Monday, April 29, 2013

pushed too hard

You go through the terrible twos, terrifying threes, frightening fours, fantastic fives and, while you are still exhaling, suddenly your kid is thirteen.

And now you’re no longer just wrangling and manipulating and rounding up, herding him into the clothes he needs to wear, spooning food into his mouth, and pointing him in the direction he needs to go. You are no longer a circus clown, but a counselor/mentor/life coach.

One day you start to get glimpses of who your kids are going to be when they grow up and you wonder how are they going to handle life. And you ask yourself, "What is my role in all of this?"

I am still the nurturer and supporter, yes, but at what point does all that nurture and support go beyond nurture and support and become coddling, enabling even? My child still needs me to praise and reassure him. But he also needs me to nudge and challenge him. What does that look like?

While I'm not looking to raise the next super athlete, polyglot, Pulitzer winner, (okay that last one would be cool) I would like to help my child realize his potential. So when I see what looks to me like laziness and underachievement, my brain struggles how to call it out without being counteractive or wrong. Or without being hurtful. 

Is it really my job to smooth over every hiccup and fear, and unfinished, or underfinished, homework assignment? Is it mean to call a spade a spade?
“Don't blame me when you don't get into the college of your choice, because you opted to be a slacker at age 13.”

And how do I distinguish the real concerns from the unnecessary variety? How much of my impatience is based on fear? How much of my judgment is based on my own personal regrets, my own inner self critic: 'You’re not good enough, you were afraid to try hard enough, you should be doing more...?'

How do I know if I am pushing too hard, or not hard enough? Are we all less tolerant of the weaknesses of our own offspring because we want, expect, dream of, more from them?
And are my dreams realistic? I have seen children pushed too hard by their parents, seen them crack and wilt under the relentless pressure. Yet if I don’t push them to push themselves and, honestly, I don’t often, will I regret it? And will my child resent me for it when she gets older and learns to appreciate the power of having someone believe in your enough to push?

I don’t have the answers to any of this. Do you? 

Because I’m sitting here wondering if I said the wrong things last night when I got cross, tired of the excuses, and brazenly told him to stop being lazy and use his brain. And he responded with rolling of the eyes and a stomp up the stairs, with hardly a “goodnight” as we all parted ways for bed.  

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