Friday, November 17, 2006

Rainy Day Reflections

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?


Pat said...

When my son was about six he asked where babies come from. It was bedtime, so, instead of reciting my version of Lady and Tramp (highly abridged)I launched into "the talk." When I finished, my son, who had his face buried in the pillow since the anatomy diagrams, looked up at me. His eyes were tearing, his was face flushed and said laughing: "That is hilarious! Did you make that up?" I thought: "What kind of sicko do you think I am? Of course not!"

Nancy said...

Becky, I'm thinking that parents who work at home get much quicker to the middle ground than parents who only see their kids on weekends.

Is it a bad thing to show kids your impatience and frustration? I think they need to see that parents are human, not god-like, all-providing beings. But then, I'm the mom who made my kids pack their own school lunches . . . starting in 2nd grade.

Great blog. And Pat---when did your son finally figure out you weren't fibbing? Or has he yet??

kathie said...

Hey Becky,
funny post! When I get caught up in overexplaining my decisions or pulled away from my decisions I just stop. And think about what I'm teaching by going along with their often sound reasoning instead of doing what I know is right. When I take myself out of the discussion, I'm more of a mom (the person making the rules) than a participant in some negotiation.

Joyce said...

Becky, great blog.

It drives me crazy when I'm in a store and a child is screaming his head off or acting like a little demon, and the parent says, "Honey, please don't do that." I can guarantee that parent is going to be the one calling the police in five years because they can't control their child. Yes, this does happen!

I think it's healthy for children to fear their parents a bit. They have to know that there will be consequences for their actions. If you tell them they'll be grounded for a week, they have to know you mean it. Sometimes it's really hard to do that!

Most parents want their children to like them, which makes it difficult sometimes to achieve that balance.

Rebecca Drake said...

Wow, Nancy, I'm impressed that you got them to pack their lunches that young! I'm afraid I still do that for everybody, but I am making them pick up after themselves, take care of the cat, and other household chores.

Pat, my kids had exactly the same response to the facts of life!!! I found myself laughing with them, because viewed objectively it does seem pretty ridiculous...

Joyce, I am so with you on those kids and their parents! I guess they're one reason we have those supermax prisons.

Meryl Neiman said...

Drew interoggated me on the facts of life a year and a half ago when he was five. He didn't find it humorous, so much as disgusting. Shortly after our conversation, Mother's Day was arriving. I explained to my children that Mother's Day was the most important day of the year. Drew asked, what about Father's Day and I answered that, while Father's Day was important, the mother had to carry the baby for nine months and deliver him/her.

HIs response: "yeah, but the father has to stick his penis in the mother's vagina."

The sacrifices that men must make for their children . . .

Tory said...

I agree with you, Becky, balance is everything! (And not just in raising children.)