I’m not exactly the mother I want to be, but I’m not the mother MY mother was.
My parenting lies, as most things do, in the gray area. Stuck somewhere between my vision of myself as a parent and the reality of me on a daily basis.
I lose my patience, curse when I’m frustrated, yell, or am just too tired to do things with my kid sometimes.
He is LOVED. Unequivocally.
I grew up feeling unloved. Ignored and neglected. I was a nerdy overachiever; mathlete, spelling bee champ, valedictorian; constantly working to outshine everyone in a frantic attempt to earn my mother’s love.
She wasn’t intentionally cruel. She was a single mom, working three jobs to raise SIX children. She did the best she could.
That best included beating the SHIT out of us.
I may not be my full vision of myself as a mother, but I refuse to use corporal punishment.
In staunch opposition to what I experienced, I celebrate my kid’s accomplishments daily. He has a level of confidence that I never had — will likely never have. We tell each other we love each other many times a day.
And yet — MY KID IS SCARED OF ME.
Yep. As a mother, I can be one tough-ass bitch.
There is an ideological duality to how I raise him. I spoil him in some ways; in others, I am a demanding “Tiger Mom.”
I indulge his requests for whatever he wants me to cook. Let him have friends over whenever he’d like. I’m frequently silly, playful and laugh at all his jokes.
I have a low tolerance for disrespect. When he gets mouthy, he gets a warning. If he doesn’t change his tone, there are consequences.
He loses things. He’s currently on an extended hiatus from his tablet.
He gets grounded. He has missed outings with friends.
He is expected to do chores in my house, for which he receives a small allowance. He has to clean his bathroom, vacuum, help me fold towels, keep his room neat, help me put away groceries, pull the trash out.
He has more chores to do than any of his friends. Guess what?
I don’t give a shit.
When his stuff has somehow made its way into every room of my house, he gets warned. Then, it’s bye-bye, stuff.
I have a strict approach to academics and extracurricular activities. He doesn’t have to be perfect. But he DOES have to try his best. I don’t tolerate laziness where this is concerned.
I’m not some Draconian scourge. My kid spends PLENTY of time watching his favorite manic YouTubers and playing XBox live online. He’s an only child, so he gets All The Things.
I think I have achieved a balance. I’m both Good Cop and Bad Cop.
But I’m a single mom. If I don’t instill some fear in this kid, he’ll eat me alive when he’s a teenager. To that end, there are many times when I’m a take-no-prisoners hard-ass.
Such as last month, when I got arrested for disciplining him.
We were in my car at about 6:30 in the evening, and he spoke to me very disrespectfully. I told him, “Keep that tone up, and I will PUT YOU OUT OF THIS CAR.”
He continued in that tone. A little worse, actually.
I don’t make empty threats. I pulled over, opened his door and pulled him out of the car. He was stunned.
I didn’t do it in a fit of rage. I calculated the risks involved, something I have done pretty much on a daily basis since I gave birth to him.
It was light out. We were at a strip mall and most of the stores were still open. There were four teenagers hanging out outside. I deemed it safe.
I drove around the corner, waited less than ten minutes, and drove back.
Right as I was getting there, the police showed up.
Apparently, my kid had started crying hysterically the minute I pulled away, and someone called the police.
My first instinct was not a helpful one. I got pretty confrontational with the cops, which is NOT a good thing to do when you’re already in the hotseat. But I was outraged.
A minute later Child Protective Services showed up. I realized they had been phoned because the cops were planning to arrest me. That calmed me down real quick.
I said to the arresting officer, “Please do NOT put cuffs on me in front of my kid.”
He complied, thankfully.
It wasn’t my first time in the back of a police car, but I hope to God it’s my last. I’m getting too old for this shit.
There are no handles on the doors or any window mechanisms. There’s a grill separating you from the front seat.
It’s basically a cage on wheels.
Once at the police station, my fury dissolved when I saw how distraught my son was. My ENTIRE BEING was focused on keeping him calm.
I reassured him that the police were just making sure he was safe, that this was part of their job, and that everything would be fine.
I wasn’t so sure about that last part.
The police detained us for several hours, during which time they did whatever it is that cops do while they detain you. Masturbate to porn? Play Sudoku?
They questioned us separately.
Then, suddenly, it was all over. Apparently, they weren’t pressing charges.
My parting remark to them: “This was a waste of money, time and resources. Why don’t you go arrest the heroin dealers behind the high school football field?”
Now the investigation by social services began.
For the uninitiated, they never call. They just materialize out of nowhere. I suppose they’re hoping to catch you with a grow light and a bunch of hydroponics in your garage.
Once at my house, the social worker was almost apologetic. It was spotless, as usual. A school project we’d been working on was on the dining room table.
My refrigerator, covered in certificates for his straight A’s, was filled with healthy, mostly overpriced, organic food. Yes. They look inside your refrigerator.
When Little Dude arrived home from school, he took her up to his room to show her all his karate trophies and tell her about life in the fifth grade. How much he loves regular school, and Hebrew school, and going to Friday night services.
The case was over and done with quickly.
My anger — not so much.
I’m grateful I live in an area where there are people actually worried about the welfare of a child.
But anyone who knows me knows that being the best parent I can be is the focus of my life. Once the police were told my kid was not abandoned, but actually being disciplined, they should have butt their asses out.
It was an intensely stressful experience for me, and a frightening one for my child. More so than me putting him out of the car.
We live in a world grounded in irrational fear. I spend a lot of time trying to talk myself out of this. I don’t want my son to grow up fear-based. It’s only recently that I decided he could ride his bike alone around our development.
And still I am uneasy about it. Because if something were to happen to him, I would want to DIE.
But the statistics regarding children abducted from out in the open show that there is almost a nonexistent chance this will happen. We’ve talked ourselves into believing that our children cannot be out of our sight for a SECOND.
And what truly terrifies me?
Is the idea that my son will fall down the rabbit hole of delinquency. He’s entering middle school next year, and one wrong friend could steer him in a disastrous direction. Where I live, drugs are rampant. Heroin, in particular, is the high school drug of choice and that SCARES THE SHIT OUT OF ME. I work with teenagers, and it seems like every week another one is going to rehab.
Are the police going to help me when my kid falls in with the wrong crowd, and I’m working full-time, and by the time I realize it, it’s too late?
Will they help me get him out of a downward spiral that could ruin his life?
As much as I’m the “fun” and “cool” mom, I am also the strict mom. I need my son to have a healthy fear of me, the kind that will keep him on the straight and narrow.
If he should decide to make the kinds of choices I made, as an adult, then he’ll have to deal with the consequences, as an adult.
But it’s not happening on MY WATCH.
Were it not for getting arrested, would I still make the same decision I made that day?
If that makes me a bad mother, so be it. He’s MY child. I work my ass off to provide for him. I believe I have the right to discipline him as I see fit, barring any physical or mental abuse.
Apparently the law disagrees. They handcuff you first and ask questions later.
It’s sad that because of how some parents mistreat their children, they automatically assumed I was some crack-addled whore who pushed her kid out the car so she could give a john a quick blow jay. Or whatever it is they thought, since they obviously jumped to a worse-case scenario.
The worst part about this is that I wonder if I’ve somehow lost trust in my son’s eyes. We discussed the incident at the time. But since the law and social services felt the need to get involved, I can’t help but think that he must be left with some kind of lingering doubt about my ability to protect him.
When he’s older, and he looks back on this incident, how will I be viewed? Time will tell, I suppose.
Writing this blog post has been a profoundly disturbing experience. My stomach is in knots.
I need to sit quietly with a cup of tea and regroup for a moment.
And then I need to get started baking.
Little Dude has recently decided that iced oatmeal raisin cookies are his favorite, and I want him to have some, warm out of the oven, when he gets home.
Originally featured on Original Bunker Punks.