Today, baby girl watched me do a home workout video. She giggled and kicked her legs the whole time. I love that.
I saw this today and thought, “Yes! Open-ended parenting!”
And then the rest of today happened.
My four year old is in one of those phases. A hard phase. A defiant phase. A loud, rowdy, non-stop phase. It feels like everything I tell her to do goes in one ear and out the other. It feels like a constant battle for control.
Which I hate.
I posted today on facebook some of her creative defiance and had the usual amused responses. But I also had someone share their opinion suggesting that I was taking for granted what good qualities she was displaying in her defiance (creativity, innovation, perseverance, etc) and that “the work of children was to play” anyway.
I’ll admit, I got a little offended. My impulse was to get defensive, tell him he was preaching to the choir and that I knew all of that stuff.
But instead I started to wonder if I was really “walking the talk”. Am I being too hard on her? Sometimes it feels like all i do is nag her. Should I be appreciating her energy rather than being exhausted trying to channel it? Am I wasting all my energy trying to control her?
Except I always come back to the question: does letting her be completely who she is at four years old mean letting her run wild and choose what she wants to listen to and what she doesn’t? I can’t believe that’s true. Isn’t there something to be said for teaching her to be respectful, to be honest, to be kind and responsible and productive? It could even be argued that helping her to develop those traits will help her to fully embrace and take full advantage of her own authentic path in life. In some ways, those are skills that will help her be authentic down the road. I think there’s a difference between controlling who she is and controlling how she is.
Also, to be blunt? I can’t see how letting her act like an asshole benefits her.
We shouldn’t try to mold our children into what we think society wants. But we also shouldn’t pretend like they don’t have to live their lives in that society. It is already hard enough to be an individual in the crowd, we don’t need to intentionally make it harder by giving the group more reasons to “banish” or shame the individual. Pretending that human beings aren’t social animals who long to be part of a tribe doesn’t make it true.
We can give them the skills like respect and honesty and kindness to help them fit more smoothly into a group and still give them the courage and character to stand out and be authentic. We can teach them socially acceptable behavior so that when they choose to deviate from that, it is by intentional choice.
I had the privilege of hanging out with one of the people in my life that I greatly admire and don’t get to see very often this week. We were talking about education and assessment and she said something about doing a little of both opinions. “Some of the stuff is great and we definitely need to be doing it, but we also have to do this other stuff. You can’t firmly plant yourself on one side or the other, we need things from both sides.”
And I thought that was so simple it felt profound and wise. It may seem stoic to plant yourself firmly in one corner, in opposition to any other way, but the truth is, we almost always need more than one way. We definitely need to teach children to challenge authority, be innovative thinkers, 21st century citizens. But we also need to teach them to be polite, respectful, kind, generous human beings. They can challenge authority, but not everything has to be a battle. And they can challenge authority and norms and still be respectful about it.
Children need to understand the importance of finding their true path and following it like their hair is on fire. Finding your authentic self may be the most important thing you will ever do. But we are human. Sometimes we just need our tribe. Sometimes, the most important benefit of being authentic is finding your true tribe. Once you find it, it’s important to be able to adapt through awareness of social norms and cues. Like listening, and realizing that it isn’t always about you.
So that’s what I’m trying to do. Teach her that she can’t always disrupt class because sometimes going to battle with your teacher doesn’t help you, and sometimes other kids in the class don’t want to be disrupted and they deserve respect too. And I’m trying to do that without squishing her fire.
It’s hard. Obviously.
But it’s worth it.
And speaking of books, tonight was first meeting of new book club. Women are amazing, aren’t they? There are so many hardworking, fierce, vulnerable, brave women out there that getting to sit down with a few of them, especially some I don’t know too well yet, feels like such a privilege. Such a gift. This is going to be a good thing, I can feel it.
Despite almost getting dropped, Harper slept like an angel the entire time.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “grace” lately.
And I’m really grateful for my family.
Those are my random thoughts from the day.
Or maybe I should start by saying, I’ve spent thirty minutes on the elliptical for the past two days. After two babies and too many oreos and three and a half months since Harper made her way into the world, I know it’s time to get this war-torn mama-body back into better shape.
Ok fine. To the point. This masterpiece, as shown above, is a portrait of none other than yours truly, drawn tonight at the dinner table (unlimited chips and salsa anyone?) with my entire (skinny) family. My family that runs marathons and can wear whatever they want (and could probably fit in the restaurant booster seat).
You’re probably noticing from the drawing that I got new glasses. I did. But I guess I should explain a little more about my above rant. Because the drawing actually looks slender and flattering. Except for that bush thing.
I know, you were probably like “oh I didn’t even see that!”
We had just gotten done reminiscing about how one day when I was young I brought home a drawing of my dad from Sunday school with a giant long thing hanging between his legs. Yep. Turns out when I explained it that it was his necktie.
Isn’t karma cute?
So I asked Lexi to tell me about her drawing. Me, of course, with my glasses, holding baby Harper.
“And what’s this?” I asked, pointing to the black hole vortex in my lower abdominal region.
“That’s your stomach!”
Oh. Well that’s not as bad as it could have been.
Now do you understand my Oreo disclaimer?
In hindsight I wish I would have been like “oh, my six pack abs.” Because I use humor like that. But I didn’t think of it until just now. Sigh.
At the end of the day, I love kids for their refreshing honesty. Back to the treadmill.
The days are a blur this week. I’m exhausted, more than usual. The rainy weather, the busy schedule. I’m not sure what it is, but at the end of the day I fall into the couch, fully clothed, and am sound asleep in minutes. I feel like I could sleep for days.
She is slowly learning how to grab. Her arms still flail around sometimes, her hands won’t quite open and close as she pleases, but I watch her set her sights on something and I can feel her mighty little determination.
“Mighty” is a good word for it. I can’t wait to meet the little human she is, the little human she is becoming. She is extraordinary.
She’s teaching me to be happier. Just be happier.
I love Saturday mornings around here.
Today was my grandpa Wayne’s funeral.
Afterward, we all gathered at the house. As the crowd started to dwindle, I walked through the house from one room to the next. Looking. Looking at details I’d never noticed before. What kind of pen sat by the notepad by the chair. What he used for a bookmark. What odd little trinkets made their way to the bottom of odd little jars on the bookshelf. I looked at the art that had hung on the walls for my entire life and the teacups in the glass hutch in the hallway. I snooped.
Honestly, I didn’t know my grandpa very well. Maybe nobody every really knows anyone else. But of all the kids and grandkids, there are many others who knew him better.
You learn a lot about people after they die. People talk about the good they did when no one was looking. It’s kind of beautiful, really. And while it’s heartwarming to hear all the good things, I also appreciate the real things. The clutter of a desk that never got cleaned up. The books with a bookmark only a few pages in that never got finished. You get to know someone in a different way when you walk through the real-ness of their lives, their house, their things.
Maybe it seems crude to walk through someone’s house and snoop. But part of me felt like it was my last chance. To know him. To know him differently than I had for so long.
And the house that I had spent time in as a child. The toys, the yard, the decorations… The things I had walked past without ever looking. Without ever really seeing.
Soon the house will change. It has already begun changing in his absence. It will no longer be the place I remember. I wished on the drive home that I had taken more pictures. This is the only one I took. A quote inside a bible that his mother gave him when he was 9 in 1944.
“Whatever thy hand finds to do, do it with all thy might.”
And I started thinking. We took Lexi to Colorado when she was two months old. When we got back, we just automatically started having her sleep in the crib. Since we are moving the pack ‘n play now, this would be a great time to make the transition to her own room. After all, she is over three months old.
But I’m not ready. I don’t know why that is. But I’m just not. So we got home and set her bed back up next to ours. And that’s where it will stay, for now.
This morning I slept in. My husband made me breakfast. We finally got our pictures hung in our room.
And then we drove an hour an a half to go be with my family. We stayed for four hours and then drove the hour and a half home. Because that’s what families do.