The Monkey has been having an especially difficult time the last few weeks. He's been chewing up a storm (thank goodness for his new necklace, though we've already had to replace the tubing and I need to get some more soon), struggling with his ability to pain attention, and is generally more physically and emotionally sensitive than usual. The world is a tough place for the Monkey. Things that most would not find hurtful cause him great emotional pain, whether it is unkind words from a friend, a television commercial that is scary, or the image of a wounded animal. Some would say that his acute sense of empathy for all living things (seeing the trees get trimmed brings tears to his eyes) is a gift. Perhaps that will be true later in his life but, for now, it is a hardship.
Many well-meaning people, people who care for and love the Monkey, have suggested that he needs to build thicker skin, that it would be good for him to face the harshness of life (or school) in order to get used to it, to learn to deal with it. My instincts have repeatedly guided me away from this strategy, leading me instead to keep him close, to help him learn how to protect himself in a safe, loving environment. We trust that, as he matures, he'll have the strength to live in the big, bad world but we want his sensitivity to remain intact so that he can be a compassionate adult who has the skills to change this world, rather than accept its harshness. Some would say that we are sheltering him, but I think of it as providing a safe-haven.
I received the following e-mail last week and it reassured me about our decisions regarding the Monkey Ducks. It came at a great time, as we watch our cultural hype about "going back to school," and that small voice of doubt starts to get louder as it screams to follow the crowd. But, now I can remind myself that we don't want any hot frogs here!
THE DAILY GROOVE ~ by Scott Noelle
:: "I'm Not A Frog-Boiler!" ::
When you reject authoritarian, coercive parenting in
favor of non-punitive, pleasure-oriented parenting,
critics and naysayers will warn you that your child
won't be able to cope in the "real" world.
The assumption is that "it's a jungle out there" and
we should gradually toughen up our kids and get them
used to suffering so they won't be shocked when they
venture out into the big, bad world.
It's like that famous experiment where they tossed a
healthy frog in boiling water and it leaped right out.
But if they put the frog in cool water and raised the
temperature gradually over several days, the frog
would be able to *adjust* and stay in the water.
The slow boil seems more humane, but that
"well-adjusted" frog eventually *died* from the heat!
Whereas the non-adjusted frog's intact sensitivity
protected it from being boiled.
Today, look for evidence that your child's sensitivity
is intact (e.g., negative reactions to unwanted
conditions) and be *grateful* for it! Tell yourself,
"My child will *never* get boiled!"
Feel free to forward this message to your friends!
(Please include this paragraph and everything above.)
Copyright (c) 2008 by Scott Noelle
"Inspiration & Coaching for Progressive Parents"
1044 Water Street, Suite 342
Port Townsend, WA 98368