Friday, February 17, 2012

On Their Own Two Feet?

My eldest is going to college next year. As much as I'd love to go with him, I can't because I have other stuff I have to do. This is going to be a big thing for both of us, I'm thrilled for him and nervous and excited and scared and even a bit jealous. There's a whole new world for him to discover and I get to watch him do it (in moderation). There's the point of this entry, HE gets to do it. It's HIS turn, not mine. We're not going together, I'm not doing it for him, this is his time to go forth. Every parent faces this moment, it's how we handle it that separates the men from the boys here. If we have done our jobs properly, we will have equipped our offspring with the tools to succeed. We will have taught them how to cope and overcome, how to problem solve and stand up for themselves. In short, we will have taught them how to survive in the grown up world. Isn't that what we set out to do in the first place? He's going to screw up, he's going to make mistakes, he's even going to get hurt. I am confident that he will handle the situations that arise as best he can. He will not do it exactly the way I would, I would hope not.

I read an article last week about "helicopter" parents calling employers to get their kids promoted, a raise or more perks.

If I was an employer, this would make me look at that particular employee in a whole new way. I would start checking and double checking every single decision they made, I would likely never trust their decision making again. If they are not mature enough to negotiate their own raise, I cannot trust their business decisions. I would probably pass them over every single time a promotion came along. I'm sure some will say these hapless grown children probably don't know their parents are doing this sort of thing, but I contend you reach an age when you make it clear to your parents you are now a grown up.

These parents start early, from the moment little Juniper/Maximus/Griffin/Chloe took their first gulp of air, the 'copters have dictated every aspect of their precious spawn's existence. I have seen some of this with my own eyes over the years and for the peace and sanctity of the play group, have confined my reactions to the occasional eye roll. I have seen mothers spoon feeding a three year old, going into the bathroom with their kindergartener and picking out their school agers clothes. These are the same women that ultimately whine about their children's lack of decision making ability. I have seen parents drive coaches out of their jobs, reduce scout leaders to tears and intimidate teachers into changing grades. These parents are relentless in the pursuit of their darling's excellence, any failure or less than wonderfulness is a reflection on them. Every single achievement is shared, the child is not allowed to succeed or fail on their own merit. We are allowed to share in our children's achievements without it becoming about us. When did it become "we" and not "my kid" did well? Have I wanted to take over the science fair project and make it better? Yes, but I didn't because the project was not mine to make. I have called teachers about grades that concerned me, in a what-can-we-do-to-help-the-boy-do-better kind of way. My eldest has been treated to some of the shittiest coaching behavior I could have imagined and he refused to let me call and give said meatheads a piece of my mind. He wanted to earn his spot on the team himself. The hardest thing I've ever done is to NOT tell the football coach what I think of him and his coaching. I am proud of the fact that my son told me to back off and that he would deal with it himself. That's the goal.

I can't help but wonder what happens to the little Willow/Piper/Everett/Archers of the world. How do they cope with life decisions? Who decides when they've found "the one"? How and when do we propose? How do they buy a car, a house or decide on a job? What happens to these precious ones when the parents die? While I understand the urge to make things easier, to smooth the path for our kids, there is such a thing as too much. I see kids with an inability to cope with any decision that doesn't go through committee. They look for input from every possible source, texts, Facebook and practically a Gallup poll to make a simple choice between regular and diet soda. The existential meltdown involving the purchase of a prom dress is on par with the madness usually associated with a complete psychotic break. Along with a distinct lack of decision making skill comes an overwhelming sense of entitlement. The Maximilian/Barnaby/Daffadyl/Eternadys expect nothing less than If it's worth doing, it's worth someone doing it for you immediately. I see preteens deliberately trying to break their cell phones so they can get a newer, better, faster one. I see teenaged girls buying prom dresses that cost more than any car I've ever owned, and they cannot be worn more than once. I see whining because the car they were given for their sixteenth birthday wasn't exactly the one they wanted. I cannot understand how we, as parents, have not only allowed, but fostered this kind of thing. Where did it become necessary to indulge our child's every whim? Are these even the whims of the child we're indulging?

I can't wait for a time when I am only making decisions for myself...why on EARTH would I take steps to delay that moment?