I had a quiet moment of parental pride this week, and it was over something seemingly trivial.
As anyone with kids who shops at Waitrose will tell you, one of the most important parts of any shopping trip is the chance to pop in the green counters into their Community Matters box.
The supermarket donates £1,000 to 3 local charities or community groups each month, and the amount of counters in each box indicates the proportion each one will get.
What’s supposed to happen is that you choose the one you think should get the money. What I and many other parents of young kids do is give our sprog the counters and let them put them in whichever box they like. I figure they’re all deserving of a bit of overpriced Waitrose cash.
My daughter took her standard five counters, and was going through her process of divvying them up, when 3 older boys bundled over. They had spotted that one of the boxes was for their local school, and were excited to add to the counters.
Upon seeing that my daughter had a collection of counters to distribute, they proceeded to hector her into placing them where they wanted – namely their school.
My daughter has a tendency to back away for any potential conflict. At playground she will usually let anyone waiting to go on the slide ahead of her. In playgroups, if anyone tries to take a toy from her, she will let them have it. When it comes to songs, she will back away from the instrument box until everyone else has taken one (with only crap ones left).
Letting people go first, and have things they want, is in many ways a positive. I’m pretty strict on manners, and when we have playdates or guests, I make sure she realises that their needs come first – so if they want to play with a toy, they can. If they want to do something else, they can. Our role as host is to make them feel happy and comfortable. It’s worked, as she is great when we have people over.
But this is just for when we have guests. In life, she also needs to put her own needs first from time to time. She needs to be selfish.
The dilemma of embracing our ‘bad’ side reminded me of a classic Star Trek episode (geek alert!) when Kirk is separated into good and evil versions.
While the ‘bad’ Kirk was running amok on the ship, acting on his uninhibited aggression, ‘nice’ Kirk was being… nice, like he normally is. Only he begins to realise he needs the aggressive side of him to be an effective Captain of the Enterprise. Sometimes. we need our ‘bad’ side to do good. It’s a story that’s stayed with me since I was a kid.
So while I teach my daughter that being selfish is wrong, for her to be empowered she needs at least a dash of selfishness, ego, aggression, and any number of other less seemingly desirable traits. It’s a nuance that I feared would be lost on a pre-schooler.
So it was with great pride that I saw her stand her ground with the 3 older boys. Under repeated badgering from them to do what they wanted, she simply said “No thanks” and put the counters where she wanted – which included the collection for their school.
Afterwards, she relayed the event to me finishing with “They tried to tell me what to do, but I don’t have to do what they tell me.”
Further discussion emanated from that. Adding to the nuance, I followed up by explaining that it’s ok for them – or others – to try and persuade you to do something. But if you don’t want to do it, then you don’t have to.
It is a lesson that is incredibly important for the rest of her life, encompassing moral & ethical dilemmas, sexual consent, workplace bullying, and more.
There’s a quote attributed to Louis CK (whether correctly or not) that we’re not raising children, but the adults of tomorrow. I want my daughter to grow up to be what sounds on paper like a mass of contradictions – sensitive and assertive, strong and tender, humble and confident.
I have no real idea how to achieve this, but I’m trying my best. In the meantime, I have also learned from writing this that while I adore the thrill and adventure of Star Wars, perhaps I need to show my daughter some classic Star Trek too.
STAR TREK™ & © 2015 CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.