Saturday, July 01, 2006

I Wish Somebody Would Post Some Comments

We are trying really hard to teach our children to be direct. I abhor passive aggressivenessy (what? I started with "agressivity" but spellcheck didn't recgonize it as a word. I tried to change it to "aggressiveness" but I wound up with "aggressivenessy"-- I'm keeping it! I like the look of it.) If you are mad at me, tell me. If you'd like me to do something for you, ask me. Please don't wait for me to read your mind or guess what it is you are sighing about. I try to be sensitive to those around me, but sometimes I miss the subtle clues. Actually, the kids are anything but subtle -- what they are getting at is so obvious it is ridiculous. They may as well come out and say it.

Oliver uses the "somebody" way of beating around the bush. "Somebody should take us to the pool." "Is somebody going to make lunch?" "I want somebody to play Candyland with me." He makes these statements looking me directly in the eye.

Moses says "I wish." "I wish I could play a computer game." "I wish we could have Kool-Aid at dinner." "I wish I could have Derek over to play." As if those requests were so far out of the realm of reason that he dare not ask...only cross his fingers and hope fate lands them in his lap.

Last night Phoebe demonstrated beautifully my failure so far at teaching directness. They were all in their rooms for the night and Paul and I were heading downstairs to watch Letterman and eat pistachios from a giant bag my parents bought at Sam's Club. Phoebe heard noise in the kitchen and came to investigate. Eyeing the big bag she said, "I sure am hungry for popcorn." Paul said, "It's not popcorn," and continued his rummaging around the kitchen. "I sure am hungry for chips," she said without missing a beat. "It's not chips," he replied. "I sure am hungry for cereal." "Not cereal." And finally, "I sure am hungry for crackers." "It's not crackers," he called over his shoulder, rounding the corner for the stairs leaving her alone to wonder if she would be having a snack, if only she'd guessed right.

When I sat down at the computer to start this post, I knew what I was going to write about what I'm never exactly sure how it's going to play out. This time Phoebe was in here. For a while I was excited that she can read like a fourth grader. Then I realized she can read my stuff. Privacy suddenly takes some doing. She was reading over my shoulder and asked what "direct" means, as in "We are trying really hard to teach our children to be direct." I explained using the story above. I then asked if she would please excuse me for a few minutes while I finished writing. She said, "Yes, but I'm only in here because I want to be with you."

That was very direct.

Maybe I'm not failing after all.

And if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go play dominoes with my daughter.

Have a great holiday weekend.


Anonymous said...

I'm with ya...Lucy is less pass-agg as she will just state things..."i want some juice," "i want to go to the pool," instead of asking. To which I usually reply, "Well, I guess you'll have to ask," or somesuch other parentally dumb sort of statement, in hopes that eventually she may learn to ASK A FREAKING QUESTION. It's sort of like the whining thing...maybe if I don't answer, or have a policy about not answering whining requests, they'll eventually learn. Maybe behaviorally optimistic, but I'm still hoping. I guess I keep going back to the principle that what works for them will keep happening, so maybe if it isn't working, maybe....

In general it seems hard to teach kids about process kind of stuff as opposed to content...almost like their brains are so concretely organized that to think about a dimension other than the juice, the pool, beyond them. I know it's doable, but sometimes it's just easier to pour her a cup of juice.

So I'm in here typing this reply eating a bag of Kissables (cocaine in a bag, Michael calls them), and Lucy comes in and says, "I want one of those." Here we go again...

Love your them voraciously and laugh from my belly. Love to all the dunbars, passive ones and all.

emdunbar said...

I can verify that Lucy asked two very direct questions in April...okay one direct question and a follow up statement:

1) Mama, am I a Dunbar?
2) Mama, I wanna be a Dunbar.

You are right that this is all probably pretty deeply rooted in cold had brain development...that it does take time for their brains to shift from the basic meeting of needs (I need milk!) to the subtler, genteel mores and manners of healthy relationships If they learn not to be pass/agg about wanting eggs for breakfast, maybe when he's 16 and his girlfriend is being possessive and controlling he can be very direct with her about where to get off. Cuz, that's the whole point of all these little lessons, right? The goal is to teach tools that seem small now ("can we please have eggs for breakfast?")but translate to bigger and bigger problems as time goes on.

Thanks for reading, Smelanie!

Nate said...

Here's some directness for you: your blog is great! I'm so glad you're doing this! You're a great storyteller and your posts actually have a point (most folks' don't)!

CRACKS me up that Ollie is a "somebody"-er. Reminds me of Jeremy's "LaMarcus" story ("somebody be sayin I like bananas").

Here's more directness: Read my blog. I just posted my first post in months (a review of my favorite CD so far this year). I hope to do more too! Thanks for inspiring me to do so.

emdunbar said...

I said "translate to bigger and bigger problems" but what I really meant was "translate to solve bigger and bigger problems." You probably got my gist, but I thought I'd clarify.

I'm so glad you enjoy it. I posted a comment on Nateland.

Mel & Nate,
Look! I get to talk to two of my favorite people at the same time. Lucky me!