Stuff I Know

The Mister and I have this crazy idea that the goal of rearing children is to create productive adult citizens who help make the world a better place. As people send their kids off to college for the first time and weep about it for days and days, we find ourselves perplexed. We don’t know what’s going on that people are overwhelmed by this. We make a focused effort to understand and be supportive, but it’s really all we can do to wrestle our tongues with one particular thought, “What did you think was going to happen?!?”
We thought that was the goal?

I mean, if they’re not going to college, then they gotta go somewhere, do somethin — trade school, military, fall in love and make babies, find a nice cardboard box, backpack across Europe, rent a crap apartment with five other kids — somethin! Am I right?
I’m certainly not immune to feelings or sentiment, but every milestone a kid passes should be bittersweet — not traumatic.

I’ve done 13 twice. I think 13 is a big deal. A kid who’s 5 years from adulthood should be self-motivated and largely independent. Bubba was neither. He was very typical on the teenage lack of motivation and nowhere near independent.
“Are you doin that walkathon thingy?”
“Do you have some paperwork?”
“I dunno. Maybe. Somewhere.” *watches 4,000 loose papers pour from bookbag* I could tell you he was a preemie with developmental delays, and that he had ADD and his social skills suffered, but really, at 13, I’d say he was lazy and petulant, and that his brain probably had a graphics card three sizes too big for his head. His 11-year-old sister could take better care of him than he could. At 13, Sissy was so competent at ‘life-ing,’ we probably could have abandoned her anywhere, and within a week, she’d have a job and a place to live.

My point here is that all kids are different, and parenting is a per-child adjustment.

Sassy’s nearing 13 and as such, her perimeters are growing with her responsibility. She’s incredibly mature. I don’t know why, maybe she’s an old soul.
In the last year I’ve had to do really awful parent-y stuff, stuff that’s bad for my anxiety — let her go and watch her fail.

I don’t mean that with cruelty, but that’s how it goes. They have to fail like the rest of us. To learn. Life is a lot of trial and error, and if we’re always there, they don’t learn nearly as much. As soon as you give them a shred of autonomy, they fuck up. They’re supposed to. Remember young you? I do. I was a good kid, but I still look back and think I was naive, reckless, even stupid at times. My parents were super duper laissez-faire, so I had plenty of time to be an idiot and learn from my mistakes.
My mistakes.
I made them.
They expected me to make mistakes.

We get heartbroken when our children suffer. We suffer with them, we suffer for them. It’s tragic. But I take such great offense at this popular trend to hover over and intervene in every aspect of a child’s life to prevent anything from happening. It creeps me out, like Santa, like puppeteers, like deus et machina.
If we prevent anything from happening, NOTHING HAPPENS.
We’re not trying to protect our children, we’re trying to protect our children so we can protect ourselves. We think we’ve got it all figured out, we know what’s best, so we’ll make all the best choices, and our children will do what we tell them to, want what we tell them to, like what we like — that is not how it works — not even a little bit. On the off chance that your kid does any of those things, you feel pleased, and rightly so. But you can only take so much credit, and you can only accept so much blame, on either side of the pendulum. Did you score that winning point? No? Well you didn’t fail that entrance exam, either. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

So — with Sassy, it has begun. She knows she’s involved in the experiment that is herself. More freedom, more privilege, more responsibilities, trust, expectation, reflection, consequences — these are all discussed. In the last year:

— I let her go to the fallow field to play with her friends, unsupervised. She lay down in the tall grass and immediately got contact dermatitis that lasted for three days. I had to check her and her two feet of hair for ticks.

— I sent her into the grocery for a gallon of whole organic milk. She came back with whole milk. Enjoy the extra hormonal shifts!

— I sent her into the transportation office to claim her own lost bookbag. I don’t think she’ll leave it on the bus again.

— I made her write her own essay on the application for independent study. She got in.

— I let her stay the night with people I don’t know. They walked to a gas station to get snacks and a Redbox at 10pm and she got scared.

— I let her go to the movies at night! with people I don’t know! They didn’t buy tickets early enough and had to go again the next day.

— I dropped her off at birthday parties in crowded public places with people I don’t know. She had a good time.

— I let her go to a pool party with strangers. She did not put the sunscreen on her face. Her face was red and painful for five days.

— I make her carry her own damn cello, and laptop, and bookbag, onto the bus, all at once.

— I let her roam the neighborhood with a group including BOYS.

— I make her go ask for her own things, like packets of ketchup, library books, shoes in her size. People give them to her.

— I leave her home alone.

— I let her join Goodreads and now she’s friends with strangers.

All of these baby-step things terrify me, because I don’t trust the world and at this point, I’m only hoping I can trust her. For her, I’m frightened of everything. I don’t even like to let her walk home alone. What if Stephen doesn’t get off the bus with her? Anything could happen! She could get hit by a car or be abducted and sold into sex trade! I’ve been known to stand in the street and will her late bus to arrive. Yes, I believe motherhood is strong enough to summon 15-ton vehicles, don’t you?
Denial is my most convenient vacation destination, y’all.

But I let go. It’s a leap of faith, and as each of them grow up, I gotta let go more and more and more…
…until leaving is no big deal, because they’ve been treated like and acting like adults for some time now. This has always been the goal.

I’m not some kinda parenting role-model, but I do enjoy sharing what I’ve learned. I like to think I’ve done 13 better every time, but I look at Moo, and I think, at 13 she’ll be like, 10 inside…and I know my greatest challenge lingers still.

Maybe SHE’ll get lucky.

About joey

Neurotic Bitch, Mother, Wife, Writer, Word Whore, Foodie and General Go-To-Girl
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44 Responses to Stuff I Know

  1. Dan Antion says:

    I think your children will grow up more capable and sure of themselves than any kid within a short distance of mommy at 18 and a collection of “Participant” trophies on the shelf that mom still dusts every Tuesday..

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Made me think back on my younger years and also about how we would have raised any kids had we had any. Really enjoyed this. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. baldjake70 says:

    I had involved parents. In my opinion, sometimes they were involved more than I would have liked. I fight the imprint of my upbringing experience when it comes to our children. Their victories in life are not my experiences, but I am happy for them. It has less to do with me, and more to do with what they were willing to put into something to get there. Their failures I worry may sometimes be something I failed to instill in them. That being said, I do not want to be so involved that once they leave the house I cease to be a person because they are not there anymore. I also do not want to be so involved that I forget who I am in the framework of what created them, a person and a partner in something that continues to exist after they move on to write their next chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. reocochran says:

    I think for me, I was not really “sad” per se, when each of my 3 baby birds left the nest. No, I felt lonely. This amped up more when I was in the anxious 40’s trying to save my house, husband and profession. They were leaving me alone with a husband who wasn’t working. Not his fault but still so much pressure.
    As far as lessons go, I love my parents letting me get on a public bus with 2 other 12 year olds, riding to Cleveland International Airport and then boarding a train of sorts to the Terminal Tower. At the same time, my long best friend daughter of a farmer was “allowed” to ride her bike to her friend’s house, a farm or two over.
    Oh my goodness, Joey! You and the Mister are very good parents who allow your children “experiential lessons in Life.” I am thankful for my parents Trust and Love. Your kids will be or already Are. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      I can see why the emptying nest would add weight to an unhappy marriage. I get that. THAT is a very good explanation for your feelings at the time. Like watching happiness leave, hm? Good stuff, Robin, thank you for sharing that.
      It’s funny, isn’t it, what some kids can handle and what their parents will let them handle? I’da been on the train with you, as would my older daughters. I’da been picking up my son, who would have missed his train and probably sold the family cow for magic beans, lol!
      I do hope the trust component stays on. I have this feeling that the pressures are much greater than they were when you and I were children, but that of course, is my own perception. Still, I have to prepare them.
      Thanks for your encouragement and support ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • reocochran says:

        I like how you mentioned your girls and you would have been on the ride to downtown Cleveland with Diane, Becky and me while your son may have become confused. I have one “directionally impaired” daughter who literally headed West on a highway bypass to get to Easton Town Center, a shopping center built like a “town.” I am usually worried as she heads off to see people, finding the longest possible route to get to Chicsgo, another example. 🙂
        Thanks for understanding and responding to the impact upon my emotional state in my last marriage. “And then there was one.” On the funny/flip side of the coin, my youngest daughter and I lived 2 summers her last 2 years at UD, as “roomies” in my one bedroom apartment. Two rod iron twin beds and we started saying nightly prayers. Joey, we build a lot as parents and she does go a week without calling now. I am like my parents who frowned upon too many “calls home,” so I say, “No news is good news.” 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • joey says:

          I agree, no news is good news 🙂
          When I was growing up, I was very close to another little girl who lived alone with her mother, and I remember often feeling jealous of how they had their girly house, fulla girl things, and did only girl stuff. I imagine that time alone with your daughter must have been a dream of sorts, good bonding time. I know when I get my mother all to myself, I feel all kindsa special and savor every moment.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. It is a really tricky job bringing up children, and I agree with you that we do have to let them loose now and again and hope that they are mature enough to deal with it. I know I worry myself sick sometimes as it is hard not to be over-protective 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Parenting isn’t for the weak or timid! Great post. Your kids are so lucky to have you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Benson says:

    Praise be! It is so nice to read about a parent (parents) who understand that raising a kid does not mean hovering over them 24/7. You teach them and love them but eventually you have to let them go their own way. Does it hurt? Hell yeah but it’s just something that has to be done. So I raise a glass to you and the Mister.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. ouidepuis1 says:

    Yes yes yes. I agree. The main thing once you start the treacherous journey that is parenthood is it stops being about you; it’s about them.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Sammy D. says:

    Written with such wisdom and love. Makes me smile for all of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Anxious Mom says:

    I think the only milestones that don’t crush me are the talking ones. Yes, please, tell me “milk” Baby Girl instead of screeching while I figure out why you’re screeching by trial and error 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  11. You need your own TV show. All of this is so true. Kids are coddled so much today they are grossly unprepared for the real world, and expect miracles as adults. They don’t apply any effort to these miracles, and want others to fix them.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. cardamone5 says:

    Excellent post, Joey. I am in a similar situation as my twins just turned 13. We have not let them sleep over anyone’s house yet, or roam the neighborhood. But, this year, wait for it (gonging that begins to sound louder)…we are letting them walk home alone the two and a half blocks from the closest late bus stop. It’s a process for everyone. To quote the movie What About Bob: “Baby Steps.”


    Liked by 1 person

  13. garym6059 says:

    High five from me for “OLD SCHOOL” parenting. I hope I am as brave when my daughter is that age because the world is definitely different than when we were little!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Oh I like this very much. What I also find strange is children who have a desire to live with their parents well into adulthood. I am baffled by this. I really like your style of parenting.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This reminded me of a woman I know. She would not let her daughter sleep at a friend’s house because the friend had a brother. I wonder what she’d do if her daughter had a brother!
    I often wonder how some kids will survive when they leave home because I swear the parents still pick our their clothes each day!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. jan says:

    I’ve known many parents who are frightened of letting their children make mistakes and suffer the consequences – it’s kind of sad. I’m sure you did the right thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I couldn’t agree with you more! My parents dropped me off at college, gave me a hug and a kiss, told me to call once a week, and drove away. No tears! Of course I was 3rd of 6 kids – my mom cried like a baby when she dropped my sister (the youngest) at college. The rest of us were like, “What the heck!” Lol! I guess you’re right about it being different for each child. Because my son has developmental delays, I have a hard time knowing how much space and independence to give him. But this past summer I started giving him more space and I think he likes it! And it’s kind of a relief for me to not feel the need to hover and mother him all the time (even though I love hugging and smooching him). I’m learning how difficult it can be to let go!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • joey says:

      Thanks for chiming in!
      That’s funny about the different reactions your mom had. It’s hard not to cry of both pride & relief when they get to college 😉 But you know, the last one means an empty nest — so probably more pride, more relief — the end of a chapter.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good point! Most likely she felt a bit of relief to have one less mouth to feed at home when she dropped us older kids off at school, but my sister was always her “baby” and that made it a whole different experience for her.

        I do think it’s a good idea for teens to have a little wiggle room to make mistakes while they’re still at home and close to mom and dad. It’s good for them to know they can screw up and you’ll be there to help them through!

        Liked by 1 person

  18. I’ve always thought it was interesting that they required 12 years of school to go to 4 years of college and then on and on. MVD requires a written and a vehicle test and then there are boats and planes. But, we’re young, in love, have wonderful sex, produce an offspring, and are left on our own to do the best we know how. It sounds like you and your hubby are doing just fine making the tough decisions while keeping your sense of humor. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  19. markbialczak says:

    You do parenting right, Joey. Different kids, different ways, same goal. Productive citizens. Yay for trial and error, ups and downs, learning and building upon it!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Sounds like you’re on the right track to me, hon. My parents did not baby me. They got divorced when I was six and I grew up with my dad—saw Mom every other weekend. My dad went on dates on the weekends, so I was alone at home from a young age. I also took the city bus to school on my own when I was in middle school.

    It terrifies people when they hear about this sometimes, but…I could handle it. Made the adulthood transition a hell of a lot easier for me than other kids!

    Liked by 1 person

  21. meg68 says:

    I’m gobsmacked by the similarities of our mother rumblings Joey!
    I just wrote something (almost) like this..
    We anxious mums are a thing yo!
    Moo will be ok, she has a clever Mama xx

    Liked by 1 person

  22. mihrank says:

    your title of the blog speaks by itself with great discipline!


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