Archive for September, 2014

September 18, 2014

Evenings chez nous

by Decemberbaby

I was all poised to write something profound, but my brain is in “irritated” mode and I just can’t be thoughtful. So instead, a glimpse into my life at dinnertime and beyond:

6:15 – everybody sits down at the dinner table

6:16 – somebody comments that they need a spoon for their peas. I get up and get them a spoon.

6:17 – I start a nice conversation with Mr. December about his day.

6:18 – somebody spills an entire jug of water. I jump up and get the kid a towel so they can clean up the spill.

6:19 – I have to remind said child that the spill isn’t cleaned up until there’s absolutely no more water on the table, floor, or chairs.

6:20 – “Yes, the floor under your sister’s chair counts.”

6:22 – everyone is eating nicely together…

6:28 – … until they’re not. The spoons are not drumsticks and the table is not a drum.

6:30 – the children claim to be done and run away from the table. I get up, hunt them down, and bring them back to the table. In this house, you’re not done dinner until you’ve taken your plate to the kitchen sink – and I’ll return you to your seat at the table as many times as necessary until you actually show me that you’re done.

6:35 – I sit down at the now-empty table and eat the rest of my meal. If I’m lucky, the children are playing with Mr. December. If not, they’re whining while he gets ready to leave for a volunteer meeting.

6:40 – I finish eating and ask the children to get their pajamas on so we can read together.

6:42 – I ask the children to get their pajamas on so we can read together.

6:47 – I remind the children that if they waste all their time goofing off, they won’t get any reading time. I disappear into the kitchen to clean up from dinner.

7:00 – “Are you guys wearing pajamas?” No, of course not. In fact, they’re not human anymore. Staring at me from inside a cardboard box are a lion, a cheetah, and a bunny. Not one of them has brushed their teeth.

7:10 – “Eema, will you read us a book?” Three expectant, smiling faces peer over the back of the couch. A small hand proffers a paperback copy of Flat Stanley.

7:11 – They emerge from behind the couch. The costumes have been discarded. I suppose this is progress, although “naked” is not a synonym for “pajama-clad.”

7:14 – “Put on pajamas, or NO READING TIME.”

7:15 – They would, but they have to poop. All three of them. At the same time.

7:30 – I am finally done wiping bums. I send the children to put on their pajamas.

7:35 – Three children emerge in underwear, assuring me that this is all they want to wear to bed. We settle on the couch and read four chapters of Flat Stanley.

7:50 – They want more chapters. I know the feeling, but no.

8:00 – Everyone is tucked into bed.

8:05 – Everyone is back out of bed, either to pee or to drink, or possibly to drink and then pee (or maybe the other way around.)

8:08 – N asks me to tuck him in. “I’ll tell you when I’m ready, Eema. I just have to get my guys organized.”

8:11 – Sartre was wrong; hell isn’t other people. Hell is being forbidden to move from your child’s side while he arranges and re-arranges his stuffed animals according to size, genus, species, softness, and (I suspect) astrological sign.

8:15 – I finally tuck in the boy, followed by the girls. A gentle kiss followed by, “if anybody gets out of their bed for a non-emergency, there will be CONSEQUENCES. Do you understand? Good. I love you!”

8:18 – I can hear them talking, which I guess isn’t that bad.

8:21 – I hear them arguing, which is pretty normal, if not ideal.

8:34 – I hear crying. I evaluate it for pitch, intensity, and duration, and decide that it’s not serious. I ignore it.

8:43 – “Eema, my lemur is wet.” Whatever, kid. Just go to sleep.

8:45 – It hits me that if a lemur is wet, who knows what else has been drenched?

8:46 – There is a puddle on the floor of the bedroom with a water cup lying on its side nearby. No sleuthing required – I throw a towel at the floor and bark, “mop it up.”

8:47 – “Eema, I got hurt.”

8:48 – I lose it. “I don’t care. You wouldn’t get hurt if you’d all just stay in your OWN beds and go to SLEEP.”

8:50 – They’re talking again. And arguing… something about a lemur.

8:52 – I give up on thinking of a profound topic for this week’s blog post. Seriously, this post writes itself!

8:59 – I hear crying. Again. The three-year-old emerges, clutching her stuffed lemur and whining, “I need you.”

9:00 – The boy comes to the living room with an alphabet puzzle and says, “Eema, can you tell me what all these letters are?”

9:01 – “NO!”

9:02 – “Eema?” “GO TO SLEEP!”

9:03 – “But eema?” “GO TO SLEEP!

9:04 – “Eema?” “GO. TO. SLEEP.”

9:05 – Maybe I should just lead by example. I’ll hit “publish” on this blog post and then go to sleep.

9:06 – …right after I finish the next chapter in my book. And get a drink. And go pee…

https://i2.wp.com/thumbs3.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mG-TqMEh3zwRkhV8Wg-mmNA.jpg

This post has been brought to you by three plush lemurs, and by the letters N and O.

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September 10, 2014

Getting hurt.

by Decemberbaby

We were at the park. K climbed onto a trampoline-like apparatus and started jumping. Immediately, two children (aged 4 and 5, perhaps,) began whining: “No! Stop jumping! You’re not supposed to jump on this thing!”

(Here I must interrupt myself to point out that I don’t usually get involved at all in playground disagreements, but their objections were so absurd that I just couldn’t help myself.)

“Why not?” I asked them. “Looks to me like this thing was made for jumping.”

The five-year-old boy set me straight: “But it’s Dangerous!”

I looked around. The ground was paved with rubber. The apparatus itself seemed to be made of rubber and very sturdy ropes that were close enough together that no child could possibly fall off. Where the ropes intersected, the joint was encased in a rubber ball. Dangerous? I couldn’t see how.

Fortunately, the five-year old decided to enlighten me further by saying, “Last time someone jumped on this, I fell down!

No scars, no bruise, no “I fell down and broke something.” No. He fell down, an act by which he proved that the apparatus was unsafe.

Readers, you’ll be proud to know that I didn’t just outright laugh in this child’s face. I certainly wanted to at first, until I realized that this child was being allowed to grow up with a ridiculous level of fear.

****

K has been learning to ride a two-wheeled bike (no training wheels) for the last few weeks. She could have made faster progress, I felt, had she not been so scared of falling and getting hurt. I was patient, though. I bit my tongue and sat on my hands. “See, Eema,” K told me, “this way I can make sure I don’t fall down and get hurt!”

Sure, kid. But you’re also making sure you don’t get to feel the wind in your face.

****

In my 34 years of life, I’ve been hurt many, many times. I’ve also been sick, both acutely and chronically. And every time, I have recovered.

Why does this matter? Because lately I’ve noticed a train of thought in my own mind that goes something like this: “What’s the worst that can happen? I get hurt? It’ll hurt like hell, but only for little while, and then I’ll be okay. That’s not so bad.” It seems that having experienced injuries and the healing process has given me a degree of courage, or maybe just a better perspective on risk. On balance, I’d say my past injuries were valuable and ultimately empowering experiences.

That’s why it makes me sad to see children who are convinced that getting hurt is the worst possible thing in the world, and that injuries only result from unsafe activities (should I tell the story about the ceiling that fell down on Mr. December’s bed? He wasn’t in it at the time, thank God.) I’m saddened to think of all the fun these children will miss out on, not to mention the sense of accomplishment they would get from doing something difficult and possibly risky. Most of all, I’m saddened to think that it didn’t have to be this way.

We are currently raising children in a culture and a time where any level of danger is unacceptable; where not obsessively baby-proofing your home is seen as foolhardy; where sitting on a park bench and watching as your child attempts a tricky climb, falls, cries, and tries again is tantamount to neglect. We are inundated with “what-ifs”: what if your child is biking to the park alone and falls and gets cut and bleeds and cries? What if he slips on one of the steps and slides right down to the bottom of the basement stairs? What if the baby bangs his head on the corner of the coffee table and gets a bruise?

Well, what if those things happened?

Look, I get that there’s always a freak occurrence that nobody could predict (so why do we try so hard to predict it?) and that we just want our children to be safe. But is that really what we want for our children? Have we been so inundated with the slogan “Safety First!” that we’ve forgotten there are things more important than safety? If “safety first” was really true, nobody would use power tools, or play professional sports, or get into a car and drive somewhere. There is a level at which enjoyment and convenience can, and should, gently nudge safety aside just a little.

The truth is that our children are safer than probably any children at any time or place in human history. Vaccines, trained birth attendants (whether doctors or midwives,) car seats, and the general decline in violent crime have made infant and child mortality so rare that our culture has to think of new dangers to fear, much like how our immune systems supposedly attack allergens because they face no “real” threat from diseases that used to fell healthy people. Bad things just don’t happen to children anymore. If they do, it’s someone’s fault. Someone wasn’t safe enough, wasn’t vigilant enough, wasn’t a good enough caregiver. Someone must be blamed. There is, in effect, no such thing as an “accident” when it comes to children.

But back to my “what if?” question: What if a child bikes alone to the park, falls down and bleeds, and cries? Well, the child won’t cry forever. A passer-by, or another child, or a parent at the park, will offer assistance. More likely, the child will stop crying, get back on the bike (or walk beside it,) and either continue to the park or go home for a band-aid. What if your child slips or trips and falls down the stairs? Well, many of us have done that and lived to tell the tale. So will your child. What if the baby bangs her head on the corner of the coffee table? As I’ve said since I refused to childproof the house for K, “she’ll get hurt, she’ll cry, and she’ll learn not to play near the coffee table.” And in all three circumstances, the child will learn that getting hurt was not the end of the world.

There’s an odd juxtaposition in our culture. On one hand we celebrate the risk-takers, the visionaries, the pioneers. On the other hand, we do our best to scare parents and children away from developing those traits. Do we want risk-takers, or not? Do we want creative thinkers, or not? Do we want our children to grow up, or not? Ah, there’s the question, that last one.

Let’s let our children get hurt. Let’s encourage them to do difficult, challenging, scary things. Let’s give them a gift: the knowledge that an injury or a setback is temporary, and that human beings – ourselves and our children included – have an amazing capacity to heal, recover, and grow. Maybe then the children won’t be scared to get on an ultra-safe trampoline and just enjoy jumping.

In the meantime, wimpy kids, get off the trampoline. It’s for jumping, and my kid wants to jump. And she will.

September 3, 2014

Is this thing on?

by Decemberbaby

*tap**tap* *feedback noise*

So… it’s been a while. How’s it going?

The past year has just been so full of everything, good and bad, that it’s hard to know where to begin. I offer no excuses for my absence, and I would like to thank both of my loyal readers for sticking around.

Anyway, for those of you who are here because you like hearing about my life, here’s the update (in no particular order):

  • The children are now ages 6.5, 4, and almost 3. K (girl, 6.5) has lost four teeth and is currently sporting the adorable gap-toothed look. N is as sweet as ever. R just started potty training and has now gone 26 hours with no accidents.
  • Mr. December is pretty much the same, although this past year he started a very demanding volunteer position, which I’m tempted to blame for at least some of my blogging hiatus. For the record, I’m very proud of the work he’s done (even though I won’t be blogging about it.)
  • We still live in our little house, although we’re slowly putting together plans for a second-storey addition. I’m getting to the point where I’d really like to have my own bathroom (separate from the kids, anyhow,) not to mention the fact that we’re going to run out of room sooner or later because:
  • I’m pregnant. Once again, I’ve lost all my infertility cred. Come January, God willing, we’ll have four children.
  • Depression still looms large in my life, though I’ve finally gotten the hang of treating it like any other chronic illness.
  • I still sew, but I’ve found that I have less and less time for it. You’d think that evenings (after kids’ bedtime) would be a good time, but I’m usually too tired to contemplate going downstairs and starting to sew. Instead I stay up way too late on Facebook, arguing for common sense in the face of hysterical helicopter parenting.
  • I still bike, although I haven’t done any really serious biking in almost a year, and it looks like I won’t be biking any significant distances until maybe March or April, or whenever the ice melts around here.

In short, life is good. I am well. And I plan to pick up blogging again, even though at times I am, as Elizabeth Bennet says in P&P, “unwilling to speak, unless [I] expect to say something that will amaze the whole room, and be handed down to posterity with all the eclat of a proverb.”

And on that note, I’m off to bed. ‘Night!