Friday, April 04, 2008

My Kids Are Weird... and other parenting dilemmas

First, a hearty congratulations!!!

For those of you who hadn’t heard, JJ Debenedictis has a new agent!!!! Go drop by her blog when you get time and help her celebrate.

And, on with the post:

My kids are strange... Lately I’ve been reading and hearing a lot of different things about parenthood and motherhood and it got me to thinking about my own mode of parenting. It’s funny how it evolves. It’s funny how on top of things I thought I would be when I first became a mom, the things I never thought I’d do, the kind of parent I thought I’d become... you know, as opposed to the parent I actually am... What happened to my once lofty goals? Well, I had kids. They don’t actually conform to what you think they’ll be – they have a need to be their own person, which means switching up the way you raise them because what works for one will not work with all... Ah, if new parents only realized that.

When I was a new mom my television set was almost never on. I watched a few shows here and there, but mostly I watched baseball and my husband watched football and I thought, jeesh, those people who plop their kids down in front of the TV and use it as a babysitter are just terrible.

Yeah... my TV’s on all the flippin time these days. Oh, yes, I shut it off and we play games or do school work. But my kids watch way more TV than I ever thought I’d allow, and my youngest has watched TV since infancy, because I already had three and you’ll take any break you can get at that point!

When I was a new mom, I stood aghast that anyone would allow their kids sugar all the time. No pop for my kids. Candy would be a rarity, and only as a treat after a good, healthy dinner.

Ha! I still don’t let them drink pop, my two youngest don’t even want it... but the ten year old, well, she’s had it at friends’ houses and she likes it... really likes it, asks for it all the time. We’ve settled on her having one (sprite or sierra mist with no caffeine) occasionally with dinner – not every night, I’d say once every two weeks or so, and on those nights she foregoes dessert... but no sugar... please, my cookie jar is a candy treasure trove and they average at least one sweet a day, sometimes far far more... though they still have to finish their regular meals first, I’ll cave on the veggies way more than I should....

Those aren’t the only differences between what I thought and the reality of raising three kids. I thought that if you raise them well, they become good people... Lots of little discipline things, but I found that each kid comes with their own sensibilities, so what works on oldest would be detrimental to my middle guy. Oldest is a hard head. She’s ridiculously bright, but lazy. So being strict with her is what works. If I didn’t set hard and fast rules, she wouldn’t care what grade she came home with or how many rats her bedroom drew... she’s just that way. She’s independent; too, so you have to check up on her, because she won’t tell you she needs help she’ll just try to wing it.

My second is a sweetheart. He gets very nervous about doing things wrong and needs a lot of encouragement and a bit of hand holding in new situations until he hits his comfort level. I’m far less strict with him because he wouldn’t do well with it, and he doesn’t need it. He never has to be asked twice and often will tell me he wants to do his homework, clean his room, go to bed, etc.

Really all of this is to say that they will surprise you and often teach you a hell of a lot more than you teach them. My daughter, while she drives me nuts with her procrastination, is a constant source of amazement for me. She’s ten, just the age where you really start to worry. Sitting at the kitchen table after dinner the other day, she informs me that she wants to be a medical examiner when she grows up... Oooo-kay. I figured she didn’t know what one was. But she did. She wants to examine the bodies and tell the police how they were killed and help them find the bad guys... That’s her take on it, which is pretty good for a ten year old, though a little scary (But I bet Josie would love her). I figured, heck, it’s better than wanting to be a trampy pop star or something.

Anyway, we had this whole conversation about what kind of education she’d need and how she could work toward a career like that – seriously, I was just happy she was so intent. I figured telling her she’d have to get a medical degree would have kyboshed the whole thing... nope, but my figures for future tuition just went up dramatically. In my surreal state of not really fathoming how my ten year old daughter arrived at this career choice we exchanged the following dialogue:

Me: You really want to play with dead bodies? (I’m occasionally flippant)
Her: I’m not taking them out to tango or anything.
Me: (doubled over laughing, cause I thought that was pretty good for a 10 year old)
Her: Though, I wouldn’t have a problem getting to lead.

Okay, seriously, love that she has such interesting career goals, but I’m really thinking comedian... she just doesn’t know it yet.


Precie said...

Seriously...being a parent is so totally awesome. :)

But like you, I could write volumes about the kind of parent I'd planned to be vs. the kind of parent I am. ;)

Thanks for sharing! And, of course, your daughter could be both a medical examiner and a comedienne!

Josephine Damian said...

Merry, thanks for the head's up about JJ. I'm having a really bad week and have not been getting out much in the blosphere.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey Precie,

I think that's all of us. I sometimes hear new moms expounding and grin, thinking, 'just wait...' I don't hold it against them, though, I remember being in their shoes.

And yeah, hopefully she'll keep the sense of humor no matter which path she ends up on.

Hi Josie,

No problem. I'm sorry you're having such a rough week - I hope it gets better for you soon.

jjdebenedictis said...

Merry! *blushing*

Thank you so much; I am really touched that you would echo my good news on your own blog (and even go and tell other people about it!) You're absolutely awesome, Happy Cat. :-D

Merry Monteleone said...

Hey JJ,

It's so good to see you in the blogosphere, and I'm thrilled for you!!! I think it's fantastic that so many of our blogging buddies are forwarding their writing careers and having such great success!

I can't wait to hear more news, so keep me posted on your progress and I'll be the first lined up on publication day.

silken said...

it is weird how we end up being a different kind of parent than we thought we would be. I learned early on to quit saying "never" cuz everything I said they/I'd never do, I have!!

Kalynne Pudner said...

Wait...I don't get it. Where's the weird? Besides that they don't drink Coke? You wanna see weird, look at my "Weird Kid Behavior" I, II and III under "The Essential Philosopher-Mom."

By the way, I don't think your daughter would have to get a medical degree. My 16-year old beauty queen wants to do the same thing, and her projected major is Forensic Science.

Now, if she HAD wanted to take the corpses out dancing, that would be weird.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Silken,

Never say never is a good rule, but it's fun to look back at how much we thought we knew before we really knew much... then again, the older I get the more I realize how little I actually do know.

Thanks for stopping in, always good to see you!

Hi Kalynne,

I've actually read those posts, I'm pretty sure - and don't take it the wrong way, I couldn't help but have weird kids, otherwise I'd wonder whether the hospital switched them :-)

You have one of those too, huh? Like I said, I'd much rather have her thinking off the beaten path than idolizing the skimpy dressed and overpaid...

Oh, but Medical Examiner does need a Medical Degree with an emphasis on forensics, I'm pretty sure. Forensic Science would work for crime scene investigators, toxicology, and other areas of the crime scene investigation, but the medical examiner who provides the autopsy, cause of death, and clues left behind in and on the body need the advanced degree in medicine.

Erica Orloff said...

Hi Merry:
I agree with Kalynne. What's weird? LOL! My entire Demon Baby and Me blog is about my utterly precocious, totally violent and destructive three-year-old. :-) I've got four kids from an 18-year-old down to Demon Baby. One is more different from the next from the next. They are all a little eccentric. And I know they get their oddities from me.

As for parenting now versus then. I could fill a volume. Actually, I had always envisioned strict bedtimes and my house running in an orderly fashion. But by the 4th kid, frankly, I am just too damn exhausted. So it's a hippie-ish freefall around here. But a lot of laughter, a lot of love. And in the end, I realized that's what it's all about. That unconditional love stuff. Not Demon Baby eating Girl Scout cookies for breakfast on occasion.


Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Erica,

I'm convinced girl scout cookies were invented by satan. You can't say no to them, because you're helping some really cute little girl.. usually your own, and you wind up eating a whole box of cookies in one sitting.

Do you get the blank stares of wonder that you have four? I'm betting Kalynne gets them, I think she has eight - I have three, which I think is a nice sized family and I swear people say 'three?' as if I robbed a bank or something.

Merry Monteleone said...

Correction: Kalynne has nine, and she teaches philosophy - Kalynne, you're my hero!!!

Erica Orloff said...

I get stares all the time. Between four . . . and the age range. Everyone assumed we were "done" and Demon was an "accident." In fact, he was planned (#3 was my happy surprise). No one can imagine why we would have one going to college and bring a baby into the family again. And many a day I wonder when he--as he is right now--is tormenting my poot little lovebird.

We always--I mean always--had plans to adopt two more. Or be foster parents. I expected to once Oldest left for college, but Demon is such a terror that it will have to wait at least a year, maybe more. I need to get a better handle on his energy level. Or start popping amphetamines.

Mary Witzl said...

I think a joke-cracking medical examiner would be a great idea. That's the kind of person I want picking over my mortal remains.

When our eldest was five, she told us she wanted to be a bug doctor. I told her that was an entomologist and we looked at books on entomology. But as we read, it became apparent that she didn't want to be a person who STUDIED bugs, but someone who DOCTORED them. She couldn't accept that you couldn't put a cast on, say, a praying mantis.

I had all sorts of lofty ideas about the sort of mother I'd be. The only thing that turned out the way I thought it would is the fact that I love them and they (usually) love me. Everything else is about as different as it could be.

SUV MAMA said...

Merry, you rock. I love that you have "weird" kids. Way better than, say, "normal" kids.

Off to read about My Town Monday!

I'm here, btw. I don't always comment, because frankly I don't feel just in adding a damn thing to the writing mix, but I sure as hell enjoy reading about the journey that is being a professional writer.

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Mary,

A wise-cracking medical examiner sounds like a good vehicle for a murder mystery actually... hmmmmm....


Thanks for stopping in and don't worry about commenting, I read a lot of blogs that I just can't come up with anything to say in the comments to - occasionally because I'm rushed but sometimes you all just cover the post so well I have nothing to add...

Ello said...

Hmmmm, how is it my comment didn't show? I think kids are such a riot. And you know my middle child is going to be a comedian for sure!

The Quoibler said...

I wanted to be a coroner for some reason when I was younger, but I hate the sight of blood. Hm.

Your kids sound outrageously funny. Give 'em more soda and sugar... then film their antics, put them on YouTube, and laugh your way to the bank!

(Just kidding. Sorta.)


Jerseygirl89 said...

I think I really needed to read that today, I still have so many days where I feel guilty for not living up to my lofty goals and other days when I forget that they are their own people and I can't make them be a certain way.

Precie said...

Nine? NINE??? Oy. My ONE just about burns out my energy reserves every day.

Precie said...

Oh, and I think we need to reclaim the word "Weird"! Weird = unusual, strange, interesting! Weird is good!

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Quibler, Precie, and Jersey,

I'm sorry it took me so long to reply - I'll explain in my next post, but thanks for stopping in!!!

Jersey, I hope everything's okay with the hubby - I'll stop over at your place soon and see how it's going.

ChristineEldin said...

Love your daughter's attitude!!!
I always try to be honest with my kids when they ask questions. Usually comes back to haunt me when I least expect it....
But always fun!

Gina said...

Hi Merry,

I love your comments on queries, your instincts seem to be dead on. Would you be willing to take a look at my query?

Merry Monteleone said...

Hi Christine,

Drat that honesty!!!! Sometimes they can surprise you with how advanced they are, too... I keep thinking that they are too young for some of the logic they can already grasp...

Hi Gina,

I'm no expert on queries, to be honest. I've just started the submission process for my own novel. But I learned a lot about pitch from participating in the pitch critiques on agent blogs and on a few writers blogs...

I don't mind critiquing, but I think you'll get more out of it if we put it up for crit from other writers, too... I'll post a query crit for my next blog if you'd like to participate.