Friday, July 9, 2010


So, I have a five-year-old that most people reading this have met. I was pregnant with him during Hurricane Ivan, and although we were way up in Pittsburgh at the time, we got smacked around pretty good by the storm. But my pregnancy cravings didn't care so much about the rain and wind. They cared about being satisfied. So my wonderful and understanding husband drove me and our three kids to my favorite Indian restaurant in Pittsburgh: Udipi.

While we ate, the power went out once or twice. Thank goodness for generators, because I really needed my channa batura and peas paratha and my mango lassi. Needed. With my cravings thus satisfied, we headed out to the car to return home . . . and had to take a different route because the one we'd come in on had been closed due to flooding. We made it back safe and sound--and full--and had enough leftovers for lunch the next day.

It's only a coincidence that we named our son Ivan. My husband has an ancestor by that name (spelled Ivin, however) and the name just seemed to suit Ivan from the very beginning.

It still does (although I take at least partial responsibility for his stubborn streak). Let me quote from that reputable source, Wikipedia:

"Historic sources present disparate accounts of Ivan's complex personality: he was described as intelligent and devout, yet given to rages. . . . His contemporaries called him 'Ivan Grozny' the name, which, although usually translated as 'Terrible,' is actually associated with might, power and strictness, rather than horror or cruelty."

Ivan is intelligent. I don't know yet about devout. And, yes, he's given to rages--though he hasn't broken anything yet. And he's a strong little kid--a strong personality. "Formidable" is the word I use for him. My sister-in-law said that he's the kind of child who will grow up to be a man who knows what he wants and will go after it with everything in him. I'm sure she's right. But I admit that sometimes I have a really hard time with all of the above: his smarts, his temper, his stubbornness, his determination. It's hard to parent a five-year-old who doesn't understand he's five.

We were at the pool this morning, and Ivan saw a group of three boys about his age. And being Ivan, he swam over to them and asked if he could play with them. The oldest child--probably about eight--said no. Emphatically. "Yell" is the word we're looking for here. Ivan was unfazed. "I wasn't talking to you," he said. "I was talking to him." The older kid said, "I know, but he's my brother. And we don't want you playing with us." I waited for the boys' mother to say something. She did: "Billy. Be nice." But it was more a whine than a command. So Billy, of course, was not nice. "But it's more fun to be mean," he said. She sighed and glanced at me as if now waiting for me to say something. I did. I took Ivan's hand, pulled him out of the pool, and said, "Come on. You don't need to play with them. You can play with your own family." The sighing, whining mom looked away as her sons continued to play alone.

I was tempted to say more. It was on the tip of my tongue to say more. I could have been snide or snotty. I could have been mean to the kids. The Mama Bear in me really wanted to.

But the thing is, Ivan was fine. So the kids didn't want to play with him. Big deal, as far as he was concerned. There were other kids at the pool. Plus, he had his three older siblings to hang out with. If I'd made a big deal about this one pool punk, Ivan would have thought there was a reason to make a big deal. So I didn't. I dropped him off with the rest of my kids, and then I sat down and read my book.

I don't think it's okay for kids to be brats to other kids. Had one of my kids acted like that child, I'd have yanked him out of the pool so fast, he would have been dry before his feet landed on the cement.

But it's not up to me to parent other people's children. It's not up to me to tell other parents what a cruddy job I think they're doing parenting their own children. But it is up to me to make sure my kids can handle the pool punks that will inevitably come their way.

It's up to me to make sure they're formidable, whether they were born that way or not.


Mendy said...

I can't stand it when parents talk to their children and don't expect them to listen.

I'm envious that you are at a point where you can read at the pool. I'm still hoofing it back and forth to the baby pool and holding on to kids in the big pool.

And lastly, I find it interesting that the things that drive me crazy about my middle child (the stubbornness, the willfulness, the inability to be persuaded, the utter generosity) are all things that will serve her well later in life.

Mendy said...

So I suppose I should clarify that the utter generosity does not drive me crazy, but it does amaze me.

Bobbie said...

My daughter came home from school once with almost $20. I asked where she got it, and she said her friend had given it to her--change from a pencil she'd bought. I made sure the money got back to the girl's mother, but I imagine her daughter's generosity did drive her crazy.

When my 2nd child was a baby, a mother at a playground told me what you just mentioned: that the things that drive us crazy about our kids are the things that will serve them well later in life. It's a struggle to remember that sometimes.

Brigid Kemmerer said...

Love it, love it, LOVE it. Nick is constantly being hassled by kids whose moms don't give a crap.

And I'm glad I read your comment about the things that drive us nuts now being the things that will serve them later in life. I sure hope so.