Thursday, June 29, 2006

Hey buddy, can you spare a $20?

Something I read today has had me thinking about what makes a good parent. Certainly not necessarily genetics...we've all seen plenty on the news about people who can reproduce who shouldn't (read: Britney Spears)...
it's something you learn, I think, as you go's hard to define, and yet when you're doing it right, somehow you just know.

For me, I think I always knew the basics - clean comfy surroundings, healthy food, immunizations and dental checkups, reading Dr.Seuss and potty training, hugs and kisses and lots of love.....
Beyond that, to some degree, it's trial and error...I used to say (and still do)"it's not perfect, but i'm trying" Dorie says in "Finding Nemo" - "just keep swimming!" There were days when I had 3 kids under 5 that I was just satisfied to keep my head above water!

Since I've been a single parent, I've had to learn balance. When my ex first left, and I barely made $30,000 a year, I was determined to be a good parent by sheer will and determination. I was up by 5:30, doing chores and getting breakfast, kids off to school or Grandma, me off to teach at my school, back home for dinner, homework, baths, books, and bedtime, then after they went to sleep I did laundry, dishes, and MY schoolwork (those papers just weren't going to grade themselves!), before collapsing on the front porch swing for a good cry. Caffiene was my best friend. And I thought I was being a good parent. I was absolutely determined that nothing would noticably change for my kids and except for the loss of their dad, there was NO difference. I was doing the work of 2 adults and wearing myself ragged. I finally HAD to take some time for myself or I was headed for total burnout.

After about 9 months of the above, I finally had to lower my standards, at least housekeeping-wise. I decided I would rather play with my kids than have an absolutely clean kitchen. Laundry (with some exceptions) would wait until the weekends.

But although I have learned to put ME first once in awhile (and for a short period of a couple months WAY back, putting me first too much), I have always been guilty of putting the kids first. My current dental problems are a prime example - I need a root canal in the worst way, but I would rather suck down Advil daily than pay for it right now. I really, desparately want new walking shoes, but they are expensive. There are too many other things the kids want and need more than my shoe desire. I so adore the fact that they have so many interests, and I would rather pay the soccer camp fee before I would buy new shoes. J. takes voice lessons and is active in scouts, R. is in Rock School and went to biology day camp, D. is going to soccer camp and participating in summer enrichment classes at school, A. has had swimming lessons and will also do soccer camp. We have been to the movies, the museum, the pool, and recently, bowling. We are soon leaving on a family vacation to Washington, DC, and will also pay a visit to Kings Island before summer is over. My children having a rich, fun, and interesting summer is a TOP priority for me.

So what lead me down this road of thought? I read something this morning about someone who has not had the money to do many of the above activities with the kids in his/her (sort of) care. I can completely understand that. I spent many, many years when my income prevented me from doing much outside the house with my kids. We made due with the backyard swingset, sandbox, kiddie pool, bikes, homemade playdough, and the public library. But what really got me is that apparently this person would rather put his/her wants ahead of the wants of the kids he/she professes to care for. Is this the sign of a good parent, even a pseudo one?

It just makes you stop and think, doesn't it?


FindingHeart said...

I have a hard time commenting on the other person since I don't know the details. I think good parents have to keep a balance on their needs/wants and the kids' needs/wants. You shouldn't do without major dentistry so kids can have more toys. Kids getting to go to camps is (are?) a great enriching thing. Every family should be given that opportunity, but reality states otherwise. You have to take care of yourself so that you are a healthy parent who will physically be able to care for kids long term. Instead of a week-long science camp this year, Mancub (6 yrs) learned the physics exploding coke bottles and engineering of building forts with pvc pieces ($10 max). He'll keep playing with the pvc for months to come. :)

HoosierGirl5 said...

F.H. -
The dental thing is an extreme example. It WILL be done, but i also WILL wait until that magical 3rd paycheck in july to do it.

i remember well when all the kids were young and we did all kinds of stuff like the PVC pipe. now my family is older and the entertainment/education focus is different. a 6 yr. old with 3 older siblings leads a very different life than that of a 6 yr.old who is the oldest. it has its advantages and disadvantages.

SweetNiki said...

I remember as a child not having a lot of money to do things -- and I learned quickly to go out and earn my own money (paper route, babysitting, etc.) but if there were something that I really needed/wanted, I always managed to get it. I don't, on the other hand, remember my parents going out and buying grown up toys for themselves -- EVER. It was all about the family. And I think I grew up with great family values.

sunShine said...

Yeah I have really been selfless since my babe was born. I barely buy anything for me because we always need diapers, wipes, new clothes for the babe, well you know !

eatmisery said...

Happy 4th of July!

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