Today as I was driving back from picking Tyler up from the place he is living now, I had a frightening realization about our relationship.
I was driving him to his first day of work at Subway, then picking him up again and taking him back 'home.' I brought him a box of oatmeal because I know he liked that brand. We had an ugly parting of ways in June but I'm his parent and I love him and I guess I'll go out of my way, forever, to help him out. I realized that now, at 37, I fully understand what The Giving Tree felt like after that bastard kid swung on its branches and cut all the wood to build his own selfish ass house. What a dick. But that tree kept on giving and giving and that mother fucker of a kid didn't give anything in return. Hmmmm
When I was 5, that book was a favorite of mine. It's one of those kid books with a deeper social meaning but a 5 -year -old just knows the tree is sad and the tree was only happy when that damn kid was happy or so it seemed until the end when both the kid and the tree are just sad and lonely and dying. Fuck that book. Fuck that kid. The moral of that story is don't be a selfish asshole. The end.
That's not the only children's story that is sad and depressing. No wonder we all need therapy. I was scarred for life by being read aloud the book, Where the Red Fern Grows. My 5th grade teacher read us this book about dogs dying while we were all gathered in a circle around her stupid wooden rocking chair. Reading this book to a group of children is cruel.
First of all, the book builds characterization of the dogs so you develop a loyalty and love for them. Then, the author kills all the animals in the book so you are left bereft, devastated, and speechless while trying not to show any emotion in a group of bullying 10 -year -olds who will call you a cry baby at lunch or until you move away and go to a public school, where, I heard, everyone just punches you in the face.
Of course it's a depressing book. The problem isn't Silverstein, the problem is all the hippies...who thought it was so sweet 30 years ago. It's not sweet - it's as horrible as the real world. He just uses the cute cartoon/children's book format to present a horrible reality.
So welcome to the world, kiddies. And when you grow up, try not to turn out like that little shit.
Anyway, When I had Tyler I was 18 and I didn't know shit about babies or anything else for that matter. There wasn't Internet yet, so I guess he is lucky I kept him alive for this long.
Plus, I didn't have much guidance after the age of 12 so it seems pretty natural I would have my own kid to raise is a haphazard manner.
I felt inadequate as a kid and was afraid of most everything, especially adults. I like to think it's because of my religious upbringing that I feared authority and most of all, hell. As a result of my own insecurities and fears, I wanted my child to fit in and follow the rules partly, well mostly, so he didn't make me look bad and so people wouldn't find out that what I knew was nothing at all. This did not happen. Tyler made me look bad a lot. I mean all the time. Like every day. He didn't follow the rules. He didn't listen. He wouldn't sit or stand or do anything on command. He especially wouldn't work in a group.
Society, for some reason values group work. There's no I in team! Shut up. And when your kid won't do what society values, society blames you. Tyler is 19 now and, as delineated in my previous Tyler blogs, the kid has been no picnic. In fact, he has been a cluster fuck nightmare.
When I picked him up today we were talking about his new beginning, college and somehow group work came up. I finally told him the truth about group work. Group work sucks and it always will. It's totally an exercise in who will back down first and let the bossiest person in the group finish the work because the other people just start not giving a shit. I'm sorry I made it sound important.
It is fucking awful but something you learn how to deal with without stabbing yourself or others.
Working with other people amounts to a group of people trying to come to a consensus about a task and then putting that task in motion. The process is infuriating and frustrating. There are many, many, many things that I disagree with Tyler about, but what I admire about him is he always maintained utter disgust for things he deemed total bullshit. Whereas I tolerate bullshit and generally keep quiet (when I can), he has always railed against it with a fervor equitable to saving yourself from drowning in the ocean surrounded by sharks.
I have 2 little girls now and my older daughter is beginning to develop her own ideologies and theories about life and the way in which she wants to live it including what kind of bullshit she's going to put up with. I would like her to take the road of least resistance and give in, fit in, and otherwise not make me or herself look bad. Being a parent, however, is not about me. I want her life to be easy but not passive.
As parents we try to correct the mistakes we feel our parents made with us. So, I put her in gymnastics and dance, both activities I felt I was missing as a child. Perhaps I would be more outgoing and friendly if I were able to express myself freely through the art of dance and gym tricks. I thought maybe less religion and more jazzy dance moves is what I needed as a kid.
My theory isn't working. AnnaLei does not need what I didn't get. She needs what she wants, not what I want. AnnaLei does not want to sing and dance and be smiley. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say she will find group work a bunch of bullshit.
My task then, as an older, wiser parent, is to realize what my daughter's likes and interests are and for that matter, disinterests are, and make her feel okay about her choices. I need to let her find her own path. This means I might have to shut up. Since I have little girls now instead of a boy, the parenting game changes a bit too. Boys are expected to be somewhat less mature than girls and therefore can get away with more ludicrous or silly behavior. Girls are expected to be, well, girly and well, sweet. Both of which make me vomit in my mouth a little. If you want to be girly and sweet, do it. But don't do it because there is a unwritten social code that says you should.
I also brought my son to church when he was younger so he could have a good background in religion and what a religious experience can mean to a person's life. Billions of people practice a religion and religion brings people peace, faith, hope and some kind of understanding of things we can't understand. It's important. To other people.
The last time I checked Tyler proclaimed himself a Buddhist. All the Boyscouts, Sunday School classes and AWANA programs did was convince him that religion is a way to placate the masses and amounted to his version of organized group work of which he wanted nothing to do with.
Now, I've intentionally downplayed religion so the girls don't feel stifled by a code of rules in a book that seem impossible if not unreasonable to follow and then worry about every misstep as a one way ticket to an unknown place called hell. I'd like them to know the basics and even the Bible stories but never will I force them to accept or denounce a religion or the religion of others.
Today I realized that I don't care if my children make me look bad in society's eyes. Well, anymore.
I want them to be comfortable expressing themselves and their opinions in a society that often does not value a child's viewpoint or self expression. Being outwardly defiant does not go over well though. Just ask Tyler.
Since my kids are engendered with my rebellious genes and my what new bullshit is this attitude, I can only expect they will continue to question society's expectations and I hope they do. What my task is now as a parent is to help them differentiate which battles are worth fighting and when, in the name of common sense, it's time to back down and accept that in each life a little bullshit must fall.
I'm hoping to fully equip my girls with the critical thinking to question authority that needs to be questioned (i.e. Catholic Priests, Assistant Football Coaches or shady Girl Scout leaders). It is unadvised to question all authority, but it is not a negative trait to be wary of something that doesn't feel right. I see myself as a guide for the grey areas of life. I want my kids to be savvy, not slavish. It is my hope I can teach them when to call someone out on their bullshit and when to stay quiet and just nod along.
I'm probably over thinking the whole endeavor of raising children and I wonder if any adult in my life gave a flying shit whether or not I was able to differentiate life situations. Probably not. One day my kids might be in therapy complaining about me and how I was always up in their business just like I complain that no one was up in mine.
I don't know if I'm doing the right thing. I don't know if my kids are going to the right places or taking the right vacations or playing the right sports. I don't know if there is a formula for an athletic kid who is good at school and respects authority and his or her fellow man. I don't think that any product of my gene pool can be all of those things at the same time anyway. I'm not sure I want them to be.
Like the stupid tree, I want my kids to be happy even at the cost of my own personal happiness and sanity. I want them to sometimes make other people uncomfortable by pointing out untruths. I want them to detect inconsistencies in thought and theory. I want them to point out inequality and fight battles that are worth fighting. I want them know when to fight and when to back down. I want them to be confident speaking up when something isn't right. I want to raise strong girls that know their words and actions are powerful tools. I want them to know that what they don't say sometimes has more consequences than what they do say. I want them to rally when rallying is needed. I want them have quiet dignity but fierce convictions.
What they also need to know is that you should not strive to be like that tree. Do not give all you are to any one person at the expense of your morals, beliefs, or spirit. Do not give yourself away to make someone happy. Do not compromise who you are for any man, religion, or institution. Additionally, do not be like that bitch kid who took all he could and gave nothing back. Give back, even when someone hasn't done anything to deserve it. This last statement seems to somewhat contradict the previous statement. That is true. That is why I am here to be your guide, not your tree.
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