I'm doing this new thing, where I write when I have something to talk about, rather than on a schedule - so far, it's going swimmingly, if by swimmingly you mean that you've noticed I only write here every week to ten days. I'm sorry. Well, no, I'm not - I really can no longer write about my kids, I work at a desk job which I cannot discuss, and so, mostly, I would have very little blog worthy. Hence the silence. But I had a thought, and it wouldn't leave, and so, rather than plop a blog length post on Facebook - I'm sharing here. :)
Atticus Finch was one cool cat, am I right? One of the main characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, and the father of Jem and Scout, Atticus was a lawyer. And we all know that lawyers love to argue. One might say they are passionate about arguing, and Atticus, well, he was one of the best. He argued for truth and freedom, for the fairness of the American legal system -
"I'm no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system—that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty."
One thing I liked about Atticus Finch is that he believed, passionately, that shielding his kids didn't do them any good in the long run - he thought it best for them to face reality head on.
Much the way that I parent.
And I parent, at least a couple of kids, who argue much the same way Atticus Finch argued.
These two disparate and yet similar thoughts have rattled around my head for an entire week, maybe longer, based on a few happenings in our lives that I really can't talk about, except opaquely.
One of my kids had some "trouble", and by trouble I mean that one kid in the class had decided, long ago, that my kid was to blame for his failing grade on a group project. See, this kid, he had decided not to do the work, and my kid decided not to let this kid float - and so second kid failed and since then, well, it's been unpleasant. And it all came to a head a few weeks ago, and I had to send an email to the teaching team. When I wrote the email, I was as plain spoken as I could possibly have been. You see, this isn't my first time at the rodeo, and I know that all arguments have two - or twenty two - sides, and different circumstances, and I'm not there, and it's entirely possible that my kid could have said or done something that aggravated the situation and brought it to the head that we experienced. I know my kid pretty well, and so, I said something kind of along these lines:
I know my teen. I know the personality, and it's much like mine. It's abrasive and it is rough and it's definitely hard to handle and it's not for everyone. I believe that it's a strong personality, and it will serve well in the future, but it will take some careful reigning in and some knowledge of filtering wouldn't go amiss for this child.
For once, I was reassured it wasn't my kid. I was surprised, and by saying that, I sound evil, like I'm biased against my child, and looking for fault. Let me explain. Said child, much like, well, all of my children - loves to argue. My kids will argue a point past hope of redemption. They will argue just to keep an argument going. They have tenacity. They have spunk. They have spirit. They will come to an argument prepared, with laser focus and a knack for finding just.the.right.target.
They can be exhausting.
One of my kids was in an argument at work and a coworker became so stressed at hearing the argument that her stomach hurt and she had to walk away. I've heard this story more than once and it doesn't phase me any more.
Raising a child who has this kind of a personality can make a person feel like they've got the wrong child, like they've done a terrible job, they are a horrible parent. None of that is true. You may feel as if you've failed in your parenting gig - also not true.
Also? For the record? If you ARE that argumentative kid, and your parent is having a tough time with it? No matter your age, there's not one thing wrong with you - you may not be the child that your parent imagined or even wanted, in the candy coated daydreams that they had, oh so long ago - but God doesn't take orders from us and you get the kid(s) you get. God doesn't send kids to people to "teach them a lesson" or "give you a kid JUST LIKE YOU" - a different personality isn't a failure. On either side.
We WANT strong kids. We WANT kids who can stand up to bullies, who can say NO to things that are wrong and bad and not a good idea - but we also want them to be complacent and meek and subjective to us and we can't have it both ways. Home is the comfort place, the place where you try out who you will be in the world. It's the place a child tries on fourteen different personalities (like lipsticks, omg with the lipsticks) and spends several years figuring out who, exactly, he or she will be as an adult.
We need to raise kids who can think for themselves, who won't follow along with the crowd just because everyone else is doing it, who will stand up for the underdog, argue for the pay raises and the unjust rules and regulations. We want children to become adults with a well regulated sense of justice, with a balanced scale of compassion and a no tolerance of bullshit level. The world needs more people who can see beyond the layers of gauze and fluff in which the world wraps itself, to see the injustice and the unfairness and to speak for those who can't speak. Those adults don't hatch, fully formed - they grow, in the homes of you and me and all of us.
It's up to you to decide if you want to engage in that level of argumentativeness - if you enjoy it, you - and your child! - could learn from each other. If not, don't take it to heart. You aren't defective and your child isn't trying to stress you out.
If you are raising an Atticus Finch, congratulations! I'm not saying it's easy, and I'm not saying a glass of wine won't be welcome, once in a while - but life at your house will never, ever be dull.