Saturday, November 07, 2009

Incoherent ramblings on the nature of parenting

I've finally been able to articulate the basic gist of my parenting philosophy. It came to me in a flash the other day. And I'm still working on it -- I imagine that this will be more or less in some sort of flux as the boy and I and his daddy grow and change, but this is what it is at its heart.

I think a lot of people look at children and want to make them into who they think they're supposed to be. And maybe some kids need that. I don't know. But I believe that children come to you ALREADY THEMSELVES. They're hardwired with some personality traits and characteristics and such. Even if I didn't believe that before, I believe it now. And what I think most shapes my parenting is the deeply-seeded (-seated?) belief on my part that my job isn't to change who my son is. I can guide him and help him develop healthy habits -- eating right, sleeping well, being polite and respectful, taking care of himself -- but my job isn't to make him into a "real" person. On the contrary -- my job is to learn who he already is, and glean from him how best to guide and teach him. And maybe even more importantly, it's to learn from him whatever he has to teach me. These days, he has much to teach me about patience and consistence. We've entered the "no" phase ahead of schedule (with his particular twist on it being "no like it!!") and the days have become more of a challenge than before.

Now, don't get me wrong. When I say I want to learn from my child, I don't mean I intend to let him walk all over me. I know that children need boundaries to make sense of the world. They need to be shown what's off-limits, like hitting and biting. And taking your cousin's favorite horsey stuffed animal and refusing to give it back. (Let's not do THAT again, buddy.) I'm good with boundaries.

Maybe I just got lucky, and God sent me a child who responds well to the approach I've taken. I don't know. He's just SO AWESOME. He's funny and adaptable and laughs a lot. He calls his cars and trucks by the useful hybrid "car-trucks." He loves his stuffed pig and his stuffed monkey, and looks for them every night before bed. "Mom? Pig monkey?" He gives kisses to his mom and dad when asked. He loves to watch squirrels in the yard ("Oh, wow!") and he says please and thank you, sometimes even without being reminded.

Yeah. I probably just got really lucky. Maybe I don't have it figured out after all.

Never mind.

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