I have always bucked against society norms. They have always felt uncomfortable, limiting and lacking personal importance, and therefore have gotten little to no response from yours truly.
Then I had a child. One who embraces EVERYTHING around him, including the holidays and social norms that send MY inner child into a full-on, butt-whooping, punk-rocking rebellion. Punk rocker fantasies aside, having a child does awaken a deep instinctual need to make the world a better place, so maybe a rebel-in-momma’s skin is just what we need!
Yes, social norms can be fun, healthy and in some cases very important, but when the norm goes against your values, do you toe the line or push to move it?
When faced with a social norm that rubs you the wrong way, try using this quote by Alburt Camus, a French writer, as a barometer on where you stand in the toe or push line… “Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being.” My interpretation is this: when I feel pushed toward feelings of rebellion or dislike for a norm I need to look at my own upbringing. Is this norm really an issue of personal values, or is it likely because in my own childhood? Were they presented in a way that did not feel good?
A good one to practice with this is the current Valentine’s Day festivities. I have always been a little uncomfortable with it for some reason. Using the aforementioned quote, I look back at my childhood and remember that a lot of the norms around this day of love were forced on me. There was a huge expectation to make it special and that seemed unattainable because there were too many things that could fail.
When has forced tradition ever worked? If a celebration or tradition is not founded in happiness and joy, then who the heck wants to repeat that year after year?! And what about what our kids think? Do we ever think to ask them for their allegiance? Do they not get a say in how we practice our beliefs or values?
Over our long holiday break, Zavier was home with us for almost two weeks straight. Side note: Stay-at-home parents are incredible. Single parents are incredible. We bow to you!
This time together allowed us to do some serious attunement parenting. To us, attunement parenting means trying different techniques and then watching closely as our little responds. We look at body language, facial expressions and of course, words. Zavier is quite vocal with an extraordinarily large vocabulary for his age, so he communicates very well. What we found was when we asked him to participate in setting up the guidelines about how our day would go, he was much happier to make the needed transitions.
For example, he has been having some difficulty playing alone. He really LOVES our interaction all the time. We have been communicating that there is a time for play, time for work and a time for rest. He’s 3, so that really does not register. He just wants to party all the time. (Eddie Murphy would be proud.)
We found that if we offered suggestions on how to transition and then asked him if that plan “sounds good” or “does that work for you?” He would then feel involved. We even give him room to make compromises, which he does naturally. He knows what he wants and stands up for himself. Rebel momma, rebel son; I’m in love.
Once he seems to feel he is heard, we then say, for example, “Ok, we are in agreement that we will play for 10 more minutes, and then we will get changed for school.” Then we set an alarm and we shake on it. That way, if he complains, we can remind him that he made an agreement and he sealed that agreement with a handshake.
He knows exactly what this means, and it is just as important for him to follow through now that he was instrumental in creating the transition plan. We are building a foundation for integrity, teamwork, negotiation skills and good ole confidence.
So, this Valentine’s Day, we are hoping to empower him to learn and participate at his own level of interest. We want his memories to be happy, and any traditions to be created with very little motive and a lot of enthusiasm. While this is our goal and we are feeling firm in how we want to approach these teaching moments with him, Zavier is conversely teaching us that we always need to be ready to adjust and evolve.
And if all else fails, offer one more round of “you be Aquaman, I’ll be the bad guy.” Traditions can wait… 3-year olds can’t.
With love from our little rebellious family to yours. Happy every day is a loving day! -The Henkels