Frame of Reference

People sometimes forget or miss that when I comment on how things are done in America, I’m not comparing them to a Platonic ideal but to what I grew up with or experienced elsewhere.

For instance, I get many complaints about my posts on how well children are treated in America. Everybody has a story or several about a time when somebody was mean or inhospitable to their children and it sounds like I’m denying this in my posts.

But I’m not. I’m simply writing from a different frame of reference. I go to a 7-year-old birthday party, and there are no moms standing by the play structure and yelling, “Johnny! Stop! Get down! You are going to hurt yourself! What are you holding? Drop it! I said, drop it! It’s dirty ! There are germs! Put on your jacket! You are cold! I said, you are cold! Come here! Stand there! No, not over there, there’s a draft! Here! You are going to get a cold! Go over there! No, I said, over there!”

In America, it doesn’t happen. Moms stand there with beatific looks while kids go absolutely crazy. And that’s wonderful. Kids should be kids without constant editing. Yesterday, I was waiting for Klara during her robotics club, and another mom came up. I told her that kids had been playing in the mud and to expect her son to be mega dirty. She lit up and said, “Wonderful! What a joy! This is why I love this school. Outside play is a priority here, and that’s exactly how it should be.” Not a word about germs or messy clothes or how she’s going to slaughter the boy for muddying up his shoes or losing his gloves. To me, this is paradise. But people who have never seen the alternative don’t get why I’m so excited.

My mom saw that I let Klara paint a mural in her room and almost had a heart attack. The mural is colorful and huge. It goes from floor to ceiling and narrates the story of Klara’s life as she sees it. New episodes keep getting added. I wanted to explain the scenes in the mural to grandma but she was so disturbed that she had to leave the room immediately. Her verdict was that I’m raising a future serial killer by way of this mural. I reminded her that when I was Klara’s age, a teacher also predicted that I’d become a serial killer, and as we can see, it didn’t happen. But she still couldn’t get over the trauma of my permissive parenting.


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