The Apple Has Fallen

Parenting comes with lots of responsibilities.

They can range anywhere from minor (getting them to guitar lessons) to major (trying to teach them right from wrong.)  I homeschool my son, but in a sense, all parents are teachers.  From the moment your child is born, you are teaching them.  If you stop and think about it, it’s pretty scary.  Especially when you consider the fact that some of us aren’t really qualified to teach a dog to heel, let alone teach a child to live!

Regardless of qualifications, here we are.  I’ve been trying hard for the last twelve years or so to raise children that don’t cause people to run and hide in their closets when they see them coming.

I’ve been thinking about all of the similarities between me and my kids, and especially me and my son.

He and I spend a LOT of time together.  Literally almost ALL the time, really.  And it occurred to me that it doesn’t really matter what you try to teach–your children live their lives based on how you live yours.

And I thought just teaching them was scary!

I won’t say my son is exactly like me, because that wouldn’t be true.  He has so many good things that I don’t have.  Some of the things I’ve tried hard to teach him have stuck.  He is almost unbelievably open-minded and accepting.  He has great compassion.  One great aspect of his personality is that he has a tendency to see things in a very black and white way.  He doesn’t let people be wishy-washy.  He has this, “Okay, what’s it going to be?” thing that I can’t really explain.  And yet, he also has the ability to be very diplomatic.

Sometimes, though, I look at him and it’s like looking in a mirror.  It’s not looks I’m talking about–people say he looks like me, but I can see his dad in so many of his features.  He was spared my nose, thank God, and has his dad’s mouth (literally–figuratively it’s mine, believe me.)  But his mannerisms and expressions are so like me.  The little things he comes out with sometimes shock me, not because they are shocking, but because they are exactly something I would say.

In short, I’m a role model.  If that doesn’t alarm you, then nothing does.

While seeing my little expressions on my son’s face is amusing, it makes me hyper-aware of all those faults that I desperately hope don’t become a legacy.  I so much don’t want him to suffer from the same self-esteem issues that I’ve suffered all my life, so I have to watch making negative comments about myself.  My tongue tends to be sharp, and bitterly sarcastic at times, and already I’ve had to call him down for that.  I tend to worry obsessively over things, and agonize over decisions.  It can be crippling.

One of the worst things I see–a corpse floating to the surface of the old gene pool, if you will–is my supernatural ability to hold a grudge.  Oh! How I’ve tried to let this go over the years.  Though some would disagree, I’m sure, to me this is my worst quality.  I sometimes walk purposefully into  a room only to realize that I have no idea why I went in there in the first place, but I can tell you with photographic clarity some mean thing someone said to me in elementary school.  Really.

And I can see my son doing this, as well.  I can see the way he holds on to things that people do or say to him.  Heaven help you if he washes his hands of you, because he will never let it go.  When he’s finished with someone, he’s finished.  Period. I can’t imagine a greater motivation to improve my own life.  I never cared much about myself and how I turned out, but I’d do anything–even change my old hard-headed ways–to make my kids into decent people.

Of all the responsibilities of parenthood, this role model thing is by far the most serious.  Our children absorb everything we do or say.  Others will influence them throughout their lives–peers, teachers, relatives–but never doubt that you are the one.  Take a good look in the mirror–that face you see looking back out at you?  That will be your kid in a few years.

You’d better make sure you like what you see.


Teenage Nightmare

Contrary to popular belief, it hasn’t been all that long since I was a teenager.  I do actually still remember some of the details, though admittedly they are becoming fuzzier as time goes by.  There is also the possibility that I am just repressing the memories of that (not so) glorious time, and now that my own son is rapidly approaching that age, I begin to see why.

For one thing, the actual age bracket that constitutes a “teenager” seems to have stretched a little in the last twenty years or so.  I personally remember being a pre-teen around 13 or 14, and then a teenager.  Now there are tweens, which I think must be 10 and 11-year-olds, then apparently they jump from tweendom right into full adolescent idiocy. 

I speak as one who is attempting to parent one of these so-called tweens.  He is only 11.  Now, I have a sneaking feeling that I’m luckier than some, because my son is homeschooled, and therefore isn’t under quite as much pressure as his peers.  He still plays and laughs, and he’s not too embarrassed by me (unless we’re in public, or his friends are here, or the blinds are open, or it’s day time.) 

But there are some alarming warning signs.  For instance, he suddenly cares about his clothes.  Again, I am very thankful I don’t have to deal with a girl, because there would be tears.  Naked people in public disturb me, and when they are children, especially so.  I mean, do moms actually see that their daughter’s ass cheeks are out? Or their boobs?  Do they know that Tammy Faye is shocked by the amount of makeup these little girls are wearing?  As the mother of a (tween? pre-teen?) boy, my son is completely covered.  The bad news is that he completely covered by the ugliest clothes in the history of the universe. 

In the past, I’ve talked about how my ideas as a younger person were, in a word, stupid.  This is a good example.  I’ve always said when I had kids, I wasn’t going to get all wrapped up in clothes and hair, and that I would let them express themselves, as long as they weren’t naked.  

Crow tastes like shit, did anyone ever tell you?

Now my oldest is testing this to the limit.  I think his goal in life is to find clothing that bothers me on every level.  He has an uncanny ability to find the most hideous shoes known to man!  He goes in the shoe store and zooms right past reasonably attractive footwear, or at least ones that don’t trigger my gag reflex, and pops up with something that looks like it was dug up in a toxic waste dump.  And I, the hater of hypocrites, just smile and nod and pull out the ol’ checkbook.  His tee-shirts are okay, and mostly he prefers jeans, but the older he gets, the bigger he wants his jeans.  Why is that?  Eventually, I’ll be able to save money on the whole family–we’ll just all hop in my son’s jeans and set out together.  We will be able to use them as tent when we camp. 

Oh, and hats.  Don’t get me started on hats.  Even my younger, liberal, idiotic self always hated to see a guy with his hat on backward.  I didn’t get it.  I still don’t.  I happen to think my son is a handsome young man with lovely eyes and a great smile–then he puts that damn backwards hat on, and he might as well put a bag over his head.  I try not to say anything, because I absolutely believe that teenagers do what they do for the shock value, but sometimes, with the hat, I can’t help myself.  I’ll lean over to him and sort of whisper, like it’s a secret, “Hey! Psst! Your hat’s on backwards!”  He isn’t amused.

Just lately I’ve finally seen the surfacing of some of that teenage attitude.  There’s a lot of heavy sighs–once I was forced to ask him if he was having an asthma attack.  He hasn’t quite worked up the nerve to roll his eyes in front of me, but I know he’s tempted, and I figure when my back is turned, he rolls those big ol’ brown eyes just about right out of his head.  He’s getting this thing where he has to have the last word, and sometimes he goes off mumbling.  In other words, he’s pushing a little farther every day.

Some of you out there raising actual teenagers are probably rolling your eyes, too.  I know I “ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”  Some of my friends have girls the same age as my son, and they are already wearing makeup, shaving their legs, and dear God, they have boobs already!  What is that about? 

And some of them are so mean.  They are already getting into that catty, nasty, girl crap that I always hated, but I don’t remember dealing with it quite this early.  It alarms me.  These aren’t just girls who don’t have good role models or whatever–these are girls who I know have solid homes and stable family lives, but it’s almost like they have split personalities.  It makes me wonder about my own son, and how he acts when he isn’t with me. 

I guess my biggest fear is my own ability to deal with this whole teenager mess.  I’m a hormonal basket case myself–can the house really hold two of us?  I’ve never been world-renowned for my patience, even when I had hormones, so now I’m doubly dangerous.  I don’t think I can take door slamming and “I hate you’s” and all of the rest of the teenage drama.  What about when he starts dating, and, God help me, driving?  There aren’t enough pills in the world. 

I think I’ve freaked myself out a little.  Maybe I’d better quit while I’m ahead.  I know what will calm me down–Ian’s at soccer practice, so I’ll sneak outside and bury some hats.

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