So you know how we are at war with this country, Iraq, and even though we are bigger and stronger and more technologically developed and so on, we still cannot seem to...win? This perplexes people. Our fine president seems to have this "bigger and stronger=winning" attitude, and apparently seems also to think that the solution to the not-winning problem is a greater use of our bigger-and-stronger-ness .
Well. I just think this means that George wasn't very activily involved in parenting when his girls were infants. Because let me tell you: as the parent of an infant, I am forced to realize every day that being bigger and stronger...well, it's nice. But it only gets you so far.
Okay, so: what I am thinking about here is that one of the ongoing issues of parenting is how to use your strength (one could also say that this is an ongoing issue of being the last remaining global superpower, but I'm going to stop with the foreign policy analysis now). You want your child to do something that s/he does not want to do. What does it mean to make them do it? Can you, even?
Tonight Elliot would not eat his dinner. Would not. We tried every food. We tried distracting with every toy. We tried multiple eating positions. And he was sort of overtired and strung out and was just not going to eat. He just sat there, whining, but with his mouth closed. And we were like: open your mouth, child! He didn't. Basically, he won his own little war of resistance. No solid food went down that gullet, and there was just nothing we could do about it.
As discipline problems go, I realize this is pretty minor (it's not like it involves car keys or a bad boyfriend or something). But it's very interesting! Because...you know, we could maybe pry his mouth open, or force feed him or something maybe. We wanted him to do a physical thing--eat--and we are physically stronger and more adept. But it didn't matter. Given that we were not willing to hurt him, all of our grand adultness was useless in the face of his small infant will.
Our powers as adults can help us raise our children, but given that what we want is indeed to raise them rather than wring their little necks (usually), in fact it is our children's lack of power (to reason, to defend themselves) that often makes them the "winner" in our parenting wars. Since we are not going to hurt them, at some point they are just going to do what they want to do.*
Which, I guess, is old news to parents (if not to the pentagon).** There's some sort of balance between diplomacy and acquiescence and tough love, and you just have to get to know your child really well and...figure it out.
*Which actually, now that I think about it, gives me a new perpsective on how and why sometimes people do hurt their children. You have all these powers...and you really want to use them. It's so frustrating to have so many useless, useless tools, and I suspect that the drive to make your physical superiority useful is what makes parents do such awful things.
**I wonder how our iraq policy would change if we stopped talking about winning the war and started talking about "raising" iraq, in a parenting sense? If we just admit that we're not going to nuke them, because we really do want the best for them, and so we are just going to have to try a different parenting strategy now?