Saturday, February 16, 2013

When your child wants you to behave silly in public.

Like many children, Puttachi is not very self-conscious.  If it pleases her, she'll break into a jig in the middle of the road, or behave silly in public.  Which is a joy to watch, of course.

But the problem arises when she expects me to join her.  "Come on, Amma," she says in the park.  "Let's dance.  I'll sing, and both of us will dance."

The thing is, if it were at home, I would have joined her immediately.  Now, out here, with people watching, I don't want to.

"No, Puttachu," I say, squirming as she takes my arms and starts swinging them around.

"Oh, come onnnn Amma!" she says, and then the inevitable question.  "Why not?"

"People are watching," I say.  "I'll dance at home."

"So what, I am dancing too, and people are watching me."

"But you're a kid."

"So should I stop dancing in the park when I grow up?"

Now what on earth do I say to this?  I've already made the mistake of saying "People are watching," and conveyed to her that she should care what people think of her.

"That's your wish, Puttachi," I say, finally.  "If you feel like dancing in the park when you grow up, you can.  I don't feel too comfortable, so I won't."

Ugh, I tell myself.  Whatever happened to teaching by example?  If I am so self-conscious, won't that attitude rub off on her?  Or is that a good thing?  How would I view an adult dancing in public for no apparent reason at all?

Ok, forget dancing.  What about behaving silly in general?  For example, if I'm telling her a story while walking on the road or in the park, I sometimes make exaggerated expressions and expansive gestures with my hands.  Another person might not be comfortable with that, and indeed, I have received strange looks sometimes.  But I haven't minded.  But that is my limit.  Dancing on the road - no, I wouldn't do that.  But another parent might not mind that too.  But in the end, what message should you convey to your child?

But for the moment, Puttachi is satisfied by my answer.  "Okay.  All people are different, right?  No problem, we'll dance at home," she says, ever the understanding child.

But I still am not sure how to handle this.  Any ideas?


Anonymous said...


I really admire the way you are bringing up your child, helping her grown with both the roots and the wings. You are one of my role models in parenting :)

Shruthi said...

Anon, that's very sweet of you to say that! But I am struggling too :)

Inji said...

Hello there. I'm a regular visitor to your blog, but this is my first time commenting. I think your blog is lovely and I enjoy reading your posts about your child.

I have no experience with parenting but it struck me that the way you dealt with it is a natural start - children do need to start paying attention to what other people think, and modulate their behavior based on that, to some extent. I do appreciate your dilemma between curbing expression and individuality and conforming to certain societal norms. Maybe some basic ground rules about where one can dance can help out with this issue?

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