I was baffled and I’m not going to lie, it was off-putting that when my son invited two of his friends to a concert with him for his birthday, the mother’s responses were “we need to consult each other and Mom #3”. What? I have never consulted another parent about ANY decisions for my kids. Not a single one. And the strangest thing is, Mom #3 has NOTHING to do with the event, other than the fact that she is friends with the other mothers and her daughter is dating my oldest son. What could they possibly be discussing? Was my mothering and family dynamics on the table? Were we asking if we were a “good, Christian family”? I could easily answer any and all questions they may have had about the event (it’s not until March 2019) and I’m the one who helped my son plan it and bought the tickets he generously offered to his two besties. But, this quandary, this bull-crappery is not the first (or last, I’m sure) time that I will be rendered the “bad mom”.
You know the type. The kind that lets their kids listen to music with (gasp) curse words in it, that allows their kids to cuss appropriately, and that wouldn’t be caught dead in a church on Sunday (or any day for that matter). The kind of mom who openly discusses sex with her teenage boys, shows them how condoms work and lets them know that if they ever tries drugs she will personally kill them herself. The kind that honestly answers their questions (yes, they know she has been with women), that is honest with them about how bad porn is (because sex is not that simple or skanky), that would rather her children grow up to be responsible, loving, kind men over being fake, religious, non-thinking buffoons, with two faces and learning to live like that. You know—more of a Rizzo than a Sandy.
I knew that it would be a problem when my ex-husband’s parents generously offered to send my boys to a Christian school. I grew up in the church, attended one myself during high school and knew what “we” were in for. I knew I wouldn’t fit in. I don’t scrapbook, love essential oils and post Jesus quotes on my Facebook page. I cuss, a LOT, and I have huge boobs that prefer to feel the fresh breeze on them, rather than be tucked away in 2 bras and a turtleneck. I allow my kids freedom. I allow them to make mistakes. They are still on a leash, but the leash is very, very long and I continue to let them roam farther and farther away as they age. After all, my job is not to shelter them until suddenly they turn 18 and “poof” they know how to be an adult. No, my job is to raise them gradually until when I gently nugde (kick) them from the nest they know how to fly and fly well.
I also, have always believed that kids know more than we ever think they do and are smarter than most adults give them credit for. I know I was. I knew early on that what I was being taught in the church didn’t make sense and I never looked back or stopped growing. I knew early on that adults lie, have secret lives and aren’t as happy as they pretend to be to the outside world. And, I knew hypocrisy—I lived it at home and in the church. So, when I had kids of my own I decided that I would never force them to grow up the way I did. They could choose to follow whatever god they wanted or didn’t. They could have some responsibility and run with it. They could use “grownup words” cause they were more mature than most adults I knew. And, I would never, ever, lie to them. Ever. This way of living has been interesting some days. They’ve seen me cry my eyes out after a tough day of work while making dinner for the family. They’ve been able to ask me (sometimes to my great embarrassment and dismay) any questions they have about their developing bodies and sex and girls. Imagine your 7-year-old son asking if you’ve ever had anal sex and having to answer that honestly without making him feel ashamed that he asked you that particular question. I’m pretty sure he was testing my limits, but I calmly answered and we went on like it was another Tuesday—because it was just another Tuesday in my house.
I grew up where I had to hide a side of myself—the smoking, cussing, hormonal teen who liked rap and 70s rock. In my house, we were not allowed to listen to anything but Christian music, but HOW could Simon and Garfunkel be that bad? I mean, come on. Mrs. Robinson? My father had cheated on my mom for 20+ years, it was part of their testimony at church. But, heaven forbid, I listen to a song about it—from a movie! I would go to my friend’s houses, cuss up a storm and feel normal there. Their parent’s didn’t tell them that masturbation was a sin and God would hate you if you did it. Don’t get me wrong, their parents weren’t plying us with alcohol and cigarettes, either, they were just not as strict. We could watch TV (I didn’t have one in my house), listen to Motley Crue (that would’ve never been allowed), talk on the phone to boys (my calls were usually monitored) and be, well, teenage girls. I think the WORST part about being that girl was feeling like I was 2 people and always feeling guilty for just being normal.
And, so, I have not raised my boys to be that way or to think that way. If they want to taste a cigarette, they can wait until they are 18 and I’ll be happy to tell them how horrible they really are as they inhale, turn green and try not to vomit. If they want to do a shot with me, I’ll wait til they are 21 and will gladly watch them try not to gag as I pour them a nice, cold shot of Jager (or maybe I’ll keep it warm to make it worse).
We have very few rules in this house and they are as follows:
- Always be kind to your family. (This has been the toughest for siblings, of course)
- Always take responsibility for your mistakes. You can’t blame anyone but yourself.
- Always apologize when you screw up (most adults still can’t)
- Don’t abuse your freedom and you can keep it
- Feel free to come and talk to us (the parents) anytime you want, about ANYTHING
- You can cuss (but make sure it’s creative and worth it)
- Be YOU!!!! (We will love you UNCONDITIONALLY)
I’m not going to pretend that I am, by any means, a perfect mom. I don’t have it all together. We have a joke around our house that instead of college funds we have “therapy funds” for our kids. And, I’ll never be invited to the mom squad’s holiday cookie swaps, Bible studies, or luncheons. I’ll never be the mom the other moms look at and think “isn’t she just great?”. But, I’ve been a mom for 17 years now and have learned to become my own friend. I do puzzles, I work hard and I revel in the great relationship my family has with one another. I don’t need other moms to make me feel good about myself and I certainly don’t need to call a council meeting to ask what I should do when my kids are invited somewhere.
I think I’m doing ok. As I type this, my 18-year-old just told me he starts his new full-time job with benefits on Sunday (to help pay for his new apartment) and my 13-year-old is behind me in the kitchen prepping dinner for the family. He just walked by, on his way to the skillet, to kiss me on the cheek and tell me he loves me. Yeah. I think I’ll be jussssssst fine.