My daughter just informed me that my efforts at being a successful mom were for naught. Then she walked off in a huff. This occurred after her homework was almost complete, yet 45 minutes before her bedtime. She had plenty of time to enumerate my failings – which she did for about 20 minutes before returning to her room to finish her nighttime tasks. So, why do I feel like a successful parent even though my child is clearly and loudly unhappy with me and possibly the universe? Because even if it isn’t pretty, it’s a compliment to know that she feels I’m a safe place to vomit forth the conflicting emotions that define her tween existence.
I’ve heard that there are parents who won’t let their children say ‘hate’, especially to family members. I worry about these parents’ self esteem more than I worry about rescuing mine from the gutter. Why? Because feelings – the good, the bad and even the ugly – must be vented in a safe place so that parents – and also possibly teachers and other adults who you’ve chosen to include in your parenting village – can help kids learn how to process them positively lest they grow up to act like the selfish folks I recently encountered in a Costo parking lot.
The job of a parent is to raise self-sufficient, fully functioning, emotionally mature people who know how to act in parking lots and in the rest of the world. How can you do this unless you teach kids how to clean up – and eventually direct – their emotional bile? Emotion is like vomit –messy, sometimes vile and that which often inspires nausea in others. But you must deal with it in all its ugliness in order to feel better and move on.
Emotion, derived from the Latin motum – to move – drives many of our actions and must be understood lest it erupt inappropriately – like in a professional environment – or Costco. Emotion is scary and confusing for adults – I’ve gotten choked up for reasons that remain unclear even after careful analysis – so how can we think that children can possibly process theirs without guidance?
Outbursts should not necessarily go unpunished – my daughter had to forego all screen time for 72 hours after the hissy fit referenced above – but they must be analyzed and discussed, because while all of us know adults who tantrum – none of us likely respect them.
So let ‘em rage about our parental flaws. Let them even hate us when we demand more from them or cramp their style. We’re not their friends, we’re their parents, and if we can’t teach our children how strongly and strangely love can manifest itself, who can?