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IMS: Irritable Mom Syndrome
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Most people think I'm nice. (I think). So why do I cringe at the thought of someone asking my children, "So, guys, tell me - what's your mom really like?"

Actually, I can probably count on the two youngest to offer obligatory politeness, with the baby saying something like "she feeds me and reads to me." The middle boy would probably state that I'm semi-cool, because I sometimes help him with his self-developed engineering projects (and he has many).

It's the imagined response from my teenage son that concerns me most.

Let's see. He'd probably shout, with characteristic sarcasm: "My mom needs to lighten up." This will come as little surprise to anyone who has raised a teen or currently is raising one. But, as much as it pains me to agree with a teenager, he's right.
I've yet to share this with him, but I believe I suffer from what I call Irritable Mom Syndrome, or IMS. The fact that - because of his developmental stage - he sometimes is the irritant in the Irritable Mom Syndrome is beside the point. He's also a smart, playful, charming young man and, I... well, my general temperance as a mom is to be drill sergeant-esque and as fuddy as duddy.

It's as though I'm always ready to pounce, lest those rascals think they're getting the best of dear old mom. Spill some juice and you invoke the wrath of Mama. You know, the deep sigh followed by the ‘you're such a klutz look,' when it'd be just as easy, less stressful and even esteem-building to take the ‘we all make mistakes' stance and offer to help clean up the mess. And what's up with me shushing them every time they get a little loud in the playroom? Aren't boys supposed to shout, bump and bounce around? Oh, and I'm always keeping a suspicious watch over that oldest one, 'cause we all know we have to keep an extra eye fixed on those wayward, hip-hop induced teens.

Honestly, I have to laugh at my own IMS sometimes. And, it's exhausting as heck always being the bad cop. I'm starting to get on my own nerves. That's why I'm making a conscious effort to lighten up. It's gonna take some getting used to. Especially for the boys.

For instance, the other day, instead of yelling downstairs for my son to "come get your digital camera off the kitchen floor, right now, before I throw it in the trash," I politely said, "I'll pick up your camera off the floor, if you'll tell me where to put it." He gave me the most puzzled, ‘what's the catch?' look and proceeded to explain why the camera was on the kitchen floor in the first place. I could tell he never quite trusted my sincerity.

Yes, this whole Mama-being-nice thing will take some getting used to. Yet, I'm going to keep at it. Not that I'm trying to win a Ms. Congeniality contest with my kids or anything, but what's wrong with being helpful, friendly and offering mutual respect to our children? Nothing at all, I say.

Kysa Daniels is a journalist, non-profit professional and mother of three boys. For more Adventures in Parenting and parenting tips, e-mail