Parenting at Six on Saturday


Is it wake time yet?
I was awakened this morning by a squeal of delight.

“Oh look. It’s six o’clock! I can come downstairs. It’s wake time!”

I never thought I would hear a child squeal with happiness on discovering that it was 6:00-A-M on a Saturday, but yet, here we were. I was still wiping the sleep from my eyes, stumbling around in the general direction of the kitchen and the coffee maker, and my daughter was exclaiming that it was—finally—wake time.

“When can we go outside and go skiing?”

I think that, if given the opportunity, four-year-olds could rule the world. Trust me, if they did, it wouldn’t be all lollipops and ice cream. Nope. It would be up and at ‘em at 5:30am sharp every morning. Outside for hours of calorie-burning play, regardless of the weather. Back inside for a quick chocolate milk break and snack, then back at it again.

Fortunately, four-year-olds do not rule the world.

Or do they?

A friend of mine who is single and doesn’t have a child asked me the other day if she should be offended that a good friend of hers, who moved away, never calls her. She asked me because, like me, this other friend is a working mother of a four-year-old.

“Does your daughter really take up that much of your time? Every moment?”

“Well,” I hesitated, “Yes. She’s in preschool most of every day, so when I get home with her, I try to spend as much time as possible interacting with her. If I’m doing something like cooking or cleaning, then her dad is playing with her.”

“And, there’s no having a phone conversation, or answering e-mail or even sitting down with my knitting or a book when we are home together. She wants my attention at every moment. The last time I tried to have a phone conversation with someone while she was awake, she started putting on a fashion show using my shoes. When that didn’t get my attention, she started up the stairs wearing a pair of my heels. That got my attention. It’s impossible to have an earnest conversation when that is going on.”

Some people believe that children should be seen and not heard, and that a child should be put in her place.

I think children should know their place. My daughter’s place is with me and her dad. At our side she (hopefully) will learn good manners at the table, how to say yes sir and no sir, please and thank you. With any luck she will learn to be kind to others and merciful and compassionate. Hopefully too, she will learn that she is a worthy person in her own right.

She needs to know that when she has something important to show me or tell me, I’ll listen. Right now, that something important may be a fashion show or a comment about what is going on with Floppy Dog. When she’s a teenager that something important may be a friend pressuring her to try drugs or sex. If I don’t set an example of listening to her now, of keeping the lines of communication open now, I won’t have anything to fall back on later when the conversations get hard.

So yes, maybe my daughter is a little bossy and demanding. Most four-year-olds are demanding; that is a developmentally appropriate trait. And truthfully, I’m not sorry to see that my daughter asserts herself so that I know she’s there. She may not rule the world, but she certainly rocks mine. And I want to be a rock in hers whenever she needs one.

That starts now at 6:00 AM on this Saturday morning as I struggle through the pre-coffee haze to come up with an age-appropriate response to the question “When can we go skiing?”

© 2011 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.

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