My House, My Rules

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember. I’ve had journals since I was old enough to write. I saved them, all of them. Until my mom read my journal when I was thirteen. Not the age you want your mom reading your journal. I had a lot to hide. Mostly about boys. Looking back, now that I am a mom to an 8- year-old girl, I’ve really contemplated if that was a good choice she made. Reading my journal. Invading my privacy. Losing my trust. Will I ever forgive her? I don’t know. I don’t think I will ever stop being upset. I was horrified. It brings tears to my eyes to this day, if I’m PMS’ing. If I’m not PMS’ing then I’m just pissed.

Will I do that to my daughter? Will I invade her privacy? Will I search her drawers? Will I read her journal? Will I spy on her? Will I check up on her? Follow her? Will I? I’ve spent a lot of time reading a lot of books on parenting over the years. From general parenting books to books on just girls, just boys (I have two boys), and general self-help books, with the ultimate goal… to become a better person, a better parent.

My mom did the best she could. To this day, she believes that she had every right to read my diary. She was one of those old-fashioned moms. You know the type: “my house, my rules.” “When you get to be eighteen, and you can pay for a roof over your head, you can make your own rules,” she’d say.  “Life is all about rules, the sooner you learn that the better.” “Privacy – ha. There is no privacy here. You are my daughter. You are under eighteen, and you will do as I say, and don’t you forget it.”

But then there was the other side. The side where she comforted me. The side where she nurtured me. The side where she reminded me every day how much she loved me. How proud of me she was. What a “wonderful” daughter I was. We shopped. We dined. We watched movies together, every day. We had fun.

We all make mistakes. As a parent, I realize this more and more. I wake up each morning bright and bushy-tailed, and I say to myself, today, I won’t yell. Today, I will be patient. Today, I will accept my children for who they are and embrace their individual spirits. Today, I will not try to make them into something they are not. I will not get mad at them for having different priorities than me. But, it’s hard. It’s a daily struggle.

I recently watched a movie, during spring break, with my children—Ondine. A great movie, or at least it was perfect at that moment. A line resonated with me—“Misery is easy. Happiness you have to work at.” This line was stated by a priest to Colin Farrell’s character after he awoke from an all night bender, passed out in a tree. His character was struggling with alcoholism, both him and his ex wife. He had taken the high road and stopped drinking for the sake of his sick daughter, but, one night, life got the best of him, as it does with most of us. I don’t know about you but every day, I try. Every day, I start over. Every day, I have to work at happiness. Am I upset if my day isn’t blissful? Sometimes. Do my children upset me? Yes. Does my husband annoy me? Absolutely. Does life have to be happy all the time? No. I have a lot of work to do, but I’ve come a long way. As a parent, as a person, as a grown up. Do I feel like a child still? Yes. Do I feel like I’m messing everything up? Yes, sometimes. But, I remind myself that I’m just a girl. Just a person. Just human. My parents are human. And we all make mistakes. Some are worse than others. Some are harder to forget. Some mistakes are near impossible to forgive.

But, I remind myself that I am in control of my behavior, my habits, my responses, my reactions, my thoughts, my actions. My biggest lesson for this week or maybe this year, is that everyone, no matter what age, what race, what religion, deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. While I may lose my temper sometimes with my children, I will do my best to treat them with respect, with dignity, with kindness on a daily basis. I will remember that they are children, and they will make mistakes, stupid mistakes, but I will do everything in my power to be proactive rather than reactive. I wlll do my best to guide them but not judge them. Support them but not cripple them. Inspire them but not stifle them. Teach them how to land, so when it’s time for them to soar they know how to come back down.

I will try to do my best each day. My best includes working on me, every day. Taking thirty minutes for myself to do something I enjoy. Because I know, when I am fulfilled, I have much more to give to my children. More love, more patience, more kindness, more joy. And for me, it’s not happiness that I’m striving for. It’s joy. It’s fulfillment. I will keep trying. Can’t blame a mom for trying, right?

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