A post that got tossed around a lot at the end of the school year was this story, telling us all about how to give your kids a 70’s summer.
They’ll play outside all day! And make things out of scrap paper! And drink from the hose! It’ll be GREAT! And … most importantly… MAKE THEM DO IT! Because you TOTALLY can!
Here’s the reality: a vast number of parents try to do these things, and the kids will simply sit on the couch and mope. You can take away their electronic goodies, their internet access, everything. You can cajole, plead, threaten, yell, stand on your head. THEY WILL NOT DO THE THINGS YOU WANT THEM TO DO. Your fantasy will not play out. What you want and expect will not happen. It just won’t. Unless your kid was prone to doing those things anyway, in which case none of your excess work and planning would be necessary anyways.
A lot of us go into this “parenting” thing thinking we can make or break our kids. What used to be a noun became a verb to underscore just how ACTIVE it is. Admittedly, it is possible to facilitate our kids development, just as it’s possible to completely destroy them with abuse or neglect. But it’s also possible to try really hard to create an optimal environment for them, do the right things according to the best information you have and the best practices you have experienced, and get a completely different outcome from what you wanted or expected.
It is especially frustrating for parents of “different” kids — kids who fall somewhere on the autism scale, or who have developmental difficulties, who suffer from depression or OCD or any other brain chemistry imbalance, or even kids who just have a hard time living in this current hyper-competitive culture we have built around us. Summer can seem like one long Pinterest Fail.
It’s not going to get better when school starts, you know. It gets worse. You might possibly have a kid who will NOT do his/her homework, or loses it even if he/she DOES do it. You might have a kid who doesn’t want to move at all under any circumstances, but wants to sit in a dark basement like a mushroom. Yes, even if you take the electronics away. You may have a kid stuck in a fantasy world. Or who only cares about sports. I don’t know; there’s all sorts of ways your kid is probably disappointing the world at large because he/she isn’t falling in line with expectations.
I’m just writing this to tell you you’re not alone. And I know you’re trying your best. We shouldn’t feel like we just don’t know the magic formula that will fix it all, because there is no magic formula. And there is no “perfect.” Yes, we should all keep trying, the way we all kept trying to guess what was wrong with our babies when they kept crying even after we tried feeding them and changing their diapers. Okay, maybe we guess wrong sometimes; but that just means we keep trying. Not that we “did something wrong” we need to feel inadequate about. We just need to guess again and try something else.
One last note: the 70’s weren’t that great; we’re lucky we survived.