I had a proud mama moment the other day. It was a sunny Saturday, so after stuffing our bellies full of Costco samples I took L&L to Metzger Park here in Tigard, Oregon to have our sandwiches.
As I was pushing little Leini on her very first ride on a swing, I stood watching Laird playing on a rather unusual piece of playground equipment.
“Look, mommy, I’m on the caterpillar!”
I responded with something like, “Cool, Laird! I’m not sure that’s a caterpillar though, it looks like a dog, maybe?”
“No, it’s a caterpillar.”
“Ok, fine. It’s a caterpillar,” I replied and continued pushing Leini. I’ve grown to realize that Laird is one hard-headed, stubborn kid and refuse to argue with him on things that don’t matter.
A couple seconds later, an older kid shows up. One of those kids that knows he’s the oldest kid on the playground and is probably used to all the other younger kids listening to him.
Laird tells him, “I’m on the caterpillar.”
The kid replies, “It’s not a caterpillar.”
“It is a caterpillar,” says Laird, just a little bit louder.
“No, it’s not a caterpillar, kid.
“Yes, it is a caterpillar,” even louder.
“No, it’s NOT a caterpillar,” says the kid louder.
“Yes, it IS.”
“It’s NOT a caterpillar!”
“Yes, IT IS!!”
“YES! IT! IS!”
I could see that this 5-year old was beginning to realize Laird was not going to back down and was caught a little off guard.
“It can’t be a caterpillar. This thing has legs. A caterpillar doesn’t have legs,” says the kid.
I continue to push little Leini while trying to conceal my giggling as I am watching this dramatic encounter unfold. I could see Laird trying to process the kid’s most recent statement asking himself, “Do caterpillars have legs?” But, my boy did not give in.
“It IS a caterpillar!” shouts Laird.
“It’s NOT a caterpillar! I don’t know what it is, but it’s NOT a caterpillar,” replies the know-it-all. “I’m not talking to you anymore, kid,” and the boy left.
Thinking the boy was gone for good, Laird looked at me. I smiled back at him and said, “I think it is a caterpillar.”
But he soon returned with a friend. “See, this isn’t a caterpillar,” told the kid to his buddy.
His buddy objectively replied, “It could be a caterpillar.”
“It can’t be a caterpillar, it has legs. Caterpillar’s don’t have legs.”
“Yes, they do,” says the other boy. “They’re just really tiny, so you can’t see them. But caterpillar’s have legs.”
Laird, who had been sitting on the “caterpillar” while listening to this dialogue, states, “It is a caterpillar.”
The boy says, “I don’t know what it is, but it’s not a caterpillar.”
“Yes, it is.”
Realizing this was going nowhere and it would be unlikely he was going to change L’s mind, the boy says, “See ya, kid,” and runs off to the jungle gym.
I couldn’t help but smile and be proud that Laird didn’t back down from an older, bigger kid, who apparently needs to learn that caterpillar’s have legs. That night, I told Curt about this encounter at the park. This led to a deep discussion about parenting, how we want to empower our kids and that, up to this point, we really hadn’t been doing that.
It is far easier for us, as parents, to boss L around and tell him what to do, to make him obey and strip him of any type of respect or opinion. “Laird, go potty.” “Laird, you need to sit down when you eat.” “Laird, stop yelling at your sister.” “Laird, it IS a caterpillar.” “Laird, blah, blah, blah.” I’m sure he’s so sick of hearing his name in combination with an order.
Just recently, in my search to find a suitable preschool for L, I happened on a blog (Teacher Tom) that has completely shifted my thoughts on parenting and made me realize how I was failing to respect my child. Truly thinking he would let this kid override his beliefs, I was amazed to witness L question authority and stand up for what he believed. Yet, I was saddened to look back at all those times I’d gotten mad at him for standing up to me. After all, I’m the parent, the authority, he should listen to me, regardless of whether he thinks I’m right or wrong. I realized that I want L to do the “right” thing (go potty, not hit, sit while eating), not because I or anyone else tells him to, but because he knows the outcome if he doesn’t (wet undies, hurting someone, disrupting dinner). I could go on and on about this. I’ll suffice it to say that Curt and I are changing our parenting to allow L to discover things on his own.
Anyway, the funniest thing about this caterpillar story occurred the next day.
“Laird, tell Daddy about the boy at the park. Remember, you told him that it was a caterpillar, and he said it wasn’t?”
L looks at me, confused. “Caterpillar? It wasn’t a caterpillar, it was a centipede.”