Monday, March 1, 2010

Where's Julia When You Need Her?

I am on the hunt for the perfect recipe. For those of you who know me, you know that I can't make anything up on my own. I can't doctor up a meal from the remnants in my freezer or pantry. I need ingredients, cooking times and temps and oh my god do I need a step by step list of stuff to do and when. And, that doesn't just happen in the kitchen. Let me give you an example... I went to wash Bentley's dog bed and the care instructions said "remove outer cover and wash in cold." Well, I think it's missing some key steps. Like which part do you wash in cold? Do you wash the cover that you've removed or the core of the bed that you have remaining. Well, let's just cut to the chase... it wasn't the actual bed that was supposed to be washed in cold, ok... Lesson learned. So, like I said, I need specifics. And today, I am looking for that perfect set of instructions... on parenting.

I want an accurate, Good Housekeeping tested, recipe for a healthy, happy kid. I want a list of ingredients like family dinners or extra-curricular activities. I want a time and temperature and I want the step by step movements that guarantees my perfect kid to come out when the timer dings. Is that too much to ask? If I can Google the perfect souffle, why can't I find this? Julia Child has the kid in her name, but she did beef bourguignon instead.

I've discussed this with some friends and we've all wondered what it takes to raise a kid the "right" way. I have a friend whose oldest daughter is suffering from a drug addiction, so she often says she is going to raise her younger daughter in the opposite manner. But, it's not like she fed her oldest crack rocks for breakfast or anything. Yes, there were factors that were beyond my friend's control, and you can look at that and think... maybe that is why. But what about all the situations where there isn't an obvious factor. There is a family in my area with two adult sons and one is a successful lawyer and the other was arrested for allegedly raping a woman. You can argue that both are criminals (ha... cheap lawyer joke), but really... they were raised by the same people in the same way, and one turned out good and the other... not so much.

I see these things and I look at my beautiful boys and Tabbi and I wonder... what do I do now? Will and Jack are so young that they are blank slates. I have the canvas to paint however I want to, but what colors do I use to make sure they end up in the positive category and not the negative? And with Tabbi... so much has already happened to that girl... how can I turn the dysfunction into function before it's too late? She's turned around school into straight As and student council, but other areas still need work. And what work is it? Constant love, affection and BFFing has gone terribly wrong in other kids, while tough love and strict adherence to rules has failed others. Kids grow up in poverty and either overcome with flying colors, or go down the rabbit hole into drugs and crime... then you have Marie Osmond's super privileged son doing stints in rehab and now committing suicide over the weekend. So, what do we do? Marinade in a bath of all the spices the world has to offer, or go with a sprinkle of salt and pepper to taste, but not ruin the meat?

I have never tried a single drug in my life, and my brother and I are pretty much as straight laced as they come.... but what did my parents do to get that? We didn't discuss the dangers of drugs and alcohol, but for some reason, we didn't do them either. So, what do I do with my own kids? It seems to me that if we can figure out the science of putting people on the moon, growing human ears on mice, and turning salmon into a foam to rest atop a bed of wild mushroom risotto (thank you Top Chef)... then why can't we figure out how to get our infants into adulthood safely?


Anonymous said...

let me know when you get the answer. Cause I wanna know too!
Laura the Famous

Anonymous said...

There is no magic recipe. The examples you cited are proof that kids in the same family can and frequently do turn out different from each other. The best thing you can do for your kids is do everything you can to let them know you love them. Help them understand that you WANT to be their parent (not their friend). And try to show them the best example you can in your own life. Once you've done all that it's just a roll of the dice.

Tuffy said...

I have never tried a single drug in my life, and my brother and I are pretty much as straight laced as they come....

Speak for yourself! I regularly take one more Tylenol than the recommended dosage.

(actually I don't, that's dangerous)

Jounice said...

I don't know the perfect recipe because every child is different, but I can only say that you do the best that you can for the time that you are the greatest influence in their lives. Teach them that actions have consequences and be consistent. I believe the best thing has been to give love, support, and a smack when necessary. Once you have set the groundwork, give them independence and pray they paid attention. I also believe an important piece is know who your kids are hanging out with. You hope that your child is the one doing the influencing but it does not always work out that way. In the examples that you gave I wonder if you look back at who the kids hung out with how big a difference their friends made in their lives.

I think you are doing a good job!

Domestic Goddess (In Training) said...

Laura - When I find it, I will tell the world!!!

Jim - I hate gambling!!! :)

Mike - I do take one extra Tylenol every time. Crap. In fact, I've been known to take 4 on a really bad headache day. Double crap.

J - Sure, from Wyoming it looks like I am awesome. Up close... God only knows.