“Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.” P.J. O’Rourke
Who really and truly knows anything about raising children, despite the fact we’ve been doing it for millennia? The job description keeps changing. The strap Dad used on me is child abuse these days, even though, at the time, it sure helped me understand that my older brother Ray had led me into temptation yet again. And yes. If he jumped off a cliff? Right behind him.
There’s a misconception among parents. I mean, the kid looks like you, has blond hair, blue eyes, pale skin. So, you think he or she is a clone. Of you. But, even if that’s true, the kid probably displays those characteristics of yourself that you absolutely abhor. The ones you’d rather not shine a light on. The quick temper. Moodiness, say. Laziness. Procrastination. Traits you work hard on hiding, or actually managed to discard long ago.
While raising my kids, I knew I loved them with all of my heart. How could I not? I pushed out these three perfect bundles of joy, saw them as innocent beings with unlimited potential. But some days? Well, I just didn’t like them. How can this child be mine? I’d think. Like my daughter Jetanne, a parent now herself (yes!), I’d consult the experts at times like that. And I’d come across a quote like this one by Jennifer Waldburger: “It’s the ugly truth – sometimes our beloved children are incredibly unlikable.” And it would get me through another day.
It’s quite likely we, as beloved parents, are incredibly unlikable to our kids sometimes. My parents couldn’t have cared less, but my generation, the Boomers, squirm at this. Way back in the ‘80s, when my late husband Hugh and I were having our kids, we vowed: “These kids are coming into our lives, not the other way around.” They’d have to accept our friends, our music, our lifestyle. Time went on and it shifted, due to a love of sports; the kids did competitive everything, which led to an era I call “Drive And Pay”. Hugh and I cheered them on from the sidelines. Our friends morphed into our kids’ teammates’ parents. Our kids became our buds, our pals. Hard to lay down the law when you’re pals, and harder still after Hugh – who the “bad guy” duties usually fell to – passed away.
Recently, when I was feeling low because one of my kids was pissed with me about something or other, a friend reassured me by saying, “Well, at least it means you’re still relevant.” As opposed to when I’m in the home? Hmmm.
What I’ve found as time has gone along is that there doesn’t seem to be an end-date to this parenting gig. As a female, a nurturer, a mother, it’s hard to let go, to step away from the edge and let the chips fall where they may for my kids, regardless of their ages. Us Boomers are accused of “helicopter parenting”. Wiki describes it thus: “a parent who pays extremely close attention to a child’s or children’s experiences and problems, particularly at educational institutions.” My kids are beyond educational institutions now, two of them beyond the confines of their home province, so I know I must accept – as my husband B reminds me – that my role now is to listen, nod, advise and not get too emotionally invested.
My kids are Millennials, so it makes sense that they would want to raise their kids, subliminally or otherwise, differently than they were raised. Says Anne Boysen, in Millennials embrace “Resilience Parenting” for www.shapingtomorrow.com, “A recent study from the popular webportal BabyCenter reveals that Millennial parents show more relaxed parenting styles than the generation of parents preceding them. ‘Millennial Moms are clearly reacting to the way they were raised,’ says Mike Fogarty, at BabyCenter. ‘They reject the pressure they grew up with.’”
I see where this is going: I blame my problems on the pressure on my bottom, my kids blame their problems on ‘the pressure they grew up with’ and my grandkids blame their problems on the lack of pressure by their Millennial Moms.
Nah. Like me letting my kids go long after they flew the coop, blame requires letting go as well. Danielle LaPorte, author of The Desire Map, says it eloquently:
“Eventually, you have to stop blaming your parents.
Hard done by, won by.
Inherited, genetic, prophetic, pathetic.
Too big, too little, too flat, too tight.
Domineered, engineered, relegated, antiquated.
Abandoned. Held too tight taking flight.
A shrink friend of mine said the most common pattern he saw in human behavior was that people didn’t start really living until their parents died. That’s a lot of lives only one third lived.”
Parents do the best they can. Without a manual.
Website picture is of my granddaughter Naomi Lou, who did not come with a manual. Photo credit Jetanne DiCola.