The Puritans had a belief that children were "miniature adults." Children were expected to stand through out the family meal (Fathers sat on the family's only chair, Mothers usually sat a rough stool). Children were served their food last and were expected to stay silent unless asked a direct question. After the age of 3, Children were dressed in clothing styles exactly like their parents. They were expected at a young age to be fully purged from original sin.
I'm not sure there is much that I want to import of Puritanical childrearing into my own household, except the most basic premise that "children are miniature adults." This lovely post by Melissa Wiley has me thinking about the virtue of patience and most specifically about the tone in which I use to "correct" my children.
Today was an especially rough Easter Monday in our household. A busy Holy Week at church meant that no one has napped, cleaned or walked the dog according to our usual, humble routine. Stumbling upon Melissa's post this morning helped me shift from a "just grit my teeth to get through this without undoing all of grace Holy Saturday confession just won me" to a more "how can I best bring love and peace to this individual tense moment".
The decision to start treating my children as "miniature adults" came in a mundane setting. The oldest Benjamin children, (which can only happen when two artists decide to commingle their maverick DNA), have decided that they want to always exit from a different car door than they enter. If Alex goes in through the door closest to his car seat then wishes to scramble over his sister to come out through "Dad's door" (the one by the driver's seat). Meanwhile, Hannah wants to enter by the door blocked by Maria's car-seat and exit by "Mommy side" (the front passenger door.)
You can only imagine the headaches that ensue. No matter how quickly I get out of my seat-belt, a kid has beaten me to the other door, hit the parking brake with one foot, and knocked out the baby's pacifier with a flying shoe. Jon & I have tried to clamp down on this dangerous phase with threats, bribery, and a confiscated Willie Wanka Easter Egg. So far, nothing has worked.
This morning, after pulling up to "Party City," I thought about Melissa's post. I took a deep breath and started the fire-exit scramble by gentling picking up the baby. As the older kids were starting the unhitching of their seat belts, I gently opened Alex's door and played the part of the coachman. "Thank you so much for coming out of this door" I gushed. "It makes thing so much easier if I know which side to wait with the baby while you big kids get out. I like being able to open the door for you." Hearing my praise made Hannah turn around mid-scramble and head swiftly out of Alex's open door.
I held the baby in one arm and led a chain of tiny hands effortlessly across a parking lot. It was a small, humble moment. Holding hands with a light heart felt good. "I could do this more often," I thought. Instead of demanding that my kids follow my orders, I could make requests in the same gentleness of tone that I'll use when they turn 30.