Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Leading by Example
One of my biggest challenges as a parent has been to be a good example for my child. In so many ways, I want her to be just like me, except for all of the things I dislike about myself, let's leave those things out. I want her to be brave enough to try new things, but I don't want to force her to do something if she doesn't want to do it. I don't want her to be afraid of creeping, crawling, or flying things. I want her to be nice to everyone, even to people who aren't nice back. I think about how mean girls can be and I remember times when I was mean, and I just cringe. So I have to assume that these things are not always inherent qualities, and that some things have to be modeled or taught.
Case in point: Recently there was a spider in the bathtub. Normally I leave spiders alone if they are up high, out of reach, far away from me. If they don't bother me, I won't bother them; it's a nice little relationship. But if they cross my path, or go in Penny's room, watch out, Mr. (or Ms.) Spider. We get the occasional spider in the tub, and if the cats are too lazy to do their cat-ly duty or torturing and then eating them, then it's up to me to dispose of the spiders so they won't crawl on my naked body in the shower, the most heebie-jeebie-inducing thought.
Penny saw this particular spider, and while I tried to ignore it, hoping it would disappear, Penny kept commenting on it, worrying about it. So— I showed her what to do with spiders. I found a cup, scooped the spider into it, and calmly placed a piece of paper on top of the cup. Then I walked out the front door and dumped it out. And it took everything I had to keep my shit together in front of Penny. All because I didn't want her to see me wail on an innocent creature, no matter how disgusting it was. Granted, if it had been venomous, I would have had a different approach: I would have made Britt deal with it.
The other day, Britt found a wounded bee outside, and he picked it up and put it on a flower, while Penny supervised. Then she came inside and told me about the baby bee who was hurt and needed his mommy. That bee probably didn't make it, but at least it died on a flower instead of on the sidewalk. Personally, I like bees, because they are important (not that spiders aren't important, but they don't pollinate my food), but I still don't like them buzzing around my head or trying to land on me. Hopefully Penny will be more tolerant.
Example #2. I had to get a TB screening for work, and I ended up taking Penny with me to the doctor's office so I could have it done. I really dislike needles, but I felt I had to be extra brave in front of Penny. I even gave her my sucker.
The point is, having a child has made me look at myself from a different point of view. When you see yourself through the eyes of your child, it can be sobering. Lately I've been worried about overparenting and I'm wondering if worrying about that makes me an overparenter by default. I don't think so. I don't have Penny over-scheduled with activities, but I am on her case a lot. I feel like I'm constantly getting after her about everything. Is that overparenting or just plain old parenting? Maybe this is a topic for another post.