January 7, 2010
I came across an interview with Ann Weimer Baumgardner – author of Pretend You’re Normal: But Only When Absolutely Necessary, and described as a molecular geneticist, creative thinker, author and humorist on the IdeaConnection.com website. I hadn’t heard of Baumgardner (have you?) but I liked what I read. Here’s an excerpt from the interview (by Vern Burkhardt):
Burkhardt: You say we shouldn’t be afraid to make new rules and break old paradigms with our children. Such as letting them sleep in clean clothes for the next day if they hate getting dressed in the morning. Or who says you have to bathe just before bed rather than in the morning? Does it surprise you that many people don’t use creativity to deal with these types of challenges and, instead, often do things that cause undue stress in their lives?
Baumgardner: No, it doesn’t surprise me. We’re all conditioned to go about the details of our life without thinking.
Just a few years ago my husband and I laughed when we realized we’d been making our bed for our mothers who live hundreds of miles away. Neither of us cares if it’s made or not. Those first thirteen years of our marriage are lost to us, but just think of all the unmade beds we have in our future.
That’s why I like kids so much because they ask that all important question, “Why?” When Emily was five, she asked if she could sleep in her closet instead of her bed. My mind went immediately to “No,” but I made myself ask “Why not?” I called the fire department and they thought it was safe, so I cut a foam mattress to fit, and she slept there for about six months. If she’s getting her rest, she’s safe, and it’s not impacting anyone else negatively – then, OK let’s do it!
Burkhardt: Your approach to making parenting fun has its roots in the way your parents found ways to have fun, and to say “yes” rather than “no.” Do you have evidence, or observe, that children are more well-adjusted and successful as adults when exposed to that type of parenting?
Baumgardner: My parents did say “yes” a lot, but it wasn’t the kind of yes where we were allowed to do whatever we wanted. There were definite rules. We had strict bedtimes, we were expected to be polite, to clean the house, and help with chores. There were consequences when we failed to complete our tasks. The “yes” was about how we chose to do the thing they were making us do. My dad would often say “Is this going to be work or is this going to be fun?” You begin to realize that having fun is an attitude not an activity.
Me: Having fun is both.