I parent my children, I don’t raise them!
I often hear parents say “well, I want my kids to be raised a certain way…” or “I want my kids to act so-and-so…” implying that if I don’t coerce a child to do things, they’ll never do them. Thus parents legitimate their running behind a child, trying to wipe their nose (which turns into a wild goose chase, ending in “I’ll count only to three…1…2…3…”, a scared whimper and tears) and justify their forcing the child to say please and thank you or hello and goodbye.
I don’t think I’d be all too happy if my children were rude and obnoxious toward other people. Of course everyone has a slightly different understanding of what that looks like. I do not find it rude if my child doesn’t say hello to someone he doesn’t know - he is entitled to his comfort zone, as we all are, and his doesn’t allow him to comfortably interact with people before he’s warmed up to them (there are a few exceptions). He frowns and shies away. Marley is four years old and at that age doesn’t have the need for such obligatory rituals.
My elder son began greeting people regularly when he was about six years old and saying goodbye was established at eight, before then both were sporadic, depending on the situation. Friends and relatives often commented on this behavior, saying “but he should…” this made him even more reluctant to do so, resulting in him often hiding from goodbyes. Sullivan, now ten years old, isn’t scared to talk to adults, voice his opinion or stand up for his rights. Children are often spoken to in a condescending way, implying their mere presence is an annoyance; the outstretched hand in a china shop deserves a catty “be careful! Don’t touch!” Sully has stated “you can say that kindly!” or the like, many a time. The reaction is usually “how audacious!” Or an amused giggle.
I give my children advice. If a nose is running, I offer a tissue, or even offer to wipe it for Marley. I do not do this for myself, I do it for their comfort.
As young children deep in play, I may even have wiped noses without asking, so long as I knew this didn’t usually bother them. Why on earth should I disturb somebody because I want to do something to their body, that they do not want me to do?! If I did that to my friend it should be labelled encroachment! If the runny nose bothers me so much, I should sooner divert my focus on something else, respecting the decision of my fellow human being.
I blow my own nose with a tissue; I do not use my sleeve. I go to bed when I am tired, I do not stay awake until my eyes hurt (actually, sometimes I do). I enjoy reading. I sometimes like watching films in the evening. I try not to buy things with plastic packaging and accept no plastic bags. I buy mostly organic food. I keep my home clean and tidy. I flush the toilet. I clean my teeth twice a day. I like to shower. I wash my feet after walking barefoot outside. I am understanding and empathetic. I try my best to help where I can. I have passion, drive and ambition.
My children watch me do these things with joy and see how natural it is to live by principles, morals, and standards.
I marvel at the things my sons say and the things they do. Sullivan enjoys giving things away when we sell at the flea market; he isn’t fixated on the money, but likes to see people happy. Marley’s standard answer to the question “can you help me…?” is “of course” just like mine is. When I bang my toe or hurt my finger Marley immediately asks “are you ok?” in a calm, kind tone, showing authentic concern. Sully helps to carry things without being asked to do so. He is also able (and sometimes willing) to put his need behind that of his younger brother in situations that could potentially become stressful for Marley or me - he doesn’t need to be prompted.
My children drift through phases of not liking a food, or liking something like crazy, so I drift to. I’ll pick raisins out of muesli, bring handfuls of goji berries, separate spinach from sauce, observe chunks of cheese being chewed with delight and bowlfuls of yoghurt and honey or millet with dates be hoovered down. There are so many healthy, delicious foods that we eat during the day, why should I stress out about uneaten vegetables at dinner time? I prefer my relationships and those toward food to stay healthy and intact!
There are situations that call for nerve-racking spans of consideration and empathy - just the other day Marley wanted to take a friend’s toy car home, actually saying he’d steal it, he thought it was so cool. I sat down with him and comforted him, explaining it wasn’t possible to take it and why. The boy’s mother and I tried to organize a swap, but after a lot of hoo-ha both boys didn’t want that. They parted ways with no hurt or resentful feelings, each with their full autonomy intact and unscathed. Us Mums, we just gave advice and guidance that was accepted with thanks and joy.
After all, our children know we are the ones to turn to when they are at a loss for answers.
A parent raising their child not to make a scene, disgusted and embarrassed at the child for wanting to steal the car may have taken the car away quickly and forcefully, or manipulated the child with threats into giving it back himself. The child would come away from the situation with grossly differing emotions to what Marley experienced. Feelings of sadness, anger, resentment, jealousy and perhaps even vengeance.
When autonomy is given and children are respected, they can look to adults for guidance and, more importantly, accept it, too. They need not fear the violent tissue coming at them or the unwanted kiss, having things taken from them or forced into their mouths, need not endure the feeling of being totally and utterly at someone’s mercy, who rarely takes their will into consideration.
I invite you to take your liberty and join the revolution!