In my quest to become a better and better mother (I'm not looking for perfect, but I am kind of vying for the most improved award sometime in the next twenty years...), I think the principle that is most important to me when raising children is to treat them at all times with the same respect I would treat another adult. In short, treat them like real people.
I am amazed and awed by those who take this principle to the farthest extreme and practice non-coercive parenting all the way, those mothers who will simply not go anywhere if their toddler doesn't want to get into the carseat or who will let their kids choose what to eat and when from some kind of all-you-can-eat, always-available snack tray that the mother has painstakingly prepared and miraculously kept fully stocked. Seriously, there's gotta be some real harmony in those families.
I can't quite take it that far. For one thing, I am honestly somewhat of a control freak. I'm laid-back about things like the kids not needing to have a bath every single night and encouraging free exploratory play and (usually) not having too big of a hissy fit when the kids make huge messes. I do a great job of speaking to the kids in a way that isn't condescending, asking their opinions and letting them make decisions. (Granted, the 17-month-old does make some pretty questionable ones, like repeatedly eating handfuls of the sandbox dirt, but that's a whole 'nother blog entry, there!)
However, this evening as I was shoe shopping yet again, this time much more successfully with only The Jabberwock along, I realized that I seriously need to work on my listening skills. To be fair, he often asks about seven gazillion questions in a row, not leaving nearly enough time in between for adequate responding. And often, the questions are just plain bizarre. But there were about four times during our trip this evening where I noticed that Jabber was saying something like, "Right, Mama? Right? Right?" and finally he actually sighed in an exasperated imitation of me and said, "Are you even listening to me, Mama?"
I thought, good grief, would I treat an adult this way?
If my neighbor or a parent of one of my students or even my husband were asking me a question, no matter how inane and well, let's face it, boring, would I ever just tune that voice out simply because I'm entertaining a more interesting thought inside my head? Or because I was trying to listen to something really intriguing on NPR, for that matter? I have my social failings, but no, I'm pretty sure I would not.
David said once that something he liked about me was that there was always a whole lot going on inside my head, and it's true that it's pretty crazy in there. In this busy balancing act of mother, wife, teacher, accountant, housekeeper, and wishful writer, I do struggle with finding that time, that space to really enjoy my thoughts and reflections. But I need to remember that my children are people, too, and deserving of my attention. After all, better to answer a couple of questions (fifty million times in a row even) now than to face whatever they come up with later to get that attention another way.