Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chapter 4- Throwing kids out of the car and driving away

In light of the recent story about Madlyn Primoff, the mom from Scarsdale who threw her bickering daughters out of the car 3 miles from their home, and drove away leaving her 10 year old stranded, I have decided to postpone my already written next chapter and focus on some thoughts I had.  

When it comes to raising children, there is no parenting manual.  Before we leave the hosptial, we are given a diaper bag and some formula samples.  We are not given an instruction book with rules on how to raise our children, on what to say and what not to say, and how to handle certain situations.  It is all, unfortunately, trial and error, and unlike a project that has a start, middle and end, we really don't get to see the finished project for many years after we started.  

We are not a manufacturing plant that can have its products returned if defective.  When our children are babies, all they need is food, shelter and love.  That's easy to provide.  I remember snuggling my babies and kissing kissing kissing them all the time.  I would read to them, sing to them, play "how big is Sophie" and clap hands.  I certainly wasn't going to do any damage then.   As they get older, there is plenty of room for error.   

In the case of Madlyn Primoff, I totally understand what happened.  She just couldn't take it anymore.  I can just picture the scene in her car, and hear the fighting between her 12 and 10 year old daughters.  You know what?  She snapped.  And guess what?  It happens to the best of us.  There have been many moments when I have pulled the car over, and gotten out myself to cool off.  I have stopped the car and made my kids get out until they stopped fighting.  I have walked outside my house for a mommy time-out.   I have gone in my room and cried, hoping they would stop fighting or talking back or whatever it was that they were doing that was driving me crazy. I once (or maybe twice) drove them to my mother-in-laws house and said "here you are grandma- see ya".   I have never driven away and left them.  Yes, Madlyn Primoff used very poor judgement when she drove off and left her 10 year old alone on the streets of White Plains.  (Her 12 year old ran after her and got in the car).  Although I certainly can't condone her behavior, I can understand it.  I don't think she is a bad mother.  I don't think she should go to jail.  She may need a little prozac and a xanax, but she is not a criminal.  She made a big mistake.  Sometimes we don't model the best behavior for our children, but we are only human, and we are bound to make mistakes.  The question is what are the consequences to our children because of our mistakes.  You know the worst part about the whole thing?  No matter how many wonderful things she does for her kids, no matter how loving she is to them, they will always remember the one time she had a really bad day.  Because no matter how many good things we do for our kids, their mantra ususally is "you never do anything for me."

There are plenty of things that we unintentionally do to our children that we know are going to send them to the therpists couch.  Just recently, I went into the city to see a show and reminded Hallie that she should skip extra help and come home on the bus to watch Sophie for a little while.  I have often allowed Hallie to let herself and Sophie in the house if I am going to be late because of work, so I knew they would be OK alone until Michael got home an hour later.  Well, despite my plan, Hallie forgot to get on the bus and stayed after school for extra help.  Being the diligent mom that I am, (ha ha)  I started texting Hallie at 2:55, knowing that was the time they would be home.  When I didn't receive an answer to the 4 texts that I sent, I knew in my heart that she had stayed at school and that Sophie was now home alone.  At this point, I am sitting in the theater sweating, because not only is Hallie at school without a ride home, Sophie is 7, she is alone, is unable to get in the house, and standing in the rain waiting for someone to come home.   I am praying that I am wrong, and that somehow Hallie's phone is not working, or she is not answering me because she is tied up on the computer, but I know that this is not the case and my 7 year old is alone outside my house in the rain wondering where her mother is.  Now I am nauseous.    Sophie is not as saavy as Mackauly Culkin and I know that she is probably crying, scared and very upset about being alone.  I call my neighbor Diane, who went outside, confirmed that Sophie was in fact alone, took her home and then went and picked Hallie up at school.   Thank God for great neighbors.  Honestly, this one wasn't my fault.  However, I am still the parent and responsible for the well being of my children at all times.  I felt a lot of guilt about the fact that I was at a broadway show and not home to get my kids off the bus like I'm supposed to be.  Isn't that my job?  To put my kids first and foremost, and not to be out with friends?  Or is it OK that once, I did something for myself.  Unfortunately the one time I selfishly put myself first, I may have completely messed up my 7 year old.  Fortuately for me, Sophie can be bought.  I went out and bought her a pack of matchbox cars she wanted, and all was forgiven.  Or was it?  I may never know the impact of the 20 minutes she was standing outside her house.  Did she think she was abandoned and un-loved?  I explained to her that sometimes people make mistakes and that Hallie made a mistake, and it is OK.  Hallie did apologize, but Sophie gave her some guilt about it anyway.   

I have come to the conclusion that parenting, for the most part, is 5% good parenting and 95% good luck.  Children have a funny way of turning into people, with their own thoughts, ideals and personalities.  And guess what?  They have their own minds.  And guess what else?  They think they know best.  And they don't always follow the rules you set forth for them.   And when they don't, you have to be the bad guy.  I guess Madlyn Primoff thought being the bad guy meant leaving her daughter on the street.  I assume she thought she was going to teach her a lesson, and I'm sure she did.  What kind of lesson, I'm not sure, but that 10 year old won't forget it.  The one thing I am sure of is that she will continue to fight with her sister.   In my house, we take away cell phones and computers.  They still fight with each other.  

Just a little thought for the day.  Next chapter- Entitlement 

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