In which Ariel discusses how seemingly innocent comments warning us about the teenage years can undermine the parent-child bond and how to stop them in their tracks.
Don't Demonize Our Children
I have yet to experience the parade of judgment meted out to new parents from the older, wiser more worldly veteran caregivers. This may be because of simple dumb luck. Or it may have something to do with the “I don’t give a beep” stare I dole out when I hear the judgment train rumbling down the track. Please do not misread what I am saying, I have received countless tidbits from experienced parents that have truly truly had a positive impact on my parenting. We should learn from others! Why make the same mistake twice? Learn from my foibles and do not (I repeat) do not give your child all of your backup luvies at once. She now needs all five of them to sleep at night. She counts them to make sure!
What I have experienced is the knowing look “seasoned” parents give when they warn me about parenting daughters. Their comments usually fall into one of three camps. There are the comments that demonize her like, “She may be easy going now, but just wait! You are in for it,” or the comments that sexualize her such as “Oh the boys will go crazy for this cutie!” or the comments that predict MY inevitable melt down under the hormonal tsunami.
To those individuals demonizing my child:
“She may be easy going now.” What does easy-going even mean for a toddler? If this mythical easy going toddler exists, Bean is far from it. This past weekend, we went to our first Mommy and Me yoga class. Bean and another little lady ran around in circles instigating a mini toddler moshpit whilst we - the parents – attempted to downward dog the tension out. Last night, I watched Bean elbow-drop my husband in the family jewels. It was intentional. Easy-going? I think not. She has more energy, more oomph than seems possible for someone of her diminutive size.
“But wait until she is a teenager. You are in for it!” Please don’t warn me about a possible future where hormones kidnap my beloved child. If I were to take your warning to heart, I would be bracing myself for a future which might not come to pass. With my head down and my body tensed waiting for the inevitable, I am not fully present with her. I am missing those small quiet moments that grow and strengthen our bond. It undermines our relationship in the present and sets us up for failure when our parent-child bond is tested. She might be a teenage terror, but don't wish it upon us, please.
don't demonize our children
To those individuals sexualizing my child:
“Oh, the boys will go crazy for this cutie!” Don’t. Just don’t. She has enough on her plate trying to figure out how to communicate, trying to master the art of eating with utensils, trying to learn that we poop in the toilet and NOT in the shower! She has years to figure out her sexuality, in her own time and hopefully at her own pace. Don’t put this burden on her tiny toddler shoulders; she will carry it her whole life. Let her be a kid.
The same can be said for boys. He is not a “lady killer” he is not “flirting.” He's on the prowl for affection and food, like every other baby or toddler. Period.
And let’s not overlook how damaging these comments are to our child’s relationship with the parent of the opposite sex. By sexualizing my daughter, my husband sees the woman she will grow up to be, and in that moment he may hesitate to show affection. By sexualizing her son, the mother is made to see the hordes of suitors she will have to fend off. Anticipating this she may hold him a little too close, sheltering him from the world when he should be exploring. These comments - made in jest - complicate the straightforward relationships of the younger years.
don't sexualize our children
And lastly to those individuals predicting my inevitable meltdown - don’t underestimate me. Kids can be jerks sometimes, even my “easy-going” Bean. There will be times when my child hates me. I know this. I am not underestimating how heartbreaking this will be. Our relationship will be strong enough to ride it out. I will be smart enough to know when to let her comments roll off my back and when to take them to heart. We will learn and grow together.
So next time someone tells you how the teenage years will sap your sanity you can always respond with, If you have something constructive to say or a resource to recommend, I'm all ears. If you're just opening your mouth to gloat or intimidate me, please keep it to yourself.”
don't underestimate us
To the next person who tells me “You are in for it,” I’ll respond with “ If you mean years of growth, parenting my fierce little warrior hungry for life then, yes, I am in for it."
Are you in for it?
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Ariel and Brianna are friends who met while working in a library. Now they collaborate to develop life-enhancing book club experiences.
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