I came down on my kids kind of hard yesterday. Sometimes we need to say what needs to be said.
My oldest streamed tears. My youngest sat stone faced.
I am learning—of course now when one is grown and the other is near—that parenting, good parenting is simple. I admit I have not yet found this simple application, but I have observed my own parenting and that of the culture. We have moved from an authoritative paradigm—do as I say because I am the adult—to liberal parenting—tell me how you feel. Not sure either work well. I was never the authoritative type. I like giving my kids as much space as possible. I am a believer of expressing feelings, and went the more liberal route. Now, I’m not sure. Now, I am wishing I would have been more strict, voiced more of my expectations and even pushed them.
I work with kids who call teachers bitches and if confronted they say, well I was mad. This is one result of liberal parenting/schooling. I am second-guessing the tell me how you feel paradigm because can kids really do this? Can they really process their emotions? Adults can hardly do this, although perfectly within their capabilities if they choose to do so. But kids— I am not so sure. If anything, kids just learn how to work it: well I was mad….well my dad is in jail….
We took my daughter and her friend to an amusement park this weekend. We bought them dinner and gave them two free wrist bands for unlimited rides. When we went to meet them, a grandmother was talking to the girls. I asked my daughter what she was talking to them about. I got the usual—nothing. My husband went to find the woman and ask her. The girls were flicking small children in the ears and telling them they are annoying.
I waited until the next day (yesterday) to unload my disgust. She needed to hear these are not our values. That her insecurities about herself does not give her permission to harass the vulnerable. Stone faced. I am not a perfect parent. She has seen and heard some things I wished she hadn’t. Life has been tough for her already. But— I have been here for her. I have been (mostly) stable. I am supportive and have put her first. And, I feel I have lost control. This stinky society of social media and bad television and sex obsessed music is raising my child. I tried, with a Waldorf education for her first few years of school to shelter her, but I lost the battle. Or I gave up, feeling weaker than the culture.
It’s time to take back the reigns.
My oldest does not harass the vulnerable, but I fear I sheltered her too much. I wanted her to have all I didn’t. I supported her acting dreams. I gave her stability and comfort, thinking this would be a foundation on which to stand and make a life better than my own. I feel she is afraid to step out and do so. I wonder where is her courage. This is what I got on her about.
I told them both it is unfortunate they did not see me when I was in my 20’s. When I was brave. When I had a child at 20 and took care of her. When I faced demons inside of myself, those of my upbringing. And let go of a relationship that was too dependent, faced my fear of being alone so I could find myself. They missed the days of their mother’s courage. Mostly what they see now is the mid-life wreck that is left—the worn out and tired mom. The disappointed mom who can’t wrap her head around what I thought was the right thing in my parenting and seeing that maybe none of it made a damn bit of difference. That I missed whatever simpler parenting is.
As I ask—or as I did yesterday—demand to see the courage of my children, I demand to see my own too. Courage is what the youngest will need to feel her feelings instead of protect herself from them, to release herself from the cycle of numbness to the point of hurting others. The oldest will have to find hers so she can build a life she wants to live, or just a life beyond the comfort of our walls. And I have to have the courage to trust life and myself again, resurrecting from the wreck.
I look for the light. I long for it and my looking and longing are finally turning into something stronger. I am more willing to fight for it- to fight against they dying of the light and this takes courage.
May our New Year be filled with more light and more courage as we live our days,
The Soul Reporter