Let’s talk about do-overs, mulligans, restarts…

Have you ever had any?  Sure you have.

We’ve all screwed up.  We’ve all tried again. We’ve all reinvented.

Our kids will be able to do that too.

Are you a parent struggling to balance the demands of working from home with suddenly having to understand algebra?  Friends, I couldn’t understand seventh grade algebra in seventh grade, let alone all these many years later. I sucked at math then, and I suck at math now.  Actually, I suck at math even worse now because it’s been 4000 years since I even thought about the pesky quadratic equation. (Yes, I was born in 1971, I was in seventh grade in 1984, it’s now 2020.  That’s 4000 years. See? Math!)

Oh, also, our kids don’t give a fuck about algebra right now, anyway.

So, what do you say, we parents in solidarity with our kids, cut ourselves a little slack?

Our kids are not going to fall into a meth den, start whoring about the docks, or engage in grand larceny because you didn’t teach them everyminuteofeverydayallthetimeperiod.  I mean, mine won’t. Yours won’t. That weird neighbor down the street? Maybe. We can worry about them later.

Let me say this loudly again for the people in the back: Your kids are going to be fine!

And, how do I know?  Because we Gen-Xers, we were raised in the glorious god damned age of benign neglect.  Our parents made sure we were alive, they put food on the table, they made sure we had (at least loosely thought out) goals and plans and non-hooligan friends, but they didn’t cut our food for us, straighten our pencils for us, hover over us administering every single bit of homework and checking every problem.

And we don’t have to do that now.

This is a scary time for us.  And it is confusing. Just when we think we know how we are experiencing it, BAM!  A way of grief, fear, anxiety smacks us in the face and has its way with us.  

Our children are no different.  It’s a scary time for them, too.  Except, well, they don’t have the decades of experience and perspective that we bring to the table.  Yours may be small, sensing only your emotions — if you are living in a house of toddlers, you already know that those suckers can smell fear and exploit your weaknesses — or they may be, like mine, teens with full access to the news 24/7 but without full access to frontal lobes to know what to do about what they read.  (Hey, look, their reading! Bonus!)

Rather than taking the approach of lecturing our kids about how they should be feeling, and what school work they should be doing, we are listening to them.  I mean, let’s face it, no kid wants a lecture even on their very best day; they want a listen. So, we are listening. We are listening to how they are feeling.  We are listening to where their curiosities lead them. We are listening to what they are doing to find joy, and jumping in the sidecar of that joy when they let us.

We are meeting them where they are.

Look, our kids don’t need to maximize this time with productivity and homework and, gah, flashcards.  Like us, they will have a million chances in life to restart, to reinvent, to do over. It’s in the do overs that they will find who they really want to be.  (See: Limitless!)

The one thing we don’t get a mulligan for as parents is raising emotionally intact kids.  In this time of crisis — and, frankly, in all times — your job as a parent isn’t to get them into Harvard, Yale, or, if you must, Princeton (shudder).  Your job is to get them from here to there emotionally intact.

Their emotional health is the only thing that you don’t get to do over.  That’s it. That’s the whole ball of wax.

So, cut yourself some slack. Cut them some slack. See them. Hear them. Meet them. I promise you that your kids are going to be fine.  And so are you.

Also, what the hell is a binomial, anyway?!?