I think the biggest reason adults fear having kids or especially working around the children of others is the immense responsibility it entails. I don’t mind responsibility (although I prefer to be given very little these days). “My” particular biggest fear when working around kids is their ability to manipulate rationality and reality.
Kids can make just about anything irrational sound rational if they get their crazy-voice just right. Take it from me, today I got hustled by a second grader.
This young lady came to the realization that tears and loud crying is capable of eliciting a response from me. The first time she “fell down,” I naturally walked over to check her status. The tears were immense. The drama was immense. And the wound was absent. She wanted me to get a ball that bounced on the roof. I got hustled.
The second time in 5 minutes I witnessed wails and waterworks, her status was the same and she wanted to show me her watch. The third time I ignored her and she immediately picked up on this and found a new way to elicit a response: being mean to another girl in front of me, knowing I would step in and stop the rude behavior. I got hustled.
The behavior may not be rational to me but to a child like my son, it is COMPLETELY rational. You see, kids think in terms of going on journeys every day. Little journeys of exploration. They don’t think about bills, or song lyrics or consequences of action or any BS like that. They’re on a journey to discover and experience new things. One of those new things is framing how they wish to view the world and the people around them. I have no doubt I am unlike most of the members of her family. I realized long ago there will always be few very people who look and act like me. I’m fine with that. But kids, they are curious and will often do things to get my attention when I’m around for no other reason than the fact I’m around. Just like every other adult. When kids are curious or excited about something, they have a tendency to try and do things to keep that stimuli around.
So while we may not think acting in a manner for any particular reason is rational, kids are still developing their limited abilities to communicate and because of that are discovering that communication is often less about words and more about action. My son knows not to misbehave to get my attention because I will ignore him. Instead he rambles on about Pokemon and I still ignore him (hey, I acknowledge him I’m just not into Pokemon). Me acknowledging him and smiling at him makes him feel good and important. My son has now framed a reality of happiness for himself. He has elicited the response most significant to how HE wants to feel and is feeling, not ME.
For years I have observed and studied adults who act out in strange ways to solicit a behavior in others (be it anger, love, sadness), to frame the reality they wish to exist in. Adults who were abused as children will often act in ways to specifically elicit anger in others. That’s what I did as a child all the way to adulthood. I was a terror. I wanted more chaos and anger in my life because those were the most prevalent emotions I felt for a while. I experienced love, yes. But the chaos was too familiar and romantic to me to not want to keep it in my life. It was like an obsession, a drug for me. I chased chaos all over the world well into my 20s, finding trouble everywhere I went looking for it. I loved it. And you know what? It made me a tough sonofabitch. I framed the reality I desired the most. I became the master of my chaos.
For a while at least…
Two of the most important gifts I will ever give to my son will be the gift of discipline I did not have at his age and more importantly I intend to give him the gift of understanding the behavior of others. It is my intention as a father to prepare him to understand that just because someone does something you may not like, it does not mean that person does not like you or wants to harm you. It is up to my son to decide how he wishes to interpret the behavior of others to either help or hinder him. I hope to reinforce the belief my son has developed that he can create happiness in his life no matter what his circumstance. I hope to help him see there is often way more to behavior than what is viewed at the surface. Sometimes kids are reaching for what they want. Sometimes kids are communicating through action, the most impressive way to communicate and us adults are just too busy, blind and self-absorbed to see. What are your kids telling you? What are other adults saying that you can’t hear but could see if you just knew where to look?
You’re Welcome. Internet.