Hover, Hinder and Somehow Interrupt My Day.

I’m 52 years old and I am beginning to live in world that I am struggling to understand. It’s not because of technology or anything like that. I am happy to advance in the age of smart devices. What perplexes me the most is the devolution of parents and parenting. My children are almost adults and maybe I should not have an opinion on this but it is hard not to when it is all around me. Much of the next generations are being raised in a manner that is making them incapable of doing anything on their own. They have no boundaries, they are always the centre of attention (mostly when they are unremarkable) and they have no regard for others. They also have little to no coping or problem solving skills and no manners and it is sad and very concerning that they are indeed our future. Now you will probably say that my statement is unfair so let me re-iterate, I said much of the next generations. Certainly not every child is like that but I urge you to look around and observe and you will see, many children have the behaviors I’ve described.

Earlier this morning, I stopped for a young woman and her toddler to use the cross walk. I was not in a hurry and she was with a really little child. She proceeds to cross with the child and I realize she is not holding her hand. The kid is really young so her gait is slow and wobbly. As the mother gradually moves ahead of the child, she doesn’t realize the little one is sitting on the cross walk. Oh yes, bum planted firmly on the asphalt and she ain’t moving.  The mother walks back to the child and begins to talk to her, never acknowledging that there are now 3 cars waiting on her and her child to cross. I took myself back to when my boys were toddlers. If someone motioned for me to cross with my toddler, I would have scooped him up in my arms and crossed the street. Once I was safely on the sidewalk, I would have put him down (my boys were heavy) and taken his little hand in mine and led him safely to the car. When did parents stop reacting like I would have? When did we stop holding a toddler’s hand? And when did we think it was okay to negotiate with a 2 year sitting on a cross walk to get up and get moving? That situation this morning was unsafe, inconsiderate to the three waiting drivers and stupid. I have no problem acknowledging children, listening to them and explaining things to them but there are times when a child has to be told what to do, when they have to be picked up and have their hand help to keep them safe. I finally drive by and she motions for me to roll down my window and she tells me that the little one is at the age when she chooses to walk. Okay…I have no problem with giving kids a choice. They can choose whether they want to wear the blue or the yellow pajamas and they can choose a bedtime story but they cannot choose their bedtime. They can choose to have an apple or a pear but they cannot choose candy instead. Children are children because they need to be parented. They need to be guided and they need to be taught. We love our boys. We are friendly with our boys but we are their parents, not their friends. We speak to them with respect and we expect that respect in return. We speak openly to each other but there is a distinct difference between the way they address us and the way they address their friends. There is a clear, healthy divide between us and our children are no worse for it. The 20 year old, lives on his own and though autistic, runs his own life and his aides, his father and I support the way he chooses to live. The 17 year old still lives at home, and needs our permission to borrow our cars and go to parties and have friends over in addition to all the things a teenager needs permission to do, have or attend. My husband and I are still the authority figures in our home and our son at home respects our guidance, our home and property.

The cross-walk fiasco over, I am sitting in the exercise studio monitoring the participants. Through the glass wall I can see the participants of three in a row toddler dance classes. These classes are designed for ages 2 -5 and cost parents way-too-much-plus tax for the session which consists of ten 30 – 40 minute classes. I have noticed over the weeks that none of the participants are ever on time for the first class which starts at 9 am. Then there is at least 10 minutes of crying or screaming and kids running out of the class into their parent’s arms who carry them back into the class time after time, the drama only ending when the parent stays in the room with the child. Those who don’t go into the room, are glued to the glass tapping it and waving to their now distracted child. Then there is the parent that goes into the class suggesting alternate dance moves and specific music requests of the teacher. My close observation of these humans makes me understand the high turn around of teachers for these classes.

The second class of participants arrive about 15 minutes before the first class begins and they are allowed to spread their toys all over the floor outside of the class which is also the walkway to the studio where I’m sitting. I watch in awe as adults and seniors coming into the workout studio gingerly navigate their way through a spread of dolls, miniature cars, Lego and  a version of Pick up Sticks with no attempt from the parents to clear the path for others, no telling their kids to move into a corner so that others can get by them, no apology for taking over the entire walkway. One child not interested in the toys on the floor, is finding joy in spilling water from the drinking fountain all over the floor because the obstacle course created by the spread of blocks isn’t challenging enough for the adults and seniors to navigate. Excuse me for a moment while I go to the utility room to retrieve a mop to clean up said child’s mess. And in case you were wondering, I’m not mopping the floor. My children didn’t spill the water.

……Okay, I’m back. The water is being mopped by the child’s father and the precious angels have gone into class and there is a repetition of the running in and out of class to mummy and daddy.  Oh dear, one father just got a premeditated back hand to the face and he is responding by hugging his child who continues to strike him. Wow. I have no words.  One little girl from the previous class is playing with the Lego on the floor as her mother tells her over and over that it is time to go. The child screams a loud shrill “NO!” Mom, holding a baby just smiles and waits and repeats her request to leave. I think they are going to be here a while.

Call me archaic but I think in addition to laying down some guiding rules and some consequences for their actions, we also need to give children a chance to grow and be independent and to learn from and be guided by other people. They don’t sit beside them all day at school so why are they in the dance class with them? Children need a chance to fail so that they will have a chance to succeed. They need to learn that mom and dad can leave them to learn from someone else and that they will be fine until they return for them. There are three parents right now doing the dance class with their child. Three parents who look like they can use a break, so why aren’t they taking one?

The classes are over and the little darlings have gone. The custodian is shaking her head as she mops up the sticky spots of juice and picks up the fruit roll up wrappers off the studio floor. The hallway looks like a tornado came through it and so does the gallery to the pool where the siblings of those taking swimming lessons are left to run wild and wreck the place.

I don’t know what books, or websites these new parents are reading nor do I know who is giving them bad advice but here is what I know –

It’s okay to take the weekend back and empty a trunk of toys on the floor and let your kids play. It’s okay to play with them for a while then walk away and let them play on their own. Having a friend over or going to play at another kid’s house is a healthy activity.  Video games in moderation isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact some kids develop excellent hand eye coordination from playing video games. Whatever happened to Saturday morning TV? That used to be a great thing. I remember many winter mornings when Thomas the Tank Engine and the Clone Wars made for a cozy time indoors. When the shows were over many hours were spent by our two little boys creating their own versions of the stories they had seen  in our basement with all the make shift costumes, props and noises of children at play. Very often there was a sign that said “keep out” or “kids only” that let us know that this was their parent free time to pretend and we respected that.

Maybe we can go back to keeping things simple. You know how little ones get a fancy present and they are more interested in the box? It’s because kids are simple people. No need to make things with them over complicated. My husband and I didn’t get suckered into expensive toddler classes that pretended to promise cognitive and motor skill development. We knew these skills were important but our kids got all that stimulus at home and eventually at school and through sports.

Parents, it’s okay to give yourself a break from your children. Learn to take turns. Both parents and kids don’t have to be everywhere together all the time. From time to time we did take our kids shopping or to run errands with us but there were also days when we took turns staying at home with them while the other parent did the errands and such. Alone time is good for mom and dad and kids have a lot of time ahead of them to go shopping when they are older and more tolerant of crowds, noise and other stimuli. To keep our sanity we knew it was not possible for both of us to be present at all times at our children’s’ activities. We did not all have to go to the store all the time. We took turns going to the gym and to church. We gave our boys boundaries. We told them “no” and they learned to be disappointed and they learned that disappointment passes. They learned to be in a class or an activity without us and today at 20 and 17, I have 2 happy, independent, generous and polite young people (one with autism) with jobs, commitments and responsibilities and they are turning into very respectable men of whom we are extremely proud. I look at our autistic son (who has his own apartment going on three months now) and I am thrilled to see that all my instincts were right. Nothing in any book about parenting ever applied to him and I am so grateful he is a part of our family because having him made us better parents and it allowed us to raise him and his brother with our minds wide open without getting caught up in this overprotective, micromanaging, coddling style of parenting that seems to persist.

I once asked my 17 year old how he felt when I dropped him off at Kung Fu when he was 5. He said sometimes he felt a little scared that I was leaving him but Sifu didn’t allow other parents to linger and no one cried for their mom or dad and he didn’t want to be the baby that did. He said, me not being there helped him focus on Sifu and the moves he was being taught. He said he learned how cool it was to stay quiet and be still and focus on the move he was about to do. He said he liked learning stuff without us there so he could surprise us by showing off his moves when he got home. He also told me he always knew one of us would come back and pick him up and he never felt that we would forget him. He also said, when he was little he sometimes felt like everyone was a big kid – better than him, bigger than him and faster than him (he was a short, stocky little thing who is now a lean 6’3″) and that learning to be in a Kung Fu class with mixed ages and heights made him feel like a big boy; made him feel proud that even with his size, he could sometimes take down someone much bigger and taller than he was. He said it made him confident and taught him that if he tried his best, he could take on anything. He does not practice Kung Fu at the moment (maybe he will get back to it one day) but that activity combined with all the other sports and activities he participated in allowed him to learn from other people and given him skills he would not have developed if we were constantly by his side.

By trying to be all inclusive parents, trying to be the perpetually positive parents trying to make life perfect for your kids, you’re setting them up for failure. Isn’t it exhausting doing everything in your power to make every moment of every day a successful one for your child? Take it easy parents. Say “no” once in a while and hold your kids accountable when it comes respect and give them rules and boundaries so they can actually successfully live in society. Loving them does not mean doing everything for them and giving them their way all the time.. By hovering over them all day, you stifle their independence and creativity. Helping them every step of the way does not set them up for the bump in the road that will make them stumble. If they don’t stumble and fall they will never learn to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and try again. I know it’s hard to not jump in and help them every chance you get but what you are actually doing is hindering them and making them unprepared for that roller coaster journey that is life.

Finally, be considerate of others. Your children are lovely and all children are gifts but they are not lovely gifts to everyone. My children are grown. I put in the years with the sleepless nights, the worry, the teaching, potty training, the feeding, healing, reassuring …all the verbs that go along with parenting and even though they are grown, I still am concerned for them and concerned about things I cannot control. But I know my husband and I have put in the time and work and love and all I can have now is faith that they will make the right choices and that they will be safe. My husband once said, parenting is 50%what you teach them and 50% what they do with it and we need to give them the chance to exercise their 50%.I don’t have little children anymore and the few kids I know between the ages of 1 and 12 have really great parents with a strong, admirable parenting styles so when a poorly parented child comes into contact with me it usually leads to an inconvenience to my day somehow. I don’t want to be subjected to poorly parented kids, yet I am on the daily with the hovering, over helping and hindering parents everywhere I go. Because I don’t need to hear you negotiate with them at the top of your lungs, I grocery shop listening to music through earbuds. I don’t appreciate them running around my grocery cart, randomly stopping and starting, yet you let them crash into my cart anyway. I don’t always want to have a conversation with your kid who can barely talk. I am a complete stranger. Why would you let your child wander around talking to complete strangers in an arena? I am there to watch my son’s team, I don’t want to miss the game because your child whom I don’t know, wants to talk to me. And for the love of all that is right and just, please don’t allow your child to linger in the entrance of a busy store. Don’t let them play with the doors and don’t let them lie in the aisles of the grocery store. No one enjoys that…plus, it’s unsanitary.

Dial up the discipline and tone down the hovering and path paving. Prepare your child for their path. Do not prepare the path for your child. Keep it simple and it will be special. Sign your toddler up for less activities and let them enjoy being active through play with their friends, with you and on their own. Take the time to breathe, Mom and Dad, guide them, teach them and take more time to enjoy them. You don’t need to take them to organized classes when they’ve barely learned to walk. Kiddies are simple beings. Don’t make raising them more complicated than it needs to be.

 

 

“Come Again?” – Trying to Live in the New World Society.

2018 drifted into 2019 and so far so good. I believe in the grand scheme of things if you find yourself in an upright and breathing state, you’ve won.  My 52 nd is just 4 days away and I’ve made plans, albeit not extravagant ones, and I am looking forward to celebrating. Two years ago, I counted down my year to 50 and documented and shared the things that left an impression on me. I wrote about the things I learned and the ways in which I found myself evolving from one phase of my life into another. I felt that I had grown in so many positive ways and was happy to work on the things I could do better. That year, I shed a lot of people and things from my life, happy to move on without them, basking in a new found freedom. I didn’t think in 2 short years I’d find myself feeling as unsettled as I do now and looking to perhaps shed even more and point myself in a new direction.

This year and the next 2, actually, I find myself in the process of launching my sons into their adult lives. Adam is 19 and yes, still autistic, still has some struggles and is still unique, quirky and wonderful. He is learning the ropes when it comes to asserting himself as an adult, learning to live his life without us in the home and learning to cope with the responsibility required by this transition. I never thought when he was 3, or 6 or 9 that he would be able to be independent, but the time is here and he is almost ready to take the giant step away from Mom and Dad. His father and I always planned 4 years ahead when it came to raising him and helping him achieve his life skills goals. We always challenged him by raising the bar every time he made progress and we are so glad he chose to join us on this journey to his maturity and independence.

Logan is almost 17 and his age is like a shackle holding him back from flinging into his adult life on the horizon. As much as he is comfortable at home, he is like me and wants so much more than what this time and space he finds himself in, has to offer. He is so comfortable in a crowded city and drinks in every experience and each moment a new place has to offer that I am comfortable saying he is ready to fly and he will fly far because he absolutely should. How I envy his youth for the energy, curiosity, enthusiasm and time it offers him. He has no limitations placed upon him. We have never told him what to do, what to like, what to try and which path he should follow when it comes to his life. We have placed no time limits or boundaries on him when it comes to discovering what he likes and what he wants. We expose him to various situations and opportunities and once he makes a choice, he works hard to achieve the goals such opportunities are able to yield. He has chosen to be a spiritual person and he wants to be the best he can in whatever he is involved in and has committed to. He ain’t perfect, but watching him grow up is like reading a very engaging book and I can’t wait to witness the chapters to come.

But while launch mode has me somewhat occupied, I am finding more than ever that I have phased out of or rejected many things the world presents to me and I am surprised that it’s happening so quickly. I find myself reading things online and seeing things on the news that make me say, “Come again?” I love technology and advancement and all good that they offer but I feel the people of the world don’t know how to cope with the simplest of things. I don’t understand this age of imbecility that has come about. I don’t understand why a spoiled rich 19-year-old would toss not one, but two patio chairs off a high rise apartment into traffic some 38 stories below. I cannot see the fun in such an act. I don’t understand why those involved have no regard for other people’s well-being, their property, their life. I don’t understand the thought process of the friend who was recording the moronic act and I absolutely am floored by the fact that she had not just the best criminal lawyer money can buy, but a smile on her face as she walked handcuffed before the news cameras while her lawyer told reporters she was embarrassed and remorseful. This is is just one example of the new world behavior I cannot comprehend or accept.

Everything in this era is a problem. Everything is an outrage and everything is offensive to the point of ridiculous. We say there is freedom of speech and freedom to choose. How is it then that many of us can’t decide to not support something or someone who offends us without picking a fight on social media? Ever notice that no one just says “fuck it” and moves on anymore? Everyone has to jump in and get in on the backlash bandwagon without becoming properly informed. Too few people dig deeper anymore. Too many are prompted by vague headlines that make them take up arms without knowing the facts. Too few think things through these days because the go-to response today is not to think but react. We broadcast everything about ourselves online. Nothing is private anymore. Not our meals, not our conversations, our personal decisions, our bodies, nor our possessions. While social media has re-connected old friends and forged new friendships and improved communication among people, it has also tainted us. So many people cannot go unnoticed because they desperately need approval. More people, more than ever need copious amounts of attention and yet the social media society has no problem cutting down someone or something else because the keyboard has made some people too bold.  That certain amount of anonymity cyberspace affords; not having to face a person as we type our comments, have given us big iron balls and when we feel that strong, it is easy to judge and we are empowered to hurt. Yet, we all condemn Jussie Smollet, right away. If indeed he orchestrated an attack on himself, he has done what almost everyone else does on social media every day. He found a way to get people to notice him. He found a way to get not just 15 minutes of fame but a way to be a victim. He wants this kind of attention for some reason – the attention that acting on Empire just isn’t giving him. I remember the Smollet kids acting on TV when they could barely walk. They were adorable and talented and had many fans. They are no strangers to the spotlight, yet, Jussie has a void to be filled. What happened to him between his role in The Mighty Ducks and now? What has happened to so many of us? Why are so many of our young people anxious and depressed? They should be embracing youth and checking out new things and pushing boundaries towards greater things and we should be supporting and guiding them not spoiling them, ignoring them or cutting them down. They should not be staging attacks or throwing chairs from high-rises. Have we forgotten how to be okay with who we are? To be satisfied with our opinion of ourselves? I think so. Sadly.  It is ironic, the term, Social Media. Being social is supposed to be a good thing. A social person is thought to be friendly, outgoing and a person who enjoys the company of others and enjoys lifting themselves and others to a higher level of happiness. Social media to me seems more like social slaughter at times and some of the things that are said require not just a thick skin but a suit of armor.

Taking in the way life is being lived around me now, makes me unsure of where I fit in. I used to care about so many things. I used to love to write. I loved speaking up and sharing my thoughts and loved when I got a chance to see an awesome movie with a great script and talented performers or be moved by the lyrics of a well written and well-sung song. Lately, I’ve not found things that spark my interest. I look and I listen and I am finding that I roll my eyes a lot and then I get to the stage where I don’t care. I just don’t care. To me, that is a frightening statement about myself. I don’t care enough to voice my opinion, to tolerate the lack of effort put into where I sought entertainment (if you can burn it, blow it up or bury it you don’t need meaningful dialogue). I don’t care enough to even attempt to comment on a post I may have read. I got to a stage where I’d start typing and then I’d delete and move on…now I just move on. The thing is, I want to care. I want to be a part of things but I can’t seem to find anything substantial to take part in.

I know the onus is on me to re-invent myself. No one can get me out of this rut but me. I won’t try to care about things I really don’t want to include in my life. I’m not a part of the instant gratification movement of the youth and I don’t want to throw my arms in the air and make everything an issue like many late 20 something to 30 something-year-olds. I don’t want everything to be a situation or a problem and I’m not floundering to stay afloat after a full day of work and family like some forty-somethings. I’m not ready to join any one group in solidarity and go against “the man” and I am not interested in topics about raising children because I raised mine very differently from the way people raise children today. My children are grown and capable and I all I have to say to the hovering parents of young kids today is “good luck”. I know I’m not ready to sit still and wait for my life to end but I am truly searching for something, somewhere and some way to become passionate again and find a new happy niche in the current world. I’m not sure where to start but I know I’ll get there. I know I will find a way to fulfill my soul again even if it means meandering about the absurd obstacles this world presents on the daily.  Maybe when I find it, I’ll tell you what it is …then again…. maybe I won’t.