Single Mom Slice Of Life: Do As I Say.. Er.. Uh…

If I had a dime for every time my parents told me, “do as I say, not as I do” I would be the proud owner of at least ten or twenty cents. If I had to give a dime each time I said it to my own kids, well, they’d have an easy six or seven bucks, four from this week alone.

It never ceases to amaze me the amount of time I spend trying to teach my kids the difference between right and wrong, believing in themselves against all odds, only to attempt to justify my actions when my own dreams and goals are hindered.

As the boys get older, the “do as I say, not as I do” quote seems to occur and more, much to my chagrin. While driving, when cooking, when cursing, when drinking orange juice straight out of the carton instead of using a cup, but let’s not dwell on that. School seems to be an on-going thorn in my side, so we’ll keep up that theme this week.

When I was younger, I attended junior college for a year while working at a local store. Sadly, I made too much money to qualify for enough financial aid to help but not enough to continue paying for it myself. After years of hemming and hawing and many quite impressive (if I may say so myself) excuses as to why I hadn’t returned, the excuses stopped, the hemming and hawing quieted and I began the journey back to school.

This is where the “do as I say, not as I do” seems to have bitten me the hardest. By now you cannot possibly be a stranger to the trials and tribulations I have experienced with my oldest son and school. For each issue he has had, I have been right behind him shaking my head and saying, “I just don’t get it – I loved school – I never had these kinds of problems…”

Do as I say: “Make a decision, make up your mind, and stick with your plan”

Not as I do: Research almost every school in the union, make a list of my top three choices, then change my mind seven different times on what my major should be… if I even start with a major… maybe I should just do my general education requirements first…

Deciding on a school was tough. In state, out of state, English majors versus writing majors, classes, credits, costs… I almost drowned in the amount of paperwork and electronic data I had managed to accumulate in a seemingly short amount of time.

Do as I say: “Make a list, follow it, stay on track.”

Not as I do: I could do my taxes and then file my applications, but then what if I miss the deadlines to apply? Wow, I’m busy at work, let me just put this off for a bit. You know, even though I decided on this school, this other one has… I’m just gonna start another list, make another plan.  Oooh…. Shiny….

I am the queen of lists, and yet, every time I had a clear-cut plan, I sabotaged myself, found myself starting over with each new, shiny and possibly even better possibility out there. Of course my original plan, my first list was the best one and the one I wanted, but any slight variance suddenly seemed to warrant drifting in a new direction. By the time I had finally made up my mind…

Do as I say: “Stop procrastinating. No hurdle is so big it can’t be overcome… or gone around.”

Not as I do: WHAT DO YOU MEAN THE I.R.S. SAYS I DON’T EXIST! I AM A PERSON! Well, I guess if the government says my social security number isn’t valid, and my address isn’t real, then school just seems like small potatoes compared to these.          

Okay, so in the end, the I.R.S. granted me validation in the form of written proof of my existence.  But in order to obtain it, I had to take time to deal with the issue – not an easy feat for someone who was suddenly so close to her goal. I have a long and impressive line of faltering right before the finish line and it would seem that in this instance, school would be no different.

Do as I say: “You didn’t get what you wanted… figure out what went wrong, fix it, and try again.”

Not as I do: Are you kidding me?  I’m finally a real person and I missed the deadline to start?  By a day?  Well… if it wasn’t meant to be…

Okay, so maybe this last one isn’t quite accurate. I am of course going to go, and not only because there is a long line of people willing to kick my butt if I don’t. I’m just not starting when I wanted to. That’s not to say thought that the thought of stopping hadn’t crossed my mind. Then I vented to a friend to have her look at me and say, “Huh… I wonder where Nick gets it from…?”

If ever there was a single sentence to bring home the point that I am an example to my children, that was the one. At the same time, it pushed me to remember that I tell him these things for a reason. I want him to move forward without regrets, to know he did the best he could and that he learned from each move he made, even if how to fix mistakes.

Education is key, dreams are important and hope is never lost… a bit poetic perhaps, but the point is valid. March 5th may not have been my key date to start school, but I learned a valuable lesson, one I can with confidence pass on to Nick, and be a not-so-bad example all at the same time.

What about you? Are you a “do as I say” parent? Do you hold your kids to standards that you yourself don’t follow? Lemme hear ya! Oh and wish me luck in this new venture too!

More from Wendy

Time To Let Go Mom

So You Want To Build A Better Bike

Forced Family Fun: BLACKOUT!

Wendy Syler Woodward, 37, has been a single parent for 10 years, with two boys ages 11 and 16.   Originally from southern California, Wendy moved her family seven years ago to Phoenix where she manages a law firm for work, writes for fun. Follow her on Twitter at @WendySyler

Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create GoodEnoughMother.com . When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.

4 Comments

  1. m.e. johnson

    March 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    When I was a young teen my mom would tell me not to get in trouble because she would have to take off work, what would the neighbors think, it would cost money she didn’t have, etc. Well I was a nerdy one and never ‘got in trouble’, but my thought was “so?” My point is that she never told me how it would affect ME.

    You write about what YOU want for your child. If you are saying that to him (“I want you to…”) I wonder how much that means to him. If you explain everything that can happen to HIM based on certain behaviors, good or bad, it makes a world of difference. To my children I’d say, “I tried that and it didn’t work because… Don’t be a dummy like I was.” That, of course, may not work for everyone but it worked for me… and them.

  2. Tiffany T

    March 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    I’m with M.E. on this one. My mom would tell me things & not explain why I should or should not do/say/think such things. (This didn’t always happen, but it happened enough for me to take notice.) I was the kid who ALWAYS had to know why. If I didn’t know why, I would decide what I wanted to do & didn’t care what other people thought. On the flip side, if she presented a good argument for why I should or shouldn’t do something, I almost always listened to her. No joke. It’s very important to let kids know WHY we want them to do something & explain how it will affect them.

  3. Wendy

    March 6, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    M.E. and Tiffany, please don’t think that each one of these missteps on my part were not discussed in great detail with my son… they were. That’s why one of my last lines in the article was that it was a lesson I was able to pass on to him.

    Each night that I came home frustrated, or defeated, or ready to give up, he was with me, and together we talked about what brought me down, what my options were to get back up, and how to keep moving forward.

    In the end, when the March 5th deadline was missed, it was my son that nodded his head and said, “okay, so now what?” Lesson learned! The point was I am able to practice what I and in this almost year long journey, he watched the entire process from dream, to failure (of a fashion), to redemption. Just because in the article itself the exact words were “I want”, “I said”, or anything else doesn’t mean that they weren’t said directly to him with an explanation.

    One giant rule in our home has always been the kids can say whatever they want, as long as they can rationally back it up. In this instance, I was able to point out that parents are human too, we make mistakes, and we need reminders, help, and even support to stay on the right track sometimes… and it was a reminder to lead by example.

  4. m.e. johnson

    March 6, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    Wendy, thanks for breaking it down (and so nicely too). Sounds like you’re doing a terrific job, so what are you worrying about? :-)

    By the way, I do enjoy your writings.

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