Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Velveteen Parent

When you can identify the sound of mini-chocolate chips cascading from their yellow bag into a red bucket in your no longer sleeping infant’s playpen, as being dumped by her older toddler sister for a snack, while awakening from a dead sleep, it’s safe to declare one’s self a veteran.

There are still areas of parenting within which I am a rookie. Dating. College tuition. Cars. Curiously enough, the magazines that cater to adults trying to civilize non adults, avoid addressing these later issues in extensive detail unless it’s to tell you that you should relax and not worry about the boys or the girls, sell all your cars and hire a chauffeur and have started saving money before you yourself hit puberty.

And so, one might wonder why I still subscribe to Parenting magazine. I know about time outs, mini-meals, setting aside a homework time, over scheduling, potty training…well, okay, I know the theory behind that one. What more is there that the experts could teach that I haven’t already experienced by trial? I keep the magazine to comprehend something of the ideal as personified in an incident free life.

If I were a Parenting magazine mom, the television would only be turned on for educational material that supplemented the reading I intended to present that evening…say the speeches by JFK, after viewing a brief history documentary of the Cuban missile crisis. If I were a Parenting approved mom, we would serve fresh black berries we had picked yesterday on top of homemade waffles today as I taught about maple syrup and the sugaring process while locating Vermont on a map and reading from Little House in the Big Woods. If I were a Choosy Mother’s Chose Jiff magazine certified mom, the kids would be used to fish tacos and green peppers, beg for carrot sticks and raisins and each have a shelf of the awards and certificates they had amassed over the years, complete with the write up in the local paper. They’d play on select teams and have fresh pressed uniforms every day and matching socks too.

Examining my life style with the parenting magazine’s parent, it’s clear I’m a C- student stuck in the honors class. Honor parents do not own cars that are the residence of 25 pounds of slowly fossilizing French fries, 1.47 cents in pennies and about a Pinto size pile of miscellaneous toys. Honor parents get all their kids to bed by 7:30 complete with hair washed, teeth brushed, three bed time stories and a lullaby. The teens, they lovingly dismiss to their rooms, tucking a new book of Shakespeare under their hand as they say good night. They are archetypes of the archetypes in my world. They are the ideal.

But I’m not.

Honor student parents don’t raise their voices or deliberately spend twenty minutes locked in the bathroom pretending “I can’t hear you…” hoping the stall tactic will bore the kids enough to make them forget what they were tattling about. Honor student parents don’t consider buying a large stuffed tiger that growls to put outside their toddler’s room and tell the kid, the tiger comes to life at night if you get up. We didn’t…but we did put the tiger back on the shelf with some regret.

Reading these stories and techniques, it’s like a reverse of the Velveteen Rabbit. I can’t help but wonder if these people as “experts” who say “What not to say…” have ever had a day when getting down on their eye level and speaking in a calm controlled voice just didn’t satisfy. “I know you’re upset that your brother got invited to the party but, there’s no reason for you to smack down on his head. You should be happy for him.” The kid may quiet down for that sort of speech, but very very few –and I would submit, none, become suddenly self aware and think, “I’m not really mad at my brother for being my brother, I just wish I had all the cool things he had going on…so I’m actually envious and need to stop because that’s not right or healthy.” If my kids are anything like I was, they’re thinking…right….I’ll get him later…but how?

It’s not that I don’t want my kids clean, on time, well spoken, well educated, well read, polished, accomplished and civil. I want all of these things for all eight of them, but sometimes, the best I can manage is a screech owl version of “HEY, KNOCK IT OFF OR I’M GETTING INTO IT!” that results in a five minute suspended silence born of real fear that the person driving may not be entirely stable. What galls me is that someday, when they grow up, they won’t remember when I hit the mark and got them to piano, softball and still managed to make sure they got their homework done, had a bed time story and closed down the upstairs by 8:30 p.m. They won’t remember when I made banana splits for dinner that night because everyone had had a bad day. They’ll talk about the time Mom’s face turned purple when we played Starwars with French fries in the back seat on the beltway.

Those will be the moments remembered, when the Velveteen Parent became real.

2 comments:

SuburbanCorrespondent said...

oooh, I want that tiger! Where was it?

And I am still trying to figure out how your daughter even found an uneaten bag of chocolate chips in the house...

SherryTex said...

It was a quarter of a bag, and I try not to eat them because they punch up a bundt cake like nobody's business.

To make --buy a german cake mix
and german cake frosting.
In bowl dump mix, frosting, 3 eggs, 1/3 cup oil and 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips, and one teaspoon of vanilla. Mix. Pour into bundt pan, bake 350 for 45-50 minutes. Cool 15, dump out. Frost with powdered sugar or chocolate glaze. serve warm with ice cream.

If you put more chocolate chips in it, the cake loses cohession and it's hard to dump. However, that has never stopped my family from eating it.

Come over, I make cake...it's a simple life. It's what I do.

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!