Author Note: Just in time for Thanksgiving, this is one of my all-time favorite posts. I hope you enjoy reading it as much this time around as the first time.
Overheard on... the phone
“Wrapping each other up in towels and cramming themselves into the laundry baskets may be fun, but it’s not really sustainable fun.”
My sister and I were talking about our Thanksgiving dinner but I found I had to keep raising my voice to be heard over the mayhem occurring in the background of her house. As usual, with a family of six, there was a stack of laundry that needed sorting and folding. However from what I could hear on my end of the phone it sounded like every time she made a pile, one of the kids or family pets would ruin it. Definitely not sustainable fun!
I was intrigued by this phrase though, wondering if it might capture a whole new parenting vocabulary. Not just sustainable fun but also sustainable work or schedule or communication or friendship. At my daughter’s age of eight few ideas stay sustainable.
For example, she recently decided to help feed our dog. In concept, fantastic. In reality, one forgotten meal and the plan was dumped. Definitely not sustainable.
Or we decided at one point that rather than argue about things that made her unhappy we would pay attention when she raised her hand and
discuss it logically, reaching a decision after hearing from her. I think it was the conversation that went something like; “It’s time to-” hand raised and discussion, “I was not going to say homework, I was going to say brush hair-” hand raised and discussion, “If you are willing to go out like that-” hand raised and discussion, “Yes, we still have to go to church.” Hand raised and discussion. … You get the idea. After half an hour of this I had completely forgotten my original request, we were late to church, and she still didn’t have her hair brushed or know what the consequence would be. Definitely not a sustainable plan.
Sustainability, whether in our energy plans or in our families, takes a future view that is not always easy to see through the murk of our everyday lives. We want what we want when we want it. Still, it is a goal worth pursuing. A sustainable goal, if you will.
My sister eventually did make it out of her house, ready for an activity that wouldn’t leave her house in shambles or one of her children in tears. The laundry, however, is still sitting there.
“They fight when they’re unsure if they understand it themselves.”
We had a 4th grade parent meeting at school and were discussing how the kids seem to be getting angry when we, as parents, try to help them with their homework. “That’s not how the teacher wants us to do it.” Seems to be a common statement in many homes right now, and the teachers were clarifying that, while this is age appropriate, it is not true.
The fact is, with the new Common Core Curriculum, the more ways they learn how to do something the better. The problem is that at this age their uncertainty in themselves turns to a fear of being seen as lacking. What to us seems like help, to them feels like judgment.
This idea that help represents a comment on our ability can follow us into adulthood. As a writer I definitely sometimes feel like this when my work is being critiqued. Our first response can often be to claim the other person doesn’t understand. In fact, you should hear me bicker with Word’s grammar checker when it points out all of the fragments in my writing.
But pride, whether in our academic knowledge, appearance, or social standing, comes at a sever cost. Something I was reminded of while watching Gone with the Wind over the last couple of nights.
I guess it has been a while since I have watched the movie in its; entirety. Or perhaps I now have the maturity to better analyze it. Whatever the reason, I found myself both sympathetic to and disgusted by Scarlett. Pride makes us say and do the very worst things. Like this statement by Scarlett:“You know it's yours. I don't want it any more than you do. No woman would want a child of a cad like you... I wish for anybody's child but yours.”
(Gone with the Wind
- By Margaret Mitchell)
We know this is a lie, just as she knows it is a lie. She missed him when he was gone and had been excited to tell him about the baby… until he told her he planned to leave again. Then, in order to save her pride, she said this awful thing to him.
Pride, though, is a difficult companion to let go of. Like the shell on an armadillo, we feel like pride protects us from the weakness of our own insecurities. So how do we help our children, or ourselves, find the courage to move beyond its hold?
Louisa May Alcott wrote, in Little Women
, “… for love casts out fear, and gratitude can conquer pride.”
And so, my gratitude for the gift of being able to write means that I even accept a computer telling me that my grammar needs improvement. And my gratitude that I get to share my daughter’s learning means that I can sit
through her angry accusations of my own inequities without it becoming about me.What are you grateful for? Has pride ever kept you from something you really wanted? I love to hear from my readers. And to prove it, I am giving away my left-over Thanksgiving meal to one commenter during the month of November. :>) Just kidding. Actually… I will donate $10 to the (non-political) charity of your choice if you win the November drawing. Just leave a comment for any of my posts and check back at the end of the month to see if you are the lucky winner.
Photo courtesy of Ali-Watkins BlogSpot (Fun Blog - Check it out!)
“Did they smash my pumpkin?”
This last weekend my daughter had special homework. A kind family had donated pumpkins for all of the kids and they were asked to bring them home and carve and decorate them in their likeness. They returned them to school yesterday, were going to use them for decoration at their party Wednesday, and then would be able to bring them home after school that day.
Except…. Last night some kids came around and smashed all of them. This would have been difficult enough on the students if they had simply decorated them. But the fact that the pumpkins were self-portraits, made the vandalism that much more hurtful.
Kids can be stupid and silly at this time of year. After all, the idea of playing tricks
is built right into the phrase they grow up saying on Halloween. There is a fine line, though, between a stupid trick and a cruel one. Perhaps when the harm is being done to someone you can’t see it makes it easier to ignore the cruelty. In this case, though, one of the kids who vandalized must have seen the faces on the pumpkins and thought, huh?!
Listening to that little huh
is not always easy to do, though; especially when we are surrounded by louder voices egging us on. It takes courage and real character strength that I imagine few high schoolers possess. So, while it might be easy to vilify the perpetrators, the lesson our own kids should walk away with is, how can they build the courage and strength to pay attention to their own internal compass of right and wrong- even in the face of peer pressure.
If you are a parent and have not yet found Dr. Michelle Borba here is a link to her website
. She has detailed, specific, useful advice on how to deal with all sorts of child rearing issues. The link above will actually take you to a blog post she wrote on handling peer pressure. One of my own take-aways from the post was the goal of reinforcing my daughter’s assertiveness at a young age, rather than treating it as rebellion. My focus should not be on the fact that she disagrees with something, rather perhaps on how she expresses that disagreement.
Vandals might be able to destroy the physical aspect of the pumpkin but they can not take away the experience of creating it. So too, the inner strength we build sticks with us, even as the external world around us changes.
Here is to Kind Tricks and Yummy Treats this Halloween. Do you have techniques for encouraging assertiveness in your kids? Have you ever had a pumpkin smashed? I love hear from you. And to prove it I will be giving away my book, UNTANGLING THE KNOT, to one lucky commenter in October.
Leave a comment for any of my blog posts and at the end of each month I will randomly select one visitor/commenter to receive a free download of my book. (Note: winner will be notified by a reply linked to their original comment… so check back at the beginning of November for directions on how to claim your prize!)
Photo Courtesy of Glen Bledsoe
“Lips that touch liquor, will never touch mine.”
This last weekend my family and I participated in an historical reenactment of life in Willamette Oregon in the year 1913. Walking from scene to scene (each set inside or in front of a historical house) we led tour groups through different vignettes based on topics of importance at the time. One of these topics, temperance, turned out to feature and unexpectedly important role.
It is funny how life sometimes mimics theater. In this case a drunk driver bypassed the road blocks and was stopped by two local, off-duty, officers dressed in the official outfits of the time. Not believing that they had the authority to arrest him, he argued with them, leading them to call in on-duty reinforcement. To add to the confusion of the moment, a goat that was being walked around town as part of the tour got loose and was running around the area where the police were questioning the man.
Since Saturday there have been a few posts about this extra scene. (Link to Oregonian article
). So, I won’t add to what has already been written. What I did realize, after seeing a picture of the scene, was that my daughter, who was playing one of the characters in one of the vignettes, was only one block away from where the man was stopped. At the time I thought the whole chaos was pretty funny. But after seeing that picture I now thank God that the man was stopped before he actually hurt anyone… especially my daughter and her young friend.
A battle that was waged 100 years ago still continues today. And while I am not advocating for prohibition, the word temperance actually derives from the Latin word temperantia
which means moderation. Only later, when it was attached to prohibition, did it come to mean abstinence. Moderation in all things is good… but situations like the one above point to why moderation in alcohol drinking is essential.
We always assume that the bad thing won’t happen. But Saturday night is a poignant example of how close we are to being the one sitting at next to the hospital bed praying for our daughter’s life. As we approach the holidays we are guaranteed of many chances to drink and drive. But before you pull out those keys, please remember that there probably won’t be any 1913 cops to stop you from tragedy.Know of any good ways to moderate over the holidays. Have any suggestions for ensuring that the drive home is safe? I love to hear comments from my readers. And to prove it I’m giving away a copy of my book BETTING JESSICA to one lucky commenter during the month of September.
Leave a comment for any of my blog posts and at the end of each month I will randomly select one visitor/commenter to receive a free download of my book. (Note: winner will be notified by a reply linked to their
original comment…. Check back at the end of the month for directions on how to claim your prize!)
"Mommy, you're not even focusing on me."
Rather than coming from my own daughter, this quote was from a little 4 year old boy. We were painting and hanging out at a fantastic open studio, Art A La Carte
, where kids can use all the materials there to create anything they want. Presumably they do this mostly on their own... So I thought it would be a great activity to engage her while I got some work done on book promotion (more on that below).
Of course kids are pretty perceptive. And although most of the time they would rather not
have us paying attention, as soon as we want
to focus on something else they are all over us like an old, anxious dog. Obviously this little boy missed the point that he was supposed to be amusing himself while the mom and grandmother had some quality chat time. :>) Darn. You mean we paid money so that we could sit here and watch him paint?
It helps that my daughter is much older... so while every now and then I had to look up and comment on her artwork, the free Wi-Fi allowed me to let people know that my book, BETTING JESSICA, is FREE today.Like the little boy, the characters in my first book have been demanding attention lately; feeling ignored, like an older sibling when a new baby arrives. So, I decided to give them, and fans of the book, a little love.
August 9th, I will be offering a free short story based on Jessica and some friends she met while in Tahoe, at http://www.freereadsfromthegenre-istas.blogspot.com/
So, hopefully Jessica and Erik will finally be off my back and let me get back to work finishing my next, great, creation.
“Um, Mommy… I just spilt my juice all over Daddy’s computer.”
Of course she was joking. That’s what we thought anyway. But no- there was the laptop, open for watching a movie, with red smoothie juice spread all over it. You could literally see the sticky fluid seeping into the keyboard, the disk drive hole, the on/off button.
Safety be damned! I yanked off my seatbelt and crawled into the back seat, desperately trying to stop as much of the damage as I could while my husband pulled the car over to the side of the road and proceeded to almost have a heart attack.
It was an ironic moment actually, since just last week I posted a blog about how technology fails us. We have become reliant (overly so) on screen time to make the 10 hour drive go by more quickly for our daughter (and thus for us.) We force her off of it every now and then for at least an hour. “Look at that beautiful mountain,” we say. But she barely looks up from her screen (laptop or iPod) and we are left to enjoy the vistas on our own.
No on this trip, however. This juice spill happened 3 hours into our journey; which left about 8 to fill computerless. Granted the first two were spent in tears, apologies, and questions about whether daddy would ever forgive her. But after the tension in the car finally mellowed, we were left with wonderful stop-over in Crater Lake, some fun car games, some nice discussions, and a little bit of iPod time.
Strangely, it was one of our nicer car trips. The fact of the matter is that technology is not really to blame for over reliance; sometimes we let ourselves down with low expectations. Next time, whether we have a computer available or not there will be new rules for the amount of time she spends staring at a screen.
“You are brainwashed into thinking whatever the government tells you is legitimate.”
I grew up in a house that believed in many conspiracy theories. The JFK assassination, the first walk on the moon, the Pearl Harbor bombing; these things came along with the idea that somehow the government had created or facilitated each incident in order to progress their own agenda.
It is easy to fall into this pattern of thought. After all, our government doesn’t seem to inspire much confidence. Rather than prioritize what is best for the citizens, politicians make getting re-elected their top goal. After the disheartening gun control vote in the senate, it is easy to reach the conclusion that the citizen’s views don’t
“Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”This quote by 19th century historian, Lord Maxim, is well known; certainly, I grew up reciting it. But more recent research has shown that there is a connection between someone’s moral identity (how strongly they feel it is for them to be fair, generous, caring, etc.) and how they use
power (more in this article at Smithsonian.com
And I would take this full circle. My hypothesis is that the lower a person’s moral identity, the more likely they are to believe in conspiracy theories under the assumption that if they were to gain power that is how they would act.
As a parent this begs the question of how to build strong moral identity in our kids. But as a citizen it makes me wonder whether there could be an objective test we could give to politicians before we elect them. It could become part of their running platform; Nominee xyz scored a 99% on the moral identity scale: Paid for by friend of xyz.
would there be a conspiracy to fix the results so the ‘right’candidate would be elected?
Phew! To be honest, I’m not sure what my moral identity score would be, but I know my laziness score is high... and conspiracy theories are simply too much work for me.
My daughter was walking down the narrow aisle of the plane, dragging her suitcase behind her in search of our seats, when a passenger said this into her cell phone. The funny part must have been my daughter’s facial expression, since all of the passengers facing her started cracking up.
I know I have written before about swear words being part of our language, so I thought today I might write about when not to use them.
- Don’t type the ‘f’ word when you are editing someone’s work on an airplane and your daughter is inches away from you reading over your shoulder. (Unless you want to engage in a difficult conversation in a very public place.)
- Don’t have a hero who is shy or gentle use the ‘f’word to describe making love.
- Don’t teach your child the meaning of the ‘b’word unless you want him/her to use it frequently in sentences when describing dogs.
- Don't use the same damn swear word over and over and over in your damn writing. It is damn annoying.
- Don’t use any of them when stuck in traffic or while being cut off by someone unless you are totally alone (actually, just break the habit since inevitably it will come out of your mouth when your car is filled with your child and her three best friends.)
And finally, don’t, please, say any swear word into your cell phone thinking that you are somehow alone in hearing it. For those of you who don’t yet realize this, we can all still hear you. And in fact, some of us even plan our blogs around overhearing you.
“What makes your character cry?”
Here’s how I know that anyone could write a story, I challenge you to find one mom who didn’t immediately imagine what it would have been like if it were her eight year old caught in yesterday’s explosion. I bet they could tell you fifty ways they visualized it; could probably describe it down to the clothes their child might have been wearing.
Imagination is a wonderful and awful thing. It allows us to come up with fantastic ideas, machines that fly, foods that pop, tights that are see-through (okay, maybe not always great ideas). It also, though, gives us the fodder to speculate, what if. What if I don’t get that job? What if the tree fell the other way? What if our school was next? Like stories of psychics wanting to shut out other people’s thoughts, I am sure I am not alone in sometimes wanting to shut down my imagination.
I see this fine balance most clearly in my own daughter who has an amazing imagination but also struggles with anxiety. Her body always connects the what if to a fight or flight response… even when the what if is potentially positive. What if I get the part? The excitement turns to adrenalin, which tells her body there is danger, which turns her positive thought into a negative one.
The only way I have learned to shut off the voice of my imagination is to focus only on where I am and what I am doing at the moment. I ground myself by washing dishes thoughtfully; feeling the soap and the water on my hands, and hearing the splash of it against the edge of the sink. Or I garden. I listen to the birds calling and the mower rumbling next door. I feel the dirt crumble beneath my fingers and I watch a worm make its way slowly back down, into the moist earth.
Today I pray and today I focus on the moment. Because today my imagination is not my friend.
“A midwife? It’s like a nurse or something at home that helps deliver the baby. Yeah. I think that is what she wants to do.”
The incongruity of two, mid-twenty something guys, drinking their daytime beers while talking about having a baby struck me as funny and was elevated by the fact that I was there to buy tickets for a Super Diamond concert (like Neil Diamond for those who don’t know him).
The huge bar was empty, other than me, the two guys talking about babies, and a one man act playing guitar and talking to a table of drab looking women. It was not exactly the type of place I am usually to be found on any given Saturday, at least not anymore. There was a time in my life when I could imagine having hung out at just this sort of bar. Post college, pre marriage; that time filled with late nights and friends and not always the smartest decisions.
It is not a time I miss much at all. There was a lot of insecurity attached to doing the wrong things for me… so I don’t think I was ever truly comfortable in the role of twenty-something party girl. I like to think this wasn’t obvious to my friends, but the fact that I asked, “are you sure this is okay?” many times a night probably gave it away.
So reaching the milestone of enjoying a family lifestyle was a big cause for celebration. I am quite happy to be in bed by 9:00 p.m. at night; to prepare breakfast for my daughter and put the dishes in the dishwasher once she is at school. These are little joys that belong in my life more than dancing to a DJ ever did.
The two guys at the bar seemed very blasé about having a baby, but I know the truth…. And they probably do as well. After all, they were quietly drinking their beer on a rainy midafternoon rather than surrounded by a crowds in a rockin’ bar late at night.