Tuesday, December 29, 2009

It's Complicated

For many years now going out en masse as an extended family to a movie on Christmas evening has been traditional in our family. It's always interesting trying to find something that will appeal to everyone and compromises are always made. This year my youngest daughter and one of my more morally conservative cousins were the ones who found themselves compromising. We decided - and mostly agreed - on 'It's Complicated'. (and we didn't actually make it until the day after Christmas, but that's neither here nor there) It was a cute little flick and a big ole check in the win column for middle-aged women. Plus, Alec Baldwin is kind of like John Travolta for me - old, young, fat, trim, it's all good... (And for those of you who saw it - we're having Croque Monseur and mixed greens with a balsamic viniagrette for dinner tonight with warm chocolate croissants for dessert. I have high hopes.)

As the love lives of our heroes became more and more complex (as the title of the film implies) I thought about how all of us could probably take that title and apply it to our lives. In my case, my love life is blissfully uncomplicated - so my story would be different - but no less complicated.

My girls and I are babysitting this week. We're watching a thoroughly delightful toddler. My youngest has never spent much time around people smaller than herself. She asked, after our first day, "So - taking care of a toddler is really just about making them happy all the time, right?"

I told her that there were basically three priorities:

1. Keep them safe.
2. Make them happy.
3. Keep them happy.

Nothing complicated about that. I remembered when my own girls were that age and those were my priorities. So simple - but it didn't always feel simple. Uncomplicated doesn't always equal easy.

Keeping my girls safe and happy are still my priorities; things haven't changed that much I suppose. Just like when they were toddlers, the things I need to keep them safe from are often the things that hold the most appeal for them. Just like when they were toddlers, when I stop them from doing something potentially dangerous, I am bad and mean. Quite often - just like when they were toddlers - there are tears. (sometimes the tears are even theirs...) Sometimes - just like when they were toddlers - keeping them safe precludes making them happy in the short run.

Unlike when they were toddlers, though, I can't keep an eye on them all the time. They spend more time every year out in the big wide world where I can't keep them safe and where they're free to make their own happiness. I have to trust that I've taught them well enough to make good choices. Sometimes they show me that I have - and I am so proud in those moments. Sometimes, however, they make decisions that horrify me. Does this mean that I haven't taught them well enough? Or does there come a point where their decisions are a reflection on them alone and not on me and my parenting skills? I imagine if there is such a point, it's not yet. They are still so tangled up in me and my identity is still so tangled up in them.

Keep them safe and happy.

It's simple.

It's complicated.


Unknown said...

OH I hear ya here. My boys do things and I am instantly like "what were you thinking?? I know you were taught better..much like I have done my mom lol. the circle of life keeps spinning except now we are in the center and everyone else is around us..

Allyson said...

Just like all wonderful things...nothing is complicated..until it is. I like to think that all of the horrible decisions I made in college were a direct reflection of me and all of the good ones I've made since are a direct reflection of my parents. Good luck with the babysitting. Sometimes the last 2 things can be as complicated as it gets.

Housewife Savant said...

I get it.
I don't understand.
I hear ya.
That's why I'm childless.
Oh. Wait...

Unknown said...

Your 3 priorities apply to all of those whom we love: Keep them safe, make them happy, keep them happy!

Lyndsay Wells said...

I can't wait to see It's Complicated and I agree with you totally re: Alec Baldwin and John Travolta.

Have you ever seen Alec Baldwin on SNL when he plays the Schwetty guy - Bwa ha ha ha ha ha!!!

Your priorities are perfect.

Mama-Face said...

You always touch me so. Sometimes I wonder if I would have had children if I knew then what I know now. But, knowing my children now--I like and love them more than anybody else I know. What a crazy convoluted sentence that is. There's a point in there somewhere. Your children are so lucky to have you; someone who will love them unconditionally-which is obvious, but I was talking to a friend just today who is in the process of adopting two children they are fostering. Those girls are so lucky to have her. But how much better it is to have your parents by your side. Does this make ANY sense?

I was giddy when I saw a post from you!! Happy New Year.

BONNIE K said...

For me, it's always hard to know if I raised them right. Cause I thought I treated them similarly, but they are so, so different, that i really believe people are mostly what they were pre-destined to be. I will add that I hate New Years Eve when I have to wonder how drunk they are getting.

gayle said...

You are right!! Keep them safe, try to keep them happy and just love them!!

Claudya Martinez said...

I just want to know who put me in charge?

Anonymous said...

So true! Glad to "hear" your voice!!

dkWells said...

Haven't seen the movie yet, we went to see Blind Side last night. Another good lesson in raising children.

As one who now has two children over 21, you do your best to give them the tools, but ultimately it's their life and not yours.

To quote another famous movie character, "Life's like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get!"

Let you kids live and enjoy the variety of cordials they bring into your life!

Sir Hook of Warrick

Knowledge Safari said...

Great post! I found your blog through ElastaMoms! I hope that you will check us out - our site is launching soon! sneak peek at www.knowledgesafari.com

Joanna Jenkins said...

Hey Tammy, Love the holiday movie tradition. "It's Complicated" was a cute film. You can't go wrong with Meryl Streep.

Your priorities sounds good to me. They are good words to live by.

Happy 2010!

Brandy said...

That movie looks cute & my aunt said she was cracking up throughout the whole thing.

I like your toddler rules. There is no other way to deal with those little rugrats. :)

Becky said...

I've got one in every age bracket and it IS complicated!

And the hardest one right now is the who you simply have keep happy. Two is THE hardest age {{ sigh}}

Swine said...

Nice, T! Love your tradition. I'm thinking of starting one of my own: The Day After Christmas Beating.

Unknown said...

I loved the movie.
Raising teens is much more difficult than toddlers.
It's complicated is like the tip of the iceberg.............but we're just floating on it and paddling as fast as we can!!

Anonymous said...

Safe and happy. Excellent parenting rules to live by.

Macey said...

This is SO right! I'm so worried about the future because I know it will be so complicated. Right now at least I have the simple to go with the complicated. :/

Tracie said...

I find that it's getting more complicated the older they get. I am dreading the teen years.