I knew there was going to be trouble the first time I had to wag my finger in admonition and look up at Sarcasmo.
Physically, it’s been apparent for a long while that I was going to be the shortest male in the family. Sarcasmo, our oldest, is around 6′ 4″ now and should be finally stopped growing at 21. Zippy the Monkey Boy is 6′ 2″ or so and Hyper Lad is 5′ 9″, but he’s only 14 so has a lot of growing left to do.
When I realized they were going to be all taller and probably bigger than me, I quickly realized that I would have to come up with a catch phrase that would establish my authoritarian position as the leader of our little clan. It would have to be persuasive and showcase the innate superiority of the position of listening to their father and doing what he says to the idea that they can go haring off on their own and do whatever comes into their swiss-cheesed brains.**
Here’s what I came up with: “You might end up being bigger and stronger than me, but I will always be sneakier and meaner.”
And it’s worked. So far. Of course, it’s meant in jest and I made sure my young dudes know it, but the meaning behind the joke is somewhat more serious.
It’s not that we parents tell our children what to do because we’re control freaks***, but rather because we have life experience and understand how there might be a better or safer way to do something. The problem with kids ageing is that I can’t expect to have them do what I tell them to do just because I said they should do it. That works when they’re younger for a variety of reasons.
Little dudes start off doing as they’re told because Mom and Dad are infallible, but that goes away pretty quickly. They’ll also do as they’re told because, to be blunt, they’re scared of what will happen if they don’t. Not that every kid is worried that their parent will hit them, but parents are, after all, in charge of who gets the TV or the computer, the person who will take them to the park. Parents hold a lot of keys to a lot of different treasure chests.
As the little dudettes get older, though, these subtle threats begin to lose their force. The words “You can’t make me” or “You’re not the boss of me” begin to make the first of their years-long lifespans as a major part of her vocabulary.
And, once she gets past a certain age, she’s right. We can’t. Legally, if a young man 18 or over wants to do something, there’s precious little a parent can do to stop him.
Which, again, is bad news because, as much as the young dudes wish it weren’t so, parents really do understand more about life and really do know better.
Parents are a marvelous resource for young sons and daughters. Unfortunately, there are too many instances in which those resources go untapped and unrecognized.
So. We’ve got that all set up. Come back tomorrow and we’ll discuss what you can do to make sure your son or daughter not only asks for, but listens to your suggestions.
Footnotes & Errata
* With my apologies to the Beatles, but the song lyric just fit too well to ignore.
** Not really Swiss cheese. I just use that as a visual shorthand for the fact that (and this is science, dudes and dudettes) the male brain doesn’t fully mature until at least 25 or so. If you’re lucky.
*** Which you will certainly believe. As long as you don’t listen to any of my children. Or my sister’s. Or my neighbors’. Or that dude over there. You get my point.