I often wonder, as parents ought to, how I am doing with respect to raising my children. As is commonly said and judiciously viewed, our offspring are generally a reflection of who we are and how we exist as adults, role models, and exemplifications of proper human entities. So, it comes to fruition whereby a personal report card is necessary. Taking stock, if you will. Is there anything I can and should change?
Given the checks-and-balances system we utilize in our society’s form of democratic governance, it becomes essential to adopt akin precepts. As such, I am compelled to consider where I may have room for improvement and thus ask myself: What is one parenting habit from which I know I should refrain?
Without self-serving diatribe it is necessary for me to reconsider my typical stances as it relates to how I am raising my teen daughter, Lauren. Albeit highly supportive and proudly boastful of her dad being “a cop”, Lauren, 15, has her own reservations as to what she would like to see me ameliorate with respect to my parenting traits and habits. Conversely, the very nature of what I do and how I parent my child are inter-related…and perhaps counterproductive. Or not. Given circumstances, varying perspectives abound, each of which I respect.
Ponderously: What is the one parenting habit I know I should break?
When I asked Lauren this morning to reflect on this question and offer her response in one word, without hesitation or ambivalence, she immediately barked “Expectations!”
In just this one word, I assumed a myriad of possibilities could apply. So, I asked her to expound…and expound she did. Lauren elaborated beyond her one-word answer, concisely intimating, “too many high expectations for a child.”
My response was fair, so I thought. I merely smirked and said, “That’s fair.”
Upon dropping her off at school, introspectively, I drove home to structure a relative breadth of content so as to answer this very question. Not necessarily a dilemma, I thought, but perhaps an avenue I should traverse and ponder.
My career as a law enforcement officer has been thoroughly rewarding, yet it has imprinted upon me a way-of-life in that I think differently, perhaps overanalyzingly, even physiologically impacting, certainly based in hypervigilance.
An endemic component in police work, hypervigilance develops rather immediately and embeds throughout the career span. Albeit a highly resourceful tool in the efficacy (and certainly the immediate mortality) of any police officer, it has far-reaching abilities whereby it spills into general life and, in this case, perhaps over-objectively in the raising of a teen daughter.
Hypervigilance has received infamy with regards to chronic physiological spoils, ill-temper, and bastardizing of relationships. It has been studied religiously and ad nauseam. It does have its negative impacts, notwithstanding the validated utilization by cops, crucially so as to survive the perils of each shift and ensure a trip home to family.
When I am around my daughter, Lauren, I observe diligently what she is talking about when conversing with her friends (aka “besties”), how she is communicating (slang), of/with whom she is speaking (those “besties” I observed to be potentially detrimental), and why such subject matter is seemingly necessary (gossip).
As a street cop for most of my police career, I have had the span of experiential lessons whereby I witnessed myriad children and adolescents engaged in unspeakable behavior. Moreover, I have observed other parents doing everything but parenting, ostensibly. I have been placed countless times in that situational anecdote whereby a mom and/or dad finds it appropriate to use the police as a tool to discipline their child, ala “If you don’t behave he is going to take you to jail!” (Cops hate that rendition of parenting, by the way. It instills prejudice, and relinquishes traditional parental controls, responsibilities).
More impactful were the numerous occasions when subjected to the onslaught of a foul-mouthed youngster, bearing no care and/or responsibility for the gravity of the situation, telling me where to go. Given too much freedom in the past? Perhaps. Will these disgruntled, bitter youngsters learn respect? I hope so.
Synonymously, those in the realm of adulthood delivered the same message. Supplementing the verbal assaults were many instances of physical assaults, yet the instances of verbal attack far outweigh the physical realm. It is often said a cop is merely one who is paid to be lied to. In essence, this is emphatically accurate.
The lies, lies, lies…all to save ones hiney from the aspect of jail and its elemental stigmata, are pervasive in law enforcement. With that said, I do recognize a chronic state of acute awareness and thus wonder when I may be being lied to.
Thus, from my career choice I indelibly harbor the reminiscences of absolute misbehavior, poor actions and/or decisions, and seeming carelessness of young folks. Therefore, as a parent, I find myself with high “expectations” of my teen daughter, Lauren. I find myself repetitiously echoing the sounds of stellar behavior, perhaps to the extent I am disappointed when she errs. A problem I need to change in my way of thinking, I know. Young folks are going to navigate for themselves, make mistakes, and hopefully learn from those misjudgments.
I have personal issues with witnessing my child navigate the stressors placed by societal expectations, as well as her own self-imposed hurdles. I ebb and flow between what I saw other young folks do to their lives, bastardizing opportunities, all cast to a waste pile. I marginalize myself as a parent when I fail to recognize my child is not the other child/children I witnessed as a cop.
Do I expect her to make the right choices? Of course! Do I scrutinize too much? Perhaps. Do I feel wrongly about such parental stances? Not really, until she tells me I have expectations too high for her to deal with. At that point, I must consider that I may have incurred another dilemma: Blindly placing burdens.
Conversely, others with whom I spoke claim I would be a fool to go the other way and relent in my pursuits as a parent. Without hedging, I am a little ambivalent in my seemingly new-found direction to ease off on the “expectations” I have of Lauren. After all, is it not endemic, primordial that we wish only the best from our kids?
I arrived at the point of deliberate compromise. I hear Lauren’s assertion that I have too many expectations, yet I am steadfastly cognizant of developmental stages whereby life experiences and lessons learned are passed on.
Validating such a position is my upbringing: I was never given direction by my parents. Instead, I stewed over choices, perhaps to the extent of over-sequestration, but I found my way. Vicariously, I sought examples of good versus bad, to glean from both polar opposites and amicable fabric I was comfortable with sewing further. I found leanings towards police officers growing up as a child in Brooklyn, NY. Furthermore, I had a Catholic educational basis from which to spring, and was taught every subject matter class by nuns, exclusively. One exception, Religion class, was taught by a priest.
I never experienced a “teacher” until I attended a public-oriented high school.
Hence, the foundational weave of who I became stemmed largely from cops and nuns. Expectations? Yes, I see it too, however biased I may be. Nevertheless, I can say with confidence that the aforementioned groundstones still serve me well today, even if my daughter considers me as “expecting too much”.
It certainly boils down to trust, that often difficult-to-understand and hard-to-digest principle we should have for each other. Albeit hard to trust kids nowadays, given society’s woes and the lure by its wolves, if you will, I must make better effort to trust Lauren’s decisions. Even if outcomes are less-than-exemplary, I must learn to support her notions. Even if my upbringing was quite different, and where I grew up a geographical challenge, I must lend credence to the evolution of time, environment, human nature, and be responsive if/when called upon by Lauren.
Even if it appears I am acquiescing to an uncertainty, I remain vigilant, diligently continuing on my journey, our journey, parenting…teaching each other, as well.
I am still learning, which transcends back to my ponderous state, mulling over what other parental habits I can change. After all, lauren has three other younger siblings all of whom will look to her for guidance and role-modeling exemplification. The ball is in my court.