By Kirsten Bosio
MUSINGS ON JELLO AND AUTONOMY BY A NOT PERFECT MAMA
I want to start off by saying I’m not an expert. I remember buying Crystal Light because when I was younger I would watch their commercials featuring adult women who really had their shit together. They were laughing and drinking it and I thought, “Wow, that’s how it’s done.” The same day, I picked up a few copies of generic parenting books from the library because it’s not like I could purchase them after I blew all my money on fancy lady drink mixes. I quickly realized that A) I basically bought sugar packets for water and B) those books weren’t meant for me. Maybe they were for me because in that moment I was so desperate and anxious to be good. A good adult, a good mother. Almost 10 years into being a mama and I am no less anxious and I’ve traded Crystal Light for coffee, but I at least have some experience to share since then. In this case, it’s about raising an independent, self-aware child.
Once you’ve snapped out of the survival mode that is the new parent stage, you start thinking about their mental and emotional well-being which of course, includes the development of their individual identity. It sounds contradictory to both parent and teach autonomy. How do you encourage independence when they are still dependent on you? You have this gelatinous blob of a human slowly growing into themselves. As their caretaker, you make sure the blob doesn’t get hurt, but they still need their own time to harden into the shape that they will be. I think the key is boundaries. You recognize them as their own sentinent being while also making sure their immediate safety isn’t threatened. You’re basically just trying to get them into adulthood in one piece and hopefully, just hopefully, they are prepared and confident.
Way before Tiny Bangs and way before we were ever recognized on the street, we used to live in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles. It was smack-dab between downtown and Hollywood and there was even a train stop down the street. It was PERFECT. We rode the train a lot and I started noticing how adults were with my children. There is almost this unspoken understanding that kids are communal. Not in the cute “it takes a village to raise a child” kind of way, but in a public property kind of way. People would pat them on the head, hug, grab their cheeks, and sometimes even try to kiss them.
We rode the train a lot and I started noticing how adults were with my children. There is almost this unspoken understanding that kids are communal. Not in the cute “it takes a village to raise a child” kind of way, but in a public property kind of way.
As a woman, I’m borderline numb to this entitled behaviour, but it wasn’t until I was a parent did I realize that children also go through this. It wasn’t exclusive to strangers either; family and friends would unintentionally demand the kids’ attention, time, physical affection, and even try to dictate what they could wear or say. I started to think about the impact it has on them and even the impact it had on me when I was younger. I was essentially taught that what I wanted or who I was didn’t matter. It only mattered what everyone else wanted from me and I wasn’t allowed to say no to them. Consent is very much entwined in this conversation. I hate to break it to you, but by taking away your kids’ agency you’re putting them on a very scary path. Advocate for them and better yet, teach them how to advocate for themselves.
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