…blossoming into adults

In an unexpected (and yet, strangely expected) way, my parenting approach is shifting as my children age. My *philosophy* remains the same: firmly rooted in attachment parenting with a dash of old school/non-helicoptering, but the way it shows up in 3 tween/teens can’t be the same as when they all occupied single-digit ages.

They all have expectations and responsibilities, however there are no chore charts or weekly have-to lists. I’m the team leader, but we all have opportunities to discuss and share what we would like to do on the daily and they know that I have final say. They also know that if I tell them that something needs to be done, then it outranks device-time or leisure activities.

My frequent ‘growing edge’ is to try and remember that, even with their larger bodies, they are still kids mentally and emotionally. I will forget that they might need softer speech or increased understanding/patience from me – because they look so darned capable and mature! And I think that really comes out when they have an emotional reaction that I wasn’t expecting. It’s almost as if I get frustrated when they are upset – I know that it’s not a big deal, so why don’t they? Because they’re still kiddos. Riiiight.

This happened during the dreaded after-school-hour when they want to decompress but I don’t want to spend the hour picking up three sets of shoes, socks, bags, lunch containers, homework, agendas, snack wrappers, plates, cups, and coats. So I insist they have to do *stuff* before they get free time. This always erupts into shouts of who ‘calls’ the xbox or laptop or tv. And one kid is inevitably disappointed and frustrated. It isn’t as though this is the ONLY time tonight that they’ll get their devices, so it makes no sense to me. I snapped at my poor 11yo and I finally asked him “What is WRONG??” and he said that he was fine until my voice started getting so angry sounding. Oh. Ohkay, yah. I get it.

It really helps me to be aware of what my underlying motivations are (I am not a Roomba, constantly collecting and seeking out things to pick up!) and what theirs might be (they want to unplug and chill out – much like me with my knitting) and then we find a balance.

Combined with my self-diagnosed ADHD, and 3 kids, and a shifting workload, I forget things ALL THE TIME. If I say it out loud, I assume it will be completed, and I get pissy when I see bags/shoes/wrappers/homework/underwear (huh?! Where did that come from??) in the front hall because I expect them to tidy it up upon entering. That adds to my frustration because now I either have to tell them again during their declared device-time, or I have to deal with it. Blegh.

The new balance I’m striving to find is that between letting them take responsibility for their own selves and giving them the latitude of caring for our common spaces – both of which have many opportunities for my frustration levels to rise!

I’m sure this will be an ongoing theme. What are your strategies?

xo Mto3

Gen X and wtf happened…?

Reading hilarious You know you were an 80s kid when… posts make me laugh too! (Oh Huffington et al)

It feels so good to realize that *everyone* had to wear a cold, metal-smelling key on a shoelace around their neck because their single mum was working because child support tables hadn’t yet been invented, and she had to work so late because she wasn’t making as much as her male counterpart.

Or that we all totally ate microwaveable Stouffers on a TV tray in the family room while our mum stayed in the kitchen, smoking and drinking gin, and we had to feed our younger sib because we were so mature at 9 because there was no one else to be in that role.

Haha! And remember when we had to return soda cans to scrounge up enough to buy 5 cent candy and we had to walk to the store – all because of the recession which meant Mum certainly didn’t have enough money to splurge on candy or “extra” gas – and damn straight we had to eat all of our dinner: there was *literally* nothing else to eat because inflation.

It was easy to be afraid of our parents (and anyone else’s parents… or any adults) because everyone and anyone was allowed to yell at you! Or maybe even give you a smack if you made some transgression an adult didn’t like – or because the adult had already downed a few stubbies on the porch with the neighbours – or because the adult had some long standing un-diagnosed PTSD from any one of the recent wars they had to endure. Oh, and because children weren’t seen as requiring any protection as there were no laws specific to their safety. Telling our own parents didn’t help, they usually agreed with the other adults!

What the heck is wrong with us, Gen X’rs? Waiting until we have nest eggs (even though we don’t – we were never taught how to save) until we have our own children, and insisting that we try to nourish and wrap their little bodies with gentler things than what we had. We’re ridiculous!

We didn’t have the internet, and yet we were able to research and write essays (in cursive, by hand, with pen and carefully applied WhiteOut). Oh – but the same interweb which allows our young ones to do homework and learn is also the same place which yields so much hurt and garbage. For 80s kids, if someone was bothering us, we could go home and it would be safe there (even though we had to do chores). The only “perv” we might encounter was a creepy dude who flashed us once at the park, or the threat and rumours of a man flashing us in the park. Online we can find example after example of adults – other Gen X’rs – striving to take advantage of our children. Geez – I guess all that coloured food dye and additives that ran rampantly unregulated wasn’t a great idea after all.

It wasn’t easy for friends to become more important and more meaningful than parents because our social time together with our pals was limited. The family had to take turns with our link to the outside world – we could only talk on one shared landline phone. Our privacy was only guaranteed if the phone cord could stretch to the nearest bathroom. Our kids have instant and constant connection to their friends. ALL. THE. TIME. In their bedrooms. In the bathroom. At dinner with their families. During Church service. During the drive to the mall (parent chauffeured). It is easy to feel aligned with their friends at the expense of another peer or parent when they’re all “safely” behind a screen and are out of touch with how their words might affect Madysyn or Ella.

Seeing what others are doing through selfies or hashtags or text messages creates anxiety in our children: they think they are being left out, or that they need to be more and do more in order to be included in the fun. As adults we see this in our experience of social media: The Jones are going for another trip to Jamaica? How is this possible? They just put in a new salt-water pool! 123 people have already liked Jennifer’s status and she only posted 18 minutes ago! We all know the thrill (or the crush) of the number of “likes” we receive on a post. We compare and see the amazing Pinterest success of our friends and the career success of our LinkedIn connections. How can our children be immune to the very thing that can motivate and drive us (Adults! With years and years of experience).

I’m still unclear about what Generation X’s parenting problem is- the fact that we didn’t have it all? Or that parenting is hard? Or that there is the internet now?

Bottom line: the divide in our families is deeper and wider. Our kids are being driven into the arms of others, while we 80s kids have flashbacks of our own neglected youth and tighten our grip on our adrift children. Hmm… seems hindsight isn’t 20-20, and those rose-coloured glasses are a comfy fit.

 

I spy fun and laughs

It can be tough to keep younger people occupied during boring/waiting activities. Li’l Miss often has a difficult time during these moments, and it’s not always feasible for us to leave to prevent escalating behaviours – and I don’t want to be redirecting her endlessly until we’re out of a sticky situation.

“I spy” it is. Needs no equipment. Can readily be tailored to wherever we are. Could be easy (colours, shapes) or hard (first letters, en francais).

We pulled out this boredom-buster technique on the weekend while we were on the train.

Her: I spy with my little eye, something that iiiiis … red!
(We opted for easy this day because we became distracted during the harder spies)
Me: Um, is it that lady’s coat?
Her: Nope! (innocent head shake) Guess again!
Me: How about your brother’s shoes?
Her: No! Guess again!
Me: That sign on the wall?
Her: Nope! You’ll never guess it. It’s hard because you can’t see it!
Me: Um – that doesn’t sound fair! I need a hint.
Her: It’s on you!
Me: …I don’t have any red on… (I was wearing nearly all black) Um, is it my evil beady eyes?
Her: Nope! Give up?
Me: Yes. What did you spy? (NB: I don’t really have red, evil, beady eyes)

Her: YOUR PIMPLES!! (Full train. Yep.)

 

 

We played a few more rounds, but I eventually had to end it when another of her “spies” was on me again.

Gray hair dont care
Photo for reference

What did she spy with her little, evil, beady eye? Something white. Guess what it was.

 

 

Yep. My white granny hair.

An exercise on generation gaps

Humour me, please:

Set your hand out, comfortably, with your hand splayed open, palm facing the floor. Keeping that position, slowly and deliberately push your hand down a several inches. Raise it back up to the starting position, and do it again. It’s a gentle motion, almost as though you are awkwardly patting a very large, very fluffy dog.

What does this ‘sign’ mean to you?

Would it help to know that I was sitting in my car, pulled over beside the curb when Middle gestured this to me? More context: he was heading into school, then turned back to me before I drove away and motioned the above.

My poor, young son looked uncomprehendingly at me while I ducked, looked behind me, looked into my lap, and waved at him; all the while he’s trying to get me to understand his hand sign.

Hm. Now what about if you set your hand out, comfortably, as before, but with your hand in a loose fist with your thumb alongside your fingers (not over top), curled fingers pointing up.  Keeping that position, move your hand in such a way that your thumbnail ‘draws’ a circle in the air.

Does this ‘sign’ mean anything to you? What about if you were sitting in your car and someone outside your car motioned that to you?

He ended up pointing to the passenger side door, and really sticking his arm out and firmly pushing his hand down, glaring good-humouredly the whole while.

Oh!! The window! He wants me to turn down the power window so he can say something to me!

It’s a novelty when he rides in his Aunt’s “old-fashioned” car, with manual window turners and non-powered door locks. They don’t know the signal from my generation (and every generation before mine) for “unrolling” windows, because windows (in their world) don’t roll, they just glide and slide.