Namine asks her share of questions over and over again, and to my shame, I’ve answered with my share of “stop asking!” or “because I said so.” I try not to, though, because I feel that she deserves more than that.
When I was growing up, the answer of “because I said so” was enough – for my parents and my friends’ parents, but not for me. I felt that I deserved more of an explanation than that (my parents disagreed). But I still feel the way I did when I was a child, so I made myself a promise. As long as it is in my power, I explain to Namine decisions, choices, and rules that affect and pertain to her.
Let me illustrate with an example. Last night, I explained to Namine why she needed to take her medicine. There exist a myriad of approaches to this problem. I chose to explain to her why it was important that she take her medicine, because I believe in giving her the chance to make the right decision herself.
She told me that she was hiding her pills because she doesn’t like taking them. This was important, because Namine doesn’t always tell us what she’s feeling. She can be social when she wants to be, but she’s also a solitary child. She lives in her head quite a bit – like Jessica and myself, so we can relate – and she’s very stoic. She doesn’t tell us when she’s sad, angry, or in pain. What we see is more often just what bubbles to the surface, so I was glad that she was opening up to talk about it.
And Namine didn’t have context for her medicine. They’re pills that taste gross, and Mommy and Daddy say I have to take them. So I explained why they were necessary – at her level, of course. She doesn’t understand about diuretics or blood thinners, but she knows her heart needed fixing. She understands taking medicine for the purpose of staying healthy. After that, she not only took them willingly, but cheerfully.
As much as possible, I encourage logic and reason in my daughter, and I welcome questions. But there is, of course, a difference between questions and being argumentative. After all, Namine is not always the logical girl we’d like her to be. (Neither am I, for that matter. Nor are any of us.) There are times when she argues and argues and I have no choice but to say, “I have explained why. Now do not argue, and do what I ask.” But I don’t believe in that line as the first response.
I do believe that relationships – any relationship, including the one between parent and child – require respect. I certainly have respect for Namine; she has earned it. I hope to have earned, to continue to earn, Namine’s respect (and, though I do not deserve it, love) for me as her parent, friend, and confidant.
I don’t assume that merely because I am her father that I may demand her respect. I do not want unwilling obedience that fosters a silent hate; I want a willing love that inspires obedience. I must earn that. To that end, as much as I can, I direct her focus on how she perceives herself, her attention to her own behavior.
A parent’s job is a tricky one. Protect your child for as long as you can, but as soon as you are able, let them move toward independence. I have issues with that whole “independence” thing – she’s my little love, after all – but with the right push and the right mindset, she can do anything.