Sometimes it feels like we have two generations of children living in our household. The 14 and 16 year old are in one generation and the 9 year old is in another. The older ones got the novice parents, the ones who made rookie mistakes, like providing a 6th grader nearly unfettered access to a laptop or continuing the “quiet time routine” long after it was useful. The 9 year old has had far more seasoned parents, seemingly capable of anything he might throw at us because we have seen it all before. Tantrums, not a problem. Sleep issues, we’re ready for it. Overwhelming anxiety, we’ve got you.
Because of the two generations phenomenon, we see very different reactions to our parenting moves and requests. When we ask for the older two kids to take some time away from their art and video games and phones and friends, they tend to put up a fight more often than not. It is age appropriate for them to think of spending time with their parents as just a little bit torturous, but when we asked for some time together on Christmas last year, their true feelings came pouring out.
The 9 year old waited for over an hour as my wife and I hashed out with our older two what it meant to be a grateful young adult member of our family. My children said that it was unreasonable to ask for more time, that they needed frequent breaks from their parents, and that we were being unreasonable in our expectations for everything from school to household chores.
When we were those rookie parents, we would have likely left the conversation, tapping out early due to frustration, anger, or simply exhaustion. But, this time we stayed. We learned from the younger generation, who was patiently waiting so that we could start a movie or play a game, that sometimes sitting with a child who is in distress and finding a way forward is way more important than being right. So, Kara and I conceded some of our expectations were unclear and sometimes our words were harsh. The way forward came when we started to define gratitude.
For us, gratitude is recognition, first and foremost. I recognized that my children were trying to make themselves available for family time. I recognized that they were coming out of their rooms more often than they wanted and were helping in ways that we needed. I just wasn’t telling them that, so they didn’t see the gratitude. My children saw that their parents were preparing food and getting medication and running them to and from their activities, but they didn’t tell us, so we didn’t see the gratitude.
After this conversation, we both started telling one another what we were seeing. We both started to notice when there were moments of true sacrifice in doing what was being asked. And in this way, we were able to be grateful for effort, even when it wasn’t fully successful. I am able to be grateful for my son doing the dishes, even if they aren’t as clean as I might have gotten them. My oldest child is able to be grateful for taking him to the bus stop, even if he wanted to be taken all the way to school. My wife is able to be grateful that I attempted dinner, even if she had to remake the rice that clearly wasn’t cooked right.
And our 9 year old sees all of it. He sees us sitting with one another and making the future better by talking through what we need in order to feel valued. His generation will be better off because we know what it means to be grateful, even if it is only a generation of one.
@themasculinitydetox “Our 9 year old sees all of it. He sees us sitting with one another and making the future better by talking through what we need in order to feel valued.” The Detoxing Man is Grateful (of both effort and success) – 26 of 30. How can we better show our gratitude to one another for the effort that we notice instead of the success that they achieve? #toxicmasculinity #positivemasculinity #masculinitydetox #parenting #children #grateful #patriarchy #feminism #mensmentalhealth #heartonmysleeve ♬ original sound – The Masculinity Detox