I was standing in line at Dunkin Donuts behind a mother and her pre-school son, Thomas. They were discussing the family dinner plans. Thomas, like most kids today, was under the impression that his vote counted. Oh, I thought to myself, this should be interesting.
Mother: We will discuss what we are having for dinner when we get home and can include your sister in our decision.
Thomas: Jessica got to pick dinner last night; it’s my turn to pick dinner.
Mother: Yes, that’s true but we will discuss it as a family so everyone is happy.
And there is the first mistake…the discussion and subsequent negotiation over dinner plans made between a
40-something-year-old and her 5-year-old son.
When I was growing up my mother gave me two choices when it came to dinner: TAKE IT OR LEAVE IT. My happiness didn’t come into play. If I had friends over she never asked if they wanted curly macaroni or flat, crusts on or off, or this….which I swear one of my friends asked….do you want the napkin folded in a square or a triangle? If my mother had ever asked me how I wanted my napkin folded I would have run out of the room screaming thinking an alien had taken over her body.
One thing has become abundantly clear to me. From the time children are in pre-school, they are seasoned negotiators. We foster it. We allow it. I never negotiated with my parents. Their way or the highway? You betcha.
I didn’t learn how to negotiate until I was married.
Do you ever remember asking your parents “why” when they told you to do something? WHY? My mother would say. Now, let’s repeat all together people of my generation…WHY? BECAUSE I SAID SO! No negotiating, no family consensus, no family hug. If my face showed that I wasn’t happy about the decision I would be told again folks, lets repeat together…STOP CRYING OR I’LL GIVE YOU SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT.
I remember actually asking my kids what time was fair for a curfew. Are you kidding me, my mother who always sits on my right shoulder was frantically whispering…Who is the parent here? While growing up, my curfew was never up for negotiation. Was yours? There was one choice only: be home by the designated time or, or else. No negotiation or consensus necessary. Was I happy? No. Did my parents care if I was happy? No. Was I home by the designated time? No. But that’s a different article.
When did we get to the point we are today where everyone needs to be happy or you feel like you have failed as a parent. Kids today don’t know what it’s like to be unhappy. They barely ever hear the word N0 and they feel they deserve the last word, or a word, in the ever-present family negotiations.
Nothing was discussed with me or my siblings and guess what? We had awesome childhoods! We had plenty of our own decisions…kid decisions. Like, would I ride my bike to school or walk? Would my brother play baseball or soccer? Would my sister play with Sandy or Doreen after school? We weren’t asked our opinion on dinner, on where we went on vacation, or what color should our next car be. We heard the word no and lived with it. We expected it. And if you asked me to name one adjective to describe my childhood, it would be the word HAPPY with a capital H.
We were better off and better prepared for life’s disappointments.
So if I could have interrupted that mom I would have told her that her child isn’t quite a lawyer yet…that she can say no.
And that when she got home she should use another line from my awesome, happy, and filled with the word NO childhood….SOMEDAY WHEN YOU ARE MY AGE YOU WILL UNDERSTAND.
NOW EAT WHATS IN FRONT OF YOU.
BECAUSE I SAID SO.
IF AFTER READING THIS YOU HAVE ANY CLASSIC COMMENTS FROM YOUR CHILDHOOD, PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW. I WOULD LOVE TO PUBLISH A LIST!