Monday, December 07, 2009

Parenting and Girls Day Out

Saturday, Geeky Girl and I went to the big mall for a girls day out. She was in need of warmer clothes. (Dang the growth spurt!) As we have done in the past, we turned the day into an opportunity to hang out together. Since it's the Christmas season, we decided not to head straight to the clothing store, but to meander as we wished, popping into stores to see if there were any appropriate gifts for family and friends. Shopping, as far as both of us are concerned, is something one does out of necessity, not as a treat. But shopping for others is a lot more fun. We also have lunch and a snack at some point during the trip, which gives us the opportunity to talk. We don't talk about much. I get updated on friends and some of the funny things they say or do during lunch or recess. I hear about future plans or, especially on this trip, what Geeky Girl wants for Christmas. I don't do a lot of talking. Mostly I listen. Sometimes I offer suggestions for things to do on our trip or later. It feels, not like we're mother and daughter, but old friends.

On Sunday, Mr. Geeky and Geeky Boy went to the hardware store and Starbucks. And yes, I realize there's a big gender divide here. But while Geeky Boy hasn't gone shopping with me in a while, Geeky Girl has made plenty of trips to the hardware store with Mr. Geeky and shares his love of science fiction movies, which Geeky Boy and I tend to pass on until proven they're worth watching.

It was a snowy weekend and cold, so between trips, we snuggled up on the couch or in the bedroom to watch tv. We have a saying in our house that when we're tired, it's time to watch bad tv. So we happened upon a marathon of Supernanny. Just like watching organization shows, I get a little boost to the ego when I watch shows like Supernanny. I've had my parenting ups and downs, but it's never gotten as bad as it is on these shows. While it's sad to see someone's house in complete disarray on a show like Clean House, it's even sadder to watch kids who are not being parented well. Both episodes we watched featured large families, one with 8 kids and one with 6. My first impression for both families was that they had not thought through their decision to have the first kid, much less the later ones. They hadn't considered how their lives would change nor had they considered how to manage their lives as the kids grew. In the family with 8 kids, the parents had not even reached 30 yet. They were very young, and it showed. In the other family, the mom seemed to be ready to run away. It was like you could see the bubble over her head that read, "This is not what I signed up for; I'm outta here."

More than any other event in my adult life, parenting made me face the reality of being a grownup. The first family, the young couple, seemed to be playing at being grownups rather than really being grownups. They had a script to follow of saying things to the kids like "Get down from there" or "So help me, if I have to come over there." They were the phrases they'd likely heard as kids that were likely equally ineffective. In the second family, the dad was definitely a grown up and was trying hard to support his wife and work with the kids, but the mom, well, she flat-out refused to be a grownup. She didn't want to discipline the "baby," a 2 and a half year old with typical toddler issues. And she misdirected discipline onto the oldest when it was often the younger kids who were poking at the older ones, trying to get a rise out of them and to get some attention.

No, it's not fun having to say no, or having to set boundaries, to punish children in ways that also punish you. Being a grownup means being responsible for your actions and for the actions of your children, when they're young. It means establishing guidelines for them. Even now, with my kids largely in control of their own behavior, when we go to family gatherings or fancy restaurants, I still remind them of the kind of behavior I expect. I pretty much don't have to do that with Geeky Boy any more, though over Thanksgiving, I did tell him to set an example for his younger cousins and try to settle them down. I was sincerely worried something would get broken.

Being a grownup pays off in the long run with the ability to really enjoy your kids. And hopefully, they will enjoy you as well.