The biggest surprise for most parents is that their kid isn’t who they expected him to be. Most parents start making parenting decisions way before they actually get pregnant. They know if they will co-sleep or not. They know what kind of disciplinarian they are going to be. More often then not they know what kind of school they’ll be sending their kid to and sometimes they even know that school’s name. They know what holidays they will be celebrating and how they will observe them. Prospective parents feel comfortable making these decisions because they know themselves. We all spend our lives observing ourselves in various situations and we can frequently predict how we will respond to specific challenges. Is it any wonder then that we allow ourselves to speculate on how we will respond to another human being?
The only problem is that perspective parents don’t know who that other human being is yet. Most moms and dads will admit that we have never loved anyone as much as we love our children. What we don’t tell you is what it’s like when someone you love that much consistently pushes you to the point of insanity. When a friend ticks us off we can take a breather. If our partner crosses the line we’re free to lose our temper or have a mini break-down without having to worry that our actions are going to affect our mate’s understanding of positive conflict resolution. If we don’t like the way a sibling is running her life we can (with effort) resign ourselves to the fact that it is her life.
But when our kid engages in behavior we believe is unseemly it’s a whole ‘nother ballgame. Yes, it’s still their life but we gave them that life. It’s inevitable that they’ll inherit some of our physical features but we also want to make sure they inherent our values and priorities. Furthermore we want them to share our likes and dislikes. But what so many of the parenting books forget to tell us is that children, from birth, are individuals. Yes, upbringing is important but different individuals will react dramatically differently to almost identical experiences. Any sports fanatic who gave birth to a child who would happily trade a baseball glove for a set of paper dolls will tell you that parental influence will only go so far.
This is an issue that always comes up for me in the month of October. I love Halloween. I always have. When I had my son I expected that my enjoyment of the holiday would enhance. I envisioned myself helping him get dressed up and taking him to Halloween event after Halloween event. I saw us decorating the house and trick-or-treating through the neighborhoods with the most elaborate decorations.
But my son isn’t all that interested in Halloween. Hanukkah? Yeah, he’s very into that, from the jelly donuts to the songs, to the gifts. New Years is fun too. But Ghosts and goblins? He’d really rather spend the day at a museum, thank you very much. He doesn’t like anything spooky so, as far as he’s concerned, there is no such thing as spooky fun.
And what about the candy, you ask? I’ll never forget taking my son trick-or-treating when he was four. After about seven stops he turned to me, thrust his goody bag in my face and asked, “Why are we still doing this? We have enough candy!”
It is my opinion that this unnatural distrust of excess totally goes against the spirit of capitalism. As a child I approached trick-or-treating the same way womanizers approach the task of getting phone numbers from multiple women: sure, I knew I wasn't going to get around to unwrapping every Dum-Dum inside my plastic pumpkin but knowing that I had been able to collect so many gave me a heady feeling of accomplishment.
And while we’re at it, why does my boy respond so well to that touchy-feely teaching style used in certain alternative schools? I never liked that stuff, not even when I was in preschool!
But my son isn’t me and to be honest he’s not the kid I thought he was going to be when I was pregnant. That’s not a bad thing. In a million years I never imagined I would have a child who would, through his enthusiasm and knowledge, instill in me a passion for science that I never really had before. Nor did I expect a boy who would be able to teach me about the wonders of Greek mythology by the time he was 9. I didn’t expect him to be…well, him. He, like every other kid, is more than a child. He’s an individual. I’ve had to dramatically readjust my well-laid parenting plans to accommodate that little fact. Even for a go-with-the-flow-girl like myself that has been tough at times. I have done almost everything I said I wouldn’t do as a parent. My son isn’t attending the school I thought he would attend and our recreational activities are different than what I expected them to be. I have not reacted to the challenges the way I anticipated because my planned reactions simply aren’t effective considering my son’s nature. It’s also true that for every lesson I’ve taught him he’s inadvertently taught me three. That’s the thing about individuals. They surprise you, they challenge you, they make your life interesting. When it comes to the individuals who are our children we can either adjust in a way that allows for the success of both child and parent or we can open ourselves up to depression and a host of psychosomatic illnesses. But if we do adjust the rewards are pretty phenomenal.
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SEX, MURDER AND A DOUBLE LATTE,
PASSION, BETRAYAL AND KILLER HIGHLIGHTS,
OBSESSION, DECEIT AND REALLY DARK CHOCOLATE
SO MUCH FOR MY HAPPY ENDING