In doing some motherly introspection a few days ago, I mulled over a typical interaction that happens between me and Vivi lately. I’m starting from the middle of the story though, so I really should back up to what spurred the self-examination. I’m a Sunday school teacher for the first and second graders; I complain about this job probably too much to Nate and my mom, but secretly I love it. Six years old is IMHO clearly the best age next to eleven, and these kids are every bit as excited about life, potty/button/shoe-tying trained, affectionate, and not yet sarcastic as I had hoped. But I digress.
This Sunday we were discussing how everyone deserves a voice and vote, as a follow-up to last week’s election [note: we also wove in religious content, but I’m leaving that part out here since this is for the most part a secular blog]. We read Yertle the Turtle (great Dr. Seuss story if you’ve never read it), which is about how one turtle wants to become king, but in the end [spoiler!] a little guy from the bottom of the heap becomes the leader by serving as the other turtles’ voice. The kids totally got the story and how it related to their own lives, then we ended by making a spider web out of yarn and talking about how it takes cooperation from everyone (i.e. exercise your right to vote) to make a democracy work. I left feeling pretty smug about my great teaching skills, which is the point of Sunday school teaching, no?
Kidding. Really though, I left with that feeling everyone talks about in regard to volunteering, that you set out to change others but they end up changing you. Listening to these kids talk about how they appreciate when grown-ups pay attention to their opinions and voice because it doesn’t always happen, and how some adults are better at respecting their views than others, made me stop and ponder my own parenting style. Do listen?
So back to me and Vivi. First of all, allow me to share the fun fact that these days we are always in possession of mounds of sweets in the lone home ranger household. Call it a combination of Halloween/winter holidays/overzealous buying of Target fruit snacks/the treat-for-homework situation
Here’s how our interaction breaks down. Vivi asks me if she can have candy about once every five seconds. Ok fine, twice a day. During those times, I call upon parenting wisdom to determine when/if she can have the candy. IE, how much sugar has she already had, is her behavior good, am I turning her into an obsessive sugar monster, etc. Prior to my rumination, I would have considered myself positively angelic in my doling out of the candy, a sort of benevolent benefactor of sweets.
But as I stood there the other day, head cocked and hand in mid-candy bowl-grab, it occurred to me that I was actually enjoying the power division. As in, I AM THE CANDY OVERLORD AND WILL DECIDE WHETHER YOU ARE WORTHY OF THE TREATS I POSSESS. I am Yertle the Turtle, that marvelous he, the ruler of all in the land he can see! That day I went through the house eating disposing of our gluttonous bounty of sugary non-food, and I must say we are all happy to be back to normal “We don’t have any dessert” status.
It’s not just sweets I’m in control of though. While I try to let the girls make as many decisions on their own as they can and control their destiny where possible, I realize for much of their day they are not in charge of what they do. I shuttle them from place to place and make most decisions without consulting them. I remember being frustrated by this fact of life, so I’m recommitting myself to try to lessen it when I can. But GOSH it is hard not to just grab the shoe and put it on the foot. Serenity now!
Meanwhile, Charlie is into EVERYTHING. Please consult Exhibit A for evidence.