06 February 2011

when, in the course of human events.....

Children are our beloved creatures. They are the little, beautiful ones in whom we are well pleased.
As well we should be. They are the children of God, made in His image, and sometimes I feel victorious for not crying every time I catch one of them being perfect. Which does happen, despite what I'm usually standing on my soapbox shouting.
I shout about children's unsanctified imperfections because we live in an age of child-worship. It is unhealthy, ungodly, unbiblical, and, to use one of my favorite words my mother has always used, it is unbecoming.

One of the scariest/least attractive ways this child-worship manifests itself is in our response to declarations.

Think about a King. A Pharoah, perhaps. Who thinks he's the sungod or some such. Or perhaps Henry VIII, in all of his rotund splendor. Or Cleopatra. Or whomever. I don't care. Someone royal and most likely obnoxious.

That person is likely to make declarations. He says "Go and Do X" and everyone response. But, he also makes more subtle declarations. He says "I am hungry" "I want sexual satisfaction" "I want Persia conquered" "I feel tired" "There is a pea in my mattress and I cannot sleep" blah blah blah. And people bring food, concubines, armies, a bed, and a new bed.

If I said something of that sort - or even - "Gosh, it's hot" nothing would happen. Rightfully so.

If I say "I'm hungry" or "I cannot tie my shoes" little oompa loompas don't jump out to assist. Mainly because that's not possible, but, secondly, because I have not asked for anything.

Take my darling husband. If I say, "Paul, would you mind putting the kettle on for tea?" guess what he does? (Usually). He fills up the tea kettle and plops it on the stove. But if I said "Gosh, a cup of tea would be nice," guess what he would say? "So, would you like me to get you a cup?" And if you were a fly on the wall, you'd think "Why don't you just ask the man for tea.....?????!!!"

But we do not react this way to children. Oh no.

We worship them. They are gods and goddesses and their declarations have meaning. They must be always taken as requests, which, if ignored, will result in terror reigning down on our lives.

"I cannot tie my shoes."
"I'm hungry."
"I'm cold."
"Eason is bothering me."
"I want to draw."
"I don't like ham."

And on and on and on.

When Ada was a little bitty tortured thing - daughter of an-as-yet-very-idealistic mother - she started making declarations. And I, in a probably-a-bit-too-sarcastic tone starting saying, "huh.... That's fascinating that you want that. Is there something you'd like me to do about it?"

Mothers and Fathers, in these current trends, respond the above declarations with the following:

"Oh, honey, come here, I'll tie them."
"How about a cracker? Or a banana? Here is a Cheeze-it"
"Darling - here is your jacket."
"Eason....come here."
"I have a pen and a piece of paper - come sit in my lap."
"What about turkey? cheese? peanut butter."

Declarations and requests are different. If you walk up to the woman in the Subway order line and say "I'm hungry," she might punch you. And I'd acquit the hell out of her.
If you go to a cocktail party and say "I'm cold," you will have embarrassed yourself and your hostess.

Grownups are expected to actually ask for things that they need. Or, heaven forbid, fend for themselves.

I have continued staring at my children, quite blankly, when they declare. I refrain from saying "Who cares?" - because, frankly, I do care that Eason wants to draw, Ada doesn't like turkey, and they both are cold. I care a lot. But if they have a need or desire, they must must must must learn to do one of two things:

1) Solve it themselves. Peel a carrot. Get your coat. Resolve your conflict.

2) Ask for help. I love love to help my babies. Absolutely love it. But if I help them at the drop of every whim, I'll be ultimately crushing them. Turning them into high-chair tyrants.

So, the rule at our house is that if they want something, they must ask. With polite words and an actual question in their voice.
'Will you please help me tie my shoes?' rather than 'I cannot tie my shoes.'

'Do you know where the carrot peeler is, Mama?' rather than 'I cannot find the peeler' or worse 'I'm hungry'

'May we watch some Netflix?' rather than 'I want to watch something.'

The desires of their hearts are precious to me. But they cannot be my guiding light.

All ya got to do is ask. Nicely.

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