WARNING: Parenthood is the long, painful process of ensuring a tiny jerk won't become a huge, dangerous jerk. Proceed with caution.
I tell you this because it's hard to get on top of it, sometimes. One kid has THE WORST DAY EVER, and suddenly they're throwing your hugs back at you in the sports section of a rural Wal-Mart and then the older one has a rare tantrum because kites are hard and you wish you could send them to bed with gruel and take a long bath with some Regency Romance.
Or maybe that's just me.
But something happened today that scared the crap out of me as a parent because I was once stalked and raped by a guy who wouldn't take no for an answer.
Here's a discussion I had with my 5yo son earlier:
him: SISTER? SISTER!
me: Leave her alone. She's having private time.
him: BUT I WANT TO BE WITH HER.
me: Well, you can't. You hurt her feelings, and she's frustrated, and she wants to be alone. And that's her right.
him: THEN I WILL FIND HER AND HUG HER.
me: No. She doesn't want that. She wants to be alone.
him: I DON'T CARE. I WANT TO BE WITH HER.
…and I think there's a lot of potential for problems, depending on how the parent deals with this situation. It would be easy to yell at the kid, to hug him close and comfort him, to bring his sister upstairs and force them to play nice or send him down to settle it in a tiny, padded Thunderdome.
But if you just look at his side of the conversation, does that not sound like a man who doesn't take no for an answer, who pursues a woman who has made it clear she doesn't wish to be pursued? That dogged sense of, "Well, sure, she feels that way, but my feelings are more important"?
Good thing he's five and teachable.
I worry that maybe the reason we have so many men who ignore clear signals of disinterest or rejection from women are that they weren't explicitly told at any time in their formative years, "Yes, you have feelings. Yes, this is normal and okay. Yes, your feelings will hurt sometimes. But that gives you no right to intrude or continue pressing in where you're not wanted. Your hurt feelings are not more important than anyone else's feelings."
And that's what I told my son, pretty much.
That everyone feels bad sometimes, and it's okay.
That sometimes those hurt feelings are your fault, and sometimes they happen because of someone else's actions, and sometimes, they're totally random.
That he wanted to make things good with his sister, and that was good, but she didn't want to see him at that moment, and that was her right. That when people want privacy or ask to not be touched, you honor that.
And I had to say it several times and several ways, because these concepts are hard to grasp when you're five and just want to make yourself feel better. For some people, they're hard to grasp well into adulthood.
But dammit, I did it. And I didn't let him go find her.
When she was ready, she came back downstairs, and now they're playing happily.
But I think it's important to not only parent your child in the moment, but to also parent their future and to parent in advance of the moments you won't be around and to parent in thoughtful ways that serve the person they will become and the world where they will wield influence. When parenting is the hardest, you often don't have the energy to really be a great parent. But dammit, babies, you have to try.
Sometimes, kids will feel bad.
Sometimes, they need to.
And that's okay.
Um, now back to your scheduled geekrotica.
On to Level 2: THE SUPERFOX!