Friday, July 20, 2012

My kids don't think I'm parenting them.

The girls have coined a new term this summer.  They like to point out my “Mom Mode.”  More specifically, they like to celebrate the instances where, according to them, I’ve forgotten to be a mom.  They generally take me completely by surprise with a sudden, “Ha!  We love it when you get out of Mom Mode!” or, “Uh, oh, now you’re back in Mom Mode,” as if we’ve been hanging out in the basement together watching R movies, chugging beers, and smoking dope.

Two times they cracked me up with a Mom Mode comment this week.  One time, a family outing to the park segued into an episode of “This is Your Life,” as the kids began quizzing my husband and me about our early romances.  They wanted to know about our first kisses, how many people we dated, whether we ever fell in love before we met each other.  This segued back into a little bit of water play at the drinking fountain before we headed out.  On the way back to the car, I got one of their happy comments about Mom Mode.  I had to chuckle to myself that the kids thought we had forgotten for even a moment that we were parents.  As if we weren’t measuring every word of every phrase, trying to answer their questions with honesty, but also knowing that this moment of curiosity was a key opportunity to impart our wisdom and values to them before they begin their own romantic pursuits.  We really pulled it off, if they mistook “Mom Mode Hyper-drive” for not being in Mom Mode.

Another comment came when I joined them in the pool.  With an hour or two of daily swimming, the kids’ swimming skills have been advancing quickly this summer, resulting in the Incredible Shrinking Swimming Pool effect.  When they were spending most of their time on the surface, playing with float toys or splashing, the pool seemed large to them.  Now they are tooling around under the water with goggles and snorkels, dive sticks, and underwater tricks.  They bump into each other more and more.  Every now and then, I find a time to get in with them and introduce some new pool games, or some new challenges to make the old games harder.  You know, my sneaky way of making the pool bigger again, getting them to challenge their swimming skills, and therefore avoiding aquatic bickering.  After an hour or so of crowding up the pool, I made my way to the ladder and they gave me a gratifying whine that they were disappointed I was going back into Mom Mode.

Of course, I’m enjoying this whole Mom Mode thing immensely.  It takes me by surprise every time.  The best part is knowing that parenting doesn’t have to mean never having fun together.  Their comments remind me of exactly the opposite: sometimes we do it best when they don’t even realize we’re doing it.  Hopefully, instead of disciplining them for fighting with each other, I will get to enjoy watching them play pool games together.  Hopefully, instead of hiring surveillance and grounding them for their entire teenage years, I will be able to hear about their developing relationships and help them navigate those muddy waters.  Maybe not, but at least I’ll know I tried – I’d definitely rather play with them now than yell at them later.

Let’s face it, I could never forget that I’m a mom – but it’s OK with me, if they forget it sometimes.

The LORD answered, “Could a mother forget a child who nurses at her breast? Could she fail to love an infant who came from her own body? Even if a mother could forget, I will never forget you. Isaiah 49:15

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