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The Problem of Raising Typical Kids

May 8, 2009 | by Emuna Braverman

Parents of kids who fight, forget their bathing suit and crumple their schoolwork sometimes need to be reminded that their kids are "normal."

I scanned the ads for support groups but I didn't see the one I was looking for: a group for adult parents of typical children -- children who fight, children who forget their lunches and their bathing suits, children whose dog (what dog?) ate their homework, children whose homework is an unrecognizable crumpled up ball deep in the pockets of their pants.

Without the support of others you think you're all alone and that your children are the only ones who do things like that. You talk about it in hushed voices, and certainly not in public.

After a particularly frazzling evening at home, my husband approached one of our children's teachers. Glancing furtively around he whispered, "Do your kids fight?" She laughed, "Of course they do, as do all regular, healthy children."


I remember reading a Holocaust memoir where the mother in hiding with her young children was distressed by how unusually quiet they were. She dreamed of the days where they could romp loudly, boisterously, even aggressively, like "normal" children. We don't realize how good we have it.

It's very important for our emotional health and that of our children to recognize we're not alone.

It's very important for our emotional health and that of our children to recognize we're not alone. Have you experienced that tremendous wave of relief when you're over at a friend's house and her boys leave the table abruptly to engage in a wrestling match? Or her daughters raise their voices in demand for new clothes and shorter skirts? Maybe one child is a little rude and needs to be reprimanded ... and another is eating all the dessert ... with his/her hands... These are perverse pleasures and necessary ones.

It's very destructive to our children to have inappropriate expectations.


I once heard a radio psychologist speaking to a couple who had taken their three-year-old with them on a romantic getaway. The therapist launched into an analysis of the power struggle between the child and his parents that took place over brunch in an elegant restaurant.

What were those parents thinking? Forget psychology. If you want a second honeymoon, don't bring your toddler along. Or, if you do, expect him to behave ... like a toddler.

We will be constantly disappointed and frustrated if we expect our children to behave like angels -- to share all the time, to clean the house (without being asked!), to participate in calm rational discussions over disputed articles or situations. Most adults aren't up to that standard.

We want our children to be real people, individuals with strengths and weaknesses.

And the truth is, tempting as it sounds, we really don't want our children to be like that. We want them to be real people, individuals with a wide range of emotions and thoughts, strengths and weaknesses. We want to help them channel their energies in constructive directions, and we want to delight in their energies and the strength of their will.

It helps to know we're not alone. There's nothing wrong with us as parents (the kid down the block forgot his lunch too), or with our children (remember his friends in carpool talking about "ditching" some classes). All these struggles are part of the pleasure, and pain, of child-raising.

Talk to other parents. Observe other children. You'll smile, you'll wipe your brow (whew!), and you'll thank the Almighty for the joy and challenges He's thrown your way.

On yeah, and if anyone starts a support group, keep me posted. I'm looking for one for parents whose children forget to pick up their clothes, return their library books, get their tests signed, brush their teeth ...

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