Thursday, June 3, 2010


A few years ago I saw an interview on local television (full disclaimer...I can't remember where I was physically located while I was watching this so it might not be the town I currently live in. Or it might be. I can't remember) in which a woman sobbed to the camera about about how her son was killed by the police. Murdered by them. Gunned down in the street like a dog.

It was tragic. It was horrifying. The woman, this child's mother, was destroyed. Heartbroken. Sobbing. Devastated. As a mother, heck as a human being, I really felt for her.

The rest of the story was that he was a drug addict, high on something, and trying to kill the police officers. That woman's son fired the first shot. While none of that makes the woman's story less tragic (probably it makes it more tragic), the whole thing has been on my mind lately because of other things that have been on my mind.

Like a kid who gets to be called the co-Valedictorian because, even though his grade point average was lower than the REAL Valedictorian, no one wanted his feelings to get hurt. Like the four-year old I saw thrust a Princess glass at her mother, snap her fingers and demand, "WATER!" and the mother who obediently filled her cup. Like the kids in my neighborhood who walk right out in front of cars driving on the road, assuming that the cars will swerve out of their way because they can't be bothered to look. Not them. Never mind the damage they could cause to themselves and others. Someone else can worry about that.

We're failing our kids, you guys. We really are.

I believe that my first job in life is to be a mother to my kids. I've always felt that if you don't have kids, you can do whatever the Hell you want with your life. If you want to drink martinis off someone's butt, help yourself. If you want to make reckless, irresponsible choices, have at it. If you want to sleep around, well, get to humping (as my dear friend Leah would say). But I think once you have a child, you don't get to screw up like that (voluntarily) because you have to be responsible for someone else. You have to put them first. I feel like if you voluntarily bring someone into this world, it's your duty to do your best to not mess them up. Not saying you can't have a life. I do and it's a pretty awesome one. A lot of it includes them and quite a lot of it doesn't include them. They still come first.

I know that grinds some people's gears, but I believe that when I became a mother I gave up the right to put myself first. I willingly and voluntarily gave up that right. That does not mean that I never do anything for myself and it does not mean that I spend my entire life doing things for my kids. It means, in my life, that what they need comes before what I need and they always and forever will get the last piece of bread, even if it's the end piece which I really, really love. It means I drag my ass to Tae Kwon Do when I'm exhausted and want to sit on the couch and watch "Maury" so I can see if Big Pimpin' Willie really IS the father (the answer: usually). It means I have long, detailed conversations with them about everything from miscarriage to the meaning of life, even though I don't feel like doing that because sweet Fancy Moses is it uncomfortable. It means that when I mess up, I admit it, live with it, and even apologize. And it means that when they mess up, they pay the consequences.

The worst part of being a mother, by far, is having to punish them. I really, really like my kids as people and someday I would love to be good friends with them. This can't be the day. I have to be the mom. I hate to see my kids cry. I. hate. it. I hate when they mess up (and God knows they mess up). I hate when *I* mess up (and GOD KNOWS I mess up). I wish that we could have that perfect baking Toll-house cookies version of life that I believed, for God knows what reason, I would grow up and have. But it's not. We're real people. My kids need guidance and sometimes they need to be punished. It's up to me to do both. Not up to the Police Officer or the neighbor or the Sunday School teacher. It's on me.

It's also not up to the Sunday school teacher or the Police Officer or the neighbor to show them compassion. I'm pretty sure if I'm a Police Officer and someone is firing a gun at me, I'm going to shoot back. That's part of the training they go through, I'm almost positive. You can't just let someone shoot you in the head. You have to act. Innocent people could get killed. Even more lives could be destroyed. You can't think, in that moment, about the momma who is going to be crying on the local news about her dead son.

It's tragic. Every bit of it.

I don't know if that momma did everything she could. I believe in my heart that a lot of parents do. I think they punish. They are loving, but firm. They pray. They send them to rehab. They ground them, they take away privileges, they scream, they cry and then they pray some more. They lose their minds with grief and they sometimes they lash out when they just can't take it anymore. They practice tough love even when it's killing them inside and still, for whatever reason, the kids don't turn out. I'm keenly aware that I can do everything in my power to raise decent human beings and in six years my children could be drug addicts or robbers or murderers or something even worse that I don't even know about. I'm aware that mental illness runs through my family tree and that my children could become people I don't even know at all. I know, quite painfully, how it feels to have someone you love turn their back on you. Reject you. Hurt you. I knew all this when I took on the role as their mother. All I can do is the best I can do.

I guess that's my point though. We (and I include myself here for a reason) need to do the best we can do. If our kid does something wrong and destroys someone else's property, we need to apologize and fix it, not scream in the homeowners face about how "my kid can do whatever he wants!" and whatnot. We need not curse repeatedly at every stupid driver we encounter (I'm looking inward on this one, I promise. Hard) and then act all surprised when our kid thinks everyone is a sucky driver but us and tells the pastor about it. We need to speak kindly to our spouses even when they are being a complete freaking dillweed and we want to stab them in the neck. Because we need to show them how adults treat each other so they can have some hope of having positive relationships in their future. And then we can stab our spouses in the neck in private. (No. Don't do that really)

We need to make our kids accountable. WE need to be accountable. Every one of all of us.

I'm going to do better. I'm not going to be perfect, ever, but I'm going to be better.

It's my responsibility. It is my privilege. It is my honor.


Christina Berry said...

I TOTALLY feel you on this post. You are absolutely right that we're failing our kids. We aren't doing enough. Maybe it's because Hillary Clinton once said "it takes a village". Well you know what? The village isn't responsible for your kids. YOU ARE. Sure, surrounding your children with positive, inspiring, responsible people is important, but raising them will ALWAYS be the PARENT'S job.

Now, on the other hand, I do believe that a parent can only do so much. I believe that a parent can do everything right and still end up with a wayward child. That's because once they're out of our care, they make their own choices. What they choose, despite what they were taught growing up, may not be the right choice.

The mom in question may have done everything right and ended up with a kid who insisted on marching to the beat of a different drummer. Or maybe she was a terrible mom. Either way, like you said, it's a tragic story and my heart breaks for her.

Allie said...

I love this post, I can totally relate (especially about kids walking in front of cars, I hate that crap). My job is to be the best parent I can be and to never stop trying to be a better one, we all make mistakes but hopefully it won't be huge and screw up our kids for the rest of their lives. I worry about the future generation when they become adults, they're going to think life is all sunshine and rainbows bc their parents shielded them from reality and responsibility. My only peace of mind is knowing that I'm raising my kids to be responsible for their actions and to be mindful of others and hopefully it will stick.

Christy said...

Stephanie, you are AWESOME. This post really resonated with me and you have encouraged me to do better as well. There are many days when I wonder why I'm bothering actually parenting my children since everyone else seems to be raising sociopaths & nothing I'm teaching my children will be valued by society.
But, you're right. It's still my job and whether the rest of the world goes to hell in the Concorde or not, I'm gonna do it.

Squishybluefrog said...

Amen sista!

Jill said...

I tweeted and facebooked this out. I can't agree with you more. Recently a group of kids ran out in front of our truck (we had baby with us) and I simply stared at them. It's a miracle we didn't hit them. They YELLED at us what the he** are you staring at. My life flashing before my eyes, and my baby's, thanks to you, you little punk. But I didn't say that, I just turned my head away. This world has gone crazy with the helicopter generation of parents just excusing everything their kids do for 1, and for 2, doing stuff for them so that they are crippled in all ways. You can bet my kid won't be doing any of those things.

diane rene said...

amazing post, Stephanie, and it seems to be a topic of the day for me. I just finished reading an article on how all of our "self esteem boosting" in classrooms and at home is leading us into a narcissistic future - where our soon to be adults are only caring about how THEY feel and not about what is best for most.

empathy is dying. so is responsibility. sad times

Rachel said...

Amen to all of that.

Kathy said...

Absolutely LOVE this post!!!!

KT said...

Well said!!!

KT said...

Well said!

Tarasview said...

I love this post too... it brought tears to my eyes AND made me laugh outloud... an impressive accomplishment.

*insert me yelling PREACH IT SISTER! here*

Thanks Stephanie...

CPA Mom said...

not to be all snarky on this very thoughful post but all I could think was "and THAT my friends, is why I didn't stab MY Husband for being a jackass this morning." xoxo