What’s been the hardest part of parenting so far?
Well since you ask … OK, you didn’t ask, but I’ll tell you anyway!
It’s not any of the obvious stuff: keeping the kid fed and clothed and educated and all. It’s the psychic burden of watching him learn how to be.
I recently attended a memorial service for a guy who was loving, kind, generous, loyal and hilarious … beautiful qualities in a human being. But what constantly astounded me was how effortlessly COOL he was… ahead of every curve, completely sure of himself … because this, my friend, has never been one of my descriptions. Although … now I’m a little more at ease with my uneasiness, which, I guess could be considered cool. In a twisted sort of way …
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Occasionally, though, I still catch little whiffs of that old junior-high aroma of insecurity seeping through my pores … Someone unfriended me on Facebook? (Was it something I said? Probably.) Some of the other moms don’t talk to me much? (Could it be that they just don’t know me very well? Possibly.) Do my spring clothes this year reveal thighs that are a bit curvier than last year’s? (Yes!) This uneasiness is not my favorite personal odor, but it still oozes out every now and then.
And it’s all well and good for me – at 52 – to smell it and move on, but when I smell it wafting up from my child, it breaks my heart. I want to nip it in the bud … to yell out like Barney Fife did in an episode of The Andy Griffith Show, “NIP IT! NIP IT! NIP IT!” This perfect miracle of a child that is my son is barely 10 and he worries about this kind of stuff… “How can I be popular?” “Why isn’t Joe Schmo nice to me?” Even “Am I fat?”
Sometimes he gets the quick and unstudied reply from me: “Being popular is stupid!” and “Joe Schmo is a shmo!” and “Your body is perfect!!”
And sometimes I am able to take a deep breath and NOT react all cray-cray when he says this stuff. I mean, I know these are legitimate worries for a kid – questions he is really pondering.
So I try to calmly tell him stuff like:
Being popular doesn’t mean as much as having a few really close friends who “get you.” And, sometimes when people are mean, it’s not about you; it’s about something else that is happening to them or something they are feeling about themselves. And, relax and enjoy your body!
Honestly, I wish someone had told me this stuff. When I was 9 and went on my first diet I wish someone had said, “You are 9. Nine-year-olds have tummies.” That would definitely have saved me a bunch of heartache, including nearly killing myself with eating disorders.
You know that movie “The Breakfast Club”? In high school I longed to be perky, well-dressed Molly Ringwald … but in fact, I was much more like funky, socially awkward Ally Sheedy … and I should have embraced it.
I wish someone had pointed out the nice, offbeat kids and told me, “These are your people – enjoy them!” I actually knew this and had friends in all the “Breakfast Club groups,” but … stupidly kept chasing the stars … I mean, the Emilio Estevezes and the Molly Ringwalds were so pretty! And those kids were on to me, let me tell you. They knew I had no business going to Pizza Hut after the football game to drink pitchers of illegal beer with them … with my trying too hard, my weird music taste, fondness for fantasy literature and not quite good enough looks.
That said, I’m not sure I would have listened had someone bothered to tell me not to worry about being popular and universally liked. Heck, maybe somebody DID tell me and I completely blocked it out! For sure, my kid is not listening to ME when I tell him!
This is honestly one of the hardest parts of parenting so far – watching him work through all this. I figure the best I can do is just tell him that all kids feel this way. That they’re all just figuring out how to be … maybe even my friend the effortlessly cool guy felt like that when he was ten. Nah … probably not!
Contact Julie Moore (really; she’ll appreciate it) at firstname.lastname@example.org