Serious Parenting, Seriously

As you may know, my serious writing job is doing parenting articles for an online content provider. And by serious writing job I don’t mean serious job, I mean serious writing. Any job that you can do from your house while on hold with Apple tech support and wearing nothing from the waist down cannot be considered serious.

But in order to write about parenting, I have to read a lot about parenting. I’ve broken my old rule of Don’t Ever Read a Self Help Book and read lots of self help books on parenting troubled teens (Message: Listen to them with a sympathetic tilted head and furrowed brow and then do what you would have done anyway), parenting Terrible Twos (Message: Drink heavily and hang on until Thorazine Threes) parenting step-kids (Message: You really aren’t the boss of them, as it turns out) and everything in between.

It seems that every parent on earth is a better parent than me, except for the people on Super Nanny, who are way, way worse than me. Which is why I love that show more than some of my extended family. I’d take a bullet for Jo just so she could continue to go into people’s homes and tell them what a lousy job they’re doing as parents.

I’m going to admit some things here and prepare yourselves, since what you’re about to read may shock you, particularly the better parents among you. This is worse than last week’s revelation that I gave my son Jack a margarita when he was a toddler, thinking it was lemonade. (Funny story, yeah. Our friends were visiting and we had spent the day frolicking in the pool with lemonade and then spent the evening frolicking in the back yard with margaritas. The next afternoon I poured a lemonade-like liquid from an unmarked pitcher in the refrigerator into Jack’s sippy cup and gave it to him. With every sip he winced [later I realized that it was the kind of wince I made when doing shots]. We laughed and thought he was reacting to the sour lemon. “Have another sip, Jack.” Somewhere, God or a ghost or someone who knew what had really happened was scowling at me. A couple of hours later someone asked if there were any margaritas left. “No,” I said, “Just this lemonade.” “Nooo,” my friend said. “I finished the lemonade. “Noooooo,” I answered, “You finished the margaritas.” Meanwhile Jack was snoring, smiling and taking the longest nap he had ever had. My husband made me sign a paper I would never tell anyone about this.)

So here are the other things I’ve done that make me a worse parent than those featured in the self help parenting books:

☁ I never used 1-2-3 Magic or any other child discipline method that got the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. I shocked my play group when they were gossiping about a Brownie scout mom who “didn’t even know what 1-2-3 Magic is!”

“What’s 1-2-3 Magic?” I asked.

They spit out their daiquiris and somebody choked on a maraschino cherry.

“You don’t use 1-2-3 Magic? Oh my god!” The six of them stared at me.

Someone said snippily, “I don’t know how you could have had three kids and survived up to this point without using 1-2-3 Magic.”

Eventually, after a few more drinks, they explained to me that 1-2-3 Magic is only the most effective form of child discipline in the history of child rearing. It has something to do with counting to 3, which, when I was growing up wasn’t a parenting method, it was just what some of the more considerate dads did before taking off their belts and beating the crap out of their kids.

After listening to the explanation, I asked, “Well, what if you count to 3 and they still won’t do what you wanted them to do.” I apparently just didn’t get it. I think I had to have read the book. But that might explain why I don’t use common everyday parenting methods. I’m afraid they won’t work and then I’ll be really screwed. Which brings me to my second thing:

☁ I never put my kids in Time Out. I know, Jo is probably choking on her own maraschino cherry right now, just thinking about that. But it’s true. I don’t know whether it’s because my kids were really not that bad or I was just afraid they would look at the stool in the corner and say, “Poop on that, I’m outta here.” I just couldn’t see myself in a physical battle with my kids, even during the short period of time in which I was bigger than them.

☁ I lied for them. I am the world’s worst liar, but if they didn’t want to go to Kassy’s house to play with the Madame Alexander dolls in the boxes, I would grab the phone out of their hands and say, “Yeah, hey, Kass, the kids can’t come over today because I’m have ovarian surgery at 2.” She was little, she didn’t know surgeries aren’t scheduled for the afternoon.

There are times to teach your kids the big life lessons about truth and facing up to your responsibilities, facing the hard stuff head on, and there are times that you just have to lie for them. I always told my kids I would be their excuse, their front man, their point man, their wing man, their bag man, (I’m not sure any of those words apply, but you know what I mean), their man-who-lies-to-get-them-out-of-a-jam. To this day there are kids all over the country who think I’m the strictest mom and that the reason my kids could never come over to their houses was because of me and my surgeries.

I’m sure, according to some parenting expert, that makes me a Hovering Helicopter Parent or a Default Parent, or simply just a Lazy Scared Liar. I don’t care. Please don’t tell the readers of my serious parenting articles.

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