We Are Putting Too Much Responsibility On Our Kids

I have three kids.

Most of you know this, if you are new to my blog …well now you know. Two are girls, aged 15 and 11. And my one boy is 2.

My 15 year old has been gearing up to get her drivers permit this fall, and thinking she would go for the driver’s license right away upon turning 16.

But as the months have inched closer to her written permit exam, she’s made a lot of other decisions with regards to her education that ultimately made her choose to put driving on the back burner.

That’s a long winded way of saying that she’s decided to graduate early and wait on driving until closer to 17. Maybe later.

Beyond having homeschooled since she was in 1st grade (so being pretty ahead of the game all along anyway), she really needs some time between graduation and life to figure out exactly what she wants to do and how she wants to go about doing it. We don’t live in a time where kids can just go off to college and everything works out perfectly …kids have high debts and shit jobs when they graduate if they don’t have a clear path in mind. And a lot of times, they do all of that to go into a field that didn’t even need the degree (and high debt).

Doing this will give her a couple years to figure out her real plan for college and/or beyond, and she can start that next step in life (whatever it looks like) at the same time as the rest of her peers. Because she’s a minor she can take some for-credit courses at the community college for free, she can explore volunteer and internship opportunities…and after years of homeschooling with minimal breaks and no summer vacations, she can also relax (for once). It’s a win, whatever way you look at it.

So the exam to accomplish early graduation as a homeschooler in California is administered the March after she turns 16. You guys see the timing is such that it really does make sense for her to focus 100% on that.

And after all, what’s the rush on the driver’s license anyway, right?

When I started mentioning it to people as they brought up her driving in less than a year, I got a backlash from a handful of people (3, to be exact) in one of two veins.

Either 1) they assumed it was really me saying she should wait, in other words sheltering her from the big bad scary roads and growing up; or 2) her not taking responsibility for herself.

People just can’t make decisions for anything anymore without someone waiting in the wings to criticize them.

I shouldn’t even reply to the first point. I wasn’t allowed to drive until I was 17, and in fact California has many laws that restrict what and who can be in the car with teenagers at the outset because of the high incidences of teenage deaths behind the wheel. I am not the catalyst behind her decision whatsoever; but if I were, it wouldn’t be abnormal.

And anyway, my kid my rules.

But to be clear: it was her decision. Hers. Not mine. HERS. 100%.

And it was a decision I found to be rooted in maturity beyond her years. Not all kids would decide on school and studying over the thrill of getting behind the wheel.

As to the responsibility.

Even if it were for fear or not being ready for that level of responsibility, what is this idea that kids under 18 are not still… kids? That their feelings or fears or concerns are completely invalid and they should just man up and grow up?

Repeat after me: they are still children.

And beyond that, has anyone taken stock – truly – of how much responsibility falls upon our older kids, today, as a culture? The shooter drills. The intense college admissions competition. AP exams. Competitiveness in sports. Plus looks, bullying, dating, peer suicide, all-time high incidences of mental illness…

Granted some of that is eliminated because my kids homeschool. But in many ways (because my kids are still very social, have relatively large friend groups, are out in the community daily, and have many of the same goals as their peers), they experience it all to varying degrees.

And in the case of my children, you also have to consider how much responsibility my two older daughters already have and take of their own accord around the house (which, I am sure, is common in other households as well as the business world molds and changes, and local, 9-5 jobs for parents have largely ceased to exist).

My husband works overnight shifts for a marketing firm that contracts with Disney. He’s an editor, so it means long hours, unpredictable hours, and a lot of overtime. When he gets home in the morning, he goes to bed and sleeps all day until it’s time to go back and start it over again. He works weekends and holidays often, and he almost never uses his vacation time. He basically is uninvolved in our lives unless he can actually be off for Christmas or Easter (but of course then he still sleeps half the day, either catching up or just on that different schedule).

That leaves me as the sole caretaker, housekeeper, financial planner, grocery shopper, child care provider, car maintenancer, schedule manager, meal, snack and every in between preparer, launderer, problem solver, medical care provider, educator, ride-giver…and so on…

My kids, being more responsible than some adults I know, have taken it upon themselves to pitch in for the sake of my husband’s dreams and my sanity.

It’s killing me to allow, and yet sometimes I feel I have no other choice; and even other times I realize that letting your kids have responsibility around the home has been proven in study after study to raise kids more capable of managing their lives as fully formed adults.

So my daughter doesn’t want to take on the “responsibility” of studying for taking the exam for her drivers permit, and the behind the wheel test and driving so soon, on top of everything else on her plate.

She cleans up my toddler’s toys every night when I put him to bed.

She helps cook dinner when I’m giving him a bath or nursing him (because, yes, I am still nursing my 2 year old).

She and her sister clean up the poop in the bathtub when he inevitably turns it into his large, personal toilet.

My 11 year old isn’t without added responsibility at home as well. She takes out the trash, regularly, when my husband has been too busy to change all the cans. She also helps keep the laundry moving, does dishes without being asked, and plays with her brother or feeds him breakfast when I’m driving my 15 year old to an appointment or tennis lesson.

Once a week, my kids and I spend hours going through all the laundry that has been done and sort, organize, fold, and put it all away. When my husband sees us doing it, he says “just leave mine on the bed.”

And this is the thing that I want to impress on all of you: my kids are not unique from other kids, and the amount that is expected of them today is phenomenal.

I get it. There was a time when kids did all of this and more. But there are two parents in this home, two adults responsible for it all, and my kids are at the very least helping to carry the load for one that is largely absent. Because they are already more responsible than a lot of adults I know.

So to suggest that my daughter needs to “start taking responsibility for herself,” and that the driving thing is just a sign that she isn’t doing that is – in a word – laughable. And this is what I am largely seeing happen with a lot of her and my 11 year old’s peers: that in the face of already doing it all and more, adults are still pushing the vice down even harder and demanding more of them.

And we wonder why so many kids have mental health problems now.

I feel like we have forgotten that under 18, they are still kids. And yet, at the end of the day, so many of them seem to have it more together than a lot of us did at that age. More together than a lot of us do today.

To the high school girl in the apartment next door, crying with the window open …

… have some self respect!

I wasn’t planning on blogging about anything other than the ongoing saga of my Trailer Trash Mom‘s Mother’s Day Mayhem until after Sunday, and boy do I have a few doozies for you crazy faithful blog followers. But none of them were enough for me to interrupt our regular programming of my TTM … until this girl started crying with the window open like a little bitch.

Have some self respect, home girl!

I get that your boyfriend dumped your ass. I get that you thought you had never felt this way about anyone before in your life. I get that he cheated on you with your friend under the bleachers of the gymnasium between 5th and 6th period. I get it all!! But for God’s sakes – sobbing like someone died is just going too far.

There would be no problem with this at all had I not had a hard time today and wished to just go the fuck to sleep. After getting some sort of food poisoning last night, I continued to feel like crap for the majority of the day which I now attribute less to tainted food and more to the stress caused by my mom. Then our new TV broke. Then my blender crapped out. Then I had to spend all day continuing on with this Mother’s Day meal preparation because in the end I knew that it was best for me to set a good example and be the bigger person, then after Sunday I will (without a doubt) walk away and never look back.

So when I went to bed and was kept awake by this incessant sobbing, I first became annoyed; and second turned into the nosey neighbor that I always turn into.

Of course I’m one of those people that leans against the window and tries to get a real clear shot to hear what all the nonsense is about – why I heard her say that he caused her so much pain by cheating on her between periods under the bleachers and shit. Why wouldn’t I be one of those people? I’m apparently not the only one, either, because while standing there a man walked outside to get something from his car, saw me listening, looked over towards my neighbor’s window where the pathetic sobbing was coming from, and then stood there for about 5 minutes himself listening to the mayhem.

My husband felt bad for her and said I shouldn’t even blog about it. But that’s because he’s not a woman. From experience, I can say with utmost authority that life is full of people out to hurt you. The world will always be unfair. Each relationship that goes down like this will always have been with someone you “never felt like this before” with. There will always be someone that will cheat on you between 5th and 6th period under the bleachers, with your best friend no less. You’ll be lucky if it’s your best friend – usually it’s your sister or someone with a venereal disease.

So, to the high school girl in the apartment next door, crying with the window open – I know all-too-well how much it hurts to have someone treat you like this, but this ‘aint the end of the world, home girl. It’s time to have some self-respect and start enjoying young love while you can still feel it. Before you know it you won’t feel anything, probably because you’ll be so jaded and misanthropic about the cold, cruel world like I am. Then you’ll miss these days that you are wasting sobbing by the back window, keeping self-respecting nosey-bodies like me awake.

The rest of the excitement and scandal and terribly bizarre things I witnessed over the past few days will have to wait. I need to get back to my Trailer Trash Mom. And it’s late. The crying has stopped. Either she passed out from hyperventilation, or her boyfriend called her and apologized. Or maybe her parents shut the window. In any event, I can go to bed now. My TTM and her trailer trash weekend await.

Keep Your Kids Dirty Diapers Off Facebook

Yesterday we talked about what it implies when you don’t have a profile picture on any of your regular social networks.  You know, that blank image of a man’s silhouette that shows up in place of the photo, or the question mark that says “your guess is as good as mine!”  Well, today we’re going to briefly discuss another profile photo faux pas:  the kiddie pics.

I don’t want to disparage all profile photographs that have children in them.  Sometimes people post a picture and it has a part of their kid and a part of them – that is tolerable.  Other times it is just the kid and occasionally that is okay too.  Although there are definite photographs that should not be used for a profile picture on any social network, at all.  Most of them should probably not even be uploaded to the Internet (mainly because, well we don’t want to see that); but if you must, for the love of God don’t make them your actual profile photograph.  Here’s the all-star line up:

The Dirty Diaper Pic

As cute as that kid may look while having his ass wiped, I’m telling you parents:  no one wants to see that as your profile photograph.  We further do not want to see the inside of the kid’s diaper, your kid in the tub, your kid’s ass, your kid naked, the huge rash on the inside of your kid’s legs since you don’t change its diaper enough – basically anything related to your kid and hygiene should be avoided.  I know, I know … we all love a look at human fecal matter once in a while (actually, no we don’t), but for real parents.  Keep it off the Internet.

Your Creepy Ass Baby

Yes, yes – the baby is cute in his own right.  He’ll grow out of it.  Insert all of those platitudes we tell ourselves to cover up the fact that we don’t want to accept this baby as both creepy and ugly as hell.  I know that the love of your child makes you think they are beautiful no matter how they look, but not all of us are obligated to feel the same way.  The creepy ass baby picture is one of the worst offenders, mostly because it is frightening to look at and is not a true representation of (1) your child, and (2) (more importantly) you.  Your online profiles are supposed to be about “you.”  While your children are an extension of you, you still have an identity that does not give me chills every time I look at it (I don’t think).

Your Teenage Son

Please, parents.  Your teenager likely has his or her own online profiles that they may showcase their emo-rific photographs on.  You do not need to do this for them (and, in fact, I am fairly certain they will appreciate it).  Posting a photograph of your middle schooler or teenager is fine, but using it as a profile picture again stinks worse than that kid’s diaper up above.

In the end, you can make your profile pictures whatever you want them to be.  If you want there to be nothing, by all means have there be nothing.  If you want to showcase your fifteen year old daughter in that mini-skirt you probably shouldn’t even be allowing her to wear – sure, why not.  But the thing about the Internet is that everyone uses it differently, and everyone is sensitive, finicky, and grossly opinionated on what people should and should not be doing.  Above even that, there is an unspoken etiquette to it all and if you do not follow suit, you are running the risk of what I like to call Facebook Drama.  As if drama in real life weren’t childish enough, we now have it everywhere on the Internet.  Let’s do ourselves a favor and avoid it altogether.  Keep your kids and their diapers off your profile pictures, and we’ll all be a step closer to a happy, peaceful, online experience.