I had an epiphany recently.
I started listening to the audiobook, “Unconditional Parenting” by Alfie Kohn. I do not know the whole premise of the book, but it was available on Hoopla and sounded interesting. So far, it has been quite thought-provoking.
One thing which stood out to me, was the story of a mom who said, “My son was always such a good kid. But now he is a teenager and going with the wrong crowd and getting into so much trouble.”
The author replied something to the effect of, “So your son was a very obedient child? He did what you told him, dressed how you wanted him to, and acted how you wanted him to behave. Is that true?”
“Well, it sounds like he is still very obedient, but he is no longer listening to you, he is now obeying his friends.”
Then the author went on to talk about how it is better to raise children to be “moral” rather than just “obedient.”
That story got me thinking about my childhood.
From what I have been told, I was a terrible little kid. I do not remember what exactly I did, but I do remember, I got spanked. All. The. Time. But then as a teenager, I was really good and did not rebel or do anything crazy. So somehow I went from being a rebellious kid to becoming a people-pleaser.
My theory was, I got all my rebellion out at an early age, so by the time I was a teenager, I was past all that.
At first glance, my life sounds like the exact opposite as the story in the book.
Someday, You Will have a Child who is Just Like You!
I remember hearing over and over, “someday you will have a child who is just like you.” It sounded like a curse, or a punishment. But, I did not see why that was such a threat, because I liked me, and I think I turned out great. So what could possibly be so bad about “having a child just like me”?
Now, here I am, a Mom.
At first, it seems like my children must not be at all like me, because they are both really good kids, in my opinion. More and more, I see funny, quirky things about my firstborn, which make me say, “I used to do that when I was a kid,” or “she thinks just like me.” Then I wonder, do I have a child who is “just like me?” Because everyone made it sound like that would be terrible, but this kid is Awesome!
The terrible things I did as a child.
A few years ago, when my mom was visiting, she reminded me of several terrible things I had done when I was a child. She would say, “do you remember the time you did (this terrible thing)? What were you thinking?”
With each story, my response was pretty much the same, “Oh man, I do remember doing that! What was I thinking?”
Then I would remember the whole story: My sister, had this crazy idea, and said, “I would do it, if I could, but I can’t.” She was sick a lot, and at one point she was in a wheelchair. So she could not do this crazy idea, but I could do it. And so I did, because I felt bad for her.
Then I got in trouble, sent to my room, and spanked for being disobedient. Over and over, I kept breaking the rules, even though I knew better. Thus labeling me as a “defiant” and “rebellious” child.
After being reminded of all those incidents, I realized, in those situations, me getting spanked for disobedience was pointless. The shenanigans would have ended a lot faster if someone had spanked my sister, since it was her idea. Or at least when they spanked me, they could have said, “this is because you need to learn to use your brain and stop being so easily manipulated.”
But my parents did not know the whole story. They only saw my behavior and disciplined accordingly.
So this conversation was eye-opening for my mom. Realizing, little Becky actually was not as defiant or rebellious as she seemed at the time.
I did Learn My lesson
Even though I was spanked for all the wrong reasons, apparently I did eventually “learn my lesson.” Because as a teenager, I finally stopped doing other people’s bad ideas. I was still very much a people-pleaser. But for the most part, I cared more about pleasing the adults in my life, rather than pleasing my peers. Because the adults are the ones who issue the punishments.
One time at youth group, an acquaintance said to me, “I dare you to (do this very dumb thing).”
I responded, “What on earth? That’s a terrible idea. Why would I do that?”
The Acquaintance said, “Because I dared you to do it.”
Me, “I’m not doing that.”
Acquaintance, “ok, homeschooler, apparently you do not know how a dare works. If someone dares you to do something, you have to do it.”
Me, “No. I do not.” Until that moment, I had no idea the “rules” of a dare. So, you can just dare anyone to do anything, and they just have to do it, because it’s a dare? What’s up with that? That is a terrible idea.
The Acquaintance stared at me in shock and disbelief. It was no doubt, the first time anyone had ever stood up to them. This person, who thought they had so must power over their peers, had met their match, in little homeschooled me. In that moment, I felt so empowered.
But I was still mostly a people-pleaser
As a young adult, I worked at a daycare. There were a few times when I got in trouble for breaking the “rules.” Each time, it was because I chose to obey Sally, my co-worker, over obeying my boss. Because I was stuck in a room with Sally for 10 hours, and she was not a fun a person, so I generally did whatever was necessary to keep her happy, or at least keep her from getting angry.
I got in trouble for silly things, like leaving a baby sleeping in their crib, in the sleeping room, unattended. While I changed a kid’s diaper, because Sally said it was my turn to change the diaper. Never-mind the fact it was always my turn to change every diaper. Yes, I could have taken the child into the sleeping room to change his diaper, but why bring a loud kid into a room with a sleeping baby? And it is not like the sleeping baby will suddenly die in their crib if I leave the room for 2 minutes. But it was in those 2 minuets, that our boss happened to come in the see how things were going.
There were only about 3 times that I chose to obey Sally, rather than follow the “rules.” And I got caught. Every. Single. Time. Then I turned in my 2 weeks notice. The new girl they were training to replace me, only lasted 2 days with Sally.
In hindsight, the majority of the times which I have gotten in trouble, were because I chose to follow (obey) my friends, peers, coworkers, rather than follow the rules.
I suddenly realize: I have always been a “good” person.
I was just obeying the wrong people.
Which is why having a child who is “just like me” is so Awesome! Cuz I “get” her!
On top of that, I already figured out, that sometimes when she is mis-behaving, it is because she believes her friends have given her permission to break the rules. So now she is learning that friends do not have the authority to give permission to override the rules put in place by Mom & Dad. But that’s a different story, which I wrote back in January, called: You Are Not The Boss of Me. A lesson which I would have benefited from to learning a long time ago. But, better late than never…