Thursday, October 21, 2010

Breaking Children and the Problem with Spying

In the last couple of weeks a blog post has been circulating around concerning one man, a blogger, who watched another father not be very nice to a child. He condemned the man, saying the man "Broke his child." His post was moving, and in many ways right on but I didn't react the way that others did. Why? Because about ten minutes before I read the article, I had yelled at Beastie C after a really long, hard day for her. Unlike most of the people I knew, when I got done the article, I thought "Congratulations asshole on making another parent feel like a big fat fail."

You see I could relate to the father who was not being overly nice. After shopping with four kids, who are alternately screaming for everything they see, sobbing to be breastfeed, and beating on each other because "She looked at me weird!" I get a little snappy by the time time we hit the check out. I'm sure there have been many a parent who looked at me snarling at beautiful innocent Beastie P and thought "Oh my god that woman should have gotten a license to have a child." I'm sure that people thought "Oh my god she's breaking those poor babies. Someone take them away."

And here's the thing, if you're spying on me in a micro second of my life, you miss all the other things. You miss the parks where I am laying on the gross covered in beasties laughing and playing. You're missing me at 4 am holding my baby boy as he seizes. You're missing me sitting with Beastie C and reading with her at 2 am because she can't sleep. You'll miss the lovely nursing sessions with Baby Beastie.  You don't see me walking down the road holding hands with Beastie P. You don't see the cooking, cleaning, and lesson preparation that goes into making their lives happier and smoother. No, what you see in your tiny spying moment is GreenTeaGinger being a utter and total bitch to her children. Because she's tired. She hasn't spoken to another adult in over eight hours. People have given her dirty looks when her child has shoved against them.  No one has said in a while "Good job mama." Instead there's you. At the counter. With your one FUCKING child. You and your judgment which is already being formulated into a blog post. A blog post that thousands of mamas will love and share. And there will be an equal number who hate it. There will also be a number, who like me secretly feel for the other dad.

I'm not advocating that we yell at our children. But I am advocating that maybe as parents we need to be more honest. Perhaps there are many of you who don't ever do anything wrong in your parenting. I applaud you and perhaps we should leave the breeding to you. But I suspect that there are many more who, like me, sometimes fail. Sometimes we yell or say mean things. Sometimes we really don't like our kids because they're being awful (I always love them but I don't always like them). You know what I think? I don't think we're breaking them. Breaking is something that happens over time. When I yell at my kids a few times a week they are not broken. Trust me. Kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. I am one who believes firmly in apologizing to my children. When I yell, I wait until I'm calm and then I hold them and apologize. I explain to them why I yelled. We have a talk and then they're off into the next thing.

Those who know me know that my kids do not fear me. They love me as fiercely as I love them. But those who know me know this because they weren't spying on me at the local grocery store.


P3 said...

Not for anything, but not every kid responds to the same things either. Yelling at one of my kids would be very painful for him, and because of that (and because I know him well) it would be cruel on my part to yell at him barring extremely serious or life-threatening situations.

But then there's one of my other sons who absolutely responds best to an Alpha Mom/Dad show of power. He does not respond to more gentle redirection, and isn't harmed by a harder approach. He's also the kid that inspired us to bring doing push-ups into our disciplinary tool box. I could easily see him going into a military environment and doing well with it.

And there is a difference between breaking a destructive and willful streak and breaking a child's spirit and sense of self. That kid could have just done something that really doesn't fly, like making a cruel impersonation of someone with a disability or being nasty to a homeless person, and I guarantee you that I'm going to have a "you have got to be freaking kidding me" if one of my kids did something like that and is now asking for ice cream. Based on a split second glimpse into one parent/child interaction where the father is being harsh but not abusive, you have no way of knowing which is happening, and no right to presume which is happening.

That blog post really really bugged me. Hence the novel. :-)

John B-R said...

Ginger, you can't break a child by getting cranky. I doubt your children even noticed, except to think, whoa, mom's cranky. The way to break a child is to not love her/him. In the foregoing love is an active verb, not just a "state of being". As you note, your children feel loved, respected, etc etc.

Kathy and I were very imperfect parents. But our kids always felt loved for who they were. They are anything but broken.

Not that they have nothing to discuss with their therapists ... everyone needs something to discuss with their therapists, don't they?

But our kids are leading happy healthy successful lives. Each is adored by his/her spouse. Each has many friends. Each is successful in their work/professional lives. Each is happy to be alive.

So who cares what casual observers think? I learned long ago if a) X is not going to give me money; b) X is not going to sleep with me or otherwise love me; and c) X is not going to read my poems, there's no real reason why I must care what X thinks.

Ginger As in Green Tea... said...

Ahh John I love you:) Yes, yes and yes. If we were perfect our kids would go to therapy for having perfect parents they could never live up too:)

And really I don't care about what people see when we go out but I felt I HAD to respond to this post because there is always another side to a story and I'd love if people could remember that!

And P3, yup. My oldest Beastie can not deal with me losing it and I try extra hard around him. My girlie beasties just go with the flow...

Ivory said...

<3 I'm there with you mama.