Thursday, July 19, 2012

Oh no, MY child would never do that!

Maybe your child is accused of hitting another. Or biting. Or bullying. Your first thought: this cannot be, my child never did that before and would never do that! It is not part of his personality. I know my child better. There is no way my child could be this bad. They must have an agenda. They need to check their facts. They are accusing and I am on defensive here. This is so embarrassing.

They might be right.

Today's situation: I went online to research a local park with good hiking trails to take kids out in the morning before the thunderstorms hit. I wanted to check the hours, but discovered that the park is closed and its ownership shifted. Now there is a possibility that one will have to join a museum in order to have access to the park.

As I was looking all of this up, I looked up to discover that the kids took a ball of yarn and strung it all over the house. They looped it from one room to another, through the backs of the chairs. They strung it through the stair gate. They stretched it to the bedroom through the bunk bed. I caught 2yo with an end wrapped tightly around her hand and 8yo trying to free her. You could not walk through without ducking or stepping over.

I was furious: here I am, looking up something nice to do and they go on destroying the house and making a mess! It took us a while to find the end of it, and lift up every chair, roll it up into a ball. The clean-up prompted 6 yo to exclaim: I will never do this again and this is without bli neder! ( We learned parsha yesterday about not making promises and saying "bli neder" to show that whatever you say, it's not a promise. At least he assimilated that lesson).

Afterwards, I was thinking. This is something other kids would do. My kids would never do something so ridiculous. It was pointless, it was silly, it was messy, it evoked strong negative response. My kids are smarter than that. But here I am, faced with the evidence that they DID do it.

By now, I had a few of these moments, when you discover that a child is capable of things that you would like him never to do. One example was when 6yo, being 3 and in a restrictive preschool program, kicked his teacher. I was extremely embarrassed, especially when the teacher told him that saying "sorry" is not enough. Another is with 8 yo being mean to other kids. Again, as a parent you are mortified. The first reaction does seem to be to shift the blame, since you feel that you are accused of something: not teaching manners, or being too relaxed or not caring. And since you cannot shift blame on your child (that is still like blaming yourself), you shift the blame on the accuser.

I remember myself, as a child doing two really silly things. One was pushing the lid off a whole pot of jam with my slippered foot. The slipper fell off and ended up stuck in the jam. Why did I do it? I don't know. I was a smart kid, not wild, usually thinking things through. This one was probably an experiment of some sort. Another event happened when we visited my grandmother's sister. She had a young apple tree growing, still small. The summer we were there, it produced only one apple, right at my eye level. I think we asked about picking it and were told not to do it. After walking past it for days ( weeks?) I stopped one time and took a large bite out of it, still attached to the tree. That evening, one of the grown-ups discovered the bite marks. My sister and I were summoned and questioned. Both of us denied it. My sister said that maybe a dog did it, or maybe a neighbor boy came over and bit it. She was not believed. I was believed because I was a child who would never do something like that. Many years later, I confessed it to my sister.

So next time you are confronted with something that your child would never do, think: is it possible?


  1. stringing a ball of yarn all over the house actually sounds like a fantastic activity to me. i think it might give a sense of engineering, plus the general benefit of exploring cause and effect - how one material can really make an impression on the surroundings. there is also fine motor application, and art.

    clean up can actually be fairly simple, if you are willing to "waste" the yarn and chalk it up to "toys" expenses. just give them scissors and a bag and have them snip snip and put the pieces in a bag.

    that is HILARIOUS about the apple on the tree. you, being a good girl, controlled yourself from picking the apple because you were told not to pick it!

  2. Every year I read a book to my first graders around Yom Kippur time about t'shuvah, and the story starts out with the main character unraveling his visiting grandmother's ball of yarn all over the room. He is told that he must clean it all up, a seemingly impossible task to him. The tale goes on from there. I will look up the title when I go in to school next week, but the resemblance to your incident is pretty funny!

    1. we like The Hardest Word for Yom Kippur story.