Thursday, July 04, 2013

Parenting expectations.

Almost two and a half years after giving birth to my son I am still working out how to be a good parent, and more specifically how to deal with social expectations. I read a lot of Alfie Khonish stuff and definitely see myself as an attachment parenting/unconditional parent type, though I have never used a cloth nappy (actually that's not true, I did - once) nor done ECing. I am still breastfeeding, still co-sleeping and have raised my voice only on occasions like when my son tried to open the car door while we were moving. Nor have I raised my hand.

I am having real trouble understanding how to deal with things like park etiquette - those times when someone else thinks my child is behaving badly or for that matter when they think their own child is when really they have done nothing at all.

A couple of weeks ago some bigger children shoved my son, and the bits of wood he was playing with, aside on a climbing frame. naturally my son was upset but I kind of understand that to the larger kids a small pile of wood-chippings is just a small pile of wood-chippings and not the roaring fire my son thought he had constructed and my two and a half year old was just a small uninteresting child in the wrong place. So I gently got my son down from where he was crying distraught bitter tears and encouraged him to pick up all the pieces of wood and try to make a much larger better fire somewhere else. Within seconds he was happy; no need to be angry or upset with the eight year old children who hadn't intentionally upset him. Not much later my son was sitting alone on a smaller platform near the slide once again making wood-chip fires when a child of about 4 came up and started grabbing at them. My son shouted 'no! Mine!' but she continued to grab the wood and drop them through the holes in the platform. I quickly went to my son, grabbed him and said it was all ok and he could come down to play near me. All fine, but at that point the little girl said very loudly "yes, you know it is very rude of you to shout 'no'" and my immediate thought was - actually, no, it's very rude of you to come over and start messing with his game and then expect him not to say anything to you. There was a big difference between the 8 year old children climbing all over the climbing frame and a 4 year old invading my son's space and deliberately messing up his game, then telling him off for objecting. In my opinion.

The last incident was sadder all round. Another girl, again about 4, was continually shouted at by her dad (who was there with his partner and a younger baby) right from the moment they entered the park. 'don't do that', 'stop touching that', 'you're not listening', 'we will all have to go home if you don't behave'. She wasn't even given a second to just BE and it made me very sad. She seemed very interested in the fires that my son was making and gathered up her own chips and started copying what he was doing. As soon as her dad saw her with her handful of chippings he started shouting at her to put them down, don't do that and so on. Inevitably it ended with the poor child being dragged away and accused of ruining everyone else's day because now they would all have to go home.

My tendancy is to just concentrate on watching my own son's behaviour and intervening if I think he is being out of order or if I think others are being out of order to him. I don't want to get into telling off other kids - unless of course they are doing something crazy and out of order - but I don't particularly think that children of my son's age HAVE to put up with children having his stuff without them negotiating an exchange/swap. I read a blog a while ago (Which frustratingly I can't find now) about how this drive to teach kids to share is not always a good thing. The gist being that as grown adults we wouldn't expect to just be able to march over to another person's stuff and take whatever we wanted and then have someone tell the owner of that stuff that they are not good at sharing if they object.

I started writing this blog back in June and have only just got round to finishing. In recent days I have been having a bit of a crisis about my parenting. Firstly because my mum has made a couple of comments about me 'being in charge' (As in I need to be) and I was also accused of being inept and 'wishy washy' on the site known for its nest of vipers. Personally I don't think I am wishy washy - I am definitely up for a bit of restraint, order and discipline - but I think perhaps the fact that I have chosen to listen to and communicate with my son as much as possible may give people the impression that I am. My view is that I am not going to physically hurt my son to make him bend to my will, though I am amazed by the amount of suggestions made about giving him a smack. Yesterday I was in a bit of a parenting funk as my mum's comments about being in charge were later followed with advice on keeping a toy that could strangle him out of reach! I had also had a bit of a nightmare not-getting-in-to-the-car-seat situation which I admit I handled badly but which hasn't happened since.

Are we heading full pelt into the terrible twos I wonder? Am I to be expected to crack down on the restraint just as he is starting to question and resist? Surely if anything this will make the resistance seem worse and make everything all round more difficult for us both. If I can't give my son time to explore and to learn without hitting and smacking then what kind of parent does that make me?

I think I am right about wanting to do things the way I am, I think I just need to be more confident about the choices I am making and be prepared to modify them if needed.

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