Monday, May 25, 2009

What's a Mom to do?

I'm at something of a loss. I hear plenty about disciplining other people's children (i.e. when/if and how to do it) but not very much about the subject I have in mind. You see, I'm starting to worry that our more "lax" style of parenting (lax by certain Japanese standards) may be doing my reputation harm.

For instance, here in Japan, not wearing one's shoes inside the house is a very strict rule. Big no-no. The problem is that Peanut loves her shoes. I mean she *luuuuurrrvvves* her shoes. Once we're indoors, she would happily play with her shoes, taking them off and putting them on again for 30 minutes at a time. Occasionally that spills over into her wanting to then run around the house wearing them - in part to inspire a game of tag since she knows someone will likely chase her down in order to pry the shoes off her feet. Gboy and I have largely adopted a kind of hands-off approach here. She's not hurting herself or anyone else and as long as the shoes aren't wet or muddy, I don't worry too much about it. For the record, I would be fine with holding fast on this rule of no shoes, if for no other reason than to ensure peace and harmony in his parents' house, but Gboy is the oldest son and this will be his house one day and since he's said it's okay- he's pretty much laid down the law for everyone.

The problem is that when she sits in the entryway, playing with her shoes, other children often mimic her. This means that her cousins who have mostly learned that this a very unacceptable behavior, often join in and then get in trouble with their parents. My concern is that this isn't winning me any brownie points with the other family members (MIL & FIL and then of course the parents - specifically my two SILs).

I'm just not sure how to handle this. I'm sure as Peanut gets older we'll run into other similar problems. I'm not going to discipline her the way that they discipline their kids just because they think I should or "that's how parenting is done".

Ultimately the dilemma as I see it is what if my choice about how I parent conflicts with the parenting choices of other families around us? Am I obligated in some way to tell my child, "That's not okay to do here" in order to protect other kids from getting in trouble? And at what age do I start making those distinctions? With a 16 month old, I'm guessing there's not much reasoning going on - not enough for her to understand "here it's okay, there it's not" and to really comprehend that. At least not for a while longer, although with enough practice and repetition starting now, this might work. I just really want to be sure that I'm not damaging any relationships with family members here (I doubt it), or tarring my reputation (more likely I suppose).


  1. Hmmm tricky.... The show problem I have no real advoce as I spend half my life trying to get shoes *on* mine (barefeet outside is also a no go though...) but as for the cousins thing, how old are they? Could you try a 'it's ok here because you know in some countries people don't take their shoes off when they come inside and neither do we.' kind of thing.

    I'm afraid I pull the gaijin card on a lot of stuff- M wears seasonally inappropriate clothing, they go to bed at 7:30pm, I don't insist on shoes outside, they play in our front yard while I'm elsewhere on the property etc etc. When neighbours comment I usually just go 'mmmmm' and leave it. Pah, this is me. It's tricky though when you feel the prickly don't rock the 'wa' boat vibes though isn't it. :(

    Would inside shoes help your immediate problem?

  2. Hmmm. It is funny, maybe, but, shoes is one of our biggies too! And I don't care as long as Jun stays on the hard floor. And, at church, she is just as like to be barefoot on the front deck as to be wearing shoes indoors (hard floor). I echo Heather on the inside shoes. And, I wait with anticipation on how other folks handle other similar issues. Living with your in-laws and near extended family makes it tougher than I have here. Friends (my age or younger) don't usually give me advice or show shock or horror at how I raise Jun. Strangers - on the other hand - have been known to raise their eyebrows.

  3. I totally get that you're saying here. I use to care A LOT, probably way too much, about what my family and friends thought about me and my parenting skills. Then I realized that these are MY children and I will raise them as I see fit. Including, but not limited to disciplining them. Obviously their father has a little say in it, not much ;o) though..j/k I'd say do what you think is right for your daughter.

  4. Wow, that really is a tricky one. Maybe buy her ugly shoes so she doesn't love them anymore??

    Probably not the best solution.

    This is just one of many ways that your parenting style will differ from SILs and others. I know it's harder when the entire Japanese culture is against you on this one :) but if you are okay with her leaving her shoes on and/or playing with them, then you are fine. Let the other parents handle their own children.

  5. Hi! Returning your visit to my bloghouse...thanks! In the long run, as others have said, YOU are the parent and make all the rules. But living with family makes things more tricky. If they are tsk-tsking constantly about it, it may be worth the stress just to nix the shoes indoors topic for now and revisit it later.

    In the long run though, I would definitely continue to pick your battles (as it sounds like you do), since you will inevitably run into much more horrific behaviors that are going to require your full parental attention (ie: wiping chewed food on their clothes, spitting, nose-picking, hitting, etc).

  6. I grew up with stricter parenting than my cousins. We are all the same nationality, but their parents happened to be more relaxed (i.e. mooning passing cars is acceptable behaviour).

    Of course I can't remember how I felt about it at 16 months, but as an older child we just had to accept that the others were going to get away with more. We accepted that each family has their own rules.

    I am sure that the differences are more pronounced when different cultures get together, but you would find the same problem wherever you go because everyone has different rules.

    I think that as her cousins grow up they will realise that and hopefully not cause too many family arguments about it.

  7. I stayed in Japan for a while. I know how big the no shoes in the house issue is. Why not get her super cute slippers that she can wear around. You could also buy her inside only shoes like they do at many schools. If the shoes have never touched outside dirt and therefore cleaner than clean, there should be much less tsk tsking by the family and spare some reputation. Reputation is huge there, and it would be a shame to lose yours. Good luck!

    By the way, I HATED having to wear slippers inside. I'm a barefoot kind of girl and that was a HUGE no. However, you have to do what you have to do, right?

  8. I agree with the choose your battles commenter above and suggest working towards her not wearing shoes in the hosue at all. it is a big cultural thing so I feel it's good to respect that. Good luck in whatever you decide!

  9. I'm just starting to deal with these kinds of issues among family, and we're all from pretty much the same culture! (except my Mexican SIL, though we've nearly made a southern girl out of her. Poor thing.) Sometimes it's hard being respectful of others while being true to yourself.

    BTW, I'm coming here from Red's and Sunny's. Are you a librarian? I am, too.