Thoughts on parenting: The “My,” “Me,” and “Mine!” phase

Part of sending Katie to day care has been realizing that my child may be the center of my universe (as will be Zuzu), but that does not hold true elsewhere.

This was a rough adjustment with our first round of day care in Iowa City. I would drop Katie off a little later than the other babies in the infant room, just about the time they were going down for the first nap of the day at 9 or 9:30. One morning, Katie and I came into the darkened room and every child of the four or five already there was screaming bloody murder. I unloaded Katie, taking her overcoat off and getting her settled and although we made eye contact, the teachers did not greet us. Instead, they were going from child to child, settling them down one by one, patiently and quietly. I realized how they were working the room and eventually, each child was calm and asleep in their crib. They were tended to in no particular order, but each was taken care of in time. And Katie was just fine. Perhaps more importantly, so was I.

I just now thought that maybe parenting is as much about ourselves as our children. But that’s another post. What I’m wondering tonight is, how do I raise a child that recognizes that, in the words of Dr. Spock and my sixth grade teacher at Pleasant Hill, Mr. Murr, once said, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few? How do I raise Katie to be cognizant that sometimes we have to put to the side our inclination in American culture to emphasize our individuality and the “me” over community? And yet, how do we raise her to be self-reliant and independent? Certainly, consciousness of the needs of the community does not equate conformity or a herd mentality. I wonder, though, if independence and self-reliance are always at tension with individualism.

In reality, I think Eric and I may already be decent role models for this. One reason we succeed as a couple is we both enjoy time time alone and with our own friends. We value time away from each other and our own lives. I don’t see anything wrong with that and I’ve seen too many people come out of relationships with no way to extricate their identities from their former significant other. There’s no reason any relationship should define us; the recently divorced, I’m sure, can identify with what I’m saying. Yet, Eric and I (maybe me more than him) try to see the larger picture in the decisions we make, specifically in the ways our decisions might affect the community at large. One example: I received the medical claim for the day I went to Labor and Delivery after the accident. It was a $2400 day, ten percent of which could go towards our out-of-pocket maximum if I chose not to forward it on to the other driver, who’s accepting liability. This would make my delivery cheaper when Zuzu comes. However, that could also serve to drive up the costs of Eric’s company’s insurance overall and therefore negatively impact the premiums of every worker at his company. Obviously, I’m choosing to pass this on to the other driver out of principle; but still, I think the example holds (…I think- I could be wrong here).

This is all relevant because Katie has entered a phase where everything is “Katie’s.” She’ll try to push us out of a seat or take something from us because it’s “hers.” If she wants something, it’s “Mine!” We hear this all day long. I know this is a phase (and it’s honestly preferable to the random outbursts that accompanied her molars a few weeks ago). But I remember seeing how my college-age students were still thinking this way their junior and senior years. And of course, with a new baby on the way, sharing will be even more important around our house. Okay- I’ve worn this line of thought out. There’s numerous ways I could apply it, but for now, I’ll just say this: it’ll be a learning experience for all four of us.

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