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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Messy Mat Generation

That was fun,
now when's dinner?
     If you do an internet search for this item, a messy mat, you'll come across a site that sells them both for dogs and small children.  That should tell you something.  The ones for the animal  - the four legged animal - that is, is about the size of a placemat and is obviously to catch the spills of water and bits of dry food that a hungry pup is likely to miss.  One such mat for the "little eater" in the high chair boasted a dimension of 39 x 39 inches for the low low price of $50, which was a better deal than the one made in Europe sold in mm dimensions for $99.
            I understand the practice of putting down drop cloths when you plan to paint the ceiling, but it strikes me odd that parents would go at feeding a child as if they expected a disaster from the get go.  When I was pregnant with my first, the faculty of the school where I was a teacher gave me a sterling silver infant spoon with a long handle that matched my silver pattern.  There used to be an expectation that a mother would spoon feed a child until he was able to manage utensils on his own, at which time he'd be given a different silver spoon suitable for little hands.  These were actually passed down in some families from one generation to the next.  Some sets include a fork  for solid food that can be stuck with the tines and delivered to the mouth. 

            These seem  ridiculously simple and obvious concepts, but today I'm amazed at how many parents with master's degrees, and you'd think brilliant offspring, have given over to putting out food for their child on a high chair tray with as little concern as they have for their dog.  What goes in the mouth nourishes the child, what hits the floor can be hosed off the messy mat later.  And that's that.  And it would be that, if only they never left home.  But they do.  Oh, my goodness, they do!  Everywhere you go restaurant floors are trashed by toddlers across the country turned loose with edibles they cannot possibly manage without help.  The children have a bucking howling fit if the parents do otherwise.  Why?  Because they have been allowed to, first of all, and secondly, because their parents have taught them this really fun game of "play with your food" and the little ones look forward to it three or more times a day. 
            I can't say I've never given a child a pork chop bone to gnaw on or that I've never given them green peas loose on the high chair tray two or three at a time to let them practice hand to mouth coordination.  I have, but ONLY at home and after the bone gnawing was over they were stripped of their clothes and taken straight to the bathtub for a bath from head to toe.  With the peas, I never turned my back.  When they began squishing them through their fingers, I took that as a signal "we are done here."  Generally a mother can sneak spoons of food into the mouth of a child between the bites of the dry cracker you've let him hold in his hand.  There's a big difference in the outcome of handing a child a cracker and turning him loose with a big plop of mashed potatoes on a plastic high chair tray.
            Children can generally sit up by themselves by the age of six months, but they are nowhere near old enough to eat by themselves.  Of course they will try, because they are also at the age of exploring things by putting them into their mouths.  I just wonder why parents are so willing to give up that precious face to face time where the tot is allowed to pound the tray with their hands while the mother measures up the next spoonful of vegetables that will get airplaned over their baby's head and into their mouths.  Are we in such a rush we have no time for this anymore?  How much bonding is lost when we don't engage our infants this way?  And what could possibly be more important to you than feeding your child? 
Good boy!  Open big! 
            Trust me, they will not fail to get into AP English because you didn't allow them the freedom to become acquainted with the texture of macaroni and cheese when they are a mere 14 months.  The idea that a child needs to be set loose to determine what they would like to learn and what they would like to play without limits and  supervision has created a generation or two of children who expect to have their own way in just about everything with little to no regard for others.  No, no, used to be a given command among those raising kids.  Today, I'm not sure you wouldn't be arrested for it.  How dare you place limits on little Olivia's creativity?  You must be a traditionalist clinging to the past, who doesn't understand that these are the children of a new dawn, a new age, a new world view. 

            What child needs the authority of his parents, when they can from the time they are two design their own lives? 
            This is what I will and won't eat. 
            This is when I will and won't nap. 
            This is what I will and won't play with, what I will and won't wear. 
            This is how I will and won't comb my hair, tuck my shirt, and tie my shoes. 
Who's in charge here?
Was it only because of the great depression that my parents did what their parents told them to do?  Seems that gets blamed for everything else.  Or could it have been because their parents knew what's best for a child has been what's best for the last two thousand years or more.  Discipline at home is not easy to maintain.  If you are a parent you know that, but anything worth doing at all is worth doing well.  That includes passing on to your children the traditions of your faith and your family, so they can pass it on to theirs. 
            The affects of relativism on society in the last century has been well documented.  We've seen what happens when people get the idea there is more than one truth.  There is not your truth and my truth, not your child's truth, but one everlasting truth,  the one found in holy scripture.  Raise up your children with this belief and you will have passed on to them everything they need to know worth knowing.  Let them know and teach them well that, "Honor thy father and thy mother " is a commandant of God from which they are not exempt.  Unbound freedom to do as we please, rejection of the family hierarchy, where father knows best and mother does her utmost to support him, may start with something as simple as being turned loose on a messy mat, but it will end in widespread despair and destruction  one child at a time, as those who grow up according to their own will and not the will of their parents and God multiplies. 
You aren't the boss of me.
            "Oh, good grief, isn't that an over reach in this case, of a stodgy old fashioned opinion?"  you ask. 

            I can only say the happiest children are those who know there is a "no."  They depend on their parents to tell them where the boundaries are.  Until they can reason what's morally and socially good for them, they depend on their parents to teach them.  Letting them have their way isn't how to do it.  Teaching them how to curb their selfishness, how to sacrifice their own wild desires for the sake of others, and how to conduct themselves among family members and friends in a way that makes people happy to be around them is a much greater gift to a little one that a $50 messy mat.  Start them off as young as possible sitting at the table with the rest of the family with proper utensils of their own.   Praise them when they are well used.  Make "no" mean "no" when they are abused and reinforce that with consequences they can understand. 
            Before you know it, because they will want to please you and love to imitate others, you'll discover they are the most welcomed guests their age in any situation.  You train can train a dog.  A child, however, must be painstakingly educated and this requires your time and the very frequent denial of their freedom in the short term for their long term benefit. 


Mary Ann Kreitzer said...

I always tell the little ones (old enough to understand) that dinnertime is when we practice in case we get invited to Buckingham Palace or the White House. (Or to a friend's party!) No elbows on the table, no negative comments about the food. If you want to pass something up just say, "No thank you." And then we discuss polite dinner conversation. No one leaves the table without being excused and no one is excused after gobbling up their food so they can move on to better things.

Thanks for a great post that made me smile!

Stabat Mater said...

Thank you for a heaping helping of good old fashioned common sense! I may just have to distribute copies of this after Mass during coffee hour. My pastor will greatly appreciate this as he keeps saying modern mothers are raising the next generation of narcissists. The screaming during Mass, the used cups & napkins on the pastry table, the kids running amuck bumping into adults with hot coffee is just ridiculous! These people act like they were raised in a barn. The mothers stand & chat uninterrupted while the little darlings are not even supervised. No one is teaching their children that this is a time to practice manners & conversation, and that it is not a playground. There is, after all, a time and place for everything. The general consensus is that older people are mean & out of touch with kids just "being kids."

Insert emoji of a woman banging her head into a wall.