Monday, October 31, 2016

Why I Don't Care Anymore About Being the Fun Mom

When my oldest was still little, someone gave me a tasty piece of parenting advice: make your house the place where your kids' friends want to hang out.

I took that advice to heart and for years, that was my goal.

My house, I decided, would be the cool house. When the kids were in elementary school we'd invest in a trampoline and a state-of-the-art gaming system. Snacks would flow free  and we'd get the good junk food, too.

As they got older we'd be the house that always had an extra chair or two out at dinnertime, and at least a few of my kids' friends would say of us "they were like my second family."

Fast-forward to now.

We never did get that trampoline or that gaming system. I don't fling wide the refrigerator door and tell all the neighborhood kids to help themselves. I kick my kids and their friends outside when the baby naps and make them clean up after themselves when they drag 247 bikes and balls out of the garage.

Despite my earliest intentions, I'm nothing like the fun mom I'd once hoped to be. And I'm okay with that.

I thought the best way to keep my kids safe was to make my house into the cool house where they always wanted to hang out with their friends. I was wrong.  {posted @ Unremarkable Files}

In theory I completely get why you'd want to have the cool house. After all, if my kids and their friends choose my house as their landing pad, especially when they're teens, I can keep an eye on them. I know who they're with and what they're doing, and I can provide a safe place for them to have fun.

But as I see things now, that's not my most important job as a mom.

I don't really care anymore about making my house the place my kids' friends want to be; I care about making it the place my kids want to be, which has everything to do with love and nothing to do with how many cool gadgets or bottomless bowls of Doritos we have.

Growing up is hard. If my own adolescent years are any indication, my oldest is in for several years of friend drama, boy drama, and more drama. She'll be under all kinds of pressure to do and be things she's not. Some days she'll feel betrayed and some days she'll feel like a loser.

And in those excruciating moments, I want her to feel that our house is a safe haven for her. Whatever meanness or disappointment she has to deal with throughout the day, I hope she can come home from school and feel like she's in a place of refuge.

Creating that atmosphere is no easy task, and I'm learning how to do it by trial and error like everyone else. I haven't got it all figured out, but I think it takes a lot of dedication and more importantly, time.

So sorry, kids, you'll probably never get to bring along a friend on a family vacation. I know you'd have a good time, but instead of slipping away with your bestie I want you at the table playing a board game with us.

I want you to spend plenty of time with your siblings, building a relationship with them that will last your whole life. I want to spend lots of time with you, unfiltered, when you're not self-conscious about how you appear to your buddies or too embarrassed to give your parents a hug.

While I don't exactly feel like making your house the "cool house" is bad advice, I have a new mantra now: Friends are fun, but family is forever.

I used to think I wanted to help my teens build their worlds around their friends, but now I see my real job as weaving a safety net of family under and around them. No one else loves them as unconditionally as their parents and siblings, and I want to spend as much time and energy as I can on letting them know that.

I want them to feel that even on the toughest days, home is the one place they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are.

And if they want to bring their friends over sometimes, I guess that's cool, too.

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17 comments:

  1. I think this is a great reflection, and as someone new to this whole parenting gig, this is very helpful :) Friends will come and go, but family is what will stick around, so it's vital to create a strong, holy family environment! (Catholics call it the "domestic church") But, like you said, in our society/culture, it's easy to forget this! And really, when you think about it, teens don't need much to be happy. For example, when I was a teenager, I once had a blast playing Candyland with my friends at 1 a.m. at my parents' house.

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    1. I like the term "domestic church." In Mormon circles we believe that the temple is the house of God and the holiest place on earth, but we also say a lot that "only the home can compare with the temple in sacredness." (Not as catchy as "domestic church," but I think the sentiments are similar!)

      Also, if you enjoy playing Candyland you're welcome to come over and play it with my kids any time! I cheat to lose that game just so it can be over already.

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  2. This is wonderful, Jenny. I too had visions of coolness once upon a time. Now I realize parties stress me out and friends had better be respectful or else. :) Having my home as a refuge from the storm is so important. Thank you for saying it so nicely!

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    1. Maybe ever mom has delusions of the same sort when her kids are young and she doesn't realize how much work it is to entertain one or two kids, letalone an entire neighborhood!

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  3. This is such great advice!! Kids need that loving security!! You may not be the "fun mom", but you are the best mom!!
    I've invited you to another quote challenge. Hopefully this is better timing since the baby is older!
    https://purpleslobinrecovery.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/quipped-quote/

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  4. Nice! I loved how you ended: I want them to feel that even on the toughest days, home is the one place they can be themselves and be accepted for who they are.

    And if they want to bring their friends over sometimes, I guess that's cool, too.

    :)

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  5. I hear you, but sometimes the hang out place doesn't need to be fancy. We don't have any of the cool things, but the kids still hang out here. As they get older it is nice for kids to have a safe place and I am fine with it being here. Sometimes I kick them all out and tell them to go home, but they all find their way back here.

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  6. Amen sister. I have gone through the same transformation. Maybe it is a personality thing. It stresses me out to deal with a lot of other people around, buying food that people will think is awesome (I'd rather just cater to my own tastes and not cast pearls before swine, haha!), and having stuff that "kids like" but I don't (e.g. Video games etc.). I think it's awesome when there ARE parents who don't mind doing that stuff. Good for them! And I think they DO do a lot of good for some kids that feel like they have a "second home" there. I spent a lot of time and went on some family trips with my best friend's family, and it was wonderful and I love her parents for adopting me like that. But...it's just not my thing, and I'm okay with that for now.

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  7. I admire your outlook on this topic! Friends are fun but family is forever. Perfection. I too, just want to wrap my kids in a safety net from this chaotic and sometimes scary world!

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  8. So, it sounds like you won't be letting all their friends smoke their pot at your cool/not cool house either? Sounds fine.

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  9. I may have posted today on Facebook how I was excited that there were 10 kids on our front porch, and only 4 were my own children. But, I never let the neighbor kids into our home, and have no desire to do so, and certainly never feed them (I almost never buy snacks) but I kinda am that "fun mom" who plays with the kids in the neighborhood.

    My house growing up was the not the hangout house, maybe because we didn't have A/C or good heating, but as a teen I loved that many of my friend's homes were open to me, whenever, especially as a teenager, and that they would feed me dinner often.

    I think there is great value in the places, homes, and people that gather. They are needed. But, for sure, it doesn't have to be YOUR home!

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  10. Yeah, I am SO not the fun mom. I can be quite boring, actually.

    We do have a trampoline though. But neighborhood kids generally piss me off and I tell them to go home.

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  11. I thoroughly love having one of my daughters friends to join us for dinner I get to know who she spends her time with and I often get discuss topics that otherwise might not come up. I'd much rather have the kids at my house that way I know who the kids are than having her at someone else's home. I don't always have cool snacks or an xbox but an occasional dinner with another kid at the table is something I enjoy. My Mom rarely got to know my friends and quite frankly I think they were scared of her...not what I wanted for my kids. Now let me say we only have one kid left at home so one more kid to feed is not a big deal but I completely understand if you've got several kids of your own at home and adding one more is not an option.

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    1. It's not that my kids' friends aren't welcome here or that I don't enjoy getting to know them; it's just that the friends' opinion on my house is not my main focus. Whether they think my house is a fun place to hang out or not, my concern is whether my kids feel loved unconditionally at home by us.

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  12. AMEN to this!! Everyone in our neighborhood was installing the theater and game rooms, getting pool tables, game systems, etc. For awhile we thought maybe we should try to keep up with the Joneses but frankly, we didn't have the money at that point.
    Later, I heard one of these "fun" moms admit she didn't like having her teen son's friends over at all hours, cleaning them out of food, acting like pigs etc. And I started to think, if everyone has all the gadgets, doesn't that just even the playing field once again?

    So, we just kept on as we were and lo and behold, my kids have friends over plenty. More importantly, they've made good choices about what friends they have and are stubborn in their standards, so I don't worry just because they're at someone else's house. I agree 100% that home really needs to be about family and making sure we have time for each other, not just entertaining friends. It's a refuge from the storm. Thank you for putting into words something I've been thinking about for a long time.

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  13. Being 18 when our first was born, my husband and I thought we were going to be the coolest parents ever. LOL Of course, living 15 miles from everybody else limits the friends visiting all in itself, but we are still much less fun and cool than we thought we would be. Instead we are wondering how the parents of most the other kids who are 10-15 years older than us are so stupid and irresponsible.

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