A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Roughing It (1)

The premise behind Lord of the Flies is that in the absence of civilizing influences, human beings have a tendency to degenerate into rank savagery. It's the sort of thing I suspect that Edgar Burroughs must have been obsessing over while writing his first Tarzan novel, which is incidentally a great piece of writing that deserves to be considered on its own merits.

From a parenting perspective, this translates into:  Children growing up without boundaries and positive role models are led by their impulses and succumb to the onslaught of their harsh environment.

This weekend at church camp I caught a glimpse of a kind of childhood savagery first-hand. The 3 year old on a normal bad day is the personification of a Mexican jumping bean that has no sense of propriety and danger (the former being somewhat understandable though embarrassing and the latter, heart-stopping). But at camp, she transformed into something feral, fed by (it appears to me) continuous interaction with other people's children. Or just people in general. Being surrounded by so many moving bodies 24/7 had the effect of sending her round the bend in extreme activity. Not having her usual amounts of sleep may also have something to do with this sudden burst of hyperactivity. Meal times were the worst... she didn't seem to enjoy what was on offer and was eager to take off after nibbling on a piece of something.
The 9 year old wasn't much better, quite frankly... but at least she ate well and could sit still for longer than 15 minutes at a time.  I wasn't keen to adopt the role of prison warden but I did want to know where she was going in-between scheduled activities.
The girls were no doubt overstimulated and had varying degrees of ability self-control to conduct themselves appropriately in that kind of unusual occasion.

It's times like these I find parenting even harder than what it already is. Am I supposed to be more relaxed? Or should I be more vigilant? My parenting is on display for the world to see in cramped quarters. If my child misbehaves, I look bad and appear to others as negligent. Furthermore, I'm sleep deprived and can just function or hold cogent conversations in such a state of mind. The likelihood of my descending into bad parenting increases five-fold in such a mental state.
Out of routine and with less control over our environment... camp isn't just camp... it's about us parenting with greater intentionality.

I realised afterwards that I spent so much time getting ready stuff ready for camp that I didn't think about how my "difficult" child would behave when unleashed in a people intensive environment. We brought enough clothes for 2 days, extra undies, toiletries, bedding etc etc. All the necessities. In fact, I rejoiced that the 3 year old was old enough that we didn't have to bring prams, booster seats and other things that choke up the boot.
But we lack preparedness in parenting outside the home ground... in fact, we were parenting by the seat of our pants as we tried to fit into the hectic schedule that we were given. We could've and should've set up rules and boundaries even in such situations.

Especially in such situations.


  1. Having just come from the shopping centre with Levi in tow, I feel so deeply for you Lilian. In that situation it is even harder because you have to see all those people again next week. At least at the shops there's a good chance you won't see any of those people again.

  2. Ah... Ky... I can always rely on you to commiserate with me.
    Bless you.

  3. HI Lilian,
    I have been thinking how well behaved the children in our camp were over the weekend. Your children included. We were so blessed to have this bunch of great kids with wonderful and supportive parents. They played well together and do as they were told. If you can see how well the children programme was run even with such minimal coordination on my part, the children were absolutely fantastic.
    p.s. I have no idea what your kids were up to cos I spent most of the 'free time' in bed.

  4. Hi Lilian, I remember only too well a church camp we went on when my two were small - maybe 3 and 1. It was a disaster! We shared a dorm with others and I felt bad that my kids/we were disturbing the sleep of others, because of course the kids were restless and unsettled. I don't think I got a wink of sleep all night.The second night was better - some poor soul took pity on us and we got a cabin all to ourselves. Don't feel bad - it's only as you go through these things that you wise up!

  5. Thank you for your kind words, Kitty and Janet.
    I think I felt ultra-sensitive because I was so tired and somebody made me responsible for a team during camp!
    Anyway, as you say, Janet... we live and learn.


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