How Much Is Too Much? How Little Is Too Little?

Over at Dadshouse, there has been much discussion on how much one should be involved in their teenager’s life. Where do they learn about sex and relationships? Are they learning the right things? Are they learning about how sex relates to relationships? Do they know they can come to you to discuss virtually anything? Do they know you are interested in them and care about their well being, along with the things they are interested in? All of these things are very valuable. There is no way that it is bad to make sure these things are in order. But are they necessary? How many fathers have really been involved in their children’s lives to this degree? How many mothers? Just consider the people you know who are exceptional people. People you admire with strong characters. Did they have this level of support, encouragement and involvement from their parents?

At our house, we were very involved in our children’s lives and activities (I mean ~ we homeschooled for six years! I’d say that’s pretty involved!) and in another house down the street, there was virtually no parenting going on. On any given day, you could enter that house and there would be a flurry of children getting ready for school. All the way down to the three-year-old, they were just getting their own breakfast and doing what they needed to do to get out the door. Mom was in a drunken stupor in bed. In my house, I was up and making a hot breakfast for my kids. We had a structured day and things went pretty smoothly. I talked to my kids. I was interested in what they had to say and they knew they could talk to me about anything. In the other house, the kids only had one another to talk to. And their friends. And their friends’ parents.

During this time period, our family was tending to our new litter of miniature pinscher pups. Tiny, fragile, little short-haired things. It was September in Southern California and it gets damn cold at night. So I set up a pen in the garage with a space heater blowing on them. I’m not shitting you! When they were weaning, I would heat up their food and mush it up. I kept their papers clean and let them out in the yard on nice days and just nurtured the hell out of them. Down the street ~ at the other house ~ they also had pups born at the same time. Rottweiler pups. Looked just like my pups, only bigger! Mom had been tossed in jail for public drunkenness and child endangerment and the children had been farmed out to relatives. I called the local whatever… pet place … so they could come rescue the mama rottie and her pups. Those pups and their mama had been in the back yard with no one tending to them for a week. AND THEY WERE FINE! And guess what… All of those kids… THEY ARE FINE!

What the hell? I worked so hard to take care of kids and pups and they just turn out as fine as the ones who were supposedly neglected? Ha! As parents, we are all fuck-ups, at best. We can always find "a family down the street" to compare ourselves to, but really we are all just trying to make it through the day.

Seriously, though ~ in the home where I grew up, my mother was at home with us until I was in junior high school. Dad was away a lot, because he was an Air Force Pilot. In fact, I barely remember much about him when I was younger. When I was about twelve years old, Dad retired. I started spending some time with him… talking to him and learning about him and the stuff he knows. I did NOT talk to him about me. I talked to him about him. I soaked up information like it was precious jewels. I did not talk to my parents about sex or relationships or anything like that. They told me when to be home. They provided for me and gave me room to grow. (In all fairness, though ~ I will say that my mom provided me with one important message about relationships when I was in sixth grade. She saw a boy slug me in the arm when she was picking me up. She said, “Oh, he’s doing that because he likes you!” Made NO sense to me at all!)

I can say with complete confidence that I have great parents who did a great job. They weren’t perfect and part of growing up includes accepting the fact that your parents are not perfect. They are human, just like you. (I know I just said that, but I still believe my mother is the most beautiful woman in the world and my father is the smartest man in the world.)

The real point is that there are so many ways to love your children. But if you do it with all your heart, they’ll know it. And that will matter.

Here's my Dad (far right) ~ Ya gotta click it and read the caption. And I kept Miss Kirtland on the page as eye candy for all you boyz and girlz who love the hotties!


Jormengrund said...

The one thing I've learned about parenting is that your kids aren't the only ones growing up..

You, as a parent, learn to grow in ways that you've never even DREAMED about.

Great post Teri!

cathouse teri said...

Amen to that, Jormengrund!
Thanks! ;)

T said...

Wow. I ADORE this post!


Seriously, it made me feel so much better for all the times I stand in front of the mirror (like last night) and say, "Dear God I hope they turn out ok. I'm doing the best that I can."

I guess we're all doing our best, aren't we?

dadshouse said...

Who says I don't wake up in a drunker stupor every morning? Ha!

My parents had some level of involvement in my life, and they also weren't present or active in parts of my life that were important to me. In general, I think they did fine, and probably the best they could, in raising me. I am raising my kids different, and doing my best. My kids will probably raise their own children different.

As Jonathan Franzen wrote in his novel "The Corrections", each generation tries to correct the mistakes of their parents.

I base a lot of my parenting on things I saw my high school girlfriend's parents do with their kids. A lot of that was talking to them, and their friends, like we were adults. i.e. respecting our opinion, being genuinely interested.

I know her parents talked to all their kids about sex at some point, whereas mine didn't. For instance, her mom once said "sex is like dinner - sometimes it's a fine steak, and sometimes it's just hot dogs and beans."

All that said - my high school girlfriend turned out fine, I turned out fine, we all turned out fine. And we all had very different parents.

Your post is wise, as usual, Teri. Oh, and thanks for the eye candy!

cathouse teri said...

T and D: I tell you what... I used to just look up at the sky with a despairing cry and say, "What was God thinking?? ... letting me have children!"

MindyMom said...

Great post Teri, and I agree with Jormengrund. I know I've learned a great deal from my kids.

I can't believe the kids from the "other house" turned out OK though. But sometimes where the parent lacks the kids are forced to be strong and succeed in life because of that. We are a product of our environment but also our spirit.

Thanks for having my back earlier today too. Sheesh.

cathouse teri said...

Welcome anytime, MindyMom.

It is amazing that people in the worst circumstances turn out okay, and people in the best circumstances turn out fucked up.
But really, it all comes down to us. Sure, we can blame our situations for our tendencies and/or weaknesses, but are we going to let those rule us?

I remember watching a sitcom once (I think it was called "Empty Nest") and one of the grown daughters said she was off to her "Meeting." When asked what meeting she said, "For Adult Children of Perfectly Fine Parents. We have the biggest burden of all. We have only ourselves to blame." :)

wanderling said...

I can believe the neglected kids down the street turned out okay but not because of their parents, they would have had to have had other/alternate positive influences in their life. I'm betting Ms Teri was one of them.

PS I'll be in LA in 12 weeks (only for a very short time though). Maybe we could meet up? OMG!

cathouse teri said...

I would love it!! I'll see if I can manage it! My daughter lives in LA ... And my youngest son (and his little Lexi) are only an hour or so from there. Would be so great!! Email me.

Mrs4444 said...

Everyone does the best they know how to do. Thankfully, we can feel comfort that we know enough :)

Eebie said...

A lot of great comments by others. It takes a village and kids learn from others. Even alcoholics love their children and the children will see that. It may take time to sort it all out but that's another thing.

From what I've seen, it's worth keeping an eye on them. Things may come out sideways, eg difficulties with loving relationships, difficulties in finding value/worth in life, and other things.

Great to see a post, thanx for sharing.

Eebie said...

Oh forgot to say the newspaper clip was great. I'm happy for you and your dad that you keep it and share it with pride.

wanderling said...

I have sent an email to veriveri xx