Tiny Coconut

I have things.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Shifting Limits

I often find myself watching other parents with their children and critiquing them in my head. (You do so do it, too. Don't even try to pretend you don't.) More often than not, I'll comment inwardly on what I perceive as a too-light hand, an inability to rein a kid in before they behave either obnoxiously or dangerously, or even just a feeling that there's too much coddling going on, too much giving in to a child's whims. I think a lot of parents get taken advantage of by their children, mostly because they allow it to happen.

What spurred this on was a scene in the schoolyard the other day, where I was talking with another mother whose little boy, George, was showing off his cell phone, and then started ragging on his mother because he didn't have a picture phone. I was aghast. She argued that he was one of very few 9-year-olds at the school who had any kind of cell phone and he didn't need a picture phone, but he seemed unswayed. I left with a bad taste in my mouth, but that was nothing compared to the taste I had when Em came up to me a few days later and said, "So guess what George's mom got for him?"

But, of course, what do I know about what is behind most parents' decisions with regards to parenting? Who made me the parenting police? Nobody, that's who. And yet, I often find myself on patrol, ready to hand out citations to half the parents I meet.

Which is what makes is particularly amusing when I realize just how fragile a glass house I live in, and how stupid it is for me to throw stones. The walls of that house closed in on me this morning, in fact, when I found myself leaning back over the waist-high inner fence at N's preschool so that he could twirl his fingers into my hair and then rub the ends of it over his forehead while he sucked his thumb. I flushed as another preschool parent asked politely for us to step aside so she could get through. I could only imagine what she was thinking--what *I* would have been thinking if the roles were reversed. I wanted to grab her and say, "But, see, WeeyumWise isn't here today, and he didn't want to come at all. And, you see, he has these social issues, and they're getting better, but he still needs some reassurances. So, yeah, I already did the obligatory six-hugs-and-six-kisses-plus-one-more-at-the-gate-for-good-luck routine. But he needs the sensory input from twirling my hair, I think. I think it helps regulate him. It seems to be really helping him fall asleep at night. So, even though I'm bent over a metal fence and I've been trying to extricate my hair from his grasp for three or four minutes now, I'm really not letting him walk all over me. I'm just 'being there' for him, to try and help his day go better. So, pay no attention to those little-boy footprints all over me, OK?"

Every word of that is true, by the way. I am very good about not letting myself be taken advantage of by my kids. If I feel at all uncomfortable with the way I'm treated, they hear about it, and things change. But when there's something that one of my kids needs, and it's not a large amount of skin off my nose to give it to them, I will. If you'd told me a few years ago that I'd have an-almost-five-year-old child use me as some kind of life-size cuddle blankie, in public no less, I'd have told you that would be more skin than my nose could afford to give up. Then I met N, and he and his needs changed my definitions of "taken advantage of." I'm confident that I'm adequately balanced on the line between spoiling my kids/turning them into beasts and making sure their needs and some of their wants are met. But from the outside, I'm sure it doesn't look that way.

Which is why I really should give the picture-cell-phone-giving mom a break. Who knows what happened there, over the two days between the conversation I overheard and her giving in to her son? Who knows what her reasoning was? She may have had a very good reason for the choice she made.

But I, for one, can't come up with a single one. And so, Officer TC is unabashedly back on the job...as soon as N is done rubbing his face with my hair, that is.

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