Because I said so
By NATHALIE HARDY | August, 2014
Published in the Yamhill-Valley News-Register
For those who haven't met them, my boys are 6 and 4-years-old and are absolute angels at all times.
I kid. Besides maybe those keeping them safe there are no angels at the Hardy house, just a pair of awesome, typical boys.
While the first draft of this column was kind of ragey, I decided it would be more helpful instead to issue this public service announcement: People, just because you don't see me discipline my children for misbehaving does not mean it doesn't happen.
If I don't spank my kid right then and there for behaving badly, please don't assume I think the transgression is cute, funny or acceptable. Instead, if you will, please assume that I'm handling it, or that I will handle it shortly. My way. Because I'm the mom.
If it appears that the situation is out of control, which I admit happens when both children seize the opportunity to test me at the same time feel free to offer some kind, non-judgey back up.
Or, even better, help a mama out. This week I had two instances where people helped me drive a lesson home instead of being jerks about the fact that kids are relatively new to the planet and are still figuring it all out.
At the library last week, the boys went to grab a movie. Except when I looked up, they were approaching me with arm loads of them. I was mortified at first that they made more work for someone but quickly realized I needed to make it uncomfortable for them instead of me so they'd learn from it.
I explained the problem, and asked how they wanted to fix it. They apologized to the children's librarian, Ms. Amanda, and then asked her to teach them how to put the movies away properly. She took a few minutes to do that, and they spent the next five fixing their mistake. Parents and children need more Ms. Amandas and less reproachful glaring.
A few days later I took my youngest to Velour Vintage Store where I bought what Jake described as "a zebra princess dress." As I paid for it, he admired a watch. I paused to check the price on something. I noticed Jake's hand was in his shirt. He said he had an itch. And, apparently, a sudden watch-sized bump. He looked uncomfortable. I let him walk a little closer to the door so experienced that feeling in your stomach when you're doing something wrong. Of course, I knew we'd be talking about it later.
By now the store owner was aware of what was happening and he gave me the grace to deal with the situation. I kneeled beside my son and told him I had a sad feeling he was about to find out what happens to people who steal. I told him I would turn my back and and give him one minute to make the right choice.
As I turned away, the owner took over watch, so to speak. When Jake put it back, the owner gave me a thumbs up and Jake appeared relieved. I suggested he apologize to the owner, and he did. The owner graciously accepted his apology. By letting me work through it, this man helped set up a lesson Jake won't soon forget. He's still talking about how he almost did a very bad thing. Now, I can remind him of that experience and he knows exactly how it feels when you know you're doing something wrong even if his head says he wants something like, say, a fancy watch.
To the chagrin of some, the era of shame-based parenting strategies and spanking kids for the sake of proving you "did something about it" is kind of over. I say "kind of" because there are throwbacks to the old school ways of raising children who insist that all my kids need "is a good spanking." For every single thing they do wrong.
But that "a swat cures all" approach just doesn't factor into my end goal which is to raise kind, thoughtful, creative, confident and resilient children.
I realize that people care about how these younger generations turn out, and because of that I get that family, friends and strangers at Safeway feel they are invested in the outcome of these little ones.
For those reasons I edited my ragey rant into what I hope is a message that translates into a call for grace in how you respond to children in public, and while you're at it extend some grace to those of us making our way as parents whether or children are 2 days, 2 years, 12 or 20-years old.
While I welcome stories about what did and didn't work for other people whose kids are older, and I love swapping tips with people who, like me, are still stepping on Legos, I am done with people "should-ing" on me.
So, my dear family, friends and random strangers here's the thing: Thanks for caring enough about my kids to have an opinion. Or, perhaps it's that you care so much about your opinion, but either way, next time you feel like questioning how I'm handling something, call a friend because my answer for why I'm doing things the way I do them is simple: because I said so.
Contact Nathalie Hardy at nathalie AT nathaliesnotes DOT com.
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