“My stomach hurts.”
“I don’t want to practice my saxophone anymore.”
“Can I have a friend come over? I’ll clean my room later.”
“What’s for lunch?”
These are pretty straight forward statements and questions. But not always an easy response. I’ve noticed that I have to pause a moment to think–and wish Carrie were here–about which role is best for my pre-teen son in this instance of this concern or question. Do I say “stop your bellyaching and get back to work” or begin checking for appendicitis? Is it “fix your own lunch” or “what would you like”? Parenting, I am convinced, takes both roles to get it right. There are times when expressive approach or nurture is required. There are other times a proverbial swift kick in the pants, the instrumental approach, is needed.
When there were two of us we could quickly bounce the situation off each other and decide which route was best in each situation. Now, as a widowed father, that luxury is gone. In a broad sense good parenting and raising healthy kids takes clear boundaries and support. Clear boundaries, in simplistic terms, may be thought of as the rules and regulations which must be followed. Support is being a cheerleader, being emotionally involved.
It takes both of these approaches but sometimes it is hard to remember it takes both. Sometimes it’s the thought that my “widowhood” means he is “motherless” so it is easy to give in or make his life easy. (I suspect that divorced single parents struggle with this issue also) I do believe there is a limited place for that in our circumstances but limited is the key word. It is important to remember that I am still parenting, preparing him to be a functioning, and responsible adult. I think the real battle is not to over indulge. Nor can I make him the center of my life…but that’s probably another post another day. I must try to teach him life’s lessons before he reaches adulthood at the ripe old age of 18. This means I still must be intentional in setting boundaries, assigning chores, and insisting on the development the proper attitudes then I must follow through by doing the hard part of enforcing them. (see article:Adolescent Developmental Milestones) All of this while I support him, encourage him, get in the trenches with him, and demonstrate my love along the way. In short, I must be the parent …or both parents in this case.
With these thoughts I’ll have to close for now… parenthood is calling. The boy wants to know what’s for breakfast. I haven’t decided… fix it yourself or what would you like.