Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Danish way of Parenting

This week marks the end of our "dance/theater camp and full time working mom" month and so far it has been a success. Earlier today I came home to an excited Zoe who played sleepy house with the babysitter and her dolls, after a day full of drama camp, sand and water at the playground around West 100th Street. She was exhausted but also excited about the final show tomorrow. While she finished putting her dolls to sleep I had a chat with the babysitter who ran me through the afternoon. She told me about Zoe insisting on noodles for lunch and my well-behaved child who had accidentally called her mommy a couple of times. We bonded over our Danishness and I realized exactly why Zoe has been so extra happy with this girl. She trusts that Zoe is doing what she is supposed to, she treats Zoe like a person, and lets her make a lot of choices herself. The playfulness more than emphasis on 'teaching' and the respect for the child as a person. Not that only Danes treat children like this, although my new book is hinting in that direction, my friend pointed out the other day that this was more a non-American perspective than anything and that he (who is Australian) had also used such strategies with his children. I never gave this much thought, to me an equal, trusting, explaining attitude was always the foundation of being a good mom. But I have been very lucky, because with two brothers much younger than I, interaction with children has always been a big part of my life. So when I had Zoe, I had already thought about many things in terms of children and I knew pretty much how I wanted to raise them and treat them. But I also knew that I had to improvise and think about things as I go along.

After the babysitter had left, Zoe watched an hour and a half of television while I cooked, we ate and I cleaned up. I figured she had spent all day being very active and just needed to relax. Then we brushed her doll's teeth (and Zoe's) and read three books in bed before talking a bit about family. At one point she realized that while my mom has three children, my step-dad only has two, but my real father died four years ago and Zoe started crying, hugging me. I comforted her and told her it was okay and I would take her to the island where he had lived one day. She asked me about his life, what he did and it was nice to be able to tell her about that now that she is old enough to understand. I said, he would be looking down and be very proud of his grand daughter. She disagreed and told me that he misses me more than her because I am his child. Which was actually very insightful of a five year old. She then fell asleep while I caressed her back. 

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