Esteemed

Once a week, Squints takes an enrichment class some distance from the house.  Usually, I drop him off and hang out at the local library for a couple of hours to pass the time.  Yesterday, just before heading to pick him up, I hit the bathroom. 

The center stall was occupied. 
It was occupied by a very productive little girl.



“Do you have any more?” Her mother asked.  “Try some more.”
There came from behind the door some maniacal electronic giggling.  Some sort of potty pal, I assumed.

I entered the stall to the right. 
“Who dat?”

I envisioned the little girl pointing a chubby finger my way.
“That is a woman.  This is a woman’s room.  She’s going potty, too.  Do you have any more?”

The mother was seated on the floor.  Her feet were wrapped around either side of the toilet bowl.  I assumed she was holding the little tot over the toilet to keep her bum from sitting on the nasties lurking on the seat.
“I don’t want to wash my hands,” the girl said.

“Oh…,” her mother cooed.  “You have to wash your hands.  You touched the icky toilet.  I’ll help you.  We’ll use the magical soap.” 
I left the stall and began washing my hands with the magical soap.

“I cwap,” the girl said.
“No,” her mother said, the cooing gone now.  “I’m shutting the video off.”

Video?
I eyeballed the woman one sink over.  She seemed unperturbed as she scrubbed with the magical soap.

“I don’t do a video when you use potty talk.”
I thought about my own private potty moment recorded for eternity on the video of this child’s premiere public cwap.

The toilet flushed.  “Can we watch the video now, Mommy?”
“As soon as we wash our hands.”

The potty pal giggled.
I left the restroom.

I hope to God that video doesn’t make it to YouTube.
* * *

Not too long ago, someone told me that today’s kids need to be sent far away, preferably overseas, on service projects in order to feel good about themselves; to be more sure about their place in society; in order to understand how great they have it.  Although my kids have been involved in local service for years, my husband and I haven’t sent our children on projects overseas: Were they missing out?
I began researching, looking into all manner of overseas service trips to Asia, the Middle East, Europe…But many of the trips were merely glorified parent-less vacations filled with organic cuisine, kayak excursions, shopping, and…oh, yeah, a couple of hours of service tossed in for good measure.  For a mere eight thousand dollars, my child could embark on a service project and be changed forever.

Huh.
The few legitimate service organizations didn’t want people under the age of twenty-one: They didn’t want the liability.  Perhaps they didn’t want the hassle as well.

I bagged the idea. 
And here again, I must return to Wendell Berry who writes of an Amish boy, no older than Squints who, with a team of horses, cultivated a field of twenty-three acres on his own.  I’d wager this boy never questioned his worth or his place within his society.  I’d bet he doesn’t need overseas service projects or enrichment classes or the baseball league to make him feel valuable. 

Because, in preparing for his adulthood, this boy is helping his family to survive.
By rewarding our kids from the outside in, by videotaping and celebrating every moment of their lives, by lavishing praise at every turn, we take away their self-esteem. 

And by giving our children everything, we take away much.
My husband and I have found a little farm—just over thirty acres—that we hope to look at soon.  I can picture Squints there gathering eggs and doing the milking before school.  I can picture him wandering the woods, hiking along the stream, swimming in the pond, helping to fell the trees that will serve as our fuel for winter.

I picture him confident in the knowledge that what he does is valuable and necessary and good.
And we won’t need a video to prove it. 

Note: I was convinced that this mother was videotaping one of her daughter’s firsts—First tooth, first steps, first time using the toilet.  My husband offered a different interpretation.  Perhaps—and I hope it’s true—the mother was playing a video for her daughter while she used the toilet.  Even so, I found the entire situation a bit unsettling.  And I suspect that Wendell Berry would have something to say about the need for entertainment while using the toilet.


This post has been linked to Yeah, Write.


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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Esteemed

Friday, April 13, 2012

Esteemed

Once a week, Squints takes an enrichment class some distance from the house.  Usually, I drop him off and hang out at the local library for a couple of hours to pass the time.  Yesterday, just before heading to pick him up, I hit the bathroom. 

The center stall was occupied. 
It was occupied by a very productive little girl.



“Do you have any more?” Her mother asked.  “Try some more.”
There came from behind the door some maniacal electronic giggling.  Some sort of potty pal, I assumed.

I entered the stall to the right. 
“Who dat?”

I envisioned the little girl pointing a chubby finger my way.
“That is a woman.  This is a woman’s room.  She’s going potty, too.  Do you have any more?”

The mother was seated on the floor.  Her feet were wrapped around either side of the toilet bowl.  I assumed she was holding the little tot over the toilet to keep her bum from sitting on the nasties lurking on the seat.
“I don’t want to wash my hands,” the girl said.

“Oh…,” her mother cooed.  “You have to wash your hands.  You touched the icky toilet.  I’ll help you.  We’ll use the magical soap.” 
I left the stall and began washing my hands with the magical soap.

“I cwap,” the girl said.
“No,” her mother said, the cooing gone now.  “I’m shutting the video off.”

Video?
I eyeballed the woman one sink over.  She seemed unperturbed as she scrubbed with the magical soap.

“I don’t do a video when you use potty talk.”
I thought about my own private potty moment recorded for eternity on the video of this child’s premiere public cwap.

The toilet flushed.  “Can we watch the video now, Mommy?”
“As soon as we wash our hands.”

The potty pal giggled.
I left the restroom.

I hope to God that video doesn’t make it to YouTube.
* * *

Not too long ago, someone told me that today’s kids need to be sent far away, preferably overseas, on service projects in order to feel good about themselves; to be more sure about their place in society; in order to understand how great they have it.  Although my kids have been involved in local service for years, my husband and I haven’t sent our children on projects overseas: Were they missing out?
I began researching, looking into all manner of overseas service trips to Asia, the Middle East, Europe…But many of the trips were merely glorified parent-less vacations filled with organic cuisine, kayak excursions, shopping, and…oh, yeah, a couple of hours of service tossed in for good measure.  For a mere eight thousand dollars, my child could embark on a service project and be changed forever.

Huh.
The few legitimate service organizations didn’t want people under the age of twenty-one: They didn’t want the liability.  Perhaps they didn’t want the hassle as well.

I bagged the idea. 
And here again, I must return to Wendell Berry who writes of an Amish boy, no older than Squints who, with a team of horses, cultivated a field of twenty-three acres on his own.  I’d wager this boy never questioned his worth or his place within his society.  I’d bet he doesn’t need overseas service projects or enrichment classes or the baseball league to make him feel valuable. 

Because, in preparing for his adulthood, this boy is helping his family to survive.
By rewarding our kids from the outside in, by videotaping and celebrating every moment of their lives, by lavishing praise at every turn, we take away their self-esteem. 

And by giving our children everything, we take away much.
My husband and I have found a little farm—just over thirty acres—that we hope to look at soon.  I can picture Squints there gathering eggs and doing the milking before school.  I can picture him wandering the woods, hiking along the stream, swimming in the pond, helping to fell the trees that will serve as our fuel for winter.

I picture him confident in the knowledge that what he does is valuable and necessary and good.
And we won’t need a video to prove it. 

Note: I was convinced that this mother was videotaping one of her daughter’s firsts—First tooth, first steps, first time using the toilet.  My husband offered a different interpretation.  Perhaps—and I hope it’s true—the mother was playing a video for her daughter while she used the toilet.  Even so, I found the entire situation a bit unsettling.  And I suspect that Wendell Berry would have something to say about the need for entertainment while using the toilet.


This post has been linked to Yeah, Write.


Labels: , , ,

29 Comments:

At April 13, 2012 at 4:52 PM , Anonymous Kgwaite said...

These comments were previously posted and lost: I post them again here.

jaum: I believe that you make Wendall's point better than he did. I guess the thing that leaves me troubled is how wide spread the tendancy of parents to heap praise at every turn. I wonder how effective praise can be given in such large doses.

LC: Bravo!

GY: The farm is a much better idea. You can teach so much there and have such a variety. I hope you get it. Good Luck!

 
At April 13, 2012 at 7:00 PM , Anonymous Imelda said...

There are so many things I like about this post - the latter half especially resonates with me as a parent. Now about that video of the potty time, I join with you in praying that it does not make to youtube. :-D

 
At April 13, 2012 at 7:23 PM , Anonymous Kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading!

 
At April 14, 2012 at 10:38 AM , Anonymous Shelton Keys Dunning said...

You never fail to entertain me. I laughed 'til I cried. My public potty moments generally involve someone conducting her business while on a cell phone, gossiping about somebody else's fashion sense or chatting overly-loud in some foreign tongue.

I love your posts. Truly, you are inspiring and insightful. Well done!

 
At April 14, 2012 at 4:30 PM , Anonymous KathleenBasi said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! I have little patience with much of the "knowledge" and "wisdom" that comes out of parenting gurus these days. Our Parents As Teachers person told us once that "they used to do _____" (I don't remember what it was), "but now we know better." I wanted to say: Really? Something that's been done for hundreds and thousands of years, and produced countless good, upstanding adults, and now we are SMARTER THAN OUR FORBEARS? Um, no.

 
At April 14, 2012 at 4:59 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks so much for reading - Comments like yours and Imelda's make me want to keep writing.

 
At April 14, 2012 at 5:01 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

My mom always says the pendulum will swing back and I think -- hope -- that it is swinging back to a more sensible time. Thanks for reading.

 
At April 15, 2012 at 11:04 AM , Anonymous Shelton Keys Dunning said...

Seconded.

 
At April 16, 2012 at 6:11 AM , Anonymous idiosyncratic eye said...

Either way, videos in toilets are just wrong. We do need to look at how we teach worth to our children, the farm project sounds exciting. :)

 
At April 17, 2012 at 4:38 AM , Anonymous Janice Bostic said...

I absolutely agree with you about giving our kids everything! Eight thousand dollars so a kid can "find themselves?" Holy cwap!

P.S. I'm inclined to agree with your husband. Surely that was it, right? Also, I'm trying to get over the mom sitting in a public bathroom floor.

 
At April 17, 2012 at 5:46 AM , Anonymous Alison@Mama Wants This said...

I love how you weaved that toilet experience with the 2nd half of the story!

 
At April 17, 2012 at 8:37 AM , Anonymous Mamamash said...

Haha, I've often wondered when people are using video in public if I end up being the lady with the "crazy hair" or "mean look" or something when they watch it again.

I have a real problem with parents footing the bill for their nearly grown kids to "find themselves." You know where I found myself? Doing the dishes every night since I was 9. Flipping burgers at Mickey Ds when I was 17. Scrubbing toilets that other people used.

 
At April 17, 2012 at 12:18 PM , Anonymous Karine Ouimet said...

Oh, how I really, really hope your husband is right.. his theory is a lot less disturbing. :)

 
At April 17, 2012 at 12:23 PM , Anonymous Jamie Walker said...

We all do what it takes when it comes to potty training I'm afraid! I think that using your own backyard resources to teach lessons is just as fancy as the 8000 trip! And then you may get to learn some stuff yourself!

 
At April 17, 2012 at 1:20 PM , Anonymous Miranda said...

I didn't go overseas until I was 22 and, while it was an amazing experience, many of the same lessons can be taught here. You don't have to travel to another country to find those who are less fortunate and need help. The farm project sounds great.

 
At April 17, 2012 at 3:06 PM , Anonymous Stephanie Brennan said...

I cannot get past the image of the mother sitting on the floor of a public restroom her legs wrapped around the toilet. She needs to wash more than her hands. Yuck. As to the theme of your post, who can disagree? I can't. Certainly if families can afford it a trip overseas to gain perspective is great - though not the fancy 8K stuff - as a family, to experience the culture. But who has great sums of money for that? Local service is a great thing, too. As is your fine example as evidenced by this post. Good story.

 
At April 17, 2012 at 3:07 PM , Anonymous Michelle Longo said...

I don't know what to make of that bathroom story. At all. I hope you are able to get to your farm. I'm sure it will teach good lessons.

 
At April 17, 2012 at 4:15 PM , Anonymous christina said...

oh my word, i can't stop chuckling over the bathroom scene. i HAVE to side with your husband; i just have to. :) as for the rest- COMPLETELY agree. i've got a 2 year old who has enough "stuff" but NOTHING in comparison to so many kids her age that we know. it's unreal and dumb, frankly, the way some parents bombard their kids with whatever they want.

 
At April 17, 2012 at 5:20 PM , Anonymous Mayor Gia said...

Sounds like she was videotaping her to me too, and I agree, that's weird.

 
At April 17, 2012 at 6:14 PM , Anonymous katieross83 said...

Ummm...wow. What an interesting story. You never know what you're going to hear in a public bathroom stall, I guess.

That strange encounter aside, I loved your lesson here. "By giving our children everything, we take away much." Brilliant phrasing. Nice insight!

 
At April 17, 2012 at 7:58 PM , Anonymous Susan said...

oh, i so hope she was watchign a video and not making one... although i admire your not saying anything to her from the next sink over. i might have had a hard time keeping my mouth shut on that one.

 
At April 18, 2012 at 2:43 AM , Anonymous claybaboons said...

Oh my. I laughed out loud at the video. I hope that your husband is right and that she was watching a video and not having one taken. And then I despair at the fact that I'm hoping that mom was sitting on the floor showing her kid a video while the little one took a dump. That's just 12 shades of wrong. I agree with you: self-assurance and self-worth come out of being able to contribute to your family and community.

 
At April 18, 2012 at 5:04 AM , Anonymous Tara_pohlkottepress said...

yeah, hope she was just watching something being too young to read like the rest of civilized culture :) I agree with you though about worth. some of that needs to be given by parents through space. space for children to pick up and work hard. to allow them room to try things out, without the intervention of parents. great reminder as I walk my kids through these early years.

 
At April 18, 2012 at 3:25 PM , Anonymous Delilah Love said...

I'm going to hope she was watching a video while she was going potty. The alternative is too disturbing to think about. I shudder to think of a video out there that would show me making tinkle in the potty as a child. The horror.

 
At April 18, 2012 at 7:45 PM , Anonymous kdwald said...

I'll bet she was showing a video. Even more disturbing is the vivid image you gave of the woman straddling the toilet on the floor. People don't have great aim, you know what I mean? Ugh.

 
At April 19, 2012 at 7:21 AM , Anonymous Abby Chamberlain said...

I can't even begin to imagine why she would need to record her kid pooping in public. Talk about the start of a life-long neurosis!

 
At April 19, 2012 at 8:52 AM , Anonymous Tara R. said...

The video thing would have creeped me out if the mom was recording a first. Who would watch it? Grandparents? Dad? Would it be shown as part of a montage at her wedding rehearsal dinner?

I agree with you about doing to much for our kids. They need to find their own way, in their own way. How else will they discover who they are?

 
At April 19, 2012 at 9:58 AM , Anonymous Ado CB said...

Okay, wow what a post.
First off, I'm not very OCD when it comes to germs but the mom sitting on the floor hugging the potty was so disturbing - but not, somehow, as disturbing as whatever was going on in that stall beside you! Was she rewarding her child for going potty with a video? If so - I'm sorry - that is effed up! Or weirder still - was she actually VIDEO TAPING the little girl? Huh? And...how does a little one know how to say "cwap?" That really disturbed me. I'm so glad you got out of there! (-:
Loved the rest of this post too - so many good points about the overseas stuff

 
At April 19, 2012 at 5:27 PM , Anonymous Jackie said...

Either way, an electronic video device inside a public bathroom is just plain weird! Have you been checking on Youtube to ensure you're stuff isn't on display?

 

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