I love this book. We don’t actually have it – I do hope to expand on my Doodle’s library a lot more – but I used to read it a lot to kiddos working in my old elementary- and pre- schools. It’s a darling little book about the mouse always wanting something else after you give him the last thing he wanted.
But I never really understood the book until now. I mean, of course I understood the book. That would just be silly not to. But not to the full extent of what it now means to me.
I never want to criticize other parenting styles, but I do take full charge (my husband AND I, of course) of the style that Doodle sees. And when that is at all threatened, well, I have many thoughts and rants that scurry around in my head. And being the non-confrontational person I am, I’ll just express those thoughts and rants here to help myself feel better – minus any actual specifics, of course 🙂
So, we are very loving, very playful, and very happy with Doodle. He has access to as much educational fun-ness as we can provide for him. He has a giant swingset – graciously given to us by an old boss of both my husband’s and mine, a racecar bed (thanks, mom!), lots of books, letter magnets, Legos… He doesn’t really mind that what toys he does have are the same ones for the most part that he’s been playing with for many months, some for over a year. He can always find new ways to play with the same ol’ stuff. Like this balloon…
But, see, that’s where some of our parenting style comes in. We walk through the toy aisles sometimes, and we look at all of the super fun toys. We press buttons, we roll vehicles down the aisle, we notice Batman, Spiderman, pirates, and Elmo. But we don’t ever put them in our cart. And we don’t ever hear qualms from Doodle.
The truth is that we just can’t afford those shiny new toys, but that’s never what we’ve told him. And even if we could, it’s really something that I think would remain pretty similar. He doesn’t need them. He knows that. He also knows that he gets what he does need. It’s really my goal to raise a son who is very appreciative of the wonderful fun things that he gets every once in a while, not because he never gets fun stuff, but because those things are special, and it was truly a special occasion to receive a new something-or-other.
On top of that, Doodle’s allowed to make mistakes, and often. He’s allowed to get in a cupboard with things that he shouldn’t play with because they could hurt him. Not knives and such, I’m not that crazy, but heavy stuff he can’t lift but will surely try to – he knows he shouldn’t, but he still will, and he’ll likely squish his little fingers in the process. But then he’ll understand why he’s not supposed to play in there. (And of course I’m very nearby to make sure he does not truly hurt himself.)
We also urge him to do a lot things for himself. I know he’s little, but he’s so capable. He can absolutely put on any article of clothing that he wants to. Sometimes both of his feet get stuck in one leg of his underoos, and sometimes his socks are sideways, but we want him to learn how to troubleshoot. Sure, we’ll go to him and help guide him. Perhaps take his hands and show him where to hold so he can adjust it himself. But he knows how to do these things, and I don’t really care if he wants to be lazy – once we’ve given the directive for him to do it himself, he knows we’re not budging.
And Doodle knows full well that when he is offered something, that is his only option. If he’s offered a choice of things, those are his only options. If he makes a choice, he cannot choose the other if he later deems it the better choice. He knows these things well, not because we are stubborn or unwilling to give a little, but because we want him to understand the value in his choices and the fact that sometimes it’s his turn to choose, but other times it’s ours.
If you give a mouse a cookie.
I get it. I don’t want Doodle to think it’s ok to whine for things, and if those things are given to him because of whining, that’s an avenue he will think works. It’s not, and no one should teach him that.
I don’t want him to request an entirely different meal from the one that’s just been served to him. If someone caters to those requests, he will think that he never has to eat what he’s not specifically in the mood for. And that may work for a number of parents, and that’s totally cool if it does, but it doesn’t work for me, and it’s not going to be taught to my Doodle.
I don’t want him to beg for help with putting his pants on. If someone enables that behavior enough, he will learn that it is not necessary to do things for himself if he doesn’t want to regardless of his abilities. Asking for help is totally appropriate when necessary, but he needs to understand that help should not be expected at his whim.
Kids are so smart, and they naturally want to manipulate the world. Not because they’re inherently “bad” or anything, but for the same reason they try to put their squares in the triangle holes. They’re trying to find out all of the different ways the world works. Learning all of the different causes and effects. Seeing what makes sense and what doesn’t make sense. And, honestly, trying to figure out the least amount of effort required to get something done. They’re not lazy, they’re just practicing efficiency. At least, that’s what my Doodle does.
And that’s why I don’t give him a cookie. I’m not being stubborn, and I don’t want him to live in a dictatorship, but I do want to instill certain things that hopefully will not only make his life more wonderful and well-rounded, but will also inevitably make certain aspects of my life a whole heckuva lot easier.
Ok, so sometimes he does get a cookie, and if he asks nicely, he may even get a glass of milk. But that’s about as far as we’ll go with this! 🙂
Ok, rant over. That does feel better. 🙂