Raised by hippies, I did grow up in the era of Mr. Rogers, talking about my feelings. I knew I was special by just my being me.
The theory of it was solid, but I walked all over my parents. We had frequent power struggles. My mom has told me that she didn’t know how to create respect without also creating fear as a by-product.
Ultimately, by my own conceited set of standards, I turned out awesome, though. They did a good job.
But I’m not sure I want to go through the same hell my poor folks did, or let my son Henry suffer the harsh reality of realizing he may not a beautiful and unique snowflake (even though I think he is).
According to millenialmarketing.com, I’m like others in my generation in that I want my kid to respect the environment, eat healthy, be socially compassionate, and to identify and constructively express his feelings.
But, likely due to the “grass is always greener” effect, I have romantic feelings about authoritative 1950s-era child-rearing. Where respectful, polite children know their parents’ decisions aren’t up for debate. You know, the well-behaved “seen and not heard” kids of black-and-white TV.
I want him to do his chores, wait his turn, save his money, work hard and turn his homework in on time. To say please and thank you. To feel gratitude and not entitlement.
I like to think there’s a balance to be found. Rather than subscribing to the package deal, I want* to combine the firmness of the authoritarian regime with the empathy of attachment parenting.
In reality, though, choosing between taking care of him, versus taking care of myself so I CAN take care of him is an ongoing internal mud-splattered, blistered tug-of-war for me.
I hope that, in time, experience will help me make these decisions.
Decisions like… Is he actually thirsty, or is this some kind of bedtime procrastination trick? Should I see if he’ll fall back asleep if I don’t run right in there to comfort him when he cries? Should we abandon our meal because he refuses to use the restaurant’s restroom, or does being this hangry** mean it’s worth hoping he can hold out while we scarf our fries?
Right now, I don’t know the answers. I’m trying to navigate it as best I can so that we’re both happy and healthy.
I do know that I want him to be bold, independent and confident; to think for himself and question authority…
Just not mine!
* A self-referential footnote: Lots of “I want” in this column, right? Let’s call it dramatic irony.
** Hangry: So urgently hungry you’re angry.