On Discipline And Negative Expectations

Das Piper and I attended a wedding last weekend. A beautiful wedding that brought to town many friends of Das Piper’s and mine from the west coast that we hadn’t seen in a long time, and quite a few that I’d never met before. The service was beautiful, outside at a gorgeous location, and the reception was the perfect size with awesome food and lots of dancing.

The reception also triggered another one of those annoying parenting conversations that I know we need to have, but I can’t help being bothered by. I am bothered because the conversation usually starts with Das Piper saying something along the lines of, ‘what do we do if our son does [insert random defiant/terrifying/undesirable behavior here]’.

I understand why he does this. Not only does he have considerably less experience with children than I do, a fact which makes him nervous about what to expect, but also because of the circumstances of his own childhood; which he seams to think happened as a result of his bad behavior, and not the other way around.

What upsets me is that when he does this, my hormone filled brain flips it around to mean that he is assuming our child is going to be a bad kid. So I get frustrated and tell him that we won’t have to deal with it because I am not his mother, or my mother, and he is not his father and our child will be much happier and well adjusted than either of us ever were. My frustration, of coarse makes him frustrated because, as I mentioned before, he seams to think that his childhood unhappiness was the catalyst for unfortunate circumstances, and not a result of them, and is worried that he will pass this unhappiness on to our son.

I think he also thinks that I am naïve in saying that there is absolutely never a reason to spank a child. Because I believe that if you rule out the option of hitting your child from day one, then you will be more likely to show greater patience and be able to find better solutions to family problems than simply jumping to a spanking because it seams like the easy way out, and that spanking only teaches a child that it is sometimes ok to hit. Whether you believe that to be true or not, a child does not possess the social knowledge and tools to know the difference between those times and other times. It’s just asking for trouble if you ask me.

Of coarse by the time we get to that point in the conversation Das Piper is just arguing for the sake of arguing and no longer actually cares what side of the argument he’s on, or what the result will be. I know this sounds like a horrible trait in a person, but I have it too. It’s part of what attracted us to each other, and it resulted in many of the hours long pub arguments that eventually turned into ‘we may as well just argue about this in your bed, wouldn’t that be convenient?’ arguments that resulted in our eventual close relationship and now domestic lives together.

So, because he’s arguing for the sake of arguing, he starts presenting me with tough scenarios that depict our unborn son doing horrible things like bullying other children, and making older friends to pull him beer at the age of 12, or buying an ABBA record. At which point I usually snap and tell him that by even entertaining that possibility it will become a self fulfilling prophecy if that’s what we expect from him, and totally shut down on the conversation.

At the wedding reception, the issue being discussed in this manner was that age old right of passage; at what age is it ok for an irresponsible adult relative to sneak your child sips of beer or wine?

Well, I huffed, no one on my side of the family would ever dream of doing such a thing, and by the time it’s even an issue your Uncle will be too old to do it, so never. We can decide when he’s older, depending on what kind of a teenager he is, if limited under-aged drinking is appropriate, but I couldn’t possibly make that decision right now.

I was so sure of this fact, that I turned back to my plate with a smug smile and continued eating. Until Kevin agreed that I was right, there wouldn’t be many relatives on his side of the family, only a grandfather and elderly aunt and uncle, none of whom would be in a position to slip our 8 year old any beer, my brother on the other hand would be clamoring to pop a nipple on a bottle of Jamison whiskey and take our son out for a night on the town before he was even out of diapers.

This made me angry. At first at Das Piper, not because it was kind of a rude thing to say about my brother and I felt a little protective, though it was and I did, but because he was right. Then I was angry with my brother. Not only had he already made jokes to this effect when talking about my baby, but in the past year or so my trust and respect for my brother has taken a beating due to his irresponsible behavior when it comes to, and as a result of alcohol.

I stewed on this for days. I was not only angry at him for any number of the stupid and hurtful things he had done in the last year, but also I realized, for the future sip of wine or beer that he would sneak my son at a family function. So angry that when I heard about the knee injury that he sustained well working out in the back woods of Alberta, I couldn’t help but let out a sarcastic grumble about whether the alcohol content in his system had anything to do with him ‘Stepping the wrong way’ and tearing a ligament in his knee.

When I found out that this injury would require him to wear a brace on his knee ala Forest Gump until he could get in for surgery to repair the ligament I immediately felt horrible. Who was I that I couldn’t show my own brother any support or sympathy in a shitty situation because I was already mad about something that may or may not happen 8-10 years from now?

Wasn’t that what I had been cautioning Das Piper against? How could I be encouraging my partner not to develop any negative expectations, or predetermine punishments for things that hadn’t happened yet because he is trying to prepare for fatherhood and at the same time turn a cold shoulder and emotionally punish my brother in the same way for things he hadn’t, and may never do?

With all of this in mind, I have two new goals: 1) Try to be more accepting of Das Piper and his incessant need to look further into the future than I am willing to, and accept that he has his reasons for concern that I should take seriously. 2) Stop hating on my brother for being irresponsible, it’s not like I am having to pick up after him or anything, and he is still my brother, who despite having bad judgment is still family and will love me and my son as family no matter what.


Malcolm+ said...

I just felt the need to mention that I love you.

Anonymous said...

I too love you, and any wrongdoing I may commit in the rearing of your son I assure you, it's not out of malice, but out of ignorance and stupidity.

Malcolm+ said...

One should never attribute to malice what can be written off as incompetence.

And I love you both.

And I will never require either of you (or Blueberry neither) to sign a contract to love me back.

Schmutzie said...

These comments from your family made me misty.

Tori said...

K. has nothing to worry about. His son is in good hands with you as his mom.

You are in a much better position to handle parenthood than I was at your age.

I promise to only slip my grandson cookies and ice cream on the sly.

Much love,

Icky said...

so does this mean I'm going to be a good auntie and not slip my nephew wine or beer??

Love from,