Adventures in Parenting takes us into the life of an individual or couple who are currently (or have been) parents in order to get an idea of how they navigate their way through the process of raising up their children. So, here’s how this works. This week’s guest is Jennifer Colbert. I have provided her with a list of 25 or so questions of which she was instructed to choose five. This will serve as an interview of sorts with the conversation being, for the most part, of her choosing.
Let’s take a moment and get to know Jennifer and her family.
We are a family of four. My husband and I each brought a child into the relationship. We worked at the same hotel a long time ago when I was pregnant and his then wife was pregnant. Six years and a few states later we got back in touch. I have an associate’s degree in English and a bachelor’s in elementary education. It took me ten years, two colleges, two universities, and four states to accomplish this. Donnie has his associates in psychology and bachelor’s in business. It took him a few bad decisions, a felony, fatherhood, and pure determination to get where he his. And that’s what I admire the most about him.
Question #1: Do I judge other parents?
Well, I’m also a teacher. So, yes, I do. Although to my defense, I try not to. My first thought is to curb my enthusiasm in my ability to judge others for not doing the exact same thing as myself. When I was younger and, more importantly, childfree others suffered from my incredible wisdom of how to rear a child properly. Once that little boy decided to finally grace the world with his presence outside of the womb my ideas changed.
I realized that I was not the parenting guru that I thought I was. Or maybe I was and a having a child made me absolutely clueless. The world may never know. Thirteen years later mixed with five years working with adolescents has created two individuals inside of me. First one is the judgmental one who buys shoes for kids in the middle of winter because they are wearing oversized flip-flops. The one who writes and calls parents with no response. The one who gives up lunch to tutor and still gets blamed for a child failing. That side is bitter and easily judges.
Then there is the other, nonjudgmental side. The one who gets home and mentally hides from the world, including my own children. The one who waits to get back to teachers because I really do not want to talk to them about my own child’s behavior. The one that sustains from giving the “look” when I hear that a student’s mom went back to drugs. The one that sighs, says a positive word and hopes for the best. For us all.
Question #2: When will you talk to your children about sex?
I have two boys. One is my biological and the other a “step” child. I have been a step parent for seven years. For six years before that, I was a single parent. I placed it upon myself to talk to them both about sex. I did not ask my significant other for permission or even brought it up to him. Being a single parent means I did not EVER have to ask someone or speak to anyone before I did something in regards to my son. I still keep that attitude with me. In fact, it was a good year of talking to the boys about sex that my now husband decided to speak to them.
I am SO GLAD we spoke separately about this issue. Men have a different way of looking at and talking about sex. Though in this case, we had the same idea about the outcome: NO BABIES AND NO DISEASES! When the boys were about eight I took them to the coffee shop and dropped the lines like “Just because a girl looks clean, doesn’t mean she is” and “Don’t you dare bring home a girl dressed like a hoochie.” They don’t know what a hoochie is. I also wanted to make sure to let them know that they do not need to put up with a female who uses sex as a way to get what she wants. This is not a healthy relationship and it is not what they deserve.
On the flip side, it is important to let them know that sex changes people in ways that they will not quite understand. Girls are very emotional and may give it up to fill a missing piece in their life. I also explained to them that waiting until they are mature enough to handle all that sex offers. The good and the bad. My ideal age for them is eighteen. My husband’s is like sixteen. Like I said, different ideas. These conversations between the boys and I have been pretty continuous. The boys stopped me from explaining how to put on a condom. I was planning on using a banana….
Question #3: Do you kiss your children on the lips?
I stopped kissing the boys on the lips at different times in their lives. Both are thirteen, being six months apart. My biological son made sure to tell me that it was no longer acceptable. One day I noticed his hands were exactly like mine. I was oddly overwhelmed. About a week later I sat with him working on his homework and his hands had transformed. The soft, rounded fingers were now wide and flat. That also created an overwhelming feeling. He was no longer part of me. Granted he never was but as parents I think we like to see ourselves in our child, claiming them as our own and being part of us.
And it was all I had. His pale skin and straight brown hair contrast my brown skin and dark curly hair so much. But soon after his hands transformed into those of large awkward weights dangling from his long skinny arms he stopped me from kissing him on the lips. Said it was gross and weird. From then on, I got the cheek and forehead.
The other one was a bit different. I wonder if his biological mom ever looks at him and wonders where she went in his biological makeup. My stepson is the spitting image of his dad. I hope he never looses the red hair. One, because with his bright blue eyes and red hair that just falls marvelously (I’m jealous) makes him very rare. According to a Facebook video I watched, red-headed people with blue eyes make up only 2 percent of the population. And two, because I really like to say that I have a red-headed stepchild. The older generation will get that one. But I regress.
B started to develop a crush on me. He would touch me longer than needed when near me or giving hugs. At ten he started walking around the house in only a towel. Cocky as a rooster. When giving him a kiss at night for bed he would give me a look that I was not comfortable with and can not be described in words. In which case I decided it was time to go a different route. But it was a bit of a battle. Giving him a kiss on the forehead required me to use both hands to hold his head still and being very stealthy. My friends and I would joke about this and shake our heads. L would tease him when he folded laundry and took too long with my underwear. He is now thirteen and thankfully started noticing girls his own age. I have been rewarded with the stepparent role of taking him places, buying him things, and staying up until 1 a.m., finishing last-minute science projects with him.
Question #4: Are your children picky eaters?
L was a picky eater. When he was about three we went to a Thanksgiving dinner at a friend’s house. There I met a man who noticed that I was having issues with getting my son to eat. He proclaimed that kids today need to be bribed into eating. I really didn’t know what the difference was between the kids yesterday and the kids today. But I humored him as both of us watched him take a handful of coins out of his pocket and place them on the table. I watched in amusement as he desperately tried to prove his point with fifty cents. Then seventy-five cents. He gave up once he reached a dollar and fifty cents. My son is extremely stubborn and highly adjustable.
The first place we lived in with my now husband and his son had these weird indentations on the wall near the ceiling. The purpose was to place large Native American and Mexican decorative pots on them. We had no pots and I hated the dust magnets. One day, for some reason, I decided to look at the one right over the kitchen table. There I found months of food that was thrown up there that the boys did not want to eat! We were furious, to say the least.
Years later my husband noticed a substance on the outer side of the living room window at our house. We find out L was shoving his food out the window. I use to do that with spinach, so I had some sympathy. As punishment, he spent two weeks cooking us dinner. The goal was to have him understand the process of creating a homecooked meal and appreciate it. He was to miraculously become a healthy eater and all would be great in the world. He has declared just last week that he is now a vegetarian.
And, that does it. I hope you all have enjoyed the interview and possibly gained some insight or ideas in regards to your own children. As always, feel free to keep the conversation going in the comment section below. Check back in next Friday for our next installment of Adventures in Parenting.
Life is Strange. Live it Well.