Google+ Authentic Parenting: Lessons from a Monkey

Friday, February 11, 2011

Lessons from a Monkey

Written by Jessica

Recently, we've been learning more and more about Unschooling.

I practiced attatchment parenting with DD as a babe, and blended that approach with gentle discipline as she grew into a toddler. I fall on the side of "figuring something out together" rather than "this is what we're going to do." But, too often, what I end up saying is: "we have to do this." Followed by picking DD up, often hollering and squirming, and strapping her into the car/getting her into bed/pulling on/off her clothes/plunking her in the tub. Not very gentle, or respectful.

The past two days we've begun to really practice unschooling. If you know anything about unschooling, you know it has little to do with (deliberate) schooling. It's a way of life, a way of allowing children to follow their hearts, minds, and bodies in all that they do, coupled with the belief that children are beings who learn naturally when given the chance.

Our new way of living has taken the form of more freedom with snack choices (cookies for breakfast, anyone?), more flexibility with activities (including television viewing), a staggered bedtime ...

But today, I blew it. Big time.

I had an appointment and The Monkey had her sitter over to play, and when I got home, we had to drive said sitter home and go to the bank drive-thru, back to pay the sitter, and then home. When we got home DD was cranky (naptime is normally at one, it was almost two) and wanted to watch the rest of Black Beauty. I said okay. Halfway through she got up and started prowling around, pulling stuff off of shelves and talking to me in her cranky voice. She was obviously overtired and in need of a nap, but I'd asked her repeatedly if she wanted one, and she told me without question, No.

And I should have respected that.

But no. Despite the voice in my head that recognized the authoritarian (read: rude and disrespectful) action I was going to take, I turned off Black Beauty. The wailing began. After informing my little Monk that it was naptime, I picked her up (squirming) and carried her upstairs (screaming). By this point, she was very upset. She was obviously taken aback and horrified at the behavior I was exhibiting. Knowing she would open the door and leave the bedroom, I locked it behind us, sat down on the bed, and waited for her.

My poor darling flung herself at the door, red faced and bellowing in rage. She was in true tantrum mode, a rarity for her- it's happened really only a couple times, most notably when I was night weaning a few months back (without success).

My frail attempts to assure her that it was okay, it was naptime, to come lay down and have Boobietime (her favorite) were to no avail. My kiddo was majorly pissed.

When I went over to talk her down, and reached out to rub her back lightly, she gave me a look of "how dare you!" and whacked me in the face. (Can you really blame her?) She was in an animalistic, defensive mode, and I picked her up, laid down with her, and offered my breast to nurse. Still howling, she began to nurse, and soon quieted down.

In the quiet, I began to think. And realized how royally I had screwed this interaction up.

"I'm sorry," I told her softly. "You didn't want to take a nap, and Mommy didn't listen."

From her position at my boob, her eyes darted up to mine, a sliver of hope lighting up their azure depths.

"You wanted to stay downstairs and finish Black Beauty, but Mommy picked you up and brought you up to nap, and that made you angry."

The Monkey nodded, hiccuping a couple half-sobs.

"And then Mommy locked the door, and you couldn't get out. That must have been a bit scary for you."

The Monkey closed her eyes, let go of my boob, and wailed. My heart broke. I cuddled her closer as she cried, apologizing.

"Next time, I'll listen. I'm sorry."

The whole interaction was so intense, the Monkey couldn't help but fall asleep. And, as I slipped out of the door downstairs, where my computer and fresh-baked cookies and dishes-to-be-done waited, I felt how I felt when I was a kid and wanted something and was told no, and so tantrumed until I got it.

Guilty.

And that's how I should feel, for robbing my small, wonderfully assertive, all-herself Daughter of her right to choose what to do with her body; for disrespecting her preference and her internal clock. Yes, she was tired. Yes, she could use a nap. But it was not my choice to make: it was hers.

So I type this as an apology to my wonderful girl, and as a thank you: despite it's hardship, this interaction was a lesson for me, and so undoubtedly a gift.

Lesson learned, Monk.

Jessica is an attachment parenting and natural living junkie, and young mom to a free-spirited vivacious little girl. She's just started her blog, Mama à la Crunch, in which she plans to write about her experience and opinions.


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1 comment:

  1. I tend to follow the same philosophy and have enjoyed the mutual trust, respect and understanding I have with my son. He is only 2, so we definitely have our ups and downs and I am still figuring out what works for us, since not every AP technique works for us. What a wonderful world this would be though, if every parent would trust their child more and put aside their own emotional hang ups and let their child lead.

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