Experience vs innocence. Hindsight vs being in the moment. Being a kid vs being an adult. And then, there are the varying degrees of personality, intellect, environment. The idea of nature vs nurture, or the blending of the two. There’s just a lot. And most of it isn’t something we consider when we pass through the living room several times a day only to see that our teenage son hasn’t left his spot on the couch for hours. It’s also hard to remember all the angles, degrees, and depths that make up each of us as an individual when our preteen daughter—smart as a whip—decides to say fuck it to school. She only likes doing what she likes to do.
Raising kids is work. It doesn’t get any easier even as they grow and I grow. If anything, it gets more complex because I move farther away from the hard lines of “Do it because I told you” or “Do it because that’s what you’re supposed to do” to moments of consideration.
What’s wrong with sitting on the couch all day? Who is he hurting? Aside from reminding him to put his empty bowls, cups and silverware in the sink, and put his wrappers in the garbage, what’s he doing that’s so bad? How is it affecting me? He earns good grades. He exercises two to three hours each day. I sat around plenty when I was younger, but most of that seemed to come after I moved out, got a job, and was able to support myself. I could sit for hours on a Saturday watching VH1 and movies. I ate junk food and drank booze. I didn’t exercise. I told myself I had earned that right to be lazy on the weekend. When I was a kid living at home, I did chores. Most of those related to firewood. Carrying wood, splitting wood, stacking wood. I also helped my parents. I vacuumed, did dishes, hung around my Dad when he was fixing a car, mowing the lawn, tinkering in the garage. Kids don’t do that now. Not mine. Not at this age. Not when they have the world at their fingertips on TV, the phone, a tablet, laptop, or desktop. Parents and the world they try to drag their kids into each day with the brushing of teeth, cleaning of rooms, and showering just isn’t all that fun. And really, when they see all that’s out there, why does any of what their parents think or say mean anything anyway?
I get it.
What’s the point in learning how light enters the eye and how we see the world important when what we want to do is draw pictures, write stories, and read? So what if my daughter fails a class? Big whoop if she is getting Ds. It’s middle school. Doesn’t matter, does it? Just because I did my best to get As and Bs so that I could show my parents doesn’t mean she has to. Grades are meaningless in the whole scheme of things, right? I mean, if you met my daughter and talked to her for a few minutes, you would be sure she was an A student. She’s smart. Witty. Creative. I really wasn’t all that when I was a kid. Our measure of success was our grades and the color of our lunch ticket. Blue for the regular kids. Pink for poor kids. Reduced lunch. Blue and pink. Interesting color choices, now that I think of it. Somehow, I was able to work my way up out of the pink tickets.
I base my success today on hard work and working smart. I made more good decisions than bad decisions. My parents instilled good qualities whether they meant to or not. I hope that’s what I’m doing with my kids. I’m not sure. My boy got off the couch this morning. He is up in his room. Playing a game on his phone, I’m sure. It’s Sunday. Enjoy yourself, I say. There’s plenty of time left for this world to make you work. My daughter is sitting behind me. When I asked what she was working on, she said that it was her personal narrative. An assignment not due for a week in a class she’s doing well in. I told her she should focus on the two classes she’s tanking in. She explained to me why it’s more important that she does her writing. She’s a good bullshitter. Maybe it will come in handy one day.