Monday, February 25, 2008

On Conditionality and Parenting

I've billed myself as a 'no nonsense' parent before on this blog but a recent example is this.

The other day Seven was practicing piano and, let me preface by saying that she's got a lot of natural talents in this lifetime, but we suspect piano will take a bit more (ahem) attention on her part. It's one of those things we require of her at this point for all of the great externalities that learning piano gives you (appreciation for music, attention to detail, math skills, personal satisfaction and self esteem, etc. etc.). Unfortunately, the whining that accompanies practicing in the current period may far outweigh the future discounted value of those positive (and mainly theoretical) externalities.

When she was done practicing on that particular day, I said: Good job!

Or "well done", or something. I am all about effort both in my personal and professional life and am finding it hard to convince her that anything worth doing will probably take a bit of practice, but, having learned to read so easily, she remains unconvinced and is certain that she's a terrible piano player.

She responded: Do you REALLY think so?

I replied: When you ask me questions like that, do you want me to be honest or do you want me to be nice?

She: Honest.

Me: You did good!

Her: Not great?

Me: No. But really, really good. I'm proud of you.

So then, the other day we were ice skating for a second time in as many weeks. She was doing remarkably well, given the (thank God!) melting, somewhat slushy conditions, but she was falling a bit more and so, was less confident.

After one spill she looked at me: Do you love me?

Me: Of course I do, honey. My love for you is not conditional on your ability to skate.

She: What IS it conditional on?

I thought for a minute and said: On you being born.

She: So, you won't love me when I die?

Me: I didn't say that it was conditional on you being ALIVE, just that it was conditional on you being BORN.

And then I thought about reincarnation and wondered if we had known and loved each other in a previous life. Maybe it is conditional on one of us being born at some time.

But as I was stumbling around in my head, she was off skating. And falling.


Aislin said...

How do they come up with these questions?! The Niblet was telling me the other day about how she pooped in her diaper (we are knee-deep in potty training at the moment). She said "You were not proud of me when I pooped in my diaper." "Oh honey," I answered. "I am proud of you! Sometimes when you have an upset tummy like you did that day, a diaper just works better. I'm proud of you for knowing that!"

I don't know if she understood what I was getting at, but it sure made me think twice about saying "I'm so proud of you!" when she uses the potty.

giddings said...

You know, I've just started asking Seven what she means by the things she says. I find that she mimics the words and tones that she hears out in the world, but that she often doesn't mean the things that she actually says. She misinterprets the words and tones. OR, she does not expect the interpretation that we give to words and actions. Often just clarifying helps a lot.