Childhood is confusing. If we rational, mature grownups are stumped by parenting choices and styles, just imagine how confused kids are. They are constantly stuck in between the sharp ends of non sequiturs and conflicting messages from grownups; messages that they are just supposed to take at face value, even when face value is a crock of shit.
Here are just a few examples of how we confuse our children by our well-meaning rules and lessons. Imagine how your child sees the world they have to navigate. No wonder kids throw temper tantrums.
1. “Stop being creative and start doing your work,” said a parent volunteer at school. Hmmm… isn’t creativity often the most productive and valuable part of “work?” Isn’t it at the heart of all the problem solving we expect our kids to do on their road independence?
2. “You are fat,” said my son honestly to a man we met. Nothing wrong with telling the truth, right? Yes, there is. Always tell the truth, but A. don’t tell a fat person they are fat, and B. we will continue to lie to you on most holidays, until you realize that we have lied to you all your life about jolly old men and bunnies who lay eggs.
3. “You need to clean your room and do your homework before dinner. Oh, now I guess you also need to clean up the milk you spilled on the floor. Oh, and the wall, too, since you missed the washing machine with the milky rag. But now, it is dinner time, so go wash your hands and sit down and use your manners.” Oh, my God. Who could do all this? We ask our kids to calm down and focus, but please do all the things we are asking of you. It would be enough to drive a person crazy. Oh, wait… kids are crazy.
4. “You’re screen time is all done. Turn it off, please. No, I can’t turn off my screen because I am working and I have to do that. No, you don’t have to play Minecraft. It’s just different, that’s why.” Wall-E, here we come.
5. Generally the pronouncement of “Holy crap,” or worse, by a child is met with some form of “That is not appropriate language. Please don’t use bad words.” But how does this line up with popular culture where bad words are everywhere from music to graffiti to forgetful grownups?
6. “Why do women show their boobs all the time?” asked my son, referring to cleavage. We tell our kids that certain body parts are private, but billboards, magazines, and fashion reveal cleavage and butts all the time. Go figure.
7. “It’s time for you to sit down and focus on your homework now,” says a mom (maybe me), who settles down with a glass of wine.
8. “Yes, being curious and trying new things is something I encourage you to do, but hiding behind the door to experiment with a box cutter is not okay.”
9. “Thank you for being a big helper around the house. However, it is not okay to use 50 gallons of water and an entire bottle of dish soap to wash your single breakfast plate. And, by the by, what do you think will be your best solution for un-flooding the kitchen?”
10. “Yes, you are playing with it in private, but when I asked you to vacuum your room I meant vacuum the dirt from the floor, not tickle the skin on that one part of your body.”