Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Last night we were supposed to take Ian to his social skills class after taekwondo -- this would be the fourth class, and Tim and I get to attend a parent group at the same time, plus there's free babysitting for the girls in the toy-filled lobby. And we get a VERY reduced rate ($4/class) because of our paltry grad-student income -- there are advantages!

The thing is, Ian really, really, really didn't want to go. We had a looooong discussion outside the TKD building about it, trying to listen and validate feelings instead of just forcing him to do it. He says he doesn't enjoy it and doesn't really learn much and he'd rather be doing other things.

I know all you parents out there, if you have kids of a certain age or older, can empathize with this predicament. It boils down to, how much do you push? On certain things, like safety and treatment of others, you obviously have to hold the line. Other things fall into that lovely gray area that make parenting such a soul-searching venture. Ian by personality resists activities that are challenging to him (it's called human nature, I suppose). He has a low frustration tolerance, but we've definitely seen progress over the years. With so many activities, we've run into this same dilemma, where we have to balance our concern for his growth with our respect for his feelings. Clearly, he needs to be challenged in order to grow, and in some instances, our insistence that he stick with something has eventually resulted in competence, then enjoyment and that feeling of satisfaction that is the basis for true self-esteem (swimming, taekwondo). It's tempting to just shelter him from all experiences that are not of his own choosing, to let him be "safe" here at home and just read, play on the computer, and play with his sisters and his friend next door. But where's the growth in that? How do you develop perseverance, confidence, the ability to stick with something and conquer it? On the other hand, life need not be a compilation of forced activities that someone ELSE considers "good for you," regardless of your feelings. Not much growth in that either, mostly just resentment.

So last night we agreed to take a week off and then consider trying again after spring break, especially if he showed us with his behavior that he needed more training in how to deal with what we termed "friend problems" like lack of empathy or difficulty respecting boundaries. I don't know if it was the "right choice," but I think we all emerged with our dignity intact and with some sense of honoring one another.

It was just as well, too, because last night we had to take turns going around the corner to caucus! Margery, my neighbor, and I walked over to the VERY populated Democratic caucus, where it was all we could do to wait in line, sign our names and skibble on home, and then Tim went over to the tiny Republican version, where he actually got to debate resolutions and play the devil's advocate with the eleven other people in the room. Very invigorating, he reported.

Feeling blessed to live in America!

1 comment:

Tracee said...

Hannah, we are in the SAME boat here, with all three boys. We are constantly trying to balance respecting them with the idea that we know what's "good for them." The hard part here is we have some serious shadows looming over us in regards to how children "should" be treated, etc. Ugh. It is definitely a balancing act! Bravo to you on honoring his feelings and negotiating a compromise. We call that "peaceful negotiations" and "aggressive negotiations" are grounds for loss of respect, i.e., parents reverting back to control freaks. We are, after all, very serious Star Wars fans. LOL