Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Parenting Fail

"How come you didn't tell me about Japan?" demands my 9-year-old as she shrugs off her backpack and parks herself at the table to sort through her homework assignments.

I look up from the email I am rushing to finish so that I can put out a snack for the girls and start packing for ballet. "Um, why? Did you talk about Japan in school today?"

"YES! Mom, didn't you know there was an earthquake and a tsunami and a whole bunch of people got killed? Everyone was talking about it at school! EVERYONE knew about it except for me. Why don't you ever tell me about this stuff? Why don't you ever tell me ANYTHING?"

Violet nods agreement, her small face grave. "The teacher telled it to our class too. Water came all over and the cars and houses and people got covered up and it's really really sad."

Two accusing glares bore into me and my cheeks flush. "Uh, well, I guess I didn't feel like there was a good time to tell you something so sad and scary, and I didn't want to upset you, so . . . um, I just didn't tell you. I don't know why. I'm sorry. I guess we should have talked about it."

"Yeah! I guess so, MOM. I never know what's going on. Everyone else in my class always knows this stuff and I don't. You didn't even tell me about Egypt - Dad did. But this is even bigger than Egypt, and you guys didn't tell me!" Molly is unrelenting; apologies have never carried much weight with her. (She's a Scorpio, like me. We are unforgiving and we sting.)

So this is the part where I admit that I'm failing as a parent. Someone once hotly accused me of thinking I'm "the best fucking mother in the world" - something that still makes me laugh whenever I think about it. Listen, if I thought the all-night breastfeeding and the diaper explosions and the pure physical exhaustion of chasing a toddler were hard: that was just boot camp. This is advanced-level parenting and I'm the first to admit that I'm faking my way through it and kind of, well, sucking at it. (Yes, I know - parenting teenagers will be EVEN HARDER. I'm considering boarding school; hire it out to professionals, right? Don't answer that.)

This particular issue first came up a couple months ago when Molly announced that we had to get cable so that she could watch the evening news as part of her homework. Apparently her teacher thinks third-graders should start watching TV news with their parents - but we don't watch the news. We only use our TV to stream Netflix and watch DVDs. I listen to NPR in the morning when I'm making breakfast and packing lunches, and when I check my email I scan Google news headlines and the Times home page, but we never get a newspaper. It's not a conscious lifestyle choice; we're just busy. I read The New Yorker on the subway, okay? My head is not completely in the sand. I only have so much mental energy, people. And when exactly is it supposed to be a good time to tell my kids about the latest world devastation? They already wake up with nightmares - I'm supposed to add to that?

I never thought I would be such an overprotective parent, but here I am. Molly recently started going to a "girls' club" at a friend's house and they cook dinner together every week. She came home the other night excited to report that she made spaghetti all by herself. I understand there was chopping and heat involved. I sometimes let Molly help me in the kitchen, but I never let her near the stove, and the one time I let her use a sharp knife she seemed a little nervous, so I quickly snatched it away to "help" her.

How many injuries have I sustained over the course of learning my way around the kitchen? Countless burns, nicks, grated knuckles, several nasty gashes; I have a scar on my thumb from a run-in with a cheese planer and a faint line running up the inside of my arm from an unfortunate incident with a corkscrew. Not to mention the small matter of my numerous culinary disasters - ruined batches of cookies, fallen cakes, and inedible concoctions of every sort. Part of learning, I know. I realize my kids need to be allowed to make messy (and possibly painful) mistakes so that they can learn to take care of themselves, but the thought of letting them injure themselves makes me ill. Seriously, my head feels light and there is a pit in my stomach right now. I'm failing at parenting because I can't allow my kids to fail.

As soon as I'm done writing this, I'm going to go bake a batch of chocolate chip cookies so that the girls and I can sit down after school and discuss "current events" over milk and cookies. Or maybe I should wait and let the kids make the cookies. Then we can eat imperfect cookies with burned fingers while we discuss tsunamis and nuclear fallout. Now who's the best fucking mother in the world, huh? Yeah, I thought so.


Aja said...


Your are doing a fabulus job E, i feel the same way as you. I'm just not interested in adding to the stress of my kids life with world wide catastrophys just yet....but i have begun to realize they don't take it in the same way I do. We talk and they ask questions and go back to building lego.


Buffy said...