Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Parent, Not Observer

The other week I was in the supermarket - my home away from home - with the Little Dude and Squeaker. I spend an inordinate number of hours in that place. We currently live in a small unit with a small pantry and two small bar fridges for food storage.  Well, one-and-a-half fridges: there are no shelves in one of them and only one freezer compartment works but frosts over within a week.

The pantry also doubles as a crockery cupboard. As a result, we trek into town every other day to load up on victuals. A lot of my insights into how other parents operate come from passing other trolleys in the hideously over lit, retina-destroying aisles of despair and seeing, blearily, how a parent engages their progeny.

I should point out before I get much further that I am in no way judging any other parent (unless I specifically do pass judgement!). I am merely observing and applying these observations to my experience.

How does this make  you feel?
There was a well dressed, well groomed, seemingly well-to-do lady - pejoratively referred to as an Ashgrove Mum in our locale, due to their habitat - pushing who seemed to be a cutie of a six-month-old baby in her trolley.  The lady put a box of tea leaves in her trolley and said "the box of tea is yellow, how does that make you feel?" to the child.

Firstly, I think it is great that she is engaging her child so young.  I have few doubts that this kid will be a good speaker and conversationalist.

But it got me thinking, or over thinking as the case usually is.  We are parents.  We are also our children's friends and counsellors, but we are primarily parents. It is fine to ask a child how something makes them feel.  It encourages empathy and expression in the child.  More parents should do this.

But it is our role to teach our children how to feel. We have to train our children to react to different situations and understand them properly, and how to feel.  Our primal emotions are not the best ones for living in our civilised society.  Nor are they sufficient for surviving in our barbaric society.

My kids and I play a little scaring game.  Basically I put my hands up like claws and roar like a bear.  They looked quizzically at me the first time I did this. They were unsure of whether to be afraid or not, and wondering how they can call in the wagon to take me for a short stay in hospital. I smile and giggle to them and they in turn smile and giggle.  Now they giggle whenever they get a fright or I raise my claws like a pantomime bear. And they have yet to commit me to any institutions...yet, a very nervous yet.

A bone rending re-enactment
The other day we had a big thunderstorm.  Lightening flashed across the sky and thunder shook all the vehicles out of the basement carpark, it was that violent.  One particularly loud, bowel-collapsing thunder clap startled us all.  Squeaker turned to me for guidance, "am I in danger?"  If I pandered to her with cuddles and asked her how she felt, she would probably be scared of thunder now.  But I smiled and giggled and she smiled in return.  The next loud thunder clap brought more smiles and giggles from the eight-month-old girl.

I taught her how to feel. Loud noises are okay.

Should a kid one day try to frighten her, she'll be fine and in control.  If one day she frightens your kid by impersonating a scary bear, I apologise.  There may be unintended side-effects of the exercise.

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