A twinge of guilt and a pat on the back

I received a message from her teacher today.

Her teacher is wonderful. She cares for each of these kids as people. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but many teachers care for their students, like… well…kids. They are treated with care, but not necessarily with, respect.

Treating a child with respect means honoring their thoughts, feelings, opinions, desires, needs, wants and communications (remember, communication comes in many forms). It means valuing these things as much as you value your own. Treating a child with respect requires you to be conscious of not diminishing their thoughts, their feelings, their opinions, which may differ from your own, just because they are a child.

Respect can, of course, be earned and lost. But one’s status, one’s title, one’s age, should not be the precursor to respect being given.

And respect and value are what Indi feels from her teacher. Which brings me to the message I received today.

“Indi has said that she is not really wanting to bring the kittens home with her this weekend but she doesn’t want to let you down.”

BACK STORY……

Her teacher fosters kittens. Indi adores them. A month ago they had their first foster kittens and the students learned to help care for them, including making gruel, bottle feeding, cleaning up after them, and of course, loving hard on them. When they were adopted out to their loving homes, it was tough for Indi, but with discussions at home and school, she knew this meant not only did these kittens get loving homes, but they would be able to help more! The three new kittens are just as gorgeous. I let her know that if she proved herself responsible enough, including being able to clean up their litter (the job she avoided last round), we could ask about weekend care. Well, before the week was out, she was on top of it.

So, 3 cute kittens came home with her for a 3-night sleepover. And Indi did a WONDERFUL job of looking after them. I was so impressed and so proud of her abilities. She took care of them all weekend. Her bedroom stunk like everything that comes with three kittens, and she continued to clean up, feed, play, put them to bed, air out her room, without complaint.

However (there was always going to be a however), one of the little delights, pooped on Indi’s bed 4 times during the stay. Indi’s things are precious to her. Her bedspread is new. She loves her room. And a kitten repetitively pooping on her bed, “but she KNOWS how to use the litter! Why isn’t she using it?!” made her sad and angry. More discussions around the behavior of kittens and with me continuously washing bedding, I thought she had moved past it. The kittens went back to school on Monday, and she hasn’t really said much more.

This morning (Friday), I asked her what room she wanted the kittens in this weekend as we were going to be on weekend care again (her classmate was going to have them next weekend). She was a little dismissive at first but I said I would help her set it up where ever she wanted. So we moved the cage into the spare bedroom and set up towels, pee pads, and blankets, along with the play boxes she had made for them, and off to school, she went. As I dropped her at the door, I said I’d make sure I was there at dismissal to help her bring them home. She nodded with a smile and “okay”, and was off.

And later that morning I received the message from her teacher.

“Indi has said that she is not really wanting to bring the kittens home with her this weekend but she doesn’t want to let you down.” She went on to say that she had talked with Indi and let her know that I would be fine with this, and she would talk to me about it. She also assured her that if she wanted them for one night next weekend, she would pick them up from us the next morning.

“Indi has said that she is not really wanting to bring the kittens home with her this weekend but she doesn’t want to let you down.”

Her teacher and I continued to chat about the possible ‘whys’ Indi suddenly didn’t want to bring them home. I realize that ‘suddenly’ is not tactually true, but that she has probably been feeling like this for a while.

she doesn’t want to let you down

Her teacher and I agree that poop is probably the main contributor to this decision. I think that perhaps, she could have done with a little more help from me in caring for them and although I did take care of the major messes, cage cleans, and washing, I probably could have done a better job of not being quite so ‘authoritarian’ on her responsibility. Her teacher agreed that the poop had certainly lessened the appeal. We probably needed to have ensured the kittens were put in their cage after each meal so they could use the litter and we probably should have not given them constant access to dry food but given more regular meals, to help with the toileting times.

she doesn’t want to let you down

It’s still been a great learning experience for her. Us too. She did a fabulous job. It was great to see how in control and responsible she could be. It doesn’t exactly hurt for her to learn the realities of caring for young animals, even if it does mean it loses some of its shine. She knows how proud of her I am…

let you down

In fact, in doing so, I may have closed down her communication channel with me.

And that’s where the guilt comes in. That quiet niggle in the back of my mind, like a thorn, stuck in my clothing, every now and then making itself known with a small but sharp poke, a niggle, the uncomfortableness that you can’t quite shake…

she doesn’t want to let you down

I never want her to feel like she can’t come to me with a worry, with a need, with a desire, with some admission of how she is feeling. Even if it may mean I have to put my own ego aside for a moment and truly listen. Respect her. I guess I need to let her know that now that she is getting older, and more aware, she may also need more patience in waiting for the ‘adult’ to listen and not react through their own ego.

And in the same breath, as that whispered guilty feeling, I pat myself on the back. Because we have created a space where she can communicate her feelings. A place outside of Mum and Dad where she is safe, respected, and valued, and that she can feel free to open up. That is no small feat. That is one of the goals of parenting. We are all so well aware that children will not always want to speak to their parents…. after all, each of us has been there ourselves! But as a parent, to know that your child has someone else they communicate honestly to, someone that you trust…well that is one of the goals.

You have not let me down dear child, and I will continue to communicate this to you in whatever form you need.

2 thoughts on “A twinge of guilt and a pat on the back

  1. Elizabeth Lithgow February 11, 2022 — 8:24 pm

    My eyes are weeping. Not because I am sad but thankful for the people you have surrounded Indi with and their understanding. This is not just Indi’s journey but also a continuation of your journey. Being a mother/parent never stops and you are modelling these very important steps for Indi. If we don’t make mistakes our children will never learn as it is from the foibles we make that the learning occurs. Big thumbs up to you all.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loving the journey and the thoughts. And as Indi grows, so will you in your skills to be xtra! You make me proud my friend for your huge and thoughtful gift of love and consideration of others. Well done for seeing more than most.

    Liked by 1 person

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