Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Golden Age of Parenting

Oh good grief. Sometimes I just want to flee. Do you ever feel like you just want to slip out a side door and make a break for Mexico? Or maybe, in that dark, creepy corner of your basement, where the kids are too scared to venture, secretly develop the first angst-propelled jet pack? Better yet, harness the power of the teenage-eye-roll as an alternative combustible, fill the tank, and pull a Thelma and Louise?

I thought, ya know, I really thought, I was doing it right. I could justify, argue, and defend my parenting choices 'til large men wept (from boredom mostly). The backbone of my belief: treat people, especially children, with respect and dignity, and they will grow to be respectful, dignified people.

I abhorred and tossed my hair at the notion that a family should be anything other than a democracy. What kind of people, I would ask, would subjugate someone just because they could. That kind of abuse of power was reprehensible. I'm a modern, enlightened mother. I talk to my kids. I share with my kids. Their thoughts and feelings have as much value as mine. I thought. 

Well, some of my children are grown now. Big people. In fact, my oldest is the same age I was when he was born. And guess what? My utopian parenting didn't work. 

My kids aren't bad--though I hate that word. It's so filled with judgment. They are, for the most part, thoughtful, intelligent people. But our relationship isn't what I imagined. All those years of telling them that they had a say. All those years of allowing them to share in the decision making--from where to eat to which house to buy. All those years of discussing chore-sharing, and living expenses (which in our house is a pseudonym for allowance), and giving them a voice when they felt they were being oppressed. All those years, and all those things, backfired. 

What I thought, truly believed, would become mutual appreciation and respect, has turned into reverse discrimination. Now they feel they have the power to subjugate me. They demand and demean, and feel fully within their rights to do so. And when I attempt to put my feeble foot down, I get the heavy sighs, the "yeah, whatever's," and the near seizure-inducing eye rolls.  

I thought giving them a voice would empower them. I just didn't suspect that that voice I fought so hard to allow them would be used against me. 

It's probably too late to reverse my parenting style. I wonder if I could temporarily inhabit the body of a 1950s parent, and see what a swift kick in the ass might do. Probably not much for them, but it would make me feel a hell of a lot better.

2 comments:

Adaptation said...

We can't go back, there are no re-dos, sad but true. We've given our children the best of what we've had to give. I know I wasn't raised in a perfect home, few people are.

I came away with the tools given to my through my up bringing, they were pretty scant, but that's what I was given to work with. We aren't all equipped with the perfect solutions of how and why we should raise our children.

Everyone wants a mutually respectful relationship with those they love, but sometimes it doesn't always work out the way we've envisioned.

There are bound to be huge diasppointments, it sucks and it rips our hearts out of our chests.

You've done what worked best for you and your family, you can't measure that by anyone elses parenting style. Our children, no matter what we've done to help them grow, are going to be who they decide to be.

The most important thing to me is that my children know without a doubt that I deserve respect, not simply because I am their parent but because I am a person.

I try my best to give them respect they deserve, but sometimes I fall short myself. We all slip up, and have to be reminded. I guess that is what makes us human.

You can't beat youreslf up and chalk up your whole parenting experience as a failure because your children aren't exactly what you expected they would be. Like you said, they are intelligent, thoughtful people.

You've done your job.

JHS said...

Thanks for participating in this week's very special Memorial Day Edition of the Carnival of Family Life at Colloquium! Stop by and check out some of the other wonderful articles included in this edition!