Sunday, May 22, 2016

Should we diss our Children’s Instincts in favour of Parental Judgement? (Practical Mondays #14)

I had registered my son for a weeks’ vacation Bible Study at church, although he wasn’t comfortable going to Sunday School and I was pretty sure he wouldn’t be comfortable with this either. I simply hoped “something” might have changed, perhaps the teacher, classroom, children or general vibe? It was like trying out a vegetable children don’t like,  but love after a coupla months!

But nothing had changed. It was the same classroom, same setting and my son *hated* it. He refused to stay there. I even waited outside for about 15 minutes to see whether he eventually gets comfortable but that was not the case. They were moving from the classroom to outdoors and he walked out howling loudly. 

But during those 15 minutes, while I was chatting with other mommies and volunteers outside, I was told that I *must* leave him and that if I “gave in”, he was “being the boss”. 

I simply laughed it off saying “oh you know, kids!!”

Was it anything to do with obeying or being the boss? I didn’t think so. We are taking about a kid who has loved going to school since he was 1.5 years old. If he completely refused to stay back in another classroom setting, there must’ve been some primal instinct screaming inside him to do so. There must be *something* that had put him off, even though it was a ‘safe’ environment from a parent’s point of view.

I made my apologies and took him back. When we were alone, I had a little chat with him before driving away. 

"Why didn’t you want to stay? Did you not like the children? Did you not like Ms XYZ? Do you not like Ms ABC? Do you not like the classroom?" Repeat. I wanted to know *what* was bugging him. I still couldn’t put a finger on it in spite of his answers, because although 4 year olds can talk, they can’t always express themselves well.

But just because I didn’t understand, didn’t mean I didn’t accept. 

It’s the same reason I didn’t force him to hug people when he was little. If he didn’t want to I would be ready with the exasperated “oh, Kids!!” expression which is a MUCH more suitable option than forcing him against his instinct. 

It takes me back to something that happened a few years back.

I had arrived in Pune (India) airport one night while travelling from work. I arrived around 11pm. It was late, but not very, from Pune or Mumbai standards. I took a cab from the airport to take me home. It wasn’t a government black & yellow or a blue one, but a private one. There wasn’t any prepayment required, and I hopped on. With my laptop bag, handbag and a small suitcase, all in the back seat with me.

This guy started driving and after about five minutes, he took the turn towards a secluded route instead of the regular one. This secluded route was a bit outside the city, which we resorted to during rush hours. Perfectly fine if driving in your own car or in a cab during “day” time. But at 11 pm, it would be empty & dark. Just a turn off the main road and no one would have a clue about your whereabouts.

NO WAY was I letting him take that route. I put my foot down and spoke up in local language: 

          “Take the regular route through the city, not this one”

          “No, I won’t, this *is* the regular route - and we are *supposed* to take this one only”

          “No you don’t need to take this one- this is in fact longer! And there isn’t any traffic to be avoided. So drive                  though the city. Please” I said firmly.

          “No, I will not”

This was in 2010 when I was completely empowered by Lisbeth Salander. i.e. I was in the midst of reading the most popular crime fiction of those days, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. She was a complete badass. No way was I going to let him drive me in that rape van!

I asked him to stop the cab. I wanted to get off.

          “No I won’t. I have been assigned the passenger, I will lose my money”

          “I don’t care. Stop the damn van!” I was screaming at him at this point.

So he came to a screeching halt. We weren't *yet* on that secluded route, and were pretty much on a well lit main road. But it was empty. 

I opened the door and pulled out with my stuff.

But he was pissed off. He hurled some abuses and caught hold of one of my bag straps.

Like I was going to let him take my bag! I pulled back!! Lisbeth Salander would’ve!! And got out. Safe and sound. While he drove off angrily.

All this happened within under a minute and I didn’t even have time to logically analyse or go through the situation in my head. It was simply instinct. I needed to get out. So I did what I had to, to get out. 

On the roadside, I spotted three slum women squatting around a fire. I walked up to be close to them and made a call to my father. I don’t think he even knew I was flying in that night but when he answered the call I told him to pick me up from this place. 

            “Why? Isn’t there any rickshaw around?”

          “Umm, no! The only life form I sense are of these three women squatting around the fire. Pretty sure they           aren’t going to drop me home!”

Although I was picked up within 20 minutes, my parents weren’t particularly alarmed when they were rudely awoken in the middle of the night by their daughter who was calling from the middle of nowhere. 

(They didn’t even have a horrified expression when I narrated the incident!)

After all, I used to travel a lot, to many weird places too and they had stopped asking my itinerary long ago. If I had no problems travelling to Bilaspur and Raigarh why would I have a problem in PUNE out of all places? Pune was a safe place. I had lived and gone to University there. I knew the city like the back of my hand. 

But there were several reported incidents of cab driver rapes in the city. Maybe this particular mouthy man was a regular jackass. But what if he *did* have bad intentions? 

Who knows what may have happened if I had ignored my gut and justified the situation?

Which is why I make it a point to give my son’s instinct the benefit of the doubt. It may be as simple as not wanting to hug someone, hang out with someone, or sit in a class. It may be something we as parents don’t understand or find extremely silly, but we shouldn’t diss the instinct. In fact we should encourage them to follow their instinct. 

Because you can lawyer the pros and cons of *any* side of an argument, but your instinct is always crystal clear on which side it is on!

(Unless of course, your toddler desperately wants to leave your hand and run into traffic or throws a tantrum because he *really* wants a lolly from that creepy weirdo!)

Feature worth a Peek from previous Practical Mondays!

The Barefoot Mommy 

Rebekah writes about activities that focus awareness on the present moment, immediate surroundings & our senses. 

For Example, Rainbow Breath: Sit cross-legged with your hands on your knees. Inhale, arch your back and look up. Exhale, round your back, and look down. Repeat 7 times, breathing each shade of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet!

Excellent for reducing stress, anxiety and especially helpful for children with autism & ADD/ADHD. 

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  1. We know our own kids better than anyone else. Considering the fact that he'd been completely fine in similar situations before, you absolutely did the right thing.

  2. Interesting post. food for thought....

  3. Here is what I have done in the past. When my daughter was uncomfortable going into Sunday School I stayed in the room with her the whole time. We did this for several months because it was important to me she went to Sunday School and I also didn't want to leave her crying. After a few months she was fine going in herself.

    1. I did that for 4 days when my son started school when he was 1.5 y.o, didn't have to do it when he switched schools (since we moved countries) although he was teary eyed! But seriously Marica, you have a lot of patience, I have none! I cant imagine hanging out with him in his classroom for a coupla months! that's a pretty long time!:)

      Thanks for stopping by !

  4. Good job of trusting your gut instinct with yourself, and also with your son. Thanks for hosting! Hope you have a wonderful week :)

  5. Awesome job trusting your instinct and your son's!

  6. I had a similar situation with a summer day camp last year. They pressured me into leaving, assuring me that they knew how to handle it and he would be just fine once I was gone. I knew better and hung around outside. Of course they brought him back out to me, sobbing. I feel so bad that I gave in to their condescending advice. The next day we tried again, but I stayed for most of the time. By the end of the week he was fine and I didn't have to stay. I now know that he has anxiety and new situation like that trigger a very real panic for him. We are working together to figure out how to navigate it.

    1. My son had separation anxiety for 2 years! He was literally glued to me for that long, but going to school wasn't an issue! I generally don't force him. Thanks for sharing:)

  7. I'll have to try a rainbow breath myself. Love it.

  8. Very much so. I think kids are entitled to their likes and dislikes as well and we should let the navigate those waters. Within reason of course, like you pointed out when something is going to be dangerous.

  9. I'm not sure what I'd have done in that situation. Obviously some things are non-optional and I guess that's something they need to learn. In the same breath though if it's not really non-optional and they hate it is it worth forcing? Tough one. Stuff what the other mums think, you know what's best for your tot.


    1. The only thing I *really* forced my kid to do was brush! I had to literally grab his hands and feet for those two mins for a year !

  10. I know, now that I had a touchy feely child, I don't even attempt picking up and hugging children I know most of them don't like it! Thanks Mrs G:)