Momhood

Motherhood, insanity and everyday life.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In Defense of Insanity

Benjamin Franklin once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” If that’s true, and if you’ve ever parented for more than 10 minutes, you’ll agree with me that parenting often feels like insanity.

I’ve been a parent for nearly 20 years, and during that time, I’ve read lots of books on parenting, listened to a lot of experts on parenting and watched a lot of TV shows with so-called parenting experts. Every one had a different approach to the age-old parenting dilemma: How do you get your kids to do something...anything? It doesn’t matter if it’s laundry, chores, making beds, cleaning up rooms, coming home on time, doing homework or walking the dog. The plain and ugly truth is that we parents often speak until we’re blue in the face with precious few results. Sure, once in a while we score a victory when Suzy actually cleans her room or Bobby finally remembers to walk the dog, but put a bunch of moms together, and eventually the conversation will turn to managing our children and how nobody does it well.

If you know someone whose children supposedly always do their chores and actually listen to their parents, then you can be assured of one of two things: 1) The parent is on a power trip and is terrorizing his or her family or 2) The parent is lying. Because no matter how hard we try, the one sure thing in parenting is that we repeat ourselves...often...with very little to show for it. This is where the insanity thing comes in.

For years I’ve tried to convince my kids to prepare for big projects, assignments, events or trips ahead of time so that they won’t have to rush around and inevitably forget something or have to stay up late finishing that could have been done weeks beforehand. This suggestion is generally met with a blank stare and a shoulder shrug. I’ve even tried to say it more dramatically, more excitedly or even more cheerfully. It doesn’t matter. Hello brick wall. Meet Mom.

But I’m here today to say that I’ve actually experienced a teeny ray of hope. Something happened to make me think that the insanity may actually be paying dividends.

My daughter and her classmates are getting ready for a class trip to Washington D.C. It’s a huge event in her life, worthy of many meetings, reminders and, what I’m famous for: lists. I put out her suitcase in anticipation of the trip and as a mental note for her to start thinking about packing, but honestly figuring that we have a couple of late nights of panicked organizing ahead of us.

Then yesterday, my daughter called me upstairs to her bedroom. On her bed was the trip itinerary. On her floor, laid out in a row, were entire outfits for the four main days of the trip, complete with jewelry and shoes. I did a double-take. For a minute there, I thought she was reenacting a scene from one of those wardrobe makeover shows. I was stunned. I could not have organized my clothes better if I were Calvin Klein himself.

I know that this isn’t the Holy Grail of momhood, but I have to tell you that this is a big step. Why? Because my kid has skills! Yeah, I know it’s only selecting clothing, but hey, it’s a start! I want to shout this from the mountaintop: PEOPLE...THERE IS HOPE!

Look, I realize that I have years of joy and frustration ahead of me. I do understand that my life will continue to be a series of ridiculous one-sided conversations about accepting responsibility, planning for the future and “just once could you do something without being asked?!” But I will optimistically hold on to the memory of that row of wonderfully-coordinated outfits and how it brightened my day.

27 Comments:

At 2:21 PM , Blogger ccap said...

Smile.

 
At 4:30 PM , Anonymous Anne Glamore said...

That is truly a hopeful story.

 
At 7:03 PM , Blogger Juliabohemian said...

My Mom probably thinks she did a great job -because she was the #1 thing you mentioned.

I feel like I have no control over my kids. They don't fear me. They don't seem to care what I want. I keep wondering where I went wrong. I know the chaos element entered with my first children being Adhd with an oppositional definance disorder. My second child just kind of went along for the ride. (when #2 is by herself, it's a different story. But, that's only when #1 is at school.) The rest of the time it's total chaos. I look forward to #1 being older so I can reason with her more.

 
At 6:04 AM , Blogger Star said...

It really takes so little to make us Mom's happy.

 
At 7:32 AM , Blogger Linda said...

All I can do is hope!

Thanks for sharing this ray of hope that all moms DREAM of!

 
At 8:50 AM , Blogger Sue said...

Karen, that is very awesome -- each positive outcome is a branch higher on the tree -- we takes them as we gets them :) Michele says hi to day

 
At 11:53 AM , Blogger KaraMia said...

Too funny, now if only my ten year old would organize his bedroom as neatly as he does his army men..sigh. Here via michele today.

 
At 1:24 PM , Anonymous Grins said...

From one insane mom to another, that is what I call selective organization. Very much along the same lines of selective listening that they practice on us. But hey...baby steps right?

 
At 4:32 PM , Blogger My float said...

Oh, so happy there is hope! Mine's 2, and he won't do what he is told either : )

Congratulations on such a huge step!

Here from Michele's.

 
At 5:42 AM , Blogger rashbre said...

Without lists I sometimes find myself listless.
Here today via Michele's.
rashbre

 
At 8:08 AM , Blogger Michelle said...

Oh, I love that! The feeling you get on the day you realize that they're starting to figure out that Mom and Dad might actually know something. It's the best :)

Here via Michele.

 
At 8:47 AM , Blogger Blog This! said...

It is the little things in life isn't it?!

And I totally agree with your Ben Franklin example - motherhood is insanity!!!!

 
At 11:56 AM , Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

That must have been really uplifting for you, Karen!

Michele sent me here.

 
At 2:39 PM , Blogger ribbiticus said...

congrats! it takes so little to make parents proud. your daughter seems to have taken such a giant step in the right direction!

michele says hi! :)

 
At 7:40 PM , Blogger srp said...

Usually it's a "one step forward, two steps back" kind of thing. Or to be more fair to the children, a "two steps forward, one step back." They eventually get there.

Mine turned 20. On her own she applied to be an RA and got it; so that is worth about $5500 in college room. She wrote a grant proposal to get money to work for three weeks in Mississippi helping to clear out Biloxi damage. And yet she ran around in a thunderstorm, sliding into mud puddles in her pj's. What can you say? A mystery of life.

 
At 10:29 PM , Blogger Zephra said...

Do you think your daughter can come over and give mine a few pointers?

 
At 5:06 AM , Blogger craziequeen said...

Ah, image is everything and a girl needs to always look her best....

Is there room in her suitcase?

Michele sent me, Karen....

cq

 
At 6:22 AM , Blogger Mike said...

It is always something when your kid gives you a "nice " surprise like that.

Michele sent me.

 
At 9:18 AM , Anonymous Laura said...

It's those small moments that happen unexpectedly that make such a big impact in the whole scheme of things.
I always look to the long run, and you're right, there is hope! ;)

Here from Micheles.

 
At 8:49 AM , Blogger Chas Ravndal said...

wow that is nice to hear! anyways, michele sent me

 
At 9:14 AM , Blogger Chas Ravndal said...

Hello there! Just send me a username and password. So i can just change your blog template and also i will add you on my make over line up so I hope u can wait. TC

 
At 10:02 AM , Anonymous Im Chele In [dot] La said...

great post.
Over from the other Michele's

 
At 10:07 AM , Blogger Courtney said...

Good for her, and good for you!
Here via Michele.

 
At 8:51 PM , Blogger It's okay, Sweetie said...

Hello! I got lost down a portal of Mommy links and ended up here! I enjoy your writing style and will continue to check in.

I'm so happy about your progress. I could visualize it perfectly. I have a long, long way to go until I reach that stage. But the Ben Franklin quote sums up my life perfectly now.

Regards!

 
At 8:53 PM , Blogger It's okay, Sweetie said...

Hello! I've no idea how I ended up here. I fell through a portal of Mommy blogs I guess. But glad I discovered ya.

Congrats on your progress. I'm a long, long away from this stage. As of late, I'm totally in line with that Ben Franklin quote. I think that shall adopt that as my new mantra.

Regards!

 
At 4:20 PM , Blogger Carmi said...

Slowly, imperceptibly, they listen and learn. Slowly, imperceptibly, Mom looks in the mirror and justifiably feels proud.

 
At 7:37 AM , Blogger Robin said...

Baby steps! Baby steps! This gives me hope, because I usually have to resort to bribery!! Michele sent me again today, Karen...always a pleasure!

 

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