Sunday, April 1, 2012

Not Now, Katie Bug

After a parent-teacher conference with Katie’s kindergarten teacher last week, I started to worry that my only child will grow into that stereotypical selfish, spoiled brat who always expects to get her way. Her teacher mentioned that Katie behaves a little immaturely when she’s playing with her classmates, still jumping up and down a lot when she gets excited, and not being able to resolve the issue when she doesn’t get her way with her classmates.

“She fights with them?” I asked for the clarification that only a parent who gets one shot at raising a good kid needs.

“No, not really. She just goes off and plays by herself.”

I jotted Katie’s teacher’s words down in the notes I was taking diligently.

But now that I’ve had a couple days to reflect on her words, I think, first of all, “What’s wrong with jumping up and down when you’re excited? Since when did that become a negative thing? The federal government seems so apt to control what our school children put into their bodies in the lunch room, but we’re squelching a child’s natural desire to move her body in healthy ways? That’s silly.

And second of all, regarding the “not resolving issues when she doesn’t get her way” I think, so what? When I don’t get my way I need time to myself to reflect, too. Would I get bad marks in kindergarten for writing a blog when I’m frustrated rather than having the ability to think on my feet when I encounter an obstacle in my interpersonal relationships? It’s not that Katie doesn’t resolve issues with her friends, it’s that she doesn’t resolve them on the spot. She needs a little time to think about it, so she can resolve the issue inside her head. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. I did name the child what I did because I think Kate Carleton sounds presidential. But even if Katie doesn’t heed her mother’s call to serve our country as Commander-in-Chief and head of the free world, even if she more likely will spend twenty years figuring out what to do with her life only to discover that when she figures it out she’s lost most of her energy to do it—oh wait, no, that’s me—does it matter that it takes her a little longer to figure out how she wants to resolve a conflict rather than just jumping to conclusions? Seriously, what’s so bad about needing a little time and space to resolve conflict? And if it’s so bad, I’m guilty of it too, and I’m doing ok in the world.

But it does make me think maybe Katie is the way she is because she’s an only child. Of course certain characteristics have been there since the day she was born. Her ability to focus intently—shutting out the rest of the world. Some would say she’s spacey. I say she’s just paying attention to the circus going on inside her own head. She does have both Will and me, among a long line of proud mental carny-folk, as primary examples in life, after all.

Would Katie be a more successful person in life if she weren’t an only child? By successful I’m not talking about money or possessions. I mean, ultimately, would she be happier in the long run if she weren’t an only child now?

In some ways yes, in some ways no. And the same could be said if she were part of a large family and I asked myself if she’d be happier if she were an only child.

I think she’ll be ok either way. If she remains an only child or if we some day have another. For now, Katie begs for a sibling.

“Please, Mom, pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease can I have a brother or a sister?”

It takes practice to learn anything. Maybe my sub-fertility and our too strict criteria for adopting another child will turn out to be “good” for Katie in the long run. What better way for her to practice every day not getting her way?

“Sorry, Katie Bug. Not now.”