According to a recently study, 2-3% adults don’t remember being told off by their parents. Ever?!? Wow... How did their parents to it? Might it be amnesia? Are they possibly lying?
I remember being told off vividly. Many times. Throughout my childhood. For all sorts of reasons. In a similar vein, both my parents would correct me and my siblings – endlessly, indefatigably. They are both teachers. I correct Digger (and my husband!), more often than I tell off. Though admittedly they are uncomfortable bedfellows. This is my Achilles heel: I channel my parents’ speedy corrections and verbal disciplining onto my son’s steep learning curve in life. My parents weren’t bad – they are just perfectionists.
Outch... Perfectionist. That hurt. I am, by profession of choice and dreams, a perfectionist. Now I must make sure that doesn’t spill over into Digger’s upbringing in an unconstructive manner. I am not proud to admit this, but if for instance I see him struggling with something, I might just remove the tiresome object from his frustrated little hands, then proceed to fix it/open it/close it or whatever it may need – and then hand it back to his stunned self. I’m trying to be helpful, and truth be told, trying to speed things up to my own adult tempo. But of course doing so is unhelpful, and rather patronising. For my son’s sake, I should work at slowing down to toddler tempo, and de-learn these kneejerk tendencies, verbal or not. Train my patience, and live his pride with him, when he masters new skills.
So I bite my own tongue, and hold my busy fingers back when they want to help him, before he has asked for help. Because it is so powerful for him to ask for help when he needs it. And then I am there like a flash of course. I also try to resist ‘breaking out into education’, as someone recently so poignantly described something I imagine many will recognise. Because the connection between us is often lost when I do. Musings about physics can seem irrelevant and demeaning when Digger builds structurally insane towers out of Duplo. When I manage to hold back, I can honestly say, I have been surprised at just how many awkward constructions do seem to hold up. Against all odds. Whose odds? you might ask. Well, yes … quite… But I wonder whether I am the only mother who finds it difficult not to interrupt in these ways.
These 2-3%, who can’t remember being told off, stick in my mind. I imagine them as calm and compassionate adults, who are also gentle and respectful in the disciplining of their own children. Who find telling off more uncomfortable that people who have experience it a lot. Adults or children alike.
I imagine a world where it was normal to be kind and respectful. Where it was unusual to shout at or shame each other. At home, in nursery, in school, at work. Unlike the ones so many of our children come from. I dream that 90%+ of all of us couldn’t recall a single episode of verbal abuse. Because it didn’t happen. What powerful a world that would be.
The 2-3% has as given me a new aim, one that I am sadly unlikely to reach, but will aim for nonetheless. I’ll begin my own trajectory towards Digger being one of those 2-3%, and that means starting with myself. Wish me luck!
Meanwhile I work at letting Digger finish any job that he has even the faintest chance of mastering himself. It takes time. A lot of time. But I tell myself that it is actually the quicker way. It is certainly more respectful.
If I can, and he wants me to, I am there with him. Sitting or standing right by him. We gravitate towards each other. Our focus is his work, with the Duplo, the vacuum cleaner, the cucumber he is cutting up or whatever else has grabbed his attention. I am close enough to stroke his hair and occasionally kiss him. The world slows down and quiets down around us. Topping up on such closeness makes me a calmer, and happier parent. To a calmer and happier toddler.