I’m just phoning it in today.
I’m just phoning it in today.
In the circles in which I spend most of my time there has been a lot of talk lately on the subject of teaching children manners. Yet another article is doing the rounds, and moms everywhere seem to be jumping headlong into the fray.
I was doing my best to sidestep the conversation. I was finding it exasperatingly pointless. Nobody, and I mean absolutely nobody, is saying that “thank you” and “please” have become obsolete. Yet, somehow, accusations keep flying, and arguments turn ever more vitriolic. The nature of the beast couldn’t be further from polite.
Things have been happening. I have been more mindful of what happens when I open my mouth, more attentive to what others are saying to me. It’s made me more particular, granted, but somehow more forgiving, too. It’s been gnawing at me all week, and I think I’ve finally put a finger on what makes the difference between me drawing a line and drawing somebody in.
I enjoy shocking my fellow moms by proclaiming that I don’t want my child to be nice. Nice is an anathema to me. After spending most of my life trying to be just that, I’ve realized at last that “being nice” has only served to keep me docile. To acquiesce when offended. To oblige when put upon. To smile through blows.
There’s a world of difference between “nice” and “kind.” In my life, I’ve known scores of nice, polite, unkind people. I’ve also known many with no manners, but hearts big enough for every single creature in this world.
So here’s my point: I feel like the conversation at the moment is putting the cart before the horse. A kind person cannot fail to be intrinsically polite. Insofar as politeness is consideration for others, kindness will always result in what is the spirit of good manners. Teaching children manners is all well and good, but if the behavior comes from parental edict rather than innate desire, then it’s pure form. Etiquette followed to the letter, but devoid of soul.
Kindness isn’t how you cut your steak or whether you greet your elders appropriately. It’s how you see the world. If you resent another for not letting you have a seat, or for pushing past you in a line, odds are you’re not kind, even while you demand better manners. Kindness is helping because you enjoy it, not because it makes you feel superior, or gives you leverage, or you just don’t know how to refuse. Kindness is standing up for yourself while respecting the other. It’s asking for a seat if you need it, or gently reminding the person pushing past that there is a line. Kindness is an exercise in power. It’s a calm strength that lets you see what’s needed in a situation, and step in without fear or anger, because we’re all just human, and none of us can read minds (thankfully).
So no, I don’t want Ted to be nice. I do want him to stand up for himself, respectfully, and to choose his battles wisely if it comes to that. I want him to go through life with win-win glasses on. To learn manners by choice, out of respect for others and not to fan his own sense of entitlement and superiority. I want his politeness to be a byproduct of his kind, winning mindset.
A mom can hope.
I hadn’t really thought the idea through when, a while back, I decided to give Ted an allowance. But in all those months since our trip to Boston, it’s worked.
"I want this one!"
I might be reinventing the wheel for all I know. It’s probably been done before, and with more insight and purpose. All I wanted was an excuse not to cave in to Ted’s calmly-delivered and well-articulated, “I would like this [entirely redundant thingamabob], please.” (Whining and begging I have no trouble refusing out of hand.)
He gets $2.50 a month. I go by the ticket price and cover the tax, because I cannot imagine having this conversation just yet:
Ted: “I’d like this [$0.50 thing].”
Me: “It’s $0.50. That’s two quarters. Have you got enough money?”
Ted, triumphantly fishing out the last two coins from his wallet: “Yes!”
Me: I’m sorry, darling. You forgot the tax.
Nope. Not happening. He gets the $0.50 thing, I take his money, but - having already palmed the difference from my own wallet - hand the clerk what’s actually owed. As the months go by, Ted seems to be more and more pleased with himself when that happens. He has his own money, and he gets to decide how it’s spent, no questions asked. At the same time, any requests he cannot afford are open for discussion. If it’s useful, or sensible, or will give pleasure to the whole family and we can afford it, it’s a yes. Otherwise, it’s a no. And that’s the end of it.
"It’s $40, honey. I don’t have that much treat money. How much have you got?"
From what I hear, he’s still young for the consumerist fits so many children suffer in toy and candy aisles the world over, but I keep my fingers crossed that we’ll never have to deal with that. He’s still young, but already he’s learning the value of money. He understands that sometimes there just isn’t enough, and you have to find other amusements or go without. And treats and toys are just that - embellishments, fun to have but not necessary to have fun.
Enough for a $0.25 horse ride.
Ted’s spending so far:
July: $1 on a frozen yogurt cone, $0.50 on a painted wood train shape, $1 on four diner jukebox songs.
August: $1 on a thrift-store Thomas the Tank Engine talking toy (“I’m a verrry use-ful en-gine!” grrr…), $0.25 on a mall carousel ride, $1 on a frozen yogurt cone. $0.25 to go. It amuses me to keep track of how his money goes.
Nap time. It’s NOT happening.
Maybe it’s the influence of Jo Frost’s Toddler Rules. Maybe more than a year of repeating “that’s not food honey, that’s a treat" does something to your brain. Either way, I seem to have lost all tolerance for adults feeding children crap. You’re the parent, you’re in charge.
We are not all doing the best we can. I know I’m not. And I’m not the one advocating chips for dinner.
Yes, I’m looking at you, ParentMap, you bastion of wholesome NW parenting, you beacon of all things outdoorsy and organic. How could you do this to me? How could you taunt me so? How could you send me a link to an article on 12 Genius Campfire Meals that was anything but? You know I love camping! And campfires! And new ideas for what to eat when out in the wilderness!
Of course I read it.
Do I even need to bother questioning the nutritional value of a bag of nacho cheese chips? And ice-cream, s’mores cones, and chocolate banana boats are not ”meals.”
Judging from the dish selection and equipment necessary, ParentMap wanted to send its readers on a luxe car camping trip with a bunch of unruly offspring. Dutch ovens and waffle makers? Personalized pizzas for the “picky” eaters? Spare me.
(Yes, I’m in a terribly judge-y mood today, and, apparently, consciously choosing to waste my energy on it, though overall I’ve been getting really good at stepping away from unnecessary peeves. No time for drama for this mama.)
Since it’s rude and unproductive to criticize without offering ways to improve, here are my 12 Average-Intelligence Campfire Meals, that - unlike Dutch-oven stuffed peppers - are quick and easy to prepare and do not require specialized equipment (I am, however, assuming we’re still car-camping and have access to a decent cool box):
I’d keep ranting, but we’re off camping and about to cross the border to Canada. Have a great weekend! And if the above wasn’t enough to get your saliva and creative juices flowing, be sure to check out these 500+ Camping Recipes from Mom with a prep.
He’s been looking for a way out for the last ten minutes.
This was Ted’s back yesterday. Diagnosis: roseola.
This is what roseola looks like if you ask Google:
Don’t blame me for not catching it earlier. On Ted it just looks like a few insect bites, and it’s been an extremely hot couple of days, so I thought it could also have been a heat rash. He did have a 102F fever for less than 12 hours, and did throw up, once each time, on two consecutive nights. Apart from that, nothing. Chirpy as usual, eating as usual, getting into trouble all the same.
I took him to the doctor because we’ve got playgroup tomorrow, and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t infectious.
"Only while running the fever," his paediatrician said. Also, "So you’re hunting the big five?"
Apparently, there’s a “canon” of childhood diseases, and we’re finally on track. The good doc expected it sooner, considering we’re playgrouping and preschooling so much.
Some a-hole took Ted’s ketchup right off his table while I waited to place our order, just marched in and swiped it without asking. Toddlers are people too, they deserve to be treated with common courtesy. The guy walked away without a second glance. At first, Ted was too stunned to react, then burst into tears. It was my turn to order, so I didn’t step in immediately. Thankfully, Ted calmed down on his own. Nearby table opened up, so he moved us over there. But he held that new bottle of ketchup until I sat down and reassured him nobody was taking it while I was there. He frikking loves fries and ketchup. Daddy-at-a-conference, lazy-mommy, stayed-too-long-at-the-beach treat.
Nap mat nap time, attempt #1.
He really wanted to use it in the craft room, because I did sell it to him as a “sleep anywhere” free pass, but I put my foot down and insisted he napped in his own bedroom first before venturing further out. Which makes for really grainy photos, because his bedroom is set up to be the darkest place around.
The pattern for the mat came from the wonderful folk at Purl Soho, the fire truck fabric from Pottery Barn Kids (via thrift store), and I got the plaid flannel on sale at Jo-Ann’s. I’ve changed the pattern just a bit, extending the blanket about 10” so it always comfortably covers the sleeper, and I’ve stitched through the pillow and the mat by hand because my machine just wouldn’t take all that bulk. Total cost, $25. No idea how people on Etsy make it worth their while selling all-new-materials nap mats for $35.
This is what I’ve been up to instead of writing. Plaid/fire trucks reversible nap mat.
Ted asked Daddy to join him. Daddy asked to have a mat made in adult size.
More pictures coming, if I can get Ted to actually nap in this.