A half-hour ago she had presented him with her high school graduation party plans. Everyone, apparently, was going to an after-party that would last til dawn, and then out to breakfast.
What Sam almost said was, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?”
What he really said was, “Well, Honey, let’s talk about this a little bit.”
They came up with a compromise that both could live with. Alicia would skip the breakfast and be home by 3:00. She and her best friend would stick together at all times. She also promised to call him if anything at all went wrong, and he in turn promised not to give her a hard time if she did.
Sam felt the warm glow he always had after a good heart to heart. Followed by a little sinking feeling in his gut that he sometimes got.
The thing is, his parents never had those kinds of conversations with him.
He had always missed that. But having his own kids made it hurt in a new way.
“What gets me is that it’s really not that hard,” he said to his wife. “I mean, you ask a few questions, but not too many. You listen and really try to understand. You don’t correct them or lecture. You express genuine concern.
“Basically, you just talk with them like they’re real people and it generally works out well. But in my house it was like the kids and the adults were a complete mystery to each other.”
Giving your kids more financially can also trigger unexpected emotions.
Like a lot of people I know, I see my step-daughter having opportunities we didn’t have as kids. Mostly it feels wonderful. I can still remember being at Sea World years ago, and suddenly feeling a welling-up of emotion because we could give her this all-American experience.
But a touch of wistfulness did creep in. It would never have occurred to me to even want to go to Sea World when I was a kid. It just wasn’t on the radar.
I bring this up because parents can sometimes feel guilty or uncomfortable when these kinds of feelings come up.
“Does it mean I’m a resentful person or that I don’t really want the best for my kid?” you might wonder. Of course not. It just means there’s still a child inside of you, even though you’re a parent now.
And it’s important to notice and understand those old feelings of loss or missing out. If you don’t, they’re liable to leak out in the form of self-righteousness. You know, the “I had to walk 10 miles through the snow to school” reflex. Or as in the Monty Python skit, “…we had to live in a cardboard box–and we were lucky to have it!”
After all, your kids will never be able to really appreciate what it takes to give them what they have until they’re adults themselves.
And sometimes that can grate.
One night at dinner, we were talking about the possibility of buying a condo for my step-daughter to live in while she attended college, instead of paying rent. This got her all excited. She started “shopping” online and found a cute condo close to the college she thought would be perfect.
“It’s not about buying you a dream condo,” I said, “It’s about finding a good investment.”
I immediately felt bad. That was a little harsh. Of COURSE she would get excited about it. Any kid would. It doesn’t mean she’s spoiled or unappreciative.
Of course, the very best way of handling these feelings is to do what Sam did: confide in a spouse who really gets you. Working together to give your kids the best life you know how, AND at the same time turning to each other when your mission brings old childhood scars to the fore-in my experience, that creates that rock solid feeling I’m always talking about, and that we all want.