I’m going to start this blog with a plea to the readers. Please remember when raising your children, you are not looking to create a well behaved child; you are looking to create a well rounded adult the rest of us can live with. How many people did I just piss off? I hope a lot. That will keep you reading, and now I have the chance to explain why.
The childhood condition is a temporary one. In the average lifespan of 80 to 90 years, the time a person spends as a child is less than 15% of their total life. I’m not a math person, so that’s as close to a solid number you’re going to get from me, but let that sink in. 15% of a lifetime is spent learning how to be a person. This doesn’t count the teen years, where you are mostly an adult just learning how to make good decisions and what your beliefs are and how to handle society with those beliefs. With 85% of our lives being adults why do we have such a short view of parenting?
I’m not raising children. I’m raising people to be functioning adults. From the very first lesson, to the day they walk out my door the last time, I am making an effort help a person become the best they can be. I’m not super mom. I make a lot of mistakes. I try hard, and cry a lot. But I’m not focused on my kids being kids. I’m focused on who they will become.
This is one of those things, that once said (or written) becomes an ‘aha’, ‘well that’s a no brainer’ kind of idea. Deep down we all want our children to have a future and the choices we make in regards to parenting, both good and bad, are all to that goal. The problem is the everyday choices, good and bad, get lost in the shuffle.
Parenting is hard. No one age is any harder or easier than any other. They all come with their own joys and pitfalls. Occasionally individual children have ages that are easier than others, but no one GREAT age over all. Kids have temper tantrums. My 10 year old STILL has temper tantrums almost daily. People see this and try to judge what kind of parent I am. Obviously I must be doing something wrong. Children who are given consistency don’t act like this, right? In this case, wrong.
I have never once in either of my children’s lives given in to a temper tantrum. Not once. I have one particularly interesting memory that many parents laugh over when they hear the story of my son at age 2. I was very pregnant with my daughter. About to burst in a few weeks. I was a single parent at that time. I won’t bore you with the drama, but things were very hard for us. I’d had to take public transportation with my heavy belly and a 2 year old on a 30 minute ride to get to the closest store I could pay a bill at. I’d learned by then to pack snacks and toys and things to do. I used the small cane stroller for ease on the bus, and otherwise employed all the tricks I could think of. But my son was 2 and having to sit still and behave on a bus ride and walk for long distances and wait in lines. Honestly there’s only so much a kid can take in that circumstance and there was no babysitter to leave him with, no kindly grandma nearby or even a trustworthy neighbor. I couldn’t wait to pay the bill or I would lose electricity. I couldn’t pay early because the doctor had taken me off work so I had no income worth talking about. All the standard ideas parents and well meaning non-parents alike had for avoiding this situation were just not going to work. We were in this ‘melt down waiting to happen’ place and no way to get out of it.
Anyone used to small children, parents or not, can see what is coming. I don’t remember what I had to say no to, but that was the last straw for his baby mind. He reached his limit in the middle of a store, waiting at the service counter. I was rightfully exhausted, in pain from pregnancy problems and pretty much at my limit too. I think it was the exhaustion that led to my response. He sprawled his little baby butt on the floor of the store kicking and screaming. As tantrums go, this was a mach 4. I sighed and conducted my business. I carefully scooted him away from everyone else and leaned against the counter watching him. After a bit he stopped and looked at me as if to say, “Have you had enough yet? Did I get my way?” I know he was 2 and probably didn’t really understand what I said, but I looked at him and asked, “Are you done yet?” He wasn’t. This went on for another 10 minutes before he was tired enough to give up. I’m not entirely sure he even remembered what the problem was.
I was too tired to carry him out of the store, but if I did where was I going to take him? Truth be told he was beyond my high risk pregnancy weight limit so I could have done myself and his germinating sister damage. The responses I got from people during this episode were an entire study in psychology. Some laughed and encouraged me. Even not knowing I really had no choice here, they got it. They may or may not have been parents. Some shook their heads in disgust. They may or may not have been parents. Some openly glared at me. I’m pretty sure they were not parents, but they might have been.
All I could think during this was that I was too tired to care what anyone thought of me and if I gave into him now, no matter how tired I was, he’ll never learn. I wasn’t thinking, oh then he’ll be bad more often. I was thinking how pathetic it would be to watch a grown man throw a tantrum (this of course excludes people with various issues like autism or FAS, etc.). The bad part is, in my lifetime I have seen, otherwise mentally and emotionally healthy adults throw temper tantrums or think the world is their oyster. These people, as annoying as they are, have not been taught to be adults. For whatever reason, their parent’s eyes were not on the prize…the end result.
I don’t mean to be accusatory. Parenting is literally the hardest job on the planet, and the most important…and the most rewarding. As I said before I have not always made the right choice or been perfect, but my eye is always on the prize. My kids suck at doing dishes. They rush through and put things away dirty, they leave water everywhere, they break things. Sure it’s easier and more effective to just do the dishes myself, and sometimes I’ve so had it with them I do, but what do they learn? If I don’t stick to it now, when they move out on their own they’ll get sick or have bug infestations because they don’t know how to do the dishes right. Sure it’s easier to just let them wear the morally reprehensible clothing options (tube tops, skirts that show butt cheeks, writing across the ass of pants, adds for drugs or alcohol) their friends wear, but then what kind of self respect am I teaching them? What kind of mates are they going to end up with (gay or straight) then? Sure it’s easier to just give the kid a candy bar or chips or caffeinated soda, but if I don’t work to give them healthy bodies now, how can I expect them to be healthy adults? How can I expect them to make good food choice and to know that while this piece of pizza tastes great if they have too much they’ll feel sick. I have to show them those connections.
I read a great blog post by Matt Walsh about peoples’ reactions to public temper tantrums. It was a great read and made some valid points. I encourage you to read it. What I loved even more about the post was the conversation that ensued about it. It wasn’t heavily abusive like I’ve seen some of those things go, but had a lot of great points and counter points. The readers really thought about what he had to say. Some agreed and some didn’t. But it prompts me to say this:
When you see a child melting down in a public place, I know you are annoyed and irritated and parents and non parents alike wish the child would just stop remember this: What kind of adult do you want to live with for 85% of their lives? This 15% where parents work their hardest is short lived and the choices they make now effect an entire generation. Remember as well that you have no idea what choices the parent has so don’t assume they can just leave or that good parents don’t have kids that throw temper tantrums.
Society as a whole, parents and non parents alike, need to keep their eyes on the prize and stop judging. Maybe if you, the person who may or may not have children, who may or may not be well behaved, took a moment to think about what kind of adult you want to share space with will do things like encourage the parent in question to stay the course because you don’t want this child thinking adults get to do these things. You know that if the child does grow up thinking they can act like that, you’re the one that will have to share this planet with them.
Recently I had homophobia stare me in the face. It was a hard moment for me. I had a dear friend with whom I had been through many things, get offended near to the point of being irate because I said her adult, straight, happily married daughter was pretty enough to date. It was an innocent one off comment that meant very little. In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best comment to share with the world, but this was a friend; someone I trusted with my children. I trusted her so I didn’t edit myself. I thought that because she knew I was bisexual for years now and never judged me on it that she was one of the safe people in my life. A long friendship is now ended because of this.
I was so angry when this happened it prompted me to write the following FaceBook post: Dear world, I am bisexual. There is nothing wrong with being bisexual, heterosexual, or homosexual. We are all born to be one of the three or possibly more options. This is not something I can control. I will not hide myself because some people might be frightened of it. I will not refrain from thinking a girl is pretty especially when said girl reminds me of my girlfriend whom I miss. It does not mean I will chase after or proposition anyone. I have a lot of love in my life I am not going to 'turn' your daughter or sister. It doesn't work that way. Everyone now knows these things about me. Can we please move on peacefully and judge a little less?
While I was pleased with the overwhelming positive support I received, even from my family, I still morn for that friend.
Ironically, this post was also taken as my coming out of the closet speech, which is interesting to me. I never considered myself to be in the closet in the first place. I didn’t go to my parents house and talk about how there was this hot chic at store, but it was a pretty open secret if it was ever a secret at all. My husband knows. He even encourages my relationship with my girlfriend and the two of them are good friends. All of my co-workers and friends know about my girlfriend and my husband. My kids know. They wanted to know who the woman was Mommy was always talking to. So I told them she was my girlfriend and I love her like I love Daddy. They sort of shrugged and let that roll off. I’ve told my children for as long as they have been alive that I didn’t care if they liked boys or girls or both. I didn’t care who they loved or how they loved as long as they loved. They are 10 and almost 13 as I write this, so this is the time when their pituitary glands will begin to answer those questions for us.
I do have friends who are in the closet. I’m a braver person when I am fighting for loved ones. I think I tried very hard not to hide who I was so they would see it was okay, that even if the world did take a crap on them I was right there beside them. I know I stay public for my girlfriend so that she feels like our relationship is validated and hopefully has the strength to tell her family. I’m patient, but not a saint. I know the fear of people’s reactions and possibly losing those you care about. I understand it, even. I am pagan and remained in the broom closet where my family and certain friends were concerned for years. I rode my broom into the sunshine about two years ago. Funny how I found being bisexual more socially acceptable than being pagan.
In a way this was a coming out of the closet experience for me after all. Someone I cared about stopped editing herself and I was no longer seeing the world through the crack in the closet door. Now I was face to face with something I had hoped never to personally experience. The door was wide open and the light shone on my face along with the cold shadow.
Fear of me, of who I am, of how the All That Is created me from someone who should know better. What hurt the most was not that she had a moment of fear, but that it was fear of me. After all this time and all the things we had done for each other and our families, after all the hurt and pain and joy we shared, she found me fearful. I kept thinking there has to be something more to this. I don’t understand why this is a big deal. This couldn’t end like this. The reality is, something about me being bisexual frightens her.
Why is that? I know I will never get an answer to that, but I’m human. I’m drawn to ask. I’m drawn to rack my brain to understand why. I’d had conversations with her before and the logic of not choosing this and good people are good people was used. But when she was faced with the idea that her daughter was attractive to other women she had a knee jerk fear reaction. I knew fear existed. I’d seen it played out on social media sites and in the news all the time, but it never touched me. Not like that.
This is an anniversary of sorts for me. Six months. Six months since I first said, okay, I’m going to put my words out there for the world and see what happens. What a wild ride it’s been too, and so fast. I had no idea how fast things have gone until a friend asked me the other day how I got into publishing. Then I realized that on September 14th it will be six months.
Not to sound dramatic or anything, but six months ago, with my heart in my throat, I pressed the mouse button and self published Silent Heart. I’ve said before and I’ll say again, I’m a wimp. I knew Silent Heart was good, but I thought it was like high school essay good. I never thought it would hold up to critical review. I had no idea where this would lead.
Now I find myself as the executive editor with J. Ellington Ashton Press. Two books published, a story in an anthology, and another book soon to go into editing. I’m still a student, but I’m learning so much and having a great time. So much as happened. I’m doing radio interviews, recording commercials, even singing again. I’m making graphics for businesses and find myself being asked for more. I’ve found friends who are family to me and I’m on the road to where I want to be. All it took was one moment of staring fear in the face and just doing it.
I love my life right now. I love where things are going. It’s not always easy. There are days I’m little more than a puddle of goo on the floor. There are challenges and good and bad days. There are big things in my personal life I won’t go into here at the moment that keep me stressed, but it’s all worth it. All the work, all the ups and downs, even the stress. It’s all worth it. The days we all have where we want to give up still happen, but I just remember how far my life has come in six months and I know can I push through it.
This has been such a wild ride. I kind of feel like this blog post is all self congratulatory, but really its acknowledging that I worked for this and I deserve this and I love it. This is my life, and this is where I want to be. Do you have any idea how long I’ve struggled? If you’ve been keeping up with my blog (particularly the last post) you might have some clue. Six months ago my world was very different. I make mistakes and bad choices like everyone else. I’ve walked very hard roads. Some were worth it and some I’d rather forget. To be here now, maybe not at the top of my career but steadily climbing towards that is the most amazing thing.
There was this movie years ago I always thought was funny. Defending Your Life. It was the idea that purgatory was this great place where you could do anything and eat anything (you can see that writer’s love of food in this movie), but while you were there you went before a judge and defended your choices. Of course bad people didn’t get very far, but the honest every day person was going to go two ways. Back to Earth to try again or on to a higher state of evolution. It wasn’t being pious and good that got you the ticket further in your existence, it was conquering fear. That idea has stuck with me for many years. When I let an opportunity pass by or when I stare something hard in the face I go back to that. I think to myself, when my life is over and we look back upon it, was I strong enough? Would I move on? I want to be able to say yes. I hope I will be able to say yes.
This past six months has taught me that one single moment of bravery can change your whole world. Now when I’m scared, I try to think back on this. What will this next moment of bravery bring me? Say yes to everything even when it's scary and your whole world will change. Wow, this has been amazing. Wow, that was fast.
Susan is a plural writer and artist by day, a child and pet wrangler by night, and occasional crazy person on the weekends.