When I was in high school, I was voted Class Clown my senior year.
When I was in college, I was given the PMA Award by my college swim coach.
That stands for Positive Mental Attitude.
If you asked my friends (both past and present) to choose one word to describe me, I can’t say for sure what word they would choose, but I’d wager a couple of my own children that funny would be in the mix.
Last week I was driving home from swim practice, and Number 4 and I were talking.
Her school has been doing all the superlatives for the yearbook, and Number 4 was nominated for one of them.
I would have predicted this.
As her mom, I see her as a Most Likely to Succeed or Most Likely to Be The First Female President or Most Likely To Be In The Olympics or Most Fearless or something along those lines.
But you know what she was nominated for?
What the hell.
Maybe we are more alike than I thought.
Anyway, as we were driving home and talking about this, Number 4 asked me, “Mom, did you get a superlative when you were in high school?”
“Yep,” I told her.
“What did you get?” she asked.
“Most likely to be president?”
Nope, I told her.
“Best math student???”
She rattled off like ten more.
Finally she gave up.
“WHAT WERE YOU THEN???” she asked, exasperated.
Class clown, I told her.
“What??? I NEVER would have guessed that,” she said.
She was completely blown away.
Because I’m not so funny at home.
Why am I not funny?
I guess it’s ultimately just a choice I’ve made.
But more upsetting to me is that it’s been more of a metamorphosis.
In the last 15 years I have become someone else.
I’m all about evolution. I mean, it’s one of my biggest philosophies. I don’t believe we ever arrive.
I believe we are works in progress and as long as we are able to accept that we never know it all, we just keep growing and getting better and better.
But it’s not really the person I want to be.
Not at home.
A couple weeks ago I was getting dinner on the table and someone did something or said something and a couple of the kids laughed and I had no reaction.
I was expressionless.
Actually, that’s inaccurate.
I think I had some pretty impressive resting bitch face going on.
And Number 3, my 14-year-old said to me, “Mom, why are you so salty? Even THAT isn’t funny?”
And I was like, YIKES.
Not only do my kids not think I’m funny, but now I am salty.
I don’t see myself as this person all the time.
But around my kids?
I am often Salty Mom.
I’m not PMA Mom a lot of the time.
And I’m for sure not Class Clown Mom.
This evolution of me from Funny/PMA Susie to Fucking Salty Mom is just not okay with me.
It’s not the direction I want to be going.
Especially since this is NOT what the kids I coach on the swim team would say about me.
I know because I polled them — I asked the parents to just ask their kids how they would describe me using one or two words (without letting them know the question had come from me).
Strong (perhaps my favorite)
What the hell happened to me?
I am giving the best of myself to my swimmers and not to my kids.
Because I’ve been failing to set boundaries at home.
I don’t set clear boundaries with my kids and I don’t set clear boundaries with my husband.
I take on too much of the “at home” responsibilities.
I have set up this routine where I pretty much do it all and I am full of resentment.
I don’t always hold my kids accountable and then when they don’t do stuff because I’m inconsistent, I get, well…
It’s my own doing, though.
I’m not super patient at home.
Because I neglect myself and I don’t get enough sleep and then I’m super tired and then I’m…
I’m still not often realistic with the expectations I have for my kids and then when they don’t do things these things that are unrealistic, I choose to be…
I don’t spend enough one-on-one time with the kids. And then when they make that pretty clear through their behavior,
SALTY MOM COMES OUT!
I’m like Bruce Banner.
And the Hulk.
But I’m more Hulk than Bruce Banner at home.
Here is something else I think I do A LOT.
I do things for my family. Things that I think will make them happy. Things I think they will appreciate.
THINGS I THINK THEY SHOULD ACKNOWLEDGE ME FOR.
And then when they don’t, I choose to be…
really fucking salty.
But you know what?
If I am expecting an acknowledgement, if I am expecting a thanks for something I’m doing for my family, then I’m not really doing it for them as a selfless act out of the goodness of my heart.
I’m doing it for me.
Sure, we want to teach our kids to be polite and appreciative.
But you don’t do something nice for someone and then eventually blow up on them when they don’t thank you properly.
That’s not how (not so) random acts of kindness work.
At home I’m very often doing something I don’t want to do in the hopes of getting some recognition.
And that’s a big part of my problem.
Because if I’m doing stuff for other people but it’s coming from a place of resentment, then I’m really lying to my family.
Because I am not being true to myself. I’m pretending to be a person I’m really not.
I’m not setting boundaries for myself.
At the very least I’m not being honest with myself about why I’m doing the things that I’m doing.
And that becomes obvious when Salty Mom comes out.
I don’t think you can be your kids’ best friend when they are younger.
Not all the time, anyway.
That’s not what this is about.
Sometimes your kids are gonna be pissed at you no matter who makes an appearance. Whether you show up as Salty Mom or PMA Mom or Bruce Banner or The Hulk, you are going to make some decisions that your kids aren’t going to like.
But who you show up as is ultimately your choice.
And I do think you can be kind and firm and respectful and fun and funny and patient while setting boundaries all at the same time.
As a swim coach, I am not everyone’s best friend. I’m not a total Good Time Charlie. I have expectations and hold people accountable and I expect some good stuff out of my kids, but I often approach it with a totally different attitude than I do at home.
And that’s why my swimmers describe me the way that they do. Because I am more patient and fun with them than I am with my own children.
So I am listening to my kids.
To my son who sees me as Salty Mom.
To my daughter who does not see me as Funny Mom.
And I’m making some adjustments.
Because I don’t want my kids to look back on their childhoods and remember Mom as salty, tired, and just totally over it.
They deserve better than that.
And just as importantly, so do I.