The world as seen through the eyes of an exhausted, caffiene addicted, homeschooling, atheist mama.

Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Money Around the World

I love our neighborhood and I love our neighbors. Our neighborhood is quiet, pretty, and mostly shady. Um, shady like full of big, shade-giving trees, not full of  big, drug dealing thieves.  It’s a nice, quiet neighborhood that happens to not be a through street between the nearby major streets. One block over, people speed away because it’s a through street. But not ours. Our street is calm and quiet, safe and pretty.

Anyway BB likes to race from one end of the block to the other on his scooter, and I have to time him. His goal is to shave a full second off his time every time he goes scootering. This one particular day, one of our neighbors stopped him and asked if collects stamps. Okay, contrary to what you see in your head, this stamp-collecting neighbor isn’t old. He’s older than me, but not by more than about 15 years.

BB does not collect stamps and very nicely told him so. Neighbor K then asked if he collects anything. My very interesting son didn’t say the obvious (Legos!) but said that he collects metal things that he finds lying around. It’s true. He has nuts, bolts, washers, flattened coins. He has little charms from charm bracelets, old keys, and even an ancient rusty beer can he found while we were hiking. I have no idea what his fascination is with old metal stuff. but I do get how fun it can be to collect.

So Neighbor K says:

Metal things, huh? Well, I have to clean out my garage and if I find anything metal, I’ll make sure to bring it to you.

A couple of hours later, he did bring some metal stuff to BB. A Ziplock bag full of coins from around the world. Apparently Neighbor K is a world traveler and just kept coinage from the places he visited. But now he’s done with these coins and he’s passed them on to my metal collecting kid.

BB is having a great time with all these coins. He’s separating them, sorting them, trying to figure out where they’re from, choosing is favorite pieces. I mean, he’s loving this!

So many pretty metal things!

Coins with holes in them…even square coins!

Even really old coins (this one is from 1938)

Thank you, Neighbor K. I suspect you have unwittingly given a focus to BB’s metal collection.

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Coffee and a Lazy Day

I’ve been sleeping pretty poorly the last week or so. Insomnia follows me from room to room at night and when I finally drift off to sleep, nightmares chase me through my dream-worlds.

Last night’s dream was a real humdinger, and after so many nights of not sleeping enough, I’m barley functional today. So today is going to be a lazy day. BB has a music class in a couple of hours, and we’ll go to it, but for now, I’m gonna have myself another cup of coffee and I’m going let BB read as much as he wants today.

Coffee

Fluffy pillows, cozy couch, funny book...what's not to smile about?

A  random day off is good for the soul. So are good books and coffee.

Ten and Thirty

I read a really interesting blog post about communicating with toddlers this morning, and it hit me. Parenting a ten-year old isn’t so different from parenting a three-year old. Sure there are the obvious differences: a ten-year old is more capable of reason, doesn’t poop in his pants, and can often articulate what he is feeling. But the nuts and bolts of it are pretty much the same.

Last night was tough. I look back and try to figure out where the night went sour, but I can’t pinpoint the moment. What I know is that the day was good, then just as suddenly, BB was pissed off and yelling. Hubby and I did our best to just let him feel his feelings, to ignore the scowls and growls, and to continue on with our evening. We did a great job of not yelling, of not punishing, of trying to be supportive of whatever it was that BB was going through. At first.

“At first” isn’t really a fair description. We held it together for a really long time. Long enough for us to eat dinner. Long enough for us to start cleaning up, long enough for us to discover that BB had thrown half of his green beans on the floor, long enough to get the dishes going and half done.

Talking to him and ignoring him weren’t helping, so we told him he could just take a shower and go to bed early if he couldn’t calm himself down.  Yeah. That worked. He locked himself in the bathroom and refused to open the door. Maybe I should have just let it go at that. Maybe I should have continued ignoring the situation, but I didn’t. I felt myself unraveling. The last time he locked himself in the bathroom was a nightmare. We tried using that little key that comes with indoor doorknobs, but he held on to the lock on the other side. So we ended up with a very broken doorknob that he couldn’t open from the inside. We had to break in through the bathroom window and remove the ruined doorknob.

Visions of broken doorknobs ran through my head like some cheesy montage from an 80’s movie. I unraveled a lot faster and and I started to yell at him. I threatened him, I told him to grow up and stop acting like a little toddler. Words flew out of my mouth and I couldn’t seem to stop them. He finally opened the door and I was able to convince him to take a shower. I left the bathroom and went to get a drink of water. When I turned back around, I heard water splashing on the floor. BB thought it’d be funny to shower with the curtain open just to make a mess. A mess in the bathroom that he and I had spent half an hour cleaning earlier in the day.

Dinner: on the floor.
Bathroom door: locked
Bathroom floor: soaked
Mom: a yelling, screaming, scary maniac.

I was not pretty. I threatened to take away his Legos. I told him he had to mop both the kitchen and the bathroom in the morning. I told him I don’t know why the hell he was acting like a toddler instead of a ten-year-old. I told him I was disappointed in his behavior and I told him it made me sad that I worked so hard to cook a great dinner and he just ruined the whole thing. I told him it made me sad that he seemed to care more about his Legos than he did about me.

Yeah. I laid the guilt on pretty thick, and I couldn’t figure out how to shut myself up.

In the end he went to bed and cried himself to sleep. He said I was right. He loves his stuff more than he loves me or his dad. He decided he needed to get rid of most of his toys, Legos included, so he could appreciate family more.

That’s not where I thought the night would go. I tried to fix it. I held him while he cried. I listened to him dramatically proclaim that he needed to yard sale or donate his legos and other toys. I apologized for screaming and threatening to take his stuff, and I assured him that I love him and that it’s not necessary to dump his things. I handed him tissues and told him not to make any decisions about getting rid of stuff until the morning. I tucked him in and kissed him and told him again that I love him. And I shut the door on my still sobbing child.

When he was two or three, I would have never told him to grow up. When he was two or three, I would have never told him that he cares about stuff more than  he cares about us. I would never have handled things the way I did. Sometimes I forget that ten is still so young. He’s just a kid. A kid with two very stressed out parents and a cat who’s been dead for less than a week.

We had a great talk this morning and I think we’re okay. He no longer wants to get rid of his stuff and he is willing to mop the kitchen and bathroom floors. I am looking forward to starting over, this time with better communication.

Neither of us knows what was going on with him last night, but what I know is that he’s just as entitled to have a rotten evening as I am. And as his mother, if he can’t communicate what’s going on inside his head, then it’s my job to love and support him while he’s sorting through his shit.

My boy is ten, but sometimes I need to remember that ten is a helluva lot closer to three than it is to thirty.

Here Comes Clarence!

When BB was about three, the Easter Bunny left him a note in his Easter Basket. I don’t remember what the note said, but it was probably along the lines of:

Dear BB, I hid eggs inside the house because it was snowing when I came by. Have lots of fun and see if you can find more eggs than your mom and dad. Oh, and enjoy the chocolate!

And then the Easter Bunny signed his name. You’d think maybe he’d be EB or Bunn or something like that.  I mean, that would make perfect sense, right? But no. Apparently the Easter Bunny is named Clarence. Clarence. Who knew?

And so it began…The tradition of Clarence leaving a short note and some chocolate on the dining room table.

I can hear some of you shouting:

Wait! Stop! Your family doesn’t believe in the Easter Story, so why do you celebrate Easter? What possible reason could you have for having an Easter Basket and an Easter egg hunt and all that jazz? Why???

Well, because it’s fun. It’s also part of our cultural identity. Major holidays can’t be avoided. You can’t just sit there and pretend they don’t exist.You can’t drive past a store, walk into a Target, or turn on a television without being bombarded with holiday images. Whether or not we’re into the meaning of the holiday, the holiday is there and it’s celebrated by a majority of people. And the last thing I want for my son to take out of his childhood is the feeling that he missed out on a lot of really fun stuff. That’s what religion is for.

So we secularize our holidays. Easter is about chocolate and an egg hunt. Christmas is about presents and making cookies for neighbors. BB gets to celebrate and take into his own adulthood the memories of creating traditions that are meaningful to our family because they don’t revolve around religion. He gets to take into his adulthood the experiences of participation, celebration, and anticipation.

As an added bonus, as he gets older he finds more and more flaws with Clarence and Santa. He’s using his own critical thinking skills to think for himself and to decide for himself if these stories really make sense. Which is probably one of the most important things I want him to take into his adulthood: The ability to critically think and to decide for himself, with reason and logic, what to believe. I don’t want him to just blindly follow my beliefs any more than I want him to blindly follow a Pope.

This is probably the last year he’ll really believe in Clarence. Part of me is sad about that, but the other part of me is really happy that he’s figuring things out on his own. That means Hubby and I are doing our job right.

Happy Easter, Everyone!

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Death Without Heaven

Sometimes I can understand why people hold on to religion. In times of crisis and grief, the notion that there’s something bigger than us, something with a plan, something that cares and directs us down the path we’re supposed to go, can help you put one foot in front of the other.

As a parent, it’s my job to help my son make sense of the world and deal with his grief. Religion would sure be handy for that. It would have been so easy to hold him yesterday and tell him “I know you’re sad about Pnut, but he’s in heaven now. He’s happy now. He’s chasing shadows and rolling in grass and drinking from a little stream. His earthly body is gone, but he’s not.”

But I don’t believe that, so my challenge as a parent who happens to be an atheist is to find a way to help him cope without spoon feeding him bits of stories that I don’t believe. It’s hard. How do you comfort your kid when you need comfort yourself? I don’t claim to have all the answers, or even some of the answers. I just know what Hubby and I did, and I believe it was good and healthy for BB.

We allowed him to feel his emotions, talked about good things, we let him hold Pnut, before the vet came, after the first shot when he just fell asleep, and after the second shot that stopped his heart. After the vet left, we all held our wonderful cat and we reminisced. We cried as a family and we allowed the other pets to sniff his body.  We reminded  BB that as painful as it is to see him lying there like that, his body was just a body. Pnut wasn’t in there and he couldn’t feel love or pain anymore. We talked about his body rejoining the earth and we talked about holding him in hearts and memories.

And an amazing thing happened. BB stopped crying, pulled out some paper and colored pencils, and drew a picture of Pnut lying on the blanket where he died. He worked at the dining room table for a long time, and we told him he could have all the time  he needed. Once in a while he’d come over and look at the shape of his tail or legs, once he came over and opened Pnut’s eyes to try to find just the right shade. BB found his own way to deal with his grief: scientific inquiry and artistic expression. It was so inspiring to see, and I felt humbled and small next the wise soul of my ten-year old.

It turns out he didn’t need God, heaven and platitudes. All he needed was the freedom to feel his emotions and to find his own way to handle them.

Pnut: My favorite cat. This is my gift to you. I love you with all my heart.

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You oughtta be in pictures…

So BB was cast as an extra in a movie.  Two winters ago he was in a play at a community theater and was bitten pretty hard by the acting bug.  I wouldn’t let him audition for anything else for a while because it was just too much for a six year old.  But he has been a part of three student produced/written operas with performances at pretty big venue, and he’s performed in every variety show he hears about.  Since his play he’s chattered almost constantly about being in a movie, so when a call for extras came up, Hubby and I took him and he was cast.

We went in at 5am about a week ago and were there for something like 4 hours.  Two to get checked in and costumed, two more for shooting the one minute long scene.  Over and over again, from every possible angle.  I thought for sure he’d be bored witless, but I was wrong.  I saw a part of my kid that I’ve never seen before.  He’s usually a great kid, but yesterday he was glowing.  He said he loved being there and he wants to do more, and maybe get a speaking role next time.
So here I am, the mom of an eight year old who is begging to act.  I think we’ll let him, as long as he’s enjoying it.  All the money he makes will be put into a trust fund so he can go to college or backpack through Europe or invest in something when he’s older.  I’m looking around for an agency, for photographers, and for a second car.  I never thought my life would lead me here.
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Full disclosure:  the above was written a few days ago, but life has been busy and I wasn’t able to come back to finish this post.  One of the reasons is that BB was called back for a second scene yesterday.
This time he had to be there at 5:45, and we were on the clock until 2:15.   It was about 102 yesterday and he was playing a homeless kid, outside, in Utah…in the winter.  He was dressed in sweaters and a vest and had a blanket wrapped around him, and like the first day, they shot the same scene a million times.  Every time they yelled “Cut” I ran out to him to give him water and wipe the sweat off his face.  His “movie mom” did a great job of helping him take his costume off and put it back on between takes, and everyone was very good about keeping the kids hydrated and understanding that they had to take breaks to cool off.  It was tedious.  It was dirty.  It was hot, long, and tiresome. And he still loved it.
I have to confess, a part of me hoped he’d see how hard this was and that he’d decided he didn’t want to move forward, but if anything, it’s stoked his fire even more.  He was amazing, and funny and kind.  He was receptive, responsive, and good natured.  He dealt with exhaustion and heat in a way that made me feel nothing short of awe.  I, on the other hand, was more exhausted than I’ve ever felt in my life.  Okay, maybe not as exhausted as right after BB was born…but still, my whole body was wiped out.  Apparently, even if I had the desire, I’d be a piss poor actress.  I’m too much of a wuss!
A  friend told me that she admires that I was able to experience yesterday and still be willing to let him move forward. I told her that if she had the opportunity to see into the deepest parts of her own child’s soul and watch as he discovered what very well may be a passion, that she’d do the same thing.  Watching BB yesterday and last week was like watching a rare night-blooming flower open up to the moon.  It is not something I could ever describe with words. There are no words… I am just humbled that I am fortunate enough to be able to see the flower.Ethan's first "test" head shot...taken by a good friend.

Sickening

I woke up this morning, did a little writing, checked my emails and then checked my Facebook.    A nice, gentle way to get my day going-drinking coffee and slowly waking up before tackling math and world history with BB.  I’m all in favor of “nice, gentle”.   Hell, “Nice and gentle” very well could be my mantra.  I try to be nice and gentle in all things, especially with regards to parenting.  If you’ve ever read this blog before, you know that I don’t use spanking or physical punishment.  I try not to yell, I try not to coerce and I try not to threaten.  I know that my son is a person in his own right, with his own emotions, dislikes and agenda.  While it may be important to me to have him drop everything and come running when I say “time to do some math” I respect that the city he’s building out of mud or the story he’s creating with Legos is extremely important to him, and I aim to let him finish up whenever possible.

So this morning I am scrolling through my wall, reading the updates when I come across this group:

IF I SPOKEN TO MY PARENTS HOW KIDS TALK NOW DAYS I`D BEEN KNOCKED OUT

Yeah, I would have too.  But somehow this is a good thing?  It’s a good thing that if kids didn’t immediately submit to the random whims of their parents they would have had the crap beaten out of them?  Seriously?  And what’s worse is that the comments I read were terrible- along the vein of  Shoot, my mama made me pick the tree branch she’d hit me with and if it was too small she’d hit me with two; I smacked my kids to death if they disrespected me.  I still pop my 23 year old if she mouths off…Respect the mother; Kids these days don’t respect nobody, they need to get their ass whooped so they know how to behave; Spare the rod, spoil the children.  I spank my kids all the time and they respect me!

That is just sickening to me.  I’m not being dramatic here.  It’s disgusting and it makes my stomach do flips.  And the thing is, these are parents who HIT their kids complaining about how rotten their kids are.  Hello!  Is there anybody home?  IT’S NOT WORKING, PEOPLE!

Hubby and I don’t spank.  And guess what?  BB is an amazing kid.  He is kind, respectful, intelligent, and best of all, unafraid of his parents.  He knows that he can question us, and that is GOOD.  That freedom to question authority now will translate into a teen who can question his friends’ choices and a man who can think for himself and question his boss’ expectations.  He will not be so cowed by authority that he blindly goes along with what others say.  His freedom to question his parents and expect that we will respect his wishes and needs will, hopefully, translate into a man who knows that compromise and mutual respect and agreement is a much happier road than coercion and submitting.

Life isn’t always a field of daisies.  Sometimes being a parent is harder than I would have ever expected.  Sometimes I question our decision not to put the fear of god (and by god I mean me and Hubby) into our child, but never, never do I consider changing my route.  I will not hit my husband because he didn’t take out the trash.  He will not hit me because I’m cranky and gave a snotty answer.  We will never hit our child, no matter what he may do.  And in the deepest depths of my soul, I believe- no, I know that BB will appreciate this as he grows older and that he will be a better man for it.

Stepping down from my soapbox now.

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