Monday, April 23, 2012
In so many ways, parenting my three-year-old has been about instilling discipline. He has the heart and will of a leader. He's also 3. Bedtime is a struggle every night. Keeping him out of the fridge is a struggle most days.
He also gets lost in his own world, bewildered when he discovers that he's being redirected.
I struggle to strike a balance between consistency and searching for methods that work.
Our household has one rule: Do what your parents tell you. That's it. There are other lessons to be learned alongside that, but obedience is the first one. And my work as a parent, all too often, centers on that theme.
Then there was story time at the library. I loved story time as a child, and since the Bat is the elder of two children, I thought story time (which is well-sprinkled with songs and games) would be a nice introduction to the world of structured social interaction.
We've been several times now. The first few times, he stood at a distance and observed. Then he tried joining in once. Then he stood at a distance again. Finally, he refused to go. I've watched him observing the librarian and the other children. He's not impressed. The games strike him as silly, and he's not engaged with the books, which are very simplistic compared to what we read at home.
When he plays with the same children on the playground after story time, he does beautifully, but it's clear he's not interested in the program at the library.
My first thought was to give it more time, along the lines of making him eat his peas. But then, through all that, I had a revelation. The struggle of establishing discipline is only part of the parent-child relationship--not its defining characteristic.
We are not on opposing teams. I'm on his team. I want to help him make good plays. And when his judgment is spot on, I need to acknowledge that rather than risk teaching him to doubt his correct impulses. I need to side with him against the rest of the world.
At story time, he's right. The stories are stupid. And as an adult, I'm disappointed in them for being so. I'm also disappointed in the librarians both for choosing such books and for narrating the illustrations rather than reading the text.
As for the structured play with the other children, he can learn that later when I can explain it to him. The other children mostly have experience with this kind of scenario in the form of daycare or preschool. The Bat does not. And since he will not be attending public or private school, there's no rush for him to learn.
My three-year-old is right. And I need to celebrate and honor that.
That's what I learned in my home this week. And I'm immensely grateful that I've been given the opportunity to be involved in my son's life deeply enough to make discoveries like this one.
This post has been linked to Welcome Home at Raising Arrows and Works for Me Wednesday at We Are THAT Family.