Today is my nephews’ birthday. Before you chastise me for improper possessive apostrophe usage, you should know that we do in fact have two nephews who do indeed share February 19th as their birth date. P. was the first, born 8 years ago after a long labor for my sister-in-law, the first grandchild in my husband’s family. D., my sister’s second son who has made several “Dennis the Menace”-style appearances in my blog posts, is five years old today.
How do we handle it? So far, we’ve been available for every single “family” party for each boy by sheer luck of scheduling. Although I’m sure my sister would welcome my help (read as: a shoulder to cry on) at various McDonald’s Playland/Chuck E. Cheese/Bounce House kid celebrations for D., she has been gracious when I’ve been unavailable due to the previously scheduled family party for the other birthday boy, P.
Both are smart, fun, well-behaved little boys. Who are being parented by smart, fun, well-behaved adults. Men and women who I know were parented by people who emphasized the value of both learning and fun, and above all, appropriate behavior (see a pattern?). Now, these are boys, so I won’t try to pass them off as improbable angels. D. at just five years old already has a history of blistering-fast comic timing (comebacks that leave a witty adult stammering), and P. has been known to climb into and out of my porch window (with a spotter and my blessing). Boys will be boys.
Have you heard recently about French-style parenting? Read about it for yourself here, then consider this: French-style parenting is what our parents were doing in the 1970’s and early 80’s (and their parents a generation before). I won’t get drawn into the “helicopter-parent-or-not” debate, and by some accounts I don’t have a dog in this race since we do not have children of our own. But I DO have children in my life whose development is important to me and I AM a participant in society.
Some kids I encounter now would not last five seconds in the society I grew up in. For example, my sister and I do not touch the glass of any door, window or television/computer screen. In our household growing up, leaving fingerprints on glass was not acceptable. Our mom went through A LOT of Windex, but we eventually got the message. If this was the expectation within our own home, imagine what was expected of us out in public.
Another example: in my husband’s blended family of three boys and two girls, my mother-in-law’s simple act of quietly but firmly squeezing the elbow of a child about to go on a bad behavior-bender was enough to calm the whole clan. If conditions were such that she was also pushed to whisper, “do not act like an animal,” well, everyone knew that limits had been reached.
At this point it’s probably important to note that some overly-strict attitudes toward child behavior have justifiably relaxed in the last 30 years. Kids have a little more slack when it comes to acting like a kid in public. But relaxing the standards to more sensitively accommodate kids who may have been ostracized during an earlier generation is not an invitation to completely flout the boundaries of appropriate behavior.
We’ll be partying like a grade-schooler for the next couple of weekends to celebrate the fantastic, wonder-filled times of boys turning ages 5 and 8. At what other time in your life is it appropriate to literally roll on the floor in excitement? Or shriek with delight for a simple joy? I want our nephews to look back on their childhoods as the times of their lives. And, as the time when they learned how to participate in life.