So Arddun’s doing a splendiferous job of ignoring me. Already.
While pregnant, I had touched lightly on the concept of first-time obedience and how the perfect child would ideally respond to your every god-like command with a cherubic “Yes, Mommy.” It’s a Babywise thing, if you’re familiar with that parenting philosophy. Basically, Growing Kids God’s Way aka Babywise/Toddlerwise/Childwise advocates teaching children to obey from the start. No 1-2-3 strikes and you’re out. No counting from 1 to 10 before they do your will. You say, they do from the get-go.
And there’s a bunch of stuff in between about a child allowing to appeal or something. It’s not a dictatorship we’re trying to establish here. But basically, the ideal is this very French parenting thing of a quiet word and some very calm compliance.
Now for months, I’ve been training Arddun to crawl to me when I ask her to Come Here. Like, I’ve been literally trying to train her. If she sees something shiny and asking to be gummed to death, and is about to make a beeline for it, I’ll choose that moment to call to her. And when she turns around – and she usually does – I’ll firmly yet gently ask her to Come Here. And then I’ll sit there and watch her make up her mind. And most of the time, she has turned around and come crawling back.
And it sounds ker-razy. It sounds like I’m turning Arddun into my poodle. And I’ll admit there are days when it even feels like it – particularly when compliance is rewarded with very enthusiastic clapping and breathless “GOOD GIRL!”s. And when the child swings around with a toy clenched in her teeth. But the way I see it, between a quiet “Arddun, come here” and the alternative – running through a shopping mall and screaming for her to come back to me while she dashes into the nearest supermarket and snorts contraband candy powder and red cordial… guess which scenario is preferable.
And so I’ve been practising. We’ve been practising. But lately, it’s gotten harder. And while I don’t believe in original sin or the idea that Babies are Secretly Manipulative, there is something to be said about the spark behind the eyes. That flash of cognition I’m starting to glimpse when I call her and she looks straight at me, before turning back and trotting off calmly in the direction she was headed.
What’s that saying again? “I’m not deaf. I’m just ignoring you.”
It’s starting to get more interesting. Where once I wasn’t sure if she even understood my meaning to begin with, I now know she does. I now know she makes choices. Her movements, though still babyish and clumsy, are also more purposeful and controlled. She may not be yelling NO like a tatty two-year-old… but she is still saying no. Sometimes.
It’s fascinating to watch. It’s also transition time for both of us.
I come from a long line of smackers. Like, generations of people who believe in punitive punishment. Spare the rod, spoil the child, etc etc. It’s not the done thing nowadays, but lots of parents today still smack their children even if they’d never be willing to admit. It’s become very un-PC to do so but personally, I believe there is a time and place for it and I’m not going to write it off as something we’ll never do.
I’m just not convinced it actually works right now.
Because babies, I’m starting to realise, really DO need something to be repeated 200 times before it becomes understood and accepted as de rigueur. And while it’d be a lot quicker to smack the bottom or yell at the kid – and I’ve had words with her more than once, buh-lieve me – I’m finding that the really hard part is the consistency.
Modelling the same way. Enforcing the same consequence. Teaching the same lesson. Doing the same thing at least 200 times. And finding that you may still not get the message through, even then. Or worse, that you seem to be regressing.
And it’s in times like these that I find myself losing sight of the prize. So I call her to come here and she ignores me. So what. Big deal. She’s an 11-month-old. I have plenty of time. Maybe I’m trying to control her too much, I say. Maybe I’m being too unreasonable. Maybe I’m being too hard on the both of us.
But in the long road ahead to instilling a healthy respect for her crazy mother and an inherent trust that my voice will bring her to safety, this is literally our first step together. And a crucial, fundamental one, at that.