I am the oldest of five children. Two brothers followed my arrival within the next two years, and then there was an eight year stretch before my younger brother and sister were born. My mom and dad both worked long hours, and so for the two youngest ones, I was their caregiver unless I was in school. When they got older, they even called me “Mom” in fun, but only if our mom wasn’t listening, for we all knew it was accurate enough to make her wince. When my youngest brother learned how to drive, my dad told him I’d be the one to decide on “the rules that went with it” like when he could drive at night, and chauffeur other kids, because I knew of his capacity for good judgment better than my parents did. When my sister started dating, I was the one her boyfriends had to meet first.
Now with children of their own, my brother and sister have been very fond of telling my son and daughter how lucky they are, because all my first-round screw-ups in child-rearing happened years before they were born.
Pretty true for all the physical stuff that doesn’t change much through the years; by the time my son went through the crankiness of teething and my daughter had the measles, my worried pacing was over and my husband wondered how I could be so calm through it all. The colic didn’t phase me one bit; neither did some pretty nasty sports injuries.
However not so for a myriad of other things, most of which fall into the societal bucket of muckiness called ‘social mores.’
n : (sociology) the conventions that embody the fundamental values of a group
My sister and brothers also wonder why I’m a push-over now, and not the no-nonsense, very strict older sister they remembered.
I wonder too.
2006 just ain’t like 1976, or like 1996 for that matter. Parenting has gotten to be much tougher in a compounding kind of way, and we haven’t needed “tough love” parenting as much as we do right now. There are so many new influences which simply didn’t exist before; more so-called “advances” which just make life more complicated. Increasingly exciting, but also all the more menacing. Our kids need to be way more astute, equipped to make their decisions much more judiciously than we did.
With my mission wrapped up in the goodness of worthwhile and fulfilling work, one of the things which worries me most of all is the entitlement mentality which proliferates, with our children somehow feeling we “owe them” and they needn’t earn their keep, and work to deserve their “inalienable rights.” We need to be talking about values so much more; living them yes, but talking about them too. Discussion isn’t happening often enough, loud enough, and passionately enough, and so we aren’t figuring things out.
Often we parents feel we are at a loss in explaining choices because we haven’t lived the same ones our kids now live through. Relating to them gets harder and harder. Setting a good example is no longer about a living storyboard of actions our children can copy; it is about a thinking process connected to the values we believe in, values that will connect us, inspire us, and sustain us.
There are just three more days in November, and I did not get to visit my ho‘ohana on parenting as much as I had hoped to this month. However, the need does not go away with month-end, and we’ll talk about it more in the months to come.
Hana hou; we will work on this again. It will be our perpetual effort. There are so many reasons why.
For now, my coaching to you is this; talk to our kids, and talk to them often. Be the person they can come to, to talk about whatever might be on their mind. You needn’t be a parent to be the good, responsible, aloha-filled adult we all want our youth to know and keep close in their lives.
Once again, my deepest thanks to Pete Aldin, Steve Sherlock, and Rebecca Thomas for their contributions to our ho‘ohana on parenting this month. It has been important, and I am sure your shared stories have made a difference for the readers of our community.
Pete Aldin: The Wise Son
Steve Sherlock: You know you’ve made it when
Rebecca Thomas: Children follow our example
Our November Ho‘ohana: When Parenting Works