Friday, January 13, 2012

Parents Just Don't Understand

Shades of vintage Will Smith!

Faced with frustrations and inequities in his young life, my son has started uttering the classic phrase, "You don't understand! You don't know what it's like to be a kid these days!"

I don't know where he got it from, but it's not a new protest by any stretch of the imagination. I bet Cave Kid used to grumble, "Ma not get it. She still living in the Paleolithic Age. Things different today in Neolithic Age."
And it's partly true. The world I grew up in was different in many ways from the one my kids know today: less technologically advanced, a little slower-paced, more private, safer and less safe at the same time. So maybe I don't have a complete handle on what it's like to be a 21st-century grade-schooler in the age of Twitter, texting and Tea Partiers, but there's a lot more I can relate to.

I understand how it feels to be young and under parental supervision and scheduling. I still remember early bedtimes, school routines and being dragged along on errands when I would have preferred to hang out in my room.

I recall the frustrations of having to share with a sibling, eat meals I wouldn't have chosen for myself and do homework before going out to play. I remember hearing "no" to requests for toys. I still feel the sting of being excluded from the cool girls' club. Late at night, a little part of me still fears the shadows in the room and the mysterious thumps and squeaks (the ones that don't come from our upstairs neighbors, that is).

I also remember a time when my biggest problems were understanding long division, washing my long tangly hair and being the only kid in town whose parents drove a lime-green car with black-and-white houndstooth interior.

I remember when I didn't have bills to pay, an apartment to clean, deadlines to meet or doctors' appointments to make. I remember when my parents were young and active, not the demanding, forgetful nonagenarian and the overworked, stressed-out caregiver they are today. And I remember when a decent proportion of the day was mine, not taken up by the needs of employers and children (as loved and wanted as they are).

But I also remember that when I was their age, I couldn't imagine a time when I would be my age now. I know that for them, "the future" means next week and "the distant future" means their next birthday. I know that they can't imagine ever feeling any differently from the way they are now.

So all I can do is sympathize as best I can and let them feel the satisfaction of being misunderstood by adults who have no idea what life is like for today's youth.

One day, they'll be the ones who don't understand.

What I love about my children today:
The way they cheerfully helped pick up each other's rooms - no small feat, considering how reluctant they normally are to keep their own bedrooms neat.

My daughter saying to her brother, "I have a spot in my heart for you as big as this house."

My son saying to me with a grin, "Okay, I guess I have a little spot in my heart for her, too."

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What I Loved...Jan 3

Again, a late-night quick recap - but at least I'm sticking to week 1 of the resolution. Longer post tomorrow, I promise.

What I loved about my son today: His writing style - expressive, humorous, not always perfectly accurate, but often insightful. He got a near-perfect score on a social studies test today for answers like this:

[What would happen if there were no checks and balances?] the government would go ka-bonkers! Nobody would be agreeing and nobody paying checks.

[Discuss the meaning of "the pen is mightier than the sword"]: The pen exspresses thoughts. And the sword only kills the living.

What I loved about my daughter today: Her love of math. Unlike her poor mom, who struggled mightily in elementary school (a teacher once wrote on my report card, "Shana needs to learn that math is not the enemy"), my girl already seems to have a knack for numbers. She can count small quantities by sight, catches on to new concepts and beams with pride when she finishes a page in her workbook. Hearing her say, "This is so easy!" is a daily joy for me.

I hope she continues her smooth sailing on the choppy waters of mathematics. (Okay, I'm not as good a writer as my little boy. I admit it.) Is it too early to introduce her to Danica McKellar?

My kids' first few years of school have been a good ride so far. Let me never take that for granted.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What I Loved About My Kids on Jan. 2

Fine. So it's early morning on the 3rd. I made a New Year's resolution, and I'm going to keep to the spirit of it, if not to the precise letter.

What I love about my son today: His spirit in the face of an annoying medical intervention. For the last 6 years, he's been enduring twice-monthly desensitization shots to treat his numerous environmental allergies. Say what you will about medical measures, but since he began treatments, the endless coughing spells he used to suffer from October through June have stopped. Heck, he barely even gets colds anymore.

He hates getting the shots - what kid wouldn't? - but he goes to his appointments with only a minimum of fuss, and amuses his doctor with his monologues about LEGOs and Star Wars. Today, we got the good news that he's not reacting to pollen as much as he once did, which means we can start weaning him off that component of the shots after this spring. His grin was even bigger than mine.

What I love about my daughter today: Her thoughtfulness. When I mentioned hating cold weather and being glad to come into a warm house, she ran into her room, got her fluffiest throw and put it over me. So typical of her. She's the first with a hug, a sticker, a picture or a cup of water when she sees someone she loves in need. May she never lose that compassion.

Nice going, kids. Can't wait to see what I'll love about you today!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

So This Is New Year's...

...and so it's time for new beginnings, expressions of gratitude and good intentions.

We spent a happy end to '11 visiting the Bronx Zoo, followed by a pilgrimage to the annual party of good friends. The kids have been attending since they were barely old enough to toddle, and they're happy to stay up past bedtime as long as there's a TV on, M&Ms in the dining room and noisemakers at midnight.

I asked them if they had any resolutions for 2012, and the answer was a resounding "Nope." They like themselves just the way they are, thanks. And maybe I can learn a lesson from them. If they're comfortable in their own skins, and are good, decent people at heart, why should they worry about setting goals for themselves that matter mostly to parents? I might prefer that they keep their rooms neater or deal with their anger in ways other than name-calling, but those things don't really weigh heavily on the minds of elementary-school children.

But I'm a flawed adult and more concerned with such trivial matters as self-improvement and goal-setting, so I'll put out some well-meaning vows on this, the first day of '12.

This year, I'll try to live more fully in the present. I was lucky enough to get some new clients for my freelance writing this year, which has made for more work - and potentially more visibility - but it also has the potential to keep me mired in the world of deadlines and superficial pursuits. I promise to look up from the computer every so often and put my attention to a spring breeze, a meal cooked with love, a child's question.

I'll lengthen my fuse. I tend to let the little things get under my skin, and I become snappish more often than I'd like to be. I won't stand for disrespect, but I'll acknowledge that my kids are still kids, and they're sensitive to the feelings of the adults around them. I want to finish my day with memories of love and laughs, not nagging and scolding.

I'll be a better blogger. It's a blast writing for a major website, but you readers might like to see more about this mom when she's not following celebrity baby bumps. I also have some ideas for actual Momsperiments that I'm eager to test out.

I'll post daily this year about the things I love about my children. Uplifting for you, meaningful for me, perhaps helpful for them in some way. So here goes:

January 1, 2012:
What I love about my daughter today: The way she hugs and holds on to me at night, her love so open, her need for loving contact so vital to her very being.

What I love about my son today: His thirst to learn everything he can about the things that fascinate him - from trivia about the Presidents to the facts about every single Star Wars character in all six movies and the Clone Wars series.

How about you? How did you spend your New Year's? And are you making resolutions, or do you take my kids' view that it's enough just to be who you are?