Archive | September, 2010

When good parents act like bad children

30 Sep

Recently, I began running. None of my family and friends could believe it, but not because I am a slovenly thing. My tribe couldn’t believe I began running because I hate to run.

Why would I decide to do something I hate on a regular basis? I blame my bones. Cycling and swimming are more my style, but they aren’t weight-bearing exercise. Bones, apparently, need a regular jarring in order to maintain their integrity. So, when a friend mentioned C25K, an iPhone/iPod app designed to turn the willing from a couch potato to a 5K runner in just 9 weeks, I thought I’d give it a try. (I confess to finding out how many miles are in 5 kilometers before truly committing.)

I did it. I made it through the whole nine weeks. I went from a couch potato to a runner. I can run more than 3 miles without needing a three-day hospital stay. I’m way past nine weeks now and still running.

As promised, running has made me more fit, more confident, more energetic. It has also made me more immature.

I shall explain. Early in my running adventure, my son would brag about his own running prowess whenever I mentioned some gain I’d made.

“I run a mile every other day at school, Mom,” he would say in that “God, you’re such as loser” tone reserved for teen-parent communication.

“You’re 14,” I would say. “I am 52.” It did nothing to end the taunting.

Then, he ran with me. Actually, he ran next to me. He was on one treadmill, I was on the next. I ran slower; he ran faster. I ran a full half-hour. He bailed at about 15 minutes.

At first, I was simply amazed.

“Well, I can run faster,” he said. Hm….I thought. No pat on the back. No “Gee, Mom, you’re really doing great.” Not that he’s ever said, “Gee, Mom” to me about anything. So, I gloated.

He will no longer run with me.

Am I proud of gloating? No! Of course, not. Can I stop myself? No, of course not.

This is not the first time I’ve behaved like a bad kid instead of a good parent.

When my son was young, I would tell him that McDonald’s was closed as we drove past it at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. When he got a little older and a lot sassier, I would stick my tongue out at him behind his back. Now that he’s a teenager, I might admit that maybe, once or twice, after he’s really pushed me to the wall, I might have used an obscene gesture behind his back. Was I proud of myself? Of course not.

I am not alone. I know many parents who act like children.

One of my dearest friends assuaged my guilt by admitting that she, too, has used the obscene gesture behind the back coping strategy. I stand behind her on this (without using an obscene gesture). I know her daughter.

Another friend notes that her husband, when he can’t get his children’s attention, says, “Well, I guess you never want to drive the car.”

My own husband has said, “If you don’t put away your things and take care of them, you will never have anything you want ever again.” Of course, I will be the one responsible for enforcing that decree, but that’s another story.

When we were children, my sister and I would hide behind the bathroom door laughing while our brother was being reprimanded. I know parents who have to hide in the laundry room while their children have a tantrum because they can’t keep themselves from laughing. Admittedly, a child hopping up and down with anger can be a tremendously funny sight.

There are parents who tattle on their kids. When Mom asks who broke the lamp, for instance, Dad answers, “Your son.”

Finally, I am in awe of the mother who, after telling her children they can have no more cookies or candy, sneaks out of the room to eat just one more cookie.

Why do we do these things that make us say, “Bad mommy, bad mommy”?

Parenting is hard and it is, at least for many years, a thankless task. Neither of my children has ever thanked me for making them go to bed, denying them a toy or coercing them to eat just one bite of vegetable. There are days when they don’t even thank me for some little thing I did that I wasn’t asked to do, like straightening their rooms or occasionally doing their chores.

There are days when I feel like I’m an ok mom. There are days when I feel like I’m a great mom. And there are days when I can’t take another minute of whining, ignoring homework, begging for toys or electronics or candy or privileges. Those are the days I want to throw a tantrum, get down on the floor flailing my arms, kicking my legs and screaming about how unfair life is. Because I know that would be really bad, I do something a little less bad, like lying about McDonald’s being closed.

My son has given up bragging about how fast and how often he runs. He has made friends with a kid who runs cross-country. Now, he brags about his friend’s accomplishments. But I know how to respond.

“Mom,” he’ll say. “My friend says he can run 13 miles.”

“Fine. That’s great for him,” I say. “But how many miles can his MOM run?”

Am I mature or what?

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