Thursday, January 2, 2014

Spacing Togetherness

"I want it Now!" whines Veruca Salts in Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Mrs. Salt's wry comment to the father, "You're going to be very unpopular around here, Henry, if you don't deliver soon," speaks to the frenetic pace needed to meet the ever increasing demands of Veruca. Meanwhile, Wonka notes a lost opportunity, and the audience cringes.

The Old English meaning of hwīnan is to whistle through the ear. Whining is part of life with a preschooler, after that, it's a bad habit. The high pitched cry begets attention as does the more discrete whisper into the parental ear version. Whether with the quiet approach or an uproarious bellow, the child claims a parent's undivided attention and rescue services. 

There is no need to solve problems when cleaved to a parent, no need to build up internal resources when rescue is a demand away, no need for positive attention when you have it in spoonfuls at your beck and call. There is no need to learn delayed gratification when the world revolves around you.

Saying no is difficult, but the ongoing interruptions, whether overt or whispered, create an environment of exclusion, confusion, and annoyance. 

Meanwhile, the child fails to develop negotiating skills, and the parent avoids setting boundaries. Giving into a child's demands reinforces behaviors so it's wise to reinforce productive, positive patterns. Parents become marionettes on a string controlled by children, but this technique fails children too. It is with space that an individual emerges.

When I lived in Bahrain, a worker arrived late, apologizing for being on an overseas call. The phone call from India was so that he could decide about his sister's marriage. I was amazed that his long distance input was needed for this decision. We chatted as we worked about how decisions were made and who made them in our respective cultures. 

I felt a wave of gratitude for the mistakes, struggles, and successes I had made through the years whereby I had learned from both small and big choices. Minor choices hone the skills to make the major ones. Negotiating skills only improve when you use them. You start with learning to get along with playmates, and those skills come in handy when it's time to choose a spouse. Part of making decisions is also learning to live with the flaws, imperfections, and consequences that come with the road not taken.

Children learn one thing when they are rescued-- that someone else will save them, but, then, they will always need to be rescued. Instead, let them learn to solve their own problems, to tolerate imperfection, and to get comfortable in their own space.

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Learn to deal now vs. later