“Morning, milo is such a good wee boy and very polite, u must be very proud of him.” Vicky’s text came at 9:46 this morning and I was still shaking my head over the irony at morning tea break. Vicky has Milo for an hour before school and brings him to class on the days I work.
“I guess it’s a good thing he has manners that he can put on when needed, I just wish he’d put them on for me,” I complained to my colleagues at work.
Just this morning he was having an absolute melt-down over the low level of milk in his oatmeal, Again. The dialogue typically goes like this:
Brilliant! The pitcher worked. At least 80% of the days it works, and this just didn’t happen to be one of those days. In fact, this morning, he even threw his spoon at me. Well, to be fair, I instigated a little bit—I told him that the other way to get a higher milk-to-oatmeal ratio was for me to eat some of the oats, and then I dipped my spoon in for a bite. He promptly snatched it. “Dad, Milo grabbed my spoon,” I wailed, in an attempt to diffuse the situation with a bit of ridiculousness. He then hurled his spoon at me. Well, that bit of parental creativity didn’t work.
The very next day Milo came home from school brandishing his first certificate. “Congratulations to Milo Shaw,” it read. “For always being so polite, respectful and helpful at school. You are a kind friend, Milo!”
“Oh, I’m so proud of you!” I purred. Of course what I was really thinking is “What, my son?! So what happens as soon as he comes home?”
I’ve talked to other moms, and they corroborate this phenomenon with their kids. For some reason, the person who the government pays to teach them how to read garners more respect than the person who feds them, clothes them, and worries over them. In fact, any other adult gets more respect than the parents. It’s not fair.
Well, as my own dad always said, “The World’s Not Fair.”
I don’t have any easy word of wisdom here. I do think that despite familiarity with one’s parents, they deserve more respect than other authority figures or even strangers, and I think God thinks that too. Unfortunately, demanding respectful behavior in his situation leads to an escalating conflict such that even if the behavior looks somewhat modified, the attitude (which is what we are really wanting, aren’t we?) is a combination of sullen and defiant. So I think that I don’t know the answer. I think there may be teachable moments which aren’t the same moments as the conflicts. Aren’t we wanting respect that really comes from love, from being other-focused? Maybe the focus in the teachable moments needs to be on glorifying love and valuing others before oneself. But I also think that the more the two of you parents brainstorm about this and then present a united firm but calm front, the higher the chances of your success. Our culture has glorified defiance and disrespect, which is a large reason Donald Trump has gotten away with what would normally be considered unforgivable political sins. I know you aren’t in our culture at this time, but I bet that your culture is on the same road, just an indeterminant number of years behind on the downward slide. Parenting is work, and this work is worth lots of effort. Love, Dad
I don’t think I’ve ever commented on one of your posts, although I thoroughly enjoy reading them. Keeps us connected, at least on my end as it is largely a one way communication.
This seems to be a universal trait…kids behave very differently for the parents than they do for others. There are probably official social and psychological terms to describe this. I just call it reality. I remember when Austin was 15-16 yrs old. He wasn’t very verbal with us and hardly gave us any positive feedback. Getting anything out of him was like extracting a wisdom tooth. A friend of ours in church said to us one day (unsolicited), “Austin is such a pleasant young man. Polite, friendly and helpful.” We looked at each other and were certain this was a case of mistaken identity.
Here’s the thing that is hard to know while you’re in the middle of it that they behave completely differently (and always worse) for you than for others. My natural proclivity is to be relative strict enforcing behavior. I don’t know whether that is good or bad. It seems to have its pros and cons. But what you eventually come to is you want relationship, not behavior. And while it takes longer, relationship yields better ultimate behavior because its based on influence rather than power.
That whole thing makes me wonder about the way we have traditionally approached God. It seems as though much of the “teaching” is based on being “Saved” rather than “Loved”. Not a very good motivator for me, especially when the thing I’m being saved from seems (but probably isn’t) far off. The only chance I seem to have of relationship is through love, not behavior. I’ve seen that with my kids as they reached adulthood and I finally stopped focusing on behavior. Yes, there is a difference between an adult and a pre-adolescent. But the underlying truths have to be the same.
Nathan has a MUCH higher capacity for patience and focus on his child’s person rather than his behavior than I’ve ever had. It might be rocky along the way as Quinn has to mold into institutional expectations. It might result in some extra parent-teacher conferences. But I’m pretty sure he is going to be fine because he KNOWS he’s loved.
Thank you for continuing to share your lives with us. We love you and miss you.
It’s interesting to think about, the idea that relationship (love) is more critical than good behavior. Probably right, it seems like something God would say, and leave me scratching my head. If only rude behavior didn’t push my buttons so much, I might even be able to give it a try.
I wish I could be a fly on the wall watching Nathan in parenting action. I still have him frozen at lazy 15 in my memory, poor boy. His lack of drive to get stuff done (at least that’s the way I remember it) would have a decided advantage in building relationships. I used to think getting stuff done was more important, but now I guess that relationships take the cake. Wish I could convince my inner engine that that’s the case…