Here’s some wisdom I’m keeping close as I embark on my new life living with four kids under 6. The passages are excerpted from The Child Under Six by James L. Hymes, which my wonderful mom-in-law gave me. The book remains one of my all-time favorite parenting books, but it’s sadly out of print.
“The stages of growth so important to a child are not necessarily easy for us. There is a difference between behavior that is developmentally healthy and significant – good for the child – and behavior that is good for us – pleasant to live with. Young children wet. They have to, but wetting is a nuisance. Young children spit up. They have to, but what a nuisance! Young children wake up in the middle of the night. They cry because they cannot talk. They must be carried because they cannot walk. At every age children do what they must do because they are who they are. Their normal behavior does not always check with our convenience.
Sometimes we know why children do what they do. We accept their crying, for example, when we know they are teething. But the times when we know the reason are few compared to those times when we do not. You get no medals for siding with children when the reason for their behavior is obvious. Then the gold glitters – anyone can see it. The real trick to living well with youngsters lies in our willingness to give them a little free reign. Can you go along with them, even when you don’t know why they do what they do, and when their behavior certainly isn’t what we would do at our advanced age?
Living well with children calls for faith as well as facts. You need a conviction that there is a plan to growth and some point to all behavior – the faith that ‘God works in wondrous ways his miracles to perform.’ It is this faith that breeds humility. Our task is not to play God. Our task is not to end those acts that don’t happen to please use, although they please the child very deeply.
We each have our tolerances, peculiar to us, and our special tender spots. Some of us can live with the young children’s noise and activity with never a qualm. Some of us can tolerate the four-year-old’s verbal ‘outrages’ without breaking stride. Some of us are not bothered in the least by the young child’s love of water, mud, and gush. The job we face is to extend our tolerances. We have to learn to take children as they come.”