[So, it’s been a loooong time since I’ve written here. I’ve got two lively children that can’t seem to sit still very long. A lot’s happened since! I’m trying to revive this blog and get some of the memories out of my head so that I can free up some space for learning a second language. Here goes…]
This is from approximately May of 2016…no joke!
I guess if both of my kids were similar, I’d get almost twice as much benefit from figuring out what just one of them was thinking. The reality is that the Worm and Mushie can come up with the oddest responses to my questions. They can even react differently to the same delivery of voice and facial expression on my part.
The Worm is a do-gooder. He wants to do the right thing. One of my goals as a parent, is to corrupt his little mind so that his future will be financially secure as a politician. But sometimes, the, um, “force”, overpowers Worm and he is paralyzed by the fear of making the wrong decision in a certain situation. It’s understandable. He’s only 5 and has not figured everything out yet. I get it. He’s got 10 more years before he becomes omniscient and refuses to listen to either of his parents. I digress.
Let’s take a simple situation. It’s the afternoon. I want Worm to take a nap. I send him back to his room and I tell him that I don’t want him coming out of there until after he’s gotten some sleep. The rules are clear. Stay in your bedroom until you’ve taken a nap.
He goes back to his bedroom, lays down, and eventually falls asleep. 45 minutes later, he awakens, unsure of whether or not he was just laying there or if Mr. Sandman sprinkled him with dream dust. He’s groggy and the only body functions he can manage are blinking and breathing.
Unlike he (or is it him?), I know the answer! Thanks to the magic of wireless baby monitoring (which, incidentally, I plan on using until they go off to college BECAUSE THEY WILL ALWAYS BE MY BABIES), I viewed him snoring heavily. And I did all this from a comfortable and fairly quiet corner of the living room. (Parenting must have been exhausting before baby monitors came along…)
The Worm will shake off some of the cobwebs, rise out of bed, and instead of coming out to the living room to ask me if he complied with my wishes, will head towards the hallway bathroom. He doesn’t signal for me or anything. He just criss-crosses his applesauce legs in the space between the sink and tub. Odd.
I used to wait a few minutes before rescuing the poor kid from himself. But I walked in once and found him softly sobbing…probably in anticipation of this judge finding him guilty and sending him back to bed for 3 consecutive naps with no chance of parole.
This whole scenario doesn’t happen all the time, but a couple times a week is more than enough. And that’s when I wonder where I have failed as a parent…
Is he afraid of me? How did that happen? More importantly, though, is how do I get him out of this mode and empower him?
Solution #1 – Yell at him like a drill sergeant and call him names to toughen him up. “The world is gonna swallow you up, spit you out, and pee all over your feet. Either get used to it, or wear a wetsuit and go swimming.” That phrase didn’t make any sense, but he’d be so terrified that chances are slim that he’d actually be listening.
Solution #2 – Bring chocolate and set in place the idea that sad children should eat sweets for comfort when they’re upset…because, well, food is a great substitute for love…and I’ll stop talking and just leave that right here.
Solution #3 – Relate. Make up some story about the time I was 5 years old and living in a house with a dirt floor and a straw bed. “Son, I had to be strong and face my fears! The dingoes tried to eat us at nap time.
My job as a dad isn’t to instill fear in my kids. I think that parents have a responsibility to form boundaries, encourage independent thought and action, and allow wiggle room for mistakes to be made. I feel like ruling my kids through fear is a great way for me to discourage independence and to get them to see me as a threat to their ability to thrive. Ideally, I want them to see me as a wise, handsome ally, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, the 37th greatest movie hero of all time, but minus the beard.
I decided to conjure up a solution #4 and do nothing. I can overthink lots of things. Luckily, I tire my feeble little brain out quickly and end up with the easy answer.
I let the Worm just be. If he wants to go sit by the toilet after nap and search for inspiration and contentment, so be it. If he wants to cry tears of sorrow into the porcelain god, ok. He can figure what to do. Sit. Think. Execute a plan that doesn’t require a YouTube instructional. It won’t hurt him. Until then, I’ll be on the couch waiting. Not saving him. And it’s all going to be just fine.