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Hollow Tree Ventures parenting humor
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I'm Not As Screwed Up As You Think

The longer I do this parenting thing and attempt not to louse it up, the more I realize what a difficult job it really is.

In a lot of ways, parents are pretty much doomed to fail, or to at least think they have.  That's because every decision you make is forever held up for comparison next to the polished, shining ideal of the decision you didn't  make.  Unable to go back and test the results of choosing another path, you're left to compete with a potentially perfect reality that never happened.  It's like measuring yourself against what you assume  is going on in the professionally decorated home of the PTA mother wearing the Pinterest-inspired apron; you can't help but wonder if it's better over there, even though for all you know she's burning a frozen pizza in the oven and her kids are all chronic nose pickers.


Here's a perfect example of how everything parents do is potentially wrong.  I was in therapy a while back, and of course they want to know all about your childhood because presumably it's a rich source of chewy, delicious angst into which they can sink their psychoanalytical teeth to find the thick, nougatty center of your depression.  Not wanting to waste valuable therapy time evaluating something that I knew wasn't a problem, I explained in no uncertain terms that my mom and I are really close, that she was loving and supportive and all-around amazing.

My counselor's response?  "That must be a lot to live up to."
Way to screw me up by being too awesome, Mom.  Thanks a lot.
That's why I like this week's Monday Listicles prompt from Stasha - 10 Things My Parents Did Right.  After years of wondering and stressing and second guessing, I can only hope that one day my kids will be able to reassure me that there are at least 10 things I did that didn't completely ruin them.  This one's for you, Marma and Dad.



10 THINGS MY PARENTS DID RIGHT

1. They let me do goofy stuff.
Sometimes I'd clear out the floor of the coat closet and sleep in there.  I'd set up elaborate Barbie worlds under the dining room table and leave them set up - for months.  I had a goodnight routine that rivaled a recitation of War and Peace  backwards from memory in both length and technical precision, which my poor, weary mother adhered to every night without complaint.  If I didn't get these things out of my system while I was young, who knows what kind of crazed lunatic I'd be as an adult.

2. They gave my brother a computer back when the only other computer belonged to NASA.
To this day I have no idea where he'd even heard  of computers at that point, but they took a chance and splurged even though that old Commodore 64 probably cost twice as much as a new Buick.  Turns out he's still all computery and softwarish, which seems to be serving him pretty well.  They're supportive like that; I'm sure my folks would've done the same for me, too, if I'd had any interests.

3. They kept TV to a minimum.
I'm giving myself a pass on this one and assuming TV was just less popular in general back in the day, plus cable hadn't been invented yet (or at least that's what they told me).  Also, in the 80's nobody worried about kids getting kidnapped or developing melanoma, so I was outside all the time.  If I let my kids go outside all the time in this neighborhood, I probably wouldn't have any kids.  Still, I feel like I'm doing better at Momming on those days when my kids run and play and use their imaginations and build a blanket fort and read a book.  I did that all the time when I was a kid.

4. We played lots of games.
Games are fun.  Also, about half the self esteem I have today comes from kicking ass at Uno when I was eight.

5. They set limits.
My brother got to have a room in the basement, but when I asked my mom if I could have the master bedroom, she was quite clear that was never going to happen.

6. We took outdoorsy vacations.
This one was all my dad's doing - we were always camping, which made me love the outdoors, probably because I only remember the having fun part and not the peeing in the woods part, so extra kudos to them for managing that.

7. They had rules, but they were also flexible.
I once got in some serious trouble for saying the word "crap" really loud at a pet store, but when I said a much stronger version of the word after pouring boiling water on my hand, my mom was kind enough to let it slide.

8. Mom gave good advice (even when I wouldn't listen).
For example, my mom warned me that once I started shaving my legs I'd be sorry, because you can never go back.  Sadly, so true.

9. But she kept her mouth shut when she probably really, REALLY wanted to give advice.
I once dated a guy who spray painted "I love you" on the street in front of my house.  I can't remember for sure, but I wouldn't be terribly surprised if he'd misspelled it, too.  I recently told my mom that I'd go i-n-s-a-n-e if someone did that to one of my daughters, but then she pointed out that if she had protested, my teenagery self would've probably just dated him even longer.  That's a smart lady, with a lot of self control.

10. She was overprotective.
Not only did I never break a bone as a youngster, but I also grew up thinking, "Come on, everything isn't THAT dangerous," resulting in me being a rather under protective parent, which I like, because being overprotective seems like a lot more work, not to mention kind of stressful.

I think what would really make my parents feel like they succeeded in raising me properly is if you clicked on the TMB banner below to vote - there's no measure of great parenting quite like having a kid with a popular blog!
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69 comments:

  1. Oh the Commodore 64 with the dot matrix printer that could print either the entire document in italics or none of it.
    Your mom sounds absolutely perfect. Great list!

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    1. Gotta love that high-quality dot matrix printout. Makes me want to write a three page book report just so I can tear off those perforated strips on the edges of the paper.

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  2. First off, let me say that I am back. For a little while at least. I've just been too honking busy to stalk you these past few lonely weeks. Sorry. I'll try harder.

    Secondly, I have to agree with almost EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THESE!!! Are we twins separated at birth? I mean, aside from the age difference and Michigan being one of the few states I haven't visited yet? And if we were twins separated at birth then we probably would have had diametrically different lives instead of creepily similar ones...so maybe we are just sisters ala that movie with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves where they have a romance but are separated by several years. What was it called? I didn't actually SEE it, but I am aware that it exists...

    Where was I?

    Oh yeah.
    #1 I hung out in the coat closet too (it was under the stairs and HUGE with wonderful things stored way in the back)(hung out...get it?).
    #2 We had a Commodore 64 as well. I could seriously kick a$$ at Moon Shuttle. I'm just showing my age if I tell you we had a vic20 in our 5th grade classroom...That sucker was CLASSIC.
    #3 We didn't get cable until I was 15. But it was only Basic so we didn't have anything cool. But if there was a free weekend for HBO or Cinemax, you can bet your bootie I was GLUED.
    #4 I seem to recall Mom trying to institute a game night...It didn't catch one, but she did teach us all how to play a mean hand of Gin Rummy.
    #5 I'm sure we had limits, but since I was super good (I swear I was)(so does my Mom), I don't actually remember what they were. I wish I did because my boys are (as I have oft said) rabid spider monkeys and I fear for the future.
    #6 there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING that I like better than camping. I don't even mind peeing in the woods. We never went on a vacation that didn't involve a tent or (since my Mom refused to sleep in a tent) the camper we got when I was a little older. Seriously, BEST. VACATIONS. EVER. All my friends who went to Disney can suck it. I have never been and don't miss it a whit.
    #7 I got busted in 3rd grade for saying "That's for Shit Sure" on the play ground. When my dad found out, he said I had to be more careful about where I say it. Like, not in front of the recess lady. Or Mom.
    #8 It pains me to say that I don't actually remember any particular tidbits, but it's just as well because if I had something for ALL of these it would be super freaky.
    #9 Yup. There were a few that they (thankfully) waited out.
    #10 also a totally under protective parent. But mostly because my husband is OVERLY protective (he's a freaking RIOT at the park) and I have neither the heart nor the energy to constantly harass my kids about every step they take. I think EB White said "Children generally hold on tighter than grownups think" or something like that. Thus far, my apparently lackadaisical parenting has resulted in one measly (but still horrifying) stitch. So not too shabby.

    Ok, I now release your blog for good behavior. Sorry I shanghaied it!

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    1. Yay, you're back! This does make our childhoods seem eerily similar...! If we're from any movie, though, I bet it's Twins, and I'm Danny DeVito.

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    2. Oh great, you get to be the cool one. figures.

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    3. Hahaha! Sorry, sometimes I forget what a tool Arnold turned out to be. (P.S. The Expendables 2??? Unforgivable. Shame on you, Hollywood.)

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    4. Careful....CAAAAAAARRRFFFFUUUUULLLLLLL....I am a HUGE Jason Statham fan...you can't knock any movie he is in, no matter HOW dreadful the supporting cast. Unless it's any of the Crank movies...even *I* couldn't get though those).

      Extra points if he takes his shirt off...PHEW!

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    5. Okay, I'll give you that, but I'm afraid I can't condone the existence of The Expendables 2, so I'll have to assume Jason Statham only agreed to be in it because the producers took his family hostage and wired a bomb to his cat that was set to go off if he refused to say his lines.

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  3. I loved these. Your therapist's retort cracked me up. Apparently you can do amazing badly. Who knew. Ellen

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    1. It was news to me! She may have just been gunning for a few extra sessions - you know, the old, "If it ain't broke, we'd better break it so we can fix it."

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  4. OK the therapist can suck it. Someone can have awesome parents and still turn out to be absolutely paper certifiably crazy. Just sayin. Oh I love camping, even without a camper and I love to fish. I am the only child in my family that can swim, no one else was ever taught because my mom was a freak about us swimming. So a neighbor friend's daddy taught me. Coming by from Stasha's have a great day .

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    1. That's true - I think some kinds of crazy people are just born with, or at least that's what I'm going with if my kids turn out to be coo-coo. Thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Replies
    1. It was tiny, too - I have no idea what the appeal was. :)

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  6. Love the spray paint one! That was very smart. Thanks for always making me laugh!

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    1. Thank YOU! I don't know how my mom contained herself with that spray paint incident - if the roles were reversed, I'd probably STILL be giving a lecture. :)

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  7. Sounds like you've got a good one :) And I think there are a lot more closet frozen-pizza-chronic-nose-pickers out there than we know--at least, this is what I tell myself.

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    1. Yes, I do! And I think you're right, I bet all kinds of nose picking goes on in other houses, even in the houses where the mom manages to put on real pants before going outside.

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  8. Of course your parents did a good job...look at you! By the way, totally pictured the Ralphie slow-mo "FUUUUUUDDDGE!" when I imagined your swear. Was I close?

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    1. Naw, I'd be dead right now if I'd gone that far. I hafta keep my plentiful f-bombs under wraps. ;)

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  9. I'm speechless! There's nothing quite as fascinating as finding out what your adult children remember from childhood. And nothing as rewarding as hearing that (at least some of) your memories are good ones. :)

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    1. You did a great job, aside from ruining my chances of ever feeling like a successful parent by setting the bar way too high. Hahahahaha, you know I'm just kidding. Right?!?!?! Love you! ::sheepish grin::

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  10. Your parents sound great! Though, honestly, not giving you the master bedroom was kind of harsh!!

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    1. THANK YOU, I thought so too! Although in hindsight her reasoning (not wanting to give up the master bathroom she'd always wanted) does seem pretty valid. If I ever get a master bath (dare to dream) I'm never letting my kids NEAR it, let alone trading them for their crappy old room.

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  11. I remember playing outside all the time...like from after breakfast until dinner. I would have panic attack after panic attack if I let me kid do that...

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    1. Me too! As I recall, we just roamed the neighborhood, foraging for wild berries and snacks from random parents, and showed up back at home somewhere around dusk. I'd have to get my kids outfitted with microchips and watch the GPS linkup on my computer all day. If I were going to pay that much attention to them, I might as well play with them myself!

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  12. Ok, I just love your parents who let you do goofy stuff and were over-protective and made you into the awesome mom that you are today. Also, I love how honest you are about the therapy stuff - and sometimes they do try too hard to spin something from the past into a cause for something negative today and well...it bugs me too. (-:

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    1. Thank you! I really loved that counselor, but that one line she said always cracks me up. I could easily start another whole blog about therapy. ;)

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  13. We used to play outside all the time too. It's a great list - I loved your point about your telling you that one you started shaving you would never be able to stop. Ha! I remember my mom saying that too. Sounds like there was a lot your parents did right.

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    1. I'd forgotten about that one until the other day when my daughter said she wanted to shave her legs - noooooo! I hope she listens to advice better than I did. ;)

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  14. This is such a fun list. I think we should start the campaign to bring back the 80'. It was a good time to be growing up. Except hair. And neon. Ah, never mind.

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    1. You're so right - there were a lot of good parts, but I don't know if it's worth the tradeoff if we have to do that hair again!

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  15. Yeah, growing up in the 80's, we were always playing outside. Not alot of TV, except Saturday morning cartoons!

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    1. And it wasn't all about elaborate play structures or swimming pools, either - you'd go outside and entertain yourself for eight solid hours with two rocks and a tree stump. Of course now I sound like a doddering old person, lecturing and shaking her fist at the kids on her lawn...

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  16. Ok your mom deserves a medal for letting the spray painted street slide. She sounds like a great mom and the therapist is probably just not used to hearing about good parents :)

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    1. You're probably on to something there with the therapist... And yes, I don't know how my mom managed to avoid killing me or the boyfriend (or both) over the spray paint. She deserves a medal AND a stiff drink. ;)

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  17. Replies
    1. Thanks - it was the least I could do. ;)

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  18. I love it! My parents were very similar to yours and I hope to continue on with that. I'm not really sure how having a great mom translates into therapy but if Lil Duck needs therapy because she has an AWESOME AMAZING INCREDIBLE childhood....I will pay for it :D

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    1. Yeah, that's an offer I'd make any day! ;)

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  19. Haha! I actually think the spray painting is kind of romantic :)
    Thank heavens for good parents!!

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    1. You'd think so, until you consider the neighbors driving by every day looking at it - or the fact that I think he may have already dropped out of high school by then - or the idea that he did it after throwing rocks at my window for an hour in the middle of the night and me hissing for him to gooooo awaayyyyyy! My poor mom...

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  20. I'm right with you on #10. My mom was really overprotective and I'm so not like that. I worry that maybe I'm a little too lax...

    Go ahead, climb to the top of the tree. If you fall you'll hit all the limbs on the way down, so it won't hurt so much on impact with the ground.

    If you're gonna play with matches, do it outside.

    When you're beating each other with those wooden swords, make sure you do it downstairs, so I don't get hit.

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    1. Hahahaha! Love that! I'm totally sending my kids to play over at your house. :)

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  21. Very nice! Sounds like your parents did a great job. So did mine, but my mom is neurotic and overprotective and guess what? So am I! You are right, it is difficult and more than kind of stressful. I wonder what being under protective is like. Wish I could try it. Sigh...

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    1. Meh, it's not so great - you don't stress as much on a daily basis, but you make up for it with a BUNCH of stress and guilt when something bad happens that you could've prevented by being over protective. ;)

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  22. Your parents sound very wise and brilliant. I mean, look how well you turned out! I agree, being overprotective sounds way too stressful for me.

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    1. Awwww - thanks for saying so. Your check's in the mail. :)

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  23. Great post, Robyn. My mother is still amazed that the three of us lived to adulthood. I will always be grateful that we were given the freedom to hurt ourselves and learn first-hand why square canoes don't float... and that we were sneaky enough to keep our scariest adventures to ourselves.

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    1. That's awesome - those later-years confessions to the folks about stuff they never knew happened are always fun. ;)

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  24. I agree -- we do the opposite than our parents in a lot of ways. You talk about over verses under protective. My house growing up was very structured. I was a creative non-structure person. Our house now is too unstructured and I pay for it sometimes. But it reflects who I am. I often think that my children are going to create or marry very structured spouses in reaction to my lack of it.

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    1. I pay for it sometimes, too - luckily my husband tips the other side of the scale a bit, so we balance each other out. Usually.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. Hmmm. I accidentally commented as you. So I removed it. It said, "Hmmm."

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  25. So sweet. Sounds like your parents did a great job. My parents gave me an awesome childhood too. Makes me wonder how I turned out so neurotic :S Oh, and I am ALWAYS wondering what's going on inside Pinterest Apron Lady's home. Like when does she have time to make her hair look so nice? Why are her clothes always so CLEAN? Does she have super children who never vomit or smush food into their hair? And why isn't she sharing any of her secrets! If you ever go to her house, will you please report back on the status of the pizza and the boogers?

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    1. I would absolutely report back - but I'm afraid moms like me don't get invited to Pinterest Apron Lady's house. And if I did, I'd probably get kicked out for rolling my eyes and making gagging noises at all the perfection. ;)

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  26. Not to be weird, but I swear to God, if I get my hands on that ex-boyfriend he's gonna pay for ever breathing in the same zip code as you.

    Therapy was no match for me, as you can see. I took it to SCHOOL!!!

    :/ You are awesome, of course. Thanks for being mine. <3 As you know, I lol-ed several times while reading this. "... if I'd had any interests."

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    1. "Not to be weird" - ha! I wouldn't have you any other way. ;)

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  27. Your description of therapy made me oddly hungry.

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    1. Yeah, sorry about that. I'm trying to cut back on late-night sweets, and I think it's (chocolate) affecting my writing.

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  28. Great mom list. I'm not one, but as a teacher, I do see a lot of ways that parents support their kids and do a good job. Unfortunately I also see the ones who let their kids rule the roost. It's a HARD job! Love reading your posts...you are a riot!

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    1. Well, thank you! I bet it's sooo frustrating for teachers to have to dance around the subject of parenting - I think I could only manage one or two diplomatic attempts while screaming, "YOU SUCK!" in my head at the parent/teacher conference before I started drinking from a flask. They probably frown on that...

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