The New York Times recently published this article about “overparenting” written by Madeline Levine. (Be honest, do I sound smarter when I start a sentence with “The New York Times recently published…?”) It’s an interesting read and it ended with this quote:
“One of the most important things we do for our children is to present them with a version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”
I know that the Loud One already thinks being an adult is worth striving for simply because you “can have gum and ice cream whenever you want.”
So I guess my job here is DONE.
No, seriously. It’s obviously not about ice cream. Well, not entirely. OK, stop thinking about ice cream now. Stay with me.
That quote made me think about what an “appealing version of adult life” actually looks like… and am I presenting it to my kids??
From a kid’s perspective, adulthood is awesome, right? Mostly because you can make all of your own decisions about things like what to eat, when to go to bed and what to watch on TV. You can drive your own car and travel wherever you want, whenever you want. You have your own money and can spend it on whatever you choose.
All of that DOES sound pretty great when you think about it that way.
But then you grow up and realize the problem. That, if “abused,” all of those privileges have SERIOUS consequences.
- Eating ice cream two times a day is unhealthy.
- Traveling whenever and wherever you want means ignoring other responsibilities. Like your job. Or your two-year-old. Both of which are frowned upon.
- You may have money, but you can’t just spend it on toys and candy because then you can’t pay your bills and your electricity gets shut off and EEKS, how can we live without online Scrabble? (Is it weird that I immediately went to online Scrabble and not some essential electrically powered thing? Like the toaster oven?)
Perhaps the cruelest twist? As soon as you’re old enough to enjoy all these privileges, you realize that it was actually MUCH better to be a kid without all the stress and responsibility of adulthood! I mean, when you’re a kid, someone cooks you THREE. MEALS. A. DAY. Do you know how awesome that is??
It is the ultimate “Grass is Always Greener” situation.
I find it mentally exhausting when I think about how my kids are watching every single thing I do and say. And that all of those actions and words are shaping the people they will become. (“I learned it from you, Dad!” 20 points if you can identify that reference. 20 OLD points.) It’s just so much PRESSURE.
I mean, we have to teach them all the basic life stuff – like how to brush teeth and tie shoes and write their names and use a remote control and fetch drinks from the fridge and play Angry Birds and other life essentials. But we also have to teach them the big stuff like How To Be A Good Person. And the best way to do that is – get this – by actually Being a Good Person.
Sometimes I just want to scream at the woman who almost hits me with her car because she is texting, “Put the phone down, BITCH!” And even worse, sometimes I want to TEXT in the car.
But noooo… I can’t do either of these things because it sets a bad example for my kids. And oh yeah, endangers other people’s lives.
Anyway, I digress.
So how are we supposed to model “a version of adult life that is appealing?” By eating ice cream a LOT?
But also by being happy.
My guess is if your kid sees a parent who is generally happy, a parent who…
- Laughs a lot
- Spends time with friends
- Finds intellectual and/or creative stimulation through a job or a hobby
- Rides a bike and plays games
- Eats well and exercises
- Hugs their spouse and/or their parents and/or their siblings
- Communicates feelings instead of screaming them
- Is NOT grumpy and stressing more than 97% of the time
- Is NOT actively practicing road rage during every drive
- Is NOT regularly complaining about a job/spouse/in-laws/frenemy (to your kids, that is… complaining to your sister is perfectly acceptable)
… then you’re doing a pretty good job of presenting a “version of adult life that is appealing and worth striving for.”
I’m still working on a few of the above, so now I have my 2013 New Year’s Resolutions.
I’m also going to start eating ice cream in the mornings… just to prove the point.