Are we not our children’s keepers, tasked with distinguishing for them what’s right and what’s wrong, setting the bar for high moral conduct, and reiterating (probably for the rest of our lives) that just because everyone else is doing something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for them to do, too? Am I crazy, or is that what we’re supposed to be doing?
Sometimes smart people make the wrong decisions, especially when it comes to their kids. I am not a perfect parent (or person), and I’m sure there have been plenty of times when the choice I made was the wrong one. We’re human, we learn from our mistakes after all. My concern is about the bigger, badder choices; the ones that in our gut we know we should be standing by lest we lose the opportunity to teach an important lesson, but don’t. We let it go. We blow off reason because it will satisfy the happiness of our child, even though we know it’s probably only temporary. We want them to have memorable childhoods, ones that will resonate, and yea, I’m gonna say it, we want our kids to like us.
For me, that phase came around the time when my kids reached puberty, when the level and tone of our conversations were bumped up a notch—when they actually became conversations. The monitoring mode that had been established up until then had been phased out; at least, it was no longer so blatantly obvious. As they matured, they became less interested in gaining our approval, less inclined to fully embrace what we had to say, and more prone to debate. They grew into embracing their own minds, which they had discovered were actually viable, with their thoughts coherent, and their opinions finally being worth something and credited as such. Our whole household needed to move to the next plateau, and it did, but not without a fight or two.
These days, I am no longer so interested in being liked, or being their friend. Duh: I’d like to be the first person they call if they need advice, or if they’re in a pinch I hope they know I will be the first on the scene. But challenge my area of expertise—defining what’s right and what’s wrong—well then, I’m afraid we’re going to battle. So no, my darling 15-year-old daughter, you cannot sleep at your very good camp-friend’s house, the very good camp-friend who also happens to be 15 years old and is a boy. That’s right, even though your other friends who will be there are girls.
This came up, mind you, just days after she returned home from summer camp, which lasted for seven weeks. I understand how hard it must be for them to acclimate back into the realm of rules and curfews and not having their friends around 24/7. But um, too bad. I need to do what I’m supposed to do, even if it makes some people unhappy some of the time. Toeing the line has been challenging, to say the least, but I own the harder choices I need to make, the ones that I know are right even if they’ll inevitably cause major aggravation and sullen moods for a couple of hours, maybe even for days. It’s the high price of parenting. We’re shaping the minds and the attitudes of the people we put on this earth and if we don’t teach them where the line is, no one else will. It’s what we all need to remember the next time we feel the pang of wanting to give them instant gratification.