We try to be all gentle and attachment parent-y and respectful and non-carrot-and-stick-y here at Chez Naptime, and we’ve found ourselves perched on a parenting dilemma. We don’t do the authoritative parenting thing; it’s really not our way or the highway. We’re here to teach and we’re here to learn. There are some inviolable rules, but most things, when they don’t deal with safety or or treating human beings gently, are open to negotiation. I’ve posted here before about how open we are with language, with profanity, with ideas.
We try to respect our son as a person (no such respect for the soon-to-be child because that bugger will get way more say in our lives than we want, as it is, so for now it just gets giggles for its spleenectomy skills and and is otherwise ignored) and demand the same respect from Peanut. We’re not his servants. We’re people. We respond to polite talk and ignore grouchy talk. We respond to all manner of emotions and honor them without correction, but won’t listen to whining. Cry if you’re sad, ask for a hug if you’re angry, laugh loudly and unabated if you’re happy. Find an alternative to hitting and yelling. And we try to practice what we preach. Try. The yelling part is hard.
Blah blah, blah, Nap, get to the juicy stuff.
Fine. Preschool has been an interesting lesson in other children, a really informative lesson on gentle parenting options (Bev Bos inspired co-op means there are lots of great parents there all the time and I’ve learned from them), and a crash course in crappy child behavior. Several whiners, a few takers, and lots and lots of exclusion and surliness. All age-appropriate, all carefully handled and redirected, all exhausting. Most of which is coming straight home for practice.
So Peanut spent a week or so sticking his tongue out when he was displeased. I didn’t want to make too big a deal out of it (grand scheme of things, a universally recognized sign of displeasure, freaking hilarious, pretty innocuous; but not something I’m gonna put up with long term because I find it offensive and don’t want to be the mom whose kid does that to grandparents.) I mentioned each time that we don’t do that because it’s just not friendly and if you disagree it’s time to use your words. Fine. Tongue is mostly gone.
What we have now is “poopy.” As in “NO! You’re a poopy Mommy!” Or “Get out of here you poopy Daddy!” And my favorite: “Why do we have to have cats? You’re poopy cats and I’m gonna flush you down!”
Now, I don’t care about the scatalogical reference. I’m one of those Moms who plays along when he says he’s making a stew of squirrel eyeballs and whale poop in his pint-sized kitchen. I grab a bowl and pretend eat and tell him how disgusting it is and can we please add worms for texture. I don’t mind honoring his need to tell me off and to distance himself from me when I’m saying something he doesn’t like. he’s allowed to his opinions, even if they’re strong and anti-Mom.
But I don’t particularly like being called poopy. Not in the “I’ve sacrificed everything I am and want to be so I can take care of you, you ingrate, so show some respect” kind of way. Close, though.
I also think I need to manage the beginning of the name-calling phase. Calling people names isn’t nice. It’s hurtful. Poopy is not a big deal, but it’s teaching him about power and language and derision, and I think I need to parent here instead of hoping it goes away if I ignore it.
So, I ran it by my “how would you feel if he did that in front of your sister-in-law” radar, which is a pretty accurate measure of how I judge acceptable versus not acceptable (I can’t use the older generation, because they disagree with just about everything we do, and we don’t particularly agree with their parenting values, either. My s-i-l has a similar parenting philosophy about most issues and a lot more experience, common sense, and patience than I do, so that’s where I go).
And my sil radar is befuddled. I don’t know what she would do. She might laugh (though she’s one of those awesome parents who’s smart enough to turn away or leave the room before laughing so the behavior could hypothetically be corrected at some point). She might casually say there are better ways to tell Mom no and let’s try some. She might ignore it. She wouldn’t yell or punish him, which some of the parents who I respect would. I don’t judge that impulse. I just don’t want to pick this, Battle No. 367 of today’s 928 battles for time out or yelling or general stakes-raising.
So I don’t know. Do I ignore being poopy? For, let’s be honest, I’m a grouchy pregnant woman facing her last few weeks of productivity with a list of things to finish a mile long, and am quite often a scatalogical word that he doesn’t even know yet, but that might correspond with “poopy.” Do I use “poopy” as a springboard for discussing how to talk to people and how to disagree in ways that wins friends and influences people? Do I let it run its course without the reinforcement of attention? Do I send him to Grumpa’s house for the beginning of his medieval training in “back in my day”? (Yup. Just called Grumpa several names, but in a way that seems simply delightful. See how much I have to teach a child? I can’t let “poopy” go without teaching Peanut to push real buttons, right?)
I know I don’t want to cut him off and make him think it’s not okay to disagree with me. I want to honor the independence without approving the fecality of this recent phase. I want to stop overthinking the small stuff but want to catch the big stuff early when it’s manageable.