Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Raising children (and mine are not even teenagers yet)

Now that my children are getting older - they are almost twelve and ten - I have to work a lot harder to mould them into responsible, caring human beings. And just when I think I am doing something right, they throw me a curve ball.

Case study one. We are in the car, driving to school. It is Monday morning and my eldest is doing his homework. Two speed bumps and a sharp right hand turn later he is complaining (seriously, I am not making this up) about my reckless driving, because there is no way he can 'write neatly' in those circumstances. Should I A: Have forbidden him to do his homework in the car, because he clearly should have done it the night before, B: Praise him, because he is at least doing his homework,  C: Say nothing but throw in a few extra hairpin bends and speed bumps and hope he will draw his own conclusion?

Case study two. My daughter has forgotten her rain jacket on the school playing field, or at the swimming pool, or the Kung Fu gym where she spends her Wednesday afternoons. She does not know and clearly does not care either. After I give her a good talking to she reluctantly checks the above mentioned places, but does not find her jacket. It is not the first time she forgets her belongings. Should I A: Buy her a new rain jacket on the basis that it rains almost every single day, B: Withhold all her pocket money for the next two and a half years untill she will have recovered the cost of a new jacket, or C: Send her out in the rain on a daily basis without a jacket?

Case study three. I give my son and daughter both ten Swiss franks to spend on lunch and a drink during the summer fair at school. My daughter buys a coke, some sugar candy and french fries and hands me back two franks. My son, buys chocolate, a drink, an ice cream and a little more chocolate and then comes to tell me he is hungry and broke. Should I A: Give him some more money so he can buy some proper food, B: Tell him it was his choice to spend all his pennies on sweets and there is nothing I can do about that now, or C: Ask him to buy me some french fries and then let him eat most of it?

Case study four. We have this new rule in our house. The children have to make their own packed lunches in the morning. They are supposed to lay the breakfast table, making sure they have everything they need to put in their lunch boxes. When my son is in charge, the table looks immaculate and there might even be a pot of freshly brewed tea. When it is my daughter's turn however, she puts down three plates, a pot of Nutella and two slices of  bread. No knifes, tea cups, butter, milk, lunch boxes, or other such necessities. Should I A: Tell her off and wait for her to put things right, risking us all being late for school/work?,B: Lay the table myself each morning, to make sure we have everything, or C: Enjoy the days when my son takes care of it all and just step in when it is my daughter's turn?

I honestly do not have a clue. Well, that is not true, strictly speaking,  I do. In an ideal world I should probably go for answers A, B, B and A. But I do not live in an ideal world and I am only human and husband W. is never around to back me up, and, and, and.... So here is what I did in reality.
In the first situation I chose option C, having a lovely time taking the long and especially windy road to school. In the second case I send loved one W. and my daughter to the shop to buy her a new jacket. A jacket that she by the way chooses not to wear on the basis that she is sure she is going to forget it somewhere again.
At the school fair, the other day, I was having such a good time myself, that I smiled at my son and gave him some extra cash to buy some food (option C). Oh and I asked him to get me beer while he was at it.  As for the breakfast table, I have left that one be for the moment. Neither my daughter, nor I are particularly cheerful in the morning and arguing over a few plates will not help things at all. So option C, once again.

So I am , in short, totally unprepared for my children's teenage years, when they are going to spend any extra cash that I hand out for food on beers, and  - God forbid -cigarettes (or drugs?). Years too, when I will be so thrilled that they choose to do their homework in the back of the car, I will happily drive them around the country if I have to. My teenage children are also undoubtedly going to try their very best to leave unfasionable and unwanted clothes in locker rooms, cafe's and parks on the basis that their dad will take them shopping for much wanted replacements. And they obviously will never learn how to lay, let alone clear the table, do the washing up, or pick up after themselves, because they have grown completely used to the fact that I do all that. 
But still, I am fairly optimistic that I will have it all figured out by the time the children are ready to leave the nest. Otherwise, they will probably tell me in no uncertain terms, where I have gone wrong and how it is absolutely my fault that they do not have any discipline and that they are in no way to blame for things that did not go as planned. Gosh, I honestly can not wait.