Monday, October 26, 2009

It Takes A Village--BS!!

Before I had children I had several perfect theories on how other people should raise them. Once I had my own, it suddenly became a day to day, kid to kid, adventure in humility. I did learn a few things over the last 30 years, though...

First and foremost, it does NOT take a village to raise a child. It takes decent parents (adults), preferably two--but, it can be done by one. If you dump the job on somebody else, you won't like the results. You will, however, still get the blame--and the bill.

Women, you can't sit in a bar after work every day, expecting kids them to raise themselves, while you look for "Daddy" # 1, 2 or 3.

Men, you can't marry the first housekeeper/babysitter that will say "yes" and expect them to raise your kids for you.
YOU have to be the adult and start children before they get in trouble. If they are never left with any doubt about who is responsible for their actions, they stand a much better chance of growing up to be productive adults. If they come home with a strange bike, skateboard, clothing, or anything else that you know does not belong to them, nor could they have purchased, YOU need to step in and resolve the situation. YOU march them back to the store, or neighbor's house, and make them face the music. People will respect you for it and will go a lot easier on the kid if you do. Yes, your little darling will be humiliated (maybe even crying) but they will not want to repeat the experience. They will also know that YOU won't let them get away with it! If they do accidental damage to somebody else's property stand beside them while they explain and apologize. YOU may have to make reparations but your child will learn that they can come to you with any problem.
"I'm sorry" and "Excuse me" should be the first words they learn after Mommy, Daddy, please and thank you. Teaching the manners and common decency is one of the best investments you can make in your children. Their future as successful adults depends on social skills.
The teen years are the hardest and you have to be extra vigilant. Check on them. Know where they are and who they are hanging around with. It's better than having the police show up at the door with them--or worse, without them. Rules are rules--stick to them. If they know YOU will be checking on them they will be less likely to be hanging out with losers or in places they don't belong. Teenagers will always try to get something past you, regardless, but you will still have the upper hand--they aren't nearly as smart as they think at that age.
Every time I hear a parent say, "I'm honest with my kids. I tell them everything", I could gag. If you feel the need to emote on your misspent youth, for crying out loud get a diary! Don't tell your kids every last thing you did wrong in your life. They don't need to know that you got pregnant before you were married or arrested for joy-riding or shoplifting as a teen. You can't tell them not to smoke pot and regale them with stories of your own--nor can you smoke pot and tell them not to. Hopefully, you are a different person than you were as a teenager (I know I am) and all you owe them is the current version--or how we wished we had been . Your mistakes and regrets don't belong to them. To admit to the unnecessary is to remove a taboo. You will only hear, "Well, YOU did it", someday--guaranteed! When they become wonderful healthy adults you can choose what to share (but why bother?).

I don't know how many times I've heard somebody say, "Well, if my kid is going to smoke or drink I don't want them sneaking behind my back so I let them don it in the house!". I call bullshit on that one! They shouldn't be doing it at all and making it comfortable and convenient certainly isn't going to dissuade them. Even if you aren't a great example, yourself, you are not obliged to support their bad habits. You provide shelter, food, education, and love. If you have too much extra money spend it on tutors or dancing lessons for them--not cigarettes and beer.

Planned, or unplanned, they are your children. No excuses--it's your job to raise them. Don't expect the school, the ex, or "the village" to do it for you. If you love them and provide them with reasonable rules and guidelines it's hard to go wrong. Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes but we recover and try harder.

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