We have talked a bit about how tough it is to be a parent these days. The unspoken messages/programming that we get from our own parents and society.
BUT what is it like to be a child? Especially now?
To even the playing field a bit here…at least as far back as I can remember…we will accept as ‘normal’ certain demands…
- Bed times.
- Eat what is on your plate.
- Take a bath, brush your teeth. Do something with your hair.
- It is for certain that school itself has not changed much in the past four plus decades since I went…maybe even worse.
- Heck, a child often does not even have a choice on what she will wear.
It has always been like that.
In some ways, kids today do have it easier…
- Access to information…the internet never closes the way the library did.
- Say in what they watch on television…I never got a choice and I certainly did not have my own TV.
- Communication devices…I was older before I was even allowed to answer the phone on the wall, let alone have one in my pocket.
But in other ways things are harder for our children…and here we are just talking NTs (Neurotypicals…’normal’).
While they may have all those THINGS, the trade off is that parents and adults in general have less time for them. Now it is almost impossible to have one parent in the home. Sometimes just to make ends meet both have to work. If there is even a BOTH. Many times single parents are the norm.
But whether it be two jobs or single parenthood…or both (many single parents have to still work two jobs to pay the bills), it means that parents are tired to begin with. So things that were once normal interactions are gone. Things like…
- Family dinners…has been replaced with take-away/drive thru. Even then there is no plates…no kitchen table…no dinner conversation.
- Helping with homework…demanding it be done is not the same as sitting down and actually working on it with your child. Maybe the schools should send homework for parents instead of kids?
- That television/computer/tablet/phone in their bedrooms that we worked so many extra hours to afford means they never have the experience of sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and the whole family to watch TV…let alone having to get up and change the channels because they are young so it is easier.
- And all those extracurricular activities…Scouts, Little League, even church. No time for those anymore.
- Even things like family walks and vacations/holidays are gone. And when we do take them, they are often more stressful. Because suddenly we are forced full-time into close proximity to our children…whom we do not really know.
We (adults) work long and hard. But we have come to expect everything else to be INSTANT. Our food. Our entertainment. Even our relationships. We have forgotten that those take time and work too. Even with our children.
- How can we expect a child to do homework without encouragement…and cookies…lots and lots of cookies?
- How can we demand that he cleans his room…when ours is a pigsty?
- As for eating what is on her plate…what plate?
- Change his clothes…when the laundry is in baskets…maybe even still dirty?
All of those things that we did together as a family are gone. All the little things that civilized us…and kept us sane.
RELATIONSHIPS TAKE TIME AND WORK!!!
Especially the ones that you value most. And while couples can get divorced, trade-in for newer models, or start fresh (trust me I do not mean to trivialize it…sometimes divorce is the ONLY option…sad but true)…our kids do not have the right to divorce us and find new parents…not yet anyway. They are stuck with us. No choice.
All children deserve more. More time. More work. More care.
But those with Pathological Demand Avoidance…ironically…they DEMAND more. More of all those. More of your time. More work. And more care. But if you had been expecting instant perfection…that good child who never caused any trouble…well, it is a hard wake up call.
The thing is…that was all a myth to begin with. As children…we were not the children that we dream about. We did most of the things that our children get into trouble for doing…fidgeting, running in hall ways, talking too loudly, leaving our toys out. But we conveniently forget that part. As adults we remember ourselves as ‘perfect’ children.
No, the difference is not our children…the difference is parents, schools and society.
When I first met Cookie Monster’s mother, it was a few days after we moved in. He was receiving an honorary PhD and they had come to watch…proud parents. I was shocked when she told me that he was the child they worried most about. You see this brilliant mind…this techie guru…as a child would crawl under his desk. Back then it was called…eccentric…and tolerated. Today it would be labelled and medicated.
And we looked at society yesterday, but one of my own experiences from childhood illustrates that one…we were church goers. I was that ‘good girl’. Although looking back, I realized some months ago even I was not as perfect as I remember…it was just that the adults in my life were more tolerant…more realistic with their expectations.
But in this case it was my brother. He would become one of the first in our part of the country to be put on Ritalin for ADHD, a decision that my mother always regretted. We were in church and he was fidgeting. My mother pinched him. And he cried out. The preacher stopped his sermon…called my mother out by name…and admonished her to leave him alone. That Jesus himself said…suffer the little children to come unto me. Can you imagine that happen today?
Here is today’s homework…paradigm challenge…
Is it REALLY our children that have changed so much? Or is it how society and parents view them?
Are our expectations…DEMANDS…of them unrealistic?