May 23, 2010

Fighting, Name-Calling, and Other Necessary Evils

"Pretend to like each other!"

Can't do that for long, can they?

Chewing on a pillow out of frustration. CLASSIC!

"She pushed me off the bed!"
These are pictures that were taken on our latest camping trip. The girls were having a little disagreement of some sort on my bed in the trailer. They get into these little fights from time to time and handle it much the way a litter of kittens or lion cubs might. I usually just let them 'duke it out' until someone gets seriously hurt or they start to get on my nerves. But, I feel like I need to let them establish their own places with each other the way siblings have done for centuries: BY FIGHTING IT OUT.

Okay, let me begin by saying that I am not a parenting expert by any stretch of the imagination. I have three children who have not killed themselves or anyone else yet. While that does give me some sense of accomplishment, my job is nowhere near complete and I still have a TON of mistakes to make with them. Luckily, most children come equipped with a HUGE 'margin for error!' Without that, I think we would all be totally screwed as parents. And our kids would pay the price.

Okay, so our kids will be paying for mistakes that we haven't even made yet...just as we pay for the mistakes that our parents made, and so on and so forth! Isn't this fun? We will screw up our kids NO MATTER WHAT. So, why do we do this?
I think that most parents these days do too much for their kids. (I'm not talking about waiting on them hand and foot and wiping their bottoms until they're 10...though that's also WAY TOO MUCH if you ask me!) Right now I'm talking about learning how to fight their own battles.
Kids are just around their parents so much more than they used to be. I was a child in the 80's. In my neighborhood, it was still safe to go outside and play with the other kids until we got hungry or just ended up at the house of whomever happened to have popsicles in their freezer. We climbed trees, rode bikes, and basically ran amok until we had to go in or were bored or bleeding or something like that. There wasn't much to do at home, anyway.
Nowadays, there is so much more to do inside the house. The outside world seems even bigger and more scary than when we were kids. Children are spending more time with their parents than ever before.
And I'm not quite sure that's a good thing!
We, as parents, get to witness a lot more of the typical sibling 'squabbles' than our parents or their parents before them ever did. From an early age, we start 'fixing' things between them. Or so we think! They start to bring more and more of their fights to us, waiting for us to 'choose a side.' But, how will they ever learn to fight their own battles if we are constantly intervening? Being a parent, I know a lot of parents. And the ones who are constantly 'fixing' their kids' problems seem to be the ones whose children have the most problems to fix.
It could just be me, but it really seems that way the more I look around.
This could just be some cockamamie thing I'm cooking up with absolutely no real foundation...or I could really be onto something. (Stranger things have happened, I'm sure!)
One day, these children will have to establish thier places in this world. How will they ever know how to do that if they can't even properly establish their place in the family on their own? They have to earn respect from their family members by...*GASP*...fighting it out. My brother and I said some AWFUL things to each other growing up. We said and did things to each other that I wouldn't dream of doing or saying to even my worst enemy today.
Children can be so cruel.
While I certainly regret a lot of the things I said and did as a kid, I usually learned something...most of the time, anyway. Treating each other like dirt when we're young and more resilient is so much better than learning how to treat each other when we're adults and trying to hold down jobs and keep marriages together, dontcha think? If we never establish our place with our siblings, how can we do so with our spouses and coworkers?
After all, Mommy and Daddy won't be there to make things all better at work or in our marriage, will they? (And if they are, they REALLY SHOULDN'T BE and you, my dear, have even bigger fish to fry!)
I almost think that we just have too much information now. While knowledge really is power, we tend to take it too far when raising our kids. We can now buy a test that can tell us almost down to the minute when we're pregnant. We can even buy tests to predict when we CAN get pregnant. Depending on how much money and time you want to spend, you can find out the sex of your baby before you've even had to buy anything for the nursery. We can even CHOOSE the sex of our baby if we see fit. We are armed with so much information and power when it comes to the act of becoming a parent that we tend to take it too far after they're born. We don't know when to slow down and just let some very natural parts of growing up take their course. Instead of telling a child their goldfish or parakeet died, we rush around looking for an indentical replacement so that they don't have to feel pain.
WE ARE SUPPOSED TO FEEL PAIN. If we don't learn how to deal with the death of our beloved pets, how on earth will we deal with the loss of a favorite uncle or grandparent? Terrible stuff happens in this world and there is no preventing that. Keeping them in a bubble to keep them safe will only do more harm than good once they are out of your grasp. We are supposed to be a safe place for them while they grow up. But, we should still be the place where it's safe to deal with things gone wrong in that big, bad world. We can't stop things from happening to our kids. Good or bad, a lot of things will happen to them that are beyond our control.
Even if we share the idea with our children that one of their teachers is 'mean,' it's not our place to go in a make a fuss about every little thing we disagree with. Our kids are going to have to deal with so many different personalities in this world. Think of their teachers as their first 'boss' and we have ALL had a boss that we just butted heads with or thought was pure evil, havnen't we? A lot of our lives are spent dealing with people that we don't really agree with or care for. Do we have our mothers call them and tell them we can't show up to work or talk to them because they're not playing nice? NOPE. We just have to suck it up and find other ways to either avoid them or just deal with them. Better yet, there is almost always common ground with someone if we look hard enough.
We can teach our children good manners and talk them through every situation they might encounter as kids until we're blue in the face. But, at the end of the day they will still have to come to these conclusions on their own. We can spend 18 years molding them into the person we want them to be, but they will fight to be the person they really are, or who they think they really are at the time. And they are supposed to.
As far as I'm concerned, parenting books are both a blessing and a curse. While a first-time parent could definitely use a good resource for when to call the doctor or what croup sounds like, (at least, that was helpful before the internet!) we cannot rely on those books to tell us everything we need. And we can't look past our own common sense to follow something a book told us to do. The same advice won't work for every child in every situation, not even children in the same family.
Basically, what I'm saying is that we all really know NOTHING. One of the hardest things about being a parent is letting go of what we think we know and rolling with the punches. Each new situation is an opportunity to learn, grow, and to try to understand that what works now won't necessarily work again. Even when we do the wrong thing, we usually still learn something from it. And there will be scars.
See, it is a good thing kids have such a huge margin for error. And I can only imagine what my kids will blame me for when they're older. It could very well be the things I think I'm doing right. I can just imagine one of my girls crying to a therapist about how they had to learn to wipe their own bottoms before they even went to school.
Yeah, maybe I really should have just bred iguanas...

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