Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Parents, Parents, Parents....

When I was writing about the border crisis yesterday, I had one of those lightbulb moments. If you are a writer or a blogger, you'll know just what I mean.

It's when you are writing about one thing and that one thing that you are writing about takes your mind on a little diversionary trip (filled with shiny, sparkly things of course), arriving at a destination you weren't intending at all.  Then you realize instantly this other thing is another something that you're going to have to write about in the very near future, and you jot down a note about it immediately...mostly because you forget what happens on half of these little diversionary trips.

Seriously, you guys. I have short term memory loss. Just call me Dory.



Anyway, I remembered. So here we are. 

I was writing about the border crisis, discussing how skewed the media is in how the story is being told. What is being touted as a "search for a better life, a.k.a. mooching off our government fake crisis of conspiracy" is truly an act of desperation on the part of thousands of parents trying to save their children. I wrote about how I want people here, parents here, to think about what it would take for them to ship their children off on a journey of a hundred or a thousand miles alone to a place they'd never been before, not even knowing if or when they would ever see each other again.

And then I realized how laughable that sounded.

Most parents here don't let their kids (or teenagers for that matter) out of their sight anymore. 

Can you hear the helicopters in the background???

Thump, thump, thump...

Then I thought about it some more, this epidemic of overprotection and how it isn't a good thing at all. Caused by mostly irrational fears on the parts of the parents and this incessant need to try and control all of the things in the world that could possibly happen to our children, are we really doing them any favors? 

I don't think so.


Essentially, she was saying that we are failing our kids by making things too easy for them. We are not giving them high enough expectations, we are putting too much pressure on ourselves to be perfect parents and in the process forgetting the idea of the village. Plus, we are lazy and selfish.

She's not wrong.

What we have here is a generation of kids being raised by parents excessively worried about almost everything, yet somehow simultaneously distracted almost all the time. The kids aren't given much freedom, they aren't given many opportunities to screw up, they are even sheltered from things like birth control education because we'd rather they just didn't do that.

We don't want them to get hurt or in trouble or have sex, so we allow ourselves to believe that if we just tell them no, it'll work...as long as the hands on parenting is held to a minimum because we're totes busy with our own stuff.

We'll give them cell phones, but we won't talk to them about sex.

We'll unleash them on the internet, but won't let them get their driver's licenses.

We'll whine about how lazy they are, but then won't let them get a job (or make them get a job).

We'll wonder why they are so unmotivated, but give up finding ways to motivate them because it's hard.

^^^see what I just did right there?

Parenting is hard. Really fucking hard at times. It's also insanely important.

Our jobs as parents, not for the weak of heart. We are supposed to teach these kids, equip them to deal with reality - not live in some falsely constructed world where what we say is the end all be all. We aren't the law, we don't control how the rest of the universe operates, and we aren't doing them any favors by believing that we can just shelter them from whatever we don't like.

We have to teach them how to live in this world, how to make their own choices, and then we have to trust them enough to let them do it.

Terrifying? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely.

Kids will drink. They will probably experiment with drugs. They will do some really stupid shit. They will almost certainly have sex. They will get complacent and be lazy. 

It is what teenagers have done since the dawn of time. They aren't going to stop because you put a chore chart on the fridge or a purity ring on their finger. Honest.

I was talking to my husband about this yesterday, how we know soooooo many people who are preparing to send kids off to college that have never been allowed to drive. That have never held down a real job. That still have their parents fighting their school battles for them. 

How do you think that kid is going to adjust to living on their own, being wholly responsible for everything? Um...not well.

I was working before I even turned 16. I got a special permit to start at 15. I worked even when it was hard or early or I didn't like my boss or the work sucked. I rode my bike places when I didn't have a car. I had to learn to budget my own money. I got my license the day I turned 16 and knew that part of it meant that I'd have to take on more responsibility for the family. I took off on day trips all over Southern California with friends who were also teenagers, barely legal drivers, in a world before cell phones even existed. We explored. We got into trouble. We figured out how to get out of it. 

My parents never once went to bat for me in school disputes (aside from the time I was basically kicked out of Catholic school...but that was in 4th grade). They didn't call other people's parents when there were disagreements. We worked shit out for ourselves. I had a curfew. My parents gave me a lengthy leash and I did my fair share of stupid things. They picked me up, dusted me off, and occasionally drug my hungover ass to church afterwards.

I was doing chores for my entire life. I was cooking dinner by the time I was 10. I didn't go to fancy camps or classes. I wasn't entertained. If I was bored, I read or rode my bike or found something else to do. No one amused me.

Now, we script our kids lives for them. We choose their preschools at birth. We sign them up for every program available. We handpick their friends. We argue with their teachers. We hover over everything. We make excuses for why they are irresponsible. We decide they aren't old enough or mature enough for this or that. 

We want to shape them into who we want them to be, who we wanted to be...except they aren't us. They are different beings than we are and will forever be. We can't dictate what they want in life, we can't micromanage them and we are failing them if we even try.

We, collectively, need to change how we are raising these kids. We need to give them time to breathe, time to be bored, time to figure out what they love without our interference. We need to set high expectations and hold them to it, but those expectations must absolutely be based on who they are, not who we want them to be.

We don't get to choose that for them. 

I've been told I am a mean mom. My kids do chores, not because I pay them an allowance, but because it's part of being a family. If we go somewhere, they are told what to expect ahead of time and whining isn't tolerated. They complain, we leave. Period.

Shockingly, they behave. People are always surprised, by the way.

I set the bar high for them and I expect them to meet my expectations. I know what they are each individually capable of, and I demand they do their best. Laziness is not tolerated. I've been channeling my father lately, saying, "do it right or you'll do it twice", all summer. 

There are consequences when behavior is poor. There are consequences for laziness. There are punishments that I've been told by others are too severe, but you know what? They learn.

The Oldest almost didn't go to camp this year because his grades were too low. Not because he struggled with the material, but because he just couldn't seem to turn stuff in on time. His teachers know him too well. I know him too well. 

So, he either figured out how to get those grades up on his own or he was staying home. I wasn't calling or emailing anyone on his behalf. If he had missed camp, he'd have been forced to work to earn money to repay us for the entire camp fee. 

He got his grades up. Higher, even, than they'd been all year. He learned.

I've canceled birthday parties because of disrespect. 

I've grounded kids for weeks at a time for treating their siblings poorly. 

Lying gets them in more trouble than whatever it is they are lying about.

I've had doors slammed at me, I've been screamed at. A few of my children have said that they hate me. Fine. Hate me now. You'll thank me later.

I've also spent countless nights working on the most bizarre projects with the kids that I never imagined because they fell in love with something new. They've taught me as much as I've taught them.

Is parenting easy? Hell no. 

It's the hardest job you'll ever have, but you don't get to cop out just because it's hard. 

It's complicated and messy and painful. There are times it just plain sucks...but if you do it, really do it, there will be moments that make it all worthwhile.

Some of those moments will involve hot glue guns at 2 a.m. Don't say I didn't warn you.

10 comments:

  1. *stands up and applauds*

    As a non-parent I have a crap ton of respect for you, now more so than ever.

    I am so sick and tired of parents who either can't control their kids or refuse to control them. Or the parents who are too damn protective and never let the kid experience a skinned knee or, as a teenager, time spent out late at night with their friends knowing full well trouble can find them somehow.

    Yes, it's your job to be there for them, to protect them and help them but hovering too much is just asking for trouble when they're adults.

    Thank you for sharing this kick ass post! Brought back some memories of all the stupid shit I got into as a teenager.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have some good stories...lol...but we lived and learned, right?

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  2. I never thought I would like talking to 4 women, everyday, about things that would make 99 percent of the populations cringe. But I do.

    We talk about everything.

    I am struggling, hard, with letting my 18-year-old daughter, go, to be more independent. This is a ME problem, not a HER problem.

    Great post

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. She'll be okay. And so will you.

      Delete
  3. A-FUCKING-MEN!

    I absolutely LOVE this post. You are so correct in everything you said. The Hubs and I parent much like you. The only time we've ever "gone to bat" for our kids was when Boy Child was getting bullied to the point of it causing depression and anxiety. I'm very hands on without being a helicopter parent. Parents these days are more about being best friends with their kids.

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    Replies
    1. Oh the friends thing....we're not friends...we're your parents. Maybe you'll like me later but right now it's not part of the job description. LOL

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  4. Yup - last year my kid couldn't go to Taylor Swift bc of the response she gave my husband when he handed her the tickets. Entitlement. I am not their friend, I am their parent. It is not a popularity contest and they know damn well I stick to my guns. My son had to get dragged out of the lake at our cottage and driven home an hour away soaking wet and screaming many times before he realized my husband wasn't going to take it either.

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  5. Did we have this conversation? Was I dreaming all this? I feel like I'm losing my friggin' mind.

    Yes, you're 100% right. And incidentally I'm great at some of this and terrible at other stuff. But I've found myself working on it since the nanny article. Like essentially telling them to piss off if what I need to do is more important at the time and not dropping everything (which I do more often than I should and then get angry about it). So this is a win-win.

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  6. i was starting to feel like the worst mom in the world compared to all the moms of my daughter's friends. i'm raising her like my parents raised me. it's not a popular method these days.

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