Tag Archives: child

Are Our Children at the Core of the Next Entitlement Demographic?

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There’s nothing that tugs at a parent’s heart like the hollow face of a hungry child. On the other hand, there’s nothing that makes a parent’s eyeballs distend, roll backwards, and practically dislocate themselves, like witnessing the antics of a child who feels a little hungry, complains about it, and expects a custom-made meal to be delivered on the spot.

The child, in this example, is mine.

Yesterday, my husband, son, and I hooked up to play a late afternoon front nine (keep in mind that I didn’t know what “front nine” meant until I was about thirty years old) on our neighborhood course (also keep in mind that, growing up, the closest thing our family had to a neighborhood course was, well…nothing). As we repeatedly made our way from the rough to the fairway, into a sand trap, and over the green, my twelve year-old son, Taylor, began to shank his drives. The more balls he shanked, the testier he got, the testier he got, the more he shanked. Why the male gender has failed to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship between these two variables is beyond me. But he’s young and I digress.

Even though his facial expression is familiar, that’s not my son. Image via sportsillustrated.com

Exhausted by a transition from summer to middle school that pushes him out the door every day by 6:45 a.m., frustrated, and possibly a bit disinterested, he stood on the green ignoring a view that could have inspired the creation of the earth itself and asked a simple question.

This is the view my son couldn’t see. Image via ccatcastlepines.com

“Where’s the beverage cart?”

“I don’t know. It’s late in the day, but I’m sure it’ll be around soon,” I said.

“I can’t believe it isn’t here. This is ridiculous,” he replied, grabbing his ball from the fairway and storming toward the next hole (keep in mind that if I had pulled a move like that on my mother, she would have coldcocked me before I had the chance to take a step…by the time I staggered up from my face plant into a bunker, stunned and babbling course etiquette backwards, she would have finished the hole and moved on, with or without me).

That’s not my mom. That’s a vampire. Image via http://www.reasonforchange.com

At the time, my reaction to his mini-outburst was much less measured than I’d like to admit, but I can say in retrospect that he was having a moment. We all have them. Even Oprah. In fact, I have about a dozen an hour on that fateful day each month when standing anywhere within my peripheral vision holds the equivalent danger as juggling molten-hot machetes on a tightrope (keep in mind that if you mess with me on the Tuesday before the Thursday, you’re taking a risk that’s not worth the reward). As the saying goes, the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Image via mszigzag.typepad.com

In hindsight, Taylor was as within his rights to complain as any kid invited to walk a beautiful golf course with his parents could be, which is to say, not at all.

And that’s where I have a problem.

My problem rests on the premise that even though he knew it wasn’t right to lose his temper, he didn’t know that the reason he lost it, contextually, was wrong.

The math breaks down like this: every time we play golf, we walk the course. Every time we walk the course, the beverage cart comes around at about hole five or six. Every time the beverage cart rolls up, Taylor gets a snack, often something more spectacular than anything he could ever pull from our pantry. Every time he gets a snack, we sign the bill.

My husband likes the beverage cart too. Image via golfdigest.com

We do this because we want him to experience things that we didn’t as kids. All parents hope their children have more than they did growing up. By popular definition, “success” is another way of saying “Congratulations, you’ve achieved the American Dream.” The words are practically interchangeable in our culture, even if they sometimes sound hollow.

But I’m finding that for a generation of children being raised today, “have more” doesn’t necessarily mean “do more”, and that’s not good (keep in mind, that our kids will most likely need to “do” a lot more than we did to get ahead when they’re adults).

What did Taylor do to earn a one-on-one trip to the golf course with Mom and Dad? Nothing. Yesterday, that’s pretty much how he treated it. Like nothing. The instant gratification he derives from getting a snack-on-demand wasn’t there, and because of that, he lost sight of the things around him that are much more important.

In many respects, our children are growing up in a world that we never knew existed when we were kids, because it didn’t. Where we played with blocks, our toddlers manipulate touch screens. Remember the days when your Dad schlepped you to the library so you could spend an hour deciphering the Dewey Decimal system to look through an ancient card catalogue and find the one book in the entire city on yellow-bellied marmots for a report? Taylor doesn’t, but he can pull up more images of that nasty rodent than you’d ever want to scroll through on his phone. Do you channel the Von Trapp family and sing songs with your children in the car? Me neither, because my kids’ headphones are shoved so far into their ear canals that they automatically de-wax themselves pushing them in and back out.

The Dewey Decimal System is almost as old as Joan Rivers. Almost. Image via http://www.afterelton.com

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. With the best of intentions, we damage our children. Keeping that thought in mind, I can’t help but wonder if parents who are willing to give their kids anything also take away something critical that means everything. Do I fall into that category? Sometimes. There are things I do well when it comes to raising my children to become responsible adults, but today I’m focusing on what I do wrong.

As the debate around our nation’s entitlement state roars down a bloated, bipartisan road toward a November 6 collision with itself, perhaps, instead of simply targeting the entitlements already being given, we should also focus on how we ensure that our children avoid this path. Does the current road need repair? Yes, but future generations can get a better start if they walk down a street that begins with chores and ends with education. Or begins with education and ends with validation. Or begins with validation and ends with communication. Or maybe our kids should just take out the trash.

If life’s about the journey, our children had better develop strong calves. Image via media.knownew.com

As humans, we’re a complicated mixture of nature and nurture, and it’s the combination of the two that makes us who we are to become. Yesterday? Taylor wasn’t the kid I wanted him to be, but most of the time, he is. He now understands (more fully than he’d like) that a trip to the golf course is earned, not given. I’m not writing this to embarrass him, rather, I’m putting this out there to call attention to myself, with the hope that through my children’s eyes, I learn the exact lessons I’m supposed to teach.

I Think I’m Smarter Than You

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No, not you. The you I’m referring to in this post is my seven-going-on-seventeen year-old daughter, Essa.

Running short on time and long on things to do, I had a simple conversation with my little girl the other day that went something like this.

Me: Essa, we’ve gotta pick up Taylor and Grace. Get in your car seat and let’s go.

Essa: Seriously Mom? Car seats are for babies.

Me: No, Essa. Car seats are for kids, and even though you like to think of yourself as someone who falls outside the National Highway Traffic Safety guidelines, you don’t.

Essa: Fine! (cue heavy foot stomping, something large and likely expensive crashing in the laundry room, and an exaggerated door slam)

It takes me about an hour to locate my car keys on any given day, and by the time I’d wrenched them out from under the bin-organizer-thingy in the hall that everyone ignores as they toss their shoes on the floor, I wasn’t in the best mood. When I got outside? This is what I found:

Here’s the thing. On paper, Essa did exactly as I’d asked. She got in her car seat. Never mind that she planted it on top of Taylor’s longboard, raced down the driveway sans-helmet, and flew across the street without bothering to look in any safe direction, raising her arms in some kind of “take that mom” victory cheer at the end.

Technically, she didn’t do anything wrong.

And this is where I detect the germinating seed of a growing problem.

My daughter, in many ways, is a lot like me, but her singular brand of Essaness is emerging about twenty years ahead of schedule…just in time for me to deal with it for the next ten.

So in an effort to keep both of us alive, I’m offering her a one-time only Guide to Getting Through the Next Decade Under the Same Roof as Me. Otherwise? Life as she knows it will exist solely within the confines of the four walls better known as her room, and we’ll both bear the pain of incarceration.

 Ten Ways to Act Like You Respect Me Even if You Don’t

1. Don’t be so obvious. It’s a lot easier to steal my wallet while you’re patting me on the back.

2. Compliment me. I’m especially vulnerable when being told I look younger than I am. Twenty-eight is a good place to start.

3. Tell any adult you encounter how much you admire me: your teacher, a friend’s parent, my therapist…kind words, even if completely fabricated, go a long way.

4. Timing is everything. If you can work it so I hear about this fake compliment right after you’ve told me I don’t look old enough to have had three kids? You’ve earned an entire week’s worth of heavy sighs and exaggerated eye rolls.

5. Pretend to be nice to your brother and sister. When you coldcock your brother in the head right in front of me it stresses me out. Hit him when I’m not around.

6. Don’t do drugs. Period. If you put any substance in your body that I’ve never let into mine? It won’t matter if you fake like me or not because I will kill you.

7. Synch your calendar with my cycle. There’s one day a month when you’re better off camping out in the scrub oak behind the house with a flashlight and some beef jerky rather than crossing my path.

8. Force those huge, expressive eyes to lock meaningfully with mine and channel a vibe of “wow mom, your wisdom just blows me away…thank you for being so magnificent” when I’m trying to teach you something rather than “I’m so blah, blah, blekity blah bored and stuff, and like, anyway, who do you think you are, and you so don’t get me and all that and are you done yet because I have better things to do.”

9. Use your Montessori education to your advantage. Less drama + more smiling = more peace = less restriction = more fun. See? A + B = C = D = E. Simple math that makes no sense is genius.

10. When in doubt, always tell the truth because I’ve not only been right where you are, I’m a step ahead of you. My genetic code is responsible for all the back alleyways and side streets on your map, and there’s no place you might dare to go that I haven’t already been.

I understand the theory of evolution, that my childhood took place in the Mesozoic Era, and you’re way ahead of wherever I was at your age. But slow down. It seems like only yesterday when you climbed into my lap, looked directly into my eyes, and asked if fairies were real. You’re an amazingly intuitive, intelligent little girl, and if you’ll take my hand and hold it over the next ten years like you’ve done for the past seven? I crisscross-applesauce promise I’ll let you go when it’s time for you to fly.

To The Gentle Giant From A Mom Who Sometimes Gets It Wrong

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I have an unsuspecting guest blogger today.  It’s my eleven year-old son, Taylor, or as I like to call him, the Gentle Giant.  Gentle because he was born with a heart much more complex and intricate than most, and giant because, well, he’s really, really tall.

Taylor has always been sensitive to the ways of the world…more synchronized to the tune of his own feelings and the vibrations and chords of those around him than anyone I know.  Even though our parts come from the same place, they’re constructed in an entirely different way.  What seems like a glancing blow to me hits him directly; a sucker punch to the gut with a sting that lingers and burns.

At first and for a long time, I wanted to change my son.  Make him tougher, more resilient, and in my mind’s eye, strong.  No caring parent wants a child to hurt.

When he was a little boy, all I could see through my one-dimensional, cracked crystal ball were children teasing him.  I imagined him crying while I tried to clean up the tiny slivers of his psyche, unable to reconnect them in a way that would cause less pain.  With a vascular organ as transparent as his, I was afraid he’d bleed in ways that would require emotional surgery, a method of repair I was too ill-equipped to attempt.

Over the years, some of my fears have come to light.  He’s mourned things I don’t understand, and lamented situations that wouldn’t cause me a second thought.  And yes, he’s had his feelings bruised by others who are built of vital pieces that are shaped a little differently than his.  I’m embarrassed to admit that one of those “others” unintentionally includes me.

But he’s also surprised me in ways I could have never predicted.   As a kid on the cusp of tweendom, he now feels compelled to hide his free-flowing tears, but he’s always the first to crack a joke.  Because his feelings run like fissures through the ground, he’ll defend anyone being bullied, unconditionally and without a second thought.  I’ve seen him jump to an unknown child’s defense and am amazed by his courage.  Even for the right reasons, I didn’t have the self-confidence at his age to make waves or challenge the status quo.

It took me awhile to understand that the element of my son’s personality I wanted to alter is the exact one that makes him so beautifully unique.  I imagine that the children who cry easily become the teenagers who feel deeply and the adults who have the potential to heal the world.

With the best of intentions we often damage our children.  In our haste to mold them into the people we wish we were, we sometimes hurt rather than help.  Although I’m ashamed to admit it, I see now that by trying to make my son stronger, I actually injured parts I intended to support.  He had strengths all along that I failed to recognize, and it was never Taylor who needed to change.  It was me.

There is absolutely no genetic precedent in either my husband’s or my family for a child who is predicted to grow to be about 6’5”.  The only way to explain his size is that it takes a large body to hold such a huge heart.  His height is a defense mechanism in a way, a physical vessel to guard against any emotions that penetrate the protective cover, and cradle something too valuable to lose.

I’m not always proud of myself, but I am unconditionally and forever proud of my son.

Tree by Taylor Chadwick

Still. Still as a rock.

High above all others.

Lonely, alone.

Freezing as the temperature drops.

Reaching out for something to hold onto.

But nothing is there.

The arms stretch out further, and that means there is still something to hold onto.

Something to fight for.

Something to believe in.

Something to live for.

The sun is melting all the snow.

Warming it.

There is always hope.

 

Image from Flickr