Thursday, May 12, 2016
This Is The Part About Parenting That I've Gotten Wrong
I didn't have much growing up.
Scratch that -- I didn't have any of my basic needs met when I needed them to be met. After my we (my mother, my two sisters, and I) got evicted from our apartment, we stayed in different shelters, roamed the streets, and, finally, one of my sisters and I ended up at my maternal grandmother's house, while my oldest sister ended up at a family friends' house.
I was five. And it would be years until we were all reunited.
I hated living with my grandmother. She was physically and emotionally abusive and downright mean. To this day, I'm convinced that she hated the burden of having to take care of me, and treated me like shit because of it.
After a couple years, my sister and I were removed and placed into a foster home. That was, quite literally, hell on Earth.
All the while, my mother continued to battle a drug addiction. And my father, well, he was long gone. (I don't remember if I knew this at the time, but he was serving a very long prison sentence.)
Growing up, I never quite felt like I had any of my basic needs met. I never quite felt like I had any of my emotional needs met. I never quite felt like I was cared for, protected, liked, loved. And I never felt like I was deserving.
All those thoughts and feelings were valid. They still are.
When Aiden was born, I vowed to change the narrative for him.
Aiden has the exact opposite life that I had. No, he doesn't have his other parent around consistently. But he has me. And I try to be as consistent with him as I can be. All of his basic needs are met on a daily basis. He has no idea what it's like to go hungry, to worry about where he's going to sleep at night, to worry about if he'll be safe or protected. That's a good thing. No kid should have to feel like that. Ever.
But beyond that.
Aiden has the exact opposite life that I had. His days after school are filled with a different extracurricular activity from chess to soccer to basketball to Tae Kwon Do. Saturdays are spent in swimming class. Summers are spent at summer camp and weekend trips exploring other cities. He gets to take several trips throughout the year -- both domestic and international. He gets to experience NYC and all the kid-friendly cultural things this city has to offer. He gets to go to dope media events because I have this blog. At home, he has an iPad and a Nintendo DS that he loves to play with. His toy bins are filled to the max with legos and costumes and cars and balls. So much so that they're practically overflowing. His library is so filled with so many books that I have to keep some in the closet and put them out on a rotating basis.
He has a good life.
We're not rich, but I make sure that he has a good life. I make sure that he feels cared for, protected, liked, loved... deserving.
And herein lies the issue.
He feels so deserving that he has a sense of entitlement when it comes to a lot of things. He feels like he's entitled to take vacations, like he's entitled to have extracurricular activities, like he's entitled to go to basketball clinic, like he's entitled to toys and gadgets and technology.
And this is the part about parenting that I've gotten wrong.
It's been a hard year for him -- I've been very transparent about that. But the village and I put some plans in place for him and he's gotten a lot better. Thank you Jesus!
But, over the past two weeks, he's been in this downward spiral. (To say that I'm beyond frustrated is an understatement.)
It all started when he took on of his friend's Pokemon cards without asking. And then refused to give it back when his teacher asked him to return it. (I feel my blood pressure rising all over again just from typing this.) Of course he knows what stealing is and that stealing is wrong, but here's the thing: he took the card because he wanted it, because he felt entitled to have it.
Of course, we had a conversation about stealing and what happens when people commit crimes. And y'all know I gave it to him straight -- no chaser -- right? And then I took all of his 200+ Pokemon cards away from him. (I have plans to give them away to other kids.)
But that's not what's really bothering me. Kids make mistakes. Kids do things that they aren't supposed to do and we're here to help them with it -- it's called "Life".
The part that's bothering me is that I've helped in creating this sense of entitlement. I've been so caught up in making sure that his life is better than the one I had growing up that I've forgotten to let him know that he does not deserve anything "extra" -- he has to work for it!
This is the part about parenting that I've gotten wrong.
And so now I need to get it right. I need to teach him that the world doesn't owe him anything, that he doesn't deserve anything beyond his basic needs being met, that he's not the center of the universe and there are other people around him with thoughts and feelings and needs. Now I need to teach him that his words and actions have an effect on other people.
Because what the world does not need more of is a self-centered, grown man who can't do anything for himself, but still feels like he's owed the world.
This is that part about parenting that I will learn how to get right.