by Rebecca Drake
Yesterday I found myself having one of those moments you vow you’ll never have, where you say to your kids, “When I was your age…”
They were complaining for the umpteenth time about going to swim team and since I wanted to be writing instead of playing chauffeur and since it’s practically the only exercise they get, I wasn’t feeling remotely sorry for them.
I launched into a story that began, “When I was your age,” described slogging on foot to deliver 100 newspapers rain or shine, and concluded with the admonition that they should “be grateful you get to go to swim team.”
My 11-year-old son waited until I’d wound down and then asked suspiciously, “Is that a true story?”
I suppose since his mom writes fiction he can be forgiven for asking that. I stifled a laugh and told him that yes, it was absolutely the truth, and then I suddenly remembered my father angrily complaining to his toy-demanding children, “When I was a boy I had a stick and a piece of string and I was happy!”
It made me laugh then and it still makes me smile, though I wonder now if it wasn’t really all that far from the truth. And I found myself reflecting on parenting then and now and how when I was a kid you’d hear adults say, “If you don’t shut your mouth I’ll shut it for you,” and “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to really cry about!”
And how now you’ll hear parents say, “Please stop jumping on the furniture, okay?” and “I know your feelings were hurt because we couldn’t get ice cream, but kicking Mommy isn’t a good way to express that.”
It occurred to me that good parenting lies somewhere in the middle of these two poles, because you can’t coddle your kids through life, but you also shouldn’t belittle them into adulthood.
And then I thought that so much of happiness in life is about finding that middle ground, that balance between work and relationships, contentment and ambition, tradition and innovation.
I know how much I struggle with this. How do others find this balance?