Parenting Now (Or at least trying to…): Introduction

I have been seriously wondering about my children’s sense of entitlement, lately. Specifically in what they will or will not do or accept without vigorous encouragement, and how much argument I get about Every. Little. Thing. “Go put your shoes away,” is invariably followed by, “No, I’m going to get out my Legos…” or whatever. “Supper is steak and mashed potatoes,” is followed by, “No, I want mac-a-na-cheese!” I don’t use the bizarre ‘parenting by negotiation’ bullshit because I’ve seen the kind of poorly-behaved little brats it produces, and I do my best not to put up with unreasonable demands. Somehow, though, between justifying the way I was raised, the way I feel children should be trained and expected to behave and the ever-hovering fear of some obnoxious busybody calling DHS (Good God, it’s the traditional parent’s boogeyman) because they don’t like what they think they see in the supermarket, I feel effectively paralyzed as a parent.

When I was just getting to be old enough to notice, there was a movement in school to “Tell your teacher,” about anything that goes on at home. I considered it a few times, whether honestly or a bit dramatically, but thank God I was old enough to realize that the alternative to home was probably not better. As an adult with children in a phase where they tell both fascinating, interesting truths and dramatically invented lies with the same level of enthusiasm, sincerity, insistence of honesty, and flair for the dramatic, I’m worried on a daily basis that they might say the wrong thing to the wrong person and, in a frenzy of excitement over attention to their story, get our family in to a seriously harmful situation that cannot easily be remedied. There are allegations like these all the time, and it seems as though while I’ve grown from an adult to a child, the threshold for ‘official’ action has trended lower and the resulting action is more obnoxiously extreme. Children are pulled from their homes and put in to “system” or “foster” situations that are directly harmful to them while their parents go through a lengthy and emotionally/financially torturous legal process that may very well result in dismissal of the case and/or complete redemption, but calling them to question immediately assumes their guilt and the preemptive removal of their children, and ultimately does irrevocable harm to both their children and their reputation.  I’m sure there’s a situation where this kind of terror-mongering is actually helping someone, but it’s not the modern American Christian family.

I knew when I was growing up that I had a different sort of home life than most of my classmates. I figured “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” was better than a lot of the alternatives. (And to clarify: I wasn’t ever beaten. If I misbehaved, I was spanked. A couple of times in really angry situations later on, my father knocked me around a little, and that was certainly not appropriate, but there was nothing that happened in our home that could really be considered abuse.) I figured my life was better than the classmate with a single mom who brought home random boyfriends that came to her bed and fondled her when her mom passed out drunk. I figured it was better than the one whose parents never threw anything away or cleaned, and lived on delivering newspapers and the charity of others while teaching him to disrespect his mother and sister. I figured it was better than the one who worked hard, got all A’s, joined every activity and still couldn’t live up to her mom’s expectations. I figured it was better than the one whose parents didn’t seem to care at all and let him walk alone on the country roads at any hour of the day or night. I figured it was better than the kids who died in a drunk driving accident when their parents didn’t know they were gone. I even figured it was better than the twins with rich parents and good genes who joined every sport and still managed to be horrible to everyone. I don’t think my parents really understood me (Frankly, I’m 32 and still don’t completely understand myself.), but they did their best to instill honesty, accountability, hard work, and the idea that “Your word is your worth.” The day-to-day of learning to understand those values wasn’t always pretty, though.  Taking a completely basic, self-centered bundle of needs and desires and conforming them to the rules an expectations of a society can’t be a neat, pretty transition all the time. It just can’t.

Now that I have a group of very precious, unique, smart, vicious, competitive, sensitive, selfish, human people to mold towards a standard of basic socially-acceptable decency, I have to reconsider what I “figured was better” and try to figure out what’s best for our family. I had intended to make a pretty, bullet-points posting about how I address this and call it done, but I’m realizing as I write that it’s more than a bullet-point issue, and one that it will take me more than a few reflections to adequately express. I think I’ll revisit this in another entry. And then another. Etcetera.

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