Friday, February 04, 2011

Secret Parenting Thoughts by Robin Gorman Newman

This past weekend, Seth and I had tickets to see GAZILLION BUBBLE SHOW in NYC for the second time (you can read my show review later today....we loved it!).  

We were supposed to go with another mom and her son, but the night before they cancelled (I had an instinctual feeling things might not work out with them).  He had a stomach bug.  She hoped that we'd quickly be able to find others to join us.  Marc was working (tax season), so this was to be a mommy and me outing.

My effort to reach out to other families wasn't productive.  Too short notice.  This happened when I was at the gym finishing my workout.  My trainer, who I am friendly with, overheard the phone conversations, and much to my surprise, said she'd like to go.

She is divorced, living happily with her long term boyfriend (who she left her husband for), and raised two daughters who are now both in their 20s.  One is married; the other divorced.  This friend is a few years older than me and takes a strong "been there, done that" attitude when it comes to parenting at this stage of the game.  She has said more than once, when I've shared challenges re: Seth, that she forewarned me when we made the decision to become parents that it wasn't going to be easy.  And, she in fact, thought I was kinda "nutz" to embark on motherhood at age 42.  She was glad not to be in my new parenting shoes.

She was a young mother when her kids were young, and she left a teaching career that she had barely established, so didn't much miss.  She speaks often about being a "hot young mama" who chauffered her kids around, in between gym workouts -- a top priority in her life.  (No wonder at age 50+, her body is hard as a rock.)  She has also often discussed how, in her opinion, kids suck the life out of you and even into adulthood, they can still be challenging, and not necessarily grateful for what you have done and continue to do for them. 

None of this is the most pleasant to hear, but I've gotten used to it.  I recognize it as "her story," and hope that mine and Seth's will play out differently as the years go by.

When I bring Seth to the gym (granted he's young to be in a weight-lifting facility), she is never thrilled when he whips out mats to play and moves free weights around, though ultimately I make sure he puts everything back in place.  He acts safely and respects the equipment and knows his limits, or I certainly wouldn't take him.  But, she has often said that she doesn't know how I do it?  That he's "go, go, go", asks a million questions...and gives her a headache when he bounces the large rubber stomach crunch ball too many times.

So, when the show tickets became available, and she invited herself along, I was taken aback.  She had to know that meant spending the afternoon with Seth (and of course me too).  She assured us she wanted to come.

When I saw her at the gym two days later for my Monday session, she couldn't wait to talk about the fun we had and admitted that Seth demonstrated good behavior, and she didn't expect it.  He didn't demand that I buy him a souvenir.  He didn't have any kind of meltdown.  He sat in his seat, both on the train and in the theatre, and enjoyed both experiences.  When Marc (my husband) picked us up after the show and we had all planned to eat out in the city (things changed because we couldn't get a parking spot...way too much snow), she noted how Seth just rolled with the punches.

I told her with pride that "Seth is good company."  Sure, he's 7 and has his moments like any child,  but he's a nice, smart, compassionate, social kid (if I don't say so myself.).  She then said almost giddily that anytime Marc and I need a break or have plans, we are welcome to leave Seth with her and her boyfriend (who we know and like).

Not that we're rushing to do this.  We have our reliable babysitters (who we pay).  But, it was interesting to see her newfound enthusiasm toward Seth. She saw that even at a later parenting stage, kids, while work, can bring joy. And, despite the fact that she never raised a boy and was thrilled to have had girls, boys can be amusing in a different way. 

So, just as Laura (one of the bloggers) wrote on Tuesday about the judgement that as parents we sometimes have for others parents, this experience taught me that it's also easy to judge other kids.  If they are different than ours, whether by sex, interest, temperament.....etc.....we might sit back and secretly be grateful that we're not parenting them (if they seem difficult).  Or perhaps even the opposite is true.  Maybe they seem more agreeable or fun than our own child, and you wish yours was more like them.

The point is that we're all individuals in this world.  We march to our own drum.  And, there are countless beats we might follow.  No one has a crystal ball to predict how their kids will turn out as adults.  But, if we lay positive groundwork now, including surrounding them with people who embrace them, they'll be all the better for it.  And, we can only hope that people, like my personal trainer friend, will not reach negative conclusions prematurely about our kids.  It's ultimately a loss for everyone.

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