Watch this video, please

A friend linked this video to me, and I clicked on it to be polite, but now I'm shaking. Because this could happen to any of us. We are all this mom in this video. What she says at 2:08, yeah, that would be me. "Sorry to bother you…" It would probably be you, too.


Be careful out there. You are worth taking care of.

Thinking out loud, ok?

I read a funny piece about parenting classes the other day, and among all the funny (and obvious) tips in the article was the idea that you should never end a request to your child with "OK." The logic was that you were asking for your child's permission or if what you were telling them to do was OK with them, and that made your request ignorable.

That just made me laugh, because to me, ending a request with "OK?" (which I do often) means "Did you hear and understand what I just told you/asked you to do? Give me verbal confirmation that you received my message." It is not in any way, shape, or form asking permission of my kids to ask them to do something. How could two letters mean something so radically different to me and to the parenting expert quoted in the article? It had honestly never even occurred to me that "OK?" could mean anything other that what it means when I use it.

This reminds me a lot, actually, of the phrase "I'm sorry," which seems to mean one thing to men and another to woman. If a female friend told me she couldn't find her keys and was late to a meeting, and I said, "I'm sorry," she'd thank me for my sympathy. If a male friend told me he couldn't find his keys and was late to a meeting, and I said, "I'm sorry," he'd tell me it wasn't my fault his keys were lost. To women it's an expression of sympathy, whereas to men it's an apology.

I started wondering if maybe a lot of these ironclad rules of parenting are just style differences.

I mean, does it really matter the phraseology or tone of voice you use to ask your kids to do something if THEY know you expect them to do it? Yes, we've all seen the whiny suck-up parents who seem to be wheedling more than asking their children to do something and whose children don't fulfill the request. But isn't that more about lack of follow-through than tone of voice? They could be barking orders like a drill sergeant but if they didn't follow through to make sure the request was fulfilled that wouldn't be any more directive or useful than a wheedle. Conversely, haven't we seen parents who seem to say barely anything and their children do it cheerfully? It's because the kids know what to expect and know to fulfill the request.

It's not the words, it's the expectations you set and the follow-through.

I am absolutely not a perfect parent, and my children certainly do not comply with every request I make of them. In fact, it seems that they are less likely to comply when I'm at my worst, when I need them to just do it and not try to change the terms. But that makes a lot of sense, doesn't it? When I'm at my worst they know I have no follow-through. I could whisper or roar like a lion, but my tone doesn't change the fact that I don't have my normal resources to calmly and kindly make sure they do whatever I need them to do. This may also be why things seem to turn out better when I'm low on resources if I enlist their help instead of making requests. And as they've gotten older, part of enlisting their help is about truly delegating and giving them autonomy in how they get the things done that I need them to do.

What if I'm getting better at this as they get older? What if we're all getting better at this as our kids get older? What if they'll turn out just fine whether we say "OK?" or not? What if "being effective" is more about learning each other than it is about doing things the right way?

Is there something you do that works just fine for you that you've been told is the wrong way to do things?

Pretend this is blacked out

I really want to participate in SOPA Strike Day, today, January 18, 2012. For those of you who don't know what SOPA is, our jackass Congress here in the US is trying to censor what we do on the internet, so we're going down today in protest.

Unfortunately, I'm such a technological dunce that I can't figure out how to make my site go down without just deleting the whole thing. (And thank you to my friends who tried to talk me through it last night, but seriously, it's beyond me.)

So can we please all just pretend there's nothing here? No posts, no archives, no comments, no nothing? And then come back and read January 19.

Q&A: Is it abuse?

Ellen is struggling with a problem with her ex-husband, the father of her children. Dave (in the email) is her new husband, who also has a child from a previous marriage. She writes:

"I guess my question is one of what truly constitutes abuse in the minds of most parents.

My ex is a bit of a bully, always has been. He yells, cusses and calls names when he gets mad. He does this with my boys too (6,8,10,13). More so with the older one…but he gets rougher on all the boys as they get older. When he is angry, he gets in their faces…will back them up against walls and scream at them. He also does this thing where he grabs their face and squeezes their cheeks really hard while he's yelling so they can't move or turn their heads. He also does childish stuff like call my 10 years old, who is chunky and very sensitive about it, "fat ass" and "chubs" when he gets mad. I know exactly what they are talking about because he used to do it to me when we were married.

Anyway…this past week he smacked my 13 years old twice. I wasn't there but I have a good idea of what happened. My 13 year old does not respect his father at all…because dad yells and hollers but never really implements any true form of discipline. So, they got into an argument and my 13 year old was being really disrespectful, calling his dad names (loser, bully, etc). He doesn't do that here but I know he can get a pretty bad attitude towards his dad because I've heard it on the phone. His dad lost his temper and started yelling and getting in his face. Instead of backing down like usual, my 13 year old challenged him. My ex threatened to pay a kid to come "beat his (Alex, my son's) ass" and this made Alex really angry so he didn't back down. My ex ended up slapping him twice in the face. My son says hard enough for his mouth to bleed inside because of his braces. I get a call from my ex and he is yelling "Where are you? You need to get here right now before I beat him". I have to drop what I'm doing and head over there asap. In the 10 minutes it take me to get there I get 2 more calls from my ex…all along the same theme. "Hurry up before I knock his fucking teeth out"…all the while I hear my son in the background crying and yelling "hurry mom, he's gonna' hurt me".

I have talked to 2 attorneys and 241-kids and because there were no external marks it is not considered abuse. I quote "A parent has a legal right to physically discipline their child".

Now, I have lived with some form of abuse my whole life so my views on what is really abuse are somewhat fuzzy….and I am aware of this about myself.

Dave is certain, 100% that, whether it legally is or not, this is abuse, plain and simple. And I agree. Since we don't really have a legal leg to stand on, we have decided to move away from him as far as we legally can to limit his time with the kids. He is lazy and won't make a 40 minute drive to get the boys a couple time/week. He will probably become and every other weekend (at best) dad. Right now he gets them 2 1/2 days each week.

Here is my question…is this abuse bad enough to take his kids away from him? The younger boys really love him and are torn up about the thought of moving. Alex is totally on board with it and wants to move right away. He refuses to go see his dad at all right now. He says he really believes that his dad is capable of hurting him. My gut says that he would never escalate it any further (i.e. punch them or anything) because he is a cop and knows not to cross the legal line.

So now I have vented on an unbiased party and just need to know what you would do if these were your kids…and what other parents would do.

Would you move away?"

I would move away.

I am in complete agreement with Dave. There are all kinds of abuse, and for many people, emotional and verbal abuse is at least as bad as physical abuse is. This is very clearly verbal abuse and emotional abuse. Even if he'd never physically touched Alex, your ex is bullying him (and the 10-year-old) and saying vicious, nasty things that no person should say to another person, let alone an adult to a child, let alone a parent to a child.

I don't think that you could prove physical abuse, but if you involved a psychologist I'm wondering if you could prove emotional abuse.

But at the least, moving will help alleviate the situation. If, as you predict, he fades out of their life, then that's yet another bad choice he's making. Plenty of people grow up under horrible circumstances and make the choice not to become abusive. He makes a choice, every time he says something hurtful or threatening, to abuse his children. You need to protect them until they're old enough and physically big enough to draw their own boundaries for interacting with him.

Readers? Thoughts? Empathy? Stories? Am I on the right track? Should Ellen and Dave move?

Goals and/or Changes for 2012

I skipped the Year in Review post, because my entire life changed and it would have been a bit unwieldy.

So how about some goals and changes for 2012? Write them down here, either with your name or anonymously, and then check back during the year to make sure you're staying on track.

Here are mine:

* Keep listening to my sons. They are more relaxed and chatty than they were last year, but this year we go into fifth grade, and I'm scared of the tween years. I have to be the one who stays open and keeps the connection going.

* Keep it up with the exercise. I feel my mind changing as much as my body is.

* Figure out how to balance school with everything else, including work, Ask Moxie, exercising, and reading books.

* Keep paying down divorce debt. I may be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

* Be a better friend.


And now for the SMART goals (specific, measurable, actionable, reasonable, timebound):

* Eat 6 servings of vegetables 5 days a week.

* Read one non-school, non-work-related book each month. (I read exactly zero last year, so one a month will be an improvement.)

* Do one field-trip-like acctivity with the kids each month to take advantage of living in Michigan.


Now you go!