Monday, January 31, 2011

On Parenting, and Latin

Just to give you a little bit of background, when we decided to have our now three-year-old son Story, the financial climate was much warmer. I planned on nurturing his every inclination with purchases of art supplies and sports equipment and hardcover Maurice Sendak books. I was going to buy only organic food, and vitamins from the health food store. I would research test scores and teacher-student ratios of all the schools in the tri-county area and send him to the best, even if it cost a little bit more. How was I to know that in the very near future I'd be cursing Walmart for raising the price of their three-quart bottles of juice from $1.88 to $2.38?

Although finances limit the number of museum trips I had planned, and totally exclude those Latin classes I intended to take so that, in our home, we could say things like "haec olim meminisse iuvabit" (one day, this will be pleasing to remember) when my hand is reduced to bloody ribbons from digging broken glass out of the toilet after Story smashes a bottle of perfume on the rim, I think we're doing pretty well. I do sometimes worry that there are those who wonder about my progressive parenting style. There are a few things that others might question. Let me explain.

Story's hair is unkempt because I want him to understand, right from the start, that one's time is often better spent on either sleep or creative endeavors, like lego building. Story is truly the Howard Roark of the three-year-old lego world. I'm not going to interrupt the work of a future genius architect with something as banal as hair-brushing.

Likewise, his clothes are not always matching, ironed, and/or properly sized. This is because I think that he ought not put too much emphasis on brands, fashion, and/or appearance. There are those who would disagree, those who think that "to be successful you have to look successful" or something like that. This philosophy is strictly for people who are not good enough at what they do to get by with looking or being however they want to be, like me. He should get his priorities straight, become an authority on a particular subject, and then he can dress like a successful person if he so chooses.

Also, daycare workers, you may have been a little confused at my reaction when you told me that he said "Damn it!" Twice. At first you only said that he had said a "bad word." My mind raced. This could be really bad. And I had to respond with what I thought was an appropriate level of horror. I might have overshot it a little bit when I said "I don't know WHERE he would have heard such language!" and started talking about the punishment I would inflict when he got home. Then when I finally thought to ask what exactly he had said, the look of utter relief that washed over my face, although I tried to hide it, must have been confusing to you. It could have been much worse. I mean, really, he could have heard that on prime time TV.

I know that Story can get a little wild and he's not very good at "doing what he's told." This is a concern of mine. For a time I worried that he might have ADD, but the fact that he can concentrate for hours on his lego projects eases my mind a bit. The wildness is partially due to the fact that he's three (almost) and partially because I think that a child his age should learn things on his own. If he thinks that he can build a tractor by overturning the chair in the kitchen and propping it up on the chair in the living room, who am I to stifle this creative impulse? The boy needs to use his imagination. The fact that he almost never does what he's told unless he's asked to throw something in the trash, brush his teeth, or get undressed for his bath, I attribute to him being very strong-willed, which if properly channeled can be a good thing. I know it doesn't seem like a good thing in the middle of the grocery store when I'm trying to chase him down an aisle with a cart full of overpriced juice and Goldfish crackers, but with the right discipline he could be a ruler of nations.

Unfortunately discipline is not something I'm good at. I feel like if I say something, people should listen - without me having to get loud, angry, dramatic, or physical. When Story does something I disagree with, like attacking me and my computer when I'm trying to type, it often turns into me whining to him about personal space and eventually a kind of awkward shoving match ending with me giving up and putting the computer away for the safety of all. I realize this is not the greatest way to handle that situation, but spankings are often ineffective because I'm not strong enough to make him quit grinning at me, and time out usually results in him peeing in the chair so that I have to take him out and get everything cleaned up. I know, he sounds like a monster, but "there are no bad kids, just bad parents," and I'm working on the parent end of that. We're coming along and we're both learning to communicate better.

Parenting is hard, especially when the parent is mostly just curious about what exactly the three-year-old is capable of, and the three-year-old is all too eager to indulge that curiosity. I think, though, that we're coming along pretty well. Hopefully soon we'll get to take a trip to the museum and maybe one day Story and I can learn Latin together. I think of all the languages, Latin would be the most interesting.

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