Friday, July 29, 2005

Focus on the Children

Although I have no children, I have had many opinions over the years about [not] having them. Now that I'm a bit older, and have friends and family with children of all ages, I realize all of my concerns as a younger adult were not completely unfounded.

When I was a kid I always knew something was missing from our family. Although my parents have stayed together all this time, they are polar opposites in personality. My dad: scary, loud, impatient dictator, who can put fear in a person just by looking at them; critical, condescending, and always least as far as he can see. My mom: gentle, sweet, soft-spoken, god-fearing, and, in my opinion, somewhat naive. She has, for as long as I can remember, been made to feel by my father that she was uneducated and stupid. He wouldn't come right out and tell her that, but the precise words are not always necessary to get the message across. He was overbearing and what he said was rule, no questions asked. In fact, if you asked questions, it only made (makes) him madder. As a result, we have all adopted our own styles of dealing with him (and by "we" I mean me, my brother, mother, her mother, and my aunts/uncles on my mother's side). Some of us ignore, some fight back, some cower and do their best to avoid contact. It's difficult, even to this day, to have a constructive conversation with him, particularly if your opinions differ from his. My way of dealing with him has always been, and still is, to fight back for what I think is right. I'm not afraid of him, I know he would never hurt me physically, but he sure can find words that sting.

By the time I graduated from high school, I had decided I did not want to have kids until I was much older and had developed the patience to truly nurture them, AND was stable enough to be able to focus my time and attention on their needs, instead of turning them into little slaves to meet my own.

Then I met a guy who didn't want kids at all. After some consideration of that thought, I decided, huh! I can deal with not having kids - that'll just mean more [time, money, attention] for me!

Seven years and two relationships later, I find my biological clock tick-tick-ticking, and I can't help but wonder if that's what I really want. I'm surrounded by family and friends with kids ranging from 6 months to 12+ years old. I have a 3 yr. old niece that I would move heaven and earth for. But. As I watch their parents struggling I wonder, could I really handle all this pressure?

My generation has much different pressures than, say, my parents' generation. More single parent households, more media/celebrity influence, more superficial and self-indulging values than any before it. I see women dressing their 4-year old daughters in low-rise jeans and belly shirts and wonder, what the HELL are they thinking?! And then I look at the mother, who's fifty pounds overweight and dressed exactly the same way! Oh.

Now before all of you freak on me about the 'overweight' statement, please let me clarify something: I have no problem with overweight people. That is not my point. My point revolves around the example they are setting for their children. (Like, what are you selling, and to whom? Why does it all have to hang out there for everyone to galk at? You think you look like Britney Spears?! HA!)

The other trend I'm seeing a lot of lately is the lazy attitude parents are taking toward their children. As if the children are there to raise themselves. Granted, many children do end up having to raise themselves, their parent(s) are strung out, working 2-3 jobs, or are, in some other way, too totally screwed up to raise children, but are clever enough to keep it private. Children are left to tend to/fend for themselves. But, I'm talking about those that are, seemingly, of sound mind, and are relatively financially stable - like, for example, the parents typically displayed on Super Nanny. These people turn on the television to babysit their kids, incessently yell orders, don't enjoy spending time with their kids because they are too busy trying to control and manipulate their behavior. In other words, they are completely out of touch with their children and their feelings.

This is what was missing from my home: communication, loving communication that says you care about how your child feels, not the kind that lets them know how wrong they are and how mad you are at them for it.

The other thing missing was parental accountability. Parents don't like to admit when they are wrong, or when their actions and words actually hurt their child. And when you don't, you're not setting an example for how a person examines one's self and consider other people's feelings, and how to reconsider one's actions/words. If you don't teach them that, who will?

So, today, I'm asking all parents to just stop for a second and pay attention. No matter what your child's age, devote some time to just them - no TV, video games, music, phone calls, laundry, etc. They need to know that they are most important - their voice and their feelings.

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