Free at Last Mom: Raising Kids in the 80’s – Things Were Really Different

raising-kids-80sI realized the other day while grocery shopping that Moms (and kids) today are so very different from when I raised my kids. My son was born in 1984 and my daughter in 1987. We didn’t have iPads, 100’s of television stations or hand-held devices. We didn’t have fancy bouncing seats – we stood up holding and rocking – for hours! When we were in the car, we played word games or “I Spy with My Little Eye.” We didn’t have DVD players in the car – for pete’s sake we were lucky we had a car and DVD’s didn’t exist! Kids didn’t watch endless hours of DVD’s or television. We walked our little town almost everyday to the playground, to the library, to play dates. We didn’t have computers and laptops. When my son was young, we read the encyclopedia at night – yes, those great big, fat books that took up an entire shelf! Each night we would pick a new topic to learn about.

I remember grocery shopping with two kids in tow – one in the cart seat, the other walking next to me. Did they enjoy grocery shopping, I doubt it – but it is a necessary fact of life – if we don’t shop – we don’t eat. The better you behave, the quicker we get out of here! While roaming through the grocery store this week I encountered the same mother and child in each aisle. Mom appeared to be around 30 and child appeared to be around 4. Child sat in the cart (the big part where your food should go) playing games on an iPad, complaining the whole time, whining constantly and demanding to make the food choices – actually throwing out a box of cereal she didn’t want! This little 4 year girl disrupted the entire food store. Some of what she said to and demanded of her mother was disgraceful. I listened to this young Mom try to reason with this child. Why? Who’s in charge? When I raised my kids – there were no choices. You did as you were told. There were no debates – when you are old enough to vote – you get a vote – until then you do as you are told! When you are old enough to pay for the food and have a job you can decide what I buy at the grocery store. Why would anyone allow a four year old to make a decision about anything? When I said NO – there was no debate, there was no tantrum, there was no discussion. No meant No! I did not send my children to their room – why, so they can be in there playing with all of their toys! They had to sit on the steps quietly until they could come tell me what they did wrong, why they were being punished and why we aren’t supposed to do what they did. If it takes 2 minutes fine – if it takes 2 hours – oh well!

I recently read a blog post in one of the groups I belong to. The mother was writing about how she pays and bribes her child in M&M’s to poop on the potty and has continued to do it long after the child was toilet trained! Why would a child need to be bribed, rewarded or paid to do a necessary function of life. There is a huge difference between positive reinforcement and bribery or payment for teaching our children simple facts of life.

Some of today’s parents seem so much more frazzled than parents were when I raised my kids. I could be wrong but I do think the reason is they allow children way too much input. I couldn’t imagine spending the majority of my day debating with a child. I couldn’t imagine allowing a child to be in control of my home, my shopping, what they did or how it gets done, what we eat or don’t eat. Most of the world doesn’t work that way – most of the world will not cater to your child when they get out there – don’t you think it’s your job to teach them that? Don’t you think it’s your job to prepare them for that. Can you imagine when that 4 year old from the grocery store gets to school and throws a fit when she doesn’t get her own way – what a hard lesson she will have to learn at school when in reality she should have been taught that lesson at home. Make rules, teach your child the rules and enforce the rules. It makes their life so much easier in the long run.

My daughter has multiple food allergies. I never expected the world to accommodate her and she has grown into an adult that doesn’t expect everyone around her to deal with her allergies. It was my job to teach her to take care of herself. It wasn’t the schools job, the world’s job, or anyone else’s job to teach her not to eat what she couldn’t have. She went to school in the early 90’s without “peanut free” classrooms or lunch rooms, she went on planes, she ate in restaurants, she went to birthday parties – it was my job to make sure that as soon as she could talk she said “Thank you but I don’t eat anything my mother hasn’t prepared for me.” 

Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs in the world and I truly believe that 99.9% of parents do the very best they can. Did I do everything right – absolutely NOT. But I did the best I could with what I had available. I am very proud to say that my children never had tantrums and rarely, if ever misbehaved in public. My children did not get a vote or an opinion when they were children. They were told to do something and they did it and they surely did not get rewarded, bribed or paid for doing something that was a necessary part of life. Prepare your children for real life. The world doesn’t revolve your child so your child needs to learn how to live in the world around them.

I see my son do some of the same things I disagree with when it comes to his little girl. They were visiting the other day and when they left to go home, he handed her the iPad in the back seat. Why? When she is in the car with me I don’t hand her the iPad – I engage her in spelling games, math games and yes, I still play “I Spy with My Little Eye” with her. I know children today have to be taught and learn to use technology in order to survive in today’s world. However, there is a difference between teaching them to use the technology and using the technology to keep them quiet. He also does things I agree with –  I am happy to report that he does use the “sit on the steps quietly” rule!

Free at Last Mom: Learning to Let It Go!

Free Last Mom Let It Go

Hi Y’all! Free At Last Mom here! For my very first post I have to start out by saying I LOVE MY KIDS! For years, they were the most important part of every day. But – they aren’t kids anymore! My son will be 32 (Gasp!) in May and my daughter is 29. Both have lived on their own for several years, but it wasn’t until the last year or two that I was able to “Let It Go!” I was the sort of Mom that had to be in control of every aspect of my children’s lives (which was a sore point once they began living on their own). Realistically once a Mom always a Mom. The hardest part of being a Mom is realizing that your kids don’t need you anymore. They rarely ask your advice. They have their own lives that don’t include you and quite often you know nothing about what is going on until after the fact!

When they each went out on their own, I was frantic if I didn’t hear from them each day. I was crazed if I visited them and their house was not as clean as mine was. Some of my favorite lines were: “you didn’t grow up with dust in my house- you were raised better” or “your clothes were never wrinkled when you lived in my house – you were raised better.” It seemed like everything I said to them ended with “you were raised better.” And then suddenly I realized one day that I was not accepting them for the adults they had become and by not accepting them I was admitting that I was afraid that I hadn’t taught them how to take care of themselves the right way.

Starting about two years ago I made a conscious effort to let them live their own lives, because I couldn’t live my life until I let them go. It was a hard process! In the past if I hadn’t heard from them by a certain time each day I would call just to check in. That was the first thing I let go – it was hard – it made me crazy – I picked up the phone 3 or 4 times every afternoon to call one of them, and then I would put it down and tell myself to wait for them to call. And guess what? After a few days each of them called to ask why they hadn’t heard from me! Next, when I visited their homes I never said a word about the dog nose prints on the windows and doors and the few dishes in the sink (when the dishwasher is right next to the sink) or a little bit of dust. I will admit after a visit I get in the car and go on forever to their father about those things because after all “they were raised better!” but I don’t say it to them.

The final and hardest transformation I made was not forcing my opinion or advice on them. Now when they ask a question I always tell them what I would do followed by “you have to make your own decisions – I can’t tell you what to do. You have to do what is best for you.”

These days my kids call to check on me. My husband and I live a simple, free life – doing as we please, when we please. It has taken me several years to not worry about what the kids are doing or where they are going – when they need me, they will let me know. It hasn’t been easy but after several years of worry I have “Let It Go” and I am loving every minute of every day! My bathrooms are always clean. When I need something it is exactly where it is supposed to be. I no longer have to hide my favorite snacks. I can spend each and every day doing exactly as I please. So, what do my days consist of now that I am free? I can pick up and travel whenever I please. I can eat when I want to. I can sleep when I want to. I can go out all day and only come home when I feel like it! The possibilities are endless! Because I’m a Free At Last Mom!

Free Last Mom Let It Go