I'm not a big fan of heat or storms, which is why the kids and I do our summer adventuring in the mornings. From June through September, the kids and I usually head outside just after breakfast and only come back in for Birdie's nap.
This morning's adventure was a walk along city paths to a pond and playground, located about two and a half kilometers from our house.
Everyone knows what you are supposed to bring water, snacks, and sunscreen along when you go for a walk, but it occurred to me today that I there is something else that is equally important to leave behind.
Much of what we think we know is actually a series of assumptions. We think we know people - the nature of human beings - and from there we infer how they will behave. And then we find examples of the behavior we expect to see and use that to confirm what we believe reality to be. Meanwhile, evidence to the contrary of our worldview is dismissed as unimportant deviations or, and this is a bizarre phrase, 'the exception that proves the rule'.
There is probably no way of getting away from assumptions, or our snap judgements and personal profiling that we all do. It's probably very lucky for us as people that we do use this mental shorthand to help us navigate the world. Just think of all the trouble we would get into if we couldn't classify information or people, or had to find out everything there was to know about everything before we acted. We'd be immobilized with information overload.
Still, being aware of what assumptions you carry with you is very handy. And taking the sport of people watching to another level by figuring out what assumptions other's carry with them is quite interesting and a most excellent way of passing time while pushing a toddler swing for forty minutes at a public playground.
In the playgrounds and at places where people tend to congregate with kids, it is easy to see how we all have ideas about what children are capable of. Some parents like to sit in the shade and let their children explore on their own while others, assuming the children can handle whatever comes up on their own or that bumps and bruises are good lessons to learn. Others believe their children to be fragile beings in a hostile world, hovering around their children, micro-managing their every move and, with shrill apologetic voices, moving every other child out of the way of their own precious' progress.
I would make dire predictions about the result of either parent's style and set of assumptions, but, really, in general most people grow up okay either way and it's the parents that are either enjoying or losing out on the sublime experience of having a being grow and develop right before their eyes.
As inherently entertaining and educational as people watching and analyzing is without any further thought, I thought I'd use these observations as a cue to examine what I assume children to be capable of and how that plays out when I interact with my own children.
Who are my babies and what do I make of them?
Oddly enough I do both the chill out on the side and hover parenting with my kids. Birdie, I assume (and he is) a bit shy and cautious out in public while a dictator at home. I stay close to him at the park, though I try not to infer with his progress nor push him to do more than he wants to at the moment regardless of whether he can or can not. Honestly, I'm a total push over with him and I know him to be much stronger than I assume. I also know him to be terribly manipulative with me and must set absolute rules for both of us otherwise I end up letting him play tyrant and me indentured servant.
Knowing is half the battle.
The other kid? Well,...
She the bravest kid I know, especially when she's made a friend. And I think that telling her that over and over again has encouraged her to be just that: brave and friendly. The self fulling prophecy that has gone most excellently right.
There are other assumptions that people make that I have decided to cross off my own personal list. Things like 'children don't eat green vegetables' or 'you must drink cow's milk to have healthy bones' or 'children can not be expected to walk long distances'.
On the walk home, Smootch fell into a brief moment of complaining about being hot and tired. While I appreciated knowing how she was feeling, being hot and tired myself I had little patience for her whining and snapped at her that we all get hot and tired and it's not necessary nor interesting to broadcast that information continuously. Then I tried to soften my response a bit by encouraging her to share something that would be uplifting to the situation.
Then I thought, well, why don't I share something uplifting too? Why I do assume that other people are the only ones responsible for their own moods?
So I promised them London Freeze ice pops when they got home.
With something cool to look forward to, the rest of the walk was pleasant. And the London Freezes were good.
I try to keep an eye on my assumptions and be willing to adapt my view to better fit a situation. I also try not to say too many definitive statements about my children's personalities or capabilities, at least not in their presence. I can always assume that they are capable and then try to share their load the same as I do with any other human being close to me.
The fewer assumptions we keep in front of us, the better we can see each other.
1 pot of strong earl grey tea
Milk and sugar to taste
a splash of vanilla
Mix up tea and allow to cool. Pour into ice pop molds and allow to freeze. Use to encourage a positive attitude in hot and tired children.