I hope this does not make Jay and me sound like horrible parents but the one advice that almost every parenting expert recommends is family dinners. I think they say it prevents almost every possible future problem your kid could have. Family dinners always felt like a disaster in our house. Jay was an awesome cook but he did not cook much. And when I, a couple weeks ago, made Jalapeno poppers with my son and did not take the warning seriously about wearing gloves, I decided I had just crossed a threshold and could now write a book called "101 Reasons I Should Not Be In The Kitchen" after my face felt like it was on fire for about 30 minutes.
My kids are picky. My daughter was a vegetarian but this week will eat chicken. My son only likes burritos and cereal. Once again, we failed to listen to that other advice every parenting expert gives about not making a separate meal for each kid in the family. Honestly, a few years ago, we had to ban family dinners in our house. They were just too stressful. Every man to his own bowl of cereal or whatever just worked better and we were all happier.
Last week I was at a conference with my daughter and one of the teachers who is one of my many mom super heroine friends, Mrs. McKay, said at their house, they had weekly family meetings where they go over assignments and projects due for the week. I thought to myself, I can do that. No cooking involved. I am in!
I told my kids last night that we were having a family meeting. Of course, I had to repeat this several times before they took me seriously. My 14 year old daughter was already cynical because of the chore popsicle chart I had made after our third morning of school did not go so well last week. In her defense, this is something much better suited for a first grader. She reminded me that this was something I probably should have started before they developed bad habits. Oh uh...
The meeting began and I took out my typed written notes because I was feeling a little nervous. "Is that 3 pages?" my daughter asked me. I ignored her because she was interrupting and I was attempting a fresh parenting start but yes, it was long. I realized soon into it that I probably was over-ambitious for a first family meeting as I was going over A LOT more than just projects due for the week as now we are on social media rules. "No nude pictures sent, no requesting nude photos. No porn." I followed with (I am reading what I have written so it does not even sound natural) "you might by accident come across something that makes you embarrassed and then I want you to know that you can talk to me about it. It's always important to be honest."
"Mom" my 11 year old son interrupted. I tried to ignore him with my new parenting technique but it did not work. I am sure he would have been fine if I made him leave the meeting at this point as a consequence. He keeps going on "mom, if I see something inappropriate, I just hit the X at the top of the ad to close it."
Unlike my daughter, he was very into the chore popsicle chart and while I was glad to bring up the subject too early rather than late, I realized he was referring possibly to a Viagra ad he saw once which personally I am all for him seeing because I hope he listens when it warns "ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough to handle the extra strain of having sex." I relish the idea that one day in the future he could think he needs to check with a doctor before having sex. I think that will be good prevention.
At this point, we were about three minutes into the meeting. I am talking too fast because I can see I am about to lose both my kids and myself. My daughter finally says "mom, you are acting like Mrs. McKay" and she was right. I heard it in my voice and felt it in my mannerisms. Yes, I pretty much was copying my mom super heroine friend. Busted.
Our first meeting an epic failure? Well, it might have been a little messy but I think it was a good first try. I wanted my kids to know that I am paying attention and putting one foot in front of the other. While my checklist for a day was very minimal the first half of this year, I am trying to add just a tiny bit more to the second half.
I ended our meeting with family rules and the last was "be a family" and if nothing else, I hope my kids walked away remembering these words.
Be a Family: We are an awesome family of 3 with a Dad who is watching over us. Life has been hard over the past 8 months and will continue to be for a while. But we can do this and we need each other so much. We are a team and we always need to cheer each other on. I need to be cheered on too. I have the most amazing kids on Earth and I love you both. Let’s help each other when we can and ask for help when we need it.
Since writing this initially, my super heroine mom friend I wrote about, explained that I might have misunderstood her somewhat. Her meetings are not exactly "meetings" and they are not even weekly. In general, they are much less official than I understood. Whew. I am thinking about hitting the reset button and trying her new version after we recover from Take One.
The song is "We're Going To Be Friends" by The White Stripes.