My wife asked me to read this parenting thing yesterday on the ground that it will help us become better parents. The story in it was that two parents took a child to their Grandparents and the child wouldn't eat. Mom kept nagging the kid to sit up, be nice and eat but the child didn't want to. So the child was put in Timeout on the scratchy chair that smells like earwax and burnt hair. And Mom had made the child wear an uncomfortable itchy dress and Grandma's house was somehow fifteen degrees too hot/cold. Then after the Grandparents offered ice cream it was denied by the parents because the child had been a failure. Then after the child hid under the table instead of sitting quietly and talking to the Grandparents the child was taken upstairs until it was beaten to sleep. Later the child stirred awake - still crying - only to feel Mother's tears bouncing off her face while she could hear Dad drunkenly yelling from downstairs, "if she gives you any shit then spank her again. If she keeps it up then I'll get the poultice and the boiling jars we used to chase the Scarlet Fever out of Uncle Jack."
I may have made up the last part, but the rest of it is pretty how it went. Now the premise of that article was that from the child's point of view none of it made sense. They'd been taken to a weird place near people who smell funny. Whilst there the child's mother told the child to touch and say nice things about the gross smelly old people. During this demand she also intermittently whispered, "don't be a bad child." into her ear. This made the child not want to touch or smell the old people very much. Also nobody was fed at normal dinner time but had to wait two more hours. This after being tied down in the car and told they can't have snacks because it will ruin dinner in four hours. Eventually the food came out and it was gross and weird. All of it was wet. None of the fun things about dinner - pretty plates and cutlery with fun things on them - were there either. Then Mommy and Daddy started being mean and shouty. They tried to put the child in Timeout but the chair they threw the child in had a wet spot that smelled like wee. The chairs at Grandma's house are really uncomfortable. Grandpa did say something about ice cream. But then Dad looked annoyed and Mommy yelled at Grandpa. It was almost as if they only mentioned ice cream so that they could be mean about it. After dinner Mommy kept yelling about sitting still and silent on the couch that smells like the dog and Grandma's Happy Juice. So the child thought they'd play under the table where it's quiet and out of the way and mean old people don't go. Which made Mommy really really mad and she dragged the child upstairs without any bedtime snack, no stories, no bath and no cuddles. Just spanking - which hurt and Mommy never EVER does. Everyone was crying. This is the worst day ever.
Anyhoo - my wife read it and then declared it to be really really sad and made her want to hug and hold her daughter. I pointed out none of that really applies to us. Sure the kids can flip out and be uncooperative when they visit their Grandparents. But the boorish behavior and situation have no parallel with us. The child seems to have never met these weird old people who smell of milk and urine (Worst. Cocktail. Ever.). She's never been to their house either it would seem. My in laws house is well set up for Grand-kids - it should be they have four now. There are special snacks and meals (burgers, taco's and Grandma's soups in lieu of anything not being organized) all set to go at the drop of a hat. There are special plates and cups. There is always dessert. My daughter always eats all the food there. Grandpa takes the kids on tractor rides and out in the Jeep in the warmer months. In Winter they go snow blowing and snowmobiling. Add - there's a whole freaking room in the basement that is a kids play room. The sterile doilies and fine china conjured up in that story doesn't apply to us.
More importantly I don't beat my kids. It seems like a pretty good way to release some tension and frighten people physically weaker than I am, but beating them to do something is a bit too Gulag for my liking. Obviously I'm not going to pass judgment on people who physically educate their children. They already know that they've made an internal moral decision to only hit children and not adults. Not all children obviously - just one's that they can keep locked in the house without the cops being called. Beating sense into someone is not a statement that makes any sense. Especially not to kids. And when it's done to adults it's called Extraordinary Rendition.
All that article did for me is remind me of those parents who have those old Medieval rules in place. The Seen And Not Heard type. And it seemed to push the idea that if your kid behaves like a four year old can and you parent them that way then there will be much crying. But seeing as we don't do that it was sort of asinine. Let's just say it wasn't really aimed at us. I'm certainly not a Seen And Not Heard parent. I let my daughter babble away to whomever she likes most of the time. As long as she's not swearing or telling them evidence (yes evidence) about my physical abnormalities I don't care.
And that old adage that kids say the silliest things is true and it should be. A child that doesn't feel free to express themselves is a sad looking kid. I don't even mean shy - I mean the kids I encounter with their parents who know that if they say something their Mom or Dad thinks is dumb or inappropriate then they'll get yelled at. The comedian Stewart Lee does this self-mocking bit about kids saying things because after he had a child he wanted to tell people the mad shit his child said but knew that it's the sort of thing that can make someone very boring. "You should hear the things she says - it's like she's a child" is how he puts it. I'm always mindful of that on this silly blog.
But then my daughter does say random weird stuff as well that I genuinely think is funny. So I don't focus on my kids' childish focus on things - the way they simply cannot understand things so say primitive rudimentary things that make them appear stupid. No - I like to highlight the strange random creative fountain of madness that spurts out of them like an uncontrollable demented fire hose. Take yesterday. My daughter was sprawled on the ground with paper and crayons. She wasn't coloring though so I wanted to find out what she was up to. "Hey Honey - what are you making?" She instantly replied, "bum spaghetti." I don't even want to know how she put those words together. Hopefully she isn't planning anything. Later on in the day I was sat reading to my son when my daughter walked up net to us and said, "Do you like my hair and face Daddy?" After a while I could sense she was presenting herself in some way. So I looked at her and she had something on her. So I asked what is was. She smiled and proudly said, "my own spit."
Now I like that about my kids. The randomness and fun means that they seem to sense that when they do visit weird people and go odd places that they owe me some collateral for that. So when my daughter doesn't want to do something because it is vaguely similar to that story above she will - most of the time - look at me and I can tell her it's okay and to just do this for me and then later we can have an awesome game of Family Battle Worm (calm down - it's climbing into our own sleeping bags and then attacking each other).
Right now though it's time for a kitchen disco. My daughter has agreed that we should dress up as Scott Weiland and dance to Jimmy Was A Stimulator - one of our bouncier songs to gyrate to of late. She looks way more like Weiland than I do. Which pretty much means that his years off rock touring and heroin abuse have made him look like a four year old girl.