Day 5: Oh, well, at least it's the New Yorker…

Let’s start with the bright side, shall we?

P1020080

It’s the New Yorker.  

And it’s the only thing on the floor.

It is even possible that the object of my son’s attention was the article and not the cartoon.  What?!!? I didn’t say it was “likely.”

And even if it was the cartoon, it’s still a step up from reading the same Calvin & Hobbes for the three hundred and twenty-sixth time.  Am I right?

Now for the, uh, less bright, side.

It is, yes, on the floor.

I picked it up and threw it away.

I do hope he wasn’t in the middle of that article.

About Day 4:

cce wrote:

Whenever
I ask, "Why, why can't they chew with their mouths closed, clean up
after themselves, be considerate," their father likes to chime
in…"Because they're kids."

And always, I turn to him and say, "Then what's your excuse?"

I just love this story.  First, because it is makes me laugh every time I read it and second, because it's actually very important. To wit: how do you figure out what your child is ready to take on in the way of responsibilities?  And if we always give them the benefit of the "Aw, they're just kids" argument, when exactly are they going to show up and act like the adults we want them to eventually be?

We all want to be Goldilocks and get it just right, but if I had it all to do over again, I think I would err on the side of expecting too much of my children rather than expecting too little.  Maybe I say this because the grass is always greener on the other side and in my case the other side would have been expecting my children to chew with their mouths closed, clean up after themselves and be considerate well before, well, now.

I think, particularly with my Oldest, my anxiety about mothering the first time around – coupled with a personal history of having felt shoved out of the nest at a very early age – led me to be too tentative in this regard . I was always waiting for him to make the move, take the chance, say “Yes!”  (We were also kinda traumatized by an ill-fated foray into AYSO soccer in Kindergarten.  We forced him to finish the season even though he LOATHED it. Big. Mistake.  Deserves its own post, that one.)

Anyway, I rationalized my own reluctance to push him with a pretty solid argument.  I told myself that I wanted his developmental steps to come from him, to be internally motivated and not an effort to please me or anyone else.  I still believe this and if I had to pick a baseline to work from, I’d take this over its opposite.  I have seen waaaay too many parents who push their children hard, not in the service of the child, but because the parent is narcissistically gratified by having a child who behaves a certain way at the table, gets a certain grade in a class, scores a certain number of goals in soccer.  Bleh.  

But the problem with my approach, and what I didn’t see until I had spent an embarrassingly long time being  a parent,  is that a huge part of the job is simply believing in your child – in his capabilities, her possibilities, his fundamental all-rightness, her capacity for growth – both in the present moment and in the far-off imagined day of adulthood.  I now think that if at every step of the way we believe in our children’s inherent capabilities, they will show us what they are capable of.  

Obviously, if you ask too much of a child, you are setting her up for failure.   But asking too little is just the flip side of that same mistake. The real parenting challenge is believing in their capabilities just a shade more than they do.  When you do that, sometimes they surprise you, and even better, sometimes they surprise themselves.

Also in regards to Day 4, magpie wondered:

It's hard to tell if there's a standoff, or if they're just clueless kids who don't pay attention.

It’s definitely not a standoff – thus far they are not paying enough attention to make it a standoff.  And when you are as removed from the process as I have been, there is very little personal charge to the whole endeavor.   I am being patient in this experiment (that in itself is an experiment, but that’s another story), because I don’t actually want them to pick up their sh*t in a communal room because they are paying attention to me, but because it is the right thing to do.  

Thoughts, gentle readers?

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11 thoughts on “Day 5: Oh, well, at least it's the New Yorker…

  1. Meno, what does “the best you can” mean to you? For me it means trying to find that elusive shade – to believe in them just at the outside edge of their belief in themselves. And the fact that they are all different – well that’s what makes it so challenging and fun.

  2. Its so hard to just stand back and watch. Just as generations before me have wanted so badly to intervene in an effort to head off potential missteps, I fight the urge daily. I know advice is useless unless it is solicited.
    Experience is the best teacher.

  3. I just finished writing up this whole long thing for the local newspaper about this afterschool program for kids w/disabilities that we started here, and this paragraph is pretty much the entire essence of it:
    “..a huge part of the job is simply believing in your child – in his capabilities, her possibilities, his fundamental all-rightness, her capacity for growth – both in the present moment and in the far-off imagined day of adulthood. I now think that if at every step of the way we believe in our children’s inherent capabilities, they will show us what they are capable of.”
    We as a group of parents did believe in our kids’ capabilities, against what all the ‘experts’ were telling us, and guess what? They rose to the challenge every time. Tho i have to admit that lots of times they surprised even us.
    So it has nothing to do w/your battle of the bathroom, but I was so struck by how similar those sentiments were to ones i was expressing just an hour ago!

  4. Hmm. I can’t help asking myself the question – would it be different if they were girls? (you know my ideological convictions on this, though they seem to be gradually being ground down by reality. And pink). I wonder if there’s been any research? And is our bathroom going to become a warzone with one of each in the house?

  5. I agree with Rahul.
    “if I had it all to do over again, I think I would err on the side of expecting too much of my children rather than expecting too little.”
    Parenting is a constant judgment call.
    (Why is the comment box 1-inch wide here?)

  6. Just found you, via SheShe…
    The small print: I am not a parent, nor have I played one on TV.
    Seems to me that you are just picking up the bathroom. The chances that they are going to leave something they truly value in the bathroom are slim, based on what you’ve recorded, and if they don’t lose something they value, why are they going to care or think about changing their ways? I wonder if they even realize that war is being under-waged.

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