adventureswiththepooh

An honest take on life and parenthood

Born on Third Base

on December 10, 2013

The Pooh has so much – in every dimension. Like any parent, I want to give her a beginning that was better than mine.

When I look at her life, her privilege awes me. Her childhood looks completely different from my own.

She is secure in a life of plenty – plenty of love, attention, intellectual stimulation, food, toys, clothes, you name it. She lives in a peaceful, warm cocoon where she experiences none of the chronic stress or unhappiness that so many children endure constantly.

She is a cherished child, and reminded of it daily in myriad ways.

But far more than the material things we give her, I am more intentional about the social and emotional aspects of her upbringing. I allow her to voice her opinions and preferences, and to suffer or enjoy the consequences of her actions. I also allow her to ask questions and challenge decisions, because I want her to think for herself.

She doesn’t always get her way, but I work to listen to her and honor her wishes when it is reasonable. Even when she gets in trouble, I let her tell me her side of the story, although it usually doesn’t change the punishment.

I want her to know that she can always talk to me, and it is safe to disagree, even with her beloved Mommy.

This approach creates considerably more work and occasional frustration for me as a parent, but I am cognizant of what I am doing and why. I’m willing to pay it forward because I believe it is critical to her development.

Instilling people pleasing behaviors and imposing compliance and unconditional obedience in children may make them more manageable when they are small, but this conditioning is devilishly hard to break and exacts a heavy toll later in life, particularly for women. It certainly did for me.

In short, I would rather raise a firecracker than a doormat.

doormat

So far, the result is a highly communicative and confident little girl, who trusts those around her. Since she has not experienced humiliation and ridicule from the people closest to her, she is uninhibited and exuberant. When she sings and dances, she lets loose with comical abandon, something I wish I could do.

Every once in a while, she wraps her little arms around herself in a hug and says, “Mommy, I love myself.” As someone who has struggled with self-love and self-esteem for much of her life, I spill over with happiness when she tells me, and allow myself a modest pat on the back. I also say a small prayer, hoping her self-love will endure.

But I can’t help but worry that all of this abundance could backfire and hold her back in a different way. A privileged upbringing brings its own challenges.

How do I teach her the difference between assertiveness and selfishness?

How can I teach her to appreciate her blessings and not become complacent and entitled?

How can I teach her to use her privilege for good?

How can I teach her empathy?

How can I make sure she does not grow up in a bubble?

And as I go down this rabbit hole of thoughts, my old hangups and fears suddenly bite me.

My stomach clenches as I suddenly wonder: could she possibly become a mean girl?

Will she make fun of the girl with bad hair and drab clothes, who just doesn’t quite fit in?

Yes, you guessed it. I am afraid of her making fun of the little girl who was just like me.

I was that nerd kid with long, frizzy hair and thick glasses, with high water pants and the cheap velour sweater. A submissive follower, I was willing to go along and do anything to keep the peace, even if it meant I became the butt of jokes or the target of a bully.

Nerd girl

I would have traded my good grades and Toughskins for a pair of Jordache jeans and cool girl status in a heartbeat. Needless to say, I never got there.

Now, I know it’s not an equivalent situation. I grew up in a working class town and if there were privileged kids around, their parents sent them to private school. I never knew those kids – I only knew the so-called cool kids at my small public school. Still, privilege was viewed with suspicion and envy.

Now that my husband and I have the benefit of being able to raise the Pooh with unconditional love, stability, and resources, I am not always sure how to navigate this unknown land where people send their kids to private schools and ballet, where I have the luxury (and it is an incredible luxury) of being home for her and not having to work for a paycheck right now.

Stepping back for a moment, I am probably wasting my worry. I can’t predict the future, any more than I can read the Pooh’s monkey mind. (Though what an entertaining circus it must be).

The silly, paranoid scenario I imagined with the Pooh as a mean girl is just that – my imagination, and my hang ups around privilege. Not hers.

Once again, I’m reminded that parenthood forces us to confront our own demons, and think consciously about how to deal with them before they affect our kids.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to let my nerd flag fly. Where did I put my thick glasses and comfy brown oxfords?

Nerd doormat

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One response to “Born on Third Base

  1. jgroeber says:

    Lovely. And such an important thing to reflect on. I generally feel like I need to force compliance on most days (four kids in three years will do that to any household… too many chances to kill oneself or each other without a fair amount of 1-2-3 Timeout) but in their dress, artwork, book choices at the library and so on, it’s been amazing allowing them the chance to be individuals. We’ll see who becomes the mean girl picking on the dorky girl with glasses and cheap, hand-me-down jeans (in this case, I describe me!)… but I do have my suspicions.

    Like

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