Friday, 1 June 2012

Cultural differences and confident little boys

It seems that the life guards at the local swimming pool have a new manager since I and another mother of a small strong and lively boy have been told off because our toddler sons run from the baby pool to the children’s pool. We both have taken our sons to the swimming pool from as early as recommended around three months of age and they both are very confident if not head strong. For months they have been allowed to run back and forth. Even if their behaviour irritates us mothers, we allowed it to happen since we trust our sons and know they need to burn their energy in a safe environment.

However, now we have to start a new routine with walking hand-in-hand from one pool to another and trying to figure out when our son wants to switch the pools. I managed to keep Number One Son under my influence this time around. The other mother did not manage as well and was given a notice when her son was walking alone and joining the baby pool. As this mother pointed out, stopping her actually made her joining her son later than would have happened otherwise. During this 'telling off time' Number One Swimming Buddy had already made it to the water in the baby pool.

I must say I ignored wilfully the signs saying ‘No running’, since I had been extremely happy when Number One Son had finally learnt to walk and run. I also hoped him to burn his daily energy in a sporty environment. Now I feel a bit embarrassed since I did not properly think the safety aspect and did not recognize that the other mothers did not let their children run. It took a swimming instructor to tell me to consider changing his behaviour. In the end it is good I now have to start educating Number One Son properly about how to behave. It just takes some determination not to wither when he gives a tantrum or pretends to cry. After all, he understands eventually that you are not supposed to run across a parking lot or break the rules.

Nevertheless, I think cultural differences may partly be in action. In Finland the children are supposed to become independent and be able to do things on their own. There is no legal requirement for parents to be with their children or organize a chaperon when they are school age and definitely not until they are twelve or so as in Britain. Most Finnish women work and the children manage to be safely at home after they return from school. The school does not start until they are seven so they have plenty of time to learn how to behave at home by then. My perception is that there is less expectation to perform before seven but more so after this watershed. This may be the reason the first-year undergraduates in Britain at the university seem more childish than in Finland.

I myself try to teach Number One Son to walk without holding my hand all the time since I have to be able to reach products in the supermarket or take a letter to the village post office. Nevertheless, on the same day as Number One Swimming Buddy was having his way, Number One Son did a runner in the supermarket and I could not find him for five minutes. After panicking I asked a shop assistant and she could see some action further afield. Two other assistants were coming to our direction and they could tell me that my son had been found. They found him very cute when he had entered their Jubilee tea party set up and was blowing party whistles, helping himself with the tea cups and was visibly excited about the bunting. I am afraid that being restrained unexpectedly in one familiar environment makes him to rebel in another.

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