Parents, power and empathy

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As parents we have power over our children. If we are to do our job successfully then, at times, we will be forcing our children to behave in a way that they would not choose. We will punish what we perceive to be inappropriate behaviour, even when our child feels strongly that such punishment is grossly unfair. We will micromanage their lives, dictating bedtimes, activities, consumption and language. Although we may know and explain to them that we are doing all of this for their benefit, our children are unlikely to see it this way every time.

The parent / child relationship is always going to be unbalanced. I would not expect my children to feel the overpowering and never ending love and concern that I feel for them. It can, however, be hard to deal with being treated as a provider without feelings. I cannot help the fact that I am human and events around me will affect my mood and behaviour. Now that they are older, I wonder if it is too much of an ask to expect empathy from teenagers.

It seems at times that my children do not understand the value of something that they do not have to pay for themselves. In our effort to equip them with the necessary skills to cope with modern life, my husband and I agreed to assist them in their desire to learn to drive a car. This is expensive. My daughter was given a block of ten lessons for her seventeenth birthday and, when she is capable of safely controlling a vehicle, we will insure my car for her that she may practice her newly learned skills. She seemed keen to learn and we were willing to assist.

Why is it then that she does not ensure that she is ready for each lesson? At £50 a time I am eager for her to make maximum use of every minute. She tells me that my desire to get her out the door as soon as I spot his car in our driveway is stressing her. She is under so much stress at the moment, as she prepares for important exams next month, this accusation makes me feel incredibly guilty. Am I valuing these lessons too highly simply because they cost so much? Is this a valid reason? I cannot help but wonder how she would approach the lessons if she were the one footing the bill.

Spring has well and truly sprung in the UK. The field behind our house is alive with little lambs, the trees and hedges are turning green as their leaves unfurl in the sunshine, and we have colour in abundance as the borders and shrubs flower, enticing bees to busily buzz around collecting their bounty.

The good weather has also seen the return of a painter who is to smarten up the outside of our home. With a run of good weather forecast he decided that he would get started on a job we commissioned him to do at the end of last year. Over the weekend we ensured that the pots of thick, wall paint that he requires were ordered and delivered. This morning I was up before 6am, ready to greet the guys who were to erect scaffolding around our house first thing. Five hours later and they have still not arrived.

The painter is doing his best. Despite the fact that his assistant answered neither door nor phone this morning he has turned up ready to start on his own. Despite the fact that the promised scaffolding is not in place, he has taken up his brush and is currently working from a ladder. He has been let down but is doing what he can to get on with the job. I am frustrated by these failures to fulfil obligations, but as much for the painter as for me. I want the job to be completed as quickly as possible; I know that he is doing his best.

Unfortunately my frustration overflowed with my daughter. As she is currently off school for the Easter break she is having her driving lessons on a Monday morning. Last week she forgot to set her alarm and, by the time I realised that she was still asleep, barely had time to shower and gulp down a cup of tea before her instructor arrived. This week I woke her earlier and assumed she would get herself ready. She did not. For reasons unknown, she thought that she could complete a piece of work on her computer, which she then refused to leave when her instructor arrived. I got cross, she got stressed, I felt guilty.

I find it hard to understand my children’s often lackadaisical approach to time keeping. I intensely dislike being late and almost fear keeping anyone waiting; my desire not to inconvenience borders on paranoia. Whilst I do not wish to instil such an extreme approach to time keeping in my children, I do think that they would benefit from a little more concern for others. I cannot be sure though if this is an issue for me more than them; if my approach to time keeping is more of a problem than theirs.

It would be interesting to be able to observe how my children behave around others. The house painter is doing all that he can to provide the service that he promised. The driving instructor turns up on time and is unfailingly cheerful. I wonder if my children find it easier to rein in their reactions when it is not parents they have to deal with. Does our unique position in their lives mean that we will never be treated as they would almost everyone else?

Parenting can be tough but then so can growing up. Having spent so many years telling my children what to do, how to do it, punishing them if they do not behave as instructed and limiting what they are given for fear of spoiling them; perhaps it is inevitable that I should be treated differently from all others in their lives.

My role is not to be their friend, but there are times, like today, when a more friendly treatment would be most welcome.


Perfection Pending

This post is part of a parenting blog hop hosted by Perfection Pending

3 comments on “Parents, power and empathy

  1. Jessie says:

    I think that kids save their worst behavior for their parents ( I know I did) but when my kids do the same to me I like to try and remind myself that it’s because they know that they are loved no matter what and so it’s a chance to push boundaries and see what happens in a way they never would with anyone else. And that mostly keeps me sane…. 🙂

    • zeudytigre says:

      I think you have got it there: they know that they are loved no matter what. Mostly I feel more sympathy than frustration as they have so many pressures and expectations to deal with. From time to time though, like today, it would just be a welcome break if they could see things through my eyes. They probably feel the same only more often. Thanks for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. They will learn eventually. I remember when my older brother went away to college. After a few weeks on his own, he called my Mom and thanked her for always having soap in the house for his showers. Something he had taken for granted! 🙂

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