Old School, New School- Where’s the Balance?

It’s been exactly 3 months since my last post….And what’s on my mind—parenting.

I’m starting to believe I’ve done my children a disservice by being too available. Of course they would say I don’t give them anything they need.

Today I had to make a quick run to the grocery. I was going to go alone, but Lilli, my 14-year old decided to join me. I’m making enchiladas and burnt the chicken in the crock pot last night. The rotisserie  was $7.99. The lunch meat and cheese (for lunches/snacks this week) was almost $15. And the sushi Lilli suddenly wanted to have was $8, stating, “I’m sick of sandwiches” (and apparently can’t wait for enchiladas).

I told her to find a deli salad instead, which she did. “How much is it,” she asked?

“$3.35.”

She made that sound that expresses disgust when you click the tongue away from the roof of your mouth, and said “I hate being poor.”

“Lilli, we aren’t actually poor. I’m just not making any money right now and need to be on a budget.”

“Well make some,” she demands.

“Even if I made some it wouldn’t be to buy you everything you want,” I reply as I start to feel defensive.

“You need to make more money so you don’t have to depend on dad. You can’t even pay the mortgage with out dad.”

From here I just get more defensive….”Listen here, kid….”

 

On the way home, I start to see how the earlier days of letting a child know their place might still make sense.

Besides spending most of my adult life as a homemaker, being available to my children and my home 24/7, I also began working as a teacher assistant a few years ago. This past year I worked at a middle school and the behaviors I observed made me curious about where the hell we are going wrong with our kids. It would appear kids don’t know their place.

I know that doesn’t sound right, does it? Well maybe it does to more old-school, conservative people, but to the liberal and equal minded people it may not. Here’s what I think– we have left behind the “children are best seen and not heard” philosophy where children were filled with shame and not seen as people with their own thoughts and feelings– and this is a good thing–but, now we seem to be in the other extreme where we let the kids run things. We treat them equally. We are afraid to hurt their feelings and to disregard their thoughts. We also tell them our thoughts and feelings as if they  know what to do with those other than hurting us somehow later (how else do you think my 14-year old knows I can’t pay the mortgage with my pay check).

But, here’s the result of creating equal ground for our kids—some of them now tell teachers and parents to “fuck off bitch” ( I saw this frequently where I work and have heard it from my own child). Some use our willingness to listen to their thoughts and feelings to manipulate so they get what they want. And quite honestly between this and the media with images and sounds of violence and sex, kids are frickin’ overwhelmed. They are kids for a reason. They are under our care for a reason, and yet here we are as a culture exposing them to content they can’t truly handle yet. In some ways we are protecting them but in other ways we certainly are not. And I guess they’re pissed.

In my own life as a parent, I have tried to protect my children from the experiences I had as a child- divorce, having an alcoholic mother. Yet, it was from these very experiences that I learned how to be resourceful, independent and responsible. Of course I am not saying I should have been a drug addict so my kids could be stronger in some areas, but I truly believed being available to them emotionally and also making them physically comfortable was what would allow them the space and the security to develop certain qualities that would benefit them. But, now I wonder…

I can’t say I have any definitive answers yet, but here are some things I am realizing as I continue this parenting journey, one I have been on for 22 years.

  • Kids are hard on parents

This realization comes as a relief. For 20+ years I’ve believed that somehow if I just do things right, which really meant doing things better than my own parents my kids will appreciate it. HAHAHAHA. I’m thinking it doesn’t matter. Kids are hard on their parents(large period here).

  • It’s okay if my kids don’t respect my choices or even like me.

My Aunt Flo told me when her kids said they didn’t like her, she said: too bad. I’ve been priding myself for years on being a good mom. And as my kids become more vocal in the ways that I am not or in the ways they do not respect my choices in my own life, I have been terribly hurt and confused by this. Like: don’t they see what a good mom I am….how can they say these things to me?  I think I can finally say it’s okay that they don’t respect my choices. It’s okay they don’t think I am a good mom. It’s okay. And quite honestly, it’s been humbling to see in which ways I really haven’t been a good mom.

  • It’s also okay how I chose to parent at the time.

No matter why I did what I did, which for many years was just not do what my mother did, my kids will survive. My kids will be okay. And even if I did do too much, as human beings we are resourceful and resilient. They will go through the struggles as they already are in their own ways. They will always have the capacity to take what they did and did not receive and have it inform how they live their lives and how they parent, if and when they choose to do so.

As far as what to do as a culture for our kids- as I said I have no definitive answers, but I do trust we are finding a balance between the old-school ways and the newer-school ways. I also know we must find a spiritual perspective in raising kids, ours and society’s. The balance then seems to be keeping a vigilance of our humanity- how we parent within our culture and our own upbringing, while also having a spiritual perspective- that within our spirits we are equals. We are whole. And we are on our journey that continues to unfold and evolve. From this balance we will find and share the wisdom, which comes from this space.

Would love your thoughts on the matter.

The Soul Reporter.

Gotta Do It.

Good thoughts will produce good actions and bad thoughts will produce bad actions. Hatred does not cease by hatred at any time; hatred ceases by love. ~Buddha

 

“They” say write what you know. I will add—write what you don’t know, but desire to know. I also say, write what you experience. This is what I do here at The Soul Reporter, and specifically I am going to begin to focus in on what I experience day-to-day—somewhat of a new focus here at The Soul Reporter. 

Daily, I am with kids (our future)—middle-schoolers—my own and the ones I work with who have been labeled by the education system with various learning disabilities and also EBD (emotional/behavioral disorder).

I remember our daughter, Lilli’s third grade teacher telling us she wasn’t reading like the other children. I recall the day I sat in a room with teachers, psychologists and specialists telling me she had a learning disability (unspecified).

Tonight at dinner, Lilli told me a special ed teacher pulled out a group of kids to take a test in Social Studies. Lilli said, “And I wasn’t one of them.” It’s been a long road. Lilli now only qualifies for special education for math (frankly, at 41 I would qualify for this too). However, we aren’t out of the woods yet.

At Lilli’s last IEP (individualized education plan) meeting where she was reevaluated for services, they tested her to see if she qualified for the EBD label. She didn’t, and had she I would have protested. “They” tell you this label will allow the educators to take better care of the child’s needs. Although their intentions may be in the right place, I have seen this label also mean it is the beginning of the educational system giving up on that student.

The issue with this is many of the kids are already giving up on themselves. And, so I don’t get burnt out and give up on them, which I run the risk of daily, I am going to use this blog as an outlet and my hope it might become a resource for others. Therefore, to begin here is what I discovered today:

We must build—in small ways—toward courage, wisdom & greater self-esteem.

I worry about the kids I see who walk out of class and wander the halls. I worry about my own who asks to stay home at least once a week and skips gym class. There was a time I still worried about my own adolescent self as an adult, having constant dreams about trying to get to class but not being able to. I skipped most of high school. I hung out at Burger King, in cars or the grocery store—anywhere but class.

It remains one my greater regrets. It seems almost impossible to have a 13-year old care they will regret skipping class someday. And sometimes I hope they do regret it. If they regret, it means there has been a shift in consciousness for them. If they don’t regret it, to me it means they are still lingering in old patterns. For me, skipping class was a pattern of not showing up I worked on every day I didn’t show up. Everyday, I also told myself the next day I would show up, but I rarely did.  I get that math and science and other subjects seem like a big waste of time, and maybe they are. But, showing up is a good practice, which can begin in school.  To show up is a discipline that is needed to build character, courage, wisdom and greater self-image.

It is why I use the quote from Buddha above. The bad thoughts we have about ourselves as teenagers can be so severe our actions make us hide and act out negatively. This, when practiced continuously will weave us into a life we may or may not get out of. I did. I went onto college. Not necessarily for the degree, although it helped me get my current job, but to show myself I could do well in school.  I made the B honor roll every semeseter. I showed myself I wasn’t dumb. I learned my issue wasn’t brain power, it was a lack of using my inner power.

It helps me to relate to the kids in this way—to see they lack confidence. Because this seems like something, which can be worked with. For instance, Lill still asks me to order for her at restuarants. She lacks the confidence to look the waitress in her eye and tell her what she wants. I asked her today to consider doing small things, like order for herself. Doing these small things daily (and she may need to start even smaller) will work her inner courage. These small things will eventually be what increases the inner power she already has and will be a great power, which can and will move her beyond negative thoughts, and therefore negative actions.

If you find this topic helpful, please pass this blog on to parents, educators—anyone who is interested in our future, which are these kids. Thank you.

The Soul Reporter