Santa’s watching….

I bet he trained the NSA on techniques….

We did the Santa video with our kids last week, and I put in parameters for our younger kid to be “on the fence” of naughty/nice. Our older one as well, since I knew doing otherwise would blow up in my face like an overfertilized watermelon. But child the younger was so distraught and worked up over it. Panic ensued, and we had to talk him down off the ledge, because I could see the temptation to just say, “Screw it, I’m goin’ down in flames!!!” written all over his tongue. Actually, he may have truly said something to that effect.

Instead, we promised to check back in, and went over a list of stuff he could work on. His teacher last year did that on a monthly basis – let each kid pick something to work on, like handwriting, patience, raising hand before talking – and they’d get a reward if they managed to do it the whole month. Think about it – that’s about 20 days – the period experts claim it takes for new habits to get established. Pretty smart, that teacher.

I’m not that smart. I keep forgetting that there is a way to establish new routes and to extract the bad. Otherwise, I would have “called” on Santa a month ago. But maybe we’ll try that heading into the new year. Younger the kid is a very persistent and passionate child – note that I’m trying to use the positive outlook on those traits (we all know what their negatives look like). But I keep at him, trying to shape and polish him, as I tell him in the words of Louis CK, “I’m not raising you to be a kid the rest of your life.” It’s true.

We don’t want to have them grow up to behave as they do when they are 2, 6, or 13. We pound them into molds of our shaping to form them into adults. We screw up along the way, as do they, but the determination is to see them be happy, successful in whatever shape that takes, and to have a sense of doing right, as opposed to wrong. One need only watch a handful of episodes of Intervention to see what can go so horribly wrong. It isn’t a mistake that half the families involved end up doing some kind of therapy/rehab so that they can STOP the destructive patterns.

But let’s face it. Parenting is terrifying. You can do all the best things for your kid, and he’ll still grow up into whatever kind of person he is determined to be. You can be neglectful and hateful and produce a caring prodigy (though it’s obviously not the majority of the outcome for those cases). You can lavish attention and find your child moving across the planet to get away from you. It’s hard. Really hard.

But I’ll tell you what not to do, because I’ve seen it, and it’s ugly

– humiliate your kid in front of others, even family

– fail to respect that there is a sentient human brain in that small head that is fully capable of judging you and your actions

– fail to respect your child, period

– be completely erratic in behavior and discipline

– not tell your child that you love him/her

Just plain ugly. Had a massive example of that whole thing play out in front of us this weekend, and I’m still having trouble with it.

On the other end of parenting, I’m reading Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan – and I really admire her parents who, divorced and not precisely on speaking terms, managed to cobble together a truce in order to fight for their daughter’s life. In addition to that, there’s a textbook-style volume waiting for me to pierce the mysteries of Rapid Prompting Method , in order to see whether I can make sense of it and start to help my son get another handle on a way to communicate to us. It feels like I’m waiting for a semester to start with that one, but there’s no prof, just online forums. We can’t swing the course yet, so I’m hoping that the book will click and make sense….

Anyone have any big reading plans or projects for the holiday break?

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