Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Fine Line of Entitlement

Jake was in a mood this morning, not unlike most mornings. For a child who insists on waking up at 6:30AM and poking his very cute face into yours and asking, “Are you awake?” when clearly you’ve been mid-snore a second before, I often wonder why he’s usually in such a bad mood. I’m a morning person. I wake up early. I love the morning. I hum or sing while making lunches.

Of course, not until I’ve had a cup of coffee.

This morning he was upset because I was requiring a sweatshirt to be worn. It’s below 50 degrees and if you’re going to wear shorts at that temperature, I am going to insist on a sweatshirt. It’s not about being cold, it’s about the glare I get from the teachers- your child is not properly dressed for recess.

Actually, he is and would be happy naked at 30 degrees.

When I asked him, sweetly, after a firm, GET YOUR SWEATSHIRT NOW, what he wanted for lunch, he began his loud response I DON’T KNOW I DON’T KNOW I DON’T KNOW.

After staying up to watch the Red Sox last night, my morning humor was going to take two cups of coffee to get flowing.

Fine. I’ll make you what I’ll make you.

FINE, he yelled back as he stomped up the stairs to get the dreaded sweatshirt.

I read a piece yesterday, by Harlyn Aizley, “You Get What You Get and You DO Get Upset” that echoed through my head immediately.

At a birthday party with her five-year-old daughter, Aizley leans over to a young girl left with a bum cupcake, and acknowledges the girl’s dismay. After one parent admonished her child, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset,” Aizley notes, well, actually, you do get upset.

But you still eat the cupcake.

When Jake returned wearing one of Ben’s sweatshirts dangling to his knees- a fight just waiting to happen- he asked me what I had made him, with the tone of certain disappointment.


For a moment I froze- I realized my gut reaction is to be ready to snarl, tough luck buddy, give me a sassy answer and you’ll get what you get.

I know as a kid, my mother did not pamper me around stuff like this. I got what I got and not a peep was expected out of me.

Of course I did more than peep at times. I was a kid, the youngest of three and always thought I got the short end of the stick. My wailing earned me the title of selfish and self-centered.

It has never served me well.

It haunts me, dancing on the edge of my consciousness, the words ready to shoot out at my own children. Jake does not need to be pampered at a moment of sullen indifference but can I find a way to help him create a bridge?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting the world. It doesn’t make you a bad person. It also doesn’t mean you’ll always get it. How do I say no, and it’s okay to be upset at a time when my brain is firing straight to the tip of my tongue my mother’s cutting words?

Oh, he said without conviction and went to find his oldest brother to show him not only had he gone INTO HIS ROOM, he also took his favorite hoodie. The confrontation with his brother was far more rich an experience than taking on me over lunch.

Maybe Jake needs some coffee in the morning, too.

I escaped today but it’s on my radar. There is no shame in wanting something. It’s time to go through with a fine toothcomb and pull out the negative messages deeply rooted in my own brain. I need to find a way to respond to my kids in a non-judgmental way that spares them the hundred pound tags I’ve carried around my whole life.

All without creating entitlement because I am, after all, raising three white boys. It's a fine line. It will require impulse control, patience and new words I'm not sure I have in my brain anywhere.

And at least one more cup of coffee.


Anonymous Laura said...

ugh, dare I say we do turn into our parents at times......even though we dont want to.

I hear it in myself too. All the things they did & said and I SWORE Id never be like them......

it just re-inforces my place in therapy where I have signed up for the lifetime plan!

9:47 AM  

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