Because I'm the mom ... that's why
By LISA SMARTT
Posted: Thursday, July 23, 2009 1:58 pm
The Messenger 07.22.09
Before we became parents, I read a lot of parenting books. I developed a fine-tuned system by which our glorious children would be intellectually stimulated, spiritually encouraged and physically nourished with fresh fruits and whole grains.
Like a lot of parents in my generation, I over-analyzed my role and believed my every move was going to be responsible for their future success or failure. Thankfully, living with two boys, two cats, five kittens, four roosters and a hen has cured me of that notion completely. Parenting is a job that should definitely bear the motto: “Control freaks need not apply.” I don’t obsess about what the books say anymore and I’m much more comfortable in my own parenting skin.
But our boys are 11 and 13 now and sometimes they think they’re smarter than their parents. I understand that. That’s why my husband and I have been playing it cool lately. Laying low. We’re learning their subtle tactics and our goal in life is to daily outsmart them. We’re determined to give them as much freedom as we can while still maintaining some parental control and helping them come to grips with the ever-important disappointment of hearing the word “no.” Consider the following dialogue after we told the boys they would have to go with us to an adult business meeting the next night:
“Mom, I don’t wanna go. It’ll take too long and I wanna watch TV instead. Besides, I won’t understand what’s goin’ on. I really don’t wanna go.”
My response was calm, “Oh, that’s okay, Honey.”
“You mean I don’t have to go?”
“No, I mean it’s okay that you don’t WANT to go. You’re still going.”
We’re learning through trial and error that kids can actually live through momentary periods of complete unhappiness. I’m starting to think it might even be beneficial.
Our older son asked, “Why do we always have to eat supper at home? Why can’t we go out to eat tonight?”
I answered quickly, “We CAN go out to eat. Grab that money jar on the desk in your room and tell us where we’re going. We’ll drive you anywhere you wanna go.”
“Mom, that’s MY money. It’s my birthday money. Why can’t we use YOUR money?”
“Oh Honey, our money is all tied up in silly things like college funds, electricity, a home mortgage and chicken feed. SO, we can spend your birthday money on eating out tonight or we can eat the baked chicken that’s in the oven? Daddy and I are happy either way. It’s totally your choice!”
The response was a dreary, “Uh ... gosh, I guess the baked chicken sounds fine.”
“Well, if that’s what you decide, you need to go ahead and set the table.” Score another one for the old folks!
We love our two boys. We’ve made a lot of mistakes as parents. We’ve had to apologize on many occasions. But we don’t apologize for the fact that they don’t get everything they want. They have bedtimes, media restrictions and a boring home-cooked meal most every night. They have to help with chores, mow the yard and treat each other with a semblance of decency. They don’t always like it and that’s perfectly fine. When they complain, rather than give a long speech as to the benefits of such a lifestyle (benefits they fully understand), I’ve learned to embrace the simple, politically-incorrect phrase, “Because I’m the mom ... that’s why.”
Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com.