Monday, February 1, 2010

Step One -- An Introduction....

Introduction --

We live in a cause and effect world.  This sounds harsh, but there is no other way to put it --  Your child is the true representation of some DNA and every single choice you have made since the moment he or she was conceived. 

It is actually a pretty simple concept and sounds benign.  Then one day that lovely little person that smiled up at you full of hope and promise, shown in a big toothless grin and adoring eyes, walks in the door threatening to get something pierced, snarling about how much life sucks.  He then slams the door, only to disappear into a dark and disgusting hole, full of teen flotsam that you’ve tried to manage, but have given up on.  Soon he will lose himself on the Internet and you'll see him again when he wants something from you.  I niggles at you that chances are good he has figured out a way around the expensive cyber monitoring system you have secretly installed on his computer, but thinking about that is just depressing.  

You have given it thought, a great deal of thought, and there are only two explanations.  Either someone switched the kid out several years back, and is now in possession of your adored and adoring child – or something has leaked into the ground water.  Wait, it could be aliens.  Make that, there are only three reasonable explanations.

Kids these days are out of control, and by God, it isn’t because their parents haven’t worked their collective butts off providing for them.  Today’s parents start cruising the Internet for information before the child is conceived, or as soon as their home pregnancy test indicates a positive.  They watch for every indicator that their child is meeting all appropriate markers.  They worry if their baby rolls over a week too late, they try to remain humble when their child sits up unaided ahead of schedule.  No one seems to find the number of ‘gifted children’ astounding, considering the number of high school and college drop outs, and the fight for decent grades after puberty, but that is a whole other issue, one that we can deal with later.

Somewhere between the time the child is born, full of promise and potential, and the time you throw your hands up in the air and address the ceiling, ‘If I can survive until she is 18, that’s all I’m asking, she is out of here in 2 years, 2 months and 27 days,’ something went terribly awry. 

What happened?  How did we get here?  Maybe Leave it to Beaver and the Brady Bunch were a little saccharin, but today’s kids have gone too far in the opposite direction.  They are completely out of control, and with the exception of a few blaring cases (if you sit and smoke a joint with a kid, you can’t really ask why he didn’t get his homework done), parents are completely confused about how we got to this point.

I have a theory.  Actually, it is more like an observation.  By accident or design, many parents, if not most, have abdicated their rights and responsibilities, leaving a vacuum, where children are left to try to fill in the void.  Children are lovely people, but they do not have enough life experience to be in charge. 

When a two year old has the option of expressing himself by screeching through dinner in a nice restaurant, or a first grader is allowed to act like a pompous ass because he is so smart and so special that he can’t be expected to be kind and polite, or an 11 year old girl wears a thong and wants to get her belly button pierced, and the parent is ‘thinking about it’ – what do you expect?

When the discussion turns to ‘but she is like my best friend and if I tell her that I looked on her cell and read inappropriate messages, she won’t trust me anymore’ – or – I’d love to tell her she can’t see this boy, but she will just sneak out of the house and see him anyway, so instead, we have invited him into our home and we act as if we are completely accepting of him – or  - the classic, I can’t very well tell my child not to do that, I did it when I was a teen, what am I supposed to do, lie?  We have lost the plot.

I am of the opinion that somewhere along the line, we simply got lost.  We decided that it is acceptable, mid thought process, to stop thinking. 

If we stopped to really think it through, we would recognize that if 50 is the new 40 and 40 is the new 30, then it stands to reason that 25 is the new 15 and 15 is the new 5.  

If we stopped to think about it, we would figure out that when people started dating at 18, they were often sexually active at 19.  When the acceptable dating age was moved to 16, most were sexually active at 17.  When ‘it’s not really a date, date, her mom dropped them off at the move and I picked them up, it is just so cute’ started being ok for at 12 or 13 – guess what you are looking at in the very near future.

The list of problems created by this kind of thought process is almost limitless.  More, much more, about that later.

Then there are the subtleties.  We seem to have lost them too.  Somewhere along the line, that precious little thing you gave birth to, went from thinking he was the center of his parent’s universe, to thinking that he is the center of THE universe.   Center of his parent’s universe, acceptable.  Center of THE universe, boy are you going to have fun trying to sort out the teen years.  College?  Having a good relationship with his wife and kids?  Forgetaboutit.

Balance.  Somehow we got to a place where privileges are handed to kids younger and younger and responsibilities are held until they are older and older.  Then we can’t understand why kids don’t see a correlation between responsibility and privilege.  We don’t allow them the luxury of living with the consequences and ramifications of their actions, then we don’t understand why they don’t internalize cause and effect.

For more than a decade now, I find myself saying the same things to lots and lots of mothers.  Mostly on message boards and in grocery lines.  It seems like I’m told at least once a day I should write a book.  I have always been flattered, but I never took the idea seriously.  Why?  I’m not a professional.  I don’t possess the magic beans. 

My qualifications?  I am a parent.  I am a good parent.  I’m the first to admit I am nowhere near a perfect parent.  I gave birth to one child, and I have parented many others.  I’ve made my share of mistakes.  I’ve had some really good moments, and some really bad ones, but at the end of it all, the kids are adults, and off living their lives to the very best of their ability.  I don't approve of everything they do, but then, I don't get a vote.  They are grown.  What it comes down to is really very simple - They like and respect me.  I like and respect them.   When we look back, we have many more good memories than bad ones.  When all is said and done – that’s enough.

I need to make it clear that I’m not saying I have all the answers.  That’s why I never wrote this stuff down before.  But then it dawned on me, I do have something to offer.  My opinion.  There was a time in the not so distant past, that a reasonably intelligent person, with practical experience, a person willing to share what they'd learned, was what you looked for.  With technology being what it is, and being in such a mobile society, Aunties and Crones have been replaced with counselors and Wikipedia articles.

What I offer is simply my opinion.  Since you and I have not made all the same decisions since the conception of our respective children, chances are good that my suggestions won’t work for some, maybe for many, but my goal is not to give you a one size fits all approach.  I think part of the problem is that many of us went in search of that very solution, and worse, thought we’d found it.  It doesn’t work that way.  There is no one size fits all, do this with your kid and bingo life is good.  I can’t offer you that.  I don’t believe it exists

My goal is simply to give you something to think about, knowing that you, too, are a reasonably intelligent person.   You are aware of the decisions you’ve made; how some of them have worked well, and some, well, haven't worked at all.  My hope is that you can look at what I have to say, see what applies to your situation, and then apply it as you see fit.  Or not.  Perhaps you will so vehemently disagree with me, that it will re-energize you, just so you can prove me wrong.  That works too.

What follows is a bunch of my thoughts, and opinions, and the questions I’ve been asked repeatedly.  Hopefully it will start a conversation.  I believe that we moms are smart enough to figure this all out.  We just need to invite some common sense and humor back into the whole process.

I am of the very strong opinion that we need to do something, and we need to do it soon.  The decisions we make today, have far reaching consequences, we do, after all, live in a cause and effect world.

1 comment:

Kimberly Jo said...

I'm glad to read your opinions, it makes me feel as though I'm not fighting a losing battle and I'm not doing it alone! It is very encouraging, thank you!


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