Why we sometimes let our kids be brats
Don't we just love to judge other parents...?
"If that was my kid, I’d never let him throw food like that." "I would make her say please." "Why are parents so terrified of their own spawn?"
Oh yes, I have said and thought all of these things and more… and then my kid turned two…
And what I learned was that fear has nothing to do with it…. I am not afraid of my kid, in fact I am completely immune to screaming. What does drive me, as a sleep-deprived mum of two little ones, is conservation of energy... my energy.
Because there are only twenty four hours in a day and it is exhausting imparting a moral code and social skills to an easily distracted, psychotic midget who doesn't care why they can't have ice-cream for dinner.
Sometimes I look the other way when my two year old puts her feet on the dining table, because it hurts to interrupt my pleasant conversation with another adult in order to explain, not once, but fifty times, that feet do not belong where we eat.
Sometimes I let her slam the kitchen cabinet doors for ten whole minutes, because telling her to stop means having to come up with an alternate activity, which I can't always manage, since she generally chooses to slam things when my hands and attention are otherwise engaged!
I admit, I have become a person who will do anything to avoid having to say something twice (or ten times), and if that means letting her remove all her clothes and run around the garden in the raw, then so be it (it hasn't made her sick yet).
Don't think I haven't tried it the hard way. I have spent forty five minutes walking her the length of two blocks, explaining over and over why we don't pick half-chewed, semi-digested Cheerios off the sidewalk, and then stood there as she had a full on screaming fit complete with collapsing to the ground.
But then, one day I let her eat that dog-pee covered Cheerio, and the screaming stopped and we were home in five minutes (and she never got sick either).
No matter how much we tell ourselves otherwise, sometimes (often!) ignoring is better than confrontation, bribery is better than extortion, and I have sheepishly joined the ranks of parents who use M&Ms to potty train their kids.
Of course I do have limits, I did take the bread knife away from her the other day and redirect her to the coloring books, though that’s only because I happened to not be feeding the baby, cleaning the dishes or doing my taxes, at that exact moment!
Because with only 24 hours in a day, if I really wanted to interrupt every single unreasonable, annoying and sociopathic behavior, we’d never make it beyond breakfast.
So to mothers everywhere, take deep breaths, pick your battles and don’t worry, your babies won't grow into social outcasts just because you send them to bed without making them put away their toys. It is okay to let your kids be brats sometimes, they won't be brats forever...
And to the childless out there, stop judging us. I mean seriously, didn’t your parents teach you that it’s rude to judge…
Why your childless girl friends are worth their weight in gold
When you become a mom, remember to hold onto your childless girl friends, because more than ever, they will be worth their weight in gold. That's right, most of us new moms ditch those single gals, whose priorities are now so different from ours. But in spite of the radical lifestyle differences, accompanied by the misconception that we must run headlong into the nearest circle of new moms, it won't be long before we learn that our childless friends still have so much to offer...
After two years as a mom, it has finally dawned on me that my interactions with mom friends is at best frustrating (at worst hurtful), whilst interactions with childless friends continues to be satisfying. With childless friends we can finish a conversation and enjoy one another's undivided attention, whilst with moms I'll be halfway through a sentence before noticing that I'm talking to myself, as mommy has just been distracted by toddler. I have a toddler too, but unless she's in immediate danger I tend to let her do her own thing while I converse with the adults (maybe that's the French in me, for those who've read Bringing Up Bebe).
In spite of becoming a mother, I continue to enjoy (and need) the experience of getting completely lost in a conversation, and unless I see blood or an eyeball rolling my way, the person with whom I am conversing will continue to enjoy my undivided attention.
Well I must be the only mother to retain this desire to feel connected to other people, to hold eye contact, and to listen and respond in conversation (you know, the way childless people communicate), because this has not been reciprocated by other moms to whom I once related as friends. All too often these moms will enter a conversation with just half their attention and will only ever be half listening. Before I've completed a sentence they'll lurch toward their toddler who did nothing, and I mean nothing, to warrant the distraction other than move from one end of the living room to the other. Because believe me, nine out of ten times, the child is doing nothing to harm themselves or others, and could be left happily to play with my child whilst the adults interact. I don't know why not one mom with whom I've had a play date gets that.
All too often we moms complain about how lonely and isolating new parenthood can be, and are advised to seek solace in the company of other moms. I can only say that an afternoon of broken sentences with a distracted individual only serves to amplify my dysphoria and sense of isolation. On the other hand those wonderful childless friends give me just the fix of meaty, social interaction that I need to sink my teeth into. Conversations flow, points are made, jokes are told and punch lines are reached. And all this with my kids in the room!
I respect my friendships as much as I need them, and just like I wouldn't want to be distracted from the last chapter of a good book, I wouldn't want my toddler to unhook me from a juicy conversation. Why other moms don't appear to feel this way, I don't know. Maybe they genuinely believe that if they remove their eyes from their child, even for the duration of a sentence, disaster will strike. Perhaps I simply lack maternal instinct for not being compelled to jump, jerk, twitch and tic every time my little darling so much as glances in another direction. Or perhaps I am so terribly boring that they hide behind the child as an excuse to not have to properly interact with me. Either way, I regularly come away from time spent with moms feeling deflated and rejected, but from time spent with childless friends feeling invigorated and renewed.
Having said all this, being blessed with children is a gift and I wouldn't wish a person to remain childless if they didn't want that. The point is, it seems to be a rare and special person (I know two and hopefully they know who they are) who retains good social skills after becoming a mom. The rest, sadly become very good at making you feel rotten, and are best 'enjoyed' in small doses.
Is this really the new definition of friendship?
When did it become okay for friends to have strong opinions about my diet, lifestyle and marriage? I grew up in a world where you supported your friends no matter what, and the only grounds for dumping a friend was if they were unpleasant directly to YOU.
Nowadays, it seems the rules of friendship have changed. You can be friends with someone for years, yet God help you if you make a bad personal decision that has absolutely no impact on them at all. Because you are liable to be judged and then dumped!
I have been dumped by a friend who disapproved of my high chocolate diet, deemed too selfish by another who disagreed with my point of view in an argument with my husband. Yet another friend couldn't stomach that I didn't rush back to work after baby number one, whilst one especially heinous individual turned on me after reading my portrayal of certain family members in my book. None of these friends dumped me for directly offending them.
It's pretty terrifying when you think that the cardinal rule for friendship has morphed from a requirement to be kind and supportive to your friends, to a requirement to be mindful that your personal lifestyle choices do not displease them.
Personally it has never occurred to me to dump a friend because I didn't approve of their diet, relationships or how many days a week they work. Perhaps I am too basic with my criteria for friendship limited to whether we can pass a pleasant evening together.
Clearly though, self-assigning oneself as the morality police is the new definition of friendship these days, and I didn't get the memo. Which I do find strange since there is always background and other intricacies unknown to the external eye, yet it is still okay to disregard all that and pass judgement anyway.
I do love to chat as much as the next person, but these days am constantly biting my tongue before revealing anything about myself lest it spawn judgement, hatred and ultimately rejection.
So to anyone reading this, I would like to say, seriously, unless you live in my head, are a fly on my wall or sleep under my bed, your role as friend is to respect and support every choice I make, in much the same way that I respect and support all your choices. You have no right to judge me. Certainly you are entitled to your opinion, and even to proffer advice, but to re-evaluate a friendship based on your belief that I should have let hubby go to the game last week, is taking it one step too far.
So please, I'd like to be friends the old fashioned way. Or not be friends at all...
Five quick tips to tell if you are suffering from OCD
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder that is characterized by recurrent, unwanted thoughts (obsessions), that produce a sense of dread or alarm. Persons then engage in repetitive behaviors (compulsions) in an attempt to rid themselves of the obsessive thoughts and calm the anxiety.
If you suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, then the chances are you will relate to most of the following points:
1) Are your thoughts persistent and repetitive, going round and round in your head like a song? My hands are dirty, my hands are dirty, are my hands dirty, maybe they aren't, maybe a little, ok I'll wash them again just to be sure.
2) Do you feel you have to repetitively perform behaviors in order to quiet your thoughts? Count to 10, avoid cracks in the pavement, clean over and over, check the front door, have specific numbers of things…
3) Do your thoughts prevent you from concentrating on anything else? Such as reading a book or following a conversation? When reading, for example, you might read the same sentence over and over and never actually take it in, because your obsessive thoughts are overwhelming you.
4) Do your rituals prevent you from functioning normally in everyday life, making you late for work every day or even unable to leave the house at all?
5) Do your thoughts and behaviors cause you significant distress, anxiety and tears?
If you answer yes to most of these then it’s safe to say that you may suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder. If you do suffer from OCD then you want to get help. OCD is a biological disorder of the brain, which will not just go away on its own. Don’t suffer in silence and don’t try to do it alone. OCD is a hard illness to live with, and treatment options exist, so there is no need to suffer unnecessarily.
Learning a valuable lesson
When things go wrong, people love to say that it doesn't matter because at least you've learned a valuable lesson in life. To be honest there are many lessons about human nature that I wish I had never learned. Am I the only one to feel that way? Are all lessons good ones? I don't believe so, because if all lessons were good, all people would feel empowered by life and there would be no bitterness, anger or cynicism.
Personally, I don't need tragedy or 'little mishaps' to learn.... we are all born with common sense and know the difference between right and wrong. Sayings are cute ... but in the long run they don't do much to help in situations that shouldn't have been situations to begin with. Plus we can also learn from positive experiences, and I would much rather learn that way.
Bad mother, useless human being
I constantly feel like a bad mother.
Other parents seem to have boundless time and energy to expose their children to all experiences necessary for them to hit every developmental milestone spot on, whilst also holding down a full time job. They take their babies to swimming classes - I would rather torch myself alive than bring one skin cell into contact with a public pool changing room. They do baby yoga - I never even mastered adult yoga, what on God's good earth would make baby yoga seem like a good idea?
When I see children in parks, I wonder whether I take mine out enough. When my friend's one year old uses sign language, I ask myself whether I should devote hours teaching my baby tricks like a circus animal. When the pediatrician presents a list of milestones that my daughter should have reached and I confess that I'm not certain whether she's assigning sounds to any particular thing yet, I am half expecting them to call social services and have me arrested for neglect. When only my husband can convince her to eat all her food and only my mother can get her to sleep on a plane, I am ready to kill myself for being so useless.
And my child is not even two years old. How do parents survive their children's entire childhoods without committing suicide or reporting themselves to the authorities? Every single day I encounter something that makes me feel like the worst, weakest and laziest mother in the world.
Other people's babies eat broccoli and know how to use a spoon. Most of them walk by one year of age. How much input came from the brilliant, amazing, selfless parents and how much did the kids just figure out for themselves? The good news is that my thyroid is slow, so some days I can avoid feeling like I don’t deserve to be alive by using that as the reason why all other parents seem to have boundless energy while I can barely recruit the calories needed to change a diaper.
Now with number two on the way, I can't say I am jumping for joy at the thought of yet another billboard of all my failings as a human being. I finally understand why my own parents were sometimes harsh and critical f me. If they'd assumed responsibility for all of my failings as a child, they would have fed themselves through a meat grinder long ago. I wasn’t a bad child, but I didn’t set the world on fire either. And if all parents are programmed to feel as guilty on a daily basis as I do as a parent, then I can see why that would be enough to drive any human being over the edge.
Often I look at my gorgeous little angel with so much untapped potential and feel deeply that I don't deserve her. Yet I also feel like the luckiest person in the world to have been blessed with such a loving child. I only hope that years from now, she can forgive all my inadequacies. To this day I'll never understand why parenting is treated like a second rate job. As someone who enjoyed a thriving career as a neuroscientist, I can honestly say that parenting is the hardest job I've ever had to endure. For those who still don't get it, every day is like climbing a mountain carrying a back pack full of rocks. Parenting is an exercise in motivation, discipline and constant self doubt unlike any other job in the world. The only people who could come close to relating are professional athletes. Anyone with any sort of desk job can keep dreaming if they think it comes close to the physical hardship endured by parents of young children. And Anne-Marie Slaughter, in her article, Why women still can't have it all, is absolutely right, when she implies that women should be recognized and lauded for their jobs as mothers.
I know some women, bankers no less, who see having children and choosing to take time out to look after them as a betrayal to the feminist cause. As a woman of a certain age, I have temporarily quit work to have all my children back to back. Crazy, I know, considering I have taken to parenting like a fish to air. Believe me when I say that I can't wait to go back to gainful employment, which seems like a holiday in comparison to mothering. And I will never again complain of a hard day's work.
Meantime though, I find myself repeatedly justifying and apologizing for my current life choices, trying to convince the world (and myself) that I am not lazy, and that I am not the worst mother in the world.
'No' is not just a word
When people say, "give it a try, the worst that can happen is they'll say no," what they don't understand is that 'no' is not just a word. Often when someone says 'no', especially when that 'no' is perceived as unjust, it sparks feelings of frustration, anger and indignance, and at worst can ruin your entire day.
When I asked the bus driver whether myself, my stroller and my 8 months pregnant belly could use the disabled ramp to get on the bus (this would have cost him no more than to move forward a foot toward said ramp), he said 'no'. The ramp is only for disabled persons in wheelchairs, and I am not in a wheelchair. I of course felt that the ramp is for anyone who is physically compromised, whether a struggling pregnant mum, an old person with a cane, or someone on crutches.
Have you ever seen someone on crutches bounce up a flight of steps? You'd want to pull up a seat and whip out the popcorn because that would be a performance. Yet according to Mr Jobsworth bus driver, that's exactly what the guy on crutches would need to do.
More often than not, bus drivers have been kind and allowed me use of the ramp. But this particular incidence of uncalled for jobsworth nastiness put a dent in my day, stole yet another slice out of my ever dwindling belief in the inherent goodness of humanity, and made my head so hot with anger that by the time I got home I was in tears and stuck with a throbbing headache. I have never tried to use the ramp again, and instead struggle at great risk to myself and kids and at great delay to the other passengers to hoist my enormousness up the steps. And I always think twice before leaving the house.
I will also avoid asking to use a restaurant's restroom, even though, as a heavily pregnant woman, they are not allowed to turn me away. Because when they do turn me away (or worse still pretend there is no restroom, in which case one wonders do the employees pee on themselves?), I don't realistically know how to enforce my right other than by ending up in a pointless argument with some nasty nobody who is enjoying a petty power trip.
There are days when I think, if I could live in a hole with very few needs, then I would avoid the nastiness of strangers altogether. But as a woman with children I can't do that. I have to face the world every day for their sakes. I have to teach them the meaning of the word 'no', but I also have to teach them to stand up for themselves in a world filled with nasty 'no's. My own father would advise that some people are not worth fighting with, and by that he means people like the nasty bus driver. But maybe his head doesn't get all swimmy and hot when he is dealt a petty injustice. Or maybe he is wiser than me.
Interestingly when someone I know says no, it doesn't irreparably crack my psyche. I wonder if anyone else feels that 'no' is so much harder to take from strangers. Perhaps because strangers mean it with malice, whereas persons we know tend to have a valid reason that we can sooner or later come to respect. Unless they are genuinely mean or have lost their minds, in which case they become added to that sad list of 'people I used to call friends.'
Either way, how does one defend against the unjust 'no', enjoy a full life and not become bitter, cynical and hateful of strangers? How can one remain charitable and kind, when strangers are our worst enemy?
I don't have the answer to that. If I did, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops every day! All suggestions are greatly welcomed...
10 Things not to say to a new mom
So you’ve just experienced the miracle of birth. Isn’t it wonderful. And now you are the proud and exhausted mum of the cutest little angel in the world. Family and friends come over to coo. Everyone is smiling and celebrating this new life.
Well, everyone that is except certain individuals, who for reasons known only to themselves, are incapable of being supportive and can’t resist saying the most insensitive things.
Why these people feel compelled to steer away from the customary, “what a cutie,” “well done new mum,” and “is there anything you need?” remains a mystery. But they do. And more often than not, we’ve all had to endure at least one such person.
So here are ten asinine comments that no new mom wants to hear:
1) "You look so well and relaxed."
Actually I've lost a ton of blood, have stitches down below, my nipples feel like they’ve been through a cheese grater, I haven't had a bowel movement in ten days, and I've slept less than three consecutive hours in the last two weeks. I am NOT well and relaxed, and the fact that you can't see that only serves to increase my feeling of isolation. I can't believe I ever chose such a self-absorbed person as a friend.
2) "You need a break. Leave the baby with your mum and I'll take you out to dinner."
Thanks but when my mum takes the baby off my hands, I’ll relax by SLEEPING!
3) "I can't believe you didn't hear about that hurricane in ....?"
Well believe it! Because right now, current events are not a priority.
4) "I can't talk to you like we used to. All you talk about is babies."
Why don't you bear with me for a few weeks?!. As soon as I get the hang of this insanely steep learning curve, I'll be back to my old self. Though I might reconsider whether I'll still want YOU as a friend!
5) "Have a glass of wine."
Looking after a new baby is hard enough. I don't need the added challenge of doing it with a hangover!
6) "It's selfish not to breast feed."
Get your own baby and mind your own business!
7) "I remember when my son/daughter was that age."
I don't want to hear from people whose son/daughter is no longer that age. I want to hear
only from people who are suffering the sleepless nights, lack of freedom and steep learning curve. The fact that you went through it and now have your freedom back is not something I need to hear at this particular point in time.
8) When you were little everything was easier, cheaper, cleaner, nicer. You could get your child into any school you wanted for a fraction of the price and be guaranteed a state of the art education. Food was fresh, diapers were cheap and house prices were through the floor.... and so on and so on.
How could it possibly help to be told that life is harder just as I begin taking on the very real and terrifying challenge of parenthood? Unless of course your motivation is to make yourself feel good at my expense. In fact don't even try to fool me into thinking that in 1972 when you held your own baby in your arms you really felt that life was oh so easy. Saying stuff like that is cruel, gratuitous torture, and puts you at risk of being pummeled you to death with a dirty, overpriced Pamper!!
9) "I lost all the baby weight in the first week."
There is no civilized response to this.
10) "Are you planning another baby?"
I've just squeezed out this one. Right now I'm not even planning another bowel movement, let alone a baby. What is even going through your head?!
I’m sure there are many more insensitive no no’s out there. So feel free to share some of the outrageous ‘advice’ to which you have been subjected.
Occasionally though, someone will surprise you with advice that will resonate and carry you through the toughest times. I’d like to share the two most important pieces of advice that I ever received, and that repeatedly kept me sane in those times of doubt.
1) Always bear in mind that everything your child does is a phase. So if he won't eat this week, he'll probably be over it by next week. If he throws a tantrum, he will grow out of it. If he likes to fling food on the floor, he won’t still be doing it years from now.
2) All babies develop at their own rates, so just because your best friend's precocious little thing is up and running at 8 months of age, while yours isn't even showing signs of crawling, doesn't mean there's anything wrong with your baby. Chances are your friend is exhausted and jealous of your super chilled little angel.
So moms don't worry about baby's fluctuating appetite, bowel movements, size of baby, time to grasp, time to crawl or time to walk. Your aim in that first year is to effectively sleep train your baby and to show him / her lots of affection.
Oh yes, and try not to strangle those insensitive people who simply, for the life of them, can’t bring themselves to say something intelligent.
What not to say to someone with OCD
People say the darnedest things. And sometimes they say the most insensitive things. Whilst it’s great that obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) has received enough media attention that it’s no longer a dirty secret, it is obvious that many people still fail to understand the true severity of this anxiety disorder. When people say things like “I’m so OCD about that,” what they don’t get is that were they really suffering from OCD they would be trapped in an endless cycle of intrusive thoughts and anxiety, held hostage by their own minds, and often barely able to function in their lives. So whilst it’s great that sufferers of OCD can freely say they have OCD without being confronted with questioning looks, we the listeners need to respond appropriately. And this begins with knowing what not to say.
1) “How bad can it really be?” So bad that it can take hours just to leave the house. If we even ever make it out of the house. And the only relief comes during sleep. It's an incessant nightmare that never lets you go, not even for one second.
2) “I’m also a bit OCD about things like that.” There’s a huge difference between keeping a neat and tidy home and suffering from incessant, intrusive thoughts and compulsions over which you have no control, no matter how exhausted you are.
3) “Snap out of it.” OCD is not fun. If we could snap out of it, we would!
4) “Why can’t you just think about something else?” OCD is a biological disorder of the brain. We can’t control our thoughts any more than a diabetic can control their production of insulin.
5) “It’s because you don’t have any real worries.” We feel guilty enough as it is, you don’t need to make us feel any worse.
6) “Let’s go out and get drunk.” OCD is an anxiety disorder, and alcohol use only makes anxiety worse. Interestingly, one of alcohol's many side effects is the depletion of the neurotransmitter, serotonin. Sufferers of OCD already have low serotonin, hence the success of the serotonin reuptake inhibitor drugs in treating OCD. So when someone offers you alcohol, the answer is thanks but no thanks.
7) “It’s because your parents were too controlling.” Actually for once, parents are not to blame. OCD is a neuro-biological disorder, meaning that we were born this way.
So please, people, think before you speak.
How to tell someone you have OCD, without embarrassing yourself
When I was a child, before I’d ever heard of the term obsessive compulsive disorder, I didn’t know what to make of my thoughts, other than that they were embarrassing and had to be kept secret at all costs.
Fortunately today, OCD is well recognized, so most people have heard of it. However, without personally experiencing the horror of OCD symptoms, it’s unlikely that others will understand the serious grip that OCD has on a person. This is only made worse if your particular set of symptoms falls in the embarrassing end of the spectrum, like the woman who avoided seeking help for twenty-four years because she was too embarrassed to reveal she thought she had semen on her hands.
To add insult to embarrassment, gathering the courage to describe your OCD symptoms out loud can be a huge anti-climax. Words are insufficient and do little more than trivialize the agonizing vice-like hold that OCD thoughts and compulsions have on your brain.
To quote from A Life Lived Ridiculously:
I just didn’t see how I could possibly explain all this to another person such that they would get it. ‘Hi, doc, I’m here because I don’t like the lampshades in my apartment and I can’t decide where the TV should go.’ ‘I’m a doctor, not an interior designer,’ is the response I would expect. ‘Yeah, but it really bothers me.’ ‘Well, my wife won’t let me take the pool table out of the basement and that really bothers me.’
So here are some ways that you might use to broach the subject of your OCD:
1) Introduce the conversation by talking about some of the many famous people who openly have OCD. David Beckham, Miley Cyrus and Daniel Radcliffe have talked openly about their struggles with the condition.
Well respected historical figures, such as Charles Darwin, Samuel Johnson and Florence Nightinglale, were also thought to have OCD.
This allows you to gage whether your audience knows about OCD and also allows you to get some clues as to whether your audience is likely to be sympathetic or not.
2) Draw people’s attention to the well known TV programs that deal with OCD.- Detective Monk television series- Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets. - Obsessed3) I read an interesting article / novel about OCD. With so much information online and in bookstores, it’s easy to inform people. Some great memoirs about OCD include: - Devil in the details by Jennifer Traig- It’ll be ok: How I kept OCD from ruining my life by Shannon Shy- Memoirs of a Born Shlepper: Never Give OCD a Third Thought by Rod Fadem- Rewind, Replay Repeat: A Memoir of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Jeff Bell- A Life Lived Ridiculously by Dr Annabelle R Charbit
Reading a memoir allows your audience to gain a deep insight into what it’s like to live every day with OCD.
4) It happened to a friend of mine. Talk about your symptoms as though they were someone else’s, Then gage the reaction of your audience.
5) If you don’t wish to speak face to face with someone, you may always email links about OCD.
6) Explain to others that OCD is a physical illness, no less so than hypothyroidism or heart disease. Understand that OCD is a biological disorder of the brain and learn the neurological pathways (the OCD circuit). Eg the error centers of the brain are overactive due to a lack of serotonergic activity in the orbitofrontal cortex. Some great resources include:
- Brain Lock: Free Yourself from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder by Jeffery M Schwartz
- Getting Control by Lee Baer
- Tormenting Thoughts and Secret Rituals: The hidden Epidemic of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder by Ian Osborn
7) Join online forums and support groups, and practice talking about it with other sufferers until talking about it becomes second nature.
- OCD Tribe
- Neurotic Planet
- OCD Action
- Psych and Mental Health
- Support Groups
- Social Phobia World - Stuck In A DoorwayYou may also encounter persons with more moving ways to describe their daily torment, which you can adopt when describing yours.
Will any of these tips make your audience really understand your pain? Probably not. But it will help you to inform others in a way that is easily accessible to them and hopefully not so embarrassing for you.