Floundering


I feel tired.  Weary.  This parenting gig, it ain’t easy.  And everyone’s got an opinion.  I know that blogging about my parenting struggles opens me up to opinions and advice – invites them, in fact.  And I’m happy and eager a lot of the time to read the input I receive.  But sometimes it just makes me feel more muddled.  Because the truth is, nobody has all the answers.  Nobody holds the one magic key of parenting that is guaranteed to work for every kid in every family under every circumstance.  Parenting is a total learn-as-you-go proposition.  I don’t know if I’m doing all the right things, I really don’t.  I’m sure I’m screwing up in ways that I’m not even aware of yet.  But I’m trying, I’m really trying, to get it right.

I know that as a parent, I seem to do things quite a bit differently than even a lot of my friends.  I think some of my friends are appalled at some of the restrictions I put on Kevin.  I reserve the right to read his emails, and he knows this.  Some of my friends have said that they’d never violate their kids’ privacy like that, but I kind of feel like, he’s a child – everything he does is my business.  He has a cell phone, but he’s not allowed to use it for socializing – no texting or phone calls with friends – it’s only to keep in touch with us, the parents.  He’s perfectly welcome to talk to his friends on our land line – I just see no reason why he would need to text and call friends on his cell phone at this age.  But I know that’s very different from how my friends see it.  He’s not on Facebook (or MySpace or Twitter), and although he hasn’t yet asked to join any social networking sites, I really think that at this age I’d be inclined to say no.  He still has an early bed time – quite a bit earlier, I’d venture to guess, than most of his peers – because I know that he requires a certain amount of sleep every night and have seen how he is when he doesn’t get that amount of sleep.  And the money thing.  I’m not inclined to give him free reign over his money at this age.  If it was just small change, it might be a different story, but there are weeks when he earns upwards of $100 between babysitting and tutoring, and that just seems like an awful lot of cash to allow a fourteen-year-old to have at his disposal.  While I believe he’s a good kid, I’m not going to give him the benefit of the doubt on everything to start with – I’m not going to start with lots of freedom and wait until he fucks up to start pulling in the reigns.  I feel more comfortable doing it from the other end – starting with a lot of restrictions and letting out the reigns as he matures and shows that he’s trustworthy and responsible.  Obviously these rules that we have in place for him now, at barely fourteen years old, will change over time.

But like I said, I really have no idea if I’m doing this whole parenting thing the right way.  Is there a right way?  Does any kid get out of childhood unscathed?  Does any parent get through parenthood without screwing up in some way?  And yeah, it often crosses my mind, especially lately with Kevin’s first year of high school looming on the horizon, that maybe we’ve sheltered him too much.  Are we just setting him up for huge acts of rebellion?  I don’t know.  And it scares me.

This morning Kevin would barely speak to me or look at me.  My read is that he feels ashamed about being caught in an act of dishonesty, and he’s dealing with those feelings with bravado.  And it just makes me tired.  I don’t think I’m cut out for soft parenting, and yet, it wears me down to be seen as the bad guy by my kids so much of the time.  And even by my peers.

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9 Comments on “Floundering”

  1. diane
    February 1, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

    honestly, I think you have done the right thing.
    we all know our kids better than anyone who reads about our lives, regardless of how much or little we share about them. and you are right, no one way works for every child.
    that being said, I do believe in setting out a bunch of restrictions at first, and easing off as the child builds responsibility and trust. that’s the way it works here, anyway. when I see that my child can handle studying on her own instead of supervised, then I can see how it works letting her study at a friend’s house … if they do well with that, then we can see about letting them work together at the library. if at some point they falter and either don’t get their work done (or don’t make it to the library at all!), then we back it up a step and try again.
    this works with just about everything, tho sometimes we are introduced to a new situation and need to start somewhere in the middle. it really is a try it and learn kind of thing. and like most of parenting, it is exhausting sticking to our own guns.

  2. Heather
    February 1, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    This parenting thing is so hard. My initial reaction about the lost and found cash was that I would have let my child keep it. I’m probably wrong in this opionion but I would have wanted my teenager to feel the immediate reward of doing the right thing by turning the cash into the lost and found in the first place and not just putting it in his pocket and claiming it as his own. To see that doing the right thing is always the right choice with a positive outcome. I had neighbors when I was growing up who taught swimming lessons at a very young age. My friend was in 6th grade and regularly had $1-2,000 worth of cash in her wallet. All of her siblings had that kind of money. Their parents made them buy everything that they needed except for food. Their own shampoo, lotions, make up, clothes, extracurricular activities, etc. I guess it was a good way to teach money management at a young age. I’m sure they would have loved to have some of that money upon marrying or going to college instead of it all being spent on frivolous things. Also I remember noticing how selfish they were with their things. Getting mad if anyone used their lotion. “Hey that’s mine!!!”

    I’ll be interested in what you ultimately decide to do. You and Michael are the only ones who know what’s best for your family.

  3. Mumofone
    February 1, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    Absolutely agree parenting is the hardest job ever – but thank goodness you have the personality and positive sense of self to be able to write it all down so that those of us who don’t can read your blog, feel normal that parenting is hard and maybe get some ideas along the way. Sorry to hear you’re floundering but so appreciate that you share with us your struggles – as many people have said before – we love your blog because you help us feel human – rather than other blogs I know that paint the picture with rose coloured glasses which helps no-one (IMHO)

  4. Michael
    February 2, 2011 at 1:56 am #

    I really don’t like to do these things publicly, since we could easily discuss this at home, and we often do, but since you’re going public with it, I feel it’s probably ok to respond publicly, and I had hoped that I would be the first one to comment. You may feel tired and weary when it comes to parenting, but I’d hardly say that you’re floundering by definition. I personally hear you think things through, talk things out, try to apply your or our fundamental values to a particular situation, and do your best to come up with the right approach. The solutions you come up with for the more difficult issues may not always be the best or perfect–it’s impossible to get it right every time, and none of your friends get it right every time either–but the decisions you/we make are usually the result of careful reflection, thoughtfulness, workability, an overall sense of fairness (or at least appropriateness), and also who is the particular child, and then bouncing it off another fairly smart parent (me!!) and then having your ideas tested and questioned, and going through the same process again. You really can’t do much better than that, and the fact that you go through that process is what’s important, not that you always get it right, because you, and everybody else, just can’t. And the fact that you recognize an approach may have to be modified or changed altogether means you’re open to correction and recognize that you may not get it right. It doesn’t matter that the decision may not be popular. So, take it from your husband, you’re doing fine.

    And by the way, while you think Kevin wasn’t talking to you, this morning when I asked him how things went this morning with you, he thought you weren’t talking to him. It’ll be fine. Love, me.

  5. Stephanie
    February 3, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    Lisa, I have a VERY rebellious and mouthy nine year old and I’m already fretting and wringing my hands over the enevitable torture that his teen-aged years are sure to be. I don’t envy you even as I know I’ll be in your shoes at some point in the not to distance future. It seems that you’re handling it all in a very mature and thoughtful manner. We can only hope to do as well as we can, and most of us won’t do even that. In the end, I think your family will come out of it no more worse for the wear.

    • Lisa
      February 3, 2011 at 1:40 am #

      Ack, Stephanie, thank you. It’s funny, because Kevin is actually my GOOD kid! Annabelle, age 6, is the one I really worry about. I shudder to imagine the trouble we’re going to have with her when she’s a teen 😦

  6. tiny
    February 4, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    Have you heard of kiva.org? he may enjoy doing some good with that money since he’s got more than he could use.. 🙂

    I’m with you btw, I’m not letting big girl go to a “boy girl party:” this sat… 5-9pm.. I got questionable vibes from the parents of that girl, and I remember my first boy/girl party in 7-8th grade. um… no! And bedtime is 8:30 for her too.

  7. starrlife
    February 18, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    Just flying by the new place but I have to say that I agree with all of the principles that you’ve described and see my own parenting style in yours. Meeting each kid where they are at is smart but I know that holding firm lines is exhausting and sometimes demoralizing. I’ve got a pre-teen daughter with DS going thru the beginnings of puberty. I’m trying to figure out the balance of knowing what’s best and giving her some rope (as I educate her what the rope is for:) . You do a great job as far as I can tell.

    • Lisa
      February 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm #

      Thanks for the support and kind words!

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