Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Raising swiss chard kids in an Oreo world.

Despite the title of this blog it is not a food blog. Although, there will be a few blogs with an emphasis on food, it is primarily a blog on practical parenting.
I'm not an expert. I don't have a PhD or MD or any letters after my name. I am, however, a mom. Which makes me a bit of an expert in the raising of my children at least.
Let's face it, though. Children are children. Children in America, Germany, India, China and Africa are still children. When you give an inch they will take a mile. When you submit YOUR will, they will take over and rule the world (or at least your home). When you give in to one temper tantrum, they will sprout horns, carry a pitchfork and gleefully make your life a living...well, you get the point.
In the nearly four years I have been a parent I have noticed a few things that cause me pause.
One, for some reason (and I have my ideas about those reasons) parents are loathe to make rational, down to earth, practical decisions regarding the discipline and parenting of their children.
Two, American's have formed a new religion- the cult of the child.
Three, because of number one and two, our children are generally rude, disagreeable, prone to ridiculous outbursts, defiant, disrespectful and have the manners of an orangutan. That's just the preschoolers. Teens, once on the precipice of adulthood, are now just toddlers that can drive and date (scary).

I have seen grown, professionals cower before the wrath of a toddler denied a cinnamon sugar Auntie Anne's pretzel. Parents today run to the latest parenting guru's (usually childless) and eat up all the psycho drivel that pours from the pages of their shiny, paperback books. They read Star magazine so they can mirror the parenting prowess of the stars (and if three year olds sucking bottles and five year olds demanding Gucci is your thing, I suggest to find another blog) and they are so afraid of hurting their child's self esteem that they are loathe to give so much as a time out. For the record, after the millionth three minute time out on the naughty step a three year old will learn she will eventually be set free. I recommend changing it up a bit. How about a two hour time out in the bedroom one day and gleefully putting every beeping, singing, china-made toy in time out the next.
There is so much focus on the children these days we forget that in a few years these kids will be adults and they won't know what to do with the loss of attention. Ask any married couple with kids when the last time was that they went out on a date, let alone a vacation (sans children) and you will see that the majority are terrified of leaving their kids. If the adults do get a date they inevitably spend their time talking about...you guessed it, the kids. Now, I adore my children. They are two of the most important things in the world to me. I miss them when I am away and love to be with them. However, I don't feel guilty about going out alone with my husband- even when Grainne (my 17 month old) is standing at the door, clutching her baby, with tears rolling down her cheeks, screaming "Mommy! Mommy!" I go to ballet lessons twice a week and don't bat an eye when Ellie (my three year old) begs me to take her with me. "Mommy, I want to be with yoooooouuuuu!" she will cry. Well, mommy wants to be alone for two hours. See you in the morning.
Children are masters of emotional manipulation. If I followed Darwin's line of thinking, I would say it was natural selection at its best. I can picture a cave woman able to feed only one child and trying to choose between two. Which one will it be? The stoic one that is emotionally distant or the big eyed one whose lips quiver and arms wrap around cave daddy's neck?
Since I am more a creationist type I'll just chalk it up to every person's (and yes, I mean children too!) sinful nature.
We've established that today's parents have lost their spine and today's children are doing what comes natural. Let's discuss point three. When I was a missionary in India I noticed something about the children. The children, before every church service, would gather at the front of the auditorium. Dozens, sometimes hundreds of them. They would sit, cross-legged, on the hard concrete (if they were lucky) or dirt (if they weren't) floor. The pastor would get up and speak for HOURS. Indian pastors are much for brevity...or the after church rush to Applebee's (they really don't care if the Baptists get the best seats.) So, you have a very large group of children. All ages, from toddling one year olds to lanky fourteen year olds. And you know what? You wouldn't hear a peep. After my first few church services I was curious. I was a children's minister, after all, and I wondered if it was some genetic mutation or tranquilizers slipped into the curry.
It was neither. The motivating factor behind the children's good behavior was the man walking up and down the aisle with a long stick. A whisper, a giggle, nodding off, even a nervous twitch and this guy would reach his stick out and, WHACK, across the shoulder it would fall.
I'm not advocating smacking children in church (although, I've been tempted a couple times to swing my praise flag in a wide arc and knock bratz dolls from the hands of the five year olds playing teenager behind me). What I am advocating, is teaching our children that there are repercussions to bad behavior. I know. I know. I'm not supposed to say bad. Hush. That is a very bad word. I'm also not aloud to say no, because I said so, wait until your father comes home or "If you hit your sister with your stick pony one more time I am going to send pony to the dog food factory". But, I have said all those things. And you know what? People constantly comment on how well behaved, well mannered and obedient my children are. I've made a ton of mistakes parenting but at least I do it. Parent, that is.
So many parents today are afraid to draw the line. They are afraid of offending modern parenting experts. They are afraid their children will call CPS if they deny them dessert because they didn't eat their dinner. They are afraid of the collective "them" judging them unfit and unloving. Here's the thing. Why should we parent from fear? Your children won't hate you if you have rules. They won't grow up to be maladjusted sociopaths unable to show love because you punished them. And despite what most of the "experts" in America (and most of the population of Denmark) think, your kids self esteem shouldn't be your first priority. Their ability to grow into productive, compassionate, responsible adults should be.

So, what's up with the whole Swiss chard thing? That's simple. In a country where most kids consider sugar to be a food group, my children love Swiss chard. They dance for it, actually. No joke. Grainne does the seventies pointing finger thing when she gets a bite of that green goodness. Why do my children love Swiss chard (and asparagus, hummus, kale, and spanikopita)? 'Cause they have no choice at dinner. They learned very young that mom is not a short order cook and I will not feel bad if they go to bed hungry because they didn't like what I made. They are not always allowed to have cake and ice cream at parties. We don't have cookies in the house and they think an apple with almond butter is dessert. I know parents who give their kids Oreo's (really, I'm not picking on Oreo's) because they won't eat their chicken. Well, my kids don't have that option. They eat their Swiss chard because they have to. Why?
Because I said so.

1 comment:

Shane said...

I am a father of children who love swish chard. They dance too. God, you gotta love it when your kids dance while eating swiss chard!