Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Parents. Another Touchy Topic (this is going to be a long one)

Having 3.5 years to work on getting pregnant leaves you a lot of time to think about what sort of parent you will actually be. My experience growing up was mostly as a girl with a single mom for a parent. My mom kicked my father out when I was around 2. I would see him on Weds nights and every other weekend. Looking back on it - my memory of growing up was like this:

Mom. You just never messed with her. She wasn't a 'hugger' or a person who would tell you 'I love you', or really, even told me 'Good Job'. She expected me to do well (school, swimming, whatever) and I did. I would go to school from 9 - 3:30, and then go swimming from 4 - 5:15. I would get home, and we would sit down and have dinner together. She then would usually leave for an hour or two for whatever commitment she had that evening (she was on the church choir, and on the boards of several organizations). I never remember having a babysitter - I would just clean up the dishes from dinner and do my homework (while watching TV! A big no-no if she was home). She also was (and is still) totally obsessed with weight/body size - and had me in Weight Watchers from age 12. That is a whole other story. She was (is!) a formidable woman who made a hell of a lot of sacrifices so I could go to private schools and the best college I could get into. There wasn't any extra money, that was for damn sure - so I wasn't one of those kids with the cool clothes or the Atari system, or even cable TV. To this day, she still doesn't have cable.

But - I did go to private schools, and she had a vacation home in the Berkshires that we pretty much went to every single weekend in the summer.

Dad: After he left my mother, he moved in with Barb. Later on, I found out that he was cheating on my mom with Barb, which was one of the many reasons that they split. Anyway - Barb was fun for me. She really liked to spend time with kids, and would take me to the park or play games or help me make clothes for my dolls - all things that my mom never did. Later I found out that Barb couldn't have kids (her first husband and she even did IUIs!) But my father? He would pick me up (Sometimes. He 'forgot' more than once) drop me off with Barb, and then go out and go golfing. Or something else that didn't involve me. If he WAS home, he was reading a book or watching TV. Certainly not spending time with me. But he was the guy that got me a Cabbage Patch doll when they were the thing to have, and also gave me an allowance. And as I got older, if he would see people on my swim team who dyed their hair purple or something - he would threaten me by saying 'If you do that, I'll disown you'. And I believed him - because he has 4 other kids from other marriages that he never talks to. But his lack of interest in me certainly didn't make him feel like he couldn't take full credit for my good grades or all American swimming accomplishments. Which used to piss me off.

But - for all his faults - he stuck to the divorce agreement, and paid for 50% of my schooling. He gave me a car when I was 16. He even paid for me to get my pilots license. And, he was the reason I had a 'parent' that played with me - even though HE didn't - Barb did. To this day, my father and I really have no real relationship.

So - truly an interesting mix - and I think the reason that became the person I am is watching the crazy dynamics of all the adults in my life. When I think about what kind of mom I want to be? It's hard.

- I want to have fun with my kids. I want to play and laugh and joke around. That was certainly lacking in a 'kid' sense as I grew up. Sure - my mom and I had fun - but it was a different, a kind of more 'adult' fun. And the fun I had with my dad - was always a cautious fun - not knowing when he would lose it and start yelling or lecturing me.
- I want my kids to have discipline. I have NO idea what it was that made me listen to my mother. But I did. And I want to be able to have that same authority with my kids. I want to have fun, but I still want to be The Mom.
- I want to avoid putting my own hang ups on my children. Do I want them to grow up chubby? No. But I look back on the pictures of me when my mom was sending me to Weight Watchers, and I cringe. I wasn't fat. Not even CLOSE. But because my mom was obsessed with me being thin, I assumed I must have been fat. I never want to do that to anyone. It's crazy when I think I've been basically dieting since I was 12!
- I want my kids to be proud of who they are. I never thought twice of bringing people home with me from my fancy private boarding school. And I grew up in a 1000 sq ft ranch. I just never knew different, and I never questioned why we didn't have cable or whatever. We just didn't. And it didn't bother me. I want my kids to be like that - just know what our life is - and be happy with it.
- I want my kids to be healthy. I think a lot of who I am today is based around the fact that I did a huge amount of sports growing up. I'm a strong woman, and pretty confidant that I can do anything I make up my mind to do. I will encourage my kids to be active.
- I'll cook for my kids. My brother feds my nieces McD's, Taco Bell or pizza every night. I think that is horrible.
- I will NOT buy my children everything they want. When I was growing up, I got presents on my birthday and Christmas. And at Christmas, my mom's rule was 3 big presents. One was a book, one was clothing, and the other was a toy. My father usually gave me a few more toys - but nothing obscene. I think that helped make presents special. And I would treasure them more.
- I will let my kids make messes. There were a lot of things I wanted to do when was a kid (finger painting was one I really remember) that my mom would NEVER allow to occur, mostly because she felt the paint would 'get all over the house'. Or draw with chalk on the driveway. Or course - I'll work on us cleaning up afterwards, but making a mess is fun!
- I will let my kids learn from their mistakes. And learn on their own. I know many friends that had mothers that pushed for them to swim certain events. Or helped them write papers so they would get good grades. My mom never even tried to help me with my homework or intervene on my behalf with a coach. I did everything myself - and I think I learned more for it. I think I may give a little more help in the homework front (I wish someone took the time with me outside of class with math, for instance)... but I don't expect to be typing up papers for my kids!
- I will let my kids know that they are loved and wanted. I will hug them and kiss them until they get to the age when that is horribly embarrassing. I will NEVER threaten to disown them.

Phew. I guess I've thought about this a lot, huh?


kjames106 said...

Hey girl- I had the SAME thoughts running through my head. Growing up, neither of my parents wanted us. It was hard for me to think of the kind of parent I wanted to be because I knew I could physically take are of a child, but mentally, I just wasn't so sure. You are totally on the right track. It's weird how you form your motherhood ideas off of what you DIDN'T get rather than what you DID get. I had to do the same thing. I just want to tell you, you seem like you have a wonderful plan. Please don't worry because I GUARANTEE you, it is going to come SO natural for you. Everything is going to fall right into place. You are about to feel a love that you have NEVER felt before. It's so beautiful. Not to mention the fact that you had to deal with infertility as well. You are going to appreciate this so much more than someone who just happened to get pregnant. I can attest to that! Good luck and I LOVED this post. You spoke right to me.

Jen said...

You have wonderful ideas for the kind of parent you want to be. You are going to be great.

Brandy said...

Wow, it sounds like you have given this a lot of thought. I did the same thing when I was pregnant with my son and I think have even more so now that I'm pregnant with a girl. My mother was not a part of my life and that makes me worry a lot about the things I didn't have and want to give to my son and daughter. I think realizing them is a huge step in the right direction though. Great post!

Fertilized said...

you are going to be fantastic. you are already on top of it.

~Jess said...

Sounds like you'll be a great mom :-) You're conscious of what you do and don't want to do: I think that's one of the big parenting hurtles. Is having a feel for what you want to be, what life you want to create.


Jen said...

Isn't it great (and scary) to be on the verge of making these thoughts on how you would like to parent a reality? It sure sounds like you've put a lot of thought into your own childhood and how you would like to do things differently. I couldn't agree with you more on letting kids learn on their own without constant parental intervention. It seems like so many parents hold their kids' hands in everything these days or give them anything they want. In the end they never learn to do anything on their own and expect everything to be handed to them.

amysue said...

You and Aaron are going to be great parents and yeah, there will come a point you'll hear yourself say something that you know came from one of your own parents and it will horrify you.

13 and 9 years ago this week our children were brought into our lives in China and Cambodia and I've made a million mistakes along the way but somehow I've managed to raise two amazing, bright, sweet and caring kids.

You'll be even better ( mainly cause you're more interesting-a frakkin pilot's license? I am not worthy!)

BrandiH2007 said...

I think you are going to be a wonderful mother! Parenting is a major balancing act. My mother was strict (I lived with her) and my father let me do anything I wanted. Funny thing is I always respected my mother more!

sukeyknits said...

Very revealing list of items. The most important thing though that is different is not that it's Cece, but Cecaaron. I think you guys do a great job of balancing each other out and bringing out the best in each other that will translate wonderfully into parenthood. That being said, I'm so glad to see your thoughts on parenthood and agree so much with them. And finally, just as a reminder, I LOVE math. So if hulk needs any help, I'm the go to person. Tons of experience tutoring kids on math too (sometimes it helps to have a nonparent help).

Sparkle Mommy said...

One of the best pieces of parenting advice I received was to do the best you can and do it with love. There's no such thing as perfect, so if you do it with love you'll be fine. Also I recommend reading Ellyn Satter's books on feeding kids. I love her philosophy of feeding and eating and it really takes the pressure off of kids. I started with Child of Mine Feeding with love and Good Sense from the library and i liked it so much i got all of her books from Amazon. Also kids are supposed to gain weight in adolescence, that's how puberty works! Sorry you got so much flack.

Cathy-Cate said...

You know, the only thing I would suggest adding to your list is to keep hugging them AFTER the age at which it's horribly embarrassing! At the time, they may squirm, but at least they know their parents love them, and eventually they take it for granted that hugs will happen even if they roll their eyes. : )

Cece, you are going to be a great mom, all the more so for explicitly thinking about parents and parenting, which is more than many ever do. Babies are easy to parent: feed them as needed, change them as needed, love them and hold them A Lot. After that: You set limits but you have fun. And you roll with the punches -- each kid is different, and they will teach you so much. It's ALL on the job training!

Lord, when we took Rose home (who was a high maintenance child -- still is) -- there was this underlying thought -- does the hospital really know what they're doing? We're not qualified! But even by the time the baby comes home with you, you know the baby better than anyone else in the whole world does. And thus begins the parenting adventure -- one day at a time. Again, kudos to you for your thoughtful reflections, and for sharing.

christina said...

great list. i, too, have thought long and hard about my parents/friends/family/etc. who have kids and how they parent. i always say that one (and probably only) great thing about infertility is that it makes you really see how much you want to be a parent and it allows you to think about these things ahead of time.

your children will be very lucky!


Chelle said...

It is interesting our how own childhoods affect the way we want to raise our kids. We take all of the negatives and positives from our own youth and want so much to ensure our children grow up having what we had or what we wanted. It will be interesting to see how our children raise their children.

Amy said...

I think when you have to wait an extended period of time to have children you have more time to think about how you want to raise your children. Not that people who have children easily don't. We just are able to get more into specifics with all this time on our hands.

I feel the same way. I want to do all those things for my children as well. Great list!

CappyPrincess said...

Our parents can teach us very valuable lessons about parenting. Just remember that no parent is perfect and when the time comes you do something you swore you'd never do, don't beat yourself up over it. Make the best of it and move forward.

Zephra said...

Keep hugging and kissing even after it is embarrassing. Just do it in private. They still love it though they will say not.

Deborah said...

FWIW, I did NOT appreciate my parents hugging/kissing me after the age it became embarrassing. I'm talking high school here, not 10 y.o. So if you want some assvice, remember your child will grow up to be his/her own person and you can't control it all.

Sorry for that aside. Now I can just say you will be a great parent and don't worry, you will not end up doing what your mom did, especially if you've thought this much about how you want to be different.

Marijke said...

Excellent post. I enjoyed reading it. Best of luck to you.