Talkin' bout my generation

Henry apple picking at Hick'sBorn in 1982, I’m on the cusp between Generation X and the Milliennials, which TIME Magazine recently called the “Me Me Me” generation of lazy, entitled narcissists.

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.

This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle on September 25, 2014.
Click here to download “Talking ’bout my generation” as it ran in The Chronicle.

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In the face of tantrums

Henry has discovered his being-photographed smile.My parents used to sing the Rolling Stones song, “You can’t always get what you want,” to me when I was little, and I hated it with a fiery passion. I get where they were coming from now that I’m parenting a two-year-old, though.

In the event of a tantrum, I’ve found that apparently my first reaction is to channel the coldness of a prison guard in a brute force approach — “You will stop crying and you will LIKE stopping crying!” — which is not only disturbing to realize about myself, but makes it into a power struggle, which is completely ineffective and frustrating.

Conversely, the gentle Mr. Rogers tack in which I ask him to explain his sadness just makes him look me in the eyes and wail louder and more deliberately, like a person trying to talk to someone hard of hearing.

I’ve tried blowing in his face to startle him, which I read about somewhere. It startles him, but then he cries about being startled. I’ve tried doing a silly dance to distract him, which has literally no effect on him, and makes me feel like an idiot.

It wasn’t my proudest day, but I found out recently that if you’re in Cole’s Woods and your kid is freaking out because they want to hit a stump with a stick for twelve more hours, he’ll stop instantly if you tell them that bears will eat you if you cry in the woods.

Our pediatrician, along with countless others, affirms that ignoring a tantrum is the best way to deal with it. It’s not so easy to ignore in public places where the furrowed brows of passers-by urge you to make the crying stop or go the heck home.

I’ve read that toddlers and tantrums are best dealt with by diverting their attention, and I’ve found that to be true. And for certain fits, it does the trick just to hug him and acknowledge he’s upset so we can move on. I’m slowly getting the hang of it.

He doesn’t cry constantly, and I don’t mean to make it sound like he does. But like we all do, he has his off days, or off hours, and sometimes he’s inconsolable. They’re weary moments.

My friend Sarah Bates, who is a former nanny, told me once that we adults are funny in that we want to dress a kid up and take them to the playground to have fun, but then struggle with the kids to get them there.

But if we could just step out of our one-track-mind for a second and notice that they’re having plenty of fun simply hitting a stump with a stick or playing in the dirt or whatever it is we’re dragging them away from, we would all be happier.

This Family Time column originally ran in the Glens Falls Chronicle on September 11, 2014.