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Being the Grown-Up

March 31, 2012

Random criticism from a stranger on the Internet (not here, a different tube) has me pinging between irritation because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about and irritation because she has nonetheless managed to bump up against one of the most challenging parts of parenthood for me. Research has shown (research = me thinking about it and deciding I make a lot of sense) that a parent can put a child’s wishes in front of her or his own and still be a responsible parent. In fact — amazing, but equally well-researched, and thus undeniably true — sometimes a parent makes a concession not because s/he is “afraid to be the parent,” but because what a parent does in that situation is concede.

One of my guiding principles of parenthood is “Be the grown-up.” Sometimes that means making a decision that is unpopular with my kid, because I know it’s the right thing to do. (Or because I am pretty darned sure it’s the right thing to do, and that’s as close to knowing as I expect to get.) But sometimes, Internet stranger, being the grown-up means making a decision that is unpopular with me, because my preferences are not always the One True Path to Righteousness and Glory, and if I spent my days being told when to get up and where to go and how to behave, you can bet I would like an occasional snack containing high-fructose corn syrup or an extra 30 minutes of screen time, even though my parents are not particular fans of same.

As a grown-up, I spend my time away from my kids surrounded by people who sometimes like things that irritate me, and I have to make similar calls in those situations. I’m not going to suffer in silence while someone stands on my foot for an entire Metro ride, but if you want to blast your iPod so loud that I can hear it through your earbuds, you have that right, because we are both grown-ups.

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