Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Agency

My son is not me. I am not my son.

I am trying to teach myself this lesson so that I will be more accepting of the choices he makes. 

This summer we went on a number of field trips to fun places with a group of other kids and moms. So yeah--obviously Owen got into some mischief. Being where he wasn't supposed to be. Talking when he wasn't supposed to talk. But it's more than that, which make me squirm. It's Owen's interactions with others in general.

See there's two big things about Owen: he's social, and he's a thinker.  He loves talking to people-especially strangers- and he loves telling them whatever comes into his head.  He's the kid who put's his hand up to "ask a question" and tells everyone about how he went to Legoland and went on a Safari ride, and there were animals on the ride, and animals in general are kind of related to the amphibians that we are talking about at the nature center.

I know how his brain works because it's how mine works.  I was that annoying little girl that made everyone sigh whenever I raised my hand.  But it was because I was making connections.  My brain was figuring out how what we were talking about related back to me, and that's a good thing right?  But then I started getting teased.  And I learned to hold myself back.

I created rules for myself.  Throughout college (and still today when I'm in a classroom setting) I allowed myself three comments per class.  Very occasionally when I feel it's extremely pertinent or helpful I'll share a fourth. (Lame.)

So I'm sensitive to his behavior because I know he's bugging people--tour guides, waitresses, complete strangers riding their bikes by our house.  Well, maybe not bugging but I know it's not entirely socially acceptable behavior.  I recognize that part of my problem is I'm embarrassed for myself--my past self-- because I know how I would have loved to not be labeled as "so annoying" growing up; and part of me is embarrassed for myself--the mother--because don't I know my kid is bugging people?  If so I should make him stop.

But should I?

As parents we are supposed to teach our children.  We are supposed to tell them the rules.  We are supposed to model appropriate behavior for them to follow.  But are we supposed to make them act the right way?

Where does agency come in?  Where does allowing children to learn from their mistakes and reap the consequences of their own actions come in?

I'm not talking about letting Owen take home candy bars from the store without paying for them--I'm talking about allowing him to live the way his little heart is telling him to.  Talking to others, exploring where his curiosity takes him, and talking about the ideas going on in his head. 

Owen is heading off to kindergarten in a week.  I'm staying myself--readying myself for the experience.  Owen is going to be out on his own making choices for himself.  As his mother I have to recognize that I am not capable of directing his every action (nor should I be).  And I have to accept that when he makes bad choices it's not my "fault." 

And most importantly I have to remember to not let other people's opinion of my son affect the love that I feel for him or show to him. 

I'm not done raising him.  I will continue to try and teach him and guide his choices and behavior.  I will continue to try and live in a way that I model appropriate behavior.  We will try and help him learn from experiences he has in school--both good and bad--to encourage him to be thoughtful and considerate.  But when it comes right down to it -- he's his own person.  The choices are his.

4 comments:

shelly said...

I remember when I met Owen and he was so little and came up behind me, lifted my shirt, and gave me a zerber. It was delicious =) I like your thoughts here. I'm already feeling like I have to apologize for Tate's public behavior sometimes and he's two! So this is good food for thought. Let them live and learn. Teach and don't be controlling. My mother did it so well, but I'm afraid it will be more of a struggle for me! I'll ask my ma to read your previous post because I want baby legs for under Avery's dresses this winter. But conveniently, I don't own a sewing machine =)

Wayland said...

Owen's so lucky to have a mom who knows and understands him as well as you do and I'm sure you will be more successful in teaching/guiding him to be a wonderful person everyone will love...just like his momma. :)

Anonymous said...

Welcome to full-blown motherhood! :) And when you are 55, you can think back on raising your children and remember all the embarrassing moments, but be absolutely PROUD beyond description of how they turned out. The most important part of your post is at the beginning. Your self-worth, self-esteem, and well-being MUST NOT depend on your child's behavior. You already love your child unconditionally--now you will learn to love others unconditionally, even those who 'offend your little ones'. That is how we are sanctified. Also remember: Those that matter, don't mind. Those that mind, don't matter. Love you, Nonny

The Whetten Family said...

Jeanette,
I love this post because I often to have these feelings with my own children. Owen is AMAZING & so are you. Our children don't always model the appropriate behavior but this is how they learn and gain experience. It's so hard to let them go.And know they have to learn on there own. It's hard for me anyways.Owen will do great.

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