Well, for those of you who are fans of my parental ramblings, here is my latest tirade... and be prepared for my judgemental-ness. It's happening, people.
This past weekend, I attended a kid's birthday party. To be perfectly upfront, I have a tendency not to overload my daughter with stimulation. She is just barely three years old, somewhat reserved, and generally doesn't do well in large groups but thrives very well in situations where there are 2 or 3 other kids.
This was a zoo.
I don't know if the parents thought that three years old was an appropriate time to start playing the "Joneses" card, or what, but they literally invited every kid in this little girl's class. Fine. Terrific. I'll let that go.
I will even find a way NOT to get aggrivated that these extremely rude, ill-behaved children were hitting my daughter or pushing her over or taking toys right out of her hands. It took every ounce of control I had not to flick a kid square in the nose. Yes, I am the kind of parent that believes that Olivia needs to learn a lot of lessons the hard way - that I am there to guide her, but not do it for her. I think that it's important that she learn that not everyone will act like she does - and that it's not healthy to expect that everyone will behave in the same way... but rather that she will learn to accept sometimes poor behavior as a fact of life and learn not to let it bother her - so far, we are doing very well. So far... she is three. We will see.
It's harder on ME right now than on her - watching kids do what kids do and Olivia's little brow furrow as she tries to process why kids are taking things without asking nicely without going momma cub.
So Olivia and I played together, and when she asked me quietly why people were taking things, I quietly explained that some kids do that - other kids don't. When she started to cry because some kid intentionally knocked over her tower of blocks because they didn't want her playing with blocks, I calmly explained that blocks fall over... but really was at loss when she asked me "Why did she hit my blocks?" I don't KNOW, little girl - I simply don't UNDERSTAND. What am I supposed to SAY!??
It was shortly after this that I had my "oh yes" moment. An "oh yes" moment is the moment when you see something and everything clicks - this is DIFFERENT than the "aha" moment Oprah speaks so highly of. No - this "oh yes" moment is the moment you put pieces of a puzzle together and realize "OHHHH ... Yessssss..." and you say "of course. If A and B are true, then C is likely true". "Oh yes" is often followed by "Riiiiiiiiiight" - and if you know me personally at all, I know you can probably hear me in your head right now saying this.
The cake was cut and kids clamored for their slice of gluten-free sugar-free cake. (and btw, this is not a slant against my gluten-free sugar-free parents out there. I have decided that rather than silently judge you on bandwagoning the most recent "thing" that I would actually read and understand what some of the food options y'all have chosen to explore - and I can completely see what you are doing in making these choices - honestly). I got Olivia and I a small piece for her and I to share. Why: 1) She doesn't really like large amounts of anything 2) She thinks something is extra special when she gets to share it with mommy 3) I like the bond/closeness when we are sharing something. It brings me closer to her both physically and psychologically - in a little while she will be SO independent that she won't want to share anything with me so I will take it while its there for the taking.
Olivia and I went off to find a chair to sit in while we shared our cake. She sat on my lap and anticipated the rare opportunity for sugary goodness.
I was so enveloped in my special bonding moment with my daughter that I hadn't realized that we were the only ones in the room. So... I stopped. What was going on? Was I missing something?
15 children and their 30 adult companions (aka parents) were sitting in another room.
Not just sitting in another room, they were sitting on the laminate/tile floor in another room.
Full grown adults, children on their laps, sitting on the floor to feed their kids cake.
So as not to worry about the cake. The kids were eating it, dropping it, covered in it - no matter which way you slice it, it wasn't staying on the plate and was rarely making it to their mouth. It was as though a bunch of three year olds took up Smurf MMA fighting because blue and white were EV-ER-Y-WHERE.
SO - rather than teach our children to properly use a fork to eat cake; rather than take the time to carefully feed our children if they have not yet developed the fine motor skills required to eat cake safely; to eat over a plate rather than away from it; rather than directing our children to sit at a table; rather than preparing ourselves for accidents that happen with children and teaching our kids that accidents are a part of life - as are the humble apologies and the grace to clean up any mess you may have made... we, the parents, will sit on the floor and let our kids eat cake where we don't have to worry if they drop it.
Get off the floor. Have some self-respect. Yes, its a birthday party - but birthday parties are educational opportunities just as much as everything else is. YES, our kids are meant to have fun - but does sitting on the floor teach our kids to be respectful of other people's houses? Or does it teach them to mitigate risk by avoiding it as best they can? Or does it teach them that they can't be trusted with potentially staining food? Or does it teach them that they don't have to practice the harder skills because, frankly, they don't have to? (i.e. "don't worry about learning to eat that cake carefully - there is always a tile floor you can eat over")
If we don't parent our children, encourage their independence and draw them close to us through love, respect, patience and one-on-one attention, we are breeding bullies - kids who do not regard the thoughts and feelings of others but rather expect us (their parents) to think of things for them, clean up behind them, rationalize and defend their bad behavior.
At Thanksgiving, a good friend of mine accidentally knocked over a glass votive I had lit to make the house smell nice for our guests. Hot wax spilled all over my brand new carpet and stained it pretty badly. Was I mad? Yes. Was I more glad that I had friends in my house to enjoy Thanksgiving with? Absolutely. We open our houses to each other and take with it the destruction that may come as part of the territory.
So if I host a birthday party for Olivia, you are all invited. You can even eat cake over my carpet with your kids - and if you drop blue dye #12 on my carpet, I will do my best to get the stain out, but if I can't - your kid will forever be with me and serve to remind me of Olivia's birthday and the fortune we experienced to have you and your clumsy kid join us.