Clearly, I’m a terrible parent.
At least, that’s what I figured.
As a relatively new mom, there I was checking myself against others on that fabulous resource for parenting, Facebook, where it seems everyone’s child is perfect and happy and parents are supposed to do whatever it takes to make them feel that way.
Thank goodness I met Kay Wyma.
“I was disgusted and ready to throw up,” Kay Wyma told me this week.
That’s my new friend talking honestly about her five kids, ages 6-16.
Talk about a fresh breath of parenting air!
Kay was headed down the do anything to make your kid feel like a success parenting path, until she couldn’t lie to herself anymore.
“The fateful day came when I was driving in the car with my then 13-year-old son,” she told me this week. “He looked out the window and saw a Lexus on one side, Porsche on the other, and asked me, ‘Which one of those do you think I would look good in when I turn 16?’”
I couldn’t imagine why he would think he would be entitled to a fancy car like that.
Then I came home and noticed dishes in the sink, beds unmade. This house looked like bombs went off in each of the kids’ rooms.
I realized my children weren’t the problem. I was. I was grooming these five children to believe I was going to give and do everything for them.
I had to ask myself, “Are these the children I want to raise? For them to be helpless adults?”
Then she asked herself, “What they need to know by the time they’re grown up and leave my house?”
Boy, did things change around the Wyma house.
Each month the Wymas put a new skill and chore on their five kids.
“We started low. Month one was making their own beds.”
Things soon ratcheted up. By month two, they moved onto the kitchen. Each Wyma kid had to learn to function in the kitchen. That meant making a shopping list, a budget, going to the grocery store, cooking and cleaning up.
It has not always gone over well. “My 7-year-old screamed all the way to the grocery store and beyond. ‘My mom is so mean! My mother’s making me cook dinner!” Kay shared.
She held her ground and somewhere in there, her son bought in, “He wanted the list. He wanted me out of the way. Somewhere in there he stopped crying.”
She still had second thoughts about this new high bar she set for her kids.
“I’m sitting on the couch thinking, ‘I’ve created a nightmare.’” Kay said. “Then I stopped to think, ‘Wait. I’m sitting on the couch!’ Something I hadn’t taken time to do while running around doing everything for these kids.
By the time dinner was over, I’ve never seen my son proud. That’s when I started apologizing. I had no idea. When we step in and do everything for our kids we are sending the message, “you can’t do this.’”
Together we are raising a generation of self-centered helpless people. It’s got to stop.”
Kay started sharing her new style of parenting on a blog and then in a new book, “”Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her House of Youth Entitlement.”
She shares the struggles, the laughs, and the triumphs. Her oldest no longer mentions the fancy car he thinks he needs to be cool.
The 12-months are over, but the new way continues. So many life skills yet to teach.
“Our dryer broke so guess where we were today? At the Laundromat. It’s real life. My kids are doing laundry at the place you go when you don’t have someone doing their laundry for them in their own home.”
I get it now. It’s not about giving your kid the perfect life. It’s about giving them the skills to make it in life.
The Dayton Daily News Life section on Thursdays brings you uplifting human interest news.