Ideal Model of Parenting and How I Failed It

Contrary to what some might think, based on my previous posting, I am not a perfect parent. If you would ask me in a moment in which I can face myself and my failures, I would say I wasn’t even a good parent. Yet it is my belief that although we cannot fulfill always, or completely, an ideal model it’s not a reason to not strive for that model.

Right after the posting about parenting, a friend of mine pointed on FB this article (http://on.wsj.com/wpkb7J). I found it to be a more articulated version of my beliefs, something that bypasses my harshness (which was not intended). I cannot brag that I followed this “French” (idealized, I am sure) version of parenting. Due to pressure from job, I was aloof for a long time while my son was growing. I tried to impose some rules, create that framework the article talks about, but sometimes, when the framework was rejected by my son and upset him, I felt guilty, gave him speeches (in an absurd attempt to have him accept them of free will). Sometimes I got angry and yelled at him. Then, because I felt horrible inside (although my mind was telling me I am right scolding him), I gave him – like a bad referee – “compensation strikes”, trying to appease my conscience but confusing him (Now Dad scolds me, after 2h he takes me out for an ice-cream? WTF?!) I have a lot of moments when I failed in reference of this model described in the article. But it doesn’t matter so much because every time I fail, I shake all the dust and try to get back in the saddle. I explain to myself and, often, to my son, where I failed, I give a short explanation and an apology when it’s required and then I try to get back with the program.

The article describes everything I was trying to point out (in a harsh way I was told) in my previous article. Here are some of my comments based on the main ideas (no real order).

  1. Framework. I love the idea of autonomy within a liberal range. It is very similar with adult life: after all nobody tells us what car to drive, what job to choose but at the same time we can’t kill, we need to obey laws and rules, most of them set up for our own good (think about traffic rules). Inside this common-sense framework, children can and should have lots of autonomy.
  2. Stern voice and behavior. From my observations, most of the children, even the ones who seem uncontrollable, react very well and obedient to a stern voice asking something politely but without hesitation. On the other hand, I saw parents saying repeatedly “no, no, no” in an eternally patient voice and I think that children feel this lack of will and as such they don’t stop because they interpret it as a vague indication, not as a rule.
  3. Teach them patience and their place in family, society. Far from me exalting the harsh rules of the 50s education but, in my view, adults should not interrupt constantly an adult conversation to pay attention to all the silly things a child needs to communicate. Instant gratification creates the need of instant gratification; too much attention creates a dependency on constant attention.
  4. Not feeling guilty over imposition of these boundaries that create the framework. If we do it right, we are not harming them (even if they will shed some tears, or have a tantrum, they will not remain scarred for life), we don’t (should not) impose random rules but ones created out of love for them and stemming from the desire of them growing well-adjusted, well-integrated members of society. We can explain them why there is a need for these rules but the desire for them to suddenly see the light and understand is a very unrealistic one. In the end, as unfair it seems “because I said so”, is how most probably the conversations will end (not because we don’t have a clear and solid reason why we impose a rule, but because the children still want to do what they want to do and are not ready to accept that explanation)
  5. Adult time for us, time alone for them. We have our needs and problems. While parents, we are human and they, unfortunately, can’t really understand the pressure and the responsibilities we are facing. We are not appendixes of our children and we need a little bit (just a little) of time for our problems, for our conversations, for our well-being and this doesn’t mean that we abandon or ignore them. Both extremes are harmful (in my concept) – self-centered adults attending too much to their needs and desires, on one hand; adults turned into simple slaves of their children desires on the other.

I will say it again – there is need for balance in everything. We can improve parenting but not by throwing the common-sense out of the window. Our mission (my mission at least as I see it) is to raise a child who is comfortable in society, who can take on responsibilities as they come without thinking that they are unfair, who I know will be able to live a good life well after I am gone.

Just sunshine, wind and speed

If one reads my blog would be left with the idea that all I do is bitching… and it would an approximately correct impression. I wish I was blind, I wish I could simply enjoy life and not care what other people do or think… but that would just not be me. I always envied and blamed my father for having a quality that enhanced his life: being oblivious at everything that went around him. He would tell me often “Why do you get in fights with your mom? Can’t you just do like me: get a face appropriate with the topic, nod and just think about your projects and things you want to accomplish?” Well, the answer is NO. Now I know why – he probably has Asperger Syndrome, just like my son – and what he thought it was a developed trait it’s an inborn one. The only solution for me to be like him would be living on a desert island… and, with my luck, probably dying of appendicitis or something trivial, before I can get to a doctor. And yes – I used to blame him for withdrawing in his inner mind and letting me to deal alone with my mother’s nagging and dissatisfaction.
But no more bitching! Life is – as I often describe – interesting. No, you “shinny happy people” it’s not beautiful – sometimes is sad, other times is tumultuous, in spots is dramatic or happy… but it’s damn interesting.
Recently, as most of my friends know, I purchased a motorcycle. I had some money I was getting back from a credit card, the time is right and prices were very convenient, motorcycles attract women and I am a single dude… so I didn’t honestly was on the edge of my seat due to impatience. I was thinking also about all the hassle for the rider’s license, high-insurance for a new rider so I had my doubts. You imagine my doubts when, after a break of 13 years from the last time I rode, I had to take my new motorcycle home – I was yellow with fear, spun around a close-by parking lot until people thought I was crazy. But then it all came back to me… from the mist of my lost youth (don’t tell me that you found it!) the joy, the exhilaration of being in the wide open, fighting the wind, leaning in curves… I find it hard to describe the happiness that after just 1-2 days dawned onto me.
I was amazed how a simple object – I never believed in buying happiness – could bring so much pleasure, confidence in what is and what will be, and sheer happiness. When I sold my motorcycle – I think it was 98 – it was just like all my dreams of adventure, of open spaces, of the world being my shell had ended. I remember that when my ex would try to talk me into having a child I would tell her: “There is no 3rd seat on the motorcycle”… and then I would bend under the burden of my selfishness. And yet I sold it for all the correct reasons: I am a married man, I can’t kill myself, it’s not practical, it’s not comfortable. When I came to Canada, I flirted somewhat with the idea… but then I gave up. I used to joke (somewhat bitterly): “You know how I figured out that I am getting old? When I came to Canada my wish-list was: 1. Motorcycle; 2. Boat. Then I thought about the wind, the rain, the hassle… and I compared with the tranquility of the boat on an empty lake… and the new order has become: 1. Boat, 2. Motorcycle”. If I was true then, maybe it’s true now and maybe I found the perfect time-travel machine: the motorcycle. When I zoom across empty roads, my mind takes me back to the University’s campus where friends and I used to loiter on a fence and watch the spring wind blow up the girls’ skirts… It takes me back to a time where there were no deadlines, no real obligations or responsibilities. And then I leave the city and get in the middle of nowhere and the cool evening sends in my helmet the smell of “sinziiene” – flowers my grandfather had in the country side… and of dung… In a blink of an eye I am back to my childhood and all those enormous days of summer that ended in a story and listening to politics on a radio with lamps. And these memories are more like feelings than thoughts because I have to stay focused on the road ahead, scouring for rocks or potholes or some animal that might came out the woods.
If somebody thinks that I made a bad investment, think how much you would be willing to spend to be young again?! It’s all there, bottled in that V2 engine and it gets released into my body as I’m sprinting amidst the orange shadows of the sunset.
Yes, it’s true that after 1h of riding my buttocks are starting to get numb, I have a stabbing pain in my back but I simply cannot thing about them.
I am simply happy again. Not as happy as I could be if everything would be perfect in my life but enough to make days at least bearable if not even more enjoyable. I normally go to bed late and wake relatively early and that makes me somewhat grumpy. Now I am going to work with a smile on my face because I get to ride my motorcycle (although the morning rush can be quite unnerving).
Many people are asking me “Aren’t you afraid? So many accidents”. I am afraid – less now that when I purchased it but still the anxiety is somewhat high. Still, I ask rhetorical – why do only things that you are comfortable with? How can we become with new things, feelings, actions if we don’t experience them ever? I like challenges. Just like I love to do only complicated, presumably impossible things in my job, I also try to face any fear that my mind or my body flutters in me.
Yes, I am aware it’s still early to make long-term judgments. It might be that in 1-2 years the rain, the cold, the insurance or even a wipeout, would show me that motorcycle is not really for me. But then I will be able to lay in its grave my youth dream without regrets, love it and remember it if for what it was – a whim of crazy youth – instead of carrying it inside me as a frustration: oh, I could have been so happy if only I had the guts/the money/the X to do it.
I’m going back on my steps and maybe it’s not so wrong to look for happiness in things.