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photo by Sheri Dixon

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Because I'm the Child and I Said So

Not me personally- I haven't been a child for many years. But I have children, and I'm still perfectly capable of behaving in a childish manner.

Since I'm not proud of the latter, but very proud of the former, lets talk about the former.

Yesterday we had a well-child visit at the doctor. At my son's request. He was concerned that his tetanus vaccination needed updating, so I called the doctor's office and they said "No- not for another 2 years, but you ARE due for a chicken pox booster". So off to the doctor we went, and my son sat stock still while receiving his shot- he's been blessedly healthy and couldn't remember his last shot (probably about 4 years ago).

And I started thinking about raising children, specifically the difference between how I'm raising this one compared to his brother and sister, both much older than he is.

With the first 2, I did things when the "experts" told me to. And some things need to be that way- vaccinations, exams if there are really concerns or problems, things that will affect their health or well-being.

I'm not sure if that had anything to do with it, or if it's just a difference in personalities, but I remember my older son at about Alec's age at the doctor, needing a booster shot, and I had to literally sit on him to get it done. Luckily I'm a trained veterinary technician, so I know how to hold fractious, possibly dangerous critters. The give-away for the nurse was that I was also scratching him behind the ear to deflect his attention away from the syringe...

And my daughter is deathly afraid of needles. She'll be 30 next year.

Back when Alec was about 4, we went to the dentist. A pediatric dentist since I remembered being scared poopless by imposing, stern, crabby Dr. Newell. The hygienists took the x-rays and cleaned his teeth without incident. All they had left to do was the fluoride treatment and we'd be done. I sat and read my book. Suddenly there was a commotion and when I looked up, the chair was empty and my son was across the room, perched like a spider monkey on a different chair- hissing at the hygienists.

Apparently, they'd hovered over him and started sticking the little "mouth bumpers" in between his teeth and the sides of his mouth without telling him what they were doing and it felt like he was choking and/or suffocating. So he bolted.

They told me they couldn't work with him and we could either wrap him in a blanket and sit on him or drug him for the rest of the procedure. Not sedation, more of a paralyzing drug. So he'd still be afraid, he just couldn't get away. I declined both (awful) options, collected my little spider monkey and walked out.

After that, Ward's illness(es) took front and center of our time and getting Alec to the dentist was not high on our priority list. He brushes regularly and his teeth look fine. A few months ago, Alec said he wanted to go to the dentist.

So we made the appointment and last week he walked into the dentist's office and sat perfectly for the hygienist (different office- this one explained everything beautifully before she did it). He's got good teeth and no cavities.

The difference,other than age, was readiness.

I think too often we don't trust ourselves or our children when it comes to the Proper Way to Go About Growing Up.

I didn't stress about any of them regarding potty training. I figured when they were ready, they'd do it. And they did. My daughter coveted a package of Strawberry Shortcake underpants at about age 2 1/2 and I told her those were for big girls who don't wear diapers. She grabbed the package and never looked back.

My older boy could literally leave wet footprints through the house without concern even at age 3 until...I was director at Girl Scout Day Camp and he wanted to go with his sister and me but couldn't unless...and that was that.

I don't think there was a specific event surrounding Alec's coming of bathroom age, he just worked into it- at his own pace.

The older 2 went to public schools, and we're homeschooling Alec.

My daughter tested into the Gifted and Talented program and has been a driven soul ever since- her basic personality true enough, but at his nursery school, my older son was referred for Speech Therapy- he was "fronting and backing"- leaving off the beginning AND ends of words. WE could understand him, and he was barely 4 years old. If we'd just let him alone, I suspect he would've turned out just fine. I can't think of a single adult who leaves the beginnings and ends off of words.

Alec was slow to talk, and slow to walk- the result of many chronic ear infections that damaged his hearing and tilted his equilibrium till he had those little ear tubes put in. We did not bring him to therapy for either "problem" and even though he wasn't talking or walking at age 2, now try to keep him quiet or still.

Ditto for reading. Luckily, our curriculum stressed that children will learn stuff when they are ready, and even though they SENT reading books starting in 1st grade, if our child didn't seem interested in reading, we were to read TO him until he was. At age 6 Alec was not reading.

At age 7 he was reading adult books. Skipped right over the Dr. Suess stage and into Dragonology. For his 10th birthday he requested Stephen Hawkings Brief History of the Universe.

We trust animals to raise their offspring and the offspring to have certain innate survival instincts. Yet humans "overthink" the whole process.

My first two were crib babies. I'd put them down in their cribs to sleep. If they woke up crying (or went down crying) I'd stand there and rub their backs, or take them out to rock them till they settled down. I was just "wrong" enough to not "let 'em cry it out". By the time Alec came along I was alot older and more tired in general. He slept with us.

We were warned that he'd still be sleeping with us at age 16, but he left on his own and moved into his own bed by the time he was 8. I figure all the stress and worry of his dad's illness(es) postponed his leaving a good 3 years, but the main thing is he's fine. And in his own room.

And here's what I say to the Family Bed Opponents- "I work for a veterinary clinic. If someone called me and said their dog was fixin' to have puppies and they were planning on taking the puppies away from their mom and making them stay in a box in another room- letting them with the momma dog to clean and feed, but then putting them back in the box away from her, I'd call animal control and report them for abuse".

"But your baby needs to learn to be independent and to go to sleep by himself" they said. Apparently they didn't stop to think that my baby (any baby)
-can't walk
-can't talk
-can't open the refrigerator
-can't dial 9-1-1
just how independent do they want that infant to be???

So I'm proud of my older 2 who have become fine adults and who hopefully learned to think alittle outside of the Normal Box because of their ol' hippiechick mom and her sometimes non-conformist ideas, and I'm proud of my youngest boy, proud of the person he's growing up to be on his own schedule, under his own power, using his own instincts of what he needs to know and when.

And I hope I've done even a fair job of not training these people I grew inside of me to fit carelessly into society, of allowing and encouraging them to question anything that seems sketchy no matter what Expert it comes from, and to become the people THEY want to be, and not what anyone else expects of them.

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