Monday, August 15, 2016

Growing up for the kids’ sake

There’s nothing that matures you faster than having to take care of someone smaller than you are.

Because let’s face it, most of us aren’t that great when it comes to taking care of ourselves. We know everything we should do to keep ourselves happy, healthy and relatively functional, but we tend to ignore the bits that we don’t have time for or we feel like are too hard for some reason. It’s even easier to ignore if the problems it causes aren’t immediately apparent, because it’s much harder to worry about 10 or 15 years in the future when you’re focused on making it through a particular day.

But when you have a kid, or become responsible for a kid for some reason, suddenly it’s much harder avoid thinking about all the things you should be doing. Or, more specifically, all the things that someone should be doing for this particular child, who is relatively young and innocent and still feels like they should listen when people tell them what to do. Horrifically, you have somehow become the person who’s supposed to pass on all the advice you’ve been happily ignoring for years.

Which means that you not only have to remember all that advice, but you have to figure out how to sort out the useful information from the random fads that get news sites all excited on slow news days. Because this child hasn’t lived long enough to tell the difference between what’s healthy and what’s complete nonsense, so you have to figure out how to do it for them.

Even though you’ve (probably) been successfully avoiding a Healthy and Responsible Life (tm) for several years, it’s your job to explain to this child how to live that kind of life for themselves. Because you may have opted out, but they’re not old enough to make that choice for themselves yet.

Which means, unfortunately, that it’s your job to choose for them until they can. You have to learn how to watch out for those moments when they’re screwing up, and figure out how to get them back on track. Even more importantly, you need to be on the lookout for dangers they haven’t figured out yet, or you forgot to tell them, and help keep them from falling into them. As a bonus round, you also have to figure out when you need to start letting them make choices on their own so they learn how.

On top of all of that, you have to be a good example, because this kid is going to look up to you. No matter how ridiculous you are, all this child is going to see is a loving and responsible adult in their lives. They’re going to want to pattern themselves after you, often zeroing in on the traits you least wish they would notice and immediately copying them. Which means that, even if you don’t particularly worry about keeping yourself healthy and safe, now is probably a good time to start.

It’s not for you – it’s so your favorite small person doesn’t start making all the terrible decisions you’ve been happily making for most of your life.