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The Parent Trap: The Most Difficult Job
Being a parent. The most political, difficult job anyone can experience. Ask any parent whose kids are at certain ages, say, 8-10yrs, 12-15 yrs, 16-21 yrs, or 25+, and you will hear a wealth of information, trials and tribulations, parent lamenting, wonderful moments about the most simple events and unconditional love.
You will hear the same kinds of remarks, like, "been through that", or "what a wonderful age" or "wait until they are teenagers". Newbie parents are inundated with advice from their own parents, tons of how-to advice books and talk shows. Having a single kid or more, all have their challenges in different ways.
Being a parent will always be "on the job training" despite the avalanche of info. What may apply to another kid, may not work for you, so you need to tweak it to make it work. The reason is because your child arrives as a clean slate. Despite it being a clean slate, they arrive with distinct personalities which form. Your child is their own person and by 5-6 yrs, the parent sees this. If you have more than one, the juggling and complications multiply due to the different personalities, which MAY NOT BE COMPATIBLE WITH THE PARENT. Face it, you child may be a young personality that evolves over time which agitates the parent. The result is constant conflict. Just as you may have a co-worker whom irritates you for whatever reason, your child could be simply a young version of it.
The first 5-6 yrs of their life is the La-la time. Everything is fine because as a parent you control all aspects. Once they go to school, your influence and control begins to lessen and each year after 1st grade, it continues to diminish. The outside world heavily influences how they are, want to be, how the parent interacts with the child. As the parent, you try to be the "cool" parent not a ruthless dictator and only laying down the law when boundaries are broken. You want to hang out with them, be part of their world yet persevering as the "parent", when you need to be.
It is like walking through a minefield. As the parent, as your child grows out of grade school and into high school, you continue to adjust. You are bombarded with youth styles, fads, music trends, all which keep you young at heart, even though you might be 45 or 55. You buy into some of it for acceptance purposes-a politcal move or maybe new is better. Ask a 50 yr. old parent who has a 10 yr old. They know who Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus are. They know how "in" peace signs are. Now ask a 40 yr. old whose kids are already out on their own, they would not have a clue!
But as parents try to fit into their young adult lives, differences develop and the closeness that once was present even a few years ago is gone. You no longer can do certain things, look a certain way, say certain things when "friends" are present. The child begins to view the parent in a total different light, yet the parent has no clue this is going on until there is an "issue". Parents often do things or say things thinking they are cool when trying to be part of their child's life, yet when viewed from the child perspective, they think it is embarrassing and stupid, yet they say nothing. As parents, we might jokingly say something to them trying to be cool and find out many years later how badly it hurt them and how it totally backfired. The "later years" maybe long after they have left home, when a specific incident they remember is brought up and the parent is astonished and cannot even recall it! Of course, the same is true on the reverse.
A great example is the movie with Colin Firth, " When was the last time you saw your father?" Must see for ALL PARENTS.
When the kids have flown the nest, there is a void. If things go wrong with your kids, you may blame yourself in some way or you may not. You may wonder why your close relationship back long ago is now remote and you are lucky to hear from them once a month or worse. Again, you feel slighted, you wonder what you do did that was wrong? You gave them all you had and now you rarely hear from them except on major holidays.
Now that you child is an adult, the relationship is totally different, yet remains the same. Its weird and you never get use to it. As the parent, habits are hard to break and the habit of being a parent remains and there is that eternal parent-child conflict over some issues. The parent can no longer discipline their adults kids as if they were 10 or 15 yrs. It is more like an "advisor", and you phrase it that way.
The bottom line for all parents is that there are only some black and white right or wrongs, most everything else when raising kids is gray. The older your kids become, the less control you have. Threats to them are only effective at times. Having kids will keep you young at heart due to the exposure to their world, unless you wish to remain out of it. Kids provide wonderful memories and tragic ones, depending on how things develop. What you recall as a parent is usually not the same that your child recalls on the same specific event. How you say things really do impact your child but often it is how you said it, that leaves an impression well into their adult life. As a parent, you seldom recall how you said anything as it is only for the moment and nothing more. Yet, the child thinks otherwise.
The trip through this minefield is well worth it. Do the best you can and cross your fingers!