Have you ever had your toddler sass you with a phrase or intonation that was a dead-on impression of you? Or perhaps a middle schooler roll their eyes with a disdainful expression that you’ve seen “somewhere” before. Maybe even a high schooler or young adult disagree with you about something and throw your own logic back in your face? No? Maybe it’s just me then. Just kidding, I know I am not alone here on this one. There is no better mirror on our own parenting than in the faces, words and actions of our children. I, for one, have seen some not so great mirroring of my own over the years and will honestly say; parenting is a constant work in progress.
Today I was privy to a portion of a particularly nasty and public conversation between two people. These people are related to me and the conversation was one that my sister and I shared with our father 3 decades ago. OUR conversation, though seriously explosive and resulting in a 7 year long estrangement and forever deconstructed relationship, positively paled in comparison to what I read today. As I sat back and picked my jaw up from the floor and judged it all, I realized how horribly sad this situation is. So broken. The father, has long had anger issues and has never acknowledged that he could be mistaken on any subject. Ever. A father who can not ever be disagreed with. A father who loves to spoil his kids and participate with his kids as long as it is something that holds his interest. The daughter, a child of a 2nd and 3rd marriage to an older father and younger mother. The boundaries? As far as social media and family rumors go: loose boundaries, spoilage resulting in entitlement and now anger, frustration and lashing out. A lost little girl needing guidance, love and security, but unable and unwilling to ask. A truly tragic truth, some lessons are never learned, only repeated with likely the same sorrowful results.
We reap what we sow. Mamas and Papas those little hearts need boundaries. They need to feel safe. They need to trust that we have their backs. They need to know that they can screw up and we will be right there to help brush them off and give them solid advice and encouragement for the next go around. They need to learn how to argue respectfully and know that sometimes in life we can agree to disagree and respect each other’s points. They need to know as they navigate kindergarten recess, middle school lunchroom, and high school cliques that we are there every step of the way; not fighting their battles but cheering them on and fueling their self-esteem. Sometimes it means making the unpopular choices and denying a sleepover, checking in with a parent, monitoring social media and cell phones. Honest conversation. Hard conversation. Those boundaries are setting that foundation for later in life when those preschoolers on training wheels are spreading their wings as 19 year olds on motorcycles and preparing to move out. Setting up boundaries and expectations early is the difference between a selfish, entitled young adult unable to make a committment waiting on society to give them a trophy for showing up to work on time and a confident and aware young adult able to understand the value of a dollar, a strong work ethic and the importance of following through with committments.
We don’t have to be our kid’s friends, they will have enough of them on their own. Our job as their parents is to lay the groundwork so that they will be adults we want to include as friends. Anything else is a disservice to them, heartbreak for us and only adds to furthering moral and social decline in our society.
And for the love, keep your poop off social media.