Change, when it comes to people, happens every second of the day and is inevitable. And I would assert that humans are the most common and powerful agents of change there are, on themselves and on each other. Going a step further, parents are the most influential players shaping the changes occurring in children.
Whether we like it or not, we decide everything for them in the beginning. Remember breast vs. bottle? And it goes on from there. We make those choices with love and determination, a kind of thoughtfulness that looks at the present and into the future. We choose their playmates, their schools, their extra activities, where they live, what kinds of food they eat, what they are exposed to both physically and mentally; all with the hope that our choices will somehow help our children to become whatever our personal idea of a good (well-adjusted, successful, insert your own word here) grown-up is.
Now, when we talk about trying to change someone we need to break that down into smaller chunks. Like are we talking change as in having a big ole’ strawberry birthmark removed from the middle of your baby’s face? Or are we talking about not feeding the boys Froot Loops for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day because it isn’t nutritious for them? Or is it purchasing the braces the orthodontist recommended or not buying the Nerf gun because you don’t let your kids play with weapons?
Am I getting where I am trying to go? Do you see the difference between change and change, and change? Change for the sake of beauty, health, academic success, personal beliefs, or... Do you see the difference between change that is orchestrated and change that is incidental? Do you see how intertwined it all can be?
Those changes that we (and others) introduce constantly to our children create the physical and psychological structure of their body and mind, and the meaning they attach to themselves and their world—in most cases for their lifetime. We give them the world we want them to have and we teach them how to understand it. We help build their multifarious skill sets and their schema for filtering life.
We change our children, that is what we do. There is no getting around it.
And it is ok. Because if you didn’t change your children—just imagine you were magical and had that choice—you’d be a crappy parent. (Of course if you change them for the worse because you suck at being a decent human, then that too makes you a crappy parent.)
So when we talk about changing our children, maybe what we mean is that we are trying to figure out when or how it is ok to change them more, or less, or in different ways than the prescribed cultural norm, or the counter-cultural norm, or the norm you think is the norm. When you have a child who is born outside that imaginary norm, the questions surrounding change become even more complex and more confusing.
Even when you have a baby with a difference like say, Down syndrome, you still exert change on that baby every day of its life. So the question becomes not if you will change your child, but why and how you will do it.
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