I am 42 years old with a 2.5 and 8 mth old (girl and boy). I got married late - at 38, but it all worked out for me as I married a good man and had no trouble getting pregnant.
Anyway, life is hectic now, but I one day would like to be that fun dancing mom in the kitchen! Just like you.Your boys seem so well mannered and good natured, very sweet young men. I would love some sage parenting advice in what worked for you and what you think contributed to their character. You speak so highly of your husband, and am sure he had a hand in this, but I feel most parenting ‘stuff’ falls on the Mom.
Searching for Sage Advice
Dear Searching for Sage Advice -
First of all, thank you. Thank you for viewing me as the fun mom who dances in her little yellow kitchen and thank you for paying my children such a lovely compliment. Especially on a gloomy morning that started out with me threatening their lives.
There is nothing more meaningful to me than hearing that I have well mannered, sweet kids. The world is chock full of assholes and my children not falling into that category is my primary goal in life.
I am sure if you were to ask my boys if they view me as the fun dancing mom that you see on my Instagram account they would say, “She is, most of the time” and they would be right. We have a lot of fun in this house together, we laugh a lot, and I try not to take things too seriously. But they would also lean in and tell you that I am “southern strict,” take very little shit, and set high standards across the board for both of them.
As you point out, life is hectic! So bravo to you for giving parenting an actual thought. Because I’m convinced that most do not. Or at least they don't until some serious backpedaling needs to be done. And that, in my humble opinion is “NG,” as my southern mama used to say...“No Good!””
You ask me for sage parenting advice, and as I write this to you all of my fingers and toes are crossed as we swiftly approach the teenage years with larger, more serious issues at play. So I can only share what has worked for us, thus far, knowing that it could all blow up in my face tomorrow.
Parenting is one thing for sure, humbling. Anyone who stands by smugly looking down their perfectly sculpted nose at you, bragging about their six perfect children who have all been accepted into medical school and have done countless charitable works, is an ass and should be avoided at all costs.
Here are the top three things that I would be honored to share with you that have worked for US (Tuh! Tuh! Tuh! Knock on wood!) - Not my top three pieces of advice (who the hell am I??), just what has worked for us. SO FAR!!!!!
1. Eye contact is everything.
When greeting teachers, our friends, their peers, anyone with a beating heart, they must do it with eye contact. Shy is not an excuse. It’s something to be mastered and conquered. Eye contact first, firm hand shake when being introduced, and when spoken to, please for fuck’s sake (Hee Hee Hee), respond with a clear polite answer.
When someone asks how you are, respond and then ask about them. My kids have done this quite literally since they were just walking. Not because they are angels, but because it was important to us to start that lesson early. And it takes time to hone that skill. Conversing is hard for some kids. My G-d it's hard for some adults! It takes practice and it all begins with eye contact. Eye contact says you care, you are interested, you are present. And unfortunately, it’s slipping in our growing culture of screens and cell phone addiction. When my kids get into the car after their hour long bus ride home from school, if they do not make eye contact with me, if they do not get the fuck off their screens and engage with their mother, not just about their day, but mine as well, they are pretty much dead. I can’t stand it.
It is completely a deal breaker in my book.
When my kids were given the privilege of iPads and last year iPhones (mainly because they travel so far to school) they were required to sign contracts. Like long contracts. Like contracts that spell out what exactly is expected of them in school and with the responsibility of owning a device.
I have friends who do not read their children’s text messages because they believe it is a breach of their children’s privacy. When my children pay for their monthly wireless phone bill that is when I will stop reading their text messages. Until then, while it doesn’t happen every day, my kids know that with the flick of an open palm, that phone and all its contents belong to me and better be placed in my hand. Wanna post something on Instagram? You better ask me first. Wanna follow someone’s account? You better ask me first. Wanna sit in a restaurant with your head buried in your phone? You’re asking for a painful death. Period. Your phone belongs to me, and by the way, so do you. Nuff said.
2. Figure out how to get your kids talking.
When Madden and Dexie were just babies, Bazza’s step-mother Cora gave me some advice that I will always carry with me. She told me that little boys love their mamas fiercely in the most pure and protective of ways, but at some point, as they grow older, it might be harder for them to open up and be emotional. She shared with me that every night when she would tuck Barry's half brother in for the night she could always get him to talk to her if she rubbed his back. She’d lower the lights, have him turn away from her so he didn’t have to make eye contact in this case, and rub his back. This is how she got him to open up and talk about his day.
I think about this every night now when I feel too tired to connect with my kids, but then remember how important these opportunities are. I’ll nudge Madden or Dex over and say “come on scooch over, let me rub your back kiddo” and then we talk. It’s not always earth shattering. Sometimes it's just as simple as who they sat at lunch with, but it’s a connection and it’s a window into what’s happening, who they are becoming, who they spend their time with, what they worry about or laugh at, and what I’m missing out on now that we are apart more hours than we are together.
3. Kindness is not an option.
At least not in our house. It doesn’t mean we don't slip, it doesn’t mean we are not human and have our moments and fight (sometimes loudly), but my kids have heard (on repeat) since they were babies “Kindness is not an option.”
What does this mean in reality? When they were little it meant learning not to hit or learning to share a toy. This morning it meant Madden realizing he had forgotten his headphones for the long bus ride to school and Dex offering an earpod thingy (#nana) to him to share, even though that was super annoying for Dex and a lesson about packing up the night before for Madden. It means saying “I love you” before bedtime, it means putting your shit away, it means saying thank you to the bus driver as they get off the bus, it means thinking beyond yourself and looking at our family as a unit, as its own little community within the walls of our house. It means cheering loudly enough that your brother can hear you from the soccer field and knows you are paying attention. It means sitting through your older brother’s School of Rock performance twice in one weekend and smiling about it.
When kindness is a non negotiable it allows for each of us to be ourselves. It opens the door for laughter, for trusting each other, for leaning on each other, and for me to dance and cook in my little yellow kitchen without anyone (who matters) judging.
In fact, my crew is usually the first to cheer me on.
And, by the way “Searching for Sage Advice,” you should start dancing, too. What are you waiting for?