My late-teens son, Padawan Nerd-in-Training, rarely listens when I offer advice. I can see his eyes glazing and his brain slowly switching off the brilliant lecture I have so carefully devised. He’s thinking about the latest Metal Gear Solid or what’s to eat in the fridge.
It’s not that he’s a bad kid – he doesn’t run wild at night, he doesn’t drink or do drugs. In fact it’s pretty hard to drag him away from his games console of choice to get him to go out and breathe fresh air. But he’s at the point now where I can’t really admonish him if he’s done something wrong, or to do chores. He’s a man now, so I have to reason with him, provide evidence to support my argument, plead and beg and bribe, if I have to. Gone are the days when my word was law and he jumped to it.
I sometimes worry that I didn’t bring him up the right way. I think every parent does. There’s no point blaming his mother for not providing him with a regular routine when he was young, or for moving him through five different schools because it was convenient for her to do that. Although I only had Padawan every weekend, I was still a big part of his life and thus an influence.
If you’re anything like me as a parent you agonise over everything you do and say, worrying that the latest advice or scolding you give is going to traumatise and have them in therapy in their later years. I must admit, it is very convenient for me to blame my parents every time I cry when I see a soppy movie.
But although we like to think we are the be-all and end-all, that’s not the case. The simple fact is, although we are major influences on our children, as soon as they get to school (or day care) they are exposed to friends, peers, teachers, all sorts of role models whom they learn from. Over time, they have a gamut of influences, many of which we have no control over. That’s not to say we still don’t worry about our own input, but there are many other factors at play.
And don’t get me started on the influence of the internet. Some days I’d like to blow up all the servers in the world and return us to a technological dark age, to stop the crap that kids and teenagers can get access to. Other days, it is the most valuable research and communication tool ever created (I couldn’t be a blogger without it). We take the good with the bad.
There is no perfect way to raise kids. We try to do our best. Sometimes we f*ck it up (I do, often). There are things we wish we had never done, things we should have done better, guilt that will follow us until the end of our days (unless you’re some kind of sociopathic parent who really doesn’t care at all).
So, I guess I should stop worrying. Padawan still comes to me for advice (he just doesn’t like it when I offer it). He chooses what he uses and what he doesn’t. That’s how free will works.
If only he’d just do it my way…
(Yes, I use English spelling. Get over it.)