Tuesday, April 9, 2013

It's NOT About Friendship

Carol Burnett has a new book out about her life with her now deceased daughter. So does Isabel Allende; it's several years old called Paula. Blue Nights by Joan Didion wrote an  book too. The list is long. My favorite book about raising children is not a book about a dead child. It is a book about doing the best you can, for those kids while you are raising them, before you have to write THE ultimate book. It is called The Blessings of a Skinned Knee by Wendy Mogel, PhD.

Many of you are starting this intensive and prolonged period of your lives while you will be active parenting.It may seem to more than a few  that you are undertaking an impossible task at this time in our history. When you have to worry about young girls being posted on the internet to gain the reputation as "prettiest girl" in fifth grade. When you have to worry about New Town and mentally deranged strangers who gun down first graders. When you have to wonder what kind of air and water our kids will inherit. And when you have to wonder about North Korea and nuclear annihilation. And when you have to worry about your kid innocently trying "pot" that happens to be laced with a substance ( unknown to her )  that can cause seizure or worse or a child mixing prescribed medications and inadvertently dying. I am sure that you all have your hands full weighing advice about how it's all done, from diapering to choosing the proper school district.

You want to know about how you can be the best parent ever. So your family never has to face the inevitable tragedy, just plain stupid mistakes, regrets in hindsight or, God forbid, a random act of  insanity that you have no control over. We somehow think that it still is about us and what we will do to produce that wonderfully perfect person. A person with no "issues", who never experiences misfortune or pain. If we could be those parents there would be a lot less angst about raising kids. We just need to be perfect and perfectly in control.

It doesn't work like that. It may just be about trusting our instincts, despite the fact that we will not be voted nicest parent on the  block. It may have to do with allowing our kids to fail so they are given the opportunity ( by us ) to learn from their mistakes. It may be about not sheltering them and turning them innocently into people unprepared to make decisions for themselves. It may be about loving them so much that we are willing to let them go. Let them fly and let them grow, just warning but not insisting that by listening to you ( who says and doesn't do)  that there are dangers and dangerous people and situations that they will most certainly have to face. And there may not be time to get on IM and have someone text them what to do.

There is a confidence you may have to instill in their ability to reason, not just react. There is a self- sufficiency that may have t be learned by about falling down and getting back up. There is a self- esteem that is taught by cautious trust and loving kindness that includes saying no and also saying "what do you think?"
This new generation needs to be nurtured, sure, and educated, absolutely. It also has to learn to be proud of having parents that will never have the most popular title of best friends but rather having parents who are consistent, constant and slightly conventional when it comes to overindulgence that does nothing but force our kids to grow up too fast in order to have the title of first in everything

It's a long and tedious practice, being a parent. But just as your children will fail in order to learn, you also must make mistakes and be willing to correct them. There will be plenty of opportunity to turn indecision and doubt into knowing what the right thing is to do for your kids and their generation. We don't have to rule with an iron fist but we do have to rule. Because we aren't their best friends. Well, at least until they are forty or so.