Wednesday, April 9, 2014

On raising adults, not children

This is a RANT so be prepared...  either close this message and move to something else, or be aware that I am going to get going.

I would like to start with the disclaimer that I, in no way, profess to be an expert...  nor am I under any impression that I was a perfect mom....  far, very far, from it.

However, I DO believe that over-providing for, and over-protecting, our young (I am not referring to perverts and unsafe situations) ultimately hampers the natural process of maturity.

This 'rant' has been rolling around in my head for a while...  I read this article about a mother facing the challenges of giving being the "perfect" parent - and by that, I mean caving in to pressure from other parents, her kids, and her kids' friends.

I am aware that I made a million and a half mistakes raising my kids....  and probably another million and a half I am unaware of...  but I tried very hard to teach them that anything worth having is worth working for...  and do not give up until they get it.... 

Since my kids have grown, I have noticed some basic theories of life:
- Problem-solving skills are honed as we solve problem after problem.
- The more we do something (pretty much anything, really), the better we get at it.
- We pay for assistance from those more experienced (plumbers, attorneys, roofers, lawn care, etc) so there must be something to theory #1 and #2.

So for the sake of this rant, lets say that these three things are true.  

How does one think that giving everything to, and doing everything for, our young will teach them anything?  if they never do laundry, do we think that they will just know how to do it?  what if we, God forbid, should we die in some horrible crash along the highway one evening?  will they know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich?  stop the toilet from running?  collect the mail?  feed the dog?  I know you think I am being silly.... but what if??   are we preparing our young to cope with life if we aren't there???  and if we don't teach these things to our young, who will?

Without challenges and adversity (age appropriate, of course) in their life, how will our young develop the skills needed to solve problems on their own?  or develop coping skills? or find socially acceptable ways to handle frustration or anger?

How will they learn the value of people, places, and things?  This world is already too disposable.   There is not an endless supply of ANYTHING out there and if they don't understand that something has value, how can they respect it, take care of it, and (in the case of our Mother Earth) nurture it?  People are not disposable, our environment is not disposable, and if we respected the who/what/where/and how that is around us, some of the other things might take care of themselves.

A tree.  And let's say the tree is in the way of where we want to build our newer, bigger garage for our newer, bigger "toys". 
- Do we consider another location on the property to build the garage?
- Can we trim the tree, rather than cut it down, to build our garage?
- Could we cut the tree down but plant three other trees to maintain nesting for birds, the cleansing of our air, the benefits to the soil, the replacement of the lumber we will building the garage, the beauty of a tree, and the shade and protection the tree provides to both humans and animals?
- Or do we cut the tree down, build the garage, and call it a day?

Do we teach our kids these lessons? 

Have you seen the commercial about the kid lounging around the house, then makes a phone call.  In the background, the older female slowly shuffles to answer the phone.  On the other end of the line is the kid asking grandma for a soda.   Seriously?   The kid should be OFFERING to get grandma something to drink and apologizing for being such a lunkhead!!

Turn off the TV, unplug the internet, and, just for an hour, DO SOMETHING ELSE!!!  What happened to family time?  how about a board game (ahh, a rainy afternoon of Monopoly or the hilarity of Twister)....  cards (who remembers how to play canasta?)....  building a bird feeder (do kids even do that any more?)....  dress up in ridiculous things and have a tea party with dolls and stuffed animals (I want to do this one!)....  how about painting on rocks.....  or feed the ducks (preferably something healthy) at the park.... it doesn't have to be anything strenuous...  just start with SOMETHING without a screen or earphones. 

Teach the young how to skip a rock...  play in the mud when its raining.....   whistle with a helicopter from a tree (remember those?)...  even lip syncing to the oldies is great fun....  

And don't even get me started on "please", "thank you", and responsibilities...  helping around the house...  picking up trash around the block you live on....  cleaning out the car....  helping take care of the places they spend their time.

Several months ago, DH and I were at Walmart grabbing a quick Subway on the way home from someplace.  In the back of the Subway at a large table was a woman with a lot of kids.  As we ate, we imagined the woman ran a day care...  or maybe she was watching assorted kids while friends went to a movie...  or maybe they were hers...  but there were so many kids....  and so close in age....

As the children finished eating, each old enough to do so would clean up their papers, mess, and drinks, ask permission, and take the trash to the receptacle.  As each child would pass us, we would hear 'excuse me' and 'thank you'.  The child would then return his or her seat and wait for the rest to finish.  There was seat wriggling and low volume giggling but overall, the behavior of the children was impressive.

Once the woman had finished her meal and cleaned up for the youngest children, an older child would offer to take the refuse.  Again, I was completely in awe.  In the time we watched, I heard ONLY one snap of fingers to stop some unseen errant behavior.

As the children filed out ahead of the woman, I stopped her and commended her on the behavior of the children.  Her face lit up and she thanked me.  I asked if they were hers...  yep, every one.  I again complimented her on her children's behavior.  We chatted a moment and she and the children proceeded into Walmart to shop.

As DH and I left Walmart, we are pretty sure we saw her vehicle....  I was not exaggerating...  yep, she had seven kids... between 12 and 2 years of age. 

Teach kids that life isn't always fun.
Teach kids to be respectful..... of things, of people, and of the planet on which we live.
Teach kids that things ruined or broken do not just magically get replaced.
Teach kids that fun isn't disposable....  or expensive.

Teach kids....  something....   anything.....    everything. 
And in teaching them, we will learn.  Learn to, once again, see things through the eyes of a child...  to see things simply as they are...  to take joy in the flapping of a butterfly's wings.... to see the wonder that is this Earth...  to trust...  to be.

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