Friday, May 8, 2009

book quote

Raising a child is easily the most maddening thing I've ever done. It is, of course, also the most rewarding thing I've ever done. The latter gets a lot of attention - frozen in time and assembled neatly in picture albums, scrapbooks, family stories - while the former, nearly as significant in the big, day-to-day scheme of things, is the subject of only ominous public service announcements and scolding looks from strangers, your parents, and your mate. Everybody gets mad at their kids; nobody likes to talk about it.
Here's what I've found that sets me off: disobedience, lying, and rudeness. Each is a form of the previous, building and adding nuance, and each can drive me completely start-raving bonkers.
I think the lying bothers me so much not because they're trying to get away with anything - though the sneaky little bastards certainly are - but because I see my own weaknesses and failures in it. Lying is about not having the confidence to defend what you've done. Lying is about weaseling out of the consequences of your actions. I was a liar because it seemed easier. I get angry at my kids for lying now because I know it's not.
If disobedience is maddening because it's active and open defiance, and lying is maddening because it's sneaky and covert dismissal, then rudeness is maddening because it's thoughtless and self-satisfied arrogance.
Written down, it seems a small thing, to be polite. But the implications are perhaps more important than anything else I can teach them. On a larger scale, rudeness is a fundamental disregard for the fact that there are other people in the world, and they may have some claim on whatever it is you happen to want at the moment - everything is not exclusively about you.

-excerpted from Peas and Domestic Tranquility by Greg Knauss, who has three young sons between the ages of six and ten.
This is taken from a book of essays about fathers, which I cannot really recommend because it's marginal at best. Still, many of the points of this father's essay resonated with me, not because he wrote from a Christian perspective (he didn't) or because he was wry and funny (he was), but because those same things are maddening to me as well, especially the rudeness. I think the difference between he and I is that, while I will get upset at these traits in my own son, getting mad AT him isn't much of an option. I can dislike his behavior intensely, and there will be consequences for the disobedient behavior, but I'm rarely ever actually angry with little Blake. He can drive me nuts, but the delight that I find in him truly does cover a multitude of parenting sins.

To that end, we're trying a softer, gentler, and not TOO cynical new tack in this, our fourth or fifth try at potty-training. I have low expectations but high hopes.

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