Thursday, March 15, 2012

Things We Say To A Child

by Dick Mac

I bring to my child-rearing skills all the love and fear and mania and phobia and talent and success that I have accumulated over the years and that I received during my child-rearing.

I have always been insecure about my child-rearing skills. I've only had one child, and I started late in life. In some ways I think it was wise (even if I didn't know it) to become a parent in my forties, because . . . well. . . if you knew me in my 20s and 30s, you'd understand.

Being insecure about parenting has made me learn to slow down when speaking and reacting to situations. It's easy to frighten a child, even when unintended.

Some of my child-rearing skills come from my own childhood, the skills I learned from my parents. Like all parents, they were successful in some areas and less successful in other areas. After all, since I've lived deep into my adult years, it is hard to say they failed!

Parenting is different now. It's rare to see a parent strike a child, There has been a decrease in the use of corporal punishment by most American parents. In the 1960s, it was commonplace to see a child disciplined with violence. I have mixed feelings about it all. I do not hit my child; but, I know people who do. And when I say "I know people who hit their child" I am referring to a slap or a spanking, not battering. As far as I know, none of the children in my social circle are battered children.

Choosing a non-violent approach to child-rearing does not mean that a child does not live in fear. The words and tone of voice I use have upset my child in the past as much as (more than?) a slap might have. Language is powerful.

Saying "I love you," to a person is a powerful statement and the person notices it. Children learn what that means. Saying "I hate you," is also a powerful statement, and children know what that means, too.

Of course it is more complicated than that. I can behave in a hateful manner when I am angry or disappointed, and the way I handle that anger or disappointment is a part of my child-rearing. When my child sees and hears me scream at a bad driver, I am teaching her a lesson about handling frustration and anger. Sadly, the lesson I am teaching her is that it is OK to lash-out in anger at strangers.

This is not a good lesson, and not a lesson I intend.

I have a potty-mouth behind the wheel of a car. My parents did, too.

I eventually learned a less negative way of venting about bad drivers. It's especially useful when the bad driver is navigating an expensive car. I say, in an almost cheerful voice: "High-performance car Low-performance driver."

After a few dozen times of saying this, my daughter asked me to explain a high-performance car. I remember that that I did a good job with it. I don't recall what I said, but I'm sure my tone became officious and deliberate and I carefully chose words that a 4-year-old would understand. She got it and we moved on to a new conversation.

The next time we were in traffic and I said "High-performance car . . . " she piped-up and said, in that adorable little-girl voice: "Low-performance driver."

I could have peed myself right then and there. We had a good laugh about it, and it is now part of our repertoire or repartee.

I thought about this stuff yesterday when I saw an article about the hashtag #ToMyUnbornChild. On March 12, 2012, the topic trended very high on Twitter as people made short statements about the things we would tell our unborn child, if we could.

The Tweets have included the exciting and naive things we might think and/or say as expectant parents:

You'll have everything I didn't, that's a guarantee.

you will grow up with two amazing dads, and will be instilled to love everybody, and to respect the rights of all.

ima always listen to you and understand your point of view before I judge and give my opinion.

no matter what gender you are, your going to be a soccer player.

I will never abandon you.

But, those are not the quotes this article discusses.

The person or group who comprise the account @Homophobes on Twitter are committed to exposing homophobia. Their article was about dreadfully homophobic remarks some people made with the hashtag #ToMyUnbornChild.

"100 Real Tweets from Homophobes Who Would Murder Their Gay Child" includes quotes that made my skin crawl and my stomach turn. I became so anxious while reading the list of tweets that I could not finish the article.

It bothers me that there is such hatred and fear in the world that someone would actually plan to kill their own child. I just can't imagine a life without unquestionable love for my child, and certainly cannot fathom the notion that someone would actually plan, to decide ahead of time, to kill their own child.

See, 100 Real Tweets from Homophobes Who Would Murder Their Gay Child

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