I’ll start with the requisite acknowledgement that it has been a long time since I last posted anything here. Since I have ‘no one’ to apologize to, I have no apologies. I know it’s been a while. As it turns out, taking time away from a task sometimes makes it harder to return to it. Yes?
Since I last wrote, my family and I have moved (again) and I’ve had another kid. So the grand total is one 3 & 1/2 year old, one 17 month old and one 2 month old. Who would have thought that having more kids also might mean having less to say about parenting?
Luckily for me, I *still* am really only teaching life lessons to one kid. We’re working on some rudimentary “try not to be an asshole” lessons with my middle kid, but I don’t have to worry too much yet about what’s sticking and what’s not. With that said, now that the two older kids are interacting more and more as contemporaries and less as baby and child, I’m getting to watch first hand how they both deal with the trials and excitements of having a sibling (and “getting along” with that sibling). And while much of what I witness is sweet and thoughtful, much of it also seems to simply be my shortcomings played out in a bout of “who wants to share less.” Awesome, right?
As the adult with whom they spend most of their time, I am the primary person helping them to build vocabulary and strategies around being kind to others, helping themselves calm down and dealing with disappointments. Those lessons are explicitly taught many times on any given day. The problem that arises is when I’m having trouble being kind, disappointed or calm myself. As many parents know, the things that kids see and experience tend to be much more salient to them than the explanations (I often call mine “lectures”) that we try impart. So as a result of this, I see my poor behavior reflected back to me more often than I’d like.
“No pushing your sister please!” But of course, I have been known to “help” someone along with a little nudge or a pull if they’re having trouble listening to me.
“It’s not ok to try and control someone else’s body!” As though I don’t do it on a semi-regular basis.
“Sharing is a way to show you care about someone!” I say this regularly even as I guard my time, personal space and fooooooood very jealously.
“Please don’t interrupt someone when they’re talking!” Unless it’s me, interrupting anything you’re doing or saying to remind you that you haven’t returned your shoes to their proper resting place.
“Can you please help me carry this bag inside?” But I’ll cooly decline your request for help in a little while because I want you to be able to do things for yourself.
Being kind is a difficult endeavor. Sometimes it can be difficult to be kind to kids and still find room to tell them no or disappoint them by not always doing things for them. In the long run, these can be considered kindnesses, as you help them build their independence and confidence in themselves. But in the present moment, it can feel like the opposite as you look into your child’s teary eyes as they ask for help with something that you expect them to do on their own.
In our modern day privileged parenting environment, kindness is one of the themes that I hear about most. Just think how many times you have said or heard a parent say, “That’s so nice of you!” or “It’s not nice to…” We want to believe that our little (developmentally appropriate) selfish tyrants will grow up to be people who help their neighbors and remember their parents in their dotage. I want to see a glimmer of that hope for the future. But when I hear them saying the same negative things that I say, I start to think that I’m probably dooming them to remain tyrants.
I know that I can’t be perfect…ever. And I have no real desire to be. But I would love it if my kids paid a little more attention when I was on my good behavior than when I was being “bad.” Alas. As my last post said, I (generally) like that I have work on being a slightly kinder, more patient person because of my ‘day job.’ And while I’ve come a long way in the kindness department, it is made clear, sometimes by my kids’ own behaviors, that I have a long way to go.