When I Grow Up: What Goes Around Comes Around in Parenting
When I was a teenager, I was full of ideas about what my life would be like. My mother would glance up from her novel and listen as I laid out my plans for a beautiful life unmarred by children or husbands or society's silly, oppressive rules.
A perfect apartment in a city wonderland. All white furniture, white carpet. No clutter. No avocado appliances. And for the love of god, no Early American decor.
As I got a older my plans shifted to include a husband with a great job. Travel. Fabulous careers. Eventually plans for children -- two, perfect in every way -- sneaked in. By the time my first college boyfriend and I had secretly moved in together, we'd already picked out names for our future children -- a boy and a girl.
Naturally, I became a pre-child, child-rearing expert and took a sick pleasure in listing how I would be a different kind of parent. I'd never spank, yell at or nag my children. Furthermore, my life would be so much better, so much more organized and enviable. My house would always be clean, my emotions in check and my attention unwavering.
Most of the time, my mother's response to my prattling on remained unchanged. She gave a little smirk, a chuckle perhaps, a slight shake of her head. She wasn't taking the bait.
But every once in while, she couldn't help herself. Uh huh, she'd say. We'll see how that turns out. Later, I imagine, when she was alone with my father, she said something like "That Lisa is a piece of of work..."
Now the smirk is on the other face.
Sophie has suddenly started talking about her fabulous future. Her family is going to have traditional holidays. They're going to dress in matching outfits and take photos for holiday cards. Big dinners. Vacations. Game night. Okay, I made that last one up, but it's only a matter of time before she says that.
Like I was a mildly OCD sufferer bucking my mother's laissez-faire attitude toward housekeeping, Sophie plans to rebel against the way we've moved away from family and let go of so many of our traditions. You practically have to hold a gun to one of the cats heads to get me to decorate for Hannukah/Christmas. The decorating and the extra activities -- they become just another thing I have to do. Funnily enough, my invitation to the other family members to go crazy with the tinsel never spurs them to elvish activities.
So I don't blame Sophie for feeling the way she does. I understand it. So as she lays out her Five Point Plan for a Beautiful Life, I make an effort to be attentive and supportive. If I feel my eyes about to roll, I look away. A sigh about to escape my lips is swallowed.
I look around my rented, uncluttered split-level with the falling apart dark, faux leather sofa, the stained carpet and the colorful, framed travel posters (I haven't been to any of those places) on the edge of a tiny, rural Georgia village, that I share with my husband of twenty-four years, three kids and four cats and try not to laugh.
Photo Credit: whatshername.
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