A friend texted me the following in response to my last post:
Boof is funny, although when we were kids, if we went in my parents’ room without their written consent, my mom would have killed us. Like for real, kill.
I was tickled when I got the text, because it was exactly the same way for me when I was growing up. (I wasn’t alone!) My mom loosened up a bit as my brother and I got older—theirs was the only room that had a full-length mirror, so from time to time she magnanimously allowed us to step in to use it—but the general understanding was “You will stay out of our room unless otherwise invited in… but don’t expect to ever be invited in.”
Now that I’ve reached adulthood, I’m finally at a point where I feel comfortable—sort of—walking into my parents’ room. But I would still never dare sit on their bed.
This then begs the obvious question: Where did Ted and I go wrong with our kids?
My mother ruled her household with an iron fist. She set definitive boundaries around what her kids were, or were not, allowed to do and how we would, or would not, act. Any hint of a rebellion would’ve been ruthlessly snuffed out in a matter of minutes. Have I learned nothing from her example?
Instead, I ended up with kids who:
- Hang out on my bed in their underwear (Boof);
- Get up an hour after they’re supposed to be asleep and, against my explicit orders, run downstairs to turn on the laptop because “I forgot to enter you in the HGTV Dream Home Giveaway today!” (Billup); or
- In the midst of being scolded, have the gall to retort, “Well, I’m not going to want to do that after you’ve just yelled at me, now am I?” (Boof, of course).
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking (a) the whole thing about Billup getting out of bed to enter me in the sweepstakes is actually kind of cute and (b) Boof, on the other hand, is clearly a punk who could use a good smack. I will just say here that both kids have their moments of being incredibly charming and exceedingly maddening, and let’s also not veer from my primary point, which is:
They aren’t scared of me at all.
(For those who need further explanation, this is a bad thing.)
Ted points out that I would never want to parent the way mine did. Certainly, my mom and dad followed a traditional Asian style of parenting—authoritarian rule combined with light tyranny, heavy obligations and high expectations—intermixed with the occasional injection of humor and indulgence, and I’m unraveling the consequences in therapy to this day. (When Ted has spent too much time with my mother, he will sometimes tell me, “It’s amazing you turned out as normal as you did, considering.”)
So, no, I wouldn’t want to regularly parent in their manner… but sometimes, it would be nice to put enough fear into my kids’ hearts that they’d respect my property, do as I say, and apologize and act meek for a few minutes when I yell at them.
I might be getting the hang of it, actually. The other evening, I got really mad about the mess in the house and yelled at Boof for not doing his fair share of work at home. A few minutes later, he came into the kitchen while I was unloading the dishwasher and asked, “Do you need help with that?”
And he actually stuck around until we had put all the dishes away.