In October, Mommy was in Staples with all three girls at the Copy and Print and Staple and Laminate and Send Center Command Counter Area. Or whatever the official name is. We were trying to send a package out of the country via UPS. It wasn't going well. A kind lady, we'll call her Jean, in line behind us began helping Mommy entertain the older two girls during the "stalled computer" wait. She had several grandchildren and chatted with Mommy while showing the girls the pretty Christmas card samples. Vivian got a little over eager with one card, pretty common in her jumping-bean-life. Jean, very calmly but firmly, said, "Oh no no. We have to be gentle with these. Be careful."
And then, embarrassed, Jean apologized to Vivian and Mommy because she had "no business telling you what to do."
Oh yes, yes, you do. And Mommy immediately told Jean this and made it clear to Vivian that it was important to obey Jean and be careful. Vivian didn't really care about more than one word of the entire exchange. She was right back at checking out the sparkly options in the binder.
Mommy has been pondering it ever since. Why wouldn't Jean be allowed to correct our girls? Admittedly, it's not always easy to listen to our girls being corrected. At the library this week, one of the librarians made it clear to Miriam that she couldn't cut in front of Vivian in the line to get stickers. Ouch...our child did something wrong and someone else noticed. Bleh. Yuck. Grimace and groan. On vacation this summer, one of Sarah's sisters asked if it was okay if she and the other siblings correct our girls.
Oh yes, yes, it is. Because otherwise doesn't our parenting look like an ugly power struggle to impose our adult wills onto our helpless children? We're barking orders for no reason than our own glorification. Obey me. Now. But that's not what parenting is about. For us, it's about trying to raise children who are kind and curious, who can think and use their common sense, who have manners and behave at least decently in public. If you've eaten a meal with us recently, you know it's a process; on a scale of perfect to disaster, we're at an okay.
In any case, other adults reenforcing our expectations for good behavior is WELCOME. Frankly, we don't get why it wouldn't be. The whole world wants these children to treat others with courtesy, to be patient, to be understanding, to be respectful. Not just their meany-pants parents. Please, please, Humans of the World, don't be afraid to help us teach these lessons...let's just do it in a kind and firm way. Jean will forever be the example.
And while we're having this little monologue, let's address the word no. All you "no" saying parents, we affirm you. Yeah, we're not parenting experts. Nobody's calling to publish our advice and we don't have extra letters to emphasize extended education at the end of our names. But it's a blog, so we get to offer unsolicited advice.
Oh yes, yes, we say no. It is the right thing to do for your child. Confession (prepare yourselves): We say no to FELICITY. Yup. When she's going after her Mommy's makeup bag, trying to eat the paper hanging off the easel, or power crawling toward the plastic bags as we unload groceries, we say no. To a baby. It is never too early to begin discipline or self-control. (Self-control. That's a subject for another blog post.)
So thanks to everyone who helps us raise these girls. To the family and the strangers alike who correct them, hug them, and help them grow into good women. And thanks to the other parents who are raising their peers to be respectful, charitable people. Maybe Hillary was right when she wrote, "It takes a village to raise a child."