Tuesday, January 17, 2017
Teach kids to jump
I listen to my son and his friends and the things they protest and find utterly against them seem so trivial and frankly ridiculous to me as an adult. A teacher raising their voice but not really shouting. Practice that interferes with their ability to do nothing or hang out with friends. The rules of the house around screen time and not eating sugary snacks as a meal. These things are just NOT FAIR.
It is the age also were adversity in life is just all consuming, they discuss it with each other, a mini union that has yet to get up on a desk with a Norma Rae sign but getting there. Discussing, organizing, rating those in their lives that are deemed tougher, work that is harder than the stuff that they can just easily learn - these are matters for full on kid union meetings that happen via group texts and angry emojis.
Of course adding fuel to this fire are the hormones. You know those pesky things that are coming for your child so that there are tears in their eyes when they cannot find the shirt they wanted to wear today. The ones that lead to walking away and mood swings that come fast and furious. The sheer enormity of how difficult life is and how NO ONE understands, especially you the parent. I mean you did not of course experience any of these things.
I recently dismissed one of these "it's not fair and this teacher" complaints from my son and then went to pick up his younger brother who was excited to tell me about his day. At 10 angst is not yet on the defcon scale that it is for tweens and teens. I left a very disgruntled child at home who had also rolled eyes and walked away pretty much as equally distraught at my lack of understanding as he was at the situation. The drive is not long enough for reflection, it is done as a treat both boys get when I work from home, I got there a few minutes early and I sat in my car and thought about my reaction.
How could I expect a child to open up when his important, oh my god moments are not taken seriously? These things are all to his world and I remembered they were all in mine at his age. The drama I felt as a girl at that age, that awkward age about what I wore, what I looked like. The vast hours spent with friends discussing these same topics and how I know we never really shared them with our parents. We didn't because what could our parents add to the discussion and more so we had parents who tolerated this type of "non-issues" with strong words about how lucky we were. We were lucky but it wasn't so to us then. We were in pain, struggling and most of all the lack of fairness we talked of, the meanness of rules and teachers was about our growing up yet being given so little control. We were angry because we wanted to fly and we were still not butterflies yet - just like our kids in a cocoon for a while longer. As parents we hope that cocoon is made of reinforced cloth, as kids of gauze.
I thought of all of this and I also knew my reaction was also based on my person dislike of what I see as a trend in too many parents these days. If there is something a kid dislikes, an obstacle, an inconvenience or any perceived challenge too often they step in and remove it. I am not talking of legitimate situations were a kid is in harm's way or in an activity beyond their current capabilities which they would fail if we did not help them. I am talking about complaining about a test grade and having a parent take it to the principal because their child said they should have done better. The times kids are yanked out of a sport or an activity because though you committed and paid good money for it they "don't like it". The times when a teacher or coach is tough on them, demanding but not demeaning and the parent addresses the adult rather than helping the child understand what the person is trying to help them accomplish, that they see more in them and that's why they are asking for it.
My son had felt the result of my pure annoyance with this parenting and it was not fair. I went back and I apologized. We had a good discussion where I shared my perspective on what I thought was just being blown out of proportion by he and his friends. That at times a teacher in school or in an activity will push them, make them uncomfortable and that situations sometimes are unfair or harder than they need to be but they need to be conquered. I told him I wanted him to learn when it was a hurdle like on a race track, that you can trip over so you need to learn to run and jump over to go over vs when it was a mountain and he needed the mom bulldozer to help.
I believe in teaching my sons that through life's difficult moments is when we learn of our own strengths and convictions. I tell them that what they see as unfair is really the result of frustration on the part of teachers who are just done asking for the umpteenth time for the same thing to be done so they may be louder. We talk about the difference between truly unacceptable behavior and just teacher's annoyance. We talk about how good their lives are and what true obstacles look like.
All of that is good and we need to teach these things to kids how to deal with adversity because in life they will have it and it will either break them when we are not around to fix it or they will bounce back and jump over it.
I went back home and the other thing I told my son was that he was 100% right. That these are big things and that his feelings were not wrong. That teachers sometimes suck and so does being a kid with so little actual power. I told him that I remembered those days and how much time was spent with friends doing everything he and his friends were doing only texts were notes left in lockers and the phone got your ear hot for being held there so long discussing and dissecting the events over and over and over and over again. Those things that today most of us as adults no longer remember and some that we do. I told him a few war stories and he laughed because hey maybe mom did sort of, kind of understand what was going on.
We talked a lot that day and we talked of ways to get over some of the things that were frustrating him and I told him it was ok to be annoyed, angry and hormonal.
We cannot fix it all for our kids nor should we. It is good to learn from defeat and beat odds but mostly it is good to know I am here to listen, to commiserate, to be honest but never to dismiss that as the "my world will end" literally but that it is the end to them for that moment.
"It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine" R.E.M.