Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Art of Non-Parenting

We spent the weekend at the New Jersey Shore, and allowed our 7-year old daughter --for the first time-- to bring a friend. Having children for weekend guests is kind of like packing a DS, iPod, and DVDs to the entire season of “Shake It Up” in one bag. One friend equals an entire weekend’s worth of parent-free entertainment. We also had the foresight to invite a well-behaved kid with the self-sufficiency of Merriwether Lewis. The weekend was an an unequivocal success.

Except for one small thing: My daughter acted like a full-fledged school kid. She laughed riotously at poop jokes, got carried away with endless games of hide and seek, and told her little brother to scram. As a result, I tried to practice the art of non-parenting. In other words, forcing myself not to get in the middle of inter-kid negotiations, ignoring the giggles drifting from my daughter’s bedroom at 10pm, and not informing them that the word “butt” is not by definition funny.

Did I mention that I am horrible at this?

I have spent the last seven and a half years fiercely protecting this child from physical and emotional harm, not to mention shaping her into the person I hope will best contribute to society. And yet, within less than a decade, my job description has changed. I have to let her figure some of this out for herself. Even in the best of circumstances, it’s painful.

When I was nine, I brought a friend with me on a family trip to Kiawah, South Carolina. My parents let us wander the grounds. It was heaven. We spent hours at the pool choreographing our own water ballet routine, fell under the spell of uncontrollable attacks of giggles, and even played a pre-pubescent game of spin the bottle with 9-year old boys. (This game involved a lot of spinning and zero kissing). I owned that resort, man. Owned it.

Yet, now that I look back on it, i am wondering if I was deluded. Could that game of spin-the-bottle not have been as covert as I thought? Maybe. Perhaps, my mom also rolled her eyes at my obnoxious jokes, teeth clenched with restraint. Yet, I am guessing she also know I needed the freedom to be a jerk..

We all do.

So, if that means I need to withstand, finding another stuffed animal rat under my pillow, so be it. And I guess, even if I yell at the kids in the same crazed manner that my mom once did, I can take a pass. It’s all part of the gig.

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