23 March 2016

Afraid for our Future

“Motherhood is a choice you make everyday, to put someone else's happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you're not sure what the right thing is...and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.” ~ Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
G and I have been having some tough days.  She turned nine three weeks ago, but she's already been exhibiting signs of spoiled teenager-itis.  My patience is thin when it comes to juvenile tantrums, and so she and I have been flexing our respective guns.  I was raised in a very strict Asian upbringing, and so I refuse to let her "win."  She, by my parent's definition, is completely American and lacks all the submissive qualities that are typical in Asian children.  In one sense, I am happy that she is headstrong and determined, but in other ways, I am disappointed that she has elected to direct her rebellious ways towards me.

Yesterday morning, she and I had a heated argument.  I feel weird calling it an argument since she is only nine years old, but there it is.  We were in the car on the way to her school, and she was upset that I had bothered her about eating breakfast.  "You are soooo strict," she whined.  "All the other kids don't have their mothers bothering them about breakfast."

"I would consider myself so lucky if I had even one person bothering me to eat something," I answered. "I could starve and no one would care to even ask me if I wanted anything to eat.  I feel sorry for those kids whose parents don't bother them to eat.  I am sure they would be happy for a mother like me who will feed them all the time."

In typical tweeny fashion, she just rolled her eyes in response.  I would have let it go at that, but unfortunately, she continued.  "You are soooo annoying," she said.  "None of the other kids eat breakfast either and their parents don't care."

Because she continued, and because her attitude was crass and disrespectful, I got angry.  Furious, even.  I ripped into her by telling her how ungrateful and disrespectful she was to speak to me in that way, and that maybe if she was so unhappy with me, that she could go live with her drunk of a biological father as he would with all certainty not care if she ate breakfast or not.  Perhaps, in retrospect, I should not have said that, but what can I say - I was angry.  She, of course, started crying as she got out of the car to go into the school, but not before slamming the car door with all her strength.

I drove away, seething, but forgot about everything as I boarded the train to head into work.

A little while later, my mobile phone rings.  It is the school psychologist.  "Your daughter was very upset this morning and she was crying.  When the teacher asked her what was wrong, she said 'my mom told me not to tell.'  Did something happen this morning?"  His tone is questioning.  Accusatory.

I felt insulted.  It may not have been, but I felt as though he was judging me on my parenting skills.  "Did something happen?"  "What happened was that my daughter was being a disrespectful brat, and I verbally put her in her place.  She got upset and started crying."

He paused before replying. "Well, when kids come to the school visibly upset, we have to ask, in case of...."  I stopped him before he could finish.

"My daughter and I had a mother-daughter talk, and unfortunately, she got upset.  Nothing happened.  Thank you for your concern."

While my parents used to smack us on the back of our heads whenever we were being bad, I cannot even talk harshly to my kid now lest I be investigated for child abuse.

I am afraid for our future.  I feel as though we are raising our future generations to be wimpy, disrespectful and unafraid of authority.

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:41 am

    America or not but kids do not get to say "you are annoying" to their parents.They need to understand how they got strong limbs now. What we had to and sacrifice so they can be what they are. She also need to understan you are the parent not her class mate or friend. Tell her you reacted the way you did because your feelings are hurt and you only want whats best for her which is eat three meals a day at least.

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  2. I agree wholeheartedly. Much has been done to protect our kids, and rightly so from what you seen on the news, but it seems that less has been done to maintain discipline at the same time. Kids don't need to show honour or respect because there's nothing anyone can do about it. The systems I place to protect them give them almost immunity from reprisals. And it's not something to will easily learn later. If a small child squares up to you then there's nothing you can really do. If they do that as an adult then they're not going to last long in any professional or social world. It's one of the reason I love martial arts, with the right teachers. Showing respect to your teacher, your fellow students and also to yourself is a huge foundation to the arts. It's a shame very few places do martial arts for P.E.

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  3. Hi Nova
    Your reaction is entirely understandable and made doubly difficult in the absence of another caring partner but let me offer what I hope is some supportive advice.

    Firstly I think it worth noting it’s important to try to stay calm and continue to explain to your daughter (as you no doubt have in the past) the health benefits of breakfast and not to explode in rage since this is likely to always end badly as it has.

    Rather I would suggest you try explaining calmly that many parents possibly caught up in the “whirlwind of existence” maybe don’t even realise their children are skipping breakfast or alternatively the children are simply telling your daughter lies. Possibly this could be part of the “cool group” attitude so to speak where the kids tell fibs. Nothing new in this, but I would resist the urge to blame society at large or lash out as you have “you ungrateful ………,. Whilst this is entirely understandable emotionally , it’s not at all helpful and can only ends in tears. Hence as you possibly realise, feeling miffed by the school reactions is a natural response which we can all easily understand. But you are assuming here it’s an affront to your undoubted integrity / parenting skills. But I presume they don’t know you well and no doubt they are simply bound to act on the basis of predetermined protocols which are sensible enough to prescribe an initial precautionary parental contact under certain circumstances.
    What I do think you need to sort out with your daughter is why she told the teacher “I am not allowed to say what happened” as this rather obviously was the red light to anyone on the surface. Hence I don't think it is in any way wise to take it as a personal rebuke because if you daughter had said “my mom got upset with me because I didn’t eat my breakfast” I don't think the school would not have rung you. But when you talk to her about such things ( if you decide to do so ) explain to her both the school and yourself have her best interests at heart. Leave it at that - but don't go on and on or argue the toss.

    Hence best I think to continue to stay true to principles but also stay cool. Wanting to skip breakfast or having fussy eating habits has plagued successive parental generations with their children's attitudes not to eat or not to eat properly although granted it seems to be getting worse.

    At least all of this has been my experience as a parent and grandparent of many. so I say be carful not to take to heart the idea she is becoming a brat- but rather to distinguish the behaviours that apply and are relevant frustratingly to all young people(and adults at times )to act badly at times.
    Children will pick up on this where kit gains attention and it is better in my view to be consistent , calm but to offer brief explanations/ Not to try and make them feel as they should always be eternally grateful.
    The fact you forgot about the incident and your daughter was highly emotionally effected into the classroom speaks volumes on the respective impacts don't you think ?

    I am sure you are a wonderful parent in many ways in what is a difficult world but these ponts (which may appear critical of you ) I feel will help you in the years ahead.

    Finally don't forget to tell her you love her and always will.
    best wishes

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lindsay. I rarely let anger get the best of me, and I am not happy with myself for the horrible things I said to her that morning. She and I have since talked, and things are better now.

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  4. Oh, Nova, it cannot be easy. Kids are so sophisticated these days (or so they like to think). It is bad enough to try dal with that without the school taking it the wrong way.

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