An interesting conversation between long time friends, post Soccer Sunday
This past weekend, Jesse came home for a night, for the first time since moving to UGA.
He went out with a big group of friends for dinner and swing dancing. I can't resist sharing how he dressed for that:
The next morning, there was Soccer Sunday, which used to be a weekly event. Afterwards, I invited them all home to eat eggs and pancakes. While Ray and I cleaned up, Jesse and his group of friends (including several from the group photo above, at that same table) talked freely about parents who monitor their kids, and about what they plan to do when they have their own kids. It was fascinating.
The conversation started with one of the girls in the group talking about the way in which her parents spy on her every move by tracking her phone. Apparently this is a pretty widespread practice, one which you may use. I had vaguely heard of it but had never considered doing this myself. But then, I have never been given reason to not trust my kids. If I had, that could be another story. This girl, who is monitored and very closely protected in every way, is 17. She is awesome. I do not think this has scarred her. I know that her parents are motivated by love. She doesn't like it, but she is not up in arms about it either. But she had never done anything to merit their fierce probing.
As I write this, my first post that talks about parenting choices, I want to be clear that I no longer think that there are firm rules to any of this. Parenting, as my sister used to say, "challenges all of our sacred cows." Every situation, and child, is different and we can have the best laid plans and still be thrown for a loop. Still, we have to start somewhere. So this is where I started. With trust.
In my experience, it has proven true that when you decide to put your trust in someone, including kids (along with the information they need, of course, to navigate potentially threatening situations, and to take responsibility for their actions) that they then want to live up to that trust. Or, they they are less likely to have the rebellious push back that they may have had if they had been overly restricted.
I know that this was true for me as a teen. My mother was really comfortable talking to me about all things pertaining to drugs and sex, without fear or drama thrown in, and I just never felt the exciting charge that my friends did about smoking pot or trying stronger things. I matured very late, sexually, and felt no need to find someone to sleep with by a certain date. I have noticed in the unschooling community, that the majority of the teens I know, or heard about from their parents, were very slow to seek out relationships and/or sex, compared to their friends who went to school. And yes, contrary to what people think about home schoolers, they usually did know enough teens their age. This difference from their schooled friends could be due to the huge amount of time focused on relationships and sex in school. The unschoolers also tend to drive later, maybe having less of a need to get away from the home? My kids did drive as soon as possible and loved having some independence. And I liked them having it! So this is not a blanket statement, just something I've observed. And I know that there are loads of very attached kids who go to school. It's primarily the attachment parenting that I see as the thru-line.
I am also wondering if Jesse's nature just made it easier for me to trust him. Gillen was more of a rebel. We had more frequent conversations about everything. He did give me pause. It was sometimes by the skin of my teeth, but I did do my best to still give him my trust.
I'd love to hear your thoughts about the cell phone monitoring and how you do, or plan to, lay boundaries with your kids. It was interesting to hear Jesse and his friends talking about what they plan to do with their kids in this area. They seemed to venture into talk about being super protective, and then kind of came back round. I wondered if these future parents will experiment, as they did in the conversation, with going to the other extreme from the way they were raised, and then coming back around.
At one point, Jesse said, in an abashed way, that he didn't think he'd be able to resist making his kids do team sports. This allowed me to bring up having witnessed the brother of one of the kids at the table, back when he was really young, resisting being on a team, and how his parents gave him space to quit. Years later, he changed his own mind and is now up for a possible baseball scholarship to college. "Fine," said Jesse. "But I may make them play catch with me in the back yard!" Time will tell. I'm glad I have a record of his plans here.
He also said, to his friends, "We all have to have our kids at the same time so they can grow up in a pack." This is mostly a group of boys. They've been really close for most of their lives. They all agreed that this was a very good plan indeed.
It was awesome to have Jesse and the guys back home for a minute. I am appreciating this new stage in his life. We often get all wistful about the baby and toddler years. Our youngins are indeed pretty scrumptious then. But with good reason! It is oh so challenging to do the hard work of being that attached to your young, ever-so-needy, dependent baby and child. I do want to say, though, that I believe that it is that hard work back then that helps contribute to them feeling more independent and confident later on.
With love to all my fellow parents, especially those of sweet babies,
And with an invitation to challenge me on my beliefs, if you feel so inclined (comment below),