December Quinn had this very interesting post about how maybe adults wouldn’t act like children if adulthood were more fun. And while I don’t drink or smoke, she made some good points. There used to be a mystique, a glamour, to being an adult. So many things my parents did I longed to- mysterious things like cocktail parties and R-rated movies. I would lie on my parent’s bed and watch my mother dress for their nights out; I loved her jewelry box. No treasure chest in the world could have held more fascination for me. Watching her put on a beautiful dress and dabbing perfume behind each ear was a ritual I yearned to perform someday. And the secret smile my father and mother would share before they left made me catch my breath even though I didn’t yet understand what it meant.
But even as a teen who snuck around to see movies I shouldn’t have, let Dwayne Buhler cop a feel at a dance, and forced down beer I hated just because of the glorious wickedness of it all, I understood that were rights and privileges to being an adult that I did not have. And should not expect. Why, beyond the un-funning of adulthood, do parents abdicate their right to be grownups who can do what they like, and the kids will just have to live with it?
Because now, kids run the freaking universe. I have been in children’s ministry for close to 12 years; I have seen toddlers who are wreaking havoc and they are told, firmly yet calmly, with no trace of censure that might injure their delicate feelings but with enough determination to let them see that you mean it, “No, Billy.” The experts say if you do this right the children will obey without having emotional damage. Apparently thousands of parents aren’t doing it right. My kids had two rules growing up- you cannot disobey and you cannot show disrespect/defiance. They didn’t have to like it, and they didn’t have to like me. They were allowed to feel whatever they felt- they could be mad and pouty if that’s how they felt about it- but they were not allowed to tell me that I was mean or they hated me; neither were they allowed to show me any kind of physical disrespect. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen 3 year olds hitting their parents and mom and dad think it’s funny or justified. And these are the kids who are never spanked, which supposedly causes such behavior.
Which, IMO, leads to school age kids who think they deserve anything they darn well want. What adult has time or energy for parties and old-fashioned romance when Bobby and Sissy have a different activity every night, sometimes two, and the weekend is completely taken up with things the kiddoes want to do? And you can’t blame them. Mom and Dad have trained them to believe they are the center of the universe. And that leads to teens who take adult rights and privileges without having any of the obligations and responsibilities. The day my high school aged self could have gone to another city, let alone state or country, for Spring Break, to dance and drink and have sex under the ‘watchful’ eye of the one or two poor chaperones, and my parents would have footed the bill? Shyeah. When donkeys fly. But when these kids get STD’s, get pregnant, or get killed? They pay. And it’s our fault.
So, yes, my poor kids are deprived. They will just have to look at us and dream of the day they can do cool stuff. But hopefully, they’ll also be relieved that they can spend a few more years without ultimate responsibility.