Thursday, August 11, 2011

Public Parenting


This weekend we had an hour long meeting...with no child care provided. Jude was wild. He walked the aisles. He ate a green apple, and spit out the skin. He talked loudly. And when he was corrected for pulling the AV cords or hugging strangers' legs, he threw fits. Basically, he was his one year old self.

He's not a quiet one year old.

It seemed like everyone else's kid was sitting mutely in their parent's lap. They didn't throw fits or spit apple. They just sat and listened.

Is Jude supposed to sit and listen at this age?

I'm finding that living in such close quarters definitely makes parenting feel like a more public affair. I was embarrassed. And when that girl with no kids turned her head to look when Jude let out a little noise, I wanted to tell her to turn around. Suddenly, I pictured myself pre-parenthood, with my neck stretched out on a Sunday morning when some child was breaking my concentration. This is payback time for all that judgement I poured out in those years. All those times I thought "I'll never let my kid act like that." And trust me, I've thought it plenty. I think I'll be eating my own judgement for about 18 years now.

Consider this my inaugural lament over judging other parents.

12 comments:

Anna Pearson said...

Glad to know I'm not alone. I have a "spirited" child as well who never just quietly sits in my lap. I love her giant personality, but it does make times like these difficult. I just keep telling myself, I'd rather have these humiliating times than a docile child with no personality :) God gave me exactly what I needed though in a wild child. It's a huge dose of humility that I needed. I thought I'd have ALL the answers. What a joke.

Essenpreis Fam said...

Naomi seems to always be "that child". Parenting a strong willed child is much harder than I could have imagined. But I agree with Anna, I love having a daughter with a lot of personality who communicates and is developmentally advanced. It's definitely a lesson in patience for me and trying to be consistent while also not letting every little thing worry me. Parenting shows us how much we need the grace of God!

Lee said...

having a strong will is just a translation of a sin nature. actually elisabeth elliot always said that a strong will is a will that can deny itself.. a child is very good at acting on his will, but not at bending his will. Jesus was great at it. "Not my will, but Thine. .. " Having a sinful child is just part of the deal, even if a child's personality is more compliant. these tantrums are sin matters, not intellect issues.

my child went through a compliant phase for the first several months of his life. he has always been observant. around age 2 that compliance wasn't as dominant and the tantrums got more common. he embraced a level of independence h hadn't seen before. often times the worst tantrums happened at home, but the outbursts that happened in public were especially awkward. and now at age 3, we have come a long way and things don't seem to be in a constant state of discipline. i never associated tantrums or strong wills with developmental advancement and i don't associate a more compliant personality with being boring or developmentally delayed. i just know kids are born sinfully and we are there to shepherd their hearts. their creative minds will manifest themselves in different ways. the focus isn't ultimately getting them to be well-behaved.. . .these are just my opinions though.

Katharine said...

You will have many many more moments like this, but you just have to plug along and try and see the big picture. I think the situation is totally normal. Don't underestimate what he can understand, though - explain exactly what you want from him over and over.

I think 9 months was the first time I saw Lily as a little sinner, but what surprised me the most was that the whole situation revealed a lot more about my heart than hers. I like people to think I have it together and can handle it all. I try to see these moments (and they are many) as God's grace to me - to change my heart so that I can better reach my children's hearts.

Any parent in the room will see what you are going through usually have the utmost sympathy. . .

Katharine said...

edit - Not to say that he was necessarily being a "sinner" in doing little baby things but the line is always fine and nuanced :)

Lee said...

i guess i need to edit, too in hopes of not being misunderstood (this is great topic, Laura, by the way!) sorry to be so wordy. . .

1. I wanted to add that of course I could see how being a sharp minded kid could go hand in hand with being more stubborn and/or spirited. i was just saying i don't really connect the two.

2. some of the things you mentioned (like hugging the stranger's leg or spitting out the apple) don't seem strange at all and I wasn't trying to say they were sins or anything, just that I do view my child overall as a heart with a bent towards sin and doing thing his own way. that is not to say that childishness should not on some level be tolerated and even appreciated. that's just who he is right now. a boy! but if he was corrected and threw a fit, I would see that as room to shepherd his heart.

4. i try not to feel embarrassed. I'm very surprised because I thought I would since I do sense everyone staring when an outburst ensues. If my child throws a tantrum in a store because I've said "no," I take him to a private place (if I can) and I discipline. What I will not do is just say yes in order to appease him and keep from being embarrassed. And that's what I meant by my goal is not ultimately to get him well-behaved. That would probably be easier than shepherding his heart though.

In Definition said...

thanks for all the dialogue girls! love it. sorry i'm just now joining in.

i think at this stage what i'm struggling to find the line between is childishness and sin that needs to be disciplined. should a one year old be able to sit still for a prolonged period of time? is that something i should have mastered with him at this point?

the reality is, when i do correct Jude...often times he obeys. and when he doesn't...it is then that he throws a fit. so, when i am really being a "good" parent he makes the most noise...draws the most attention...makes me feel as though the most people are looking at me wondering what kind of mom i am with that screamin' one year old.

thanks for the discussion! wish you girls were here to give me tips!

Lee said...

I think some one year olds can sit still like that, but I think they probably get a lot of opportunities to learn to do so. You can practice at home, too. I know people who have =) Some people keep their kids in church with them from a very young age, too. BUt if jude is not used to sitting still for a long period and all the sudden he is thrown into that context, I think that's totally normal he would have a tough time with it. as for how to handle the times when he needs to be quiet, but would rather spit apples. . .no advice there. I would have to be his mom to figure that one out =)

Katharine said...

Lily could definitely sit awhile at one but Susu still can't at almost two. Really different people. I think if you explain or correct and they listen even if it is just for two minutes then they did what they could...I have to constantly be whispering instructions or things to focus on for Susu.

Good point about when you are doing your part that doesn't necessarily mean your child will be quiet. Wonder what social norms are in South Asia.

Lee said...

the "i'm doing my part but results aren't happening" is one of the hardest parts about parenting to me! granted, there are days i'm not doing my part. but when I AM and it doesn't "work" it feels especially frustrating.

Lee said...

i remember robin s. saying she doesnt put her kids in the church nursery but trains them all to st with her. maybe she will have some thoughts for u

Robin W. Stevens said...

I just read this!! I am catching up on all the blogs I missed reading while I was on vacation. I have found lap training to be so very valuable on more than one occasion. You just never know when it will come in handy. That being said, asking a 1 year old to sit quietly in your lap for an hour is a big request, especially if he is not used to doing so. But, he could be taught to do it, you'd just have to work with him. One thing I hate to hear parents say (myself included) is, "Oh, he won't do a, b, or c" or "We just can't get her to..." Nonsense. You are the parent and your child needs to learn it. So if you decide that your child needs to sit in your lap quietly for a bit, he must learn to submit to that decision. Of course, you have to balance that demand with grace, patience and gentleness, but that doesn't mean your child doesn't have to obey you. (And by "you" I am talking of the collective, general "you", not Laura Dawkins, "you".) It means you need to give him opportunities to obey you all throughout the day. It means you stay close to her and if she doesn't follow through with what you ask her to do, you keep at it till she does. So at this meeting you attended, you absolutely did the best you could and shame on anyone who judged your parenting. But if you have another one in a month and think maybe you'd like to have Jude sit in your lap a bit, then you need to be working with him now, every day, a little at a time. Put on a sermon tape and sit on the couch with him in your lap. If he squirms to get down, firmly put him back and tell him to sit still. He will fight back, but that's ok. You're older and bigger and stronger. Just keep putting him back until he doesn't fight you for 2-3 minutes. Then be done for now. Try it again either later that day or maybe the next day. Require him to sit for 2-3 minutes at first, then longer. I promise if you keep at it faithfully, he'll learn to sit 20 minutes or more. Don't do this training with a book or snacks in hand. Save those for after he learns to sit. Now, maybe you and David decide Jude doesn't need to learn this. That's fine; you're the parents. Next time come armed with quiet toys, snacks that don't have peels :), and maybe a stroller to push him around in the back of the room. This wiggly time will pass and before you know it, Jude will be a big boy sitting in his own chair, coloring and taking notes on his bulletin! Hugs to you, friend!