Thursday, July 11, 2013

Nature Will Win Out

I really like Frank Bruni. Down to his article on his loathing of summer, he seems to hit the nail on the head. 

Accordingly, his head-scratching regarding the modern state of so-called parenting, entitled "A Childless Bystander's Baffled Hymn," has made me purr with satisfaction. It won't do it justice for me to splice in excerpts, since I think the whole thing should be quoted.
One point of his I find to be a constant: Many parents seem to fear their children won't like them. This worry leads to inconsistency. For example, when parents are particularly frazzled, and emotionally lash out; we've all been there. But the problem is when they come whimpering back with a bribe in hand. 

As an aunt, I've gone berserk plenty of times (I definitely had sufficient reason); parents, in their time, will lose it. But the biggest mistake is to act overly sorry for it. Yes, parents are human, blah blah blah, but here's the thing: Kids don't think parents are human. They think parents are Super-human. 

Starting a lengthy conversation how even mommies and daddies make mistakes is a slippery slope. If someone's little tyke is sharper than most, just consider what comes next: "Well, if mommies and daddies can make mistakes, who says they are right about that whole healthy foods thing? Or that riding in cars with strangers bit? Or that stay in school message?" 

If one loses it, simply work it to one's advantage. Layer it in meaning and purpose. One can compensate with a loving caress, a sweeter tone, but never try to buy the rascals off. Like dogs, they will simply sniff out the motivation of insecurity, and lunge for the throat.

Allow me to illustrate with a small tale of my own: 

At my 12-year-old niece's birthday party, present were the ubiquitous party horns. The 5-year-old was happily bouncing about the house, tooting away. But then the men began to bentch, and I casually flung over my shoulder, "Boo-ba, not now." 

You see, I hadn't been a constant presence in her life as I had been beforehand, so I was surprised when I came back into the room and she was still at it. Toot! Tooooooooot! A little more sharply, I ordered as I walked by, "Not now." 

When I made my next pass, it was still in her mouth. Oh, right, she forgot how I operate. 

I plucked it out from between her lips, my force perhaps aggravated by angry annoyance at being previously ignored. "I said, 'Not now.'" She was rather stunned, and did not protest. Did I feel bad? No. But I have seen other caregivers feel a burning need to apologize for far less.

Right before I left she flung her arms about my waist, squeezing the stuffing out of me. No, she didn't "hold it against me." Because she's a child, and no matter how much she blithers on about being a princess, she wants to be treated like a child. Boundaries means someone cares about her, and is taking care of her, and she is free to be a kid, with no heavy decisions to make. 

Bruni's end point is that genetics win in the end. He's right. I have seen it all too often.
Some of them were held to early bedtimes and some weren’t. Some had their own computers and some shared. Some had nannies and some didn’t. Some of their parents were yellers, and some of their parents were brooders. All of them ate too many chicken fingers. 
And while they were indeed coaxed toward better or worse etiquette and cleaner or sloppier rooms, they weren’t, generally speaking, transformed. At age 8 they were essentially larger, more articulate versions of who they’d been at age 4, and at age 13 they were larger and more articulate versions still, with iPhones affixed to their palms. What had always been wonderful about them remained so. What was difficult did, too. 
One has to raise their children (with consistency and firmness so one day that can socially interact with the world at large), but when they leave the parents' roof, their internal voice has a chance to get a word in edgewise. Sometimes a parents' influence will have made a difference, but that kid for the most part is on his own. His nature, as DNA has given him, will have free reign.
But at least, as a parent, one will know one has done what one should. 


MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

Children actually respond better to firmness and discipline done with consistency and kindness than to endless attempts to suck up to them.

FrumGeek said...

I think nurture has a lot to do with how a kid turns out, often more than nature does. (Although the result is obviously a combination of both.)

Princess Lea said...

MGI: Professional aunt in the choir, y'all.

FG: I used to think like you, "nurture, nurture, nurture."

Then there was my nephew.

And my niece.

Who are absolute replicas of their great-grandparents that they never met, no matter how their parents try otherwise.

I am now a believer in nature.

FrumGeek said...

So you think our environment and experience has no effect on us?!

Princess Lea said...

Oh, indubitably. But I think nature, as well as nurture, affects how we react to environment and experiences. What are the initial gut reactions? What mom told me, or DNA?

The Beckster said...

Hi again Princess Lea! I missed checking out your blog (and lots of other blogs). I intend to catch up soon...This is a great post. I'm also a certified Aunite BH and this totally rings truth.

I also wanted to thank you for introducing me to Frank Bruni! I clicked on "The Meanest Season" that you tagged. Bruni is excellent.

Blach. I should really be reading newspapers...Missing out on great writing. Anyone else that you can recommend? Thanks :)

Princess Lea said...

Hey Beck! I was wondering where you were, I was missing your posts! Bruni is great, I think one of the few consistently on the ball writers.

One that I really do like (don't laugh) is Rabbi Shmuly Boteach. He wrote an article about the Tiger Mom concept that I just keep on quoting. I'm trying to follow him regularly now.

The Beckster said...

Thank you. I'm a great fan of Rabbi Boteach as well! I read his 10 Commandments of Dating book in college. Classicly witty R' Boteach prose right there.

I haven't read his other articles/books (other than the one where he bashed the critique of the woman who infamously suggested girls get nose jobs and the like while dating...)

Heard his speeches though! Love 'em. My favorite has been "Kosher Lust." Lol. I think he's writing a book based on that speech.

As far as disappearing from the blogging world: With G-d's help, I hope to return soon :)I've definitely been missing it.

Princess Lea said...

Beck: I read an article on "Kosher Lust" and I found it fascinating. Frum Jews should be really aware of how much Christian thought has seeped into our mindset. The world combines the two as "Judeo-Christian thought" and they are well and truly separate.

Hope to read you soon!