Five is the age of policing. I am so convinced it is. At least that’s the case for my son.
Ben has a strong sense of justice and a constant need to know if something is right or wrong. He tattles, quite often, but doesn’t do it just so his siblings get in trouble. More often, he does it because he needs to know from the adult if a behaviour or an action is acceptable or not.
Which means he takes on the role of the moral policeman in the house.
“Becks, you need to say ‘Please’ when you need something. I want to hear it before I do it for you. C’mon.”
“Nat, this is wrong. You need to say ‘sorry’. Go and say that to Mama now.”
“Mama, do not check your phone in the car. No reading in a moving vehicle, remember?”
“If it’s wrong for me to say ‘idiot’, why does Dada call some drivers ‘idiot’ when he drives? Dada should not do that.”
“Aunty A, please pronounce properly. It’s ‘prawn’, not ‘frawn’. Say it correctly lah.”
As you can see, everyone in the house gets corrected by him all the time, almost every day. And he’s usually right 9 out of 10 times. His correction would often leave you embarrassingly speechless.
Just the other day, the police force in the house just said something that took the cake.
Ben: Mama, why is Becks so lucky?
Me: Why is she lucky?
For the record, I dislike that word. We never use it and it was the previous helper that taught him that. We tell our children it’s always God’s grace, never luck. So you can imagine the annoyance in my tone when I asked him why.
Ben: Good things always happen to her.
Me: Really? What good things have happened?
Ben: The good thing that happened to her is me. She’s so lucky to have an older brother who do everything for her. I help her, give in to her, pack for her. She can throw tantrums but I will just help her still. Aiyo... this is lucky what.
I really didn’t know what else to say. You’re talking about me, Motherkao, Ben’s mother, who must have the last word.
See? We have the force right here, always checking to see who’s good and bad, who’s naughty and nice. There, my five-year-old for you.
That night I related the conversation to the husband, who, after hearing about it advised me to pay more attention to the children’s emotional needs. He saw what I didn’t. He saw that Ben in his policing was seeking our approval. It was clear to Fatherkao that Ben needed to know that we would always approve of him.
Just at that moment, Ben interrupted our conversation in the bedroom by coming in to tattle on his sister. Like I mentioned, I don’t think his intention was for us to head out to discipline her. He came and told us something she did which was not right, along the lines of her leaving her seat before her dinner was finished.
The response Fatherkao had and the subsequent exchange between father and son was pretty amazing. This was it:
Fatherkao: Ben, I don’t need to know that. I want you to tell me or show me what’s important to you.
Ben: Ok, Dada.
And my five-year-old proceeded to do a forward roll to show his father, and they all had a good belly laugh on the bed.
So. The moral of the story. The moral police in the house stops policing and starts behaving like the five-year-old he ought to be the moment he knows that he is loved and approved by the two most important people in his life. In all that he was doing, pointing out people’s mistakes and wanting to know what’s right and wrong, he was crying out for us to look at him, hold him and affirm him.
Motherhood has such thrills, isn’t it? It’s a steep learning curve but you learn so much. Your children teach you to love, how to love, and how to be more human every day. At least that’s the case for me.
Ben, you teach me more than you can imagine. It’s really my honour and a privilege to be your mother, sweetheart.