Thursday, January 17, 2013

Making My Child Suffer

We made it home to Singapore! arriving home at 3 am on the 16th.

R was absolutely delighted to be back and ran around ecstatically greeting all of her toys. It made me feel a little bad to see how glad she was to be home, surrounded by all her familiar objects, eating food that she likes (she hated most of the food in Japan: I wrote a while ago about how she wasn't picky but that has changed, in that her first reaction to new food is now repulsion) and generally leading a life carefully designed to make her happy. Philosophically I don't believe in having children be the center of one's life, but in practice it makes my life easier to meet all of R's needs whenever possible (because then she is pleasant to be around and gives me less trouble). So she has quite a predictable schedule for meals, naps and everything else (like I always get her ready in the morning or for bed in the same way, in the same order), even though I dislike routine, because she likes it; she gets at least 30 minutes of exercise daily even though I hate physical activity, because otherwise she is naughty; I take her to a constant stream of playdates, classes and so on because she's an extrovert, even though I don't really like talking to people, etc.

But when on vacation B and I generally do what we want, and R is expected to fall into line (since R is going to be upset anyway, might as well please ourselves). In Japan we visited 7 places in 7 days, and didn't stay more than two nights anywhere. This meant hours spent on the train or bus almost daily: R spent over 6 hours in transit on multiple days. Since she is a very active toddler, time spent being stationary is tortuous for her, and given that she was eating a diet mostly of McDonald's hashbrowns, senbei, Oreos and strawberry sandwiches from 7-11 and sleeping badly she felt rather miserable a lot of the time.

While I do have maternal guilt, it's not enough to influence my behavior and I would definitely do the same again. R might have been miserable sometimes, but she had a wonderful time at other points (playing in the snow; bathing in the natural hot springs; making friends with everyone she could: so strange she actively enjoys meeting people). And it doesn't seem like a bad thing to learn that sometimes we all must do things we dislike for the sake of others (a lesson I am still struggling with BTW: my inability to do this well negatively impacts my life almost daily, and if I can save R from the same fate I will be doing her a tremendous favor).

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