Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Brief Word on "... they'll just have to..."

There was an article in the paper today about how some area schools are starting back early this year, and how the kids are noticing. Someone commented (I KNOW! Never read the comments. Nonetheless...), "Just wait until you have a real job. In the real world, you don't get a summer break at all, so soak it up."

As an aside, it's weird to me that even people who don't have alt-ed viewpoints consider school something other than "the real world." Interesting. 

But the level of resentment dripping off of this - how dare kids be disappointed their typical break is shorter?! - is my main focus.

Look around and you'll see something: A lot of adults are really pissed off at kids in general. Pardon my English, but it's true. I think these adults feel like they've grown into productive members of society with good work ethics and a healthy dose of stoicism, and that kids "these days" are just whiny toots.

I'm pretty sure these same people would have had these same reactions as kids were the circumstances the same. Also, one of the kids interviewed was talking about how it was a challenge to get the summer reading assignments completed in less time. So this wasn't about languishing by the pool while the 'rents work their butts off.

My question is: Why do grown-ups seem to hate kids so much? Why do grown-up people decide to have kids, and then just seem to lose all compassion and empathy for them?

I have a kid who has anxiety, and we are dealing with that. One thing I've heard concerning not just our situation, but others', too, is, "Well, someday, they're going to have to XYZ 'in the real world.' You need to make them start doing it now, because the longer they ABC, the harder it's going to be to adjust."

May I tell you how ridiculous this is, whether it's leveled at a child or an adult? 

People who have phobias or other impairments that prevent them from functioning typically in any given situation might or might not find exposure therapy useful. I can tell you now, if you have a fear of snakes, I'm pretty sure that if I lock you in a box with 50 non-venomous snakes, you would not thank me later for assisting in your recovery. Or maybe you would. I'm not irrationally afraid of snakes, but I don't think I'd like that, anyway.

It is furthermore the height of self-righteous pride for anyone to tell a parent, "Here's what's wrong with your kid, and all you have to do to fix it is..." This might shock those of you who observe from the outside and then have the audacity to propose a simple fix, but I can promise you that parents have thought of EVERYTHING. They've researched, they've sought opinions, they've gotten opinions that they never solicited (including yours), they've second-guessed themselves, and eventually they have settled into what is working for their family. Your input at any point in this process is worthless, unless you, too, have been through the EXACT same thing and offer a viewpoint with the caveat that you truly understand no two people or situations are the same.

Lastly, any time a person says anything about how someone "has" to behave "in the real world," I am truly blind-sighted by how narrow a view of what constitutes a functional life so many of us have. Not everyone needs to be able to maintain eye contact for an extended amount of time. Not everyone needs to be able to drive. Not everyone has to wear close-toed shoes (shout-out to my friend Dave for that one :D ). People can and do create lifestyles they can manage all of the time. Now, can you get a high-paying corporate job if you can't do these things? Except for driving, maybe not. But not everyone's life needs to look the same. Some skills are worth honing because they will be useful, but not otherwise (like cursive; and please don't flame me). Not everyone needs the same social skills as everyone else. Not everyone needs to conform to the same box or boxes or cylinders or whatever. Does that mean the off-beat person's life will be more complicated? Maybe. But it's going to be more complicated, regardless. Some people just have a more challenging time with certain functions than others. That's okay. It's different, but it's not bad.

I have a bonus point: If you see a situation which you think is not ideal, whether it's a person you don't think is meeting their potential or a family you think could operate better if only they'd listen to this thing you've reasoned out... and if you really want to help... rather than offering an opinion unbidden, how about saying something like, "Your family really means a lot to me. Is there some way I could help you?" then be willing to do whatever they ask, if they take you up on it. Seriously, your unbidden input can only strain your relationship. Trust me, everyone's doing the best they can.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

In a Hurry?

Parents: "Kids want to grow up so fast! Why don't they just enjoy their childhoods?"

Parents, also:









In so many ways, we give our kids the impression that they're not fully people; they're people in training. But do you remember being a kid? Did you feel like an actually-fledged human being? 

I think we do this with really good intentions. We know our time with our kids is limited, and we want to "prepare" them to release them out into the world as responsible, equipped adults.

However, I'm afraid this often leads to our making long-sighted parenting choices when short-sighted ones would actually be better. For instance: If my kid's room is a mess, maybe it's just that they don't have the energy to clean it this moment, or even today... and it doesn't have to mean that OMG, they're going to grow up without any self-discipline and their house will be overtaken by roaches, and they'll get evicted and therefore I'm turning off the wifi until the room is clean, dang it.

Kids see this. So much that they know, as they get older, that even their education isn't important in this moment. Otherwise, why would they ask, infamously about algebra, "When am I ever going to use this in the future?"

How often has a kid, discouraged with an extra-curricular lesson or activity, been encouraged to keep going because, "Someday you'll wish you'd mastered *this* so you can do *this other thing.*" 

Do you know when I've learned the things I've needed to know as an adult, for the most part? Exactly when I needed to know them.

This might surprise you, but I never learned a darn thing about real estate until I had to "learn" it to take a test. And even then, I didn't *actually* learn it until I was working in the field. Same with insurance. And video production. And script-writing. And parenting. Yeah, pretty much all of it.

And I have a theory about why family vacations are so much fun for our kids (other than the splurging in terms of fun and money throwing-around and whatnot): When we're on vacation, we are in the moment with them. We're not planning for the next thing. We're enjoying the thing we're doing right then and right there.

What if we lived like that all of the time? Or most of the time? Or at least some of the time?

Maybe our kids would be more content being children if we let them know they're important *now.* They can do things in this day that have value. We don't always have to be projecting them into the future.

Nichole Nordeman tells a story of how she had volunteered to play a song at one of her kids' school events, and as the day approached, she hadn't prepared anything. Then this following song came to her. And although the song is directed toward the children, she said that, of course, the encouragement to "slow down" is actually for the parents. I'm trying.