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Girlfriends' Guide to Family

When You Err With Others' Kids, Apologize--Profusely

July 04, 1999|VICKI LOVINE

Dear Vicki: My younger boy, Jerry, had a friend from second grade spend the night recently, and my older son decided to introduce the little guys to the thrill of TV wrestling. Of course I know the language (both spoken and pantomimed) in this "sport" and only begrudgingly allow my sixth-grader to watch. But this was after bedtime and out of my sight and . . .

The mother of the sleepover guest was so upset and disappointed in my parenting that I'm sure she'll never let her son come over again. I wanted to suggest that her son seemed quite fluent with the "sport," and that suggested to me that he'd seen it somewhere besides my heathen house, but I was afraid she'd go ballistic. Have you ever erred this way? What should I have done?

--WHERE'S THAT V-CHIP?

Dear Chip-Less: Never in my 11 years of perfect parenting have I ever made such a heinous mistake. . . . Psych!

My heavens, in spite of my really good intentions, I drop the mommy crown into the mud on a regular basis.

Most recently, I paid a tutor to take three of my kids and their friends to the movies while my husband and I went to our youngest's graduation from preschool.

The kids all voted for Austin Powers. Oops, I forgot that I had a terrific (and uninitiated) 7-year-old in the gang.

Imagine his parents' thrill and delight to hear that I'd unilaterally decided to expose their kid to more foul language than he may ever hear again in his life. Needless to say, they were a tad peeved.

I should have picked up the phone and shared my polluting plans with them, but I didn't. I could have mustered the meager defense that I had been crying all morning at the thought of my youngest baby graduating, but who would have cared?

I began by apologizing. I ended by apologizing, and I filled in any silence over the phone by apologizing again. What was so upsetting to me, aside from yet another parental brain burp, was that I couldn't un-ring the bell.

I assured them that such cavalier parenting would never happen again in our household, but even then, I knew I was promising pie in the sky. Who knows, maybe I just don't really have the stamina required to raise all these kids.

Chip-less, all I can say to comfort you is that I'm sure this lesson has seared itself into your brain, and we both will be hypersensitive about sharing our low-browed culture with guests. Besides, I forgive you if you forgive me.

*

Dear Vicki: I am the single mother of a 3-year-old boy. Besides motherhood, I work part time and go to school full time. My son frequently visits his father, with whom I share custody, even though we split up before our baby was even born. They have a great relationship. Lately though, I've noticed that Stephen has started grinding his teeth. I have a relative--also a dentist--who tells me this is a sign of stress. Are we causing this? What's going on here?

--PLEASE PASS THE MAALOX

Dear Maalox Mommy: I have four kids, and all were or are "grinders." Like you, I have consistently blamed myself for their affliction, even though they seem to have been provided with parental stability, my hovering attention and frequent outright spoiling by their aunt, uncles and grandmas.

The fundamental cause of teeth gnashing around here seems to have been the births of subsequent siblings--every time a new baby came home from the hospital, his older sibs would grind.

Even now that they've had several years to get over the disappointment of not being only children, my kids still seem to grind when they are yearning for one-on-one mommy time.

Do little tiny people feel stress? My experience says, "Yes; big time." Is it a terrible thing? It's just a thing; neither terrible nor wonderful, that lives in all human beings. Is it our fault? Yes, just like it was that they were born in the first place or that they woke up before we got to them during the big quake.

In other words, cut yourself a couple of yards of slack. Then, check with another dentist; see what she suggests. The bottom line is--sounds like you and Stephen's dad are doing a wonderful job under difficult circumstances.

*

Vicki Iovine is the harried author of the "Girlfriends' Guide," a columnist for Child magazine and mother of four. Write to her at Girlfriends, Southern California Living, Los Angeles Times, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles, CA 90053; e-mail GrlfrndsVI@aol.com.

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