Monday, January 24, 2005

Spare the Rod, Spoil the Parent

Last night I was well and truly rebuked. And the hell of it is, it was totally deserved. As rebukes go, it was quite gentle, actually. I suspect that the rebuker didn't even realize part of it.

What happened was…well, it was kind of complicated in the details. Suffice it to say that while they were playing, the kids next door (lets call the boy M and his older sister N) did something that really upset Jacob. Just short of tears, in fact.

The story came out as we were eating dinner. It started out as a tale of goofing around on the part of one of the neighbor kids, and evolved into quite a bit more. I should state right at the outset that it wasn't anything that would have gotten anyone hurt, and these kids aren't any better or worse than your typical kids of that age. But what isn't good is Jacob's being unwilling or unable to feel like he can leave, or tell them what is going on isn't right and make his vote against it stick.

M is the only boy about Jake's age in the immediate vicinity (he's actually a year older). They have played together ever since we moved here. I've gotten a bit dependent on them. And I think having M be Jake's only out of school playmate has begun to be a bit of a problem. It may be that Jake feels that if he walks away form some game or activity of M's he doesn't like, then he doesn't get to play with anyone his age (parents are still cool to play with -- we played a lot of football last week, but still, kids your own age are always better). It would be better if he met some other kids from school, from his own grade, more often. You know, the occasionally maligned "playdate" (mostly maligned by those who lack a real understanding of families lives today, I might add).

I'd like to say that those were my insights above, after having gotten him to talk about what was bothering him at dinner last night, but it wasn't. They weren't my insights. Nor was I the one who kept asking questions and got him to spill the beans. Both of these accomplishments were the result of Trish's efforts, not mine.

So I stand thrice rebuked: Failing to dig deep enough, failing to see the problems beginning to crop up (this wasn't the first time M had done something that Jake went along with against his better judgement, or had upset him in some way), and failing to move before to involve other kids in Jacob's after school playtime.

I'm not Superdad (though someday I hope to play him in on TV), and I know that we parents are going to screw up. Its part of life. Still, I'm the guy on the front lines, and I didn't notice or act. I got lazy, and Jake had to pay the price for it.

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