It all began with the day I saw my baby snacking on a toilet brush.
Let’s leave it there before we go into whether it was new or used, dirty or clean, yellow or blue.
There is no good scenario to explain that away so let’s just take it for what it is and move on.
The day I saw that changed me for good.
You see before that, I had totes been *that* mom.
For the first few months of his life, despite some of the laissez-faire moments that tried to suggest that I was not *that mom* and that I was in fact chill (taking him to the beach at 3 weeks, not APPEARING to micromanage anyone who held him, etc), I was totes *that mom*. Majorly. I singlehandedly doubled the profits of all the cleaning agents in the world: hand sanitizers, regular wipes, disinfecting wipes, all natural, baby-safe everything-that-cleans… you name it, I bought its beautiful purging power.
And beyond that I jumped in between my baby and sadness (LOOK AT MOMMY DO A SILLY HAPPY LAUGHY DANCE!), my baby and dirt, my baby and babies who might push, pull, tug or bother. I admit it, I had gotten clean absorbed into the Mommy Bubble that drives us to protect our babies at all costs.
But what if the cost is actually him? Her?
In this world of a trillion voices, each trying to out-loud, out-shame and out-abuse the other, it’s very easy to get locked into a defensive crouch or offensive tackle without realising that there are several other positions available in this increasingly insane ‘playing field’.
Nowhere does this animal instinct arise like it does in a parent when it comes to the needs- and sometimes wants- of a child. It can easily become an “Us against the World” situation, where we quickly spot all the ways in which OTHERS may try to take advantage of our children, and we craft defenses and buffers and diplomatic responses to these situations. It ranges from a complete bubble of “my child is always right, let the tiny genius do as he will,” to the diplomatic parental hedges of, “Let’s gently TRY to encourage the small one to do what seems socially acceptable, without breaching his own sovereignty by imposing a firm yes or no.” to the plain ole, time honoured, “do it BECAUSE I SAID SO!”
I think each approach has its good bits, and where I end up is influenced by all the above, I think.
You see, I’m not just a mom, and therefore also prone to Defensoritis, I’m also a teacher. And everyday, I get to see (not judge. not judge. not judge.) the results of a thousand different parenting styles. I’m young enough to not subscribe to the ‘children should be seen and not heard’ philosophy. I love a child with a healthy sense of self, who can challenge what is spoon fed to ensure it’s something that should be swallowed. I like a child with the confidence to make herself heard.
But I’m also old enough to remember one thing: Respect.
The arrogance of the day has inflated our sense of self to the point where we will not allow anyone to lower it, to bend it, to break it, so “why would we do it to ourselves?”
Good point, aggrieved 7th grader, who cannot understand why she has a detention.
Good point, aggravated 9th grader, who is attempting to refuse the order mark.
Good point, apoplectic parent defending her offspring and arguing her way through a parent-teacher call.
Except for a few things:
Respect is not weakness
Respect is not defeat
Respect is not a sign of self-subjugation
Respect is not failure
Respect is not servitude
Respect is not a sign of surrender
Respect is not selling out, selling short, selling soul.
Respect in NOT in fact the opposite of confidence, or self worth, or leadership or strength. Respect happily coexists with all of the above traits, and each can actually strengthen the other when allowed equal share in a child’s interactions with anyone. With EVERYONE.
How have we lost sight of this?
I read an article today. And I agree that it had some very sound points.
Should we force our children to share?
No. I think children should learn that their ‘no’ is valid, and they should learn that the ‘no’ of others is equally sacred. Besides that, I think that the ‘forcing’ of anything is a dangerous route to take. But I also think that wide open ‘enabling’ is an equally potent error.
I believe instead in a nice mishmash of the two we’ll call EN-FORCING. See what I did there?
“Forcing” requires an active imposition of your will over theirs.
ENFORCING is about establishing parameters, and lovingly guarding these hedges so that they don’t get breached- and here’s the important part- by anyone. Not from the outside (obvs), but also not from the INSIDE either.
You see, your tiny human lands brand new to this world. It knows nothing of subtleties, and niceities; it doesn’t grasp ‘discernment’ and ‘gut feelings’; it doesn’t do ‘wisdom’ or ‘gray areas’. It doesn’t do ‘big picture’ or ‘long-term’. It does here, now, ice cream.
It’s up to US to teach all those other things. And they come with introducing these hedges. Different parenting style call for different height hedges, hedge materials and the size and shape of the space within. But I don’t think the idea of boundaries is negotiable.
And as much as we keep an eye out for those who would try to bust on through (Hey, don’t give my kid sugar/TV/drugs/Bieber!), we have to ensure our little ones also understand that they need to respect boundaries too (Hey kid, don’t give that lady cooties/attitude/sub-par performance/Ke$ha music at 2am!)
And that’s the side of the coin I’m rarely seeing land face up these days. We’re all about saving the children, and sometimes we save them right out of the ability to trust themselves, recover from mistakes, bounce back from disappointment, make hard choices alone, and respect all people, not just the ones they need. It’s not enough that I’m parenting my child to make him more resistant to the way YOU parent YOURS. I must parent him to make him more resilient, full stop. To make him better. To make him rounded. To make him okay with flaws, his, mine and everyone else around him. There is a side to sharing which is not just about prolonging or delaying gratification; it’s also a chance for us to show our children how realise the world is bigger than ‘who has the toy now’. We can begin to introduce ideas like, “hey, there’s another person who wants the toy. Do I HAVE to share? No. Do I want to share? No. Will I maybe want to share a bit later on, even if it’s still earlier than I had planned on putting this toy down? Maybe.”
“Maybe” is good.
“Maybe I’m not the only one in the world,” is even better.
“Maybe I can put someone else first without it being a big deal every now and then,” is most favourite.
So again the question: should we FORCE our kids to share or to smile at family or to give the last cookie their cousin? No. I agree that the toy-holder should be allowed to hold toy, and the toy-wanter, allowed to learn that wanting won’t kill, and neither will disappointment and hey, look at all those alternatives over there!
BUT! Could we ENFORCE the idea that we’re all here together, so we might as well learn how to graciously surrender a toy even if we’re not quiiite finished yet, or to not eat that last cookie if our friend looks hungrier, or to understand that sometimes an angry kid needs a hug or a toy truck or to just be left alone instead of a retaliation tantrum and a timeout? That it won’t kill us to CHOOSE to put others first every now and then?
It’s how I’m hoping to raise my own tiny humans, one epic fail and surprise success at a time.
I’m doing my best, and I choose to trust that other parents are doing theirs.
So no judging, no one-upping, no me vs you.
Just small people, big dreams…
And every now and then,
A cookie. For courage.