While working with a group of foster kids approaching adulthood, one of the participants asked: “Why am I even here?
His parents, both 15 when they had him, did not stay together after his birth. He was taken by CPS into foster care. It presented a childhood of feeling unloved and abandoned. He was seeking significance through groups, sports, and girlfriends. Somehow, he was choosing a positive road.
He is not the norm.
In another instance, I was finishing up a workshop in which the participating students were actively using the fact they attended, to provide them another line on their college applications. Most did not enroll for this workshop on their own.
When I asked why they were there, one guy said: “My mom is making me do this.”
I soon found out that was very true, as a mom came into the high school after the last session, wondering where his certificate was. Since there was another component yet to finish, she was livid that she hadn’t been told. I looked at her son, cowering behind her, and explained that her son had the information and perhaps she should have a conversation with him.
What kind of motivation will this guy have?
With his mother doing the legwork through all of his challenges I can tell you simply: he won’t, And further, he will be looking over his shoulder for mom to come and clean up messes he’s made or bad choices that need covering up. This type of (s)mothering never leads to a good end.
I have spent a few heartbroken days watching parents of Florida high school shootings and reading posts on social media stating various opinions. Who can really say what the answer is to this string of events is, but to say things have to change.
I ruminated on a post, written by Caleb Park and featuring the thoughts of Kelly Guthrie Raley, teacher of the year for 2016-2017. Reading it, you feel the passion and the grief of a person who sees and works with high school kids every day and she offers the following advice:
"Be a parent that actually gives a crap. …STOP being a friend to your child…(Teach) respect for human life and have compassion for those around you "
In my experience as a mother and a teacher, I found that setting boundaries was very important to the success of those I was to lead to adulthood. Of course I made mistakes and of course I was scared to death that I might be making tough decisions that other parents seemed to gloss over…those involving drinking, having curfews, tangible consequences.
Let’s face it. A person who has a child is not an immediate expert on parenting.
Quite the opposite.
It is a lesson in observation. What are other young parents doing? Am I giving my kid enough? Will they feel cheated if they don’t have what other kids have? When I suggest something, do they scream back with disrespect, slamming doors, or throwing fits.
Being a parent that “gives a crap” is not necessarily giving a kid everything that they want. It is giving them everything that they NEED
-Conversations about feelings
When these things are not available, a child will learn from internet conversations, social media sites, and by watching their peers.
Ambivalence breeds ambivalence.
Foster care is not perfect. It offers no substitute to fill the psyche of a child who needs to know they fit in and are wanted.
Can you even imagine being born behind this 8 Ball? Clawing your way to just feel even with your peers?
It is a system that needs work.
But parents who are micromanagers choose to stay involved well past the time their children need to launch. This message to their kids is :we don't think you can do it by yourself and we don't want to see you struggle.
It makes you think...which type of guidance do kids need?
It is a balancing act that parents must learn because all kids are not the same. What is good for some is not good for others.
In real time, we need a culture of adults who are building the next culture of adults. If this doesn’t happen, we have aimless and uninspired young people who do not know how far is too far in many decisions they are to make.
May we, the adult culture in present day, quit quibbling with one another long enough, to see the pattern we are modeling for generations to come.
Thanks for listening.