The question I ask myself pretty often, obviously not as much in the heat of the moment, but in post-reflection, is “What is best for my kids.” This does not mean “What is best for my wishes for my kids.”
There are all sorts of things I want for my kids, and things I want them to do, or want them to want to do. But that does not really matter.
What do my kids want? How will this affect them in 20 years? Does this have any effect on their future ability to be self sufficient and happy? Did I do anything like this as a kid that I can compare? If they are making a mistake, will it harm them? If I make a mistake in judgement, will it hinder them?
Sometimes, I have to be a little more on alert. Maybe some activity seems risky, yet I cannot properly justify preventing that action. Sometimes, the prevention is unenforceable, or enforcement would take huge resources. In those situations, there are frequent discussions of my concerns, their decision factors, and how they’re doing.
Sometimes, it’s just nothing. They were curious, but after discussion, they realize it’s not worth the effort or risk. Other times, they have to continue forward until they tire of the experience. As long as it’s not something that is unrecoverable (risk of death or incarceration), I feel it still needs to be their decision.
How can they learn to make good decisions if they are not allowed to make them? Seeing decisions taken apart and discussed, and making decisions, are how people learn. If I decide for them, and tell them how it will be, they learn no thinking skills – only memorization.
This ramble came about because I have several sets of friends with kids who have divorced. Some of them have maintained a child-focused mentality. They have been polite, and respectful, even to the point of being friendly. Maybe they don’t hang out all the time like when they were together, but they discuss life beyond “here is the school schedule”, and are willing to help each-other be happy because that helps their kids see happiness as an example.
However, some of the couples are constantly at odds. There is distrust, lack of communication (I plan to do this because I am concerned about this), and lack of coordination and agreement in what needs to happen. Maybe kids are excluded from activity with one parent. Maybe discussions occur with the kids that push their judgement of the other parent onto the kids. Some parents have rights with their kids curtailed because of health or income disparity when it really does not matter. These too teach the kids how to behave. They learn to be manipulative, exclusive, and not how to have a partner in life.
It’s not sad to me the sheer number of divorced parents I know, but it is disappointing in how many are so self-important that they do not even see how their actions are affecting their kids.
It takes a village to rear a child, and that village, when at all possible, should include both biological parents as long as they both love the kid. All parts of the family should be on speaking terms, and step-parents or equivalents have to understand that while they have input, and duties, the bio-parents get to set the rules. Persuade them with logic, but not force/guilt/manipulation.
Everyone must be prepared to compromise their own goals as much as possible. If the gap is still just too great, then someone is not putting their child first, most likely all of the parents.
This is especially important as kids get into their mid-teens, because they will be smarter, more driven, and more manipulative to get what they want. It is very easy for a parent to fall into this trap, or even to use the child’s mindset to self-reinforce. “I want this, and the kid wants it, so it must be right.” is not a valid statement.
Anyway, super rambly. This is about an amalgamation of a whole bunch of people who are having both good and bad times with this whole family thing.
I have no solution. Emotions, both surface and deep-seated ones, are what control us. We rationalize, and explain it all, but our animal brains are what control us most of the time. Sometimes, fixing issues means having a discussion with the part of our minds which feels. Maybe we strike up an agreement. Maybe we don’t.
It’s really difficult, as evidenced by people who stay overweight for decades (MEEEE!), or people who struggle with substance abuse for years, or people who struggle with depression for years. Emotions, affect, feelings, etc rule. You cannot command them in words and rational thought. You can only speak to them in feelings. You can re-train them in what you want to feel.
Maybe if we lived for 200 years, we could sort out all of our internal demons. Until then, whether you are having a good time, or a bad time, I hope all things improve. Keep trying to be better. Review what seems important, and whether you’re on the right track. Be compassionate. When you mess up, and it will happen a whole bunch, do not punish yourself or others. Just try to be better. What can you do to trick yourself into being better. How can you set yourself up so that when you fail, you still succeed?
ramble ramble ramble.
If you got to this part, and read everything in the middle, I’m impressed. This was just stream of thought. Actually, I might be worried for your sanity. Take a break. You’ve earned it.