‘Tis the season when mail-order catalogues start overflowing mailboxes; at our house they progress from a trickle to a deluge between mid-September and Christmas Day. Luke and I were talking the other day about how the universal message of every magazine ad, tv commercial and catalogue seems to be, “this is the toy/gadget/car/pair of jeans/piece of jewelry/whatever that will bring joy and meaning to your life!” Luke asked why that was, and I told him that it was because their target audience of modern-day consumers tend to lead such stressful, unfulfilled lives that they’ll grab at almost anything that promises to make them feel happy and successful. “That’s a big part of why there are so many maxed-out credit cards in America these days,” I said, “and why nearly everyone worries about not having enough money no matter high their income is.”
Luke shook his head. “I don’t get it. If people are so unhappy, why don’t they just start loving each other instead of buying a bunch of stupid stuff they can’t afford?”
If Luke had lived in fairytale days, he totally would have been the kid who pointed out that the Emperor was, in fact, not wearing any clothes. How I love my boy.
That conversation was on Monday. Yesterday was not so idyllic; Luke fussed and whined about not getting “enough” computer playtime between homework time and storytime. The argument escalated, Elizabeth joined in, and it all ended with me taking away their afterschool computer privileges completely for the next week and then sending them both to bed (at 7:30).
Part of me really misses the simplicity of not having a computer at all, and wonders if I made a mistake in getting it fixed. Another part of me worries that I’m being unfair and overly strict. I don’t want to treat them as if they were toddlers, but I don’t particularly enjoy being yelled at either. On the other hand, I don’t want them to feel like they aren’t allowed to express their feelings to me, negative or otherwise…
It’s a freaking tightrope, this parenting thing. Luke’s words come back to me: “If people are so unhappy, why don’t they just start loving each other?” Truly words to live by, but I don’t always know the best way to love my children. It’s a fine line between discipline and tyranny sometimes, and an even finer line between understanding and overindulgence. I get that my kids are still just kids and that it’s my job to be the responsible role model. Most of the time I’m very happy and comfortable in that position. Sometimes I really wish that at some point I could have had a healthy, responsible parental role model in my own life so I could know what it’s supposed to look like. I wish all of my old friends didn’t live in other towns and/or states; there are times when I feel like I’d give almost anything just to spend a few hours hanging out among my own kind.
Our family ratio of good days to bad days is very high in favor of the good days, thank goodness, and I really think that leaving the computer off while the kids are home and awake this week will restore balance. It’s a temporary solution though, and the decision of whether or not to make it permanent isn’t an easy one. I mean, children have thrived for thousands of years without any computer time at all, right? But now here we are in the 21st Century and times have, to put it mildly, changed, and maybe Luke really is entitled to play endless rounds of “Puke the Pirate” and “Castle Calamity.” And surely Elizabeth’s creativity and talent are being fostered when she’s Photoshopping pictures of Espio into our Disneyland pics to make it look like he was there with us, while playing the Leekspin song on an infinite loop in the background?
Btw, don’t click on that Leekspin link unless you’re prepared to have that tune in your head for the rest of your life. It’s Earwormzilla.
Where was I? Love Thursday, right. Love as the cure for unhappiness.
I believe it, I truly do. And about 85% of the time we are nothing but happy around here. It’s just when I come up against a parenting dilemma that I don’t know how to respond to, and all the logic and reasoning in the world doesn’t point to any particular right answer, and I think to myself, “this, this is why people are supposed to partner up and do this together,” that I start feeling a little sorry for myself. Last night I was positively wallowing in my parental insecurities.
This morning I woke up feeling much better, and so did the kids. Luke was his usual chatty, affectionate self; Elizabeth was her usual quiet-but-friendly self. They talked about the thunderstorm (rain today, hurray!) and told me about the dreams they’d had last night, and there was no trace of any lingering bad feelings over yesterday’s mutual blowup. It was just us again, a family that loves each other and appreciates the value of having each other in our lives.
Luke’s words of wisdom ring truer the longer I think about them. Just love each other; do that and the rest will work itself out.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Love someone extra well today.