Thursday, March 16, 2017

It's time to stop caring so much about your children.



Shocked? Angry? Offended? ...Relieved?

How do the words of this title make you feel? Did you think about calling CPS and letting them know that this writer is a garbage parent? Because 1) you're definitely right, but 2) this isn't actually evidence of that.

First, let's get through this part: I am a mom. And yes, I'm one of those rare (?) moms who really loves my kids. In fact, I frequently think they are hilarious. And I think they are adorable. And I think they are smart. Or at least, smart-adjacent. And I don't care how cute you think your kids are, I firmly believe mine are cuter. It's just science. And math. I LOVE my kids. And I CARE about my kids.

When I was in high school, a teacher of mine emphasized the importance of loving your spouse more than the kids. Since then, I've mentioned that to dozens of people, and had dozens of people completely disagree. Some have argued. "Well sure.... you say that. But you're never going to mean it."  Others have simply told me that was wrong. That was bananas. The kids are first. The spouse can take a hike.

And you know what? A lot of their spouses did take a hike. A lot of those marriages fell apart. A lot of these people found themselves in divorce court not too long after. And those kids they loved so much, loved so hard? Those kids are learning independence in a world where the two people they rely the most on wish each other dead.

But marriage isn't the only reason we need to stop caring about our kids. I'm learning this with discipline as well. Generally speaking, I don't want to punish my stupid kids. I want to give them a warning, then I want them to change their crappy attitudes and get their behinds in gear so we can move on with our lives. I don't want to leave a kid home from sports games or movies or parties or other functions. I hate it. But here's the thing I've learned: When I care too much about my kids to punish them, I'm not actually loving them at all. 

When I care too much about the punishments, when I am too worried about the outcomes, they don't even have the chance to care. There’s just no room for it. The instruction, the warning, and the consequence, these all belong to mom.

Last Halloween, one of our daughters refused to do her schoolwork. She flailed. She cried. She whined. She sat in time out and stared at her fingers. For hours. It was enough. I let her know that if she didn't get finished, she would NOT be going trick-or-treating with the family.

And she didn't care.

And I lost my ever-loving mind.

Ya see, I cared. I wanted her to come with us. This was a silly fun special day. I'd bought costumes. They'd been looking forward to this day for probably 2 straight months. And I was LIVID. And she didn't care. I cared. My head exploded I cared so hard. And then I realized. I had to stop. I had to be okay with the fact that this consequence was going to happen. She wasn't going to come, but she wasn't going to die. It would be a bummer. But it would be okay. We made plans for her to stay home. I got the other kids ready. I stopped caring. I started loving. 

You know what? She started to believe me. She panicked. She screamed and cried a bunch, but then she got her crap together, and finished her work. 5 minutes before we left the house, she threw on a costume, and apologized.
 
Turns out we were able to terrorize the neighborhood as a family this year!
Partners.
The thing is, I don’t think it helps my kids to care about them that much. I love my kids, but I don’t need them. My kids are my dependents. They need me. I teach them. I train them. I guide them. And of course, I have some fun with them. But my husband is my partner. He is the one I chose, the one who chose me. For life. Till death.

The kids love me, sure. Or they hate me. Depends on the moment. But I don’t care. In a few short years, they will find me mortifyingly embarrassing*. I don’t care. Then they will move out and move on and find life partners and directions of their own. I don’t care. They need me, yes. But they need me to be strong enough that I don’t need them back. They need me to be strong enough to handle the times when they don’t love me. And I will love them. I will love them enough to stop caring.


*I'm working out some dance routines to all of the 90s rap I've memorized over the years. So yeah. You could say I'm ready.

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