Saturday, July 9, 2011

More amazement about parenting and Sinatra (of course) and kittens!

We've had two baby kittens running around our house for six days now. I think they are nine weeks old now, but maybe they're ten weeks. I should find out what day their actual birthday is. They are already starting to feel at home and are showing their individual personalities. Snow(flake, ball, cone, clone, angel) is much more serious and seems to have the weight of the world (and her sister) on her shoulders. She appears to feel responsible for the two of them. Abby Nermal is much more laid back, inquisitive, and purrs as soon as anyone touches her. They're both really fun to watch. The other day half the neighborhood kids showed up at our door to meet them.

I sent out an email for trying to raise money for Sinatra's diagnostics and that didn't seem to do much. So, I'm going to have to try harder to do something pro-active to raise $1200 so we can take him to Pilchuck and do an MRI to find out why he keeps failing his lameness test. I can't financially afford to adopt an unrideable horse and I fear that no one else will adopt him if he will never be rideable. But it's too early for me to start thinking of such morose scenarios.

I had another surprise by the reaction of three-year olds yesterday. My neighbor, K. has been babysitting three extra kids recently AND just found out they're moving out of state (very sad!) so she's been pretty stressed. My knee-jerk reaction when I am good friends with a family is to step in and help with the kids if the parent is either super busy or super exhausted. So, a few times in the last week I've stepped in with K.'s daughter and reprimanded her when need be because K. is either busy with the other kids or once just looked very overwhelmed and tired. I had to ask her if she cared because back in the city I got yelled at a couple times for that because the majority of my friends there don't discipline their kids and they think I'm mean when I do things like tell little kids they will "lose priveledges" or will have to go in "time out" if they don't behave properly. They think I'm threatening their children (which I am) and I am destroying their self-esteem (which I'm not). Anyway, I worked really hard to never step in because I respect other people's boundaries about parenting (even when I think they're wrong). So, I'd sit and watch kids run out into traffic in the street while their mom helplessly called their name, or punch their mom over and over while the mom helplessly said, "That's not very nice, Sweetie, do you really want to hurt Mommy?" which did nothing and the child kept hitting them until they got bored and gave up.

Oddly, it turns out that K. appreciates the help just like I would. If I've got my hands full and my child is rude and another parent is standing right next to her, I appreciate if they say that's not appropriate and the behavior needs to stop. My friend, D. is from Nigeria and she explained that where she is from everyone is on the same page about parenting so if a parent is near a child who is acting rudely then they are expected to say something. So, it's been a relief to be able to say something and a few times in the last week I've reprimanded K.'s 3 year old daughter when she acts rudely. She's so much like my daughter that I don't even think, I just treat her the same way I treated my daughter when she was 3 years old - which is keep my explanations short and simple such as, "That behavior is inappropriate. These are your choices for appropriate behavior. If you keep doing the inappropriate behavior you're going to time out." Then if the child is in time-out and cries and screams about how horrible it is and how Draconian I am I calmly say, "When you are calm we can talk. Take some deep breaths and calm your body." Then when their "You're killing me!" fit is over we talk about polite behavior and what's not unacceptable. Yes, I know. I'm mean.

Anyway, out of the blue yesterday K. told me that her 3 year old daughter said to her, "You should call J. I really like her. She picks me up when I cry and she's nice to me." So, she remembered the time that I was watching her and she fell down and cried and I picked her up to comfort her instead of the times I disciplined her! I've read a lot of articles about how children feel more comfortable when there have consistent limits and their caretakers set limits. I'm always amazed when I see real life examples of it in my own life. It makes me want to shout off the rooftops that not disciplining your kids is not the "loving" thing to do that many people think it is. Never punishing them and never saying no are not making them happy and giving them the wonderful childhood the parents didn't have (or felt they didn't have). It's actually making them insecure, unhappy and actually makes them NOT like the parents who never "threaten" them or "punish" them. Or at least that is what I've been witnessing over and over again.

Luckily for my sanity, K. and D. and many of the parents of my daughter's new friends understand this and their kids are pretty respectful and even thought they are normal kids who test boundaries most don't seem confused and angry like kids I've met whose parents have tried to be nothing but "loving and gentle". I am loving and gentle with children, I just also have rules. Part of my feeling ok with that is I watch animal moms with their babies and they all have rules too. We seem to be the only species that thinks not behaving and not having rules is a *good* thing to do.

Of course, even if here there are messed up kids. I don't think there is a place in the world you can find good parents everywhere. But the prevalence of parents who don't overthink everything and try to re-write history of what works with raising kids (simple things like "keep lines of communication open" "show and expect respect" "have consistent rules") is higher here than it was in the city. Or at least the neighborhood I was in. Now if I could just convince some of my friends from the city to move up here because they'd love it - despite their delusion that it MUST be worse otherwise why would they be paying such a higher cost of living for congested areas, bad traffic, and high crime - life would be perfect.

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