Doing Things Once…or Twice…or Forever

I’m a big proponent of letting your children injure themselves.  Wait…that didn’t come out quite right.  What I mean is that when my kids are doing something stupid that could get them hurt, I think sometimes it’s better to let them get hurt and learn a lesson rather then continually telling them to stop doing whatever it is.  This doesn’t apply to things in which mortal injury could befall them–I’m not letting them learn how to cross a street by dropping them in the middle of Speer Boulevard or anything, but for minor infractions it works well.  The central flaw in this amazing parenting technique that I am now sharing with you is that four-year olds have notoriously short memories.

For example, the other night at dinner, the boy was playing around while sitting on his chair and barely sitting on the front corner of it.  I was sick to death of telling him to sit properly, and just waited to see what would happen. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the boy and the chair go flying in opposite directions.  His plate careened across the table and conveniently landed onto the high chair tray without breaking.  The boy lay prostrate on the hardwood floor, crying.  Eric and I just waited in our chairs for him to get up.

When he finally did, blood was dribbling from his lip and we sort of panicked, scared that he had bitten through his lip.  As it turned out, he hadn’t quite made it that far but it was still a pretty bad cut.

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We got him an ice pack and some ibuprofen, and that made things better.  Of course, at that point the only thing he could eat was ice cream, so ice cream for dinner it was.  While eating his ice cream, the boy slid to the corner of the chair and sat in the EXACT SAME POSITION he was when he first fell.  At this point, I now have an injured child who is rewarded for his actions by getting “I-bee-profen” (which he loves) AND ice cream AND is still engaging in the action that all of this was supposed to prevent!  Yet again, the scoreboard reads: Parents 0, Child 1.

Stay tuned for other innovative parenting techniques and my successes with them.

Girly Girls and Boy-ey Boys

I wasn’t sure when gender identity is established in kids, but I’d thought it happens pretty young. Turns out that the initial establishment of gender identity happens at 18 to 30 months! While it takes a few more years to fully mature, I was surprised to learn that it begins that early.  I wonder how much of that has to do with how we treat and dress boys and girls differently, even from birth.  I always thought that I could just dress the girl in the boy’s hand-me-downs, and while the overall effect is adorable, you realize exactly how gendered kids’ clothing is from the get-go. Here’s a pic from a recent weekend day. Eric thought she looked like Jeff Tweedy dressed this way. (Of course, Eric sees Jeff Tweedy in everything, in the same way that religious fanatics find images of Jesus in toothpaste splatter.)

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Before I had kids, I assured myself that I would raise children in a open fashion, without making a boy do only “boy things” and vice-versa.  Some of this is ingrained in society and impossible to escape. Look closely at toy advertising–it is rare to see a typically gendered toy (such as a doll) being played with by a boy, or a Lego X-Wing fighter set played with by a girl.  There has been some progress, in that I’ve seen toy kitchens advertised with boys and…well…that’s all I can really come up with.  Disney is not about to use boys to market its “Princess” line.

Still, I think that it is generally more accepted now for girls to do things that have traditionally been the realm of boys, such as sports, whereas it is frowned upon for boys to engage in girl activities, like ballet.  It is interesting that the circle of possibilities has expanded for girls whereas it remains relatively narrow for boys.  Some of this can probably be attributed to feminism and its effects (Girl Power!) and some of it can likely be explained by homophobia.  For instance, the boy is into many things that are  “girly,” like wearing glittery barrettes.  I cannot tell you how many people have told me, only half-jokingly, that I should be “worried” about my son, as if having a gay child would be something dreadful.

For the boy’s birthday, I bought him a dollhouse as he had been asking for.  I found a good deal on a nice wooden house with matching furniture and proudly gave it to him on his birthday.

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He took one sad, disappointed look at me.  I thought he was going to tell me that he didn’t want it because it was for girls.

Instead, he wailed, “But Mommy! It’s not pretty enough!!”

That’s my boy.