A gaggle of Mums hovered at the gates of my children’s school this morning, as they do every morning. I’m not your average ‘part-of-the-clique’ Mum but I break into the buzz from time-to-time to show willing and because I know it’s important for my kids that I engage in at least some parental networking. Part of my struggle is the fact that, despite my admirable grasp of the French language after ten years here, I do still struggle with the quick-fire-partial-slang conversations that define the communications of a casual group setting such as this. Mostly I listen, and nod, and say ‘Oui!’ a lot. It seems to work. The hum today was focused on one little girl, let’s call her Jane. She’s six, and every morning and evening arrives and departs with her parent/granny/guardian with a dummy in her mouth.
That’s right, a dummy.
Not uncommon in preschoolers hereabouts in fact, but six is at the upper limit of what I’ve seen. The Mummy-hum this misty morning was erring towards disapproval. The tut-tutting was audible. Even as I nodded to fit in I hated myself for bowing to peer pressure and partaking in this judgmental exchange. And I despised myself more when the thought crossed my mind that they may have a point. Surely six is too old for a dummy?
Well hell, who am I to decide that? Or anyone else? Society and parental peer pressure have a lot to answer for.
Kids have so much to cope with as they grow up. If they can derive small comfort from something like a dummy then why berate them for it? I totally get the development position on this – excess use can damage tooth growth, speech patterns, and so on. But for all we know this little girl’s dummy is only used on the school-run and at no other time. And even if it’s not, what business is it of ours?
The whole comforter issue is fresh in my mind this week, as at six-and-a-half years old my girl has entered the last stages of separation from her Teds. These two once-pink-now-grubby-grey-and-chewed cuties have been with her since birth, and have soothed her through every single childhood trauma so far. She went to bed twice in the last week WITHOUT THEM and didn’t care. Not long ago such an event would have unleashed a tsunami of distraught emotion that would have rendered all other activities invalid until Teds were located and installed in her arms. I know of other children who reached this happy-to-separate stage ages ago, at four or even three years old. Was I worried? Not a jot. I encourage my girl to be independent but if she wants and needs her Teds then she has them. And will continue to have them for as long as SHE wants them.
Childhood peer pressure seems to start at around eight years old. Little Jane will doubtless drop the dummy habit before then, and if she doesn’t, well all power to her single-mindedness. It’s hard not to judge others. I try not to – I don’t always succeed, but I’m mindful of it, and how little we can really know of anyone’s whole story. If I hear my kids making comments about someone that have an air of judgement about them, I instigate a conversation about the difference between opinion and judgement, and how damaging and hurtful the latter can be.
They may not really get it yet, but if I can help them to beware of the tut-tut as they grow I hope it will contribute to the development of their self-respect, and respect for those around them.