Friday, April 8, 2016

This Children Thing Is Hard

I love my kids. I really do. But it amazes me how they can aggravate, frustrate and agitate me like Donald Trump or my partner’s ex. I know I’m not shattering Earth with this pronouncement. But I’m sharing it nonetheless because one of my therapists advised me once to get everything off my chest except nipples and hair.

I know all about the “adjusting the boundaries” and “cutting the apron strings” and “letting them learn to find their own way.” But what about “causing you to develop stress acne” and “making sure your wallet never contains green paper for long?” What about “good kids will be bad” and “prepare to be insulted like your worst enemy insults, only nastier?” How come Spock didn’t tell us to prepare to become Uber drivers because progeny have places to go? How come nurses don’t hand out “Get Ready for This, Chumps” brochures with our swaddled newborns when we leave the hospital?

Seems Like Yesterday
Each of my children is advanced and beautiful. Each is a great student, a popular, smart and witty human being. I used to think a child’s personality depended almost exclusively on their environment but now I know they come out with specific preferences, quirks and characteristics. Some of these are downright enviable and some are the work of Beelzebub.

Take my 16-year-old, for example. How can she laugh with me, make me smile, turn me on to great new music and sit next to me on the couch instead of across the room one minute and scream that she hates me – really despises me, wishes I were dead and promises to help make that happen while I’m asleep – the next?

How did my 14-year-old go from a loving little boy, a genuinely sweet and happy, respectful and talkative child one day and suddenly prefer to spend 1,435 minutes behind the closed door of his room every day (when not at school or with friends) and the other five towering over me, grunting and complaining and demanding that I buy him something that he absolutely, definitely, urgently needs for this practice or that field trip, for this planned outing with pals or that simple whim?

How did my 13-year-old go from being active and energetic, aware of the world around her and excited to interact with people and animals to preferring to lay on her bed, isolated, Samsung Galaxy 6 in hand, watching Desperate Housewives and The Walking Dead on Netflix all day, every day?

I can’t include my 11-year-old in this mild rant because she still listens, cleans up and creates special moments to be savored and remembered. For now.

There are times, of course, when they do something nice or something I asked immediately and without complaint. There are times when they say or write something sweet and hang their wet towels instead of dropping them on the floor. But these moments are now fleeting and few and far between.

My 11-Year-Old
How did they go from sharing respect for this beautiful house, keeping things tidy and in their place, to filling every nook and cranny with stuff, leaving lacrosse sticks and backpacks all over and transforming the living room into a garage? When did they decide that it doesn’t matter if they leave bags of bread out to go stale and drop cookies and crumbs on the pantry floor? When did they choose to sweep unidentified objects under their beds, out of sight and out of mind, and leave more bottles and lotions strewn around their bathroom than Bath & Body Works sells? When did they decide that folding clothes and bringing dirty dishes back downstairs are not in their purview? When did they choose to say “please” and “thank you” as frequently as when grandma wins the lottery and aliens steal the neighbors?

I know their happiness should be my number one concern, that I should tolerate and alleviate and mitigate the negative and prepare them to be compassionate, productive, grateful citizens when they leave the nest. I know I should strive to make sure they’re well-mannered and well-spoken, free of the sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations that so many permissive parents breed in their offspring. But sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I just want to escape to somewhere with TV remotes I can control, floors I can see and beer I can drink without guilt. Sometimes I just want to be relieved, albeit just temporarily, of the need to break up fights, adapt to moodiness, give up plans and tolerate slammed doors. Sometimes I just want to focus on me.

I guess this is what I get for helping to propagate my species.

My children can be truly wonderful – when they’re around their Mom and others. They can display potential and understanding, good humor and determination, flexibility and likability when not in my presence. I am crazy about them and I'm thankful I don’t have the kind of kids I read about – when I get a chance to read.

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