Wednesday, June 23, 2010

i always feel like somebody's watching me (part II of gin...)

My 4 year old is in that wonderful stage of development where she is obsessed with rules. I have read Piaget and I get it. She is at an integral and first stage of developing a functioning morality. She will move on to a time when she can be more nuanced, less black and white, less rigid; unless she ends up a Republican (relax Small Govt Steve-I kid!). But holy crap, is she ever hard to live with right now. Of course I can't say crap, that's a bad word, and I so don't want to get hauled in for questioning. She has instituted a preschool police state, a toddler-tarian regime.

 these two fellas are so heavily represented in my house that it reeks of pipe and cigar smoke
Socially this is often uncomfortable. Like when she sees a broken rule and shouts one her favorite admonishments: "OH NO! They are going to die!!", "UH-OH! I see a BAD CHOICE." or "That is NOT healthy." Do you know how many times a day we see someone smoking, not wearing a helmet or in high heels? I don't either, but it's a lot.

<<See high heels are bad for you! Don't believe a four year old? She has some serious creds, like running a functioning dictatorship. Fine, fine-see for yourself.. (chart from photobucket)

It is also inconvenient. Formerly when I indulged, swore, or cut corners I heard only my own inner voice. Now, I have the sweet, clear voice of Big Sister. Drink milk out the carton? Tell her dad what I really think about those pants from the army surplus store? Not on her watch!

Uncomfortable moments and inconveniences aside, it has been pretty powerful to have "the voice" externalized. When I decide something is important to me, I inadvertently become rigid, black and white, and even a little stunted. My farcically fascist daughter and writing this "gin and dys-tonic" series really illuminated that.

I hold myself accountable, believe in some hard and fast absolutes, live the examined life, and all that jazz. Those things are important to me; I don't expect them to change a great deal. But nobody wants to be watched all them time, even by their own selves. And nobody wants to listen to their inner hall monitor offer commentary on each and every move they make.
 So, I am beginning to see the wisdom in responses like: "It's okay every once in a while." and "That person may have a different rule."

<<If I play my cards right I can sometimes talk myself out of one these bad boys!!

When do you give your inner fascist the finger? Or do you operate laissez faire? Tell me all about your personal officials, elected and otherwise.


  1. Hmmm. My personal official is definitely myself. But wait til Jack reaches Anna's age, and then I'll get back to you. I'm probably not a good person to comment on this, because I think I could use some therapy in this department. I'm pretty hard on myself in my own head. But not regarding things like wearing high heels! She has you under a tight watch, doesn't she?

  2. Liam (almost 5) is doing this too- pointing out people not wearing helmets and smoking, which is very common and a little embarrassing! The other day he pointed out that daddy doesn't always drive w/2 hands...

  3. HA! It is a tight watch indeed! I can't wait for part where there is some transfer and the rules are also for her. So far most of the concern is for all the one handed drivers out there. She doesn't seem nearly as troubled when she "forgets" to tell me she is going to the backyard or grabs from her little sister. Just a little bit of self scrutiny is all I ask for!

  4. Isaac has made a few embarrassing comments in earshot of smokers too, but by-and-large... this kid has already embraced grace (now we just need to work his understanding of the "not everything is beneficial" part). He's not usually the tattle-tale sort (although you know as soon as I formally announce that, the chances of him tattling today went up exponentially), then again, it could be that he's rarely the tattler because he's usually the tattlee. This one keeps me on my toes. He knows the rules, but is already looking for the loopholes.

    The other day my neighbor told me he'd talked her son into cutting off the feathers of a dead bird. I dive in... "Isaac, tell me what you know about dead birds." He tells me they're yucky and germy and we shouldn't touch them. But he says HE didn't touch it, Jack did. And he reminds me that technically, there was no touching going on... the scissors did the dirty work. An answer for everything. Thankfully, he's usually honest to a fault, so I've still got that going for me. If he adds sneaky to his repertoire, I'm in trouble.

    As the mom who often gets tattled to (by his younger sibling and playmates... oh, and other parents), I'm still not sure how to handle this. I've heard the "work it out yourselves" response, which I somehow don't think would have appeased my neighbor. What do you guys usually do?

    I find it interesting how God laid down the law early with humankind... rules that are for our own good. But as humankind grew up, Jesus came on the scene and it became more about love and grace. I think this is a good example for us as parents. First we teach kids the rules, but as they mature, we can tell them it's not just about following the rules for the rule's sake. The rules exist because we love them and want what's best for them, and we hope they follow them, not because they're afraid of getting in trouble, but because they love us too and respect our scope (which is larger than theirs).

  5. Since my kid is the frequent "reporter" (I got a little ruffled by an adult calling her a "tattle-tale" last week-sounded sort of negative and Eddie Haskell-ish when I view it as totally developmentally normal) I can tell you that I generally expect the tatlee's parent to do very little or even just ignore her. I usually tell her that little Johnny's parents will take care of it or just to make sure she is following the rules. The only exception is when personal safety is involved in which case I tell her thank you for keeping little Johnny safe or herself safe. If it was a safety concern and the kid's parent told me they would speak to their kid about it and seemed appropriately concerned that is all I would need to be appeased. I HATE parenting "on the spot" and wouldn't expect someone to do that. And you could just tell your neighbor "you're welcome" for giving her that great opportunity to have that age old talk about if someone tells you to jump off a bridge yada yada. Very interesting to hear it from the other perspective!

    I concur with you about the rules and the why and the spirit of them. I totally get that my kid isn't there developmentally yet but I so look forward that stage! Then we can wax philosophic about oil spills and consumer responsibility instead of just taking a daily tally of perps and offenders!

  6. btw-"t.e." is me-guess I was signed in with my man's google info

  7. Tattle-tale *is* sort of an ugly "label"... no defamation intended! Recognizing infractions means kids have heard and understand what we're throwing down, so that's step one. Now we can only pray they choose to abide. :)

  8. I hope I didn't sound offended! I am so compulsively worried that I have weird or bad tone in print. Such a pitfall of online communicating-thank goodness for the emoticon! :) On another note, my big kid frequently doesn't abide. For someone so consumed with the rules she shows little concern for how they apply to her. I wonder if that is "normal" and that piece is down the road, or maybe I do have a real "Eddie Haskell" on my hands! Well, I guess she does abide some of them now that I think about it-I haven't caught her smoking in ages.


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