Friday, August 22, 2008

No Good Deed

For whatever reason, I got it in my head that no good deed goes unpunished. There are always consequences, regardless of intentions. (Ok, that is really a pithy thought – I am so deep).

In the category of never mind about me, let’s talk about me; a note of passing. When I was pregnant with Jordan I refused to wear dowdy maternity clothes and unless you are a celebrity and you don’t care what hangs out, most maternity clothes are unattractive. I was going to say unseemly but then I would have to be specific in definition – in this case “contrary to accepted standards of good taste.” Anyway, David was shooting a story about Gene Upshaw the famous football player turned NFL players union representative. Gene was wearing his official number 63 black and silver football shirt. He was a big guy and the shirt was enormous. David explained how whacky I was about maternity clothes and in joking, commented that the football shirt was probably something that would fit me and I would even wear it. After the shoot finished, Gene took off the shirt and made it a present to me. Twenty two years have passed but I still have the shirt. Last night when I heard that Gene died, I put the shirt on, said a prayer and sad goodbye to this generous guy who I never met, but wanted a poor pregnant lass to have something to wear.

As long as we’re on the subject of kids, over the last fifty or hundred years (maybe a little exaggeration) I have spent a great deal of time hanging out with people in their twenties. It has kept me pretty young and I think sensitive to the issues they often suffer. Some were my students, some Jordan’s friends and some friends of friends. It has, for the most part, been a joy. I truly love these kids and if there was a profession called “Kid Hanger Outer” which would pay you for hanging out with (housing, feeding, talking to and loving) young people, I would be an expert in my field. But it unfortunately costs rather than pays. In all the years I have been a participant in young lives, I have had only one disappointment. There is a young Iraqi scholarship student presently living with us. I will not go into detail about how unpleasant he has been (He’s a Christian whose first comment about Jordan’s room—which I cleaned out for him, was that her Jewish star freaked him out). His family has always been safe and ffor the most part, not endangered by the war, but suffice to say, we are not parting as friends.

Anyway, I began to think about how so many of us do what we can to make children feel wanted and supported and yes, loved. The Olympics is coming to an end but is there any better example then Michael Phelps’ mother. A single parent who found a way to encourage a child everyone believed was beyond help. She heard “He’s a problem” and "He’ll never be successful” so many times, it would have been easy to say, “oh well”. But she made a decision to find a way for him to win “the gold” – in life as well as sports. Then I watch “The Nanny” (there is no reasonable explanation for this action but I am fascinated by the total inability of people to cope even when there are no financial problems) and I see people who abuse their kids or are at a loss to deal with or provide discipline guidelines. I sit there and think, there should be a test for people to take before they make a lifetime commitment to caring for a child. Now don’t get excited, this is not a test that the government gives and ultimately makes a decision about whether anyone can have a child. This is a self help test, which might have a question like:
1. If your child throws a tantrum in a supermarket because you won’t purchase some crap candy would you;
a. Flee
b. Scream
c. Hit
d. Ignore it
e. Talk them through it
f. None or All of the above.

I’m not going to answer the question because I don’t know what you would do and my kids have made it through the tantrum stage. Jordan sulked and Seth did the “no bones” thing. That’s when they fall to the ground—totally limp—like they have no bones and scream. Sometimes yelling “she hates me” or stuff that adds to the humiliation, but we got past it. You’ll have to ask Seth how I handled it, but he is a perfect adult so whatever I did didn’t cause any real trauma.

There are parents who try to be friends with their kids and parents who are afraid that if they discipline a child, the child will hate them. Kids need parameters and they need their own friends. They want you to guide them through difficult, challenging, or sorrowful experiences, and in order to do that you have to be a parent not a pal. I could go on about what terrific parents we were but that would be boring and repetitious. I would rather leave you with this incredibly insightful piece of advice, (relevant whether you do or don't have kids), we can have disappointed expectations about how children behave (ours or other peoples’), but when we're dealing with them, it is a mistake let them have disappointed expectations about us. We’re just sayin...


Anonymous said...

And then there are the 46 year olds who move back in for one reason or another. Ours broke up with his girlfriend of many years and needs a place to live "while looking for another place" to live.

It feels like a long term arrangement to me which is OK I guess. It makes his mama happy (he says it's better to nagged by mama that someone you sleep with). He doesn't drink or smoke and is fun to be around (to watch anyway...his puns are a terrible thing). The benefits are that he pays rent, does all the "honey-do" chores and his children (our grandchildren) come and visit almost daily. He also bakes a mean blueberry pie.

My Asian wife of almost 40 years has 15 brothers and sisters (I have none) and they and their children have circulated through our home for years.

They're welcome of course but there is nothing like a prodigal son (for now).

The parental guidance gene is there but I recognize it for what it is and sit back and watch him live his life.


Iris&David said...

Oye Vay!

Anonymous said...

Hey! Wonderful idea, but will this really work?