Blogworld--have you SEEN this video? Probably, because you guys are all technologically-saavy, I'm sure.
I reposted it on my facebook wall on Friday, and it gave me the sweats a little--because it appears that in addition to becoming political, I am also becoming opinionated like an 80-year-old conservative man who believes in the right to bear arms (I know this guy isn't 80, but doesn't it sound like something your crochety grandpa might do?). Please know that it is NOT in my nature to offend; I rather hate conflict. Mike and I have discussed this EXTENSIVELY, and I'm fairly certain we wouldn't have blasted our kid on facebook; nor are we a big advocate of disciplining out of anger--but the overall message, about respect and civility and teaching our kids the consequences of their words...that we do stand by. And while I can't say I would have handled it EXACTLY the same way, I also can't say that the way I raise my children is always right, or good, or effective.
Because mostly, I am overcome with the guilt of wanting my kids to feel LOVED. And there is guilt because I fail at it, daily. There aren't enough hours or hamsters in the day to give them the love and attention they deserve. I selfishly (and often) choose to be on Facebook, when I could be playing a game with them. I don't schedule play dates for my kids when they ask, because I want to just relax. I am easily annoyed. I don't give them enough grace. Or, I give them too much grace and they turn into gremlins. We don't go to the park on 40 degree days because I am cold. We don't paint much because I don't want to clean it up. Thinking about (but not actually finding) a house has consumed all of my focus and energy. I suck.
But the guilt comes with the lie that loving them means always putting them first. Always working around them, their schedules their wants. I'm not talking about meals or the things that are necessary for survival; but rather, the part of us that believes our kids will DIE without real Ugg boots (or insert your own name brand and equally ridiculous item here). I Pod? Car? Laptop? Leapster Explorer? Piano lessons? We live in America, people, so let's not kid ourselves into thinking that we don't believe there aren't luxuries we can't live without. To some extent, this is the way we were raised--that loving means affirming and encouraging and going out of our way to provide what our kids need (and want).
We all know that kids do not live or die by the kind of clothes they wear, or the grades they get, or the friends they have or the houses they live in, right? Giving our kids the material desires of their heart is not necessarily a bad thing--who doesn't LOVE being Santa--but they can become the things our kids hide behind. They are mistaken for personalities and morals. I HATE that, but I also don't know how to separate myself from it, because it's painful for me too, walking that proverbial fine line. The hormonal and still very immature part of our (eventual) teenagers will think that nice clothes and a nice car and a bedroom that looks like Pottery Barn is what LOVE looks like, or worse, that they DESERVE it for the disguise of good behavior. And the part that kills me is that we won't disagree, friends. Our teenagers will feel so distant and out of control that we will want to give them a glimpse of the undying love we have for them, and so we will do it on their terms. But also because a part of us believes it, too. That our kids need to be popular and accepted and wearing the right clothes to "make it" in this world. So we excuse the outbursts and the disrespect because it's just the teenage side of them acting out--and we never consider that some of it will linger as selfish entitlement. And I'm not saying that providing for our kids or giving them the desires of their hearts isn't a good thing (see my Christmas post HERE), but it's only a part of the story.
Right now, my kids feel loved when I play with them. When I take them to fun places that cost money. When I buy them hamsters. When we go out for ice cream. When I see that they are hurt or embarrassed and I hold them for a bit (this doesn't happen so much with a 9-year-old). Their concept of love is very whimsical, and often impractical, and sometimes, quite selfish. They don't feel *loved* when I make them a batch of vegetarian chili for dinner, that they choke down under duress. Or when we have to go to the store after school so that I can make them meals that will serve to mildly annoy them. They are kids, they don't get it--that LOVE takes work, and that a lot of what is involved is mundane and boring and typically not about going to Disneyworld. And then all you have to do is watch the Kardashians, to realize that their are grown adults who don't get it either. I mean, I don't have the depth of knowledge that can really do this justice--but if you can buy whatever you want, if you can hire someone to do everything for you, if you can star in a "reality" show and yet NEVER be seen without make-up--won't it be so much harder to find happiness in a marriage that is tough, and selfish and immature and hard (as they all are, no judgment on just the Humphries/Kardashians)?
And then, enter motherhood. A relationship that is equal parts tough, and selfish, and painful, and immature and freaking hard. And full of GUILT that we are sucking at this. It makes us want to do more, to make it easier, to take away the things our kids will struggle with. And so, every night, I sit with my 7-year-old boy who has ADHD, and without fail he CRIES when he gets a word wrong, and proceeds to sigh and sob and look at me for the answer. He wants this to be easy, and for some kids it is--but it will never be for Big J. I wish he could get through life without having to be stressed about this, and part of me wants to give him that obligatory trophy, just for being awesome. But. He needs to learn to read. He needs to sound out the words, and he has to get better at it, which won't happen if I am always giving him the answers. Answers, by the way, that he always gets to, after he stops feeling sorry for himself. After we sit there for minutes while he bawls about it in frustration. He needs to learn to read, yes--but he also needs to learn how to move past the frustration of not being good at something and come to grips that he is going to have to work harder at this than all his peers. Let me tell you, it feels TERRIBLE. It feels like failure. It feels like pulling out all of his finger and toe nails would be less painful. And that, my friends, is the LIE.
Parenting only works in the context of entire lives. Everyday, this job is a walk in faith that the hard decisions we make will benefit our kids in some way. That letting my kid cry it out in their crib will help them learn to sleep. That not letting my nine-year-old sleepover at every house she's invited to will preserve her innocence a little longer. That switching schools, two years in a row, will not damage her, but challenge her comfort zones instead. That shooting a lap top will make a statement about entitlement that my kid will remember for the rest of her life. I can't guarantee the outcomes my kids will take away from those things, but I can *hope* they'll get it some day--even if it's not until they are chasing a toddler or disciplining a teenager of their own. And if not, I assume that you will point them to this here blog, and they will be overcome with equal parts embarrassment and understanding.
Now. My kids will take away NONE of those lessons if my parenting isn't also characterized by patience, and kindness and grace. In equal proportion. And if I need help in determining when, exactly, to stand up to my kids, and call them on their bullsh#!, and shoot their laptops to bits-- then I certainly also need help in knowing when to shower them with praise, and encouragement and comfort. I suck at that part too, because a lot of what they do is TERRIBLY annoying and hurtful. I have had conversations with my daughter where I have pointed out that her behavior is selfish and that it hurts my feelings--what parent hasn't felt that way? Where we may differ, is that some of you might not agree with laying that out there (age appropriately) for a nine-year-old to process. There is a theory that as parents we need to absorb a lot of the crap that's thrown at us, without reacting in anger--and while I believe that's true (about the anger), I don't think it means not reacting AT ALL. She NEEDS to know what hurts me, she needs to be stirred by it and moved to ask for forgiveness--in the context of a relationship that will ALWAYS forgive her and love her. But she NEEDS to know that it takes work, on both sides. She needs to understand repentance AND grace, because they go hand in hand.
And I am learning that the BIG lessons I need to teach my kids are going to cost me something--my "cool factor" with my kids and their friends, always seeing my kids happy (though this is a myth), my time, my focus, the amount of hours I log on to Facebook. Possibly a laptop, because I think that statement is AWESOME, that the cost of a computer is worth the woman he wants his daughter to be. But the grace and the patience that I am also called to parent with? They are certainly going to cost me my self-righteousness, my need to be right, my pride, my stubborn nature.
Definitely worth it.