The End to My “Catered Child” – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers
I hate when people call children “spoiled.” Food becomes spoiled. Children are not food.
Children can be “overindulged,” “catered to,” “parentally neglected,” even “parented inadequately.” There is no reason to put the onus on them. How do you think they developed their behavior in the first place?
My son is falling under the category of “parented inadequately.” He has two parents who have vastly different parenting styles. My husband is “The Authoritarian” parent. He is strict and inflexible, enforces consequences swiftly and without discussion, and is controlling and demanding. I, on the other hand, am partly “Authoritative” but am finding myself creeping towards being more and more “Permissive.” I am not fully permissive. The permissive parent wants to be their child’s “friend.” Children in permissive household’s have a problem understanding who is in charge. My son absolutely knows I’m in charge. One hint of a disrespectful remark and I am a mother lion, ready to roar. I always get a quick apology.
My parental problem, especially going through a divorce, especially knowing how Authoritarian my husband is, is that I try to “balance” the parenting my son gets between my husband’s Authoritarian and my “Permissive Authoritative.” In doing this, I am finding myself not only inserting “permissive” bad parenting habits more frequently, I am doing a huge disservice to my child. Also to myself.
My Lyme’s symptoms are getting worse. Which I am told is a “good sign.” However, the symptoms are sometimes crippling me. My bones in my feet are becoming affected by the pain, so walking is now difficult. I already can only use my hands within limits. I NEED to have a good two hours or more rest time in the middle of the day, otherwise I literally cannot function for a full day. I have explained this to my son over and over. Sometimes he remembers. More often than not, he doesn’t. During Spring Break, while my son had a bad cold but was able to get out of bed to play and meander around, he constantly asked me to get him more tissues, more water, a snack, etc. Here I was doing it while aching in unbearable pain, hardly able to get up and down the stairs myself! I started to become depressed. I was blaming my depressed feelings on having this atrocious disease. Depression, however, is anger turned inward. I was angry at myself. Angry that I was allowing a perfectly capable child put me in further agony while, even with a bad cold, he could get his own darned box of tissues! I had begun to have enough of being taken for granted. Time for my child to stand on his own two feet, because, quite frankly, I can’t!
I began by enlisting the help of a close friend to keep me strong and motivate me to “stick with the program.” My therapist was next. We brainstormed exactly how my son needed to be managed and outlined what was to be carried out. We took into consideration that his State Testing was only a few weeks away, therefore we began with a simple, easy to adjust to protocol. Even if it was getting his own water, his own snack, or something for me, he was responsible for his own desires and some of my needs.
He started dramatizing every ailment under the sun. He had a headache. His eyes hurt. He fell two days ago and now his leg hurt. He was too tired. The list went on and on. I stood my ground and stayed in my bed. If he wanted something from downstairs so badly, he could take his 9 and 1/2 year-old legs and march them down and up the stairs. Our home does not have service staff and if it did, they would be catering to me.
The whining was almost intolerable. Which also meant that I really needed to get this child onto the right track desperately. Authoritative parents are also compassionate. I asked my son to come into my room so that I could explain why he had to get things for himself. He wouldn’t budge. I asked him to bring a board game or cards into my room to play. He wasn’t interested. What he wanted was to see me go to him. Not happening. New rules were in effect. He comes to me. I don’t go to him. He was mad. And getting madder. Time to initiate some authority into this situation. I went into his room and turned off his TV, taking the remote control with me. I announced that to get TV privileges back, along with the remote, he would have to come to my room to speak with me. He very begrudgingly complied.
I showed him a White Board with a list of “House Rules” on it that he needed to follow from that moment on. I explained that the new “House Rules” were not a punishment. They were not designed to make him unhappy or angry, although I could tell that they were creating both in him. I reiterated that although I would get better, I was currently very sick and getting sicker. I needed to have my son to be strong. Strong enough to take care of his simple needs and preferably some of my needs as well. “Man it up!” as his “posse” would say. I told him that my own mother was very sick when I was a teenager (she had cancer, I didn’t tell him that, though), and that I remember it not feeling “fair” for a child to take care of a parent, especially at such a young age. I asked him if he felt like that. He nodded that he did. I then explained that he was my family and I am his. Family members do what is needed for each other regardless of rank, age, or status. I also told him that he could come to me at any time and yell how much he hated my disease. I would gladly join him. I also told him he could come to me and tell me that he was mad that I couldn’t do everything for him anymore. I would listen with compassion and remind him that if I had continued to carry him when he was ready to walk, he would never have learned to walk. If I kept feeding him baby food, his teeth would not have grown in correctly. If I never potty trained him, he would be taking Pull-Ups to school with him. Now is another time to grow out of an old routine and experience a new one. Sometimes it is hard. Often, you are not ready or comfortable with the change. But just like putting on a new pair of shoes, they may feel stiff and awkward in the beginning, but over time you get used to how they feel.
It is time, my son, for another new pair of shoes to get comfortable with. You can complain to me every step of the way. One thing I won’t do? I’ll never stop listening. I’ll never stop caring. I’ll never stop loving. And I’ll never stop being your Mother…
Tags: Authoritarian parenting, Authoritative parenting, change, compassion, depression, House Rules, inadequately parented, Lyme's Disease symptoms, parenting styles, Permissive parenting, son, spring break