5 parenting challenges I considered writing about this week

Everyone loves lists and it is a blogger’s favorite trick, so here we go:

Top 5 parenting challenges that I thought about writing for this week’s post:

1. Popular music and where to draw the line

I love music. I remember being maybe 9 or 10 and holding my tape recorder up to the radio so that I could record my favorite songs from the Top 40. I loved to listen and sing along: Duran Duran’s Hungry Like the Wolf, Billy Idol’s White Wedding, Madonna’s Like a Virgin…I didn’t understand what I was really singing about. Frankly, it was adults’ reactions to Madonna that tipped me off that something was up. My first record was Huey Lewis & the News, “Sports” which I won off a boardwalk game down the shore. I am sure my mother was thrilled as I went around singing “I want a new drug, one that won’t make me sick…” But now the shoe is on the other foot. It is disconcerting to hear my sons’ sing Ke$ha’s, Tick Tock “…brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack…” not only because of the content, but also because there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I would ever choose to listen to Ke$ha, so I have no idea where they get that. Hypocritically, I was more than happy to let them listen to Tom Petty’s Listen to Her Heart “You think you’re going to take her away, with your money and your cocaine”. I tried to sing loudly over the word “cocaine” and convince them that it was “croquet”. Of course, this didn’t work and they repeated it to their younger cousins. Whoops. And now with songs that have explicit lyrics available via Spotify and Pandora, I can’t be sure that they aren’t getting exposed to things that they shouldn’t. I wouldn’t ever want to make music “bad”, but I don’t really want to hear my 8-year olds singing about drugs or sex. It’s a pickle.

2. Dating as a single mom

This is a topic that fascinates people. I have been asked very many times: How do you meet people? What is it like? How do you handle things with the kids? Answer: I haven’t the foggiest idea. I once remarked to someone that I finally understood why traditionally people have felt it is so important to get married before having children: because meeting someone and dating while you have kids is a bit of a nightmare. To be fair, I wouldn’t say that I was ever very good at “dating” before I had kids either. I’m definitely what they call a serial monogamist. Dating is a foreign concept for me. And since I am so protective of my sons, I will not let just any old someone into our lives. Only the most amazing, trustworthy, kindest soul who won’t let us down and will love us all completely will do. And they have to make us laugh. And be able to stick by us through the busy ups and downs of our lives, all while putting up with our idiosyncrasies. So…I think I would make a good nun.

3. The woman that got fined for not having grains in her kid’s lunch 

This isn’t exactly a parenting challenge, but it kind of is, right? I mean, we all struggle with lunch. We do what we can to make sure our kiddoes get good nutrition and eat what we want them to eat. But this lady sent her child off to school with a healthy lunch and she got fined AND the school supplemented her kid’s lunch with Ritz Crackers, as if that was what made it all OK. Now it is nutritious because we added the crackers, see? Essentially, there is a government “guideline” for schools which states that a healthy lunch must have a milk, a meat, a grain, and two fruits and vegetables. And parents get fined if they don’t follow it. This was in Canada, but I can very quickly see this happening in the U.S. (Large soda, anyone?) I understand that the government wants to protect us from ourselves and keep us healthy. I understand that there is a problem with obesity and malnutrition. But I don’t think Ritz Crackers are the answer. In fact, I am trying to figure out a way to eliminate grains and processed foods from our diet because I suspect we are all being slowly poisoned by the food we eat. The government needs to stay out of it. By the way, I used to love Ritz Crackers and they are pretty much C’s favorite food, so, no disrespect to Ritz, but I wouldn’t suggest they are the key to a nutritious, balanced meal either.

4. Real and perceived judgments about single moms

C wanted to wear a dirty shirt to school the other day. For obvious reasons, I wanted him to change. He has been incredibly stubborn and difficult and I knew it was going to be a battle, but I was ready to put my foot down. However, I was surprised to hear the reason why as it came out of my mouth, “You have a mother who has a job and puts a roof over your head and provides for you. You are not going to go to school in dirty clothes looking like a street urchin whose parents don’t care”. Street urchin? Really? I’m worried that people will think I am not a good mom because he is wearing a dirty shirt? Or that it will show single moms don’t care about their kids? Where is this all coming from?  There seems to be an awful lot of judgment out there regarding parenting as a whole. Everyone is very concerned about what everyone else is doing and why and offering their opinions (judgments) on why it is good, bad, or whatever. I have my opinions, but I generally try to keep them along the lines of “this worked for me, so I like it” or “I don’t think that would work for me, so I reject it”. I have cared about other people’s opinions of me for far too long. And just when I thought I had shed that skin for good, I became a mom. A single mom, to boot.  Suddenly, everywhere I looked it seemed someone else was passing judgment about someone’s parenting idea or single moms on welfare being a drain on society. Now I seem to be taking all these judgments and internalizing them. As if I have to be an EXTRA good mom, so that people don’t dismiss my children because they are being raised by a single mom. Is this a single mom’s curse? Or just my own neuroses?

5. Our normal life

My oldest and dearest friend and I were probably 10 or 11 when we were driving to Great Adventure with her parents. It was a long drive so we amused ourselves by waving to people and trying to get them to wave back. We put signs in the window that said, “Why be normal? We’re not!” We thought this was hysterical. And so true–who wants to be normal anyway? Boring. Other people clearly approved of our message because we got quite a few honks and thumbs up. But a few nights ago, I had to hear my son say, “I just want to be normal” because he wants our family to “be like everyone else’s”. Meaning, with a dad; something that I just haven’t been able to manage to give him and maybe never will. I tried to explain that there is no such thing as “normal” and that everyone is different and unique and sameness is boring. However, I realize that for an 8-year old boy fitting in and being the same as everyone else is probably the most important thing in the world. No matter what I do or how I try to make up for it, I will never be a dad and we will never be “normal”. I just pray that I figure out a way to show the boys that our “normal” is just as good as anyone else’s.