- bothering me when I'm on the potty."
- stuffing dirty socks under the couch.."
- eating my Dove dark chocolate."
- telling your friends how old I am unless you say 29."
- giving me the phone when I've clearly indicted that I am NOT home."
- well...just STOP!
I suppose threatening guilt is a better substitute for yelling and worse, yelling until I'm hoarse. There are other offenses my kids commit like cutting the dogs hair and putting dirty underwear back in their dresser that warrant a good, old fashioned hollering. As a rule I tried the former because I can only stomach so many throat lozenges.
My own mother was more of a screamer. If my sister or me mis-behaved she made it clear (in octaves higher than Celine Dion could muster) that there was going to be trouble if we didn't knock it off. The hollering, wooden spoon beatings and banishment to our rooms occurred mainly when we were still in grammar school. As for myself, except for the wooden spoon routine thanks to DYFUS, I did much the same when my children were smaller, when they actually feared my wrath. My eight year old daughter is still afraid when I lose my cool but she rarely gets me mad. I am her only ally in a home with four males (including the dog.) As a toddler she caught on quick to avoid my bursts of rage. She's seen what her older brothers had to endure. Confiscated teddy bears and confinement to beds were enough to keep her on my good side.
My sons are older now. They're pre-teens. The hijinks of their earlier years have subsided. Gone are the days when they colored on my walls or clogged the toilet trying to hide dirty underwear. Aside for the occasional boxing matches they've grown out the mischievous phase. These days, they seem to be under the impression they I know nothing, I can't fool them with the "I have eyes in the back of my head" shtick anymore. Naturally, they think I'm oblivious to their more sly offenses. They feign shock when I catch them playing games on their phones hiding under the covers when they should be sleeping. Thanks to Parent Portal I can just about see every move they make in school and every test they screw up on. They're incredulous when I mention the science project that is due the next day.
I'm older now so screaming at them will only strain my voice. My home has thin walls as well. I don't want to be a circus act for the neighborhood. Besides, my kids have learned to tune me out the louder I became. They either turn the music up louder or take off on their bikes. I can hardly blame them. I hated it when my mother did it to me; I did the same things my kids did. I was a stubborn girl and hard headed. Placing guilt on my shoulders was not very effective either. I realize when I give my children the so called "guilt trip" I'm wasting my time. My words resonate within me and place the guilt on my own conscious.
These days I save my voice and relieve the weight I place on my own shoulders. Kids will be kids; rules will be broken, grades will slip and fights will be fought. As Occam's Razor claims, "when you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better." My simple solution is deprivation. Easy enough. If they break a rule, slack off or royally tick me off privileges will be lost. Banning video games or confiscation of cell phones is like a month in D-Block at Sing Sing. If they pull a stunt that really aggravates me I begin my own NHL lockout. They were born with blades on their feet. The only hockey they'll be watching are video tapes of there own games.
I have been guilty of employing the guilt trip with my kids. I do make a concerted effort not to. Now and again I'll slip up and tell one of kids how disappointed I'll be if he slams a hockey stick into my car. Usually I don't speak but rather scream this declaration. I'll catch myself and snatch the damn stick out of his hands and put it in my closet. I Channel Carol Brady, change playing ball in the house and order them to not to take slap shots when my car is parked next to the net.
I won't repeat history. That is I won't use guilt tactics with my kids. My reason being is that I, a woman in her forties, is still haunted by a guilty conscious courtesy of my mother. I recognize that when she laments that I'm a half hour late for dinner or if I wait too long to call my grandmother, it just fuels resentment in me. This is part of the old adage, people get set in their ways as they age. I've written a post about this topic before. I just didn't delve into the guilt aspect bestowed on me. Just as I promised in that piece, I vow not to repeat history; I refuse to be the parent my kids will dread to see. I say this with a heavy heart because I've developed a complex. I love my mother and she loves me but she hasn't come to terms that I'm an adult with my own life. A sometimes flawed life but one that I live under my own roof now.
Maybe it was how she grew up. Maybe her mother used guilt as a means to an end. I suspect so. I like to think women today are more independent and free thinking. It occurred to me that the women generations before me were more controlling of their daughters being that they rarely had a say in family matters. I speak for myself but I'm far from a "traditional" mother. Now I don't let them roam around the neighborhood all hours of the night and they don't call me by my first name. My son slept over his friend's house on New Year's Eve. Sometimes we eat pizza three times a week. I let them go to sleep when they're tired. Given the running around they do that's at 9:30 PM at the latest.
I don't see the point of driving 90 mph to get to mom's house by 5:00 sharp. I shouldn't feel bad about buying my kids expensive sneakers. Letting the kids wear jeans on Christmas Day is not a federal offense. In her eyes, however, it is. I don't capitulate to her objections, her guilt. I guess I'm set in my ways; ways that are ever so slightly unconventional but that work for our family.
I remain true to myself. My life is crazy with three kids, a husband and a dog to take care of. I can either wallow in guilt for sending my dad a birthday card a day late or I can shake it off and get on with my life. My mom is her own self. There's no changing her now. She'll still give me the evil eye if my kids leave the dinner table before everyone's done. She'll still fault me for not coming to dinner every weekend. She wonders why on Earth the kids can't skip "just one" hockey game. So, as it's evident that I don't change a thing when she plays the game of guilt with me, it won't change my kids' ways either.
My mother is a treasure. She's done all she good to support me and give a really good life. She's a wonderful grandmother to my kids. We do have a bond. To this day, in my forties, I still rely on her for comfort and strength. She confides in me as well. No effort on my part can prevent her from being set in her ways. The answer lies within me. I can dwell on what she thinks I go wrong and make myself crazy. I will not. I just shake it off and go on with my life. It's not a picture perfect life but it seems to work. More importantly, I won't place the weight of the world on my kids. I don't want them to dread seeing a puss on my face if they're late for dinner or a cold shoulder if they take their kids out of Sunday school.
I'm grateful for each birthday I have and I want to live to see great grandchildren. I feel great being 40 something but that also comes with a whole host of worries. Thoughts of sports injuries, college tuitions, marriage, finances and hormonal tricks are enough for me to worry about. I don't need the aggravation of being scolded for buying a used BMW.
The next time I'm later for dinner at mom's with children with a few stains on their jeans my shedding dog in tow, I'll just smile warmly and give mom a kiss. With every disapproving expression that comes my way. I think to myself, "just shake it off, shake it off."