"Smart, audacious and often hilarious. Takes everything you thought you knew about parenting and turns it on its ear." - Jennifer Jason Leigh

A MINEFIELD OF OBLIVIOUSNESS

The kids and I ventured out to the park a couple of days ago. When we got there, Hudson wanted to swing and Jules wanted to dig. All was quiet when, out of nowhere, frag mines of obliviousness started exploding every which way I turned. There was no place to take cover.

“Oh my God, you’re so pretty! I love your eyes!” a stranger said to Jules in a high-pitched, saccharine voice.

* ! * KABOOM * ! *

Yet another sugar-coated attack on Jules’ self-confidence exploded in her face.

Little girl, the only reason I’m talking to you is because your facial features happen to have formed in a way that appeals to my aesthetic sensibility! Aren’t you gonna thank me?

Jules just stared at the woman and then went back to digging. That night her girlfriend was sleeping over and as I was putting them to bed Jules asked, “Why do people always tell me I have pretty eyes? I don’t like it.” My silly little girl. I can’t believe that after five years of being continuously told how cute she is that she doesn’t yet know that its not who she is or what she’s interested in that matters, only how she looks. I know I needn’t worry because it’s just a matter of time. In fact, her girlfriend then said, “Well, I like it. It makes me feel like a princess.” See? Just a matter of time.

The woman who hadn’t won Jules over, picked up her child and left and peace again returned to the playground. That is, until a little barely two-year-old girl wanted something to eat.

 

“If I give you more snack now, are you still going to be hungry for dinner when we get home?”  a mom inanely asked her daughter as if:

  • a two-year old could have any concept of how long it would be until dinnertime
  • a two-year-old should be able to subliminate her hunger pangs just in case she might get too full to eat later
  • she should be able to distinguish between between “snack” food and “dinner” food

* ! * KABOOM * ! *

This attack on her daughter said, I don’t care what messages your hypothalamus is sending your brain. If you really want my love and approval  you’ll suffer pangs of hunger now so you’ll eat the type of food I want you to eat at the time I designate appropriate for you to eat it even though I’m the one who packed the snack bag and am holding it here right next to you as you play.

The mother reluctantly “gave in”, the child ate the popcorn and peace returned to the sandbox…

That is until a pregnant mom strolled up and lifted her 8-month-old baby out of her stroller and tried to put her down into sandbox. Her daughter made it super-clear she didn’t want to be there by curling her legs up underneath her. Dangling from her mom’s arms like an unfurling Buddha, she seemed desperate to keep her feet from touching the ground.

“It’s just sand! It’s fun to play in the sand!” her mom explained.

Putting her down against her will, the baby lifted up one foot and started ever so carefully to brush the sand off of it.

“Oh come on! Stop it already! It’s just sand! It’s fun to play with. See?” she said pointing to other kids playing in the sandbox.

* ! * KABOOM * ! *

This little girl who had only been alive roughly 240 days had a whole life ahead of her with mother who didn’t care about her experience, she just wanted her daughter to do what she wanted her to do, when she wanted her to do it and to be like everyone else. After all, she only wanted her to enjoy playing in the sand like “all” kids do. I mean she drove her all the way to the park for her to have a good time.  Get with the program of being a kid! Mommy doesn’t have the time or patience for you to be yourself. The total lack of interest in her daughter’s discomfort and empathy for it was too hard for me to take, I had no choice but to surrender.

“I surrender!”

Waving my son’s baby blanket in the air, the kids and I ran for cover and retreated to the safety of my car and took off in search of peace.

16 Responses to “A MINEFIELD OF OBLIVIOUSNESS”

  1. Katrina says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I am a young mum in Melbourne, Australia.
    I discovered your blog last night and have read many articles since.
    I love the way you write.

    We have four young children. 3 sons aged 7, 5 and 3. We have a daughter aged 1.

    I am a reformed smacker – I used it when I thought “I needed to” but after completing a P.E.T. course last year, my eyes have been opened. Both my husband and I were smacked as children and while we both now have loving respectful relationships with our parents, we now know a better way to have loving and respectful relationships with our children than the way our parents did it.

    I was absolutely astounded in my course and wondered why no-one had ever taught me this before?

    I am blessed to have come across more parents, such as yourself, who refuse to accept generational teaching of belittling and using power over children.

    I have been inspired to teach what I have learned and have started my own business helping mums who are exhausted, stressed and frustrated to feel calm and live their best life, starting with their health and passions and creating solid relationships with their children.

    I am still learning, as someone above said, working with one child is easier. Well to change our story from a family with four children who were waiting for my husband or I to punish them in order to know where their limits lie into a family of respect, problem solving to get ALL of our needs met has taken an ocean of strength, patience and inner work on our part.

    It has been well worth the effort and this was confirmed recently at a family Baptism where there was another family with four children almost the exact same ages as our four and the exact same genders/birth order. We were the calm ones and had no issues throughout the day or night. Witnessing the other couple yell, threaten to smack, swear and watching the kids try to get their needs met was unbelievable – I thought to myself: “That used to be us!”

    Thank God we have enlightenment.

    I earnestly await reading and learning more from you.

    -Katrina Tuscano
    Mum of four, Need I say more?

    • Jennifer says:

      Katrina!

      I think there was something really wrong with my blog. I didn’t see any of these comments from July!!

      I would never not post such thoughtful comments or reply. I’m sorry for leaving you hanging.

      What a remarkable change you’ve made. I too love PET. I’m always trying to spread the word!!

      I love how you shared your story here. What a transformation.

      Thank you! I will post it on my fb page (anonymously!) because it is truly amazing and inspiring.

      xoxo
      Jennifer

  2. kali says:

    Your story about the woman talking to your daughter makes me think of how people usually talk about my son when they meet him. He’s two and above the 100th percentile in height for his age. If I had a dollar for every time someone remarked how tall my son is, I probably could pay for a sizeable chunk of my husband’s grad school tuition.

    This happens regularly enough that I’ve joked about getting a shirt made for my son that says, “Yes, I’m tall for my age.” But I’m also irritated by hearing it so often because it’s as if there is nothing else noteworthy about my son that can be observed, such as his generosity, his patience, his long attention span, his curiosity, or his turn-taking ability. And I don’t want my son to think being tall is the most important thing about who he is.

    My husband thinks a lot people feel obligated to say something positive about children when meeting them and that height is the most obvious thing for my son since it requires no thought or actual observation of his character, just like when people remark your daughter has beautiful eyes. They’re not seeing the people our children are.

    It’s a shame that many people can’t be bothered to put more thought into their remarks or think about that only praising people for outward appearance isn’t a good thing. The story you told about the teachers only praising the girls for physically attractive qualities is very sad.

    I also can’t imagine prescribing to my son how he has to feel about something. Can you imagine how the mother of that eight-month-old girl would react if someone told her that she must enjoy something she didn’t?

  3. Jennifer says:

    I look at it this way, I can only control what I say and do for my kids. I can try to influence what others do (and I do, I’ve given all the care providers a written document outlining what we practice in terms of communication and gentle discipline), but ultimately, some people only care about how a person looks and are uncomfortable when a child’s feelings don’t match what their expectations are. But if I can be the calm in the storm for my kids and be truly connected with them, they will always know that I won’t judge them that way and they can talk to me about anything. And the way I figure it, that’s a lot more than many kids have, so I’m sure they’ll turn out just great!

  4. This is part of the reason why I don’t go to public playgrounds very often. I can’t handle watching this kind of stuff.

  5. Mary Willis says:

    Yes, this resonates with me. Anothe one is :”don’t CRY, Sissy”. We had a little boy this summer that, when he got hurt, he would mutter to himself: “you’re okay, you’re okay”- which is okay, unless he’s not okay….Before I started my school, I went to visit a Local Preschool, and, on the playground, the teachers sat at the gate and said to each girl: “oh, look! Your hairbow matches your socks!” or “Your pink tutu is so pretty!” Unless it didn’t or wasn’t, in which case they said nothing….But, what do you do, other than seethe? Montessori said: “follow the child”, which, of course, does not mean “do whatever your kid wants” or even”let them pick out the dinner menu every night” but, at least, watch them and listen to them and see what you can learn.” And the “your appearance is your life” message is just American crap. You could try to calmly say: “I think she will succeed in life whether or not her eyes are pretty. Right now she is really concentrating on her digging.” That is another pet peeve of mine: “children are never doing anything important, so feel free to interrupt them, including grabbing them up and hugging them and shouting at them because they might have hearing problems.” XX00

    • Jennifer says:

      of course i couldn’t agree more mary. and thank you for the recommendation of what one can say. i might give it a try!

      i know of a little girl who actually wasn’t particularly attractive and her mother noticed she wasn’t getting the attention at daycare that the other kids were. so she took to dressing her in super cute clothes and soon she was getting a ton of compliments. so sad that that is at least better than being ignored. :(

  6. Elisabeth says:

    As a mom of a 4 year old I would like your advice. When she comes home from school and says she is hungry I believe her. But if I know that we will be sitting down to dinner in an hour or less and if I give her a snack she will not eat her dinner, what should I do? I never deny her and try to compromise with a small healthy snack. But I also cook a healthy dinner every night and we eat together as a family and that is very important to my husband and I. And when she goes to bed having eaten only a banana at 5:30 it makes me uneasy, whereas eating a healthy dinner at 6:30 is preferable. Do I just go with her hunger and let her eat whatever she wants at whatever time she wants?

    • Ana says:

      I would move her dinner up to 5:30 and then offer her a snack at 6:30 at family dinner time. I am assuming you do it at 6:30 because that is when you husband is home from work. That way you can still sit together.

    • Jennifer says:

      Hi Elizabeth,

      I agree with Ana. I think 6:30 is too late for dinner for a four year old. It’s a lovely idea a family dinner…but at what price? i sit with my kids for dinner at 5. their dad comes home at six and they sit with him for a little bit and then it’s time to get ready for bed. 7ish is, i think, a great bed time to aim for, for that age so we try but usually it’s closer to 7:30. of course every family is different but certainly with day light savings coming around 6:30 is so late…an hour and half after it’s dark. i imagine if she doesn’t eat when she’s hungry she’d be cranky and unpleasant, no?

  7. Lee says:

    You can’t control the world, or what people say to your kids…. And I’m pretty sure “you have beautiful eyes” wont be the worst of it….what this and many atrocities offer are perfect “teaching moments” where you get to share with your kids what YOU value. How YOU would handle things differently. Instead of seeking refuge in the car, thank the flawed parents for the opportunity to have a conversation with your kids about “respecting a person for who they are” even if they foul your plans and don’t like sand….or for starting a conversation about how important it is to feel beautiful on the inside even if others may comment on our outside… You can train Jules , with this well meaning woman’s lameness, to look and value other’s insides….remind her how it feels to be objectified and how much richer it feels to be seen… I wish someone had for me!!! Lucky Jules!

  8. Lauri says:

    Well, take a deep breath, because you will continue to encounter these occurrences whenever you venture with your children into the wild, wild world. But remember this, YOU are a very unusual, very perceptive and very aware parent….YOUR children are the lucky ones….and I am sure there are more of your species out there…you should also be aware that you are a pioneer in your awareness and the way you listen and speak in the parenting process…the pioneers never stopped, and neither should you!
    :)

  9. Annette says:

    I don’t know whether to laugh out loud or shake my head in sadness at the accuracy of your humor. I have experience EVERY SINGLE ONE of these things from the playground as well…or wherever…and have been guilty of them myself on occasion, before REALITY sets in and I realize what I’m doing, saying, thinking. It’s like a madness…a madness brought on by delusions and bad examples from TV and friends and whatever else our ego can stash away to sabotage logic and compassion.
    I’ll just say, CHEERS! And keep it up :)

    • Jennifer says:

      Annette,

      I don’t think I ever responded to this comment of yours that you made, what two months ago!

      It’s never to late to say thank you.

      Thank you!

      jennifer

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