In the early days of being a parent, I struggled with what camp I wanted to embed my feet. Attachment parenting seemed too out there for me but being overly authoritarian didn’t sit well with me either. After all, I had learned something in Intro to Psych all those years ago.
When my first-born was 18 months old, we decided that he needed to socialize with other children of his own age . . . and I was going crazy with a toddler and a newborn in the house. After much careful thought my husband and I chose the school at the end of our street as the institution for our son. Admittedly, the “research” was Googling pre-schools in our neighbourhood and selecting the closest in geography to our house.
This method of selection proved much more effective in choosing a pre-school than it did a pediatrician and within a few months I had “drank the kool-aid”. I became a devotee of Adlerian philosophy.
I consulted Alyson Schafer’s books and interrogated the teachers at the school when faced with any parenting challenge and when my children entered new “phases”.
I made sure that I was following the 4 C’s. I wanted my boys to know that they count, are capable, have courage and feel connected. I was cautious about over-praising and learned how to encourage (although I am still a beginner with this concept) and most importantly I tried to limit the number of times that I said NO.
I would grit my teeth and rephrase.
“How about we try that another time?”
“Is that helpful or hurtful?”
“Not right now.”
“In our house, we don’t jump on the couch.”
I opened myself to negotiations with the boys. I would listen to their point of view and work with them to find solutions that benefitted both of us. I wanted them to feel connected! Capable! Counted!
But it’s 6 years later and I am tired. There are only so many ways to say no. And while I love that my boys feel connected, capable and that they count and have courage, I have to admit that I have raised some very effective future boardroom negotiators!
I am conscious that I need to balance all of that goodness. In the real world not everyone is encouraging and not everything is a compromise. In the real world you will run across people with more authority and many who feel a great deal more superiority and they will say Because I said so! and my boys best have the skills to deal with that too.
And so, like a good mother, I am sure to provide balance and I freely dole out conventional wisdoms knowing full well that they lack merit.
- Don’t eat the cookie dough! They say it will make you sick.
Translation: Paws off. It’s mine. I share enough with you moochers.
- They say wear your toque to the car after swimming or else you will catch a cold.
Translation: I am sick of listening to you whine about how your head is cold when we leave swimming. I know that I should let you make your own mistakes, but it’s 5:30 pm and I need to make dinner with this pounding headache. Put the fucking hat on.
- They say don’t read in the dark with a flashlight! You’ll ruin your eyes!
Translation: Go the fuck to sleep!!!!!!
- They say you can’t go swimming right now. You have to wait an hour to let your food digest or else you’ll get cramp and drown.
Translation: It’s unlikely anyone has ever drowned after scarfing down a few tacos and then jumping in the pool. I know this and the good folks at Snopes.com confirm this, suggesting the origin of this myth is from a 1908 Scouting for Boys handbook exalting the dangers of swimming:
First, there is the danger of cramp. If you bathe within one and one half hour of taking a meal, that is, before your food is digested, you are very likely to get cramp. Cramp doubles you up in extreme pain so that you cannot move your arms or legs – and down you go. You may drown – and it will be your own fault. (Snopes.com)
But am I wrong for citing this to my boys? Am I wrong for wanting to finishing chewing my butter-drenched corn on the cob before lake water is splashed up my nose?
Let’s be clear. I am still a card-carrying member of the Alyson Schafer fan club but sometimes I need to revert to parenting “old-school” by preaching empty threats and blaming the powers of “they”.
There will come a time when my boys will ask me who exactly “they” are and I will have to cop the truth, giving them further fodder for their future therapist but in the meantime I choose to live in the present. I focus on what play my game has and I use every weapon in my arsenal to get through the challenging days. There are some times that you need to channel your inner Alfred Adler and some times that you lie. And that’s ok.
Because I said so.