the bare minimum

July 1, 2010 at 2:43 pm 1 comment

Like always, I’ve been doing a lot of people watching the last week. Beaches and pools full of parents, grandparents and children has provided me with millions of opportunities to observe families in action.

Kids fight over a shovel. How does mom react? Toddler jumps from the edge of the pool even when dad told her the rules. How does dad react? Husband poses for a picture by his wife. Does she make fun of his shorts? Husband and wife sit together for a fancy dinner. Are they talking? Grandpa holds the baby while his daughter showers sand off her feet. Is he accustomed to caring for his grandchildren?

These are the kinds of observations I make. I don’t know what I’m chronicling these details for, but I can’t stop making them. Usually Nathan and I are in Missoula, discussing the details amongst ourselves, but this time I was in the position of being among family while observing other families, which proved to be a potent mix. I was sitting amongst grown siblings as they discussed their parents, while I watched young siblings (strangers), respond to their parents.

I certainly have opinions on how to raise children, we all do, and when I watch families on the beach or at the pool I lay these opinions over my observations. I wonder what the same interactions would look like if the parents parented with more empathy (or any at all), or more information, or more patience. But the conversations I was hearing late at night, or after dinner, from grown children, made me question my scope.

Maybe holding empathy, and information as parenting principles is too fine tuned, or too nit picky. I noticed that the adults that felt broken, hurt, or damaged by their parents didn’t mention either of these things, instead they described the following four issues again and again.

Alcoholism and drug addiction Parents drinking or using drugs in a way that affected them negatively. Making promises the parents couldn’t keep, forgetting to pick them up from school, embarrassing them in front of their friends, forgetting important details, or scaring them by passing out. The examples were endless.

Distance/Absence Parents going missing, either emotionally or physically.

Cruelty Parents using unkind language, mannerisms, or showing disdain.

Favoritism Parents exhibiting unequal treatment, or outwardly loving one child more than another.

All of the adults I was surrounded by are successful, amazing people, their parents provided for them, and loved them. But those same parents also participated in one of the activities above and that continues to affect them negatively.

We all want, at the very least, to not mess up our children. I now think avoiding the four issues above might be the bare minimum.

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Entry filed under: parenting principles. Tags: , , , , , .

wordless wednesday amen

1 Comment Add your own

  • […] we were with and around, and she wrote about the motifs she gleaned from them in a post she called The Bare Minimum. In it, she described four bedrock ideas for how not to blow it as a parent. Basically it was avoid […]

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