One of the real perks to living in NYC is being able to give our children access to so many different people and ideas. While most of the time these interactions flow smoothly with benefits all around, every once in a while there is friction. Not necessarily so much friction among the children, but rather among parents and the childrearing ideas that we hold dear to our hearts. For instance, I have discovered that I am a fairly relaxed parent, who tries not to say "no" just for the sake of saying "no." I firmly believe that my child should have the chance to experience life through his own interactions and experiments with the world, not mine. I am the parent that makes others shudder because I allow my son to lick rocks, put sticks in his mouth (indoors no less), and balance precariously on the furniture.
Interestingly enough, the other parents who I have chosen to spend most of my time with are not quite so permissive. Most of the time we can see eye to eye. It's not so hard when we're outdoors (It's not like I let my son run in the street or anything), but when we're in one of our homes, it can be a bit more tricky. Do I tell my son that it's okay to bang or climb the furniture or walk around with spatula in hand and bucket on head in our home but not in others? You bet. Do I spend a lot of time deflecting what is perceived as "bad behavior"? You bet. Is it worth it? You bet. Do I think that my son gets it now? If he did, he'd be a truly astounding 18-month old. But, I live with the hope that my consistent inconsistency will make sense to him in the future. Let's not forget that one of the best principles that we can teach our children, and for that matter, live by ourselves, is respect for others' ideas and practices. It is not easy to tell our children no, especially when we secretly think they are right, but it is important to do so when they are violating another household's rules. I have the task of teaching my son that he will experience many different sets of rules and that part of functioning in society is understanding when and how to act in different situations.
I remember from my own childhood having to grapple with the same inconsistencies and carrying around resentment for the conflicting rules. My parents were not so much about the "why," but more about the "do." I am thankful that my son is growing up in an era where explaining things to your child is looked upon as a matter of course. I will, unlike my own parents, carefully explain why certain behavior is correct in different situations, instead of telling him, "That's just how it is." But I firmly believe that in the end I will, like my parents before me, successfully instill (with a few embarrassing moments for all, of course) the necessary understanding of social graces and respect for others that will get him labeled "such a good child." After all, we do not live just in our own homes, but ever increasingly as citizens of "the world." Let us equip our children to do the same but maybe still also get the thrill of throwing the football in the house with Dad on a fun Sunday morning.
-An "Underprotective" NYC Parent