Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Perfection?

What's the perfect mom?

When I was a twenty-something mom with my older children, I was the ubermom I've referred to in earlier posts. My kids not only took music lessons starting at three or four years old at Vanderbilt, but they were the top students. They practiced a couple of hours each day, showed up for every group class, every orchestra rehearsal, and every performance. They were the perfect music students, and I agreed to every request, even if it meant blowing a day of homeschooling just so the kids could perform at the luncheon of some minor fundraiser. In the summers I took the kids to music camps from Chicago to Memphis to New York. My older kids grew up to be principal cellists of our city youth orchestras, won regional competitions, and received substantial college scholarships for both music and academics to top private universities and Ivy League colleges.

Besides music, they played soccer, which involved practices and games up to five times a week.
They never missed a game or a practice. In addition the boys were super involved in Boy Scouts. They earned the rank of Eagle by the age of thirteen, and our oldest was one of only a handful of boys in the nation who earned every single merit badge.

Our homeschooling went the same way. I was teaching the kids phonics at the same time I was potty training them, so they were reading and wearing big kid panties by the time they were two years old. I used every available moment as a teachable moment. The kids did hours of hardcore school each day. They worked several years above grade level, and we spent all our vacation time visiting museums and taking advantage of educational opportunities.

I was very vigilant. No junk food or sugar, no TV, and no videos other than G or the occasional PG movie. I pre-read all the books before the kids read them. I censored all their music.

On the downside, the kids were overly scheduled, we spent all our days commuting to Nashville and hanging out in the van while waiting through lesson times and rehearsals, and I was a pretty stressed-out and not-too-fun mother. I used every available moment to teach the kids rather than ever simply enjoying them. There was no downtime.

Our older kids are now adults, and I think they are pretty well adjusted. They still enjoy their music, they were successful college students, and they are successful adults. We have a good relationship, and I talk with them several times a week.

Now I'm a forty-something mom. None of the kids are taking music lessons because I'm totally burnt out driving to Nashville, fighting the traffic and fighting for a parking space, much less practicing with them several hours a day. I no longer jump when someone wants me to volunteer for something. None of the kids are involved in sports. The kids' sports program includes a swing set, a basketball goal and a trampoline, (which the older children weren't allowed to own). The kids participate in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, but Ben is no longer an assistant scoutmaster. We drop everyone off now and grocery shop during our free evening.

We now potty train our kids as late as three years old rather than at eighteen months. Ephraim is twenty months old and is walking around sucking on a bottle. I would never have allowed our older kids to do that. Our older kids had scheduled meal, nap and bedtimes. Ephraim takes his nap on my shoulder, thinks his crib is poison before nine o'clock at night and grazes for meals. He starts out the night in his own bed but ends up between Ben and me before morning.

We now start homeschooling the kids in kindergarten, not at preschool age, and those first years involve shorter hours and are more laid back and child led than in the past. We now have school four mornings a week instead of all day for as much as six days a week. If we get engrossed in a really good novel, we read it non-stop for a couple of days, and that's the extent of our school for those days. We count science projects, storytime at the library, and the time we spend studying a really cool bug for school days. When we reach the mandated 180 days for the year, we stop. The kids are at or above grade level, but they definitely aren't going to be going to college at sixteen like the older kids.

Nowadays we have three-day weekends every week, and we party! The younger kids know who Ronald McDonald is, and they've had banana splits for supper too many times to count. The older kids didn't own a video game, but the little guys are pros on our Wii. Our six and seven year olds can sing all the words to Guitar Hero and Rock Band songs; our older guys were only allowed to listen to the Christian or the classical station. We still don't watch network or cable TV, but we subscribe to Netflix, and we've been known to hit up a Redbox. We spend our weekends swimming in the river and fishing rather than providing non-stop educational moments at cultural events. As a family we now enjoy an Adam Sandler flick instead of a nature or travel film. I am no longer the uptight b*tch I used to be.

What's the perfect parenting technique? I've been a mom for twenty-six years, and I don't have a clue. I've seen the results of the ubermom days, and that produced some well-balanced, talented and successful adults but a stressed-out and unhappy mom. Now I'm the burnt-out-shell-geriatric mom who is simply ready to enjoy her children's fleeting childhoods. I'm having fun, but how will these late-in-life kids turn out? I wish I had the answers.

7 comments:

Beth said...

This was the most informative post I've read and so timely for me! Wow, Stacey, I had no idea that your older kids went through so much... good stuff definitely... and it'll be neat to see how the younger ones do. I do believe that I'm more like you are now. I have friends that are more vigilant and want that Harvard child, but I think I've come to realize at 36 years of age that time flies and I want to enjoy this too. I do want my child to be successful and anything he accomplishes, but more importantly I want him to have fond memories of childhood like I do.

I just loved this post... so open and honest... how do your older children feel about your changes?

Mary Kate said...

Honestly, Stacey, that was a great post! Fourteen years of being a mother, and I have often wished that I had given my kids more opportunities and lessons and, well, EVERYTHING! I still don't have a "finished product", but I hope that mine turn out as great as yours! From my vantage point, it looks as though whether you were an uber-mom or a laidback mom, you gave your children some pretty wonderful days, lessons, and love. Thanks for the great example!

Jan said...

Another adoption mom who has been a parent for 21 years! I LOVE IT>

Jan

Karin said...

I loved your post! I am a 40-something mom of ten (all adopted) and I am right there with ya, girl! I feel guilty sometimes about my kids not taking lessons, but I do pray that if they need some, that God will put it on our hearts to make it happen. Other than that...they can have fun on the swings, sandbox and bikes. :)

Laurie and Travis said...

This was so interesting for me to read. Your story is similar in many ways to my parents' story and I've seen firsthand the pros and cons to each of the styles you've (and my parents have) been as a mom over the years. I think all your kids will turn out to be incredible people, but it will be interesting to see if there's a huge difference in drive or a decrease in the "Type A's" that come out of your later style.
I fail daily at achieving this, but I think it'd be so ideal to combine the 2 - provide your kids with tons of unique educational opps while making time to just enjoy the fun moments. Ahh, the elusive balance. Sometimes I wonder how many neurosis Travis and I will impart on our kids in the experiment of parenthood! I can only hope they turn out to be happy, loving people who care about doing good in the world.

Mayme said...

Thanks for your honesty Stacey. BALANCE is the hardest thing. But I do think the older you are the more you realize just what is important. I know that I am seeing that now more than anytime in my life.

I'm glad to know that your boy is still sucking that bottle! It makes me feel so much better:)

Thanks again for an open and honest post.
Mayme

Laura said...

I love this post. Thank you for sharing. I hope to find a balance between the two. I truly believe if we had decided to have bio kids, I would have totally been the kind of mom you described in your "earlier" parenting years. Somehow, the adoption process really changed me and I'm much more laid back. I think your younger kids will turn out just great b/c you're a great mom, regardless of what "kind" of mom are you are (or were). Thanks again for this post!

Referral Picture

Referral Picture

Adoption Timeline

  • 2006
  • November 8 - Application Mailed
  • November 22 - Accepted
  • November 24 - I-600A Mailed
  • November 27 - Delivery Confirmed
  • November 28 - Receipt of I-600A
  • November 30 - Fingerprint Notice
  • December 15 - Home Study Update
  • December 21 - Stacey Fingerprinted
  • December 28 - Added to List (#116)
  • 2007
  • January 24 - Home Study Mailed
  • January 25 - Ben Fingerprinted
  • February 8 - Waiting List (#111)
  • February 20 - Waiting List (#109)
  • February 27 - Waiting List (#105)
  • March 8 - Waiting List (#101)
  • March 22 - Waiting List (#99)
  • April 19 - Waiting List (#98)
  • April 25 - Dossier Authentication
  • May 2 - Delivery Confirmed
  • May 2 - Added to SN Wait List
  • May 3 - Waiting List (#97)
  • June 7 - Waiting List (#86)
  • June 25 - Dossier Translated
  • June 28 - On Waiting List Six months
  • July 9 - Waiting List (#81)
  • August 6 - Waiting List (#4 SN)
  • August 8 - Waiting List (#76)
  • September 7 - Waiting List (#70)
  • October 8 - Waiting List (#67)
  • October 22 - Waiting child -- OURS!!
  • October 23 - Official Referral Date
  • October 25 - Letter #1 Submitted
  • October 29 - Referral Receipt - CHI
  • 2008
  • February 5 - Fingerprint Request
  • February 7 - Proof of Delivery
  • March 1 - All Fingerprinted
  • March 3 - I-600 Application Mailed
  • March 5 - I-600 Acknowledgement
  • April 17 - I-600 Approval!
  • May 2 - Original G & R Date
  • May 3 - Fly to Ho Chi Minh City
  • May 5 - MEET EPHRAIM!
  • May 6 - Drive to Kien Giang
  • May 7 - G & R Ceremony
  • May 8 - Medical, Apply for Passport
  • May 12 - Fly to Hanoi
  • May 13 - Visa appointment at USCIS
  • May 14 - Pick Up Visa, Fly Home
  • May 15 - Arrive in Nashville!
  • May 23 - Certificate of Citizenship
  • June 12 - Re-Adoption Filed by Court
  • July 3 - Tennessee Birth Certificate

G & R Day

G & R Day