Published on August 19th, 2013 | by Malaina Poore10
HOW TO BE A GOOD MOTHER / As Told To Malaina Poore By An 11-Year-Old And A 13-Year-Old
This is a column for those of you who made promises to yourself as a child about the kind of adult or parent you wanted to be. I know that I vowed that I would always take children seriously and let them explain themselves and invite them to be involved with decision-making. This was before I knew how often kids can be irrational and seriously not forward-thinking. This was before I became a mother. And even still I have considered my children’s feelings to a fault. I am just now figuring out how to say no, and then no again, and then no again. I pretty much never say “because I said so.” My personality is permissive but anxious – a terrible mix.
It will not surprise you that my children are masters of the argument, nearly convincing me at times that they really won’t regret having a mouth full of rotting teeth and cavities when they are older or that there is no harm in wrapping a pair of duct tape “shoes” around your naked feet. Experience tells me otherwise. So I am forced to be the disciplinarian, mostly because there is no one else around to do it. And I will tell you right now that peeling duct tape from your hairy ankles hurts like a bitch.
It is important to note that I started off parenting my kids in a cabin in the woods with no television, pretend guns or sugar. I had really, really good and natural intentions. Because I stockpiled antique christening gowns and kept a file of kid’s craft ideas, I thought I’d be a natural. I’d sat with women in labor and held newborn babies and not let their heads fall off. I’d read books about groovy/painless/orgasmic childbirth and books about children who appear to be pests but come from other planets to guide us. Slowly, as we rejoined civilization, some of my sweetest ideals unraveled.
People have noted that my kids are “out-of-control” and “really, extra intense.” My daughter Isis, is 13. She is sitting in the armchair doing a Sudoko puzzle and eating string cheese. Her long blonde hair is in a ponytail on top of her head. She’s smart a whip. She is an Aries, like Gloria Steinem. Llyr is 11 and his hair hangs over his eyes. He looks like a skater but he doesn’t ride a skateboard. Sometimes he still lets me snuggle him. He is a Pisces, like Kurt Cobain. They are going through what I hope is a phase, where they fight with each other almost constantly. Like every single car ride and every single meal time.
They both agreed to answer the questions below.
What makes someone a good mom?
Isis: Just a loving mother who tries the best they can and provides the basic needs for her children.
Llyr: One thing that I really like is when they do rewards instead of punishments. Like still be a little strict, but do rewards. Figure out when your child just wants attention and when they don’t. Like sometimes kids will say, “Leave me alone,” but they really want someone to be with them when they are sad. But a lot of the time the kid actually means, “Leave me alone.”
What traits are important in a mother?
Isis: Patient. Open to new ideas.
Llyr: People pleaser. Sensitive. Lucky.
What would you do with a 2 year old throwing spaghetti off their plate and onto the wall?
Isis: Sometimes with younger age groups it works to ignore them. It’s probably worth it to just let them do it a few times and then they’ll stop when they realize that they won’t get a reaction and it’s just making the mom ignore them. But with older kids, that’s not gonna work. It only works if they are doing it for attention.
Llyr: I would take away the plate. Not that that’s the best thing to do, but….
What about 5 year old who keeps walking away in a store?
Llyr: In a store that doesn’t come over the radio saying, “Please keep your children right next to you” you can say “Stay with me or I won’t know what to get you” and then at the end get them a little piece of chocolate. It only works when they’re young because otherwise they will just take a dollar out of your purse and go.
Isis: Although it isn’t always convenient, you can make up a game they can play in the cart. It can be something that does or doesn’t require your attention, like “I Spy” or something.
Is it hard to be your age?
Llyr: No. Not really. As long as I have video games. Even though I’m not in control of very many things.
Isis: Yeah, because I don’t really get along with middle schoolers. Because they’re inappropriate and they’re rude.
What do you wish that adults knew about kids?
Isis: I wish they could understand how much kids can handle. Because under a lot of circumstances they don’t let their child do something that their child is capable of because they don’t know what the kid can and can’t do. Like staying home alone. Or just getting dropped off at the mall. Or skip a grade. Or go to college early. Or do the fake kid –version of dating.
Llyr: I wish they could remember being a kid better and what they wanted from their parents when their parents wouldn’t get it for them even if they thought, “When I’m a parent, I’ll let my kid have this.”
Do you think you will have kids of your own someday?
Isis: No. I don’t want to have kids. You have to be really patient and sacrifice a lot for someone who doesn’t appreciate it. Also you have no control on whether your kids are nice or mean or if you will have anything in common with them or if they will want to be around you.
Llyr: I think I will because I want to be able to see my kid growing up and having a good life with a wife and kids and animals. Not sitting alone in a Jeep with a stray dog and a tv that doesn’t work.
I’m one of those women who really wanted to have children. I wanted it long before my friends and long before I could find anyone to undergo such a thing with me. I worked with young children in Montesorri schools and infants at the YMCA and babysat for anyone who asked, even on New Year Eve. Sometimes I nannied for children I would come to love. With the all the money I had in the world I trained to become a birthing assistant. I really felt like I knew what I was getting into.
Around this time a new argument starts up and one kid touches the other kid and one sticks out their tongue the other one throws dirt on it. Llyr pulls at his own hair like he is being driven insane. Isis stomps back to her room. I feel increasingly aware of how many days are left before school begins. I’m about as good at mothering as I am at being thin or saving money or becoming enlightened, which is to say not as good as I’d like to be. (My husband just read this and said, “Honey, you are MUCH better at being mother than being thin.”) No one ever looks at me and says, “She makes it look so easy!” I’ve carried irate toddlers underarm and out of the bookstore while they kicked fiercely. I’ve abandoned full shopping carts at Whole Foods. All the while sweat drips from my brow and my fried hair falls from it’s braid. It has been, how do you say, a shit show. But even on our worst days I would rather do this than sit alone in a Jeep with a stray dog and a tv that doesn’t work.