Thursday, April 21, 2011

When parents don't know anything

You know the story. When your kids are small, they hang on every word you say as being right. Then, as they become more aware of the world around them they realize there are various views to the mysteries of life and that yours is but one of them. By the time they are in their mid teens, you don’t know anything. Then again, when you look at those same teens you wonder whom that imposter is
living in your home.

      My husband’s theory is that when a child reaches 13 years of age, aliens come down and remove their brains. He has no idea where those brains get stored, but they cannot be located anywhere on planet earth. You cease to have any sensible conversations with your children until they are around 21 years of age when the aliens quite suddenly return their brains. You just hope they get the same ones back that they started with, unless of course, they fortuitously get an upgrade!

      Ah, yes! Our children are indeed perplexing creatures! My daughter was an extremely strong-willed child. Many a time we got the ‘stink eye’ or the ‘roll eye’ from her because her will clashed with ours. How could we possibly understand her or her friends? After all, we were millenniums older than she was!

      So what do you do when you cease to recognize your teens? The best thing is to be prepared. Just remember when you were that age. What was going on in your world that made your parents’ thoughts and values seem so outdated? Talk to your children about the fact that there are many opinions and
views on every conceivable subject known to Man. Explain why you believe what you do and the benefits in following the values you have set for your family. This way they can more easily process others’ opinions and make informed decisions for themselves.

     Talk to them about the changes they will go through as their body matures. Tell them about mood swings and explain how to handle them. Be careful not to make so many rules that your teens just want to rebel.

      Don’t sweat the small stuff! Do not become the enemy! The idea is to NOT create distance between you and your teens. Make sure you keep a positive, upbeat attitude and a positive home environment. Stay involved with your kids.

      Create a safe haven in which they can make mistakes. Prepare them for the challenges and choices they will be faced with. Encourage them to just talk about their feelings and what is going on in their lives. They don’t always want an answer. They just want you to listen and be supportive.

      I was thrilled to hear my daughter tell me yesterday that she didn’t have a clue about what we went through as parents until she had a child herself. Now it has all become abundantly clear. Our parenting skills were challenged many, many times over with her, but what a privilege it is to have her as my best girlfriend now and for my husband and I to be given an open invitation to positively influence her children.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Boys in tights

I couldn’t help noticing the big debate that is going on at the moment about the young boy being photographed with his toenails painted pink. I am not sure whether it was an advertisement or a story, but it sure seems as though it is raising a lot of viewer response.

      Back in the day when we were growing up there was a very clear line that separated boys from girls. It didn’t matter whether it was in clothing or in toys, girls were pink and frilly and played with dollies and boys were tough. Boys played in the mud, played with guns, hammers and toy trucks. Boys were called sissies if they cried and when girls cried their mommies came running. Everything children played with emulated where they were headed – into a rough and tough workman’s world or into a mothering role.

      As time has gone by our style of toys has changed dramatically. Whereas boys wouldn’t be seen dead playing with dolls in the past, we now have boy figures created from loved cartoon characters. It started with Ken and then moved on to action figures like Batman, Superman and Spiderman, and more recently the little skinny legged ‘Woody’ from Toy Story.

      The hard-core line between frilly and pink and tough and blue has greatly diminished. In my mind I think that is great. Not all boys are tough and macho by nature and not all girls are gentle and sweet. Justin was about two years old and loved purses and little fairy dresses. His father was quite concerned about this, but decided not to make a big deal of it. As time went by Justin, quietly encouraged by his dad, became interested in Meccano sets and Buzz Lightyear. His little brother loves to watch the TV show “Strawberry Shortcake”. While shopping with his mom a few weeks ago, he decided that he wanted the little doll ‘Lemon’ from the same show. He made a wood-block house for her and took
her to Kindergarten. When he got home he said to his mom, “Lemon is a girly doll, isn’t she!” He put ‘Lemon’ away and that was that.

      There is never any fuss made about little girls wearing boyish clothes or playing cowboys and Indians yet there is a very negative attitude towards boys showing the least bit of femininity. Young women always appreciate men who show sensitivity. Guys don’t learn to be softhearted by constantly displaying a macho attitude and throwing their weight around. That is very unappealing to girls.

      Remember the movie, “Billy Elliott?” That poor lad was so terrified of his father’s response to him wanting to be a dancer that he hid the fact that he was going to dance classes for a long time. Eventually his father, a coalminer and very gruff man, came to terms with the fact that his son was living his passion and with great difficulty accepted his chosen path in life.

      It is vitally important to allow our children to develop their own characters and find their own identity. In no way am I supporting gender transfer, but by demonstrating extreme opposition to boys showing any feminine tendencies or sensitivity it can cause the child much stress and confusion. Instead, it is way more productive to gently guide them towards activities that are more male oriented without necessarily being tough and gruff.

      Children face all kinds of pressures as they grow up. As parents, we need to choose how we will deal with issues. The fact that two and three year olds may like dressing up in clothes of the opposite sex is hardly a big deal. They love to dress up. Hey, even adults like Robin Hood, Batman, Spiderman and Superman all wore tights and they were manly men! Lighten up and let the kids enjoy painting themselves and dressing up as they like. Life is short! What is a tutu between friends?