Still on the topic of my 14-year-old . . .
I went to his eighth-grade graduation ceremony last week. The auditorium was packed--standing room only. Parents, grandparents, siblings, and who knows who else filled the place. I told him on the way that I was the first of my own siblings (there are eight of us) to go to her high-school graduation. To the others, the event was less of an event and more of a reason to stay home and avoid the great hullabaloo. I don't recall much about my graduation except how strange I thought it was to see my classmates crying. I was so happy to be done with high school and so eager to move on to the next stage of my life that my eyes remained completely dry the entire night.
As I sat watching my son on stage, however, tall and handsome in his blue gown, I felt a couple of tears coming on. But I stopped them from actually falling because I realized that if I let myself cry or get emotional over every landmark, big or small, in my children's lives, I'll be a sopping mess by the time my youngest gets married. I decided last week to save my tears for my oldest's high school graduation, and even then, my emotions and I will have to negotiate how much I'll allow. This isn't to say I'm not an emotional person in general. I just have to pace myself. It's about staying sane.
Last night, my son told me his good friend had gotten his graduation gift--his junior high graduation gift: an iPad. I told him that was insane. "Mom, a lot of my friends got gifts like that. iPads, iTouches, $100 bills." I asked him if they'd asked him what he'd gotten. "Yeah. I told them I got a milkshake." And that was true. After graduation, my husband and I asked him if he wanted anything to eat. He wanted McDonald's and all he wanted there was a strawberry milkshake. So he got it, he shared a little with us, and we headed home.
Fortunately, he saw the whole graduation experience as a little nuts. "Why are we celebrating something we should just be expected to do? Graduate from 8th grade." And although I'm sure he'd love an iPad, an iTouch, or a few $100 bills, he doesn't expect any of that--which is a good thing since he won't be getting any of that.
I don't think we're creating a happier generation of children. In fact, I'd go along with those who believe we're creating a more depressed, a more easily disappointed, a more insecure, a more lost, a more confused, a more impatient, a more unsatisfied, and a more frustrated generation of children who will become adults carrying those same "mores" around with them into the work world and into their marriages and families. We're creating a generation of children who appreciated the Tooth Fairy well enough, but now also expect the Skinned Knee Fairy, the Cleaned My Own Room Today Fairy, the Managed To Shower This Morning Fairy, and the Graduated Eighth Grade Fairy. We're rewarding what should be the reward in and of itself. We're telling them that the parent-child relationship is about expectations they can have of us but not the reverse. The chore list on the refrigerator is now ours, and the "I know I disappointed you" admissions are ours.
Which leaves them with what?What do they get to claim as their own?
I'm sure his friends see my husband and me as the mean, stingy, unsupportive parents. And I'm okay with that, since I've never been one to give into peer pressure, whether as a kid or an adult. And if any of his friends' parents make their way here to my blog (which is doubtful) then I hope they're okay with me expressing my (albeit strong) opinion. I'm not saying I'm a better parent, which is good since this isn't a competition. I simply think that, as with our emotions, we need to slow down and pace ourselves before all of us--parents and children alike--end up as one big sopping mess.