It has occurred to me recently, that a Big Brother…or Sister or maybe a Little Brother or Sister…(a sibling in other, more precise terms) may ultimately be more responsible than parents for the person someone turns out to be.
Despite their best intentions – and sometimes because of them – parents have rules they follow and agendas to pass on. These are the treasured things they learned on their way to the position of power that is PARENTHOOD. Things that they are not only willing, but determined to pass on to you, their beloved child.
Let’s get something out of the way first. I firmly believe that most men and women DO intend only the best for their children. Despite the many horror stories of child abuse by parents, despite the current picture of “MOM” that is emerging daily on the television screen in yet one more “raunchy” comedy(?), I cannot picture a man or woman waking up one morning to announce that he or she will now devote him/herself to destroying a child.
This is not to suggest that it doesn’t happen…only that it wasn’t the plan, even though I feel sure most children at one time or another firmly believe that neither Mother nor Father was EVER a kid.
For one thing, parents are frequently blinded by love and by their own surety that “MY CHILD WOULD NEVER DO THAT! While the sibs sit and grin, knowing full well that “the kid” certainly would do it – IS doing it even as we speak.
It’s here, in this area of disconnect that children come together.
You have to take my word for it that I found myself an ideal parent. I felt I was clear-eyed and free of prejudice when it came to my kids behavior.
I was wrong. And I didn’t know how wrong until I got involved in a conversation with my four adult children. I mentioned the family who lived across the street from us in Woodland Hills. I told them, rather righteously I must admit, that I had had to tell Mrs. M. that her kids were sneaking out at night. I told my children that I thought she would want to know but that she’d reacted badly and accused my own kids in return. Things were never the same between us and the woman refused to let her kids play with mine…ever again.
This sad tale evoked almost NO reaction from my children…for a good three seconds…and then they, one by one, broke into hearty, healthy laughter.
I don’t think they were sure how to tell me, but tell me they did. Not only did my little darlings sneak out at night but they snuck out to meet up with the kids across the street.
But that was the proverbial tip of the iceberg. They laughingly, even triumphantly told me about some their other little peccadilloes…like how each of them in turn had learned to forge my signature on those dreaded “Please sign this report and have your (check one) Son/Daughter” return it to the teacher within three days.”
They found all this hysterically funny…I did not. All my preconceived, and very comforting, notions of my outstanding talents as a parent went swirling down what we used to refer to genteelly as “the porcelain appliance.”
But that night it occurred to me that while I laid some good ground work, these four kids of mine worked together finding ways to deal with the world as they knew it.
It was a very different world from the one I grew up in. Much more complex and exclusively belonged to the young.
Peer pressure was so strong it was almost impossible to get through. Take out that word almost. Peer pressure might be the strongest emotion in the world. Okay, technically I guess, peer pressure isn’t’ an emotion, but it results in incredibly strong emotions rising up and boiling over in the young folks who had to deal with it.
Admittedly, I didn’t understand it the way I wish I had. But the four kids understood it together and dealt with it.
If you know my kids, you know that each responded in a different fashion to what was going on. But they still shared the experience. They knew they were different one from the other – well I knew that much. But they were more aware of what each decision cost them and how they arrived at their own choices.
They learned to deal with differences – (no matter how wrong) and that was a good thing. And they talked – endlessly – about everything that was important to them No secrets, no pretending. Just honest and sometime loudly discussed disagreements. But in the end…in the end of the time when we were all together…before their were wives and husbands and friends and all of that, they always had each other. They could always tell the other guys what was going on. No one told Mom or Dad. It was their world and they kept it to themselves as much as possible.
This is not to denigrate the role of the parent. Ideally, we parents provided the situation where the chidren could discover each other and realize that forever and the day after, they would always have someone who knew them, who cared, who helped them find the way to becoming who they are.
It’s true that adage that you don’t choose your family. But if you are lucky, you might find that if you could choose them you would pick the ones you were assigned.
The word I have chosen for this month OLEAGINOUS. I love this word. It means exactly what it should…it is, to my ears at least, smarmy, unctuous and fawning. All wonderful words to describe oily. Containing oil. Just roll it around in your mouth for a bit…doesn’t it feel exactly like something that is – well – oily?