Many people begin the parenting experience by making grand proclamations about how they will raise their offspring. Things like, “My child will only watch educational television,” or, “My child will only eat healthy foods.”
Then life happens and those strong feelings get tempered, those little babies become people who speak and have opinions, and parents learn to juggle their wants and desires with those of their children.
Sometimes we get beaten down and cave to their incessant demands. In my house, this has played out recently in the form of an iPhone. My husband and I were so proud of ourselves for holding out and not buying an iPhone for our oldest child until he was 17.
“What does he need it for?” we asked. “He has a perfectly good phone. And an iTouch.” Being the dutiful firstborn, he accepted his fate and didn’t press too hard on the subject. So we eventually relented, telling ourselves that he would be going off to college soon.
Ah, but it’s a slippery slope. Next our then-13-year-old began lobbying hard. I found that I just didn’t feel as strongly that time as I did with our eldest. Maybe because smartphones had become the norm. Maybe because he never seemed to have his plain old phone charged or with him when I needed to reach him.
“If we get him an iPhone, it will no doubt be attached to his body and fully charged and therefore he would be reachable, right?” I asked my friend, who also had a 13-year-old boy.
“Absolutely,” she said, “My son’s phone is never dead. I could be dead, but his phone—never.”
So he got a smart phone when he was 14 after I negotiated with my husband on my son’s behalf. Poor guy, he recently attempted to use his legal prowess with our daughter on the very serious subject of her birthday present. He called me one day after dropping her off at school.
“I caved,” he said.
“Oh? On what?” I asked.
“A trampoline. For her birthday,” he announced, defeated.
I’m happy when my husband occasionally caves. Since I spend more time with the kids, I am the recipient of most of the asking, whining, and begging, so of course I cave more than he does. I was glad to see my daughter go for his weak spot—it’s a good skill for her to learn. In his defense, he held out for well over a year before caving.
So the trampoline will grace our backyard, where the dog roams, too. I’m the one who caved on the dog. I guess we’re even, for now.
Have we lost control, or do the things we care about change over time? Once we were rigid about bedtime—now it’s only the 12-year-old who’s asleep before us. I was recently talking with a friend about this.
“I’ve lost control of that, among many other things,” she said and went on to tell me that her neighbor has noticed over the years that the lights in their house stay on later and later. The whole world apparently notices our loss of control. What’s the neighbor doing up so late anyway?
I don’t cave on the things that I really care about, like being a good person and having good manners. Oh, and being a good student—although I confess that I leave the schoolwork to the kids and their teachers. I assume they are doing well if I don’t hear anything negative from the school. I guess I’ve sort of caved on that, too.
Ultimately my children will be the captain of their ships and will have to do their own navigating. In the meantime, I just try to have smooth sailing.