I’m more conservative than I expected to be as a parent. I find myself giving him a hard time about shit all kinds of crap. Shit that I know I couldn’t understand why my parents cared about. Sure some of that is just what happens. Democrats turn into Republicans as they get older is how the saying goes. But that was a very different Republican Party.
But what does a slightly conservative parent care about for their kids. Do they put grades above everything else, what about extracurricular activists? What about their friends and their hobbies, how much does that stuff matter. How structured does a kid with ADHD need his schedule to be. Clearly less free time than normal boys is critical but that cant mean no free time? Right?
How does our parent style reflect our values and his needs all at the same time when some of those things are in conflict with each other. Add to that in parenting two heads aren’t always better than one. Two heads fight and fuck up each other’s plans.
I do think he needs more structure than we have been giving him. I’m excited that we enrolled him in this basketball league. Sure its only an hour but it gives us something to plan the day around. In Atomic Habits parlanceit allows some weekend habit stacking to occur.
There’s no doubt that academics matter a lot to my wife and I. We were both in the first generation in our family to go to college and so we know first hand the importance of a good education. But he’s behind, of course he’s behind, who the hell wouldn’t be. So that means we need to lower our bars at bit, at least for these first couple years while he gets his footing. He just had to get promoted to the middle school and even if that doesn’t happen its not the end of the world. Graduating at 19 isn’t THAT different than graduating at 18 in the grand scheme of things. Add to that he was only in school for 2 months before the world went to shit so its not like he’s losing any lifelong friendships in the process.
Friends and hobbies feel more critical than education right now, he doesn’t really know how kids his age are supposed to act and theres only so much of that he can learn from us and from watching tv. He needs friends, a group of kids of his very own. He’s obsessed with shows like stranger things and boy meets world because it shows kids being kids with other kids. But as I mentioned, he’s not close to any of the boys from school and we dont have any friends or family with kids his age. So he’s a bit stuck right now.
This is an area where I feel like we are letting him down a bit. That’s a big part of why I felt like it didnt mater how expensive the camps were. We needed to do as much socialization as possible. I think they were success over all. He always had a good time and although he wouldn’t admit it he was sad every time he had to leave. So thats great news because it means that he wants what we want, and how often does that happen in parenting!
But now that schools coming back what can we do to keep this trending in the right direction? I think after school is critical, in person if at all possible. We got basketball figured out so he’ll be doing that on weekends which is great. He’s also got a few things he enjoys doing that we could push him to turn into daily habits if we wanted too. Could be drawing, making music or just making stuff. It’s important that we make him do something like that everyday cause those muscles don’t grow on their own. It would be nice if one of those habits could be something we do together. We were drawing together for a while there, seems like its time to bring some of that back out.
And, maybe most importantly, we need to find some parents with middle school kids and hang out with them. With all the chaos of the pandemic we need this for ourselves as much as we need this for him.
But as crazy as these past few months have been, I don’t think we could have asked for a better time to reinvent ourselves. To redefine who we are and what kinds of people we want to have in our lives. To build all new relationships with people because we are parents not in spite of it. It’s like that episode in Modern family where the gay couple goes out with their party friend and its the most awkward night possible. They are focused their daughter and she’s trying to do everything possible to not think about how old and alone she is. That’s how I feel when I think about calling Whitney or even old work friends like Erica and Grace. They’ll be nice but no one cares about your kids, unless they are friends with your kids.
Instead of feeling like shit about all of that I’m going to embrace it. Think of it as a time to evolve who I am. It’s not like I was living some perfect life before all this. Why not embrace the new me.
Maybe thats what we all want.