When it comes to child-rearing, pick your battles

March 2, 2021
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By Delilah McMasters

Mansfield Record

I’m sorry, Libby. I did you wrong.

Had I known what I know now 34 years ago things would have been different. Izzy has made me see the error of my ways. Everyone knows I have a half dozen kids. The oldest, Libby, is 34, the youngest, Izzy, is 13, 21 years between the two.

When I was 21 years old, Libby was 2 years old, and I was ignorant. I listened to other people, read magazines and took advice not asked for. She was the cutest, most well-behaved baby ever seen! The perfect little accessory. We watched “Sesame Street,” did ballet, read every night, had three meals a day and snacks —no sugar! It was educational TV and nap times. No cussing, no messing with the baby’s schedule, no sassy talk, and lots and lots of bows! All I had to do was give that sweet Miss America a look and she would yes, ma’am, me, pick up those toys or settle down!

Over the years four more babies popped out and with each one the messes and the cussing got a little worse. Nothing trashy or out of control, but definitely not of the strict guidelines I had mapped out with my first little sweetheart. I noticed “the look” had to be accompanied with a stare to get some action, and there were some occasions when a smack to the backside with my hand or the flyswatter helped matters along.

Then Izzy showed up. I had always been told about the baby in families. I knew they were spoiled, but hey, all my kids were spoiled, so I wasn’t scared! What I was was TIRED. I was worn out and my give-a-damn left for a vacation in Mexico on the beach, and unfortunately has never returned. Sponge Bob, fruit snacks, PG-13 movies — trust me, unless you point that naughtiness out, it goes right over a kid’s head! Otherwise you are never going to see an adult-themed movie the first eight years of a kids life.

Extracurriculars? Reading and learning to entertain yourself are life-long skills. As long as the bathroom stays clean and dirty clothes make it to the laundry, it’s all good. Izzy’s room is a mess, that’s on her, I’m not sleeping in there, and I’ll close the door, it’s her choice.

If she doesn’t like what I cook? Better find something, and yes, I keep lots and lots of frozen chicken and salad in the fridge, and sometimes she eats ice cream for breakfast, it’s not gonna kill her, but it might kill me if I have to have another damn discussion about a kid’s eating habits! Just keep the junk at a minimum, they will either starve or eat, it’s not rocket science, and if they have an activity they are doing, they learn real quick the junk makes them feel like crap.

Bows? Hahahahaha! Noooo, blue hair or a shaved head is the norm! The one thing I wished still worked is “the look,” it was like magic with those five older kids, but with Izzy it’s “Why are you looking at me like that? Stop, just say it or I’m going to my room!” Really isn’t that a win-win for both of us, it still kind of gets the same results, right?  But then she purses her lips and looks right back at me and yeah, I know those other kids would have had their arm ripped off and been beat with it, yet, I get amused and try to hug her instead.

The one thing Izzy does that takes me by surprise is flat-out tell me, “No.”

Did you clean your room? No

Will you unload the dishwasher? No.

Did you tell me no? No, well yes, I’ll do it, but not now. Tell Lila or Nic to do it.

This is not even said with an attitude or disrespect, it’s just nonchalant, nah, it’s OK, Mom, not feeling it. And I let it happen 70 percent of the time, because, sometimes you just don’t feel like it and I get it, it’s not that important in the big scheme of things.

There are things I thought were important that turned out to be overrated. Dessert should not be eaten last. A limited diet of chicken, potatoes and salad isn’t going to stunt anyone’s growth. They grow up and they will eat the siding off the house!

You can be the biggest brat in this house, but when you walk out those doors you better act like I raised you right. Morals, sense of humor, personal hygiene, intelligence, common sense — all of my kids have these things in common, they have good spirits. They all push boundaries in their own ways. Izzy just doesn’t see boundaries, she sees wrong and right and lots of opportunity.

Delilah McMasters is a local resident and the mother of six. Reach her at BlessYourHeart76063@gmail.com

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