Suck It Up, Buttercup

Oh, I find it ever so tempting to attack the premise of the article from Tralee Pearce in the Globe and Mail about “resilience” as the new parenting buzzword.  Somehow, “parenting” and “buzzword,” with all the trendiness that implies, are not words that should go together.  Surely our approaches to raising our kids should survive longer than the season of the leg warmer or the tangerine dream.

My favourite passage from the article is the one that points out how damaging this whole notion of trends can be:

“Every year there are new buzzwords you have to learn,” says Toronto parenting and health writer Lisa Bendall, who has been vocal about how the parent-industrial complex has gone into overdrive. “It’s very persuasive and it does its job. We have a whole industry geared to making parents feel like idiots, like we can’t do it alone. And you have to keep reinventing it, so that’s where you get the new buzzwords.”

Pearce chooses not to expand upon this theme of creating buzzwords for the sake of feeding the parenting industry engine, but it’s something I am constantly aware of.  It’s like the engine of the 24-hour news cycle.  The news people have to find something to fill their broadcast hours, and filling it becomes an end in itself.  I often sense that I’m watching “filler” not “news.”  The definition of “newsmaker,” I think, has changed; it’s much more about creating the news than earning a spot on the evening news or daily chat show.

Parenting newsmakers are no different; they must claim their place in the spotlight by creating a “new” school of thought.

As it happens, I am on trend with this whole resilience buzzword thing.  I am very firmly of the Suck It Up, Buttercup School of Parenting.  I read parenting books until I was cross-eyed when I was a very new parent (I still feel like a deer caught in the headlights, but I’m a deer without a flashing rookie sign, I guess.).  So many of the books I read were of the Boost Your Kids’ Self-Esteem School.  And you know what?  I fell into that trap of saying “GOOD JOB!!” all day like a manic cheerleader.   For about five minutes of my parenting life.  I quickly abandoned it because I felt so stupid.  It just didn’t feel natural at all.  I cannot manufacture my kids’ self-esteem with hollow praise, and that’s what it often felt like.  (I know I was doing it wrong; I know that no one advocates hollow praise.)  But really, whether it’s praise or criticism, if your children depend on you to tell them they are doing well or poorly, something’s gone wrong.

My children know that they have my unconditional love.  No question.  But to my mind, praise has to be earned, and if I think my kids aren’t trying their hardest, I send them back to do something again until they do it better.

Buzzwords: everything old is new again.  Samuel Beckett said it best (and grumpiest) 30 years ago:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.