t matter.

Are you kidding me? Deal with it? Why should I? Because you do? Because somewhere, someone wrote that we should act a certain way, when it comes to certain situations? Well let me tell you something, that’s not me, it never will be. I do not care if my children came from 12 hours of hard labor, or 3 years of laboring – either way I have parented them,  I have loved them when its hard, I have taught them lessons that someone else did not, I have held them when they cried, or after Dr’s appointments and shots. Countless hours of my life have been spent providing, supporting, caring, loving and investing in my children – and I damn well know that my levels of giving in those areas isn’t dependent on how much of my blood runs through my veins! Nor, will it ever.

I would hope that their are more women in this world like me, than against me. More men like my husband, that fight for their family, for their children, for the rights that today may not exist, but may exist for our children and their children for tomorrow’s tomorrow. Because those that fail to see that love is Blind, that love exists without conditions, guidelines, parameters and, BLOODLINES, are missing a whole hell of a lot more than just their sight. And I’m glad I am not one of those people, because I would choose tears, heartbreak, and continual failure, that brings me one step closer to the possibility of witnessing the right thing, the better choice, the best outcome and a happy child.