Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Linguisitcs and the 4-year-old

"Big Dog, when are you going to start going potty by yourself," I asked, slightly amused that though he is long potty trained, I still am asked to accompany him to the bathroom on a regular basis.
"When I'm a parent," he says.

A parent. Hmmm. That word means a lot to Big Dog. And while he uses it a lot, he also uses it interchangeably with grown up. When little girls and boys are not longer little, they are parents. Sharp knives, wine and the stove are all "for parents." Driving a car, for parents. Poppa's drill, for parents (no matter how much he may really want to disagree with that one). Parents get to decide what's for dinner and eat as much chocolate as they like, whenever they like. And he's right about a few of those things. And wrong about all of them too. He just doesn't realize the difference.

In his world being a parent means that you are in charge. You get to make the decisions that make the kids laugh or cry. You get to have the Tivo remote and you get to decide when it is time for bed (well, kind of decide). You get to have the fun, dangerous stuff and do things unsupervised and without asking permission. Being a parent is power. And that's kind of cool. In his world, being a grown up is the same as being a parent, and since most of the grown ups he knows are also parents, he blurs the line between the two.

When I explained the difference to him at one point, he got it, but it didn't stick. He understands that some people are parents and grown ups and other are grown ups but not parents. He just calls them all parents unless corrected. And since he loves the idea of having babies of his own, being a poppa to his own little boys and girls, I can understand how that distinction remains blurred through everyday use. It's actually kind of cute.

What I haven't explained is that while I get to set the rules, I am not really in charge. My own self-determination has been severely tempered by the wants and needs of my two little boys. They have the power to make me laugh and equal power to make me weep. Watching them develop new skills makes me swell with pride and watching them stumble or struggle breaks my heart. Does he get that difference? No, in this relationship I have to play sheriff to keep them in line, but they are the driving force behind my rule of law. I make rules to keep them safe, to keep them happy and to help them grow into successful people. (Ok, I make a few rules to help keep my sanity, but that's part of keeping them happy right? A crazy mom is not a good mom.)

To be fair, I get his perspective on parenthood. It looks pretty awesome from where he is sitting. Honestly, it is downright amazing from where I am sitting too. Still, I hope he starts going to the bathroom on his own long before he becomes a parent. That could be a sticking point for finding a future co-parent.

Special thanks to Gregg @onedadslife for suggesting the topic that sparked this post. If you're on twitter you should follow him. He's cool like that.

10 comments:

Sharkbait said...

I think he meant "parent". Kids are feisty like that (but oh so endearing too).

Mrs. Tantrum said...

Oh, soon enough he will scream for you to not join him, but then need him to come wipe. It is a no win situation in the bathroom.

I love that he sees being a parent as being in charge! Because I totally don't see it that way at all! It is like barely hanging on by your teeth without losing all control.

Lilith Silvermane said...

Ok, I have heard a lot about this dad, I'll follow him on Twitter now :)

I love this article! It shows what an amazing child you have, how heart warming and loving he must be. You know what... I believed life started when you were a parent. Now that I am, it's truly the beginning!

Gregg said...

What a great post! You nailed that whole "being a parent" from a child's perspective. I still remember thinking that way...and struggle to create a world that more closely matches that perspective.

I'm glad you were able to turn that little idea (in 140 characters or less)into such a great observation!

Living In a Girl's World said...

My girls are the same, except all female adults are "mommies" and all adult males are "daddies". This applies to the animal kingdom as well. They aren't male/female or boy/girl - mommies and daddies. I think that line of understanding takes a while - and I don't want to rush them seeing me as any more imperfect and less "powerful" than they already do!

fruitlady said...

Wow, I think my kids knew the jig was up from jump. And my oldest never wanted me to go potty with him because he never wipes and likes it that way. The youngest now 6 still needs wiping assistance from time to time but it's getting better.

But I totally agree on the parenting thing. I can't think about it in too much detail because it scared the bahoonies out of me what I have gotten myself into and I still have to create some sort of semblance of being in charge from time to time.

MamaCat said...

am taming my 2-year old now (working on pottying); and am cyring a little inside thinking that I too will still be accompanying him to the potty at 4; love your insight into a child's mind and word concepts, spot on

Mekhismom said...

What a great post. You have really captured the concept of "the grass is always greener..." Who knew how difficult being a parent was as a child?

Z said...

Oh, I love this post!

Green said...

Yeah I have met a few kids who've referred to me as a mom, asked where my kids were and then had their minds blown as they tried to wrap their brains around the concept that I can be a grown up who is not a parent.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...