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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Odd Parenting 101

By a sweet tongue and kindness, you can drag an elephant with a hair” ~ Persian Proverb

There was a period in my life when I spent a lot of time with other mothers.  Our children were the same ages.  We were all just a little eccentric & our parenting style was pretty relaxed.  Our idea of a successful day was plenty of coffee & chat for the adults while the kids rampaged somewhere they could do no damage to themselves, each other, or anything else.  Not always successful.  Theo has a lovely scar in the top of his head because his best mate thought adding a piece of fibro there was a definite improvement but on the whole, given how many boys there were in the group & how very boy boys all those boys were, there was very little blood & mayhem.

In summer we would round the troops up & spend the day on the beach.  Our beach isn't anything to boast of.  It's right beside the jetty so we have an interesting oil slick on the incoming tide, the sand is all imported because we don't have sand, just mud, & the tides push the sand over into one corner so your feet are far more liable to sink into slick black mud than anything else.  There is a tiny pocket handkerchief sized park with a couple of tatty BBQs & a ricketty table, several swings & a climbing frame. 

 I have an aversion to salt water so I was usually the parent sitting on the breakwater wall counting bobbing heads.  Mine all wore bright lollipop coloured caps so they were easy to find if the pool was crowded.  Which is where I happened to be sitting when my oldest sidled up to me. 

Joss was, & is, a completly random learner with extremely odd interests & he always had  the sort of vocab that left most adults slack~jawed.  For example, on his first visit to my parents house he emerged from his uncle's room & announced loudly it was, Absolutely disgusting. He could barely walk so this pronouncement was a little astonishing ~ only we were all used to him & just took it in our stride.

So I wasn't unduly fazed when he enquired how elephant trainers got such big strong animals to remain tethered to little wooden stakes because they could easily tear them out of the ground, couldn't they mummy; so why don't they?  I actually knew the answer to this rather strange question.  In case you don't know [& as most of you are also homeschooling mummies I expect you also know the answer to this one] you start when an elephant is very young & you tether it to a large block of cement with a strong chain.  The elephant  learns that no matter how hard he pulls against the restraint he cannot free himself so later you can use quite a light chain & flimsy stake because the elephant knows he cannot get free.

Now I thought taking the time to explain all this to my oldest was perfectly normal but the parent sitting beside me thought it was decidedly odd: firstly because I even knew this stuff; secondly because I explained in detail & thirdly because my child actually stood & listened to my explanation.

As the children grew older ours became the *kid house* because I was the parent most likely to say yes.  Can we use your kitchen to cook? Yes.    Can we sleep over?  Yes, if your mummy says so.  Can we go fishing....?  We almost always had a crowd because most of the cricket & soccer team belonged to us & although our house is largish it was not large enough to hold 11 children of various ages & sizes who were all credibly ADHD.  Besides ours were camping mad so for various birthdays we provided tents instead of the usual presents & our children [& their friends] spent so much time camping out that people thought this was a permanent arrangement because the house wasn't large enough for all of us.

The end result of this was [because I'm a certified Queen's Guide] that all ours [& their regular friends] quickly acquired a set of camping survival skills: they could pitch a tent; they could light a fire & fillet a fish; they could cook on an open fire; they could row a boat against an incoming tide.  Amongst their possessions they all owned lighters, sharp knives, fishing tackle, strong torches etc & they had been trusted to use these things responsibly from an exceptionally early age because I didn't see why even quite a small child couldn't learn to do for himself rather than have me hovering over every move they made just in case they hurt themselves.  Sometimes they did.  Mostly they didn't.

Then a new family moved in.  The first thing their kids did was cut themselves on our kids' knives.  The second thing was their father berated me for irresponsibility.  I thought him a fool for having kids who couldn't use a knife sensibly ~ big kids, not little kids.  For the first time in my life I found myself hating having visiting kids in my house because they were totally clueless about everything.  They couldn't be trusted in the kitchen without major supervision ~ something I hadn't done in years because mine learnt very early on if they wanted to eat they needed to learn how to cook.  Consequentially their friends learnt too!  They couldn't be trusted round a fire.  They couldn't be trusted around nests or snakes.  They did the stupidest things & I was flabbergasted because mine, who were known round the traps as *Those Wild Potato Boys*, would never, ever have behaved so foolishly.  They were dangerous.  They were a liability.  And I didn't know what to do.  Every child I'd had to deal with up to that point would listen & learn ~ & they did as they were asked because they undesrstood that being allowed to go out fishing in the boats or have their own fires was a privelege & to be respected.  The new lot did not.  Eventually they got banned.  I couldn't deal with the parents any more.  At which point they lined up along their verandah & hurled insults & abuse at my lot. *sigh* Yes, their mummy & daddy knew they were there & sad to say actually encouraged it.

So, what odd parenting practises do you have?  Are you a *They'll survive* parent or a *Don't let them out of your sight* parent?  So long as ours stayed within very clear boundaries they were let lose but they were never allowed to wander randomly over the island or head to the mainland unsupervised.  They have grown into very competant adults with a good grasp of their own limitations ~ well, except Star.  Star is the exception to all known regulations & her ego is out of control.  She will tell you proudly that, I own my own crap.  However she is the child least likely to climb in a boat in a storm to go catch a shark!


Julie B. said...

I was a "don't let them out of my sight parent" for the first two, and a little more relaxed for the third. I think I would do things a little differently if I could have a do over. God's grace has been what has seen me and my three daughters through....

God bless you.... :)

Bonnie said...

I have one child that I would let do anything she thought herself able to do. She helps garden, goes to get the mail, cleans up, and cooks--all at age 4. Then there is her brother--who is very much a can't let him out of your sight kid. He is good as long as you watch him--if you don't he is on the roof or down by the river. No concept of danger. I would have loved your house as a kid!

The HoJo's said...

I suspect you won't be suprised, mine have lots of freedom and very strict boundaries. Makes life so much easier :o) so far. We have youth club rather than scouts now and will see how that goes


Ganeida said...

JUlie: I literally couldn't keep up with mine. I do not know whose genes they got but definitely not mine! ☺

Bonnie: Thank you. ☺ Yes, some kids are harder work initially. How our twins never burnt our house down is only by the grace of God ~ & a major reason for building our fire pit & telling them they could have a fire any time they liked ~ only it must go in the fire pit!!! lol

Hojo's: I think we think alike. ☺ Great freedom, firm boundaries. I'm pretty cool about most things but once I've drawn my line in the dust you have to be pretty stupid to push my buttons.

Ruby said...

My upbringing was similar,if not as "hairy" as you describe above! And my kids would have loved to have that, but their dad, who grew up without a dad and a law unto himself, is rather overly cautous. My boys love nothing better than to get out to the farm, my childhood home where my brothers now live, and do all that good stuff that kids do. I know many children just would not be responsible but it is definitely the way to build mature, logical and responsible adults.
Have a good weekend Ganeida!

Ganeida said...

Ruby: Yes, I too had a similar upbringing because we weren't strictly city kids & had water & did the boat thing. I think when all you know is to be responsible that's what you learn to be. If you are always babied, well, that's how you act. I know I couldn't cope with the complete lack of responsibility of our new neighbours because all the kids we'd had up till then were sensible & responsible ~ not necessarily good! lol But they knew how to take care of themselves & watched out for the littlies.

seekingmyLord said...

I believe I have been well balanced with the Princess, the benefit of being an older mother and the oldest in my family who took care of her siblings perhaps.

I am watchful, but not overly protective. For the most part, I believe when a child is asking to learn to do something, that is the time to teach. We cut our homemade bread as needed and sometimes she does it herself; those are always interesting slices. When she is asking or expecting me to do something for her, I tend to pull back because I think she should be ready to learn to do it herself.

I am particular about who is allowed to play in my home with her and in whose home she is allowed to play and the mother must there during the time. However, outside there are less limitations as to who and where.

I have to say that I see a bit of a parallel with your experience with the "new neighbors" and my barn partner family, who seem to have so much enthusiasm but lack go old horse sense so they will not get least, at this time. Maybe you wrote this with me in mind?

Megan said...

It never ceases to amaze me how differently we have raised our children, compared to our friends and particular family members, as well. We barely "babyproofed" the house, just found that we really didn't need to, much to the chagrin of friends and some family. I'm sorry, but if your kid can't handle negotiating a small, carpeted staircase at age three I think that's because you've never taught them how to do it safely, mine were handling those stairs long before they were two. Oh, the drama we've experienced over those stairs! We also taught our children to respect other's homes and property,("if it's not yours, don't touch it or at least ask before you do!"). We have a very lived-in, casual home, nothing fancy, or fussy, nothing in the way of object d'art, so to speak, so it does astound me that every time we have certain young children over, things are torn up, ripped, smashed or broken by the end of the visit. Now I've always believed people are more important than things, but it use to shock me when no sort of apology or help was offered in cleaning up the mess, from either the child or the parent. You do no favors for a child when you foster helplessness, and they don't learn how to negotiate their world safely or respect limits, their own or others.

Ganeida said...

Seeking: you are far more urban than we are & have a girl ~ which I do think makes things easier. Our boys liked to live on the wild side & controlling that wasn't always possible & channeling it was a challenge.

Megan: Yes indeed. One does no child a service by rendering them incompetant.