The VOID

There seems to be this void, an empty space that occurs between parent and kid. Typically this void appears somewhere around the kids fourteenth birthday. Just about the time you (the Parent a.k.a. “The Clueless”) is tired of the constant reminder that, “You just don’t get me.” This is the point of transition point the demarcation that separates parenting style, from controlling and guiding children.

My wife and I started parenting the same as other clueless parents, we controlled everything. Controlling is a management style often used by low level managers to insure that simple repetitive tasks are completed according to instructions. Tell me that don’t sound like parenting 101?

It starts with requiring our children tol master certain jobs like using the potty, brushing their teeth, bathing, changing their dirty clothes and putting those  dirty clothes in the laundry, feeding themselves, talking on the phone, completing chores, get a job, move out; you get the idea, the list is endless. If we didn’t do this our children would be dirty toothless naked beggars. Yes. I have met a few dirty, toothless, naked beggars. I am partially responsible for three of them. Parenting is extreme management.

Management styles are characteristic ways of making decisions and relating to those in your charge; those would be the dirty toothless beggars crawling around. Management styles come in two contrasting flavors, autocratic and permissive.

On the far end of the management yardstick is the autocrat. This is the bossy,dominating, high-and-mighty, magisterial person is calls the shots. Listen carefully to the murmuring, “If you want something done right …” Just a real fun person to be around.

On the other end there is the permissive. This person is not going to call the shot, even when you beg them to “Just please make up your mind.” Permissive is indulgent, lenient, lax. They too are fun people to be around, for the opposite reason.

These two flavors come with two options; paternalistic, and democratic. With paternal, imagine a father benevolently and often intrusively dealing with his children. My daughter recalls the latter, not so much the benevolence. The other is of course the principle of social equality. Democracy in the family, as in reality, is a noble principle but difficult to govern. The 1968 comedy Yours, Mind and Ours pokes fun at these two flavors.

If you wondering what style dominates, ask the kids. If they are 14 or older, they’ll tell you. If not they will let you know one way or another.

Our nineteen-year-old volunteered that we are soft on her younger siblings, I agree, we are more permissive. I am not sure of its due to age or exhaustion. Parenting requires sincere thought and attention, there is no casual in parenting. Unfortunately, we live in a world that values casual association and not secure attachment.

The secret to being an effective PA is love. Benevolence is a true desire to do well to others, including your spouse. It is secure attachment to the family. No one is an effective parent if they are not an effective spouse, but that’s a blog for another day.

I am in the middle of a struggle with my 16-year-old son who is ready to bridge the gap between control and lead. As a PA, I trained my son for this day.

It was my job to teach him the function of certain tasks and the importance of these tasks. I showed how he did them, when he asked why, I explained. I explain why he did them the way he did because someday he would be doing them without me. You guessed it; he is tired of being instructed on when, where and why. The struggle is with dad letting go.

He is on the edge of the void between control and lead. He wants to be in the lead and I truly want him to take the lead, but there is this void we both feel.

Three years ago my daughter began the trek across the void to the other side. It was my wife who felt the anxiety as she let my daughter take more of a lead. This is what I know, it is gender specific.

So there it is; a void, a space between the child who is taught and the young adult who is ready to lead.

This is hardest part that challenges me, the clueless parent: Did I do my job? When I let go, Will they stick to the path? Will they pedal harder uphill? Will they persevere?

It is not distrust of them; it is my distrust of me.

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