Friday, October 1, 2010

The Peter-Pan Syndrome by Proxy

When our oldest son was just 6 months old, about 2 years ago this month, we had him baptized in the Church. We also first introduced solid food the previous week--just some basic cereal. Around that same weekend, we moved him from the co-sleeper attached to our bed into his crib in his own room.

After putting him down in his new sleeping area for the night, Chanel came downstairs in tears, recounts these major developments to me and says, "This is a lot for me!" The little guy was taking it all in stride: didn't cry during baptism, slept well in the new bed, even initially ate pretty well. Mommy, on the other hand, was having difficulty with her little boy growing up. Was I sympathetic? Absolutely. We hugged; I comforted her; we moved on.

At the time I was reminded of Marlin in Finding Nemo, "I'll never let anything happen to you."

Tonight, after realizing that his pacifiers have holes in them from the way he chews them (picture a child version of Hannibal Smith of the A-Team), I showed him the hole and told him how I didn't want to give it to him, that we need to get new ones tomorrow. While Chanel was putting the littler guy to sleep, I managed to move Boy #1 from the bath to the bed without it. I even managed to escape the room before he started calling for it. After a quick return to tell him that I'd come back with it, he settled down and I went to straighten up the living room. In the past, he has fallen asleep after we told him we'd come back for one reason or another.

Chanel came downstairs and we remembered that we wanted to move him to his new big-boy bed. But now we couldn't, even though he was still awake and talking to himself. When she learned he didn't have a pacifier? Oh no, we could not start weaning him this weekend. 

"Peter-Pan Syndrome" is a Pop-Psychology term that describes a man who has not emotionally grown up and socially matured. I'm thinking that "by Proxy" could be appended to define a situation in which a child's growth and maturation process is restricted in some way. I don't mean to suggest that what Chanel does with our children would qualify--not at all. She is protective of our children to an appropriate degree with an occasional funny moment of being uncomfortable at not being able to be as protective as she is inclined to be. I do, however, suspect that there are mothers out there who take the protecting their children mentality to an extreme. 

Coming from an unqualified amateur psychologist, it's quite possible that a similar pathology could exist that parallels Muenchausen Syndrome by Proxy; the people inclined to exert this kind of force on their children will either gravitate to granting them things in the form of problems and illnesses or the form of postponing things like milestones and depriving them access to events and actions that may be considered rights of passage. The case may be able to be made that the latter is often present where the former is observed.

In my limited parenting experience thus far, children are amazingly resilient. They learn things at such incredibly young ages and understand our conversations long before we know they do. They can adjust rapidly to changes like their sleeping arrangements, the style of their eating utensils, their clothes/shoes, etc, if we only talk them through it ahead of time and let them know that a change is going to happen. Perhaps the greatest challenge to parenting is being ready for the changes that your child doesn't tell you are coming. Whether it's walking, dating, or whatever, parents need to be prepared for it with little to no warning. Even if we were given advance notice, I'd wager we wouldn't be as adaptive as our children are when we let them be.

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