Parents are tired. It’s a fact. Any parent who isn’t either has minimal custody or a nanny. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day bullshit and responsibilities. You all know I am the first one to say to cut yourself some slack. They will not in fact die if they eat drive thru when you are running late. Their feet won’t fall off if they get dirty. No one has to know you bribed them before going in just so they didn’t do something that makes you want to kill them while you’re in <insert annoying location>. No one is perfect all the time.
All that said, do not forget the main goal of parenting (and yes there is a goal). The goal of parenting, lest you forget it, is to raise functioning, competent adults. To slowly wean your children from your interventions and teach them to take care of themselves by incrementally giving them more and more responsibility. No one wants their child to weigh 300LB and live in their basement while subsisting on pizza and thriving on friendships they have acquired through playing online games alone. It’s not healthy and ew, hygiene.
My girls’ aftercare program is preparing to send the children to Epcot. I learned this when I went to pick them up. As I read the form, I was excited for them and remembered how much I enjoyed field trips growing up. I start tuning in to the concerned conversations around me. I was confused that many of the parents are having a freaking cow over this. “But it’s three hours away.” “What if they lose my kid?” “That’s a long bus ride.” “Are they trained to handle this type of trip?” The list goes on and on.
Let me start by saying that the aftercare director has single-handedly turned around our aftercare program. It wasn’t a negative experience before but with her changes, I see what we were missing. My children take Zumba, architecture, yoga, and art (there is other stuff but they talk a lot and I forget crap). There is a curriculum independent of what they are taught during the day and they finish their homework before any of this even happens.
The reason I say all this is that these wonderful people are good enough to care for these children while we parents have to work. I wish I could be there with homemade fresh baked cookies every day at the bus stop but that’s not my life. I drag my ass to their school after running myself ragged all day and finally get to see two of my favorite people, whom I see the least over the course of the day. These skilled people make sure I can keep my job, you know, to feed the kids and stuff. I hear it’s frowned upon to not provide food, clothing, and shelter…so picky.
The school campus is not a magical place. They do not lose their enchanted “child whispering” powers if they get on a bus. Most importantly, those kids are safer on a bus than they are in the parents’ Mercedes while they are texting and judiciously ignoring them while on a “work call”.
These parents have forgotten the goal of parenting. All children are gradually going to grow up and move on. They will experience things without you and they absolutely should. Doing so in a controlled environment with child care professionals is the best possible way of allowing them to explore this. I know it does not seem like it now, but your children are going to grow up. They are going to drink, have sex, and if you don’t fuck it up, move away.
My peers that had the most trouble growing up were the kids that had overprotective parents. They were hands down the biggest drunks, and slept around the most, because oh-my-God-no-one-is-here-to-regulate-me-every-second-of-every-day-and-did-you-know-you-can-drink-any-time-you-want-and-college-provides-hot-guys-like-everywhere? Part of parenting is slowly letting go and letting them learn to regulate themselves while still in a safe environment.
While I have mixed feelings about my Catholic schooling, it did teach me about safe rebellion. We wore uniforms. One day, we were having a class discussion about why we would get detention for wearing the wrong color socks. The very honest Theology teach said, “so you have a safe way to rebel”. That made sense then and still does. If you can rebel by wearing the wrong socks, you don’t need to use drugs in the bathroom. One can “stick it to the man”, without doing any real damage.
I know how hard it is to let go…believe me….I know. It is still healthy and necessary. We know that you cannot always be there. Children have to take responsibility and figure things out. All of these things start from day one. You let go a bit more every day and pick your battles. I fight when I need to fight, and tell my kids to suck it up when I have to. None of this is fun, but it’s parenting. And what’s the goal of parenting? To grow people. Adult people, who can function without you. If you need your kid to need you, you should find a new hobby, and probably a therapist.
The next parent who complains that their son keeps moving back home and lies on the couch all day; ask them if they ever kept him home from a field trip to “protect him”. If the answer is “yes” then tell them they deserve it….then slap them for me.