Our Matvey is a kindergarten boy, and he is an honest one. On a question about favorite foods he answers, “Cutlets, juice, potato, and macaroni.”
Today we have macaroni for breakfast. There is only he and I. He reluctantly pokes at his food and makes a mess around the plate. In kindergarten he would get lots of scolding, but I keep silent. He shows to himself that he is a free man: he eats how he wants. Today I don’t teach him, he is my guest, we have a vacation – a vacation from upbringing. I don’t fear for his future: what if he grows up and will eat messily all his life? No he won’t. I know, I feel it, I believe it – everything will be all right with him. Some educators advise to place children under five years old at a separate table, because not everyone can tolerate a kid who grabs food with his hands (better his plate, not others!). Not everyone can stand it. But, on the other hand, breakfast can’t always be accompanied by endless “Eat correctly! Why did you throw all this stuff? What is that! Again you have spilled! Can’t I have a peaceful breakfast! You will get what you cry for! Someone will be spanked!” Isn’t a future stomach ulcer starting at such breakfasts, dinners, and suppers in the form of reprimands and threats? I will remind, upbringing must be anti-ulcer.
I won’t place my boy separately – otherwise he will take a year to eat. So, not to spoil Sunday morning with reprimands and quarrels I begin to talk about Uncle Sergey, my new acquaintance. He is an electronics engineer and a composer of fairytales. We waited for him to be our guest for a long time. He is going to make his first visit today.
But the boy is inclined to do everything the opposite of what I want.
Perhaps, I said something wrong, or he caught a slight hint of irritation in my voice, and his revenge follows.
“I don’t want Uncle Sergey to come,” he announces suddenly, looking at the macaroni.
He thinks for a while. The reason doesn’t come immediately. Then he finds one.
“It is because we have a little home; we have small rooms.”
That’s right. We don’t have a big house, but for inviting Uncle Sergey it’s still good. I wanted to say, “Don’t talk like a fool!” But I kept my temper, deciding that he is not a fool. Try to invent such a reason! I would better hug, kiss, and praise the boy, simultaneously turning all into a joke, but I mind seriously,
“We agreed with Uncle Sergey. So everything must be honest.”
He swallows macaroni and thoughtfully says,
“I hate you.”
What a surprise!
And every time is like that. In me two people fight: an educator and just a man. Loving and frustrated. Love to a boy fights with frustration.
People say: no science about upbringing is needed; no books are needed – you JUST LOVE children.
The cult of JUST LOVE is widespread nowadays. It is as – you just listen to your heart and it will not betray you.
It would. It may betray!
Our parental faith was born, as it was said, before us. But the sense of love to children is even older. Faith is based on it. Memory of feelings is the oldest memory. Thoughts can be new almost every day, but feelings have occurred and matured over the centuries.
Children were loved always, but it was love without housekeeping, without taking care, without touching them, and without communicating with them. In such form it is inherited by us. But taking care of children requires such concentration and tension, that not everyone can do it. After all those long breakfasts, macaroni, and preparing for a walk, love may be lost.
So, that morning I felt I was splitting apart. Old, ancient, out-of-care love felt indignant; everything shouted in me, “What is this? My five year old boy, my own son tells me “I hate you,” and I have to love him?”
But a new feeling, gradually building in me, still weak, needing to fight for itself, this new feeling helps me to find a solution. “There was everything but this,” I tell myself. “It’s nothing troubling. He might have heard that somewhere. In kindergarten you may hear even worse things. To get offended? It is surely resentful. But I love the boy,” I tell myself, “and, in fact, I am not offended. I don’t feel resentment. I love him, and he can’t offend me anyway. Should I pretend being offended according to educational logic? It’s purely a stupid thing. Shall I make everything a joke? But he doesn’t feel like joking, he hates.”
And with a very calm and serious voice I ask him why he hates me. Pure seriousness and calmness – that’s what I need in my voice. It seems to me that I was right because he seriously explains:
“Because you do want Uncle Sergey to come and I don’t.”
Again frustration bursts up. Again, as before, old, abstract love wins! I love my son, but I love a good boy, not a naughty one, not that one who every time repeats “I want,” “I don’t want.” I can’t stand people who repeat always “I like,” “I don’t like,” “I want,” “I don’t want.”
But five year old children are literally made from those “I want,” “I don’t want.” When he gets older everything will pass by itself. But if we sit back and scold that may be dangerous. I saw a child whose parents compelled him to stop saying “I want” when he was five. When the child became fifteen years of age his parents were astonished, “He doesn’t want anything! Nothing interests him!” When the son was twenty five his parents were terrified: “What to do? He doesn’t need anything from life…”
And now it seems to me that my new human, not educational, love wins.
“Well, we may meet our Uncle Sergey outside our home.” I seem to invent a good solution. “If our home is small we will wait for him at the playground.”
Hurrah! His majesty agrees with this suggestion. I feel happy. What to do? Who may say how we MUST act in this case? And an even more complicated question: who knows what I must have done, spoken, and felt – I, myself, as such?
I am convinced in one thing: I didn’t strengthen a sudden evil in my boy’s soul. It had gone. I won. I didn’t win over the boy, no! I won over evil. This morning evil has become lesser than it could be in the world. By one atom less.
Parenting For Everyone, by S.Soloveychik, Book1 Part 2 Chapter 24