There is a fast food restaurant commercial that shows a guy standing in front of a blender with a whole avocado (skin and all) in it. He pushes the button, and the avocado starts dancing around inside the blender with the word ‘guacamole’ on the bottom of the screen and the announcer says, “Without us, some guys would starve.” Even before that commercial aired, I vowed never to have kids who would be helpless once they survived, I mean, left my home.
Yet, somehow, even though I spent the better part of my parental career teaching the boys that they should NOT just walk past the trash can and admire their ability to stack it as high as it can go, why is it that while they were gone for two months, my own pile of trash looked eerily similar to the ones I’m always yelling at them to take out?
This is simply the first of what I fear to be many examples proving what I have already begun to fear, that I’m starting to turn into one of those “do as I say, not as I do” type parents. How many times have I barked at Dominic for making Justin do something he was more than capable of doing himself only to turn around and ask Dominic to grab me a glass of water so that I don’t have to get up from whatever perch I was on reading a book?
Why is it that one of the first things I say when I wake up in the mornings is, “Has anyone fed the dogs yet?” but when the boys were gone, the dogs were barking at their food bowls before I remembered they needed food? (And by needed food, I mean they ate their fair share of peanut butter sandwiches because I didn’t make a grocery run in a timely manner.) I’m only a little ashamed to admit that over the summer, the laundry was folded but never moved far from the chair in the living room and the dishwasher was run, but none of the dishes had been put away for weeks at a time. It soon became easier to just reuse those dishes than put them away and well, let’s not keep harping on the trash. Oh and putting empty cartons back in the fridge, well, I think I did that just to miss the boys a little less.
I know I have taught them the difference between right and wrong, and I can only trust that unlike my countless requests (99% of which are ignored) for them to do little things in life like, I dunno, taking out the trash, they actually remember to do the right thing when the time comes regarding something big and/or life changing.
Perhaps (please, please, please) that even in light of my, as my Aunt Rene would say, “imperfect” parenting skills, I have still managed to raise responsible, caring, giving members of society who sometimes remember to take out the trash.
You know how when you see someone every single day, you don’t notice the little things, but if you only see them once or twice a year, you suddenly see the subtle changes in hair style, or weight lost, or brighter smile? I’m starting to think that parenting is a lot like that.
I see my kids every single day for ten months out of the year. So in a weird and twisted sort of way, it makes sense that the two months a year they spend in Georgia with their dad, are the same two months I see all the glaring mistakes I make as a parent.
Not unlike the trash, or glass-of-water scenarios, I have a fear that all of the amazing insights I’ve had while they were gone will begin to disappear now that they are back.
Sunday, their first day home, was a gimmie. We spent the day at a friend’s house, I took the following day off of work, and not a single homemade meal was cooked anywhere near my kitchen stove. However, just a few days after stepping off of the plane and already I am falling back into old habits. Dominic took out the mountain of shame from the trash can. Justin fed the dogs and brought the last load of laundry in from the dryer. I, well, I may have been the one to choose the movie we watched but the boys hunted down the remote and put the movie in.
So though I do recognize that I am teaching my children valuable life skills such as picking up after themselves and becoming giving productive members of society, I have to wonder, at what point am I no longer teaching, but start to in fact take advantage of them? Where does the seating section for courtesy end and disrespect begin? Perhaps more importantly, am I the only one that finds it odd that I find new and improved ways to parent when I don’t have any kids?
My dad may still be a first time parent despite the seven kids he has, but I understand now, not only him and that comment, but how very true it is that you learn something new every day.
What lesson will you learn today? How will you keep from becoming a, “Do as I say..” parent? Where does teaching end and taking advantage of begin? And is it wrong that I left the laundry piled in a chair for two months? (Don’t answer that!)
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, and is preparing to go back to college before the end of the year.