Friday, September 28, 2007

Really Only About The Third To Last Paragraph

Before I had children, my opinion on spanking was fairly loose. I didn't think it was a bad thing. At all. When I was growing up, I got spanked---for very specific crimes in which I knew if I was caught, I would get spanked. Going into other people's home without permission or going off of our street boundaries. There was an occasional misplaced spank, for mouthing off and such.

After we had Bo and he got older, we found ourselves swatting his bum a lot. It filled me with a lot of cognitive dissonance (come on, give it to me, it's the only phrase I remember from my college classes, just let me use it okay!). I knew there had to be a better way, but it took effort to think of the better ways and spanking just got the job done too. Let me be clear, Bo has always been very responsive and obedient, so it wasn't that prevalent. And it was more of a swat.

Around the time he was two, I started telling J I wanted to eliminate spanking all together. We needed to save it for the big crimes. And there were some. Like fingerpainting with his excrement on the bedroom wall. Four different times.

So, it got better, but we as parents, are sometimes slow learners.

Then, the summer after Avee was born, we moved into a house in Salt Lake City. Shortly after moving in, an old friend of mine called me from Vermont and said she had a young college friend who'd just found herself temporarily without housing and asked if I could help her out. I drove downtown and picked her up and she ended up staying with us for a month. She was a nice girl.

But she fancied herself a better mother than me.

The interesting thing was, Bo couldn't stand her. He didn't want anything to do with her. My little boy who loved everyone, avoided her at all costs. It was so perplexing to me and I would try to talk him into liking her. I would find myself discrediting his feelings about her---and the mom instinct in me knew I shouldn't be doing that; but I really didn't understand his strong dislike for her. So I would allow her to bribe him. "Come sit with me and I'll give you a piece of candy." Well, he wasn't stupid---he'd sit with her long enough to get the candy.

Then one day, Bo fingerpainted with poop on the wall again. He did it at naptime so it often wasn't discovered right away. It would take time for the smell to waft through the rest of the house. :) Sorry, that's gross. Anyway, the first two times Bo did it, J's brother was babysitting and by the time I got home, it was much too late after the fact to administer a "punishment". There was no way he'd make the connection. So, the 3rd time he did it and I was around to swiftly discipline, I decided I would not spank and try stern talking and bore any desire to be naughty out of him, by lecturing. I talked and talked and talked and made him help me clean it and talked about how yucky and smelly it was, etc. Yeah, I was winging it. On an average day as a mother, I have no idea what I'm doing.

Well, apparently Miss Thang who lived with us, didn't think that was enough. And she kept saying he needed a spank and a 30 minute timeout. I may not know what I'm doing, but I DID know that a 30 minute time out on a child who had just turned 2 was a joke. So I told her I wasn't going to do that. After my lecturing, I set him off to play. With nonpoop things.

At the time, my car was in the shop so I had to pick up J at work. I had to leave Bo with Miss Thang and J's 14 year old brother because we didn't have a carseat in J's beater.

I got out to the car and realized I had forgotten something so I dashed back into the house.

And there I heard my precious baby boy sobbing in his crib.

I ran to him and asked him what was wrong. He said, "Miss Thang, panka my bum". I was DEVASTATED. Absolutely devastated. Looking back, I'm a little shocked at how devastated I was. But then again, I'm still a mom, so it doesn't surprise me that much I guess. Miss Thang was nowhere to be found. I grabbed Bo out of the crib and hugged and kissed him and told him how sorry I was, and started crying myself. I took him to my bewildered brother-in-law who had been innocently playing on the computer with headphones on. I told him to take Bo on a walk and not come back home for 45 minutes unless one of them was bleeding or dead.

I got in the car and cried all the way to go get J. I know that my baby getting spanked is nothing compared to the abuse some other mother's children experience, but I felt for a second I knew what it felt like. Helpless. I felt like a bad mom for leaving my child in that situation. Of course, I had no way of knowing Miss Thang would be so awful as to administer her own punishment after I had left, but I still felt like a horrible mother that my child had suffered at her hand.

Suddenly it all clicked. This may not have been the first time she had taken matters into her own hands. I was usually home, I don't think I had left him in her care more than once or twice, but I suddenly remembered a few times of him coming back upstairs from where she stayed, a little upset. She had most likely been mean to him because she didn't want him around.

But when we were around, she was all fun and games and wanted him to love her. But Bo ain't stupid. Never has been.

I made up my mind then, I would always trust Bo's instincts. His are even better than mine. Avee's, not so much. She swears at ants and sliding glass doors. She can't be trusted. But Bo can be.

There have been a couple of incidents since then when I've found Bo to be a great judge of character, solidifying my resolve to trust him.

So. The whole reason for this post....since we moved here, he has decided he doesn't like our next door neighbor. He's an 11 year old boy, "A", who, from all I can tell, is perfectly nice. He walks around with a butterfly net and mason jars and catches bugs most of the time.

One day Bo ran in through the back door and burst into tears. When I asked what was wrong he wailed, "A was so mean to me!" I asked what A did. "He told me to get off the fence!" Well, I think that's actually a good thing A did. Bo shouldn't be on the fence. I told Bo as much. "But he said it with a mean look on his face!"

After that, anytime A has come within 100 feet of Bo outside, Bo will come inside. Without complaint. He will gladly sit on the couch with nothing to do, if he's safe from mean ol' A. One day I went out and talked to A. I honestly don't feel like I was being taken, he seems like a genuinely decent, even sweet, kid. That particular day, I brought Bo out, holding his hand and said, "I really think A is a nice boy, why don't you try playing out here." Bo felt buoyed up by me, I'm sure---and he took the leap. He cried when it was time to come in (he usually doesn't) and I could hear him howling with laughter outside, several times. One time I looked out and saw A and another big kid doing a sword fight show for the other kids. Bo was loving it.

When Bo came in he said how he thought A was nice after all. All was well.

Then, suddenly out of nowhere, A's on the bad list again and I will see Bo come tearing into the house like the bogey man himself is on his tail. While we are driving, when Bo does most of his out loud thinking, he'll say, "I will NEVOH play pokemon with A, nevoh. And if I comes outside, I will come in our house as fast as lightening" He's clearly been thinking about how awful A is.

I really think there's a little prejudice going on here, but I can't be sure. The other thing is, A is hardly ever around. He'd really rather be collecting bugs. How mean can a bug-collecting 11 year old be?

So, with a little background on my history with Bo, what do you think? Should I just let him indulge in his fear/dislike of A or do I try to cultivate an attitude of tolerance and talk him through (aka "force") him to get over this. I'm hesitant to disregard his feelings because I'm a granola crunchin' hippie who thinks my four year old should guide me in all ways that we go. Er, rather, I already was really wrong once and he has a pretty clean track record.

I have 10 children in my living room right now. All talking really loudly. One of them just informed me he can't stand to hear babies cry. I'd say he's certainly in the wrong house.

Bo just opened the door for his little four year old friend and exclaimed, "Oh! It's YOU! I keep forgetting what you look like!" Man I love that kid.


S said...

Well that is alot to think about, but seeing that the first slot was open I had to jump on it. I will be processing and getting back to you.

Rebecca said...

Wow.. a lot to swallow.. I say let him make his own choices.. I have found my kids can pick and choose and they usually have reasons. When its force it turns weird. Important to teach tolerance, but also important to teach his gut. We don't all have to get along.. and to be honest.. I would think an 11 year old boy hanging with little kids to much has funny written on it.. unless you make them entertain them..(in my case) I don't let Brodo play freely with little kids in the neighborhood.. they have different boundries??! But really.. what do I know?!

Tori :) said...

Ok, I am SOOOO ready to kick some serious Ms. Thang a$$. I am so mad. That was wrong on so many levels.
That being said, let Bo not like A. I'm sure he has his reasons. They may not make sense to anyone but Bo, but that's ok.

Traci said...

Trust your boy. He doesn't need to like A. And it might be kind-of a social experiment to Ben - he's realizing that he can CHOOSE his friends and decide who he likes, etc. Plus, older kids can be creepy and "mean" in little ways that trigger stuff with small kids that we don't really notice. Bottom line, though, I think you can let Ben lead on what he wants to do about A - it's not going to alienate him much since they are in such different age groups anyway.

You are on a serious role, sista...these are great posts. (Sorry I am a negligent reader these days...)

Traci said...

Just because I am stinkery and because I'll know you'll love me even when I correct your spelling in semi-public...

There are coincidences and incidents, but not incidences. :)

Camille said...

I don't have any advice. I have no idea what I would do in that situation. Do you have a gut feeling about what to do? I doubt that "A" will be offended if a four year old doesn't want to play with him. I wish I could be more helpful, but that's all I've got.

No Cool Story said...

"Cognitive dissonance". Hmm....*ponders*

I agree with Rebecca, when things are forced, they turn out weird. Forcing him to interact with someone he clearly feels as threatening is not what he needs. Maybe showing him that it's ok, that he can just be polite from very far away; that might help Bo. Poor guy :( trying to psych himself up.

I've watched a few "watch out for child abuser" videos. They tell you never to force your child to kiss, hug or play with someone they are clearly afraid of. Even if the person is a relative.

Yeah, Lil’ Miss Thang >:( No one should ever (no matter what they think) physically discipline another woman’s child.

MommyJ said...

first of all... praises for using cognitive dissonance in a sentence.

As for what to do, I agree with previous posters. I would only draw the line at being rude. My six year old told me that there was a kid he didn't really like at school and he didn't want to be around him. (I know it's different cause he's six, but he's helping me make a point, so bear with me). I told him he didn't have to be his friend, but he absolutely could not be rude. Be indifferent, be absent, but do not be mean, because that's, well, mean!

Oh, I also wanted to tell you that I am totally amazed at the generosity of your heart in letting whats her thang live with you in the first place. but wow, just wow that she would discipline your kid... after you had said... hmmm, i just gotta stop cause it makes me mad!

Leslie said...

i'd let bo take the lead on this one. that's what i'd do.

i can't believe that hoochie spanked your baby. that is so weird.

mindyluwho said...

I think you answered your own question. Trust your little guy's instincts. You can teach politness, but I don't think I'd force him any further than that. There may or may not be something to the situation, but better to be careful now than sorry later.

S said...

Ok I thought of something.......yeah what they said. You gots some good friends. I remember having some friends when Joshua was very tiny and he wouldn't have ANYTHING to do with them. If he held him he would scream. I never found out why but I am glad I didn't have to either. Children do have instinct we have pushed aside "to be polite".
LOVE YOU CYM- she ALWLAYS gets me! LOVE IT:) ps I didn't know that either!

kellyo75 said...

I wouldn't try to encourage him to like someone he is not comfortable liking. Especially after you shared the 'Ms Thang' story. I think Bo sounds like a very smart boy who knows what's up!!

Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...


There's always a reason, even if it's that he rubs Ben the wrong way. Teach him to trust his instincts.

That's my "expert mother" advice. ;)

Methodical wormer said...

You've got to let him respond how he wants to. If he's wrong the worst thing that could happen is he isn't friends with A for no good reason. If he's right and you make him spend time with him a lot worse could happen. I'm a firm believer in trusting what kids say. What reason would they have to lie? He needs to have that control and know he has the right to say no to things. We've had to start letting BL decide about hugs and kisses. He doesn't always want to give them and I make it an issue not to force him so hopefully he'll always know he has control over his body and the right to say no.

Barnecked Lady said...

Okay so you set up a video camera........just kidding!!! No idea!
UMMMMMMMMM remember all those ghetto fabulous kids in our apt. complex, not to be trusted, even if they do like bugs.
Besides I still runaway when i see people coming I don't want to talk to, I think its a life lesson we all need to learn. lol. GOOD LUCK!!!!
p.s. Aves swears at glass doors and ants. LOL!!! WE are kindred spirits!

AndrewP said...

Miss Thang would have been out my door with her suitcase so fast it would have made her head swim. I hope J felt the same way.

As for A, do you know what he does with his insects? Is he torturing them in future mass murderer style? Trust Bo. Instincts, sometimes life saving ones, are things we learn to ignore using our rational mind.

The only time I was dumb enough to ignore a serious misgiving I ended up getting mugged in New York.

Luisa Perkins said...

I'm with the rest of your posse: Trust the kid.

I would have been devastated by the Miss Thang incident as well. It's a creepy story.

Suzanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne said...

You didn't finish the story! What did you do when you got home with J? Did you kick Ms. Thang to the curb? Did you claw her eyes out, give her a tongue lashing or a spanking of her own? Seriously, I want to know what she did when she was caught red handed!

I totally agree with NCS. No woman should ever spank another woman's child, including relatives. I would have been devastated too!

Now for the newer issue. I agree with the others. Let Bo choose. I always say that no one has to be friends, but that doesn't mean a person should be mean about it either. And yeah, I think it's a little strange that an 11 year old would be interested anyway.

I think you're a great mom, Angela! (Especially if you can tolerate 10 children i a room at once!) :)

Tristi Pinkston said...

I agree -- let him decide for himself. He knows what's going on when you're not there to monitor -- it's like you say, some people will be all wonderful to your face and then nasty behind your back.

We had poop painting too. We ended up putting him to bed in a sleeper with the zipper pinned shut, and that put an end to that. It took me three experiences with that to figure out a cure, though.