Ben is in his second year of Polish Class. Every Friday night from 6-9p I sit in the cafeteria at the church, while he kids are in the classrooms learning away.
The school is small, and everyone knows everyone. There is a new gal in Ben's class this year. Let's call her Jane. I finally got Jane's story figured out this past Friday. It all started when Jane's grandmother starting asking me questions about where, in Poland, my family comes from. Since we were talking regions and towns, she was saying that husband's family is from the Tatra Mountains. She was calling Zakopane "Zack-o-pain" instead of "Zack-o-pah-neah". Zakopane, if you don't know, is a very popular tourist area. If you have ever been to Poland, you know where this area is. This women has a good heart, but I got the immediate sense that she is rather distant from Poland and the Polish culture. Her husband's grandmother was Polish...so we are talking 2 generations removed.
Ok, so the story: this woman has three children. Her middle daughter had Jane when she was 18. This daughter is now 22, and not the main caregiver. Apparently 90% of Jane's time is with the grandmother. I could go on and on about our rather lengthy conversation, but I will spare all the detail and cut to my point: I feel like this grandmother is trying to do her best this second time around as a mother.
Why didn't this woman send her kids to Polish class 20 years ago? Why now with this one? Second chance I tell you. She also used the phrase "so that God has mercy on me" a couple times, which reinforced my thoughts. I truly applaud this woman and her efforts on giving Jane all these wonderful opportunities. I am happy that she is at school, and I will go out of my way to make them feel comfortable.
Usually, we have one chance at this whole parenting thing. We do what we think is best for our kids, and we hope for the best. If you ever watch Modern Family you know the character "Phil". One of his lines totally nails this thought:
We like to think we're so smart, that we have all the answers. And we want to pass that on to our children. But if you scratch beneath the surface, you won't have to dig deep to find the kid you were, which is why it's kind of crazy that we're raising kids of our own. I guess that's the real circle of life. Your parents faked their way through it. You fake your way through it. And you just hope you didn't raise a serial killer.
There are plenty of times where I wonder how I am doing at this whole parenting thing. A lot of this job falls onto my shoulders, since I am the one with the kids the most, so I feel a lot of the responsibility. There are plenty of times that I question what I do, and don't do, as a parent. There are plenty of times where I know I am doing something right, and there are plenty of times where I don't know if I am doing the right thing.
Take these two scenarios at a birthday party a good couple of weeks ago. Steve was working, so I was solo with the kids. At one point during the party CC was picking flower pods off the lilies that were planted in the ground. A mother looked at me and said "is she yours?" and I, then, corrected CC. I am not sure what I was doing during those moments of flower destruction, but I wasn't watching my daughter.
Fast forward maybe 15 minutes, and we were settled down at a table to eat. After a couple of bites, Ben decided he was over the whole eating thing and would rather turn the folding chair upside down and walk IN it...you know, because sitting normal on a chair is silly. A grandfather came upon us and he told Ben "you know, those chairs aren't to be played with like that."
If you are a pilot wife, and a mother, you have been in this position before: at a party, husband gone, you are solo with the kids...you want to relax and enjoy yourself, but the kids are still little enough to be watched over. You need a second to yourself to be able to eat or drink or talk to someone, or even go to the bathroom for heaven sake, but you can only be at one place at one time. You only have so many arms and so many eyes and so many legs...you can only be stretched so far.
Going back to the flower picking and chair walking: I can't watch every step CC makes. Try to follow any 2-year-old...they can disappear in a flash, they are that fast! As for Ben, I really didn't see the harm in him playing with the chair. Now, if he was destroying the chair that would be one thing, but he was just playing around. In both circumstances, I did not take offense to the corrections. Rather, I took the comments as a way of these people stating that I should engage. The flower picking was wrong, without a question...CC was destroying something and it needed to be stopped. As for Ben, he wasn't harming the chair so I really didn't see the harm in it, but the grandfather did. So, I adjusted things.
So, this begs the question: what kind of mother am I? Without a doubt, being solo a lot has made me the mother I am.
As a whole, I am trying to raise two children that are independent and capable of making good decisions. I am trying to instill responsibility in them. Without a doubt, the fact that Steve is gone so much means that I have a lot on my plate. And the older the kids get, the more I will have on my plate. The sooner I get them started, the sooner I will have help with everything.
Lately, I am having Ben teach CC a number of things...like helping her wash her hands before meals, or having him tell her about what the letter "M" sounds like, or helping her clear the plates after dinner. He is learning to be a leader, she is practicing her listening skills, and I am not going crazy with battling a 2-year-old over this or that. She follows Ben's lead really well, and I surely use that to my advantage.
At this point, the kids: clean up their plates after dinner, help bring the trash/recycling up after trash day, feed the dogs, let the dogs in or out of the house, help around the yard (just the other day Ben drove around, in his powerwheels truck, some hydrangeas that I transplanted from the back to the front yard), and Ben gets dressed by himself and CC will even fetch a diaper if we ask her. Of course other things like cleaning up toys go without saying.
I want my kids to learn things in life by themselves. I am not the type of mother to hover. I expose them to things, but I can't walk them all the way through things. I want them to explore. Just the other day we went to a corn maze. It was muddy. We warned the kids to be careful in the mud. Ben was fine. CC slipped around and fell a couple times. Yes, I had to do a load of laundry afterwards, but CC learned that mud was slippery. I could have carried her through all three acres of the maze, but what would she have learned from that?
I am the type of mother to let the kids touch, feel, taste, and experience things themselves and learn from it. Some may call me laid back, but I do this so I keep my sanity. Imagine if I weren't this way. If I was "on" all the time, and hovered over the kids, and watched their every move and step...I would go nuts! I already do a lot when I am solo...and I couldn't imagine "hovering" to my plate. I want to make my life easier, not more difficult.
I am also a rather calm mother. I am not one to raise my voice, but rather guide the kids with having them make decisions. I totally follow the Love and Logic approach to parenting...and CC has finally fallen into stride with this way, mostly. Yes, I get frustrated and pissed and annoyed and lose it, but all mothers do and that is inevitable. And if I do lose it and raise my voice, the kids get into stride pretty quickly since they know I am not fooling around.
Along the calm line, I also try my hardest to not make empty threats and to follow through on my direction. I want the kids to mind me. Period. For instance, if I say "CC, if you put that buckeye in your mouth one more time, I will take it away" and she puts it in her mouth...I take it away. By this point, the kids know I mean business, and they have one chance. Ok, ok, who am I fooling...sometimes I have to repeat myself over and over ("CC, put on your coat. CC. CC put your coat on...CC put your coat on...), but that is just part of the game with little ones. Practice makes perfect, and I strive to keep calm and have my kids follow my direction, the first time I say it.
Now, there are certain things that I worry about when it comes to this whole pilot lifestyle thing. Are my kids too attached to me? Ben is 4-years-old and a bit of a mama's boy. Yes, I love that. But, at the same time I don't want him so attached to me that it effects him negatively. Will I become that mother who will never think a daughter-in-law is suitable for my "precious little one"?
Will my kids have issues with Daddy being gone so much? Will Ben and CC remember a childhood where Daddy was never around? I worry about this. I am sure Steve worry about this. Hell, Steve was in Puerto Rico when I went into labor with Ben....thus starting the "he almost didn't make it for xxx."
There are a couple things that get me through these negative thoughts:
- I have a good friend who grew up with an airline pilot Dad. She is very well adjusted and very well rounded. She never recalled her father not being their for sports games or the like.
- There are plenty of children who follow in the footsteps of their pilot Dad. Their childhood must not have been so hard for them, if they grow up to be just like Dad.
- "Reality is the world in which you are born" The kids only know Steve as an airline pilot, who is gone when he works. They don't, and won't, know anything different. This is normal for them.
- When Steve is home, he is not distracted with work. He may be distracted with house projects, which is my next blog topic, but he can step away from projects and be with the kids in the drop of a hat, if need be.
Only time will tell how I am doing with these kids. I hope and pray that these kids grow up to be smart, successful, polite, and just all around good people. I have been working on this post for a while now, and it is a totally mish-mosh of thoughts. But, somehow it all comes together. I guess how this whole parenting thing goes: you put together things as best as you know how and somehow it all comes together.