PARENTING: Am I Landing My Kid In Future Therapy?
As some of you may have guessed (and others have heard me first hand comment) 4th grade for our family has pretty much been an exhausting nightmare. I knew it was going to be hard, but I did not realize how much my daughter was just not mature enough to handle some of the structural changes to her day. They have a locker, they switch classes, they have 3-4 tests a week to study for and they have to remember their materials to class as well as their homework or else they get the dreaded yellow card!
My daughter had 3 yellow cards her first full week. Oh, plus a pretty red one (there was much drama that night! Let me tell you).
So, I am a mom, and I try to be a good one. I had found myself stressing and worried, checking her assignment book every night and every morning. Going on the teacher pages to make sure she did not miss studying for a test. I have vowed not to yell anymore because it makes things worse. My husband or I work with her every night. We coordinated with the school to included my daughter in the after care homework helper program so she could get a jump on work before we pick her up. We prod her to do her work for long term projects so we are not up till all hours finishing it the night before. I have already met with the teachers to discuss my daughter's tough transition and how we could help. I pack her backpack and make sure she did not miss anything, and I write her reminder notes in the margin of her assignment book about this or that.
A handful of weeks ago, I was so distraught because nights were so exhausting and emotionally draining, and I was thinking about actually moving our daughter to another school, when a friend of mine (a mom of another "only") sent me a couple articles out of the blue. It was as if God had intervened with me a little. The main article that really made an impression on me was called, " How to Land Your Kid In Therapy". It was horrifying and eye opening at the same time. And I am sad to say, I saw myself in parts of it.
I am embedding the link if you wish to read it. The main idea is that in the past, parenting style was over critical, not emotionally attuned and even "absent". The baby boomers have now parented their children in a complete opposite style. You would think this would be good. But therapists around the country have their couches filled with 20-30 year olds who are lost, unhappy, and can't make a decision and many are still being taken care of in many ways by their parents.
So I guess it's good to be somewhere in the middle? What I realized is that, though I am trying to help my daughter through this tough transition, at some point, she needs to do a lot of this on her own. And if she fails, so be it. Failing may be the best teacher she could ever have. The fact is, I am not going to be around forever. And life is hard. I can't call her place of business to ask to make things easier on her or to give her a promotion. (and ironically, many parents of the genY set have done just that at my agency!) I can't make sure she will be happy. She needs to rely on herself for that. Here are a few things that the article touched on that made me rethink my approach a little.
I have been a helicopter mom, I think. I worry if my daughter is making friends. I worry when she is made fun of. I worry if she is worried, about anything! Did we study enough? Did she remember to hand in her work? Will she remember to go to aftercare? The article talked about how I am not the only one, here. Colleges and universities have had to instill programs and "bouncers" to deal with and escort parents off campuses after orientation. They complain that parents just won't leave. I don't want to be that parent. I even see many mid 20 year olds still being taken care of by their parents, so that they have not had to make a decision on their career or livelihood, even after graduating college. And when asked about it, excuses are thrown left and right. I scoffed at these parents, saying, well, that won't be me! However, I look at the extent of what I am doing for my own daughter and shudder. When will I draw the line? When does caring and helping turn into something very detrimental to her growth and self esteem as an individual? How can we know when to stop? I know the last camping trip we were at this weekend, I hung back a lot more. I let her go off and do a lot of the activities by herself, giving her some socialization advice here and there. I gotta say, it was the most I have enjoyed that camping trip from when we started going together. I got to see my daughter start interacting with girls on her own and blossom a little bit. I saw her build confidence in some of her abilities. It is such a dance, it seems, when to hang back and when to jump in and when to hang back again.
Teachers and coaches were interviewed for this article, and the theme was the same. Softening falls don't help kids deal with the real world. Talk to any famous entrepreneur and they tell you that failure was how they got to be successful. SO why is it so hard to allow our kids to fail? We love them, we want what's best for them. But what I took away from this article and from my causal observations around me is that sometimes, the best thing for them is to fail. I was talking to a coworker who told me his son won class president after working super hard for weeks. The next day, his opponent was announced as "co president". It turns out, the opponent's mother made such a row about how her son had tried for years and not won that it would mean so much if he could be president. Honestly, the choice to have both boys be co president doesn't do either boy any favors. The winner worked hard and won it fair and square, but got his award taken away from him of sorts. The other boy has a preconceived notion now that if things don't go his way, mom just needs to make a few calls and everything will work out just fine. Not to mention, what if this other boy may have dusted himself off, and found he was really good and talented at something else that maybe would have been very fulfilling and successful for him. How is this right for either of them?
Life is not fair. period. Once kids get out in the real world as adults, they have to learn how to deal with set backs. And even though parents do call my office in efforts to land their children a job, it never has worked yet. In fact, it looks worse for the candidate, truthfully.
SO I have had to take a deep breath before going through my daughter's back pack. And I saw her first "U" (not an F, in the school's effort to be attuned...see what I mean?) on a test she "supposedly" studied for on her own. I did not freak out. She felt bad already. I just signed it and put it back in her folder. She needs to learn. She took responsibility for the studying-obviously not enough, and she has to take her lumps.
Be honest...gently but firmly.
Let's call a spade a spade. So many self help books preached the PC way of raising kids, to be emotionally attuned to their needs and self esteem to the point of ridiculousness. I know, I own many of them! I knew a mom that would reprimand her nanny when the nanny said "He was bad today!" and she would retort "He is not bad, it's his behavior that's bad. Don't call him bad. It is bad for his self esteem!" Well, she was also one that really believed her child was not bad, at all. And guess what, pulling hair, tripping others, lying and destroying property is, well, bad. ADMIT IT, DEAL WITH IT AND MOVE ON! The article talked about a patient who said her parents were never honest about her lack of skills in math. They would say, "Oh, you just learn different!" or "You just need different approaches!". They never did or wanted to admit that she was not good at something. Its OK to not be good at something! We all are good at some things and not others. To set up those expectations isn't fair to children. They will constantly feel inadequate. And deep down, they know the truth. There was a little league coach in the article that talked about how they were forced to give each child a trophy because "that was fair", and they were hard pressed to make some trophies up to be positive. The "Spirited Award" was for the kid that never listened, talked out of turn and generally was disruptive. The child who could care less to be there and would rather pick grass and daisies got the "Coach Award." But the best kid that was the most talented got the MVP award-but only once, because every child needed to feel like they could get a chance to win it next year. The coach went on to say that every kid knew deep down who the real MVP was. It was kind of an empty thing. Kids know the truth. We should be honest with them for their best interests. They will trust us more, in the end.
We can be close, but I am not her best friend. I am her Mother.
This one was a hard one to grapple with. We love our kids. I love my kid. I also think she is a pretty neat person and really hope that when she is an adult, we can still connect often. The therapist who wrote the article wondered if the issues are not with the kids but with the parents. She went on to talk about how parents don't want kids to leave because they are filling a much needed hole for them. If they go off and don't need them, what are they left with? So they want to be best friends with their kids, rather than a true parent. Have them stay around, live off them, golf with them, cook with them, vacation with them, in some cases still live with them or off them! Many genYers told the therapists that they would rather have a mother than a best friend. That they have lots of friends, just one mom & dad. and it's that role that is needed for children to know their boundaries, know their shortcomings, and also know (like little birds) when to get kicked out of the nest to fly away.
SO I did that this past weekend. As I mentioned before, this past scouting trip I stayed back where usually in the past the weekend was more of an event for both my daughter and I. The experience was refreshing for both of us, I think! I got space to be an adult and hang with the other moms, and my daughter got to be who she is growing to be, without me hovering. Maybe it's her growing up. Maybe it's a little of me nudging her out of the nest just a tiny bit.
Parenting is such a trying journey, and as in the movie "Parenthood", when Gil is talking to his Dad...
"You know, it´s not like that all ends...
lt never, never ends. lt´s like your Aunt Edna´s ass. lt goes on forever and is just as frightening." -"That´s true." "There is no end zone. You never cross the goal line, spike the ball and do your touch down dance. Never."
Will my kid end up in therapy? I have no idea. What I do know is too much of anything isn't good. So maybe parenting styles have swung so far the other way, that now it's time to land somewhere in the middle. I am going to try that, and see what happens. I'll let you know in 15 years how that works out!
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