Posts Tagged ‘philisophical’

Let’s take a moment to recognize that I’m completely glazing over the 6-month blog hiatus that I have apparently just completed.

I have on at least a couple of occasions written about parenting, which is an absolute honor to have the opportunity to do.  This past weekend I re-learned an interesting lesson about my own vulnerability and my perceptions of my kids’ perceptions of me.  But first, of course, some back story.

My less-than-typical upbringing is by no means a secret, and has afforded me both tremendous challenges and wonderful opportunities along the way.  But when it came to personal freedom, my brother and I enjoyed a great deal of it…for more details on that, go check out his blog.

My mom was the master of the adage, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  And I’ll take that a step forward and say that my brother and I were also held accountable for our actions—in short, we owned our freedom, and if we were ever to make a bad choice, the punishment would be appropriate.  But another thing that she always was, even to her grave, was honest.  I’m sure I’ve said this before too, but if things were good—money, jobs, etc.—we knew it.  And if they were bad, we knew it too.  She hid nothing from us, likely due to the fact that she was largely on her own and needed a little bit of understanding from us if, perhaps, she just lost her job, or we were facing eviction from our apartment-of-the-year.

But much like her circumstance of single-parenthood encouraged a more open relationship with her children, I’d argue that a stereotypically traditional upper-middle-class household, with two parents and no significant financial burden, would automatically have less “openness” by default.  That’s not to say you can’t have an open relationship with your kids if you’re in the latter category, or that you are guaranteed to if you’re in the former…but speaking strictly statistics, I’d wager some amount of money that my original claim holds for a majority of cases.

So…honesty versus open relationships: If my relationship with my children is not as open as my mother’s was with me, does that make me less honest?  The lesson I learned is, at least this past weekend…Yes.

As a single parent you have less support…this goes without saying.  But as a parent in a strong marriage, I have less of a tendency to depend on my kids for the support that they need, and accordingly, I have a greater tendency to sugar-coat reality.  This is entirely backward from how I was raised, though.  I believed, early in marriage, that my parenting style would be largely based on my mom’s, but it turns out that I’ve strayed from that quite a bit.

One thing I was particularly good at as I grew up was dealing with illness.  Not major chronic illness, but colds and influenza…so good at it, in fact, that I didn’t miss a single day of high school due to absence.  I always have been good at tolerating being sick myself, and was never afraid to be around those who were sick in fear that I’d catch it.  My wife, however, is the polar opposite: she is for all intents and purposes a glorified germophobe, and she would prefer not be caught dead or alive around someone with the flu.  When she was younger, she had a particularly disturbing experience with vomiting, which has pretty much ruined her on the situation (it’s interesting to note that her brother had a similar experience with vomiting that tainted his perception of a certain toy, but that’s his story to tell).  In any case, you could imagine how well we balance each other out when it comes to having a sick kid: I am much more comfortable being close to it, so the kids will never feel alone when they’re down.  Likewise, I’m a bit (read: extremely) lazy, so when everything is good, I tend to contribute less to the family dynamic.

There’s just one problem, though: her neurotic behavior and reaction to illness, something that early on in our relationship was extremely frustrating to me, has started to rub off on me after a decade-and-a-half of being with her.  In some ways, it’s similar to how my sensitivity to noise has changed after spending so much time with her, in that our house is a generally quiet place in spite of having two kids; my brother has several times in the past referred to our family as “freak mouse people” in response to our complaints about noise.

In more ways than not, my daughter is very similar to my wife, both in looks and in personality.  My daughter is quite possibly the most conscientious person I know, and is very quick to emote.  And while my wife doesn’t like that all the time, I think it will make her an amazing person some day, even more than she already is.  But, as a result of this similarity, my daughter tends to react to the idea of being sick, and being around sickness, just like my wife does.  This can lead to nervousness, crying and sometimes nausea.  Irony is a fickle mistress.

Enter Saturday night: I spent the day with my brother, friends and family celebrating his upcoming marriage.  Not your typical bachelor party, but perfect for the audience.  As we approached the evening activities (a bar hop), I started receiving messages from my wife about our daughter panicking for the next day’s events (innocuous, but nevertheless a concern for her at the time).  And while I know that my daughter tends to overreact to things all the time, she has an uncanny ability (as does my wife) to recognize an oncoming illness, and so I’ve become more sensitive to it over time.

Now, the “me” of 10 years ago would have dismissed it.  No worries, no problem, just a kid being nervous.  But the “me” of now, the married-for-7-years, kids-for-6-years self, started to panic.  I became immediately nervous, even nauseous.  Oh, and I had to step out of the bar we were in for a quick cry, because I needed to vent the emotion somehow.

The next 25 minutes of the story is relatively insignificant, but the end result was that I was headed home to take care of the situation.  My daughter needed me, so I dropped what I was doing and made arrangements to get home.

The motivation for this entry comes from the ride home, and the conversation I had with my brother-in-law who was gracious enough to come get me.  What I discovered in the short exchanges with my wife, and my reaction to the stressor, was that I didn’t have a single bit of the “me of 10 years ago” left.  Or at least, that’s how I felt at the time.  I was scared.  I was panicked.  I was nervous, and shaking, and crying.  And I explained to my brother-in-law that I was ready to throw in the towel, and that I didn’t have what it took, on that day, at that moment, to be a super hero for my wife or my kid.  His response: “Yes, you do.”

If only that had convinced me.  So I prayed, for strength, for the right words, for the ability to cope with it so that I could help my daughter cope as well.

Then I got home.  I walked into the bathroom, where my daughter had spent the last 75 minutes, and sat down in front of her and took her hands.  And I cried.  And I explained to her that the brain was a frustratingly powerful thing, that can make us feel scared, or sick, or tired.  I told her that I knew how she felt, because I was feeling the exact same thing, and that all we can do is try to realize that it’s just a feeling, just our humanity, that causes us this discomfort.

The funny thing is, it wasn’t a ploy.  It wasn’t reverse psychology.  It was me trying to convince myself in front of my daughter that it’s ok to not always be the superhero, to show vulnerability, and just lay everything out on the line in hopes that it’s an acceptable response.  I had no backup, just like my mom did all those years raising my brother and I.  I was brutally honest.

And it worked.  Shockingly, she started to calm down, and eventually found her way to bed, and then to sleep.  And the next morning, everything was back to normal.

I know that honesty is the best policy.  But I also know that shielding kids from this complicated world we live in has its benefits, too.  I guess the trick, one of the many you need as a parent, is knowing what the balance between those two things should be.  I don’t know it myself, but I have a better idea today than I did a week ago…so I suppose that’s improvement.

Thanks, as always, for your continued support.  Be well and stay tuned.