Wednesday, October 12, 2011

growing up is harder

There are days when I would give anything to be a kid again. To have no cares in the world. To never have to worry about responsibilities. To have nap time (!). To be fearless. To feel and see and believe in positive things.

When you're a kid, all you want in the world is to be an adult. You want to sit at the adult table during family gatherings, not at the kid table. You want to be included in the adult conversation. You want to stay up past 8:30, drink wine with dinner, and be able to drive yourself places. And then? You grow up. And you realize that the adult table can get kind of boring. All people talk about there is work, news, and politics. You realize that not much happens after 8:30 . . . if you can manage to stay away that late after a long day at the office. Wine with dinner makes you even more exhausted. And driving means gas, insurance, a car payment, and endless hours of navigating traffic.

You learn that the grass isn't always greener.

I think this will be one of the most fascinating parts about raising a child. Fascinating and difficult. I will understand the desire to want to grow up, but I will also know what lies ahead. How will I balance my desire to protect my child from all the bad things, the disappointments, while wanting him or her to remain innocent for as long as possible? Or will other kids - anxious to grow up too quickly - shatter that innocence before I have a chance to stop it?

A couple of weeks ago, a child in our neighborhood, age 10, called 911 and told police that a man tried to kidnap him from his school parking lot about a mile from where we live. For three hours, police on foot and in the air searched for the kidnapper while the neighborhood stood by and watched - a nervous wreck. Parents were standing outside with their kids, probably wondering the same thing I was: Would our quiet little neighborhood ever be the same? Would kids still be out in the streets riding their bikes and skateboards? Playing with sidewalk chalk? Walking to each other's houses? Running around in the field out back? Splashing in the pool?

But it was all a short-lived nightmare. The boy, confronted with surveillance video, admitted to having made up the story. Time to breathe a big sigh of relief, right?

Not for me. Yes, I was happy that there was no kid-snatcher. But it led to even more questions and worries. Why would a child make up such a story? Such an elaborate story, at that. He gave a full description of the man, even telling police officers about the lettering on the "kidnapper's" shirt. (He's lucky some poor guy wasn't picked up jogging or biking along the main road outside of our neighborhood for wearing a similar shirt.) He scared the living hell out of his parents and the rest of the parents in the neighborhood. And he forced those parents to, in turn, scare their children. A day later, the news stations reported that the boy lied about the kidnapping after a fight with his parents about his after-school plans.

It's hard being a kid. Not being able to do what you want. Having someone tell you how to act, where to go, and what to do. But growing up is harder. Thinking your kid was almost taken from you. Thinking someone else's kid was almost taken from them.

And wondering how you would handle that situation as a parent.


Keiko said...

What a heartfelt post. When I read stories about abused (or worse) children, my heart just sinks. "Those people get to parent?" I think.

And then something like this, where the parents could be doing a fine job, and their child decides to make up a story. Because, in a kid's mind - what's the harm? They have no concept of man hours, overtime pay, and stressing out the neighborhood. To them, it's probably just like a movie.

It's things like these that both draw me in and repulse me at the same time, kind of like the upcoming movie, We Need to Talk About Kevin. The premise: a teen shoots up his high school and how his parents deal with it in the aftermath - is intriguing and at the same time horrifying.

It's like your worse parenting nightmare.

There's no way to predict this. There's no "let's be proactive" because even the best parents could be raising a kid with some serious issues that never surface until it's too late.

The most we can do, no matter how large or small the situation, is to be strong. To support our kids as much as we can, depending on the gravity of the situation.

Of course, I don't have kids, but this is how I imagine I'd approach this.

manymanymoons said...

I know exactly what you mean. I sometimes forget in this marathon to have a baby that in all honesty, compared to raising them, this will be the easy part (which send chills down my spine let me tell you). It's so scary to think that there is so much out of our control when it comes to teaching our kids and outside influences that can sometimes steal those opportunities away from us. I think the moral of the story is that parenting is the hardest job we'll most likely ever have.

Dawn said...

I think you just do your best, but we're all human and make mistakes. I also think that the idea of kids getting mad at their parents and lashing out is not uncommon. I remember thinking they would be sorry if I just ran away so many times, but I never packed my bags. I just think kids can create larger problems in the advanced society we live in today.

I think we just do our best to protect them.

Rebecca said...

It is things like this that sometimes terrify me about raising children sometimes. You can do everything right and there are still things you can't predict. But, you can do your best.

foxy said...

Since taking custody of HBear, my 17 year old cousin, two months ago we've been faced with so many 'parenting' challenges. The hardest is the realization that we have absolutely no control over her. All we can do is try to offer guidance so that she makes the right choices. And try to manipulate her into thinking that we might have some implied control over her decisions... Life has failed her in so many ways, and yet she is basically an adult who won't ever have the chance to be parented.

Its given us a lot to think about as we prepare to bring our own child into this world. With a baby things will start out so differently, but ultimately we only have control as parents for a very short period of time, and then it begins to disappear.

It is a lot to think about, and this kid in your neighborhood is a fascinating example of a normal kid trying to exert control over his parents. I can only imagine how mortified his parents must feel, but can also understand how powerless the kid must have felt in order to make up a story like that.

It certainly is complicated. I wish us all lots and lots of luck!