You might have seen that Huffington Post article about 10 Ways to Give Your Kid a 1970’s summer. I first read this thanks to an email from Farmer Stacey – my buddy who has 5 (yes FIVE) boys who she home schools. She lives miles from any Starbucks. Her oldest son has a pig business. Her two youngest kids are still in diapers. We met five years ago through my mommy column at Baby Center. In those days, time was more available for leisurely conversations. She only had two boys. I didn’t have a renter, a pit bull, or a two-hour commute. I also didn’t have much faith. I loved God, but I kind of relegated those “churchy” folk to people like Farmer Stacey. After all, if adults are outnumbered in your household by rug rats, pigs, chickens and an old lab, it made sense you’d need Jesus since Santa stopped landing on the barn roof years ago.
As things in my life progressed however, I felt this calling toward something outside myself. It was either wine, obsessive thrift store shopping, obsessive worry over T.S., (often all three) or faith. I went toward faith and have not looked back. I don’t even feel like the same person anymore.
The thing is, though, despite my talk about having hope during tough times, I wasn’t really letting go 100%. I wasn’t finding peace because I wasn’t giving it all to God. Instead, I was still acting as if I, myself, were God… As if my son’s entire condition rested on my shoulders… as if my entire marriage were up to me… as if it were up to me, and me alone, to fix everything.
But that changed last month. It dawned on me, after talking to a friend from my private Twitch and Bitch group, that maybe I could just stop controlling everything. Maybe if I stopped trying to be perfect, things would be unperfect. But in being unperfect, it would actually be perfect because the stress would be gone.
So I did something radical. I told my husband that there were a few things that I was not going to budge on. “Nope, not that, not that, and not that.” I said these things not because I wasn’t willing to give everything I had to our union (that whole self-sacrificing stuff) but because to budge would mean to lose a part of me – a part of me that was so crucial to being Andrea that in doing so my soul just might wither up and die and really, what is the point of that? Who would buy the kids Keens for $2.99 at Super Thrift if I were just a ghost of myself? Rex was a bit confused at first, maybe a bit annoyed, but he got used to it real quick, especially the happy Andrea part. The naked happy Andrea part he liked even more. And you know what, it’s still a new thing, but we couldn’t be happier.
The second radical thing I did was tell my son he could play as much computer time as he wanted this summer. His reaction kind of went like this.
(Big draw drop) Him: Wah wah wah WHAT?
Me: You heard me.
Him: As much as I want?
Me: Yes. Him: Is this a joke?
Me: No. I’m tired of talking about it.
Him: We’re talking about it now, though.
Me: Yes, we are. But that’s going to change because you get to do what you want to do when want to do it.
Him: I HAVE POWER!
Me: Yes, my friend, you do.
Him: Um, why?
Me: Simple. I’m tired of worrying that it’s going to make your head spin off your shoulders. I’m tired of hearing you worry about when you get it, how much you get, if you go over if you’re going to get busted and if you can have extra time if it’s a Leap Year or you crapped in your pants backwards after singing Yankee Doodle Dandy in Mandarin to the Mexican ice cream truck driver.
Him: So.. that means…
Me: It means that I want you to be RESPONSIBLE. If you can’t be RESPONSIBLE and you act like an ass it goes away. It means if you don’t do your chores every day, it goes away.
Him: I’LL BE RESPONSIBLE! THANK JESUS AND EVERYTHING MARIO AND PICKACHU I! WILL! BE! RESPONSIBLE!
Me: Great! I sure hope, though, that you will consider other things to enjoy other than computers, but let’s just see how it goes.
Cut to 2 weeks later
His tics have been cut in half. No joke. Turns out that the pressure over when he could and could not play was worse than the video games. All chores done. No issues with his moods. If anything, he is more relaxed than I’ve seen in years.
Just to be clear, I’m not THAT 1970’s. (Sorry, Stacey. Nice try.) My parameters: Electronics are off by 6. He still has to learn something like a language or piano. He has to read books. As far as food goes, we’re sticking to no gluten. NONE. But the major chains of tween oppression have been lifted.
Am I scared of him becoming a couch potato? A bit. But so far, so good. He’s not his sister. He doesn’t like camp. He doesn’t love to spend hours shopping for birthday parties. He isn’t his cousin. He doesn’t like sports. To him, the World Cup might as well be his latest Scooby Doo water bottle. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. I feel so much less pressured, and so does he. And folk, that’s just awesome.
Today, my son decided to only play computers for an hour. Why? See for yourself! He has a new hobby. I’m kind of proud. Until next time, hug that ticker of yours today!