Friday, September 08, 2006

Shelter

This is surprising. You know how you blog in your head? Well, that’s what I do ever since I started this blog 6 months ago. I write in my head and think of topics I want to be sure I post about, then I hear the phrases I want to write in my head throughout the day. Today I had one in my mind before actually going to the event the post was going to be about. And now I’m all off, because my response wasn’t quite what I’d expected.

Sam and I started school today. I found a great parent/toddler program at a Waldorf School. We go for one morning a week. We’re not really considering Waldorf for Sam’s education later on and I’ll probably write more about that as I learn more about it, but what this program does for children this young I think is really right on. It’s very much based on imaginative play, imitation, and showing children how to find joy in their work through our own example. Pretty progressive, and that’s what I thought this post would discuss. While I think of myself as a fairly progressive parent I know I am by no means anywhere near the end of the spectrum. I’m used to being with moms from the club where I tend to come off as pretty crunchy. This was going to be a situation where I fell more on the other end, and I knew this as I sat at our first meeting among several knitting women. I felt self-conscious going to “school” today and found that I constantly pulled down Sam’s shirt to cover up the fact that he was not in a cloth diaper. But other than that I really don’t have much to say on the issue. I didn’t feel uncomfortable and I liked the program. Maybe I’ll write more about what we do one day later but for now I have a different issue to address.

Sam is the youngest in the class, which ranges from 15 months of age up to 3 years. He did pretty well for most of the morning. There are certainly different expectations of him since he is different developmentally, and I did my best to be reasonable in what we could expect from him. So he spent a lot of time outside of the activity and watching or exploring something else altogether. It was also his first time there and his first time doing anything like this for so long (2 ½ hours). Anyway, here’s what I didn’t expect to be writing about today…

I’m worried about the influence that older children have on Sam. Sam is still very sweet. He hasn’t really hit the tantrum phase yet. He does not scream except for when he feels wronged, like when I pull him away from something he is exploring. He is not violent – he has started swinging his arms at us sort of like hitting just a bit and I think it’s because he gets a new and different reaction. But for the most part violence has not crossed his mind because he’s had no experience with it. And Waldorf is certainly very peace driven, making my concerns today that much further from my mind going in.

I saw some stuff I didn’t really like. One kid bit another child and I saw very little response from the biter’s mom. I saw 2 girls hitting each other and again not much in the way of ramifications. And 3 times one child took a toy that Sam was playing with, which really upset him, and the mom of the thief hadn’t even seen it happen. I know all of this is normal kid stuff. I know. I know Sam will be exposed to these kinds of things and that eventually we will be dealing with these very issues when he is the biter/stealer/hitter. And the toy taking is totally normal behavior. He does that at playgroups too but the difference is that I am there to mediate, trade toys, redirect, so forth. My problem is with the lack of mediation among the parents. And I don’t know if that is some sort of Waldorf discipline thing I am not aware of, although that seems very unlikely considering everything else I know about the philosophy, or if this is just these parents, or if it is the setting where the parents are supposed to be “finding joy” in their baking of bread and sewing their doll and so they really aren’t seeing these things…I don’t know. But I know I left there worried about what Sam might pick up from watching and interacting with older kids. I don’t want him to see kids hitting each other yet because it’s just not something I want him to learn…ever. That’s unreasonable, yes. But not so soon, you know. And as I saw from a distance a child walk up and take his toy and his face turn red as he started to cry I was really torn. Things will not always go his way – people may wrong him – but when is it appropriate for him to see that?

For the first time the word “shelter” did not have the negative connotation it has always had for me. I mean, if he had been the one bitten or hit I would have freaked out. And then if no one dealt with the child who hurt him I would have freaked out more. The mom of the one taking his toy was busy sewing her bookmark and she never knew that my son’s crying had anything to do with her daughter, and that’s ok. They all take each other’s toys and we deal with it the best we can until they are old enough that they can understand sharing and empathy. Fine. But dude, I just don’t want him to see kids being violent and I certainly don’t want him on the receiving end of it. I wanted to go home and lock us up in our apartment so that we could play catch with the beach ball and feed each other toast. I wanted to shelter him, which is not what I have ever wanted before. Ironic since my biggest problem with the Waldorf philosophy is that it seems to set forth sort of an “us and them” negative view of the world and our culture. I don't want to lose him...and I don't want to lock us up...and I don't want him to find out that others can physically hurt him...and I don't want him to be afraid of the world...and I definately don't want him acting like a 3 year old yet.

9 Comments:

Blogger Mommy off the Record said...

My son is 14 months old so I totally get where you're coming from. They're really still babies at this point and I don't think we're wrong for wanting to comfort them. I see that as different from sheltering though. I think it's great that you bring your son around these types of opportunities--you are broadening his horizons. I say keep going. He will start learning about people and about the world and it's not always easy. But he will also learn that you'll be there to help explain why someone would snatch his toy and what it means to share. And of course, you'll give him lots of hugs if he needs them. He'll know that no matter how bad it gets out there in the world, that he has a safe place to come back to--his mother.

p.s. would love to hear more about what you think of Waldorf as you go through it.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Mama D said...

Man, all the blogs I'm reading today are so relevant to my life right now!

Baby A was at the sitter today for second time. When I arrived she was happily playing with the older kids in the sandbox. Great. Then I hear about her day. She refused to nap and a boy a few months older than her "tormented" her. That was actually the word she used. I asked her what she meant and she explained that he was rough, pushing and had also head butted her! Super. I asked the sitter if A had cried. She said no. So I thought, okay so I guess I shouldn't worry. I didn't ask how she stopped this from happening or what his punishment was and I guess I should have. This is such new territory for me, I'm not sure what is appropriate.

Blah. Anyway, didn't mean to talk so much about us. I just know what you mean about exposing them to things that you aren't ready for them to see/experience. It's true that this is 'life' as they say but how soon do they have to see the crappy stuff.

As for the toy stealer and oblivious mom. I think I would go over and loudly say "Excuse me, Sam is playing with that toy right now. Would you please give it back?" and take it back. "Why don't you play with this instead." And if that causes the other kid to cry then oblivious will wake up and figure out what is going on. That's what I would do. Maybe you did that too. I don't know if it's the 'right' thing to do but I think it teaches the stealer that it's unacceptable to do that that way Sam won't be inclined to turn around and do it to someone else. (I know they all do it sooner or later but he'd be more inclined if someone is doing it to him all the time.)

7:15 PM  
Blogger Valarie said...

I know exactly how you're feeling. We were in the same situation about 3 months ago. I started helping in the church nursery where there are children from 18 months to 3 years. Some of the little boys are just terrors with hitting, pushing and stealing toys. The first time one was rough with him, my son had a shocked look on his face like, "what the heck was that?" Fast forward 2 months when none of the rough boys were around one week and my formerly sweet and well-behaved boy stepped right up to fill the hitting, toy stealing void. We have a talk each week about not hitting, but I think it's confusing to him because there are only a few parents in there, so most kids are essentially getting away with whatever they are doing.

ps, I can give you some pointers on using cloth on days you go there. I wouldn't want you to stick out. ;)

1:38 AM  
Anonymous abc momma said...

It's hard to know in which situations do you step in and in which do you let them work it out? I definitely think that even little children can be taught about acceptable behavior--correct them when they're being naughty, and praise them when they're being good. I don't know anything about the Waldorf way, but those moms really need to watch and teach their kids--crunchy or not.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Nikkie said...

I worry about that sort of thing, and deal with it everyday watching my niece. When she's with me I enforce how its not nice to toy steal with both of them and the world comes crashing down when either of them hit or push. I know that not every parent is as vigilant about it as I am and I worry about Boo seeing how others get away with it and how he doesn't.

I don't think its wrong for wanting to protect them from the nastiness that is life. I think they shouldn't have to deal with it so soon. But sometimes they have to, and thats the really hard part.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Tracey said...

When it all comes down to it, YOU'RE his mom, and if you don' think something's good for your son, then go with that.

I'm sure you know that you can't REALLY shelter him forever, but I understand your feelings. Maybe you can call the center's director and ask their policies on just what you wrote. Explain that you're not expecting everyone to get along hunky dory all the time and that kids DO need to have confrontations to learn how to deal with them, BUT you would like to know what their policies are on discipline. Especially when there are apparently so many parents in the room.

You may find that this might not be the place for you, or you might find that it was just an off day.

Can I also say that these early experiences with hitting and other violent acts may actually be beneficial? If YOU react the way you want HIM to act, he can learn to imitate early on, and may bypass some of the biting/hitting/not-sharing stages that kids go through.

9:20 PM  
Blogger sari said...

This would bother me, too. I'm worried about my four year old learning things from other kids, and he's twice Sam's age.

I'd be tempted to just put off the whole experience for a while longer, but that's just me. I don't think of it as running away from the situation, but at his age, does he really need that yet? I don't know.

Good luck, please let us know what you decide!

12:25 AM  
Blogger LynAnne said...

My first was mild mannered and shy and would often come home from preschool with bite marks. Oh how mad I was! - can't the teachers keep a closer eye on the kids!? How could they let my son be attacked like that? Then, my second came along and he was the biter. Day after day, I had to sign an incident report because he had chomped down on another child. I was SOOO embarrassed and couldn’t look the other mom’s in the eyes as I picked my child up each day. Where had I gone wrong?

The good news is my oldest has remained the mild-mannered, kind soul that he always was despite being exposed to all sorts of awful behavior (even in our own home – we later found out our youngest son is autistic and was prone to outbursts that would cause any mom in the vicinity to grab her child and back away). I think it’s good for your child to be around all sorts of personalities and behaviors, positive or not. Children who are exposed to other children at a young age learn cooperation and mediation skills a lot sooner than those who are sheltered. Even in the worst case that he copies the behavior of one of the other children – this would provide a wonderful learning opportunity for you to redirect him to a more appropriate behavior.

In the meantime, I echo the comments of others. Don’t be afraid to step in. I especially like MamaD’s suggestion for how to handle the toy thief.

9:39 PM  
Blogger The Constant Gardener said...

Boy oh boy do I know where you are coming from! This is one of the most difficult things for me. I know that kids will hit sometimes, etc, but I don't think I have to live with my kid getting hit. I'm trying to learn to step in and protect my children. They are too little to protect themselves---they have been given parents for a reason!

4:54 PM  

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