Tuesday, May 06, 2008

I Birthed A Lab Rat

My daughter is an experiment. Scratch that. My daughter is my Grand Experiment. Maybe that sounds cold, but I think it's just honest. Every firstborn child is an experiment; you have a child and decide to test out all of your theories on how to raise a kid, with this particular kid's mental health at stake. If you're really on the ball, you realize and accept that you're not even in the business of raising a child. You're in the business of raising an adult. Children are corralled and herded, by parents and sitters and school systems. Adults are the results of the experiments and they have to be shown, somehow and by parents barely capable of it themselves, how to stick with the herd while thinking independently. It's a rough job, and you can't just scrap the experiment when it's over either.

When my daughter misbehaves, I don't spank her. If she commits a rule offense, such as being late or getting a bad grade or not cleaning her room, she gets grounded, and if it's bad enough she gets grounded to her bedroom. But if she commits an ethical offense, such as lying or cheating or gods-forbid bullying, she gets assigned a paper. So far she's only had to write 3 papers, and none really up to par seeing as how she's just a kid with little in the way of formal paper-writing training. This theory, that you can raise a better adult by assigning them anecdotal examples of their own offenses rather than using brute force or arbitrary punishments, came right out of my own head. I'm probably not the first mother to ever think of it, but I did think it up on my own nonetheless. For all I know I'm fostering a horrible distaste in schoolwork, but I honestly don't think I could do that any better than the public school system anyway. It is just part of my Grand Experiment. Also, my kid has a summer reading list, including To Kill A Mockingbird and The Picture Of Dorian Gray. And this is in addition to the vegetable garden she keeps in order to sell her wares and earn money for the county fair. I don't think every child should read Oscar Wild at age ten, but I do think more of them should. And I think that having her own little vegetable stand teaches her valuable lessons about money. Of course, last year she ended up making over a hundred dollars, so the financial burden it takes off of me during fair week is a contributing factor as well, but not the whole story. As for the books, she can read them between customers.

What makes me sad, is that the child I carry now won't be my Grand Experiment. I will have to collaborate with a fellow scientist: my husband. And he's a different sort of scientist. He feels that children should be raised with a more militaristic approach than I do, and he doesn't fell it's at all important that they learn that Napoleon was short or that Eisenhower's real first name was David or that Persephone ate half a pomegranate. I will have to share this child, and that scares the living hell out of me. In fact, it scares the living hell out of me that I am going to have to let him hold the baby, the same man who can't sit on the couch watching TV without dropping the remote.

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