Sunday, December 16, 2012

How to Raise Children to Become Successful Adults. Or Something.

Perspective, man. Seeing where other people are coming from. Realizing that there is more than one way to do most things.

I think, like a LOT of parents, I look back on all the mistakes my parents made and I wanna learn from em. At the same time, in the back of my head, I know how this cliche plays out, generally. People overcompensate for their parent’s mistakes, find out their children don’t react exactly the same way they did to shit, anyway, and overlook some really important parts of the whole “raising children” process.

So, it’s not always easy to just “do what’s right.”

I’m on this whole new “self help skills” thing and high on my priority list right now is my child’s ability to be independent. I was totally crippled by infantilizing parents, and yet, it’s hard to immediately correct their mistakes in my own parenting style when I STILL have no idea what is expected from a young child, behavior wise. A few basic manners came about through THERAPY and it’s unbelievable how EASY and USEFUL simple etiquette can be, even for a three year old.

Then, you know, I get to the other side of it. Um. And that other side is making a big fucking deal about nothing.

I’m reading a book on how to help children with autism acquire self help skills. I was only a few pages in when I got sidetracked by my skepticism regarding the importance of some of these skills. Okay, if you explain it to me, I can see how chronic bed wetting may be a problem. If you start talking about real developmental milestones, and the physical capabilities of a child, then I can follow the logic. In the grand scheme of things, I think bedwetting even quite late into childhood isn’t that big o’ deal, but I feel comfortable with the idea of night training a capable child.

Start talking to me about the importance of coordinating outfits, however, and I start feeling pretty judgey and contemptuous.

Seriously. A mere handful of pages into this book on self help skills, the author is talking about the IMPORTANCE of “coordinating clothing and choosing clothing consistent with age and community norms.” And I am not trying to just pull this completely out of context- be aware that this is a descriptor of advanced skills, I guess, and maybe there is some implied context about how unawareness of social norms can be debilitating, even if these norms are totally arbitrary. Within context, I still find this a little fucked up.

I say this as someone who was really clueless about clothes growing up and in hindsight, that shit really negatively impacted my life. It was just one more thing to alienate me from my conformist classmates.

And you wanna know something?? I STILL don’t really know any better. I dated a guy in my 20s who would say “Noo…” in this condescending way if he saw me reach for two mismatched socks. I seriously wore mismatched shoes until my kid started preschool, and then I didn’t wanna alienate HIM, ha. I work in RETAIL and we sell apparel. People ask me what goes with shit. Here’s a sales tip- everything goes with everything! There. If the people asking you know any better… well, shit. Why are they asking you? Who is the foolish one, here? Haha.

It’s not a functional skill. Sorry. It’s this, like, supplemental, very acquired skill that has jack shit to do with development. Don’t wear a garbage bag or a ratty t-shirt to a job interview or a date. Okay? IF you’re trying to sell yourself, dress to impress. But really, you shouldn’t be constantly trying to sell yourself. I didn’t learn the importance of interview appropriate attire until I was in my 20s. Teach that. I shouldn’t be reading about trendy clothing in a book I got for help with my autistic three year old.

Is my opinion based on some sort of anti-intellectual, “I struggled with that and I turned out fine” sort of mentality?? Hard to say. It’s this paradox we all experience, but parents have to FACE it all the time:

All the most important lessons in life are learned the hard way.

We are shaped by the pain we endure in life. We learn from our mistakes. I have forgotten how hard it is to be a child and my stomach turns at the thought of my child having to go through all that. So I strive to prepare him for life, so that he has it easier. But what easy lessons from my childhood am I taking for granted? What guarantee can I give that my guidance will be any better than previous generations? I think my parents reeled from harsh, volatile, totalitarian parents and didn’t realize they had to replace beatings with some other form of discipline. I think I take for granted how my parents strove to remain calm and collected around me, and I often wear my emotion on my sleeve in front of a sensitive preschooler.

I want to learn from my parents mistakes. They thought they were raising a “free spirit” and there were all these unforeseen consequences. At the same time, I’m kinda, like, this free spirit. Ha.

Often times I second guess my parenting decisions, and the mental pressure can be a little overwhelming. We don’t wanna screw up our kids with our mistakes, but reality is, “it’s gonna happen.” It’s only a question of “how” and “to what degree” n stuff.

(Shrug)What's a parent to do?

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