Why I Didn't Post Yesterday, or a Hurt Hip and a Cute Kid

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As I explain in this post about my freak dancing accident, and in this post about my bursitis diagnosis, I've been in pain lately. That's one reason–actually two reasons--I didn't post anything here yesterday: sitting was uncomfortable, and then I ended up spending several hours seeing a doctor and having x-rays and working with a physical therapist. The other reason I didn't post yesterday is that I had a dinner invitation that took precedence over writing.

My hosts were a colleague, her husband and their three-year-old son, who is really damn cute: big smile, bright brown eyes and this head full of tousled curls because his mom has been two busy to cut his hair recently. I sat down next to him at the dinner table, remembered what I'd posted Monday, and asked myself, "All right; do I like kids or not?"

And I decided I really do, if the parents allow both me and the kid to treat each other like people.

I asked the kid how old he was, what his name was--basic ice breakers, to which he gave me basic answers. His dad said, "We forgot your knife," and went to the kitchen. And the kid said to me, "I have a blue knife."

"That's pretty cool. I don't have a blue knife," I said, picking up the knife beside my plate. "All my knives are the same color as this one. I used to have a red knife, but the people at the airport took it away from me." (All through grad school I hauled a swiss army knife on my key chain, in part because I got tired of trying to track down a bottle opener at parties.)

It turned out that not only was his knife blue, but it was shaped like a shark; his spoon was a green snake. We were able to have a very rewarding conversation about cutlery in general. I got him to sing me the ABC song. And his parents didn't interrupt him or me. They didn't insist that I interact with him the way they interact with him. They DID tell him not to jump on me, because I'd hurt myself recently; they did reprove him in the one thing that mattered so that I didn't have to do it.

And then his dad gave him a bath and he went to bed. Except that several hours later, he came downstairs and wanted to stay downstairs, and was not compliant when his dad told him to go back to bed. Calling upon my experience as a doting aunt, I said, "You know what I just realized? I just realized you haven't shown me your room. Can I see it?"

I know parents who at that moment would have intervened, would have said, "No, we'll get the kid upstairs"-- I guess because they don't want anyone else exercising authority over their child? But the kid accepted that I might really have an interest in his room, and he was certainly interested in showing it to me, so we all walked upstairs, and once the child was in his bed, his dad picked out a story to read him, and after that he went to sleep.

And I really enjoyed the whole evening. I liked the kid, I liked the way he was a part but not the entire focus of the evening, and I liked that his parents let me and the kid interact on our own terms, which included exercising a little grownup authority and sneakiness on my part.

6 Comments

Sounds like a nice evening! I take it you have had the opposite experience before?

And I would like some of the pain meds you had prior to this evening. Very sweet post and great parents.

I've seen you interact with kids and that's the thing that most impressed me: you notice that they are people.

I am not really in a position right now to make any generalized comments, but at least for the moment I can't really understand how a parent might miss this. And I think you are right: it happens all the time. Maybe it's the need to educate children. People with no reason to have considered pedagogy nevertheless have to teach children quite literally everything: how to breathe, how to sleep, how to eat. So maybe we think of kids as blank slates, and not as people who are really working hard to negotiate this terrain and need us to help them with it, rather than assume we can just inscribe ourselves on them.

There is an infant in the house here -- I am careful not to say she is "my baby", she's not, she's her own person. And she has a one-word vocabulary right now -- sounds something like "aaaaa". Though other sounds are happening recently, she's just experimenting with them. When she needs to communicate, its "aaaaa". The thing about a one-word vocabulary is that she has to make it do all the work of expressing all of her needs. So we really have to listen to her and pay attention -- the very things you did with your friends' kid. They sound like good parents. Their kid was lucky to meet you.

I can't wait until my nephews are old enough to discuss cutlery and interior decorating. Color me jealous.

I liked this post. I am glad it was a good experience for you. I believe it is beneficial for kids to have interactions with people as people. Equals. Putting the child at the centre of attention can be exhausting for parents and put pressure on the kid to perform. It can also deprive them of learning how to interact with others.

Thanks, everyone, for stopping by to comment on this less critical post.

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This page contains a single entry by Holly published on July 19, 2006 12:01 PM.

Go Away, Parent, You Bother Me was the previous entry in this blog.

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