- Give them every thing they ask for; leave no wish ungranted.
- Beat them so they're grateful for every scrap they get.
- Do everything in your power to be their BFFs.
- Be a cover model for Parent magazine, with perfect teeth, perfect hair and a perfectly just-so disheveled child.
There is no right answer, no hidden teacher with the answer key. We're all floundering in this pop quiz. "Wait, I just figured out 3 year-olds. What do you mean he's turning 4?!? And by the way, this 2 year old you gave me? He's a TOTALLY different model, so everything in the manual for the first one doesn't apply! SO UNFAIR!!!!"
The way I keep from drowning under the pressure of these two little time sinks of need is to remember that I'm not just raising children. I'm raising little beings who will ultimately become adults.
I never experienced some magical transformation from childhood to adulthood. I've had many, many transitions and evolutions over the years, but I have always been the same "me" on the inside. The inner child-voice who sits on the wooden chair inside that dark chamber that I envision as my mind is the same being she was when I was six. I don't know what I was expecting - some actor change like in the movies? Suddenly voice A is replaced by voice B?
Anyway, growing up, I felt like my parents never explicitly prepared me for reality. As a minor, it was like I needed to be protected from all that scary grown up stuff (like how broke we were as a family of six on one teacher's salary). I was treated as rebellious anytime I tried to be "too" mature too soon. I believe my dad's term for it was pseudosophistication, and it was most definitely verboten. However, as soon as I graduated high school, and was out on my own-ish, things changed drastically. If I had problems, the response changed to "Welcome to the real world, kiddo. This is what adults have to do!" Well, fuck you too. I felt totally and completely unprepared for adulthood.
I don't want my kids to go from sheltered to "You're on your own! Good luck, and good riddance!" Since that mysterious transfer from Childhood© to Adulthood© never occurred, I know that I'm very much the same person I was as a child. I know that the lessons that I learned as a child are carried with me all my life - both the ones my parents meant to teach me, and the ones they didn't. I expect my kids to take their lessons into adulthood the much same way. I want them to be emotionally capable of handling disappointment, but eager to chase achievement. I want them to be sensitive to what other people are feeling, but not be a doormat, and to stand up for what is right.
More than likely, I will not be leaving an indelible mark on this world. I will not have my Starry Night, or my Midsummer Night's Dream. Hell, I won't even have L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology (thank the FSM). But I do have my kids. Those little shits are the best examples of what a good person *I* am. I'm not a stage mom, I'm not a scout mom, I'm not a theater mom. But I am A mom.
All I want to do, in this whole wide world, is to raise my boys to be good, decent, caring, generous, forgiving, kind men. I want them to be strong and nimble in both mind and spirit. I want them to know that this world we live in? This beautiful, miraculous world? It really kind of sucks for a lot of the wonderful people who live in it. And the only way to make it better is if the people who notice that it sucks DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
I refuse to be the last generation that had a beautiful world handed to them, or the first generation that just didn't give a fuck. We can do better than this.
Parent Magazine Cover: http://chefn.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/parents-cover1.jpg
Girl in Chair: http://artizd.deviantart.com/art/Black-Chair-36714854
P.S. To my parents if you happen to read this. I love you, and I know all you did in raising me was out of love. Please understand I do not hold a grudge against you for my upbringing - I just plan on doing a few things differently.