Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kinder friends: This is what I'mma gonna do

It's like this:

If you hadn't already gathered from how I post occasionally, I am really respectful of people's personal spaces and try not to assume too much. I'm even more deeply focused on ensuring I have ample time and space to recoup my own energy.

Same goes, at this point in her life, for my daughter.

To say it's been an interesting year, navigating all that comes with being the parent of a child "in the educational system", is putting it mildly. As so many of you would attest, it's a bit of a culture shock (of sorts) going from the world you assume you're setting up for your child and then getting smacked between the eyes with so much politicking and back-stabbing you'd be forgiven for thinking you were part of a multi-billion-dollar corporate conglomerate, not a kindergarten of families with similar-aged children.

But that is secondary, really, to my real heart-ache. The real sting. Here I was, thinking I could avoid - on behalf of my child - these things (in no particular order):

• the sexualised age. Full-stop. Just.... everything. Because we've all been forced to accept: Sex Sells. Apparently. Now, we can avoid all the music, all the commercials (we literally do not have any shows that include ad's in this house and if they do have ad's, we record it and invariably jump past those), but we can't avoid it when she goes to a friend's house, we can't vet what the dance teacher deems appropriate for the term dances, and next year it's all going to change again - the amount of exposure she is going to have from older children just makes me go cold;
• white bread. Please! Why do I feel the need to state my case for grainy bread? And why must it be pointd out, in front of my child and yours, that yours doesn't eat "any of that wholemeal or grain stuff"?
• dairy. Don't get me started (again). And yes, she gets enough calcium from her balanced diet, thankeweverymuch for being concerned and asking. But I'd rather her know that any cow-sourced products give her a sore tum, red cheeks and blocked nasal passages faster than she can say "dairy intolreance" and while she willingly asks for rice milk to avoid said pains, I'm happy to oblige;
• lollies. I know. What was I thinking? Steve used to rib me that I would be the most unpopular parent (more accurately, the LGBB the most unpopular kid in terms of play dates at her house) if I kept feeding her those mung bean biscuits I used to give her in place of rusks as a baby. Meh. What would HE know? *hiding stash*

I could go on. But I won't. It's probably a fairly predictable list after this.

My point is, despite avoiding this music, their accompanying music videos, TV shows where characters talk so shockingly to one another, dairy, white bread, highly sugared snacks...... it's all coming in on me. The weight of The World.

Compounding how it is at the pointy end of the final year before I wave my child off into the open arms of other people's family "cultures", I'm in this really strange ancestral-ties world, viewing things like growing vegetables in our backyard as surely a "do-able thing if my pioneering great-great-great-great grandfather could grow vegies in nothing but rocks and making his garden flourish so he could sell his produce to neighbours to earn enough money to bring the rest of his young family out from England." I don't quite fancy, then, the notion that it's okay to just give my child a diet with all the trimmings her friends have just because "it's their age, let them have fun while they're young."

Despite feeling like I'm losing this control - inevitably, I do understand this! You can't stop progress - I felt a little comfort this week when I realised I had made a decision that I could stand by. It involves who is invited in to our home. I want to preface this by saying, I am all for the LGBB making many and varied friends (she is someone who makes firm friends with people, she is not transient in her choices, but she is also a kid who will give anyone a go as long as they are respectful to her or others - I am fascinated when I have been afforded the opportunity to witness how she responds to children in this regard, my little moral yardstick is still standing by her guns - and I love how she welcomes interlopers in to her tighter-knit group even if the general vibe is an exclusiveness that comes with the age).

So I have decided that I must relax my fears about what is offered her (to eat, to watch and so forth) at friends' houses because I truly cannot cushion her from the world so much that she misses out on these friendship experiences. I have also, in a huge move for me, softened my stance on what treats and food I offer when her friends come here to play. Fairy bread, little cookies, M&M's have been known to be on the "treat only" menu as it happens relatively infrequently. But what I can (and will) be policing is who actually comes to play here.

I've realised that in the scheme of things, what she eats will come and go - err, literally - but how she feels will be what is really conditioning her and her outlook on the world. To that end, there are a few friendships that, at this point in her short childhood life, I can't with clear conscience welcome in to her home. The kids who perhaps have a heavier hand than others, that make the LGBB work hard to be a friend. The ones who expect her to be grateful of their attention. And call all the shots. Heaven forbid, the ones who even front up to me in my own home and tell me how it's going to be. At the age of five, I find this rather frightening (for the future).

That aside, I'm not saying I won't encourage these friendships - I do and I will continue to do so - but I will be tactfully avoiding play dates in our home, my daughter's Safe Place.

What about you? If you are a parent, I'd love to hear from you.
What is your sticking point? What did/do you try to avoid? And what has inevitably had to give?

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