Ronia’s first parent conference was ideal from a parenting point of view: her teachers told us she should keep doing what she is doing! She was, of course, perfect.
But perfection is hard to sustain, and Ronia did not merely keep doing what she was doing. She added floor peeing in protest to her repertoire in between her fall and spring conferences. Apparently the toilet was not to her standards of cleanliness, she is amazingly fastidious for a hippie child with a slacker dad, though she apparently has inherited my love of the performative gesture.
When confronted about peeing inches away from a toilet, she recounted how earlier that (morning? week? lifetime? time is fuzzy with a 3-year-old) “my dad was mad when I peed in his bed.” Her teacher, to her endless credit, responded “I think I’d be mad if you peed in my bed.” She made clear she was not telling the story as a criticism of me, but I still felt bad. I had revealed my anger to my child! At her failure to perfectly toilet train! So much so she had told others about it! I am such a wuss.
As the conference unfolded in a brisk 20 minutes, after something about catching Ronia’s acts of defiance, which were subtle but developmentally important for her to have noticed, we came to an actual act of parental malfeasance. I should have saved up my guilt.
I have noted and encouraged Ronia’s morbid tendencies. One day as we walked past a group of workers, one of whom was up in a tree, she said, apparently unconcerned, “I think they’re going to kill him.” Several of her favorite stories feature death, and my all time favorite is when told that her grandparents were going to raise cows for meat, she asked, “Am I going to get to kill the cows?” Her tone was not fearful, but eager. However, Waldorf famously discourages TV use, and apparently one day Ronia was asking if the various stories were going to lead to carnage. Her teachers were a bit disturbed and inquired, at which point Ronia revealed she had just watched a scary movie with her dad. “Something about ghosts?”
Ah yes, Spirited Away, one of my favorites and one I was just a little too eager to show to my child. Even worse, I left her by herself so I could cook dinner. She made two-thirds through the movie then ran in and hugged my legs. “There are monsters!” she suddenly discovered. The scene was not one of the overtly scary ones (I realized there were several of those to come.) Point taken, and now driven home again all these months later. I let the gentle disapproval wash over me, felt my child’s mother getting angry again. They asked me what other movies Ronia watched and I had to cop to the Princess and the Frog. “The Disney movie?” “The star is from one of my favorite musicals!” I sounded snobbish and self-centered, enforcing my fanboy likes on my child at her detriment.
Next movie night, I thought about how Ronia gets scared of Shadow monsters in Princess and Frog and tried to discourage her from watching it. “I’m not scared of the scary parts!” she protested. I suggested My Neighbor Totoro, the same director of Spirited Away but not as scary. “Oh yeah!” Dinner was cooked, no traumas were inflicted.