Raising children is a lot of work. (Thank you, Captain Obvious.)
You ever think about the nature of the work, though? Up until they’re about three, it’s mostly physical. You’re going pretty hard, but a lot of it is mindless, or nearly so. Keep ’em out of stuff, keep their tummies full, keep ’em bathed. Repeat.
Then, it gets a little squirrelier. There is still stuff you need to keep them away from, but they’ve also developed this tendency to do things on their own–and maybe when you’re not watching. So “no no” becomes “don’t drink bleach” or “don’t play in traffic.” Still pretty straightforward, but a bit more complex.
And then comes adolescence.
One of the greatest challenges I’ve faced so far as a father is trying to help Nathan with a vague but complex problem, using terms he’ll understand, so that he’ll be better equipped to handle future similar occurrences. He’s dealing with one right now.
I’m not going to get into the particulars because they’re not important and I don’t want to foster any misunderstanding. It’s just one of those life situations in which there are multiple principals, less-than-ideal channels of communication, and a little too much assumption.
All of which has resulted in an undesirable situation for Nathan, yet one in which we can’t clearly point to any single step in the progression and say “right there you zagged and you should have zigged.”
His mistake was one of systemic nonchalance; of assuming things were fine because he had not heard differently. The corrective action is nebulous, but critical: always remember that given situation X, nobody cares more than you do how you do.
It’s hard for a kid to understand that things can get screwed up for him even when no one, including himself, is acting with malice or even particular incompetence.
He certainly needs to get it, though. Shepherding one’s interests effectively is a necessary skill forever.