I'm growing up and you know what that means? Yup! Mommy has some more learning to do.

Disclaimer: While Lorna fully admits Chuck was an involved and loving father, these stories are about a son who teaches his mother a thing of three about life. Chuck and Lorna didn’t ever always agree on how best to handle Alex when it came to disciplining him, so any pejorative derogatory judgmental tone is purely an artifact of  my biased witty story-telling.

Parenting styles differ. This seems to be one of  Newton’s Einstein’s Murphy’s Snarky’s Universal Laws. Since I freely admitted I knew nothing bout birthin’ no babies children or raising them, I deferred major decisions about Alex’s upbringing like diet, exercise, and when to ditch his bowl hair-cut to the “experts” (Chuck, any blood relative, or strangers who seemed to know their “binkie” from their “winkie.”)

Alex grew up. He used words, which demystified parenting immensely. He was good at entertaining himself safely, so I didn’t have to follow him around like a hungry Golden Retriever. Life as a parent didn’t seem so hard. But wait! The older he got, the more decisions he made. The more decisions he made, the older I got. It was time to discipline him. With Chuck’s direction input.

Sheesh! The one room they had to finish in the "Broken House" was the Jail Room. It figures.

Since I never got in trouble as a child (my mother will swear to it), I didn’t even have discipline-experience. On the discipline-scale from soft (1) to hard (10), I was fluffy (-5). He was a smart, sweet boy. To me, Discipline = explain his not-so-good choice + offer better choice for the future (after flailing about in dramatic over-reaction during the immediate situation). Chuck was from the tough-but-fair school of discipline, starting with “tough” and using “fair” later to soothe Alex and me when we were both crying. We never spanked him (and I’ve never used “Spanks”—for the record). We were the good kind of parents, using only threats (both of us), and guilt (all me) to shape our son into an upstanding citizen.

*****

Alex was about five and spilled his milk accidentally. After my Mommy-hissy-fit, I sat him down and started a stern lecture on being careful and the deleterious consequences of so-called “accidents.” He looked up at me with oh-so-serious big eyes and a wobbly frown. I turned around, unable to keep a straight face. I started to laugh—the bent over, no way to hide it laughter. Alex didn’t know what to do. He wavered between cracking a smile and forcing a frown. I finally said, “Go ahead, Lex. It’s funny.” We laughed together. When I got control of myself and the situation, I explained that I was wrong to be making such a big deal out of an accident. I over-reacted and his overly-serious face made me realize it.

Yes, that was the look.

MOMMY LESSON #4: Lighten up. Life’s serious enough without pouring on unnecessary drama.

*****

During the summer, I spent all day, every day with Alex. Professors have that option. Alex was about seven and I was busy upstairs while Alex played with his GameBoy downstairs. He was always needing something: breakfast, lunch, snacks, drinks. It never ended. He called out to me, but all I heard was, “Mommy, I …” I went to the top of the stairs and called back “What?”  Again. Each time my voice got louder, but his stayed the same. Finally I screeched, “ALEX! Come to the stairs right NOW!”  I tore into him, ” HOW MANY times do I HAVE TO tell you, YELLING is NOT an APPROPRIATE way to COMMUNICATE?” Silence. I started to laugh. I sat down on the top stair and invited Alex up.  “Lex,” I said, “do you know what ironic means?” He didn’t. I explained and apologized for yelling at him for yelling.

Yelling seems to be quite common. But, are they yelling at each other to stop their yelling? Probably not.

MOMMY LESSON #5: Admit when you’re wrong. Humility can’t be explained, you have to demonstrate it by being human,  making mistakes, and owning them.

*****

Routinely, I went to bed alone and read while Chuck stayed up late and watched TV. Nine year old Alex appreciated the company upstairs because the big old house spooked him. One night, he padded into our bedroom. I thought he had to use the bathroom. Instead he asked if he could lay down next to me. I put my book aside and basked in the feeling of my no-longer-little-boy cuddling with me, something he hadn’t done for a long while. I ached to ask him if anything was bothering him, but something told me to just hold him quietly. After about 10 minutes, he broke the silence by saying, “Mom, I wonder if this is what Heaven’s like. An eternal snuggle.” He nudged a little closer, or maybe I did. I waited just a bit before responding with a not-so-profound, “I hope so.” With a “Thanks, Mom. I love you.” He went back to bed.

We're not exactly snuggling here, but you get the idea.

MOMMY LESSON #6: Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is resist the urge to talk. Listen. You may just hear something you’ll hope never to forget.

Stay tuned for more lessons from the Alex Chronicles: The Teen Years.

Alex was a free spirit and loved to be silly. I had to be ready for anything and usually wasn't.