Thursday, January 31, 2013

I am the meanest

I am easily the meanest parent by far in my Academic Book Club (the Dotytron too, by extension).  Last night we talked about allowances and one of our member's issues with telling her 9 year old that just because so-and-so has an iPod touch it doesn't mean that she'll be getting her own.

You know what I tell the Big Yam when he says that something is "mine" (as in his)?  I say to him, "Nothing in this house is yours.  It's MINE.  You don't own anything.  You didn't earn it."  LOL!

Then we got onto the subject of chores and I was saying that the Big Yam's job since he's been just under two or so is to feed the cats in the morning and at night (and to set the table).  Book Club was impressed and one of the members says, "Maybe I'll try that with my daughter.  Give her a sense that making an effort to help out around the house counts."  And I was all, "Uhhh, HOLD THE FARM.  Making an effort DOESN'T COUNT.  The job has to be done right," and I told them about how when the Big Yam spills the cat food on the floor (which he did for a few days on purpose because he liked the sound or mess or something), I made him pick up each and every piece and put it back in the bin.  

In the Dotytron-Lagerfeld house, making a superficial effort ISN'T ENOUGH.  We are firm believers that kids have to be enticed (read: forced) to do things that they dislike, or that are hard, or that are unpleasant, and they do them to a certain standard because eventually, they push through and discover that doing so is intrinsically rewarding.  The Dotytron's entire job is based around dealing with kids who have been told their whole lives that lip-service "effort" and "trying" is enough.  Then these parents send their kids to schools and leave teachers to deal with their messes.  That's not okay.  Not in our books.

In my house growing up, we never had our own money.  There was no allowance, no money for chores.  You did your tasks (and please note, the kids in my family did A LOT - like, when we went on family trips, my mum and Big D would NEVER, EVER, EVER carry their own mum bore 4 children so she would have 4 bellhops.  Heck, when I was a kid, my mum would make us carry her purse because even doing that was too taxing for her) because that's just how it was.  Everyone had a role in making sure the family functioned and the parents' role was to earn money and put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies and the kids' role was basically to do whatever your parents told you to do.  If I had even asked for an allowance my mum and Big D would have 1) yelled at me; then 2)  asked me why I thought I needed my own money when they provided everything I needed/required and if I wanted more, all I had to do was ask (with the knowledge that I would more often than not get turned down).  

The idea of my kid coming home and whining about "So-and-so has an iPod touch and why can't I have one wahwahwah" is appalling to me.  I'd be like, GO LIVE WITH SO-AND-SO'S PARENTS THEN, YOU INGRATE.  Exceptionalism is a combination of innate personality and also being pushed.  You don't get to become a driven, motivated individual by getting iPod touches and whatever the heck crap else you decide in your pea-brained head you want.  

Then my friend C asked about whether the other book club members eat together consistently as a family.  JJ and I were the only ones who said yes.  Everyone else was in the trap of cooking separate meals of what the kids would like to eat and then eating another meal themselves of what they wanted.  I just...don't have the time or inclination to do that.  We always ate together as a family growing up and I really believe in family meal time as an important focal point for the day - especially with today's families, when you're all careening off in different directions for 10+ hours every day - I think it's vital to forge those connections and centre yourselves around the table.  Dinner is the meal I look forward to all day, so the idea of eating whatever bland food my kid might want is not for me (in my case, the "bland" food would be super-spicy Indian food, but that's neither here nor there).  Also, by the end of the day, I'm lucky if I have enough gas to get through dinner, clean-up, a bit of play, stories, bed, and gearing up to do it all over again (to say nothing for an hour for my own pursuits), so the logistics of making two meals is simply not in the cards.

Part of the reason I subscribe to Baby-Led Weaning is because of this idea that's central to it - you have to take a macro, long-range view of what your kid is eating and trust that they self-regulate. So yes, the Big Yam wasn't a super-fan of the clam linguine, but over the course of two weeks, he's getting the protein, carbs, vegetables, and essential vitamins and minerals that he needs.  Especially given the varied menus that I construct, if the Boobla has bits and pieces, the long-range view is that he's getting what he needs.

Anyway, they were all APPALLED when I told them that one of the things we do when the Big Yam is misbehaving at the dinner table (throwing food on the floor, being disruptive, screaming about being done when we're not done eating) is turn his high chair around and basically, disallow him from being part of the table.  They were shocked and basically thought I was a monster.  But here's my rationale: I think that participating in the dinner table (with the dinner table as a microcosm for society as a whole) is a privilege that requires you as an individual to accept the rules of behavior that are part of your social contract with the other members of your family/dining companions.  Failure to exhibit acceptable behavior  and respect for your dining companions means that you get taken out of the situation until such time as you're ready and able to resume upholding your end of the contract in good faith.  The Dotytron is such a fan of the practice that he thinks we should continue it into like, adulthood.  Can you imagine a teenager with his back to the table, being all like, "I can HEAR YOU RIGHT NOW"?  It's pretty funny.

So my friend JJ was like, the way that we do things might work for us, but it won't work for everyone, because some kids will starve themselves to death.  And in my head (and this is how I'm a horrible person), I was like, well, if the kid doesn't even have that most basic of survival instincts, don't they kinda deserve to die?  It's like this Louis CK bit that another lady was talking about last night; she went to see him do stand-up and he apparently said this thing about how, have you ever considered that kids with peanut allergies are meant to die from exposure to peanuts?  Hahahaha.  So dark.  

I dunno.  I just finished reading a book about kids living in slums in Mumbai who sometimes have to eat frogs and rats fished out of the sewage lake on their slums.  If those kids can eat that, then a middle class kid in the developed world can stomach something other than plain pasta, methinks.

Here's the thing they don't see though: when it is time for play, or fun, the Dotytron and I go WHOLE HOG.  Like, we ramp up the fun in direct proportion to how hard we come down.  This is one of the discipline-y things the Dotytron learned in this book he read a couple of years back on classroom management.  The idea being that you basically don't want it to be a carrot or stick situation.  You want to get to the point where the kid governs him/herself (shades of Foucault!) out of the desire to continue to be able to do fun/awesome/happy things.  The disciplinary mechanism should fade into the background.  It's not overly censorious - you try not to react (like, don't get into a screaming match, don't raise your voice).  Instead, it's more like you're so bored by the kid's disobedience/acting out that you present this impassive, stony, façade while simultaneously and immediately ceasing the fun thing you had been doing.  Few things rattle kids like impassivity.  We also try to treat the Yam like a sentient, rationale being with agency and we appeal to his reasonableness.  We do this by, for example, telling him that he has to stay sleeping in his own crib all night and that we are here, and we would never let anything happen to him, and that we love him.  We also do that couples-therapy thing where we acknowledge his emotions at that moment, "I know you're mad/angry right now" "I know you want to do XYZ right now and you're frustrated because you can't" but still explain why the way he's expressing those emotions aren't appropriate.  

That's really just a long way of saying that me and the Dotytron are hella fun.  I make myself look like a giant goon by chasing the Big Yam around doing monster-face or pretending to be an alligator with my arms as big snapping jaws running around after him in the summer.  The Dotytron jams with him all the time or will spend sooo long at the play kitchen engaging in imaginary play or building trains.  The other night, we made this giant fort in our living room and the Big Yam's face when he went in...I wish I had a picture...he was beaming with this pure, open-mouthed smile of joy while we turned off all the lights and read stories by flashlight and told secrets.  

So yeah, I'm pretty mean.  But I can be pretty fun sometimes, too.  

This is a Yam-heavy post, y'all.  You've been warned.  Here are some things that happened on the weekend:

Offering Elmo a hot dog

Still Life With Hot Dog

These two run the worst kitchen in town.  You don't get anything you ask for, food falls on the floor and that walk-in is a s**tshow.

Trying to break into Bert & Ernie's apartment building.  Smallest, most persistent J-Hos ever.

This is what the fashion magazines would call "a look."  Crown, fuzzy jammies, and matching yellow high heels.

The Big Yam reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Sorry our house is the most low-lit ever.  That look he gives at the 35 second mark after running through that epic list of foods is classic Yam.

The roomie came over for dinner tonight and brought a lasagne she had made.  YESSSSSSS...MADE-BY-OTHERS-LASAGNE!!!  We had it with a caesar salad and leftover peanut butter cookies and chocolate chip blondies JJ brought to book club.


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