Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finding My Tools

Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


I know that most people feel with your first child you are overly protective and with subsequent children you have a more "realistic" or relaxed position on safety and cleanliness. I'm not sure if it is just me but I don't feel the need to sanitize everything he touches or to worry that the house has its own herd of dust-bunnies roaming freely across my wood floors. My feeling is if I can touch it and not feel grossed out then he can too. Besides there is that old saying 'a little dirt, never hurt.'

My poor friend's cats have been quarantined to the upper part of her apartment because her son, only 5 weeks older then Little Man, was eating the hair. In contrast Little Man regularly gives open mouth kisses to our pugs and cats. To those of you that are freaking out a bit about that statement our cats are indoor only animals and the pugs go out to do their business and hightail it back inside to the comfort of the couch as soon as possible.

I wouldn't say our house is filthy but neither myself or Hubby have time to run around picking up every little piece of fluff, dust or speck of dirt in our home. So Sundays are my usual big clean up day and the rest of the week if it isn't a hazardous waste spill, I usually leave it until later.

So what has been the point of my airing of our "dirty laundry" cleaning practices? Which, reminds me I have to turn the wash over. I picked up Little Man from daycare and found him with hands in the diaper pail while, his teacher told me emphatically how he showed them his new trick, walking unassisted. All I wanted to say was "EWW, how could you let my baby get into the diaper pail!?" Instead I said, "Yucky Little Man, stay out of the garbage." Why did I scold my child, he though that the swinging lid was exciting and I feel a pang of guilt about my reaction. I let him explore and don't worry that much about what he touches at home and I probably never taught him that the garbage is not something to go sticking your hands in, so he didn't know any better.

I have a lot of these moments, not Little Man doing something cringe-worthy, but discovering that I don't always have the right tool at the exact moment that I need it. I'm taking this time to practice admitting that I don't always have the right answer with my child. At 10 months he probably doesn't understand what I'm trying to tell him about how I'm sorry that I overreacted yesterday or that I should have let him do this or that 20 minutes ago. But, I am learning to check my gut reaction for the next time or the art of the apology and discussion of decisions, for the future when he does understand more.

This new skill is actually helping me in my work as a high school teacher. I used to hate it when my mother would tell me something and when I asked why she would say,"Because I said so." Even though I hated it, I always ended up doing what she asked because she was my mom and what she said went. When I first started teaching I found myself saying that phrase when my students questioned the school rules or my decisions. It is a nifty little phrase that shows you have authority and you don't necessarily have to explain your reasons why. A lot of the time I thought that the students shouldn't ask what the reasons were.

Now that I have Little Man I question this because if I can't answer why for myself it is foolish for anyone to blindly follow a direction or rule if they don't understand the reason for that decision. Just because something has always been done a certain way does not mean that is the only way of going about it and that no one should ask why we do it that way. Questioning is why and how we have so many advances and conveniences in our society today. Since I've had this change of heart about how much I share of my reasons or what the reason is behind my decisions my classroom has been much smoother in its operation.

Just telling Little Man to keep his hands out of the garbage and expecting him to listen because I said to keep them out does not help him to understand why it is important to keep his hands out. So if I had that scene at the daycare to do all over again here is what I would have liked to tell Little Man. "Little Man, the garbage is for all the dirty things in this world that we no longer want and shouldn't touch. You are the best little boy in the world and no one should ever put you in the trash. So please keep your hands out- that way no one gets confused between you and the garbage." Here's hoping that I handle things with him in a more enlightened way and that I am always open to the discussion and if necessary, the apology in the future.

Update:The next day I went to daycare and was told he had been in the garbage three times that day. I told him exactly what I had rehearsed in this post. The following day his teacher reported that he didn't go near the garbage once.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)

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  1. thanks for sharing such an honest post. I believe we are ALL learning all of the time, but what makes it special is when we realise we could do things better. I'm still learning and my daughter is 9, but there's nothing a sincere apology won't put right ;)

  2. Good for you for applying gentle, respectful communication with your students! The world needs more teachers like you. That being said, if I saw my child's hands in a diaper pail with poop from who knows how many kids in there, I would have done the same exact thing. {shudder}

  3. It is quite a process, learning how to be a parent, isn't it? I'm glad you're being forgiving and gentle with yourself on this journey. Sounds like you're doing an amazing job with your little one! =)

  4. I love your rethinking of the "because I said so" phrase. It always used to annoy me as a kid, and rightly so, I think! I will be right there with you in admitting our home is not pristine, and I think it's fine that our son's growing up with some dirt in his life. :) However, I'd have been grossed out by the diaper pail thing, too! I love your idea of explaining it more to him, though, rather than expecting him not to question.

  5. I'm also a teacher and I've learned so much about how to interact with people from this job. The "because I said so" is about power struggle and it took me a few years of teaching to realize to stay away from the power struggle. It's not about authority and being right, it's about helping the students reach their potential by engaging them in critical thinking...I could go on and on. I also brought up my teaching on my post for this carnival.

    I want to raise my children to question things in life, not blindly follow. I'd also like to help my students with that. It sounds like you are doing just that. Good job! tee hee - a phrase I avoid but I just had to say it :)

  6. Oh if the dusty bunnies could talk in this house, haha!

    "Because I said so" is the dreaded phrase I heard oh so much through my childhood and it's one of those that I really need to be mindful with. But, being mindful of your reflex phrases seems like the best thing you can do. I think you were right on with how you explained it to him but I probably would have been grossed out, too.

  7. I loved this post! I, too, have found myself doing plenty of do-overs as I rethink the standard responses from my own childhood. And I have also found that GD principles work everywhere, including the classroom. :)


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