Teach Your Children Well

Ahh, Lady Mondegreen (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mondegreen), you vile sneaky wretch!

I had this whole intro paragraph planned out today, based on a line from Eminem. I love listening to Eminem while I’m out jogwalking, because he’s got just the right mix of “I can do anything because I’m mighty” and “Anyone who thinks otherwise can [insert incredibly rude suggestion here]”, and that’s usually what I need to propel my alternately-shamed-and-defiant butt out the door. The line, as I heard it, was, “I solemnly swear to always treat this group like my daughters and raise it”, which I loved and thought would be a great jumping-off point. As it turns out, the line (from his song, “Not Afraid”) is actually “…to treat this roof like my daughters”, which isn’t nearly as inspirational. Alas, alack.

But! I’m forging ahead with this post anyway, because that’s one of my new mottos (I’ve got a lot of ’em this year): forge ahead. Be bold. Be daring. Damn the man; save the Empire!

So here’s what I was going to take from Eminem until Lady Mondegreen derailed my best-laid plans: What if we all agreed to treat ourselves as though we were our own children? And if we don’t have children–Moon Man and I don’t, because with a husband, two neurotic dogs, and two self-absorbed cats, I simply do not have the strength to add another 2 legs to this household–what if we just agreed to treat ourselves as though we were our own nieces, nephews, kindergarten class, etc?

I ran a kindergarten after-school program for a few years, and if I learned nothing else from the experience, I learned that the way you interact with children is radically different from the way you interact with adults. I don’t really believe in dumbing things down for kids, but I do believe in acknowledging that they’re probably not coming into the conversation armed with a college-level vocabulary. I believe that kids are every bit as capable as adults of making decisions based on logic and ethics; they just need someone to show them how logic and ethics work. And I believe that as adults, our mission is to set our expectations exactly one step above a child’s current ability level, so they have reasonable goals to work toward.

Now reread that last sentence, and insert the word “my” where it says “a child’s”.

How different would your day be if you started treating yourself with the same patience and realistic expectations that you would use with a child? Nobody expects their kiddo to go from crawling to running marathons overnight, and we all have a little laugh at the idea of it; but somehow it’s fair game to expect ourselves to go from couch potatoes to a marathon within, say, six months? (Lemme tell ya, I’m sure it’s possible, but that’s going to take some serious time and training commitments that most of us can’t afford.) Nobody expects their child to leap immediately from merrily smearing strained peas on their face to eating a medium-rare steak with impeccable table manners, but somehow we think that we can reprogram our own eating habits before breakfast (“effective immediately, I am never eating another gram of sugar. I am also eating only unseasoned vegetables, drinking only water, and I shall never go within smelling distance of another cheeseburger again in life”)?

And tying in with yesterday’s discussion of self-bullying, maybe we can also agree to talk to ourselves like we would talk to kids. I know the limits of my own vocabulary, so I know I can read big grownup articles and understand them–that’s not what I’m getting at. But it would never, ever, ever, under any circumstances, even occur to me to look at a 6-year-old and say, “Holy crap, you’re the most disgusting fat cow I have ever seen in life. Look at you–you can’t even zip those pants up! Seriously, man, for the benefit of humanity, you should really look into staying at home with a bag over your head until further notice, ’cause you are bringing down the neighborhood property values every time you step out the door”…and yet, that’s exactly what went through my head a coupla months ago when I couldn’t get into that pair of jeans I found at the wayback of my closet. Almost verbatim.

So maybe we all agree to a reset. This is not the body I want–I want to test-drive a different one–but since my Healthy Lifestyle Habits are pretty clearly at “newbie” level, maybe I try giving myself permission to treat myself like a newbie human. Maybe we can all work on rephrasing the way we talk to ourselves in the same way that we sometimes self-censor and revise what we actually say to kids–I think most adults who are around kids very often can agree that at some point, you’ve looked at that precious little human and thought, “Seriously, kid, I am going to strangle you right here on the spot”, but actually said, “Sweetheart, I seem to recall asking you to pick up your toys. Please get on that right now”. Maybe we can think about our lifestyle changes as “teaching new skills”, the same way we teach new skills to kiddos, as opposed to “getting my horrible self out of this horrible mess which is all so horrible horrible horrible”.

Maybe we can agree to treat ourselves like our daughters (or sons!) and raise ourselves, instead of tearing ourselves down.

Y’know, like you’d raise a roof. Or a group. Whatever.

And stickers! I cannot overstate the power of giving yourself stickers. These particular stars are available at http://teachers.scholarschoice.ca/products/Stars-6470/Gold-Star-Stickers-p13861/



Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely

6 responses to “Teach Your Children Well

  1. Laura

    I swear you were talking about my children for a bit in there…though I prefer to throw them out the window 😉 And at least I know there’s someone else out there that thinks higher expectations than age-appropriate capabilities is ok! Imagine what we will be capable of when we apply it all to adulthood.

    Not gonna happen overnight, but it’s worth a start.

    • Laura

      PS – I love Empire Records…and Eminem! 🙂

    • Actually, I *was* kinda thinking about them for part of it–mostly I was imagining what would happen if someone talked to The Princess the way we tend to self-talk, and it occurred to me that the only way I’d get to chew their throat out was if neither you nor RYBR was around, ’cause you’d totally get first dibs. 🙂

      And it’s *always* appropriate to ask kids to perform one step beyond where they are currently! Otherwise they just get stagnant. And if that means they’re being asked to perform slightly above their age level, then so be it–certain developmental milestones (walking, talking, etc) can’t really be negotiated, but I see absolutely nothing wrong with encouraging a kindergartener to do 1st-grade math if s/he’s up for it. Heaven forbid we might encourage kids to be smart, huh! lol

  2. I LOVE YOU!
    Just in case you had forgotten or needed/wanted a reminder 🙂

    Best inspiration I’ve read today.

    • I love you too!

      Also, my inner six-year-old wants to get together with your inner six-year-old sometime soon and do something goofy and fun, like maybe fingerpainting holiday cards or some such. …Actually, now that I think about it, that could be a fun party….

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