day 17: right and wrong

My mind has been occupied with the process of discipline, teaching, communication and understanding as it relates to a baby-on-the-way-to-toddlerhood. We have daily reminders of Small One’s need for _____ (fill in the blank) in any number of situations, and yes it is emotionally consuming this task of knowing what to do, doing it and then dealing with what comes after.

But in an odd way I am enjoying it. Parenting feels like going back to school but without the exams, report cards and 8am classes. I just wrote that, and am clearly forgetting that my Small One wakes up at 6:30am give or take a few minutes. Parenting has heightened my selective memory. If it means anything, I still prefer waking up to Small One than waking up to throw on a hoodie and trudge across campus to International Relations. Freshmen do not realize that 7:30am classes are not worth it by virtue of the fact that the class is at 7:30am. But I digress.

Discipline! Communication! Teaching! Understanding! My mind! Is full of this stuff!

And here are the thoughts I’ve processed on this topic:

On what basis am I asking him to comply with something? Why does he really need to do _______? 

It makes me unhappy when he does not do what I ask him to do. I don’t like it. 

I feel frustrated when I think he communicates disrespect or disregard to me or Husband. And it frightens me to think of how this will work when he is older. 

I don’t know how to make him do what I want him to do. 

I’m just going to keep praying and ask God to make him do what I tell him to do. (I.e. I really just don’t want to do anything about _________ right now.)

I’m sure there have been other thoughts – many other thoughts – but these are a few. While Husband and I still haven’t charted a firm path for ourselves in this arena, we are learning, we are reading, we are praying and we are talking.

One thing I do know without a doubt – unless I firmly believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to do things, I am always going to be on shaky ground with Small One. Meaning, if I tell him to stop hitting another baby because it’s not nice, that is a hollow, not-good-enough reason to ask for his compliance and change of attitude. Why? Because not being nice doesn’t mean anything and because I am trying to do more than ask my child to behave in a way that is socially acceptable. If social acceptance was my only aim as a parent, this changes based on the society we are a part of. What if we’re a part of a culture where slavery is legal (hello, Mauritania) or where revenge killings are normal and accepted, would that make it right for Small One, Husband and I to participate in these things? No. What if we’re part of a culture where mothers get permanent holidays and someone else pays for a cleaner who magically makes your home beautiful, organized and functional? Yes, we sign up… ok, it’s late and clearly I need to go to sleep. 

My point is this – I do not give my child a command because I want him to be socially acceptable (because that only conditions him to please people), I do not give my child a command because I want him to be manageable (because that only conditions him to please me), I do not give my child a command because I want him to make me happy (because that is manipulation), I do not give my child a command because I want a little robot who jumps when I say so (because that is control)… and the list goes on.

No, for the vast majority of the time, I give Small One a command that I expect him to follow because I believe that what I’m asking him to do is right, true, the better way, and yes, I’m going to go there, the way of God. Most of you just marveled at my arrogance, I think,  Husband and I are not perfect parents, and on many occasions I have wished for different behavior out of Small One only because it would make my life easier in the moment.

But whatever said and done, our hearts are set on this – that our expectations of our children are not just any expectations. This is why I do not care if he sings at the dinner table, runs around bare foot, throws balls wherever he wants, gets completely dirty and muddy at the sand box, eats dirt and any number of unmentionable things – but not cigarette butts!! – we draw our boundaries as widely as possible so that the only behaviors we forbid are behaviors that we believe are wrong, not just our personal preferences. This is exactly why the screaming thing is still confusing for me because I can’t decide if it is actually wrong or just socially unacceptable, just for further insight on the inner workings of my brain.

Hopefully I do not need to make a disclaimer here that obviously we get it wrong all the time, and we do not have some sort of all-powerful monopoly on what is right and true. Hopefully you are hearing our heart – we want our expectations of our children’s hearts and then their behavior to be set on things that are actually right not just the things we think are good ideas.

A brief example – when Small One hits another child, I remove him from the situation (because we haven’t yet decided on a real disciplinary/correction method at the moment) and tell him that we don’t hit anyone because all people are made in God’s image and therefore they are to be treated with dignity and respect. This is not about what is socially acceptable, it’s not about being the most well-behaved baby in the sandbox, and it is not about making Mommy look good. Hitting another baby is wrong because it is an act of disrespect for God’s creation, and we are only to respect, love and honour what God creates.

If you’re still reading this (hello there!), you are wondering what this has to do with comparison. It doesn’t. So here’s my rough transition.

I try to write in a way that is accessible to as many people as possible, and in doing that I inevitably hold back some of my core beliefs, particularly with regard to my faith. I don’t like religious language, and I don’t like any writing style that is so specific to a tiny niche that it cannot be accessed by someone who exists outside of that culture. 

But I also am compelled to write what is true.

I realize as I look back on this month of writing about comparison that I have been looking at it as essentially a Very Bad Thing, the Thing That Holds Us Back From the Rest of Our Lives, No Way to Live, There is Much More for Us and on and on.

Comparison doesn’t just make our lives difficult or miserable, so that our incentive to change is to have a better life.

No. Comparison is wrong, and we do ourselves no favours to see it only as a “negative” pattern of living. It is much more than a negative pattern of living. It is a lifestyle adopted that is contrary to the Truth and contrary to the nature of God. And yes, by Truth, I mean God’s truth.

I’m writing daily in October as part of The Nester’s 31 Days challenge, check out my posts here, and head over to the Nesting Place for other great 31 Days topics. 

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