Even before the separation, I was a free-wielding mama. I used to let M and Little Homie color on the walls of her room with a crayon. I let my kids stand on chairs next to me and slice bread with a butter knife on the kitchen counter. Crumbs on the floor can be swept up. Stains on their clothes means that they had a good time. Bedtime is a fluid concept in our house, and if we’re all having a hard day I’ve been known to break out the Ben and Jerry’s. I (still) don’t censor myself, even though I know it means that one day the preschool director will probably call me because one of my kids said “shove it.” But, I love loyally and loudly. Mess with my kids, and I’ll cut you.
(I am Mother Lion, hear me roar.)
But still, now that I see my kids only three days a week instead of seven, I don’t want to fall into the trap of being just the “fun” parent. Ok, fine, I’ll be real: I do want to be the fun parent–but I know that it’s a precarious balance between being “fun” and maintaining the structure that children crave.
(And I stumble frequently.)
Yesterday, for example, was an epic parental failure: Winter in Israel on a kibbutz without a car is a triple whammy nightmare for any parent. Let alone this parent. By 2:07 p.m.–an hour overdue for naptime–M straight up told me, “No Mama, I don’t want to see Cinderella. (Again.) I only want to watch Sex and the City.” So, Carrie, Samantha, Miranda, and Charlotte joined us for a rainy afternoon visit while Little Homie found my red hooker heels, and I found the chocolate cake my mother-in-law had baked for B. By 2:30, our house had devolved into Lord of the Flies. Only with red stilettos and chocolate crumbs all over the rug.
By 3:23, the kids were asleep, curled up together on the couch in clear violation of the “we only sleep in our beds” rule that I never fully signed on to.
Kids: 2. Mama: 0.
And then, just a few hours later, I’m gone–on a slow train back to Tel Aviv until Tuesday rolls around and I come back.
And I wonder how this easy-come-easy-go parenting style will affect my kids, especially as it smacks right up against their father’s more, um, orderly methods. Will the contradiction be too much for M and Little Homie to bear? Am I pillaging the boundaries and borders my kids need to feel safe?
We know that kids will rebel against their parents in one way or another. After all, we were all teenagers at one point (and I still have the pierced nose to prove it. Hi Dad.) While most of us eventually circle back to some basic level of functionality, some of us don’t. And this begs the question: If M or Little Homie join a cult–or worse–become investment bankers, will it be my fault?