Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Giving 'Em What They Deserve

Pool slide, 3 trampolines and a tree-house 
This is my backyard - or, at least, the very kid-friendly part of it at the back.  There's a pool slide, three trampolines (one for each kid, and they alternately share and fight over them) and, as of yesterday, the beginnings of a tree house/fort in the big pine tree that shades us.  It is fairly spectacular for kids and, in some ways, it makes me a little envious.

Sand surfing at Zuma
I've heard this sentiment from other parents from time to time, too: Why, if I had had just a fraction of the stuff my kids have, I'd never complain!  Or My parents would never have gotten this for me, [insert kid's name], aren't you lucky?

Well, yeah, they are lucky.  But, as I've said before, maybe they deserve it.  I'm not talking about giving a kid every single thing in the world that they want, building up an annoying sense of entitlement.  No way, that's not it at all.  I'm only suggesting that, if you can give something special to your child that you know (s)he really wants, why not?
Emme's first riding lesson

I listened to a phenomenal podcast from This American Life yesterday about the love between a parent and child, and the chilling life-long effects of children who do NOT have an attached bond to their parent when they are babies.  I won't do the podcast justice here - you'll have to listen for yourself - but there was one story of a Romanian orphan who'd lived in a crib (only getting out of it to go to the bathroom or to eat), never going outside, and sharing the crib with another child for 7 1/2 years! That fact alone made me want to cry, but when this boy finally was adopted by a couple from the midwest, he had severe problems that stemmed from his inability to bond with other people.  He would hurt his mother and smile and lived in a state of complete hatred that, if he'd had a "normal" conscience, would have consumed him.  But he could not feel empathy, and therefore he could inflict pain on others without feeling anything. The huge breakthrough treatment for this 10-year-old child - whose parents had used mental illness professionals and medication to try to help him, and had had to hire a bodyguard at one point to keep him from hurting his mother - was to simulate the infant bonding experience.  And so for 8 weeks, the mother and son were required to be within 3 feet of each other at all times (except when using the bathroom and sleeping), and to make complete eye contact during any interaction.  His "punishment," if he didn't make eye contact or said mean things, for example, was to sit next to his mother on the couch and be hugged for an extended period of time.  And, after about 3 weeks, it began to work. I didn't finish listening to the podcast, so I'll have to make sure that everything worked out well - sometimes This American Life surprises me with its endings - but this bit alone was enough for me to chew on.

I feel guilty about "not doing enough" for my girls from time to time.  But, after listening to this, I remembered that they were so well loved as babies and are so hugged and cherished on a daily basis - loved so much that I am perhaps too strict with them about their friends and behavior, because I want for them to be citizens of the world rather than self-important Valley girls or aloof, indulged American kids.  After all is said and done, though, they are good people.  Good enough for a tree house and a trampoline and a pool slide... and all the hugs and kisses that Raf and I can give them.

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