Saturday, November 02, 2013

Okay? Okay.

You become a parent, you do some weird stuff. This is why I try not to stank-eye other moms, because we're all doing the things we think are important, regardless of how nutty they look. You think it matters to breastfeed your kid til he's four? You do you. I don't like to tell my kid she's okay when she's fallen and hurt herself.

Which is what we do, right? A kid falls, we're like, You're ok! You're fine. Because we think it's reassuring. But then I had Eleanor and now I'm like, Wait. This is just going to give her a bizarre and erroneous idea of what 'okay' means. 'Okay' means my knee hurts. 'Fine' means I'm super angry about something.

So we don't tell her she's okay. She falls, and we're like, Ooop, you fell. You hurt your knee. Give it a rub. If she cries, we're like, Do you need a kiss? Do you need a cuddle? Because your head hurts. Because you bonked it.

The OTHER reason we don't tell her she's okay is because we want her to feel her feelings, and to understand them, and to understand that WE understand them (this is where I start to feel a little Attachment Parenty). Because now that she knows what 'okay' and 'fine' mean, if she's hurt or upset and I'm like, You're fine, it makes her MORE UPSET. Because I'm trying to minimize what is, for her, a legitimate emotion.

And it's working out remarkably well. Eleanor hurts herself almost constantly, and she's usually just like, Oh! Hurt the thigh! Mama kiss it? (She once asked me to kiss her tongue, because she bit it, because she bites her tongue more than any person who has ever lived. I didn't kiss it. Should I have? It seemed weird.) If she cries, you ask her what happened, and once she can articulate it she usually calms down. Usually it's in some backwards English scramble like Hurt de fingers de hurt an blocks hurt fingers. But you get the idea.

It's a narrow road between thinking too hard about your parenting and not giving it enough thought at all. Mostly I'm just doing what my parents did, what my friends do, what I fell into the habit of doing when I worked in child care. This is a thing that I do even though it feels, you know, just slightly like Overconcerned Parenting. But my kid is turning out (mostly) okay, so I'mma keep it up.


Amanda said...

I have similar feelings when the boys are being fussy and I purposefully don't give them a snack even though I know it would make them feel better because I'm paranoid about them becoming emotional eaters.

Overconcerned? Maybe? But it seems to be working, so.

Jeane said...

My toddler asks me to kiss her tongue, too! I always say no, but I'll give you a hug, and that usually calms her down.

trish said...

Brain Rules for Babies said that this is the best way to raise emotionally healthy people. It's just showing empathy, and studies have shown that empathizing with a child gets them to calm down faster than anything else. I mean, I always feel better if someone says, 'Wow, that must have been difficult/you must feel frustrated/that must make you angry' as opposed to, 'Why don't you just get over it already.' I tell other parents (when the subject comes up) that this makes tantrums SO much easier to deal with. Ethan still has tantrums, obvs, but they're not very long and they usually resolve without me doing anything but empathizing with him.

blackbird said...

I've always hated that business of telling them they are fine when they aren't.
And we all have our stuff, ya know?

Amy said...

I had the exact same philosophy raising my three. If anything, I think it produces less dramatic, less whiny kids. They all ended up tougher than their teammates and friends regarding getting hurt, taking chances, etc. Not sure if it necessarily produced more emotionally healthy kids in the long run (I'm talking big picture here), but just being tuned in to your kid's emotions and helping them understand and name their own feelings seems like it should definitely help. I think my kids would have been well-served if I had also shown some of my own negative emotions to them, and named them. Compassion goes both ways, and they can learn it from you if they get to be on the giving end.

Lionlewis said...

I think every baby is different and you take a different approach with each baby. My son was crawling at 6 mos and walking at 9 mos and so having such a mobile baby who didn't really understand much of anything I said and yet still fed off my emotions and facial expressions led to me saying simply, "you're ok." Then he would go on his way, but if I had reacted other ways he would overreact and feed off my emotions. Of course I did comfort him if he needed that too.