Tag Archives: parenting styles

What’s Your Style?

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When it comes to parenting, I have my own unique style that I like to call “democratic-assertive.”  I am not authoritarian because I believe that this approach eventually  backfires in the end. 

I like to think that I am fair, flexible (to a degree),  and firm.  However, I do like to maintain control.   Kids are kids for a reason.  I am not at all wishy-washy (permissive) and I believe that consistency is a key component to well behaved children. 

Sometimes I think I am too strict and overprotective.  However, my husband is a nice counterpartner and helps round me out with his more liberal views.

I noticed that I approach teaching in the same manner that I do parenting.  Often students are quick to remind us teachers that we are not their parents.  I say a silent prayer of thanks before quickly pointing out that actually I am, in locos parentis.  As a public school teacher I am legally entitled to act accordingly.

Oddly, they embrace this concept once they get over the fact that I don’t look very”motherly.”  Despite my appearance I am quite conservative.  My very austere grandmother had a lot to do with this.  Even though I teach 12th grade, I still set my classroom up as a family.  I am the parental figure and I liken my students to my “kids”. 

Furthermore, I feel obligated to get to know my students like I do with my own child.  I spend so much time with them that I couldn’t imagine doing otherwise.  When you know their strengths and weakness, whims and wishes–it makes the monumental task of teaching far more bearable. 

This approach works for me and it creates an atmosphere of trust, stability, and warmth.  Many of the students that I work with come from broken homes and appreciate this type of environment.  I don’t meddle in their personal affairs or anything of that nature.   And I only give advice when requested. 

We all have to discover what works best for our individual families because one size does not fit all. Here is a quiz I found on ivillage to help get you thinking about the type of parent you are or the kind that you desire to be.

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sMother Love

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Through the conversations we’ve had and letters we’ve exchanged, I’ve noticed that Eliza has chosen to ignore the fact that she had help creating her children with the aid of another person–namely my husband.  She has worked rather hard to make herself the center of Ethan and Evan’s life by cutting out their father.  She seems unconcerned about how damaging this practice is. By constantly telling Ethan and Evan”our family consists of me and your brothers,”  eliminates my husband, myself, and our son from their lives.  It also sends the message that she is the only one who cares for them.  She is not completely off the mark in her train of thought because she is their family.  But we are also their family.  What is wrong with loving your children enough to allow others to love them? 

Eliza has never referred to them as “their” sons, but always “my boys.”  She never even mentions their dad. I know these might sound like trite examples, but there has been a lot of subtle brainwashing over the years that have helped her achieve this effect.  Loving your children is totally instinctive–this I know.  But it is possible to blur the line of sMothering them with love so much that they can’t function without the one who smothers.  This is a twisted, tainted, dangerous love.  Think Sante and Kenny Kimes

 The last two therapists working with Evan have commented on this phenomenon, going so far as to inquire if Eliza has ever been inappropriate with them.  In fact, last week Evan’s residential treatment therapist posed this very question, noting some of the troubling behavior that Evan displays that is consistent with children who have been molested by an adult.

That makes three licensed mental health professionals who have wondered about the appropriateness of Eliza’s love for her children.  This leaves a sour taste in my mouth.  For all of the opinions that I have about Eliza and her parenting skills, and I have plenty, I just can’t accept this.  I know it is possible, but I just don’t want to believe it.  However, I do think that she sMothers her children with love.  I sense that she is afraid of losing them and views them as all that she has.  In a way she treats them like she would a boyfriend, without the sexual relationship.  She even calls them “Mommy’s Little Men.”  When she has a real man in her life, she tends not to sMother them as much–to the point where they are often left to their own devices.

The social worker assigned to the CPS case felt that Eliza had an unhealthy attachment to all three of her children.  In fact, she described it as “emotional incest.”  I found this interesting considering that Eliza is an incest survivor. S he is may be emulating what she knows. Eliza’s main problem is that she does not know how to love in a healthy manner.  Her father obviously “loved” her inappropriately, which could explain why she feels that it is not important for her children to know the love of their father.  She has serious trust issues and in her mind she probably thinks that she is keeping her children safe from any potential danger, as imaginary and unwarranted as it may be.  Her father sent her the wrong message about men which has caused her to parent in a paranoid, possessive, obsessive manner. 

There are two novels that I have read in which the mom reminds me of Eliza.  The first one is called Loverboy by Victoria Redel.  The second, which I have posted about before, is Mother’s Boys by Bernard Taylor.  In fact, she is so similar to the character Judith Farrell that it chilled me to the bone when I read it.

Last month when Ethan and I went to visit her, she greeted him with the usual kiss on the lips.  This always makes me uncomfortable.  Ethan will be thirteen in less than two weeks and I feel that a new location for a kiss would be more appropriate.  Next she had him get her a piece of Kleenex and proceeded to give his nose a thorough, deep cleaning.  Call me prudish, but I was really mortified for Ethan.  After the intensive cleaning, she explained that it was her job as his mommy to get the “friends” out of his nose.  I remained silent and worked on keeping the look of disbelief off my face.   On the ride home I asked Ethan if he was embarrassed by her cleaning out his nose.  Much to my surprise,  he said no!  Nicholas at age 9 doesn’t even like it when I kiss him in front of his friends.  

Or maybe this is just one small way that she exercises her right to mother her boys under the situation she is in.  Sometimes it’s just so hard to tell…

Real Talk

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            Monday I made the two hour drive down to see Eliza so that I could speak with her face to face regarding the voicemail she left.  I could detect the veiled hostility in her message that she attempted to cover up by concluding with and have a blessed day.  I wanted to give her a chance to talk about whatever it was that was obviously bothering her. 

It was a pretty intense visit in which we talked about a lot.  She was defensive (understandably so) and seriously in denial about Evan’s reason for being in residential treatment.  It was primarily her parenting, life, and motives that were being examined.  As I knew would happen sooner or later, events from the past surfaced.  But I was okay with that and was actually looking forward to an end of the pretense that all was well.  It was like a breath of fresh air to a collapsed lung.

 It was weird how the conversation flowed.  She jumped around from topic to topic and eventually landed in the past.  She began with the scarf story.  When CPS had removed the kids from her custody, we had them for a period of five weeks.  One day after visiting with her for a couple of hours, Evan came home with the scarf that she used to wrap her hair up at night.  She sent it to comfort him.  She continued to say that Evan told her that I had thrown the scarf away proclaiming, “Nothing that belongs to your mother will ever be allowed in this house.”  You’ll have to forgive me, but I started laughing at the absurdity of it all.  I would never do such a thing and I actually thought it was kind of cute that she had sent it with him.  I explained this to her and she burst out crying.  Apparently she believed this—though I have no idea why Evan would weave such a tale.  But then again, I do.  Sometimes when children know that their parents want to hear certain things, they will do anything to “feed” this need and begin to fabricate stories.  I’m sure she wanted to hear something “bad” about us, and because he wanted to please her, he came up with the scarf story.  She heard what she wanted to hear and used that among other tales to keep the animosity burning and the rift growing. 

She said that Ethan told her that I said that she would never be able to afford a house like ours.  Another lie.  One day Ethan asked me how much our house cost.  I thought it was a rather strange question coming from the mouth of a then ten-year-old boy.  I responded by saying that there are certain questions that you just don’t ask people and that the question he had just asked was one of them.  I knew that she sent him fishing for this particular information.

Eliza was also holding it against us that a friend of her middle son’s father, Carl, told him that my husband and I said that we did not want the kids at our house.  Carl, of course, relayed this misinformation to her.  I gently pointed out to her that immediately after the incident that landed her in prison, my husband made arrangements to get them.  Now mind you, Eliza is the one who did not want my husband to receive custody.  Before her husband went to prison, she had him call my husband asking him if he would terminate his parental rights! Not to mention, she fainted in jail upon learning that we had Ethan and Evan.

            I was a little shocked at how much she thrived on the whole “he say-she say” phenomenon.  But then again, she does have that drama seeking, immature personality.  It seems that she was expressing her own actual feelings through Ethan and Evan.  She didn’t want to come off as totally paranoid or as if she really cared what I thought about her.  These are her adult insecurities that she has bequeathed to her children.

  She also said that social worker involved in the CPS case told her that she felt I was too controlling.  Again, I had to laugh as I informed her that Shan, the caseworker, had told me that exact same thing about her!    

Eliza attempted to badmouth my husband but I stopped her by simply saying “I am not here to defend my husband—what for?  You had a past with him that I can’t speak on.  Your experience with him belongs to you and him alone.  I understand that he is not perfect and I’m sure that you both did things wrong that resulted in a failed marriage.  But I would like to remind you that he is not the same person that you married, as I’m sure you are not the same.”   She appeared to accept this.

I guess I have moved on because I didn’t once mention any of the problems that she caused for me.  My entire focus was on the kids and how we could continue to work together for the good of the whole.  And in case you’re wondering, Eliza did apologize twice for leaving that message.

            The kids were I teach have a term that they use to describe a serious moment of conversation known as “real talk.”  Yesterday, as tedious as it was, was our first “real talk.”  In the end I was glad that she had the opportunity to get some concerns off her chest.  Do I think there’s more? Yes.  Am I ready to throw in the towel? Kind of.  Am I sick of dealing with her and the whole ordeal? Absolutely!  Am I going to keep talking and working through this mess? Most likely.  Why?  Because I know that I can’t always give up or give in when the going gets tough.