Thursday, May 31, 2007

Parenting

The three little kids were in the hallway outside the NICU with their grandmother while the mother of their baby sibling was inside preparing for the baby's discharge. The baby had stayed longer than usual because the mother had used cocaine and Protective Services had to check the house out. The kids were getting restless, and as will happen one of them, about a 2 year old, bumped into a smaller one who looked to be about 18 months, who fell on the floor on her bottom. No harm done, no crying. The grandmother, though, went ballistic. "See what you've done now!" she yelled at the 2 year old."Now get into that waiting room like I told you before!"

I couldn't take it. I guess I had seen one too many examples of bad parenting. "Hey," I said gently, "They're just being kids. These things happen."

Grandma didn't back off. "I told her long ago to get into the waiting room. She has to behave."

"Good grief," I replied, "She's just a toddler. You're expecting way too much of her."

"Listen, man," she said, "don't tell me how to raise kids."

"Why not," I shot back, " You clearly don't know how to do it."

"Don't give me any crap, bucko," she snapped.

"Don't give me any guff, lady, or I'll contact Protective Services again and make them take away the kids. With a witch of a mother like you, it's no wonder your daughter turned to cocaine."

Man, it felt good to say that.

**************

But don't worry folks, I didn't really say that. Everything after the second paragraph is fiction. After I said "These things happen," I just walked into the NICU without saying anything else. I'm sure, though, that I'm not the only one who has to grit his teeth to remain quiet when we see examples of bad parenting.

I'll see mothers yelling at kids too small to get it or slapping kids too young to learn from it. I'll see them berate a child for just doing what kids normally do. I hate it, because I think what the child's home life must be like, that it must be a life of fear, at least until the kid gets so jaded he doesn't care anymore. I hate it, because I know that if the child lives with scolding and yelling she'll grow up to be a scolder and yeller. The kids are so little and impressionable, if we could just treat them gently, they would grow up to be gentler.

Is there anything we can really do about it, though? Sadly, I think not. We certainly can't remove kids from their homes for poor parenting skills. We don't have enough good foster homes as it is now. And we can't really mold people's parenting skills in the brief time we have with them. We can try to teach them, but they're probably just going to do what they grew up with anyway, so my nasty comments to such people will have to occur in my head and not in reality.

18 Comments:

Blogger WendyLou said...

First comment.... Yay

And First comment since you came back... Double YAY!

BTW, I am VERY glad you retuned.

Now on topic, there have been So many times I've wanted to say similar things. I hate watching the cycle. It makes me cringe to see it.

Poor children. Sad situation.

And you are right... there are not nearly enough foster homes, and research shows that removal is more harmful to a child then leaving them in a harsh situation.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Dream Mom said...

Welcome back!

12:20 AM  
Blogger Awesome Mom said...

Are you back in the saddle enough to submit something to PGR? If you are I would love to have something from you for the next edition. Email me at awesome_mom2061 AT yahoo DOT com Please!!!!!

12:36 AM  
Anonymous Ami said...

I'm very gald to see you back.

It's hard to feel so helpless to fix the wrongs in this world.

I remember a conversation with my husband. He thought that our children, very young at the time, should be able to get some kind of adult concept and behave logically. I told them they couldn't. Heck, they're brains weren't yet even fully functional on the adult level because the myelin sheathing had not yet grown into the higher thinking parts of the brain. Yes, I actually used that argument. He grumbled about it at the time. Years later I heard the same argument come from his lips to a friend of his who then had very young children and was expecting them to understand something too old for them.

1:52 AM  
Blogger Tilly Cat & Pip-Squeak said...

Yeah, sad. I raised the same issue to a board meeting I was sitting in recently. Our area has a (free, state provided) positive parenting cource available, but unsurprisingly, the people who need to take it don't, because they don't even realise their parenting is off. I suggested making a sort of leaflet summarising the points of positive parenting and inviting parents to the course, and making it available along with all the other leaflets at drop in play groups in the area. That way people can pick it up and think it over without feeling affronted.

By the way, talking about the lack of foster homes... Our area frequently advertises the need for more foster carers. My husband and I want to foster, and we can't. My husband has a PhD, I have a university education and we have two healthy, well adjusted children, but they won't let us foster because we don't have any spare bedrooms and a child would have to share a bedroom with our children. The reason we don't have a bigger house is that we decided I would be a stay at home mother (and have more time to give to our children and any children that would pass through the household.) But yeah, I can see how sharing bedrooms can be a horrible thing, avoided at all costs. *insert irony here*

4:30 AM  
Blogger daedalus2u said...

The "cycle of violence" is a "feature". If you have a crappy violent childhood, you obviously live in a crappy violent time, and need to be the first to respond with violence whenever push comes to shove.

Treating infants crappy and violently is "programming" them to survive in the violent crappy world they will grow up to make.

7:54 AM  
Blogger 20somethingmommy said...

"I'll see mothers yelling at kids too small to get it or slapping kids too young to learn from it. "

That just breaks my heart. I have a hard time understanding any parent who uses physical force to discipline. What are you really teaching a child when you slap? That mommy is out of control, and when you're out of control, feel free to backhand someone.

I am really glad you posted this. And it sucks that kids who've already had a rough start get to go home and deal with that.

8:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Doctor, It's great to see you back! We all missed you.

The woman you wrote about reminded me a lot of my own mother. She ruled with an iron fist as did my father. What saddens me is I'm afraid what those children endure behind closed doors is much worse than what we see in public.

My mother acted the same way in public and was proud of her actions. She felt that when people would stare at us, it was because they were thinking "Wow, that is an excellent Mom who keeps her kids in line, I wish more Moms were like that."

However, our home life was much worse. I remember watching my little brother beaten unconscious because he had a wetting accident. He was 3. I remember getting a hot iron seared into my back because I had accidentally dumped too much ketchup onto my plate. Those burn marks always lasted at least a month. We lived in fear every day.

Thankfully, we never turned to substance abuse or crime but I see how it can happen with some, that and perhaps having more children than one can handle...always looking to be loved.

The good news is that my brother and I are both parents and my mother's reign of terror ended with us. My husband and I have a 10 month old who is the light of our lives and are expecting our second child in August.

Julie

9:19 AM  
Blogger Shannon said...

Wow Julie, I am amazed by what you went through in your life. Do you still have a relationship with your mom?

As for these parents, they are all over the place. I don't know how some of them can do what they do or even say what they say out in public...makes me sick.

I always want to say something to the moms that have two or three kids and they are horsing around. Not bad but just being kids. And they fly off the handle. I would love to tell them how much I wish that my son could do those things...

4:37 PM  
Blogger Surgeon in my dreams said...

NEO!!!!!!! I didn't know you were back. I looked every day for weeks and weeks weeks and weeks and weeks and and I miss a few days and HERE YOU ARE!!!!!!!!!

I'm glad you're back. Can you tell?

8:49 PM  
Blogger Lisa - Mum to Mitch & Harry said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:49 AM  
Blogger Lisa - Mum to Mitch & Harry said...

I can so relate to this post. My hubby and I struggled to have children and when I was finally pregnant everything went pear-shaped and they were born 15 weeks early with multiple medical complications.

One day as we were driving home form the NICU we stopped at the grocery store to pick up some odds and ends. Whilst waiting at the checkout a woman was berating a small girl (no older than 4 years old) and calling her a F**king C**t for asking for a chocolate bar. To my eternal shame I just gritted my teeth and walked away.

I have often thought of that little girl and wondered if any adult in her life has protected her. Maybe her mum was having a bad day - but the venom with which she spoke made me think this must be a regular occurrence.

That experience made me realise how much our words can harm others - in particular children. I never stop telling my boys how much I love them. They are disciplined, but I try to the best of my ability to let them know that I might not like their actions, but I love them always. But I had the advantage of growing up in a family where there was boundless love.

Thanks for raising an important topic,
Lisa
mum to Mitch & Harry

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neo, brilliant to have you back. I grew very fond of your blog while pregnant. (Daughter is now 3.5 months and very healthy.)
I hope that we can all be a bit gentler to our children, but like you say, the ones who seek advice generally aren't the ones who need it. It frustrates me too. Next time my friend tells her 5 yr old she is "going to be shot", I might just confront her...

1:57 AM  
Blogger Twins x two said...

Glad to see you are back. I found your blog while you were on a "slight vacation" from blogging.

I am 33 and a mother of 2 sets of B/G twins. My youngest - 18 months (my oldest are 4 yrs) and were born at 31 weeks via c - section. My daughter was in the NICU for 26 days and my son for 40. He came home Christmas Eve Day 2005.
I thought leaving your children in the NICU was the hardest thing a mother could ever do, until they BOTH were diagnosied with craniosynostosis. Then, I found that handing your child over for a 7 hour skull surgery was the hardest thing a mother would have to do. AND having to do it for BOTH children.
Our NICU has an alumni party once a month and we love going. Our nurses and doc's were the best.
Thank you for doing a great job - without Neo doc's, I am not sure my babies would be here today.
THANK YOU.
Cindy
p.s - I also suffer from PCOS.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Jilly Bean said...

I am so glad you're back. I enjoy your writing style and insight.

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Dianne said...

You might well have helped this woman and the children. The grandmother might have been yelling at the children because she was worried about what the hospital personnel were thinking about the kids being "out of control". By letting her know that you(an authority figure in the hospital and particularly in the NICU) didn't think that they were really behaving badly for their age, you may have given her "permission" to be gentler with the kids and not worry so much about their running around. And even if that wasn't true in this case, it may be true sometime. So keep saying "these things happen" and other gentle, mellow statements about how kids behave under stress. It may help. The fantasies about threatening the parents or guardians with CPS...probably need to stay fantasies, though. (Much as I completely sympathize with them. I hate to see people treating their children badly.)

4:28 AM  
Blogger bryanboling said...

My wife and I went to a local amusement park over the weekend and overheard what I think is the most irrational demand of a parent on a child that I've ever heard. The path we were walking on was painted with a white design and I overheard a woman SCREAM at her child, "Get off the white!! How many times do I have to tell you not to walk on the white!?!"

We had to laugh at the absurdity of it, but at the same time, what must that kid's life be like if his mom will scream at him in a public place like that for such a stupid thing (I mean, who CARES if he steps on the white?). I'd hate to see what she's like when he does something wrong...

4:58 PM  
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1:36 AM  

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