While I (thought I) brought my children up to be grateful for all their good fortune, I’m finding that they often act like whiny millennials, claiming unfair treatment, bad bosses, “exhaustion,” long work hours, undue demands on their time, and generally being put-upon at work. What I want to say is: buck up, buddy! Be grateful you even have a job! You are in an entry level position, and when your boss says jump, you say how high! Quitcher bitchin’ and Do. Your. Job! It’s so galling! But I listen quietly without too much comment and hope that they either grow out of it or change their last name. But, ugh! Or should I say, ugly!
Biting My Tongue
What self-control and self-possession you have! Holding yourself back in the face of misplaced righteousness on the part of your children takes enormous restraint! So, that sound you’re hearing? It’s my applause. You can only hope that your child, or children, are calling only you to vent, and that once they get it out of their system and hang up the phone, they resume being the lovely human beings you know they are. You, of course, lose 10 years off your life with every phone call, wondering where you went wrong as a parent, whether there is something fundamentally wrong with them (their behavior, their happiness, their resilience, their lack of grace), if they will grow out of it, be a constant complainer or worse yet, if they are just going to be, dare I say it, unlikable. But at your darkest moment, remember all the ridiculous phases you went through when you were younger. Then remember all the ridiculous phases they’ve already passed through and know that, in all likelihood, this is one of them. Our children are definitely not likable all the time, but I’m sure if you asked them, they would say the same thing about us. Don’t rise to the bait, don’t agree with them when you don’t, practice a lot of neutral listening with “um-hm”s instead of advice and judgement, and when all else fails, pray. If it helps, keep in mind that this whiny, hierarchy-defying generation is also the generation that gave us Black Lives Matter, Me Too and lots and lots of upsets in the last election. Many have used that indignation to change the system.
Besides, you pretty much lose control of your kids the day they taste Kraft macaroni and cheese for the first time, so by now, you should be an expert. Walk softly, carry a big shtick.
I’ve been the primary caretaker for my three young children while working part-time (we have a part-time sitter as well). Recently, I’ve been told that I need to travel for work here and there. While I relish a little time to myself, I worry about my little guys being upset when I have to leave. Advice?
Worried about the wee ones
Worry not Worried, have I got a plan for you! Fool proof and inexpensive, this scheme shall set you free. It all starts with the universal parent go-to fix-it strategy: bribery! If you, like me, once claimed that you would never use bribery as coercion while raising a child, you can stop reading here. At that point I was naive and sanctimonious. I have since come to recognize that I fell into a category best described by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish in the very first sentence of their amazing book “How To Talk So Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Kids Will Talk.” It reads, “I was a great parent…before I had children.” Nuff said. Needless to say, I quickly got on board the bribery train once I realized that the reward of a single M&M quickened potty training by many months, possibly years.
My sister, who travels a lot, gave me this fantastic tip: For every day you are gone, go to the dollar store (a mother’s best friend) and get a crappy toy, stuffed animal, princess wand, rubber snake, deck of cards, or bag of marbles for each child. Wrap each gift with wrapping paper procured at the aforementioned dollar store (or use newspaper, kids don’t care!) and then hide them in groups of three (if you have three kids) around the house with the kids’ name on them. Let’s say one of your hiding places is under your bed. On a notecard you will write something like: “Violets are blue, roses are red. Where does mom sleep? Look under the _ _ _” Put the notecard in an envelope, tape the envelope to a window (a visual representation of how long you’ll be gone) and label it Monday. Do this for every day you are gone. In one fell swoop, you will have gotten your children so excited they’ll be peeing in their pants with elation every time you take a trip, while at the same time throwing in a little spelling exercise and day of the week recognition! Win-win-win! A clear conscience for the price of two lattes. You can now put your tray table down, recline your seat, drink some mediocre white wine out of a mini bottle and nominate yourself for Mother of The Year.
My almost 14-year-old daughter has taken to posting photos of herself on Instagram in revealing clothing. I think she looks beautiful, and I’m happy she is exploring her identity and how to express herself – although I do have a quiet concern that she may be putting herself at risk in some way. I am trying to balance that concern with my desire to maintain the strong and open connection my daughter and I share. Her older sister and I have come to blows over this, because she believes I’m being too lenient. Should I be taking a stronger stand and insisting my daughter prove to me on a daily basis that her Instagram account is set to private? I don’t want our house to become a police state.
In a quandary
I applaud your good will and respect for your younger daughter’s independence. It sounds like your support of her is unconditional and that is, in and of itself, amazing. Hopefully, that will not have to change. However, there are many reasons why it’s not a great idea to post pictures in revealing clothing on Instagram or any other social media.
First and foremost, there are safety concerns. There is no telling who sees the pictures, where they may end up and whether a viewer may want to meet the model or become obsessed with the model. That is the scary scenario. At the same time, I get that you would like to model sex positiveity and be supportive of your daughter’s identity exploration. Unfortunately, the internet is not always sex positive and/or supportive of your daughter’s identity exploration. To say nothing of the fact that one day, future employers and schools will be combing through her social media. Far more powerful/accomplished people than she have been felled because of something they said or posted on social media when they were teenagers.
I totally understand your desire for the house not to become a police state. But you are the grown-up in this situation and have to put things like safety and common sense over being friends with your daughter. Perhaps there is an option that explores the middle ground. Can you sit down with your younger daughter and explain your concerns about safety, about future employers and schools seeing her posts, about the difference between feeling good about (and respecting) yourself/body and putting it out on social media (which seems a little less self-respectful) because body positivity is wonderful, but being smart and knowing how the world often works is also wonderful. The trick here is to be an advocate, not an anvil. Treat her as an adult, even though you know she is not, and bring examples of people who’ve been undone by things they posted while young (older daughter may come in handy here). It sounds like you have a lot of good tools at your disposal (honesty, good will, empathy). And, as always, when the amatuer tool box is not enough, don’t hesitate to call in the professionals. We don’t hesitate when the sink is backed up or the toilet doesn’t flush, so let’s not hesitate when our children are showing similar distress signals. Good luck!
Dear Gabby appears in the RoundTable every Monday. Yes, Gabby is an advice columnist – but not just any advice columnist. Because that would be boring! Gabby combines wisdom with wit. And a pinch of snark. She is not a trained therapist by any means, but has seen and loved many in her day. Her aim is to make you think while she makes you laugh. Gabby welcomes all questions and queries and is only too happy to hear your opinion, no matter how much it may diverge from hers. Write to Gabby at firstname.lastname@example.org.