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Tag Archives: Bad parenting

Shut Up. Yep, that’s what I said.

I see the moment so clearly; all of us walking into the restaurant, my friend bickering back and forth with her snarky, then 11 year-old son, her, ultimately, telling him to shut up.

I remember how totally and completely horrified I was. I had babies at the time; sweet little yum yums. I could never imagine speaking to them that way, and I’m sure my judgment showed.

My friend shot me a stern look of reproach. “Just wait.” She warned. “You’ll do it too.”

I nodded, embarrassed for all of us, but I didn’t believe her. We were different, I told myself. I would never. And I didn’t, until the day I did.

I was past the point of frustration and on to exasperation when I snapped at my squabbling 8 and 10 year-old. It just came out. I don’t know how, and my hand quickly flew to my mouth in shame.

They looked at me, momentarily confused, all speech halted.

“Mommy, you said, shut up.” They both giggled.

“I know, I know. I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.” Bad mommy. Bad, bad mommy.

“You always tell us never to say that.” More giggling.

It’s true. I think saying ‘shut up’ is worse than cursing. My kids regularly amuse themselves by dropping something and loudly exclaiming, “Damn it!” The expression of frustration doesn’t really bother me.  Of course, I don’t encourage it, but it’s those words and phrases with intention to hurt that make me cringe. Words like, “I don’t like you.” Or “You’re stupid.”

Or, “Shut up.”

How did I just say that?

Well, they were obviously driving me insane and I wanted them to shut up. Sigh.

Back at the beginning of my mommy career, I sat quietly on my horse with my perfect child, looking down at the moms of children running wild through the playground, or climbing on top of carts in the supermarket, or manipulating a second or third oreo. Tsk Tsk.

Until all of a sudden, I did things I swore I’d never do like: let my child sleep in my bed, reduce me to tears in Target, make me want to throw them out a window, bribe them with sugar and TV so I could talk on the phone, make three different meals each night, or just give up and give a bowl of cereal, hide in the bathroom, buy expensive gadgets or iPhones…

Well, ha ha ha on me. Because it’s easy to judge, when it’s not your life in the midst of mental meltdown.

While I do my best to exhibit respectful behavior and make the right choices, sometimes I don’t do as I intend, and I learned long ago, never to say never.

Telling them to shut up is certainly not on my highlight reel, but I guess, it happens. Or, it happened. Hopefully, it won’t again. But it might.

I can just hear my friend saying, I told you so. And while I’d like to tell her to shut up, I try not to say those kind of things.

Damn it.

Clearly not winning any parenting awards over here.

Clearly not winning any parenting awards over here.





TKD puts my parenting to the test

My seven year-old son, Michael, started doing Tae Kwon Do when he was three. I loved that hour watching him in his crisp, white uniform through the foggy glass partition. He did his stance and said, “Yes sir!” He tried to mirror jumping jacks, not quite coordinated enough to get his arms and legs moving together.  He learned his five basics. He was a tiny figure of strength and determination. I couldn’t get enough.

Almost three years later, Michael’s uniform may not have been as crisp, but his love with TKD was still fresh. It gave him confidence and a sense of pride. I wasn’t as in love with the overly disciplined environment, but I couldn’t argue the results. Plus, any small bump we hit, Michael high jumped right over. Now, he was getting ready to test for his purple belt, pretty impressive for just six years-old.

before the test...

Before the test…

The TKD tests are like a military recital in a sweaty, tense room stuffed with family, instructors and kids, for well over an hour.  The Master sits at a platform, scrutinizing and shouting orders. He could be tough on the kids. In the right (or wrong) mood, he pushed the kids and even taunted them. An imposing figure and an 8th degree black belt, he didn’t have to try too hard to make them nervous. He certainly made me nervous.

It was only Michael and two other six year-olds testing that day for Purple. The three had gone up through the ranks together. Small but mighty. I sat on the sidelines, biting my nails while watching him at the center of the mat, being ordered to display his mastery over his moves.  Unlike me, Michael was confident and poised. He and his friends breezed through their requirements. I breathed. It was a mistake.

“20 push-ups!” The Master yelled, and the boys dropped to the floor and did their best imitation of a push-up, while shouting out the count. They struggled, but with effort made it to 20.

They waited in push-up position to be released. Instead, the Master ordered, “10 more push-ups!” Shaking slightly, the boys did 10 more, their push-ups more like just-ups. They could barely even go down.

The Master shouted again, “You want more push-ups?”

Together they screamed, “No sir!”

“10 more push-ups!”

Their little bodies struggled once more. It was turning into a sorry display. People were beginning to look away. I wish I could look away, but my welled-up eyes were glued to the center of the mat and my son’s intent, determined face.

“You want more push-ups?” The Master tested again after they finished.

The instructors circled, mouthing something to the boys. 

“No, Sir!” Their tiny voices squeaked. One of the boys was visibly crying.

“10 more!” The Master yelled again and down their blonde heads and tiny bodies went, no longer shouting, almost sobbing till they pitifully reached 10.

I was torn, completely torn. I wanted to stand up and scream, “Stop this! Who the hell do you people think you are?” But I sat there, with all the other parents, tears streaming down my face, my 6 year-old holding it together better. I just couldn’t believe what I was witnessing along with about 50 other people. Was this okay? This didn’t seem okay at all. It seemed like abuse. Why were we all just watching?! Why wasn’t I stopping this ridiculousness?! 

It pains me to admit, but it took another round, with all the instructors and me shouting the correct answer at them, before the boys actually understood that they needed to say “Yes, sir!” for the Master to stop punishing them.

Finally, it was over. I was horrified, disgusted and ashamed. I had failed my child.

What could I do to make it up to him? I walked to him sheepishly, my arms wide open, where my mouth had stayed firmly shut.  After a hug, I told Michael he could quit if he wanted to.

He shrugged it off and me as well. “It’s okay, mom.” Then, he beamed radiantly and proudly lifted his hard earned prize. “Look at my new belt!”

I smiled through my tears. “You did amazing. I’m so proud of you.” And I was. I just wanted to kill the Master. Instead, I ushered my kid out and took us all for ice cream.

Michael passed his test that day, but I still wonder if, as a mother, I passed mine.

getting his brown belt, he and the master, still friends. i still want to kick his ass.

This year, getting his brown belt. He and the Master still friends. I still want to kick his ass.