I came from a family where my parents never really censored much from my brother and me. I don't know if it was from lack of effort or just good, old not knowing any better. In any case, we were definitely exposed to more than most children probably were. I am going to go out a limb here, but I am willing to bet that most 7 and 4 year olds could not recite the dialogue to "Breakfast Club". My brother and I could. (and still can) We were also, unfortunately, present for many of their irrational actions during their divorce and even at our young ages we understood how completely irrational they were. They were young when they married, had me when they were 22 and 21 and divorced by the time my brother and I were 8 and 11. My brother and I joke all the time how lucky they are that we turned out okay, because their parenting skills were limited at times by age and unhappiness. They were struggling to find their place in the world and ultimately that place was separate from each other. My parents have always been upfront with us and few things were ever taboo to discuss with them. It is actually one of the best things they did for us, as parents. The hubby and I try our best to balance being open with our children with allowing them to be exposed to ideas or subjects that are appropriate, however, just like my brother and me, my children have also been blessed with imperfect parents and although we try, we fail, a lot. Let me provide you with two examples if I may...
Both of the kids have televisions in their bedroom, judge me if you want, but a girl needs the evenings alone with a glass of wine and her DVR. Spiro excitedly told me one morning over breakfast, that he had found a new show the night before called King of Hill that was really funny.
Great! What kind of show is it.
It's a cartoon, Mommy.
Can I record it!
Two weeks later I walked into his room to turn off the television after he had fallen asleep and King of the Hill was on, and they were talking about Hookers. Wow, this is weird I thought, when did Noggin start discussing Hookers? I legitimately had no idea what King of the Hill was, I had assumed (wrongly) that it was just a regular, G rated, children's cartoon. Spiro now understands the difference between "adult cartoons" and "age appropriate cartoons", as does Mommy. Fail.
I assure you that our limitations as parents are not just limited to making inappropriate television available to our children either. One summer day last year, my husband and I were relaxing on our deck while the boys were playing in the yard. Billy had come up to the deck and began doing something that my husband didn't want him to, so he asked him to stop. Billy turned to him and told him "skata sta moutra sou". The hubby's jaw dropped and he told Billy very sternly, never to say that again. I just sat their like the little, one language speaking, American that I am and was all "Geez, what are you getting so bent out of shape about, you wanted them to speak Greek." The hubby explained that Billy, at 3 years old, had just told him to go "shit in his face"."Well he certainly didn't get that from me! I guess the speaking Greek thing just came back to bite you in the ass." Of course, the hubby blamed it on his father's lack of censoring his Greek language around the kids. I explained "All I know, is that you guys better get it together because I am fairly certain that if this type of language pops up while we are in church one Sunday, the Priest is not going to be pointing fingers at the little American wifey, he is going to be looking straight at you and your parents."
I don't think anyone ever masters parenting. Parenting for us has basically been a series of missteps and blunders. If you are lucky enough, you will take notes along the way to understand what not to do the next time. (We have a lot of notes to refer to.) I know that, as a parent, I have not only benefited from all the things that my parents did right but more so from their mistakes. I am a better mother to my children because of my parents' hindsight. I am not sure, but maybe my parents wouldn't have allowed my brother and I to watch Breakfast Club if they could go back to do it all over again. I know that I monitor television much more now since the King of the Hill situation and Billy does not curse in Greek, any longer. (he has been known to throw out an English curse word once in a while, though. I just blame that one on my 80 year old Mom-mom, because she seriously has the mouth of a sailor. Don't worry, you will hear plenty about her later.) I know that these are not the first mistakes that the hubby and I have made as parents and I am sure they are not going to be the last. I think Maya Angelou put it best - "I did then what I knew how to do. When you know better, you do better." and I think that's all that any of us can truly plan for.
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