I get it, completely. The kids are not little, cute or cuddly. They are big and wrangly. They are mouthy, self-focused, and stubborn with every feeling right on the thinnest edge of their skin.
So, if like me, last week you instructed the barber incorrectly and your kid got the unexpected crewcut of a lifetime, they may burst into flames on you shortly afterwards and so you learn, delegate the haircut instructions to them in the future, even if they don’t want to own it. You say, “This is what happens when I do it...you should be having the conversation.” You provide the explanation of how haircuts happen, what went wrong in this case, owning your mistake without excuse, and working on a better future outcome. Sounds very cut and dried, because it is. It’s when you mix in the emotions that it turns into a dumpster fire.
And about that instructional side of parenting. No one documents how much that coaching takes out of you. You work all day, then you work all night. And in the free time, the parents work on strategies to reach the unreachable teen who desperately needs to develop a host of behaviors that are all in stages of lagging, dragging, and coming-along-a-little-bit. It’s a lot. No energy leftover to be bragging about your teen on the internet, nope. It’s not humorous, even when it is.
My son’s biggest retort to me is that other parents let their kids do it, so why can’t he.
So far, my favorite was the one where he said one of his friends is allowed to stay down in the basement all day/night playing video games – that he has his own fridge, too. We are up against a lot of conflicting values with school friends. Being a shared household adds an additional element of surprise we have yet to get used to. Like finding out your son is out at 11pm or not going to bed until midnight, or watching things on a different Netflix account that you would never be ok with, or getting a tv in his room, and on and on the list goes...
He is not allowed to have a tv in his room at our house and he is not allowed to live in the basement, under any circumstances. We do not get behind entitlement in our house. It is not necessary to fulfill every request your child can think up.
This is a super unpopular point of view with kids.
Let’s hear it for teaching children realistic expectations. How to think on your feet when faced with an unexpected crisis of your own making, or someone else’s. Or how to establish boundaries with other people. And what about not punishing yourself over mistakes you are bound to make, so that you have a chance to recover and live a good life. That is the stuff that lasts forever.
This is not a popularity contest. This is about the long-game with resilience in mind.
I had someone stalk me in college. Back then, I learned a painful and valuable lesson about how irrational and threatening people are when they are doing something like stalking. Like how many thrills they are getting out of your pain. 30, 40 messages on my answering machine (back when messages were left on tapes, tapes I saved in my safe deposit box at the bank all these years). Lots of threats to tell my coworkers, friends, family, school bad things about me.
I regret not having involved the police sooner than I did.
If any of us had any idea what we were doing (like the benefit of hindsight before we do something) we might choose to do it all differently. We don’t get that. We get what we get as young people and we build upon that with whatever resources we pull together. If we lack skills, and we have some self-awareness and $$’s, maybe we close that with some therapy. Or maybe that doesn’t happen and we make a lifetime of bad decisions.
I read a blip about resilience. How every one of us has been hurt, rejected, suffered disappointment, been shamed, called out, talked down to. It’s true, right?
You can still choose. Either to take the easy, self-pity road, because of all that hurt, or turn your eyes away from the disappointments and the sadness and make something good for the world you are in for such a short period of time. When you think of what specks we all are, just tiny moments of history, nothing standing out too much for all the years we put in.
The past is the past, and there is the future out there waiting to be written, but more importantly, we are in the present. I like that focus.