Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Little Monsters

No, not Lady Gaga's fan club... I'm talking about other kids.

Before I was a mother, I loved every single kid I saw. In fact, I loved every child so much, I couldn't fathom people who didn't. I can still remember a certain precocious boy in the first school I ever worked in that I desperately wanted to take home for my own. He was a foster child, and I would have given my left arm to be his foster mom, but it wasn't meant to be, of course - at twenty-three, I was too young and dumb and selfish. I can still remember the day he came running out of the lunchroom and onto the playground straight into my arms, yelling, "I got a Lunch Buddy, I got a Lunch Buddy!" I teared up as he enveloped me in a big hug and then joyfully went on his way to play. I was so in love with that little boy, sometimes I still think about him.

And then of course there is my oldest niece, whom I thought the sun rose and set on . From the second she was born, I loved her like she was my very own. My feelings towards her actually took me by surprise, at the time, because I had just graduated from college and was very much into myself, trying to figure out my life and what I was going to do with it. She must have opened my eyes to all the other kiddos in the world, though, because from that point on, I was smitten with "all the little children of the world," just like the song.

Fast forward to today, however, and I am just like all the folks I used to criticize in my head. Ironic, isn't it? Frankly, the list of kids I like today is pretty short, with my own B's at the top of the list and seldom few underneath. I don't know how this happened to me. I always believed I would love kids in general no matter if I had my own or not. Let me tell you, I was oh-so-wrong.

I do like my friend's kids, but frankly, I'm pretty picky about who my friends are. And I've been really, really lucky that both of my kids have naturally gravitated towards nice kids all on their own. In fact, I like all their friends, and it is because of their friendships that I've developed new ones of my own. And of course I thank God every day for the blessing of my twin, whose children are family to us.

The problem for me occurs with kids I don't know, with all the little monsters whose parents I am not friends with and whose home lives I know nothing about. Little monsters who play with my B's and influence them in ways I would prefer they not be influenced. Little monsters who scream and yell and buck authority and behave disrespectfully. For the most part, I manage to bite my tongue and endure the stress their behavior causes me. When I see it affecting my B's, though, the fire in me comes out, and I cannot control myself from intervening.

Some might say that is what this is really all about - my need for control. And I would agree, there is a grain (okay, more than a grain) of truth to this. However, I think it also comes from my need for respect, and there are so many disrespectful brats in the world today, I shudder to think of what will happen when they are grown adults, running the world. And this line of thought leads me to think of their parents, and their lack of parenting skills, and the big question - why do so many parents today let their children act like heathens?

The short answer to this is because they are selfish and lazy - so many parents today are all about themselves, checking their phones for voicemail and text messages, letting their kids do whatever they want while they ignore them. I see so many parents who are not present with their kids, and yes, I judge them. Because while they're busy doing what they're doing, their kids are busy being brats, and for kids, bad attention is better than no attention. So there they go, behaving like little monsters, influencing my own children with their total disregard.

Thankfully, my kids know my limits, and it has been fairly easy to rein them in when I've felt they were out of control. Although this has taken a few years to accomplish, to be honest. It started back in kindergarten, with Britt, when he was on a tee ball team with out-of-control kids who nearly drove me to the edge of hysteria and a coach who let them run rampant. I'm proud to say that today, Britt respectfully tries behave when I have to rope him in. And my darling Brailey Shaye instinctively knows how to carry herself with dignity and poise.

So what do I do when we inevitably come into contact with other kids who are out of control? Well, I try to control myself as much as I can, and I bite my tongue to the point of severing it off. And then I've had enough, and I shock everyone and intervene.

The other side of this issue is that I just need to let my kids be kids and do what they will and get into trouble on their own so they can learn from their mistakes. I know this is true. For me, though, it all comes down to respect, and I think I do my kids more good than not by teaching them how to behave appropriately. And I'm proud to say, they "get it." My B's know what is appropriate behavior and what is not, and they still manage to have plenty of fun. But when I say, for example, "no shoving," or "stop screaming," they listen to me. And if the kids they are playing with see this and don't take the hint? Well, what can we say? Eventually, I tell them, too. Because I'm bossy and I'm controlling and I just can't accept bratty behavior.

I remember one of my mom's older friends telling her once that when she had little kids, she couldn't stand the older kids, and then when she had older kids, she couldn't stand the younger ones, but once she had grown kids, she loved them all. I wonder if that will happen to me? Only time will tell...

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