I’m big on consistency. As a middle child, who was the third and youngest daughter before the arrival of a first born son, my birth order experience left me with a desire for consistency for my children above all else. I tried. Correction: I’m still trying. I like to think my successes outweigh my failings in this area. I must admit complications abound when it comes to consistent parenting.
The first born. No one picked on him. Who could’ve accomplished this necessary irritation in his life with the absence of an older sibling? Should Coach and I have knocked down his lego towers and laughed? Hidden his toys and played dumb? Gobbled up the last of his favorite cookies as he watched horrified? Without life’s lessons delivered by older, annoying siblings, Laddie embarked on his school years basically unaware of unexplained mean moments, name calling, and hurtful teasing. Although Laddie was often confused and unsure of how to handle these situations, I longed to protect the rest of the gang from the same unwelcome childhood torments that his life was free of. When Laddie unleashed the teasing and in your face nonsense on each new arrival to our family as they grew and invaded his space, I quickly reminded him that his sweet early years existed without such annoying behavior. I hoped he would spare them, but that didn’t happen. As a parent, I learned that I could only control so much.
Other aspects of parenting were easier to maintain a consistent thread to. Regular bedtimes, no eating in the family room, limited TV watching, helping out with household chores, manners,. etc. We demanded the same level of attention to these details as we had from the get go. Of course our offspring break rules, complain about chores, and stay awake later now that we are involved in more activities.
Eddie’s friend’s mom assured him recently that his first cell phone would arrive any time. She was confident he would receive a phone earlier than Laddie had received his . . . the night before freshman year of high school started. I countered her thoughts, and Eddie soon understood that I wouldn’t bend on this one. No cell phone prior to the first day of freshman year. No exceptions. If I had a crystal ball, I am guessing that it would show an image of Curly’s siblings as college age students instructing me to purchase her a cell phone long before her high school career began. 'Save your breath', I would instruct them. They would know from experience. Their parents were too set in their ways to change course. Sorry, Curly.
The one inconsistent aspect of their childhood that I wish had remained the same rather than morphed into a short tempered version of her former self is . . . me. Ironic, isn’t it? Although I crave similarities among the kids’ childhoods, I have failed to stay the course. Opposed to the fun loving, playful, patient mother that began the parenthood journey 16 years ago, I am grumpy, frustrated, and busy. I try. There are carefree moments when I am not rushing around, when we enjoy a laugh, attend an event, or relax together. I squeeze in time to read with them albeit less frequently than I did with the older kids back in the day, but I try. In my defense, nowadays there are teenage attitudes to deal with, schedules to adhere to, mountains of laundry (bigger people - bigger clothes), and disgusting messes in every room in the house. The bills are more substantial, grocery bags heavier, and meals devoured faster. Even the overcrowded fridge consumes time as I try to navigate around all the stuff jammed in there just to find the jelly. Nap times have been replaced with activities, sports, and homework. Of course Coach’s hours continue to be lengthy. The kids have begun to hide from me, if they sense I am about to assign them some household chore. It’s a vicious cycle. They would prefer a life with a fun loving mother who allows more free time to play and create childhood memories, but they refuse to recognize their own role in revealing my dark side. I make very few messes, and I clean up whatever messes I cause. On the other hand, they are comfortable leaving a mess and pretending not to be involved with it. Although I am not a neat nick, I require some sense of order after awhile. They beg me not to care and I beg them to put something away without being told. Imagine the energy saved?
In all the madness, I frequently lose my cool. I am quick to let lose a string of audible cuss words. This is one huge change from Laddie’s early years. I recall preparing our family favorite 'pizza casserole' for dinner one night. Laddie, Eddie, and I planned to walk to the park before dinner. I set the oven to automatically cook the dinner. I was pregnant and arrived home from the park starving. To my dismay, I had missed a step when I set the oven. I may have even forgotten to insert the casserole in the oven. I don’t remember the details. I do remember my reaction. I used the third person combined with the word silly. Something like, ‘Silly Mommy forgot to put the food in the oven. We are going to have to wait a bit longer for dinner.’ If the same scenario happened today, it would have sounded something along the lines of: ‘Shit! I forgot to turn the oven on. God damn it! Well, we’re all going to be late now or we’ll have to eat later. Unbelievable! If someone could help me out just once.’ Words that Danny never heard are part of Curly’s everyday experiences.
Now I must go figure out what to feed the masses tonight, see if anyone bothered to put their own f-ing laundry away, discover if Curly found her face mask yet or I’ll be forced to call and get the orthodontist to prepare her a new one. Perhaps tomorrow my retro self can reintroduce herself to the children and we can go min golfing minus teen attitude, concern over the cluttered house, and unexpected swearing., but I won't hold my f-ing breath.