Friday, July 25, 2008

Different Strokes

Last Sunday, we hosted lunch for a friend of Big A and her family, as they were in town for a visit from London. Their two girls, aged 2 and 4 and half-French, were like little fairies, beautiful, well-behaved and soft spoken. Little A enjoyed having company, and while they spent more time in parallel play than interacting, he wasn't so averse to sharing his toys this time.

When they left, Big A remarked that the two little girls were unlike any kids he'd ever encountered before. They were polite and respectful in a way that few children nowadays seem to be. When Little A's cousins come over, there is plenty of screaming - with excitement, frustration or anger. Opinions are expressed loudly, without hesitation. Each room is explored, beds are bounced on and toys and books are tossed about. My best friend's 5-year old likes watching tv or playing games at top volume, and when Little A tries to take a toy from him (as he doesn't yet understand the concept of sharing) he hits back or retaliates.

The French girls played quietly, and they didn't dare to enter our bedroom, or even Little A's room, until their parents said it was alright to do so. When they did, they didn't even think about touching the bed, let alone climbing in. They only played with what was available, and never raised their voices. At the dining table two rooms away, we grown ups could hear each other as we spoke in our regular voices, something that never seems to happen when other children come over. Once in a while, one of us would peek in at the kids to be sure all was well, otherwise no supervision or intervention was necessary.

Seeing those children in action made me more determined to bring up my son "right", as Big A and I define it anyway. Different strokes work for different folks, and everyone's parenting style is unique. I never liked it when Little A ran around screaming. Screaming is only for when you're hurt, or if a stranger tries to take you away. I'd like him to be respectful of other people's bedrooms and not climb on other people's beds. As it is, he does play quietly most of the time, with little supervision required. And as it's been a while since he's played with his cousins, there has been less of the screaming.

Still, as parenting goes, we have a long way to go. It's a learning process for both us and Little A, so let's hope the end result is one that we're all happy with.

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