Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why am I the bad cop?

It was a rough weekend.

At one point, after a day of bickering and wrangling with 2 out of 3 kids, one of them went up to Scott, hugged him, and said, "Good night Dad, I love you!" and stalked off ignoring me.

"Why do I get to be the bad parent?" I demanded.

Meanwhile, the other kid kept referring to me as "she," as in "SHE is making my life miserable."

"Don't call your mother 'she,' that's disrespectful," said my dear husband.

"Well SHE deserves it."

He spoke strongly with that child who finally stooped to calling me Mom, and then hugged and kissed Dad goodnight without a further look at me.

Did I say it was a hard weekend?

My friend Tara says its what you get for being a mom.  This is the same friend, famous for her love of well heated homes, who insisted on sleeping in a tent with her husband and 2 boys in 40 degree weather even though I offered her a warm bed AND private room at our over-crowded fall retreat.  "I refuse to be the un-fun mom," she said, "I'm going to sleep in that tent so the boys will remember me as the type of mom who slept in a tent with them."

Knowing Mom luck, they'll remember that super-fun tent night all right.  They just won't remember Mom was freezing in there along with Dad.

As Mom, I am the quintessential presence in my kids' lives.  I get to:

  • take them to the doctor
  • take them to the dentist (tomorrow at 3)
  • chastise them for eating junk snacks and not cleaning up after themselves after school
  • talk about the most recent bad math test grade and how they need to go talk to the teacher (which always leads to more conflict and more references to me as "she")
  • take them shoe shopping
  • Read and sign almost all paperwork coming from the school
I really don't understand that last responsibility.  When I'm out late, a kid will hand me some paper with a glare the next day and say, "You weren't home to sign this!"

"You had another parent at home," I'll say, "Why didn't you get him to sign it?"

But somehow it's just not within their worldview or realm of possibility to think of Dad signing papers.

So I get to be the dirty work parent, and he gets to be the fun one.  Even though I take them out individually each week for "special time" (except when they're knee deep in the musical like now), do they seem to remember or appreciate that?  Nope.  

Instead they remember that when I go out of town, Dad takes them out to dinner, finds friends to hang out with, and lets them have sodas with maraschino cherries in them.  

When I complained further to Scott about the inequities that I'm the bad cop, he reminded me of a study I learned about in a human development class.  Apparently, girls with the highest self-esteem and highest performance had pushy mothers who insisted on high achievement and fathers who loved them unconditionally.  I remembered that study, because that was my family of origin constellation.  Girls whose moms were their "best friends" had the lowest self-esteem and performance of all.

Well, I guess I won't have to worry about that for my girls.  No chance of being their best friend.  

These days, I'm lucky to be "she."


melbelle said...

"Kids grow up over their mother's dead bodies." I don't remember who said that but I have had cause to remember it before! Hang in there! Now that our kids are 21,19 and 17 we are getting lots of kudos; you will too!

Mary said...

I loved it dear friend

thinkingthinking said...

What's that study again???
Thanks for another great blog post!

Helen said...

Always love how real you keep everything! Out of curiosity, what combination resulted in boys with high self-esteem? I hope pushy moms score there, too. =) (Not that I am talking about myself, or anything.) =)

Kathy Tuan-MacLean said...

OK, so here's how I'm a bad social scientist. I don't know the name of the study because the woman who did it spoke to our class and I of course, can't remember who she was so many years later. And she only studied teen girls, not boys, so no idea about what correlates with good parenting of boys--not that I want to know, especially if it contradicts that of girls!

Gloria said...

Kathy, I love reading your blog. This one really hit home. My husband, John use to travel to San Jose and was away about 4 days out of the week. The kids always looked forward to him coming home and doing fun things with them. So essentially, I was a "single" mom for all those years. Now that I AM a widowed mom, it is so hard to take on both roles. And I feel unbelievably bad for my kids. Yes, I still am after them about doing homework, practicing the piano, all the normal "Tiger" mom things, but then, I have to take a deep breath, take a step back, and let them be normal (as normal as can be.) However, if you were to ask the kids who is boss? They would always say "Mom!" And bosses are never fun.

Kenneth Kang-Hui said...


Great post and one with which my wife would definitely emphasize. Hope all is well; being ages since IVCF staff days at NYU.

Kenneth Kang-Hui

Jean said...

I'm with you sister!!!