Posts Tagged ‘Children’

Small Children Are Whole People -or- “What do you mean, ‘and a half’?!!!”

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A nearly-forgotten pet-peeve resurfaced for me the other night: It really bugs me when people talk about a baby as “half” a person!

This came up while my husband, son, and I were playing a family game. My son got a question about how many pets he would like to have. His answer was 5 1/2. Puzzled, I asked him about the “half” pet.

“Well, you know, like a little baby pet of some kind.”

And I think, or at least, I hope, I mustered a smile and an uncomfortable laugh before I gave my son my thoughts on the “half” verbiage.

I don’t think I would have thought quite so deeply about the “half a pet” explanation he gave me if, when he himself was a “little baby,” I hadn’t already thought quite a lot about how younglings are not “half” anything. When he was very young, I was keenly aware of how wholly there this tiny person was.

Back then, I always felt indignant when staff at restaurants would observe that we had “two and a half” in our party. Inside I was thinking, “What do you mean, ‘and a half’?!!!” My baby being only a fraction the size of a mature human did not mean he was only a fraction of a person!

I worked at being gracious when people referred to my son as “a half.” I didn’t want to be unkind, but I felt like I needed to say something. Quite often I used a little humor to make my point and would playfully mention that we think of him as a whole person.

On a strictly practical level, I can tell you that keeping up with the demands of an infant is no small undertaking! When sleep is scarce, showers get further apart, and conversation becomes increasingly child-related, it is clear that this small person is all there, all the time.

But on a deeper level, I’m big on the sacredness of life and part of that means that I honor and treasure the lives of even very young humans. Treating kids as whole people, respecting them as beings all their own, is really important to me.

I know that my son didn’t mean any harm by talk of half a pet, and restaurant staff don’t intend disrespect by referring to a babe in arms as “and a half.”

But how we talk about this matters. The words we use hold meaning.

It matters if we verbally discount another person (or pet, or any other living being). Even if that person is very tiny, that person is worthy of our full respect.

In fact, I would go further to say that especially if another person is tiny, or vulnerable in any way, the onus is on us to make sure that we honor the agency and dignity of that one.

So, I tried to explain some of this to my son. And I tried to do it light-heartedly enough, because it was game night, after all. I didn’t want to make it too heavy, but I do hope it gave my son something to think about.

If nothing else, my son got to hear about how his mom defended his honor when he was too young to do it himself. And I think, or at least, I hope, that matters.

It’s All Right for Mommy to Cry

We went to see a family movie* in the theater on Monday. My son had already seen it with his grandparents when he visited them in Ohio, so he knew enough to warn me that I might cry.

He feels uncomfortable when I cry around him, but I’m trying to figure out how to let him know that it’s just part of who I am.

He was right, of course. I cried at a couple of different dramatic points in the first 2/3 of the film, and then could not keep my eyes dry for the last 1/3. It was a really good show.

I just cry sometimes. Not all the time. Just whenever my heart can’t hold my present emotions all at once.

It could be in a movie–yes, even an animated family film. It might be during church–although I’m equally as likely to laugh out loud there as I am to sob.

I sometimes let tears flow about frustrations in day-to-day life, work, or relationships.

I might break down understandably because of trauma–you know, like that time when the Wi-Fi router blew up? Other times I cry for what seems like no logical reason whatsoever.

It may not be every day. There may even be weeks at a time that go by without a good cry.

But these tears of mine just sometimes gush out as my heart bursts forth with whatever it can no longer contain.

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But my son, he doesn’t like it one bit. He’d really rather I not do it.

At first I thought he was embarrassed by it. So I asked him.

“That’s not it, mommy,” he explained. “I just don’t like to see you upset.”

“So you’re worried about me?”

“Yeah.”

But for being worried about me he can be pretty obnoxious.

Sometimes he glares at me–he has even mastered the preemptive glare in which he tries to lock eyes with me if he even suspects I might cry as if to say, “Don’t even think about it.”

Other times, when he doesn’t notice until I am actually teary-eyed, he’ll nudge me with a “Hey, cut it out! I don’t want to see that!” jab.

Then there are times when he sees me crying while I’m talking to my husband about a problem and he’ll overhear a bit and want to be my little “fixer.” He’ll pop over and give me some seriously oversimplified solution to some really complex situation that’s weighing on me.

Most of the time, in one way or another, he’s essentially telling me it’s not okay, that I shouldn’t cry.

For that reason, my favorite response of his to my tears is when he sweetly brings me a stuffed animal, “for love comfort.” I like these times best of all because it gives me some hope that he’ll let it be what it is and not try to shut me down or fix me.

I know it’s a pretty sophisticated idea for a 10-year-old kid to take in–that’s okay that his mom cries sometimes. But I do hope he’ll come to terms with it.

Because it just is.

I think crying is like singing, writing, doodling, and speaking for me. It’s all related to the idea that I need to express what’s in me. It has to come out somehow. Even the very most important thoughts and feelings aren’t fully real to me if I don’t have some way to let them out.

And while I never want to burden my son with problems too big for his little ears and his little heart to deal with, there are just gonna be these times when I get a bit weepy. And I don’t need to be fixed or quieted, I need to pour out my heart.

He doesn’t have to watch.

But we’ll both get along better when he learns that it’s all right–probably even good–for mommy to cry.

 

*The movie we saw on Monday was How to Train Your Dragon 2

Pros & Cons of Homeschooling

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A ministry colleague asked me to identify pros and cons of homeschooling. I made a list and published it at Life & Liberty: http://www.davidhousholder.com/homeschooling-pros-cons-tinker/ Click the link to see that post.

On Control Issues & Parenting…

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My son will hit double digits next month. These nearly-10 years since his birth have flown by. And all-of-a-suddenly he’s got his own ideas about this young life of his.

We were playing out in the farm field the other day and he asked me whether I was going to stop him from doing something. And I reflected on the reality that it has been a long time since I actually could physically stop him from doing something I was concerned about.

I mean, if a child of 3 darts toward the street, he’s easily caught, picked up and taken to safety. But a child of 9 11/12…

For more of my musings about how I’m dealing with my son’s growing autonomy, click the photo above to go to Life & Liberty to read the rest of this essay, When Kids (and Others) Can’t Be Controlled.