I've been accused of being, but vehemently deny, that I am a helicopter parent. My son is warranted freedoms typically given only to children much older than 11. I don't hover over and follow him wherever he goes. Unlike some parents in his 6th grade class, I don't walk him into school in the morning and make sure he gets to his classroom. I let him go out and ride his bike alone around the neighborhood, confident he'll come back eventually. I entrust him with privileges and usually receive reciprocal respect as a result. I let him make a lot of his own decisions and deal with the fallout or successes of those decisions. I'm firm but not overbearing. I discipline but I don't condemn. Carl Jung said, "We cannot change anything unless we accept it. Condemnation doesn't liberate. It oppresses."
I encourage and reward good behaviors and call him on and punish bad behaviors. We speak to one another on an intellectual level reserved customarily for adult-to-adult interactions. He is continually praised by other adults for his level of maturity and things like his sardonic sense of humor. We always say he's an old soul, and he is. Craig would say he's been coddled, but my impression is that he's been through more in his 11 years than most kids go through in their entire childhoods, and some of that stuff is really difficult to deal with. It's tough to remember that at heart, though, he's still a young kid, subject to young kid emotions and challenges.
I fully admit to spoiling him by my own accord materialistically, purely out of the feeling that I want him to be afforded a lot of what I felt I was missing out on when I was a child. I want him to be happy. Craig disagrees with how much I cave in and let Luke get his way, and thinks our son should be learning more about disappointment and the ills of the world than he now comprehends. It's so hard, though. You want to be generous with your child, especially when circumstances were different in your own childhood and you *didn't* always get what you wanted when you wanted it. Today, our kids are obsessed with instant gratification, and that's something I have to work on delaying in Luke, and I am, slowly. And it's a cliche, but today things are different. Children have access to and are encouraged to HAVE so much more than we did as kids. Whether that's fashionable clothing, the latest electronics or games, or whatever, they just want everything, it seems. Peer pressure for children these days (and I'm speaking about pre-teens, which is my knowledge and experience base at present) is intense.
A new video game came out this week, Call of Duty: 3. Most of Luke's friends pre-ordered it from a store, and got it the day it came out, Tuesday. We pre-ordered ours online, largely because I had to wait until I paid my credit card bill, and this annoyed Luke. He said that his friends would make fun of him at school because he didn't have the game the day it came out. I explained to him that this was of those instances where he'd just have to wait and be patient, and that he'd get the game whenever it arrived. Thus he waited until it arrived yesterday, and all was well. If I had half a ball, I would've told him to put it on his Christmas list and wait until then. But I frankly didn't feel like dealing with the fallout of that decision. So I caved and bought it for him now, which Craig would probably like to bop me upside the head for doing.
Through teacher/principal and parental intervention, Luke mended ways with the first bully who was bothering him this school year, and now they're good pals. I even had the child over to play last Saturday for the whole afternoon and the kids got along famously. The child was polite, respectful and friendly. So super! I was happy for Luke that their differences had been resolved.
Meanwhile, the bully who's been abusing Luke for the last 4 school years has started abusing him again, physically and verbally. This abuse is a relatively new development at school for this year, but Luke told me about it the other night. My knee-jerk reaction was to spout off a rather abrupt, angry email to the teacher about the bully and about a situation at school where someone stole something that belonged to Luke, due to the negligence of the teacher. Not saying the bully in question stole the Lego mini figure out of Luke's book order at school, but someone in the classroom did, and no one fessed up, even after a desk and backpack check. (The teacher is ordering him a new book, not at our expense.) This bully likes to call Luke "stupid" and a "dumbass," and physically knock him around, kick him, grab the fat around Luke's waist and twist it until Luke screams out in pain, tackle him and just generally can't keep his hands to himself. He's a snot-nosed little brat who threatens Luke not to tell on him or he'll have his mommy, the cop, arrest Luke. (Which come on, Luke should know that's bullshit, but it intimidates him nevertheless.) Craig and I have gone through 4 teachers and 3 principal changes regarding this particular bully, and nothing ever gets resolved to anyone's satisfaction.
Not saying that the bully's behavior is in ANY way excusable, but Luke needs to remember that it's not really about Luke and who he is or might be like. It's about how the bully feels about himself, and the way he feels about himself is torn up inside. His parents are divorced, with the father living out-of-state, and the couple is currently embroiled in a serious custody dispute over where the child will live. Luke needs to understand that this kid's going through some heavy shit, and that his parents don't get along like Dad and I do. He needs to realize that the kid is grasping at straws to make himself feel better about himself, since his parents don't seem to be instilling in him a great deal of self-confidence, if they're tugging him from side to side.
I forwarded the angry email I'd sent to the teacher to a few close friends, and Craig, all of whom thought my tone was over-the-top and definitely an angry, accusatory outburst. That much I'll agree to. What most of them (apart from Craig) missed was the conversation and all the emails that followed that angry email, where I apologized to the teacher for being such a hardass and she apologized for her negligence in watching the kids and the book that got vandalized. She and I are on fine terms now, and I owned up to my anger and she said it wasn't displaced or unreasonable. I got a wrist slapping from Craig and TOC, so the teacher won't see any more angry emails from me in the future. I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Meanwhile, my therapist, to whom I was assigned (Medicaid, what do you expect?) a few months ago has been largely useless to me. I have to do all the talking in the sessions and she either agrees with me on everything, saying "Exactly" over and over again, or she doesn't comprehend what I'm talking about at all. We've been talking about the Luke situations at home and at school, and she cannot GET why it's impossible for me to offer objective advice to my son. I'm biased. So is Craig. "Why you not objective?" she asks me her foreign vernacular. "He is kid." (Yes, I know that, but must you constantly refer to him as just plain "kid" and not "Luke" or "your son?") I've been trying desperately to find a therapist for Luke, who finally accepted that he should and needs to have someone to talk to about issues in his life, other than Mom and Dad. We had a family meeting the other night to discuss things going on in Luke's life, and we encouraged him to be as open as he can be with us, but that we understood that there might be things he wants to tell an objective 3rd party and NOT share with his parents, and that that is ok. It's someone he can fully trust with his secrets who'll tell no one and furthermore, not judge him for how he feels about things. My therapist didn't grasp that proposal.
My therapist also erroneously assumed that my counseling from my Stephen minister through church was a conflict of interest with her therapy, when my Stephen is a spiritual adviser who can offer me God's perspective and the Christian perspective on my problems and issues. She's there as a supportive, prayerful friend who helps me work things out according to God's plans, not mine. I need that. I appreciate her a lot. My secular therapist felt threatened by my Stephen minister. I told her I still need a licensed clinical psychologist for my mental illness-the bipolar, the general anxiety and the PTSD. I need my spiritual counselor to help me with living with reality of my issues as a child of God. They're mutually exclusive of one another. Even that she didn't understand. She wanted me to counsel my son and didn't think he would benefit from therapy and I had to raise strong disagreement with her regarding that issue, more than once.
The therapist asked me a strange question today. She asked me if I HAD to choose between the secular therapist and the Stephen minister, whom would I choose? What an unfair question. They serve totally separate roles in my therapy. I told her in all honesty that at this point, I'd pick my Stephen minister. There is absolutely no cause for me to choose. She's just weird, what can I tell you?
It's inherently impossible to be objective when the subject is your own child. The bond you share with that child is stronger than that of any other human relationship, even stronger than the bond between husband and wife, at least in my life. I LOVE Luke, in all caps. He is my first priority in life. I want him to emerge as a healthy, well-adjusted, not mentally ill, productive member of society when he grows up. But I can't do it alone, and neither can Craig. And Craig and I don't have all the answers on how to raise a pre-teen. That's why I'm soliciting advice from other parents with similar aged kids, who are also having problems with their children's moodiness and anger and aggression towards the whole world. Also soliciting advice from experienced parents who've lived through all of this pre-teen nonsense already. Craig and I have to do our part. The teacher and principal need to their parts, and a counselor will have to do his/her part. Our little ones are learning quickly that the world can be an unfair, icky place in which to survive. But you keep on plugging along. That's how you mature and become an adult. A young man, not a little boy.
Coincidentally, I'd planned on writing a note to my therapist's proctor (she's a grad student, and all of our sessions are recorded for her proctor to review) to ask for a new therapist. Well, glory be today! My therapist said she's leaving for "personal reasons" at the beginning of December, and I'll be assigned a new therapist, Erin. According to my therapist, Erin is young, like my last therapist, Elena, who I adored. So we'll see how that works out. Just about anything would be better than the current therapist. My mom, dare I say, gives me better advice on life.