The soccer dad, dressed in cream-colored fleece and green pants, eerily blending in with the soccer nets and the field as he stands there like a fixture all Saturday and half of Sunday; The friend emailing with gaze fixed at the computer outputting an update to her friends: “We have hockey three times a week, dance class, violin, and karate…”, with hardly a mention of herself at all (except to tell you that she's upped her dosage of Prozac); The mom, who suddenly short-circuits when after dropping her son off at school he asks her to drive back with a different sandwich for his lunch and yells, "This is what I’ve become?! My kid’s employee?!...

Meet the Automamoms and the Daddroids.

The six-year-olds staring into their i -Phones with masked, not mischievous faces; the kid coming home from a full day of planned activities with two hours left before bedtime who asks, "What are we going to do when we get home?"; the fifteen-year-old cheating on his test because if he doesn’t get the highest score in the class he feels he’s worthless…

Meet the Botkids.

Welcome to Robotic Parenting. Had enough?

With our quest to be perfect parents, we have reduced ourselves to mere machines. We have renounced our own goals, dreams, and needs, for the sole function of raising the perfect child. With the quest to raise the perfect child, we have reduced our children to robots. We have programmed our children simply to perform, while neglecting the development of their inner selves: their imagination, compassion, self-awareness, motivation, creativity…

We are the Automamoms and the Daddroids. It’s nice to meet you. Don’t ask us about ourselves because we really can’t answer – we have lost our identities. Ask us our names and we will pause only long enough to tell you, “I’m Jane’s mom…” and, “I’m Justin’s dad…”

Meet our Robokids. Please note that they won’t care about meeting you unless you talk about them. Ask them their names and anything else that concerns them, and they will tell you. Then they will be silent. Perhaps waiting for instruction.

In our impossible quest to be perfect parents, we have lost our selves as people. And we are destroying all that makes us – and our children – human.

The good news is parenting is a behavior and behavior can be changed.

This is your wakeup call. Hello? Are you in there? Life is calling…

The Ten Steps for going from humanoid parent back to human being

  • 1. Put yourself first (at least sometimes).
  • 2. Keep the family together.
  • 3. Don't be your child's friend.
  • 4. Get disorganized.
  • 5. Bore your kids.
  • 6. Put your children to work.
  • 7. Miss the soccer game.
  • 8. Pare down.
  • 9. Tell your children they did not do a good job.
  • 10. Get back in the real world.

Quiz: Are you a Robotic Parent?

Instructions: choose (1) or (2). Add up the points at the quiz's end.

1. For you, a "driving range" is defined as:

(1) green grass, blue skies, and your yellow golf balls
(2) the miles between hockey rinks (soccer fields, etc.) your child plays on during traveling team games

2. How well does your child know spiderman (barbie, etc.)?

(1) pretty well, by reading or watching a dvd they were in
(2) very well, as spiderman (barbie, etc.) has come to see him personally, at his birthday party

3. You artfully arrange a double sleepover (away) for your two kids on a Saturday night so you can:

(1) seduce your husband
(2) finish up studying how to help your kids with their homework

4. After a game of tennis with your daughter, you:

(1) give her a bottle of water, to rehydrate
(2) give her your remote control, thank her, and leave the room

5. You are cleaning the dinner dishes yourself because:

(1) your kids are in full body casts from a freak accident and can't help
(2) your kids are busy texting their friends

Scoring: If you scored 5 points, you are still a human person. If you scored 7-9, you are in the danger zone. If you scored 9 or 10, you have crossed over and become a robotic parent. Time for the 10 steps...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

get in the game

I am choosing to be in the game rather than watching from the sidelines. What game? The game of life. The game I practiced for during my entire childhood. Through school, college, and beyond. Through decisions about jobs, relationships, and through negotiating with my own parents until I grew up and became a parent myself. We've worked hard to grow up! And now we can live life the way we want to. We can go after our goals and dreams.
We can play the game after all our practice. But how do we remember to do so?

Our children have come to expect that we will watch them do almost anything. And that we should. My son is one example. The other day, he asked me why I never came to his hockey clinic. (His clinic is essentially a class in hockey during which he learns to turn, do cross-overs and other such hockey skills, and that usually ends in a scrimmage.) When he asked, I was tired and irritable and I just initially blurted out, “Why should I watch you practice?” I went on to ask him if I expected him to watch me practice things, like swimming laps. I quickly then realized that this was a teaching moment and that maybe my son really waned to know why I didn’t watch his practice and so I changed my tone. “I’m sorry for being harsh with my answer.” I told him. “I’m sorry for being rude. I didn’t mean to be rude. And then my son was listening to me and so I continued. I told him again that his hockey practice is doing sports and sports are not about who’s watching. And practices are for him, as sports are. My son responded, “But why does Dad come watch my practices then?” (I am divorced from his dad). I responded “I don’t know.” My son replied, “Because he loves me.” "Yes, dad loves you," I told my son, “adults enjoy seeing their kids do things and they get pleasure from what their kids do.” I told my son that I enjoy watching some games, but that I don’t necessarily get pleasure from everything he does, and that he likes; that I get pleasure from seeing him do things he enjoys and from doing things I like. I added that everyone has their interests and that’s good.

By the time we got to hockey practice and it was time to drop him off (this discussion happened on the way to practice, in the car) I added my final point. I told him that although I wanted to write on my laptop during his practice, I realized I had to go to the grocery store to get the night’s dinner. I told him that instead of going to the grocery store and instead of watching him practice, I wanted to do some writing. I told him I wanted to do something for myself.

Then my son called me selfish. I responded that I wasn’t being selfish. I told him that all day I’d done things for everyone else: I’d taken care of the baby during the day, and then him and his sister. I asked my son if when he became an adult, would he like to not doing anything for himself – just take care of everyone else? He responded yes, but hesitantly. I asked him if he wanted to do anything as an adult – did he think he would have plans for his life when he was an adult or did he think he would just do everything for everyone else. I mentioned he would probably have plans for his life and ambition for himself. I reminded him that I have plans and goals and ambition.

He was then silent. I had gotten through to him.

You can get through to your kids by being honest. With them but first with yourself. Honestly, it’s o.k. to want things for yourself. You are a person. You don’t have to give up being a person when you become a parent. Your kids need to know that too. My son called me selfish for wanting to work toward one of my goals, writing, instead of watching him pursue his. Who was being selfish? Our kids are acting selfishly if they expect us to give up ourselves for their every act of being. It is not their fault. We are encouraging them by attending all of their sports and even practices. We need to stop not only for their sake but for ours as well.

Waking up from Robotic Parenting means remembering that you are a person too. And showing your children so that they will realize that you - and all adults - are worthy (of respect, consideration.......but that is another post!.)

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