my friend has a child who can be high maintenance. or spirited. or stubborn. or she just knows what she wants and she works hard to get it.
i don't know what you call it.
i have one of those, too. we call her spicy. she's not all bad, you know? hardly. but she can be difficult and demanding and she has a lot of emotions that we have to work our way around. so i get it, i do.
and my friend's child has been being mean to a child of another friend at school. and my friend of the child who is being mistreated didn't know what to do. because if you go to your friend and you say, "your child is behaving badly." you are breaking the mom-friend code.
the mom friend code says you must support your friend's brand motherhood. to be honest, i find this to be very tricky and have lost several friends because of it. i cannot support every kind of motherhood, especially if it is putting my own children at risk.
my friend of the mistreated child went to our friend of the spirited child and told her what was happening. and this is what happened. my friend of the spirited child listened to our friend of the mistreated child with her arms folded. and when our friend of the mistreated child was done, our friend of the spirited child said, "well, we have to understand first what it is that your child did to deserve this."
and when the mom of the spirited child told me about it later she said, "mistreated child is very sensitive and has a lot of problems."
and when the mom of the mistreated child told me about it later, she said, "i don't think she would believe that her child could do anything like this. i don't think the mistreatment is going to stop. i don't know what to do."
awhile back i listened to a TED talk about why it's wrong for parents to say that all they want is for their children to be happy. "why are we putting this pressure on our children?" she asks. "happiness is too elusive to be our goal for our children."
i have a few issues with modern parenting.
one of my issues is that we revere our children. this is, of course, backwards. they should revere us. yet somehow, these tiny miracles that we will to define us, to glorify us, that must be amazing, are the bosses. and we ridiculously believe all others must revere them, too. so when your child gets called in because they are being unkind, or inappropriate, we stand there and listen, with our arms folded across our chest.
because this musn't be true. not without a reason.
and then we say things like, "you're right, she shouldn't have put her hands on your child like that, but what did your child do to make my child put her hands on him in the first place?"
children are really, really imperfect. that's why they need us, the parents. and parents are really, really imperfect. you could argue that we have children so that our flaws might be highlighted and we might be able to deal with them head on. to assume that our children, for the sole reason that they are our children, ought to be exempt from consequences, trials, or error is completely egotistical. and to assume that our child is going to grow up to be the one human without any quirks or imperfections because we finally nailed this parenting thing is preposterous.
but here is my biggest issue with revering our children: because i am team my children and you are team your children, we are not ever going to be able to be on the same team unless our two children are playing nicely for the moment. and you guys, we need to be on the same team: team parent. because i can't be everywhere. and when you see my kid in a place where he shouldn't be, with people he shouldn't know, and with things he shouldn't have, i want to be able to know that you'll be the one to grab his hand and pull him out of there. i don't want you to judge me for my obvious imperfect parenting, i don't want you to gossip with your spouse and i really don't want you to wink at my child and promise him that you'll keep this little secret between the two of you. team parent means that my child will have more parents to watch out for him. it's harder, i think, because it means more laundry will be aired, perhaps my shortcomings, or the shortcomings of my offspring will be highlighted a little more easily, but it also means we'll have more support.
if we leave our children behind for a moment, and if we check our egos at the door and we realize that we're all just trying to do our best, we might be able to make this work. so when your sensitive child is being terrified by my spirited child you can come to me and say, "my child is having a hard time" and i can say, "let me see how i can help".
because i choose to be team parent.