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."

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