Sunday, December 16, 2007

Privilege, Entitlement and the Holiday Season

Friday night, before I went to sleep, I promised myself I was not going to yell at Ben. It was going to be "Christmas" and however he felt about the gifts he received, however he expressed himself was going to be met with my silence.

I lasted about an hour.

What is it about privilege, entitlement and the holiday season? They seem to go together hand in hand.

Have I done a lousy job with Ben or is it all kids at this age? I swear, you could give Zachary a lump of coal and he'd think it was cool. Jake is easy, too, but he's still in the toy stage. Ben, however, was unhappy with everything except one gift.

And they were all gifts he asked for. Can someone explain this to me?

He opened the Souljah Boy tee shirt, hat and glasses.

I wanted the hoodie, too, he said, annoyed.

I could have killed him but I stayed quiet and simply shrugged.

He opened a 50 cent style baseball cap, with plaid on the front but a Boston Red Sox logo.


Tongue bleeding, I nudge Walter next to me. I'm not going to say a word.

I can see that, Walter said.

Finally, when he told Jeanine to shut up, I lost it.

Can someone give me some insight? Should I put the boy on bread and water and remove all the Abercrombie shirts? I feel like I'm constantly harping on him and it's not doing any good at all.

A friend reminded me yesterday, that until we have compassion for where they are, their experience, we cannot be helpful.

That's where I get stuck and channel my mother. Not only because they have so much in comparison to the rest of the world but also because they have so much in comparison to what I had.

It's not fair for me to go there. I'm not talking about walking uphill in the snow both ways, or the starving children in India, but alcoholism and abuse. I have to shut the hell up when I want to say, DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?

See? My mother, coming out in spades.

I know he's a good kid. I know he has compassion and is kind. I want to help him shine and want to bring out those pieces of himself.

How do I find the compassion for his reality?

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Anonymous Casey said...

He has to believe in somthing greater than himself.

Most of it is his age and his surroundings. He is too young to understand how lucky he is.

I agree you don't want to channel Mom, but there is nothing wrong with asking him to define respect and remind him that he isn't a shining defintion of that right now.

Something in life will catch his attention and show him that he may need to reign himself in a bit, show him that compassion is a better feeling than self, but in my personal opinion that is not something that you can teach. He has to learn it first hand.

Just know that I think you have done a wonderful job showing all your boys the different sides of life and the different kinds of people out there.

It is their choice how they process it. For whatever reason, Ben has chosen his own reality. And it may not be because he is a stuck up little brat. It may be because this is the only way he can deal with this big world, that becomes more real everyday.

The way any of us chose to live is because of what makes us feel comfortable. This just may be how he choses to feel warm and fuzzy until he grows up some more and learns better ways.

I mean really! How at his age are you suppose to understand the full true meaning of privilege and entitlememt. I have a hard time understanding it today myself!!

Be grateful that can provide for them like you do and have faith that the people you have surrounded them with will help them grow into the fine upstanding men you wish them to be. I for one see them moving towards that everyday.

Merry Christmas!!!!

12:50 PM  
Blogger Ms. Moon said...

Sara- I think YOU have plenty of compassion. And Ben, who appears to be a bit lacking of it right now, will learn it.
Honestly, he will. You can't believe how differently children can turn out from what they were as kids when they grow up.
It sounds like you're doing everything you need to be doing. So quit beating yourself up.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Laura said...

Sara, we have two boys raised the same way with the same people around them and they could not be more different. I always joke that one is like an alien!

Its nothing you did or are not doing. The only thing you can do is keep pointing things out to him - like how important respect and kindness are. Even though you THINK he isnt paying attention - it WILL plant seeds.

He is young - and he will find his way.

2:05 PM  
Blogger Ulla said...

My two cents: you should probably remember that he is in hormone hell; maybe a little bit like you or your wife being pregnant, except he hasn't chosen it, he's less mature, he is extremely confused about what is going on, and on top of it your issues about his gender identity - his feelings must be in turmoil.
From a good long distance :-) I would advise you to cut him some slack.
And I readily admit that I would behave exactly like you. You should cut yourself some slack, too.
This too shall pass away - and when it does, he will leave home and never look back. Enjoy what you can, while you can.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Sara said...

I'm not trying to beat myself up, but get some serious help with this...

I don't want to constantly be critical and yet... I'm constantly critical.

It's a fine line. I'm trying to find it.

9:01 PM  
Blogger Ulla said...

I really do not think you need "serious help with this". You need a little more perspective.
Rest assured that unless you and your wife have been seriously bad role models, he will be a very nice grown-up eventually.
I grew up in a very critical old-style home, so I struggle with exactly the same feelings you describe. I try hard not to let the acidic, demeaning comments jump out of my mouth when these feelings of being badly used surges. I own it as MY problem, and excuse myself - I go stir something in the kitchen and let the feelings pass. If something really has to be talked about, I can do it later, when I have calmed down. Also, I check with my husband if criticism is warranted.
That said, you were right to snap when he told Janine to "shut up". That is unacceptably disrespectful. But is she not involved at all? I would think she could tell him herself that he is not supposed to talk to anyone like that. That only goes, of course, if neither of you ever tells HIM to "shut up". I really think a speach-code has to apply universally. The "don't do as I do, do as I tell you"-style of parenting never worked.

2:44 AM  
Blogger Ulla said...

This, by the way, helped me a lot

Jesper Juul, Your Competent Child.

2:50 AM  
Blogger Sara said...

uh, jeanine is someone who will let the kids scream at her and calmly respond that it's not okay.

I yell.

of course, the kids don't dare tell me to shut up. ever.

I do like the idea of stirring in the kitchen. when they were little, I would sometimes put myself in time out- close the door to my bedroom and count to ten. I've stopped over the years.

might be time to bring the practice back.

thank you.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Ulla said...

I know exactly what you mean. My kids did not dare kick or hit me when they were small - but my husband did get kicked or hit occationally. It's great to have one of those calm people around, I think.
I used to yell my head off regularly, until watching Dr. Phil convinced me that it was a form of abuse. I took his advice and left the apartment when I felt my rage getting the better of me, so I have been standing on the balcony in all kinds of weather.
The book by Jesper Juul really is great - it helped me in many ways, but most of all to see that our approach to children often is demeaning in itself, when we use "techniques" or "methods" with which to "handle" them. As he says: "how would you like it if your partner acquired a "method" with which to deal with you?"
As the grown-ups we just have to be decent and honest, and communicate our attitudes and feelings.
Have a very nice holiday with your family.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Sue J said...

I'm not sure exactly what age your son is, but it sounds to me like he's reached the normal stage in human development when he is programmed to start rebelling against his parents in order to prepare to go out into the world independently.

I know, "Oh crap!"

2:50 PM  
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6:07 PM  

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