Our house has been full of age-appropriate behavior lately.
Funny, when someone says that, do you immediately think of the negative stuff? 'Oh, that's age appropriate' is a response to something a wee bit annoying or socially inappropriate or dangerous, most of the time. It's 2 year olds putting choking hazards in their mouths. It's 6 year olds lying. It's 14 year olds being moody. It's not usually, 'How age appropriate, she's sharing!' Even for the few positives that it is linked to, it's really a statement of the terminal nature of the positive. Like, 'He's helping with the chores? Mommy's little helper. Enjoy it while you can, that's just age appropriate behavior, it will end soon enough!' Nobody seems to say, 'How empathetic she's being, that's so age appropriate.' We attribute the negatives or the coming loss of positives with 'natural age appropriate behavior' but we assign positives to 'personality' or 'parenting'. Take credit for the good stuff (or give credit), but for the negatives, eh, they're just normal, they'll grow out of it. Kind of protective for the ego, but ... well, sometimes I think less emphasis on the 'personality' and 'parenting' sides might make for less pressure to MAKE kids behave beyond their age appropriate margins. And less anger, guilt, fear, and shame when they can't get there, because, um, it's not something they're able to do, yet, not effectively. Baby steps, maybe.
Our family doc was rather entertained by the whole deal last night. At least he was after he determined that Miss M's eardrum didn't look like it was damaged by being poked with a belt buckle tongue (ACK!) while she and Miss R were playing doctor.
It would be tempting to blame our nanny for not being watchful enough, but I know better - there's a reason we pay her a lot, and it's because handling a passel of kids ... or, um, a passel of THESE kids, is a job of constant motion and mental gymnastics.
So, Miss M got poked. She held onto her complaint until I got home, and then told me ... after our nanny left. My ear hurts - see? She held out a q-tip coated with congealed blood. Greaaaaat. a) You're supposed to ask for help with q-tips. and b) How did that happen?
At this point, though, I'm left feeling more bemused until we see what kind of damage we're talking about. But I also have a good barometer in Miss M - she dislikes the doctor's office, but she also knows they really do help her feel better. So when she said, 'can you take me to the doctor?' I knew it was definitely hurting her.
Family doc says, 'well, that's age appropriate' with a big grin. Something about the grin suggests that he's glad his kids are well into their teens and up, now... It also is a shared moment, the knowledge that he's sure I was the same, and that he was, too. He's known me a long time, though not quite that long, but he's seen some age-appropriate go by in me anyway. Age appropriate becomes a universal experience, even if we didn't quite take that track. 'Any other age appropriate behavior going on other than playing doctor?'
Yep. We've got the lying going on (Mr B), but he's starting to recognize the issues with that and is (true to his good nature) having a harder and harder time being good at lying or sneaking. He's coming up with less facile lies, giving himself away with his facial expression or body language, leaking his internal conflict. He still wants the power of choosing what to do and how to do it, but he's stuck in the navigation between utter autonomy and recognizing the value of the rules (Safe, Respectful, Kind). We're still working the, 'if you tell the truth, you get off easy, if you don't fess up, you don't get off easy,' side - George Washington and the Cherry Tree approach. Research-supported, as noted previously here.
And the moodiness from Mr G. Age-freaking-appropriate. Heh. Though I'm finding that the more I remember to do the reflective listening without any statements about how I feel (at least not until he's done, and then very carefully kept to my side of the line), the more he recognizes how extreme his feelings are ... and the more he is able to release them and then dial them down himself. His imagination is so powerful that he can picture the loss of a dreamed-for goal (a display sword for his bedroom wall that he was saving toward was discontinued and sold out), he feels like even seeing a picture of it in the catalog would make him shatter into a million bits, and then the bits disintegrate into dust. Wow. Usually by the time he gets that hyperbolic, I am getting a bit annoyed. I mean, REALLY, it feels THAT bad? But. But this time I remembered to let him go, to respond reflectively only.
me: "It sounds like if you saw it again, you'd be completely obliterated. Cease to exist."
Mr G: "Yeah. That's how sad I am. That's how much it hurts." (but a hint of discomfort and a pause after that)
me: "It's a lot of hurt and sadness."
Mr G: "Yeah. A lot. The most ever." (Turns and leaves. Later I hear him sobbing upstairs. But not raging, which is often his secondary reaction if we try to reality-check him too soon. And he's not taking it out on anyone else, either. He's excused himself to go have his feelings.)
Mr G: "WHY do they put things in the catalog that aren't for sale anymore?" (whif of the sobbing still in the voice, but clearly in control of himself)
me: (hey, he's open to reasoning now!) "If they even have a few left, they leave them in so they can sell them all."
Mr G: "Oh." (wanders off again, but body language is totally clear, not dejected or curled up or otherwise 'leaking his feelings'.)
Mr G: (calmly, even more calmly than his initial talking about saving up for the first sword) "It costs a lot more, but I've figured out which other sword I'd like. The Scottish Basket-hilt."
me: "That's a good one. And it's really popular. I don't think they'll stop making that one."
Mr G: "Okay. Good." (turns and walks away again)
Problem? Gone. Sad, still. Still mourning the loss of the beautiful shiny wonder that he had dreamed of having mounted on his bedroom wall (which is painted and decorated to look like a castle - faux stone blocks and ironwork included.) It would have been perfect. But. Well, so is the other option. And he got there all by himself.
Age appropriate (even down to the sword obsession, though I'll grant that epeepunk is called epeepunk because he was an epee fencer in college... some obsessions come more naturally -- and naturally by environment -- than others).
Family doc's response to the doctor playing bit was equally supportive. He chided the nurse for telling Miss M not to put things (including her fingers) in her ears. Turned to Miss M and said, 'it's okay to put your finger in there if it itches.' Turned to me and prompted, 'Time to buy a toy doctor set that has things that can't hurt her?'
Um, yeah, I think so.
After all, it's age appropriate.