“Sooo cuuute, isn’t he?” – the squeaking voice is accompanied by a million teeth’s over-stretched smile. Chin to neck, like a yoga pose without the breathing part.
“Children this age can be quite bossy, isn’t it. That’s why I really care about him sharing his toys.” Nodding to me and going back to child-voice: “James, why don’t you show your new red truck to the little girl? Please? Are you listening to mommy, James? Jaaaames?”.
James is not interested in his mother’s high pitched conversation. He know fairly well that actually, she is not talking to him. She is aiming at me. This demonstration of good-parenting-skills-as-learned-from-parenting-books-and-seminars is for my benefit, for the society’s benefit.
James is just a second role actor.
Sometimes we as parents feel so unprepared to fill the role that we just conform to the society’s approved methods of parenting. We search bookshops and if in doubt ask for second opinions, sometimes even hire professionals to help us doing this undoable job – to raise the perfectly normal child.
It is a blow to realise (some parents do) that such child does not exist.
Some of us suffer in secret: “I know my child is not normal but I must not let anyone else see it otherwise I am done and (s)he is labelled”. Others live in denial: “My child is perfectly average, perfectly normal. These hole in the carpet with a pair of scissors must have been here already. And the baby brother went in the washing machine all by himself, surely”.
Few call the bluff and decide to accept their (ab)normal child, their (not-at-all) average child, and live happily ever after. Well, most of the time. At least, happier than before.
In my view, we have a big problem to overcome:
Our society doesn’t give full human dignity to our children.
And I am not talking about deprived poor children from war zones. I am now talking about privileged children in rich countries, with educated and good willing parents.
If I see my daughter pulled and physically dragged by her older brother, I will tell her: “No one in the whole world is allowed to push or pull you or decide where you go if you don’t want to”.
I want her to be a free person.
I want her not to consider normal that someone can decide for her just because he’s physically stronger than she is. I believe this is a crucial lesson for our children – both for our daughters and for our sons.
But then I remembered what I did on a Friday morning last year.
I had to leave her by the classroom door with the nursery teacher. She didn’t want to go. I knew it was just separation anxiety, and I know that after few minutes she was fine and happily playing.
But still, I had to leave her while she didn’t want to stay, and the teacher hold her from running back to me.
This felt horrible. Emotionally violent. Wrong.
And actually, did I really have to do it? Or was it just the pressure of what is considered to be just and acceptable by someone else, someone that does not know my daughter as I know, putting a strong pressure on me – and me capitulating to it, at my daughter’s (and mine) expenses?
Well. I see it now.
And why did I feel the need to intervene and make a life lesson out of it when the “perpetrator” was my older child but couldn’t find my voice when the imposition was coming from the society in the form of an adult?
Again. Well. I see it now.
Another lesson learned.
From now on, I will listen to my gut.
I will never again let another person be in the middle of that trust that is the relationship between me and my children.
I will not be the cohort of anyone at the detriment of my children. Even if the other person is an adult. Even if my child is, obviously, just a child.
Because I believe that children are humans.
Yes, it sounds obvious, but would you consider acceptable if someone talked down to someone else just because the second person is not very tall? Or not very experienced, or skilled?
This is what our children are. At a maturity level, they are naturally behind, because they have lived less than an adult. But at a human level, they are the same as an adult. Respect is based on the human level, nothing else. Children deserve to be respected at the same level as adults need to be respected.
Our society does not give our children enough space to be individuals. To be the one that does a particular thing (like saying good bye to mommy before school) in a way that is different from the majority of other children.
In the common view, children have either a good, proper behaviour or a not-very-normal one.
And this applies to their bodies as well.
When the child is four, said the doctor once to me, he or she should be roughly one metre tall. Obviously, not everybody is exactly one metre tall at their fourth birthday, but then they are “above average” or “under average”.
What? Excuse me?
Let’s pause for a second here and think what this way of categorising our children makes us feel. Does it help in any way?
I can not see the advantage of having a four year old that is exactly one metre tall and that does not make a fuss going to school in the morning, versus a four years old that is one metre point eight and does not want to leave mommy to go to school.
I do see the advantage, however, of having a four year old that is herself, truly so.
Why do we aim at average for our children?
Why can’t we value individuality in them – but we are often less rigid with the standards when it comes to adulthood?
I have come to think that maybe we are scared to discover that these bundles of cuteness are, in fact, just small persons.
Just a small person: this is actually exactly what a child is. And we must learn to respect a child as a person, even if just a small one.
Hope this serves you and your child.