Parenting To Yourself
Bryan stayed home with Dex for the first two years; it’s always given them a special bond. I have never been jealous (OK, maybe just a little), but I have always attributed their ability to get along to time spent and compatible interests. Not to say that Dex and I don’t have a good relationship, or that we don’t have our own special things we do together. It’s just that we’ve always been able to push each others buttons more than anyone else, ever.
As Dex approaches teenhood (he’s nearly 12.5), it’s becoming more and more clear this is actually because we are so much alike. We both like (need) to be right. We both get defensive (angry) when pushed into a corner. We both get emotional (illogical) when we feel attacked.
One thing no one ever tells you when having kids is how it feels to parent your own face. A lot of people talk about how Dex looks like Bryan, and he does. But his eyes are mine. So I am looking into my own face as I watch my son become a full-blown teen and exhibit full-blown teen behaviors. When I mention this to my mom, I only get a little snicker – or sometimes silence – basically to be interpreted as: PAYBACKS.
Dex is a good kid. A great kid in fact. He is smart, thoughtful, creative, funny. But he is also entering that normal phase where all he thinks about is himself, partly as self-preservation while he becomes his own person and partly with the sole purpose of pissing me off. As a kid who had a rough childhood myself, the entitlement and lack of gratitude particularly get me.
For his 12th birthday in September, I gave him my iPhone 5 and took his iPhone 4 since I am now using my Lumia for my main phone. Guess what appeared on Dex’s Christmas list? An iPhone 6 Plus. Guess who nearly had a stroke.
Guess who also was sneaking use of his perfectly awesome iPhone 5 at night even though he wasn’t supposed to? Guess who was indignant at the idea he couldn’t have his awesome iPhone 5 in his room at night?
No, really. Guess.
After some pretty ugly arguments where I was appalled and disappointed at his attitude, Dex was alternating between remorse and defiance, and poor Bryan played referee to us both… we’ve spend the past few weeks in family meetings. Things will be changing over the next year. Less online donations and more in-person volunteerism. More discussion around the house about our budget and an understanding of what is necessary (food) and what is a luxury (smartphones). Family movie night will continue with animated fun but important documentarys will be added to see how people really live.
We’ve been shielding Dex from things because the world is harsh. Earlier this year we talked about Ferguson in more detail than we ever have on such a topic because it was so important.
But really, he is ready. His selfishness is natural. He just needs to have a steady diet of common sense to off-set that teen brain for the next few years.
The funny part is I think this is also basically continuing ed for me as a person. I learn to communicate better with the younger version of myself and by extension, everyone else.
Last Friday we were driving home and Dex mentioned his friend had just got an iPhone 6. He started in with “I haven’t decided if I am going to get the 6 or the 6 Plus yet…”
I could feel the anger boil up and just a month ago the drive home would have ended in tears.
“Dex, listen. You are not getting an iPhone 6 for sure any time in 2015. I love how interested you are in technology, though. I want to hear what you like about the 6 and we can go down to the Mall so you can play with it or any other smartphones you want to check out, but please, no more talk of actually getting one.”
“Gotcha. That sounds cool.”