image is of a calm lake and trees on the far shore. It is peaceful and embodies freedom to me–the right to chose for oneself.
It’s been a rough morning, our toddler has not only not adjusted to the time change, his internal clock has been thrown off by two hours! So I am up before 6:00 am most mornings (for those of you who commute and have no sympathy for that time, please keep in mind that I work evenings and well 5:45am is not a very civilized hour no matter how you frame it)
And then, while it was still pitch black our dog was in a panic to go outside. My husband was already gone (did I mention it was his early day, gone before 5:00am?) so I turned on the tv for our toddler (Yeah me-awesome parenting skills!) so that he would stay in my bed while I let her out. I had tried to tell her to be quiet, but dogs don’t speak English (or any human tongue for that matter) so she didn’t stop whining. We’ve learned the hard way that if she’s ever in a panic like this to Let. Her. Out. A nasty case of diarrhea is much better outside than in my front hall.
The dog? She gleefully ran outside barking her head off (sorry neighbours) and running around through my garden. At some point she did relieve herself. I think. A few more piercing barks later, I managed to get her back inside. Where I crawled back into bed with our toddler, whose face was returning to it’s normal colour. Did I forget to mention that he was screaming when he woke this morning and nothing would settle him? Ya sorry about that. He was. And it wasn’t very fun.
Face time with hubby started his tears all over again. Gee thanks kid, I stay home all day and play play-dough and colouring and sing patty-cake with you and he’s the one you want in the morning? I mean I love you all dearly, but give me some credit.
I found some clean clothes to throw on. (Did I mention that we’re trying to take advantage of the mid and low-peak electricity times? Basically it means laundry is supposed to be done while I’m working or running around to dance. Which means a load gets thrown on one night, re-washed the next night and if I manage to stay awake long enough, it gets thrown in the dryer before a third wash. Saves us lots and lots of money-not)
Downstairs wasn’t too bad. There was only one container of rotting food left behind by the oldest one who had excavated it from his backpack somewhere and the middle one came down to make her lunch. Yes I said she was making it–I learned long ago that as long as we provide the materials, our children will eat their lunch far better if they make it rather than us. I merely approve the final product (No you cannot take just an apple for an entire day!). Mind you with the waste that comes back, I shudder to think what would happen if I were to actually make their lunches again.
Then the middle one drops a conversational bomb. Right between buttering her sandwich and reaching for the cheese. “Mom can I wear mascara?”
What? It’s not even 8:15 yet and I feel wrecked. She’s 11, in grade 6. I listened in disbelief to the list of girls she rhymed off who were already wearing it daily. I’m so out of touch.
My first instinct was to stomp down on the notion and say “No way!” but that would just drive her to sneak it to school and put it on there. No I wanted a more respectful conversation than that. I bought myself a few minutes while I made my earl grey tea, and wondered if there was a way to attach an IV of it to my arm.
In the end I asked her why she wanted to wear it. That women wear makeup because they feel it makes them look more pretty. I asked her if she needs to feel more pretty at school. She seemed surprised by the question. You see “everyone” was doing it. I managed not to use the clichéd “If your friends jumped off a bridge would you too?” (you should be proud of me, the caffeine hadn’t kicked in yet and I was working on the fly here) I asked her to think about what it would do for her. After some discussion I suggested that perhaps-not today- that she try wearing it for a week and see what it does. If she feels any different about herself.
She was disappointed that I didn’t give her a straight answer. I’m nervous about even giving part way in. But it was a rational conversation, one with give and take. One that was respectful. You see I don’t want my kids to ever be compliant to what I or any other adult says.
Yes there are always times when they have to do what we say (wearing seatbelts is a good example) but really when we demand that our children hop to attention and do our biding without questioning it, we are setting them up for some seriously bad stuff in their life. We are making them compliant to the demands of bad boss or job, to a disrespectful person or worse to a molester or rapist.
This is a particular concern in the special needs community as an individual may have a harder time distinguishing what is ok from what is “bad.”
Yet I have seen this in my toddler’s classes as well. One class in particular was an art class where the expectations were so far above their abilities that I withdrew and asked for a refund. You see the toddlers were being asked to paint a straight brown line for a tree trunk or to glue the foam pieces in a particular order to make a spaceship. All around the room parents were saying “No, put it here. No not like that!” They were demanding compliance from a child who was unable to comply and worse, unable to say why they couldn’t. Not one child in there giggled or had fun. Now there are a lot of angles and things we can talk about in that scenario, but bear with me as I really want to stick to the compliance theme today.
These children are being taught to do exactly what mom and dad and the teacher says in order to produce something that the adult wants and in order to get praise. At what point do you stop demanding compliance? When do you give your child the right to discuss the pros and cons, to make mistakes to learn how to stand up for themselves?
For me it’s early on. That doesn’t mean it’s ok for my toddler to hit me and refuse to have a poopy diaper changed. But, provided there is time (and hey I’m at home with him, so there’s usually time. Unless we have to be at the studio.) I will give him a couple of minutes to calm down before I change the diaper.
For my daughter it’s about asking her questions that make her think her reasons through. Teaching her to think through why she may want something.
Neither of those is compliance. They are respectful.
Like any mom I’m not perfect, but I don’t want my kids ever to be afraid to say no. They just need to find a reason why.