There’s little I like more than conversations in real life that make me think about and question my thoughts on kids and parenting. And usually when I’m in a speculative mood, I find that writing about my thoughts helps me to suss them out fully.
Welcome to the suss.
This conversation started with a passing comment about my friends’ son hi-fiving other patrons in a restaurant that they were eating in. And I, being me, immediately said that I wouldn’t have given him a hi-five. Now, for the record, I would have hi-fived their kid because I know him, but in general, with a stranger kid, I would try and keep my hands to myself.
I was asked if my reticence was due to kids being so dang germy. And while that’s a good reason not to touch them, that was not why. I couldn’t put my finger on why exactly I felt this way until thinking about the question over the next couple of days. And finally, I had my aha moment. So here is my explanation for being a grinch about hi-fives (and, as you will see, many other things).
I don’t want to be the stranger who “allows” your kid to do things that you’d rather they not do.
You get what I’m saying?
I have met such nice people over the course of my parenthood who would seemingly let my daughter take food from their plates. So nice of you, really. Except that I don’t really want her to get into the habit of taking food off of other people’s plates- especially because that would most often be my plate…
When you ask your kid not to do something and a stranger says, “That’s ok” because it has something to do with them, it doesn’t actually make it ok.
Hey stranger, my kid wants to rifle through your purse. Oh great, you’re ok with that? Have at it then kid! Now you get what I’m saying, right?
As some strangers turn into acquaintances and friends, I will gladly let them dictate some rules around their own interactions with my kids. If I know the other adult’s first name, then they can more readily decide if they’re going to stop my kid from stealing their dinner roll from their plate. But if I don’t know them, then that dinner roll is off limits even if ‘kindly stranger’ doesn’t mind if that roll goes missing.
So with this “rule” in mind, I do not want to ever play the role of the undermining adult. If I hear a parent asking their child not to do something, even if it’s ok with me for them to do it, I’m not going to encourage them to. For instance, if we’re at the library and I’m reading a book that another kid would like to see, even if I don’t mind giving it to them, if their parent asks them to leave it with me, then I’m going to hold on to it. Saying, “I don’t mind” isn’t a terrible thing to do, but I’d rather support the other parent, even in small ways, than satisfy their kid’s immediate impulse.
Sometimes I take this grown-up solidarity to even more adult levels. If I hear a stranger parent telling their kid that it’s time to leave the playground and that kid is playing near me, occasionally I’ll say, “I hear your dad calling you.” Ew!! So gross!
Maybe the power hungry part of me that wants to keep control of my own kids is acting out a misaligned version of the golden rule. I’m hoping that by being a stick-in-the-mud, other parents will return the favor. I’m just sending those behaviors out into the universe, hoping that they’ll come back to me.
Since I don’t ever want to be in a situation like, “Please don’t have any more cookies love. They’re for everyone at the party.” And then hear, from some nice stranger, “There are plenty of cookies to go around! I don’t mind if she has a few more!” Great! Except that I do… And as we know, c’est moit qui decide!
So if I meet a little kid dispensing hi-fives in a restaurant, I’m going to think first about what his parents might be wishing he were doing. Maybe everybody is enjoying this sharing. Very, very, very possible! But if I don’t know those parents, I’m first going to wonder if they wish he were back in his seat eating dinner with them. So I’ll hold off on sharing those hi-fives just in case.