Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Baa Baa

Every Tuesday morning I have the privilege of taking Jonah to Rhythm Time - a music class for toddlers where, under the pretence of benefiting our children, we sing and perform silly songs, play instruments and generally do ridiculous things usually while our children stare open mouthed at us, with dribble dripping down their chins.

The strangest part of the morning is the Rhythm Patterns section. This is so strange that it could easily make it onto a Louis Theroux Weird Weekend programme (except it is on a Tuesday). Sitting in a circle, the teacher (in this case my lovely big sister!) holds a microphone, which is not plugged into anything, and chants "baa baa" while we all repeat it back to her, clapping our hands on our thighs in time to the rhythm she is chanting. After this, the children each come into the middle of the circle while the teacher chooses one child at a time and says "baa baa" into the unplugged microphone. She then holds the microphone in front of the child's mouth, waiting for the child to repeat "baa baa" back to her. Usually, the toddler stares at her and dribbles all over the microphone. Sometimes, the child performs. Always, the children have a clap and run back to their adoring audience, sorry, mother.

It struck me this morning, whilst watching the faces of the mothers, that each mother is desperate for their child to perform. Even the mothers of the children who cannot speak seem to have some vain hope that suddenly their beautiful little angel will say the all important "baa baa". I wondered then, why we want our children to perform so well in front of others. Is it because we want them to look good, or because we want to look like fantastic parents?

When our 2 years olds (or 5 years olds in my case) have enormous tantrums in public are we embarrassed because we feel it somehow makes us look like terrible parents? It made me realise that I, even subconsciously, have these thoughts. Do I discipline my boys because I love them or because I want to look like a good mother? Even today, as we were walking out of the school gates surrounded by other parents, Jonah was sitting in the pushchair shouting "I HATE YOU!" and my first thought was "What will other people think? Will they think that's what I say to him at home?" It made me question my whole motivation for parenting.

Outwardly, I will say that I love the fact that my boys have so much energy, or are quirky or eccentric (one in particular!) yet when they display this behaviour in public I feel ashamed. This is wrong. It is also wrong that I care more about what other people think of them than how God thinks of them. Yes, we have to discipline and yes, we have to expect certain standards. But our children are not performing seals and it does not matter what any other children, parents or even teachers think of them, or us, if we are parenting them to love God, obey Him and us and are inputting the right values into them. Easy to say, and yet so so hard to do.

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