I recently posted a picture of my old school teachers (from late ’80s – early ’90s) on my Facebook page and during all the commenting activity realised that I’m now older than most of those in-control, omniscient adults – an image I strive every day to portray to my own kids and likely fail to. With an adult consciousness though, I can imagine that they must have been as indecisive and unsure dealing with us as I am with kids around me. Or maybe not; they were teachers after all.
The same sentiment for adults carried over to our own parents when we were kids. When I was 6, I could never imagine that my mom at 28 (!!) wasn’t sure that sending me to my room for not finishing dinner was an appropriate consequence for my action or not. I probably bawled at the injustice of it all but it never occurred to me to question my mother’s motives.
Not so anymore, my friend, not so at all. My kids argue with me until they — or more likely I– dissolve into frustration tears more than occasionally, and I must say many times their arguments make absolute logical sense. And, strangely, I feel the need to defend my POV almost every time! To a 4yo! Am I encouraging my kids’ disrespect for authority? Am I undermining my role as a parent? Should I be saving for a therapist fund for them? I’m not sure, but here’s a few hypothetical examples of how our parents handled parental dilemmas way back when and how we tackle them now.
Parent-Teacher Conference at School
Parents as Parents (PP): Is she studying well enough to be first in class? Discipline in school is your responsibility; do whatever you have to do to keep her in line.
Us as Parents (UP): That’s great that he’s doing well academically but how is he socially, athletically, artistically, musically? He says he’s being bullied at recess; what steps are you taking to resolve it? What can I do to get him ready for the science fair tryouts?
PP: Go play outside. Come back in time for supper.
UP: Shall we go to a park so you can ride your bike? How about we play some soccer so you can practice for camp? Don’t go into other people’s yard or out of ours without telling me! I’m sitting right here, honey. That’s a wonderful thingumajig you drew with mere chalk! Oh, a robot? Wonderful, the best picture anyone ever made!
PP: Finish everything on your plate. Do you know how many kids don’t have enough to eat? I won’t tolerate any wastage.
UP: I’d like you to try one bite. You don’t have to eat it if you don’t like it. Do you know how many kids blah blah. <Child phases out or a pretend game starts with other child>. Some food ends up in the compost bin every day, one bite untried.
PP: Yelling, spanking, frequent invocation of “Wait till papa comes home!”
UP: Yelling, yes. Spanking, no (unless you count a quick flick on the hand when they won’t stop hanging off your hair or twisting your lip or something). Hell will freeze over before the fabled authority of disciplinary papa is acknowledged. Instead lots and lots of talking *eyeroll*: Do you think that was a good choice to make? Is that the way you would want other people to treat you? If the boy hadn’t cried wolf so many times before, don’t you think the villagers would have been more likely to help him the last time?
PP: “Don’t you ever talk to me like that, young lady!”
UP: “Honey, it hurts mama’s feelings when you talk to me like that. That’s not very nice. Let’s see how we can rephrase that.”
PP: Singing lullabies, sleeping in parental bed until child is old enough to remember the fact later.
UP: Letting baby cry it out at 3 months in his own crib in his own room. (*Note: I could only manage to do this a total of 2 times and I’m scarred for life.)
ETA: My dad read this and seems to think that I’m disparaging parents from their generation. Actually, I’m just guessing at their parenting motives and/or actions from the cumulative experience of an adult and the faded memories of a child. If at all, I see humor in the way we parent our kids now (helicopter parent, anyone?). Either way, all I can hope is that my kids will turn out as I did, which is to say, fine. So, papa, you did okay. 🙂