Postcards From the Margins: All the Answers

They're in here somewhere...
They’re in here somewhere…

I had the opportunity this week (not once, but twice) to make a fool of myself giving advice about other peoples’ children. In both instances, unsolicited advice (always the best kind, right?) In one case, I screwed up retroactively (new information about a child’s behavior rendered my “There, there” absurd). In the other, I messed up face-to-face, and the friend to whom I opined told me later I had actually scared her.

Good Lord.

In my defense I am a mother in the middle, with children in their 20’s and no grandkids here or on the horizon. (Not that you’d wonder why.) As such, I feel like I have valuable information about raising children that would be useful to share. Unfortunately, no one wants to hear it.

Enter: the interwebs. Isn’t this the purpose of social media? To write stuff nobody’s going to read anyway? In this spirit, then, I offer you, in one brief entry for your convenience:

ALL THE ANSWERS to your child-rearing questions:

Birth to four: Children of this age are small and not very smart. For example, everyone always says the smartest dog is as smart as a 2-1/2 year old…so, not very smart. The key to parenting very young children is this: You cannot love them too much. They are soft, portable, pretty much totally dependent creatures and you will burn in Hell if you mistreat them.

Early school-age, 5-9: These are the golden years. Seriously. (Why do you think kindergarten starts at five? They’re all yours before then.) Children this age are funny, getting smarter, generally happy and think you, their parents, are wonderful. If you are worried about their success in school, forget everything but going to the library. Read to them. Somewhere in here they’ll learn to read on their own, and then you’ll start to know how it will feel when they don’t need you for much anymore. (See High Schoolers).

Middle-school-age, 10-14: “Abandon hope, all ye who enter.” (Can you guess the age of the kid whose mom I scared the bejeezus out of?) I would leave it at this but I am trying to perform a public service here. Tweeners and young teens need pity–your sorrow and compassion at their suffering and misfortune. Their bodies and minds are awash in powerful chemicals, all endogenously created. They have trouble recognizing themselves from day to day, never mind the people who want to or used to be their friends. When you think of this age, think vulnerable. To so. Many. Things.

High school-age, 15-18: If kids up to about age nine are unlikely to be spoiled by “too much love,” and if that’s not a remote possibility for the 10 to 14-year-old, then think twice here. It’s not like older teens have it all figured out but they can, at times, have enough of it figured out to game the system. Don’t let that happen. Make them accountable. Let them fail. The more you back away, the more they’ll probably screw up–right in front of you. Still living in your home. Still (sometimes, anyway) within reach of shoulder to cry on, or at least the love and attention of parents who care.

HIPPA laws have pretty much ensured that you will not know one thing about your children’s lives at college–except for those things they choose to tell you. ‘Nuff said. Take the time now to love your children up. They’ll be off in the world before you know it.



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