Monday, August 15

Who knew?

I wanted to be a mommy from early on. There were many loves and desires wrapped up in that goal, but I always knew I'd be one. I spend more time planning my parenting skills and daydreaming about how I'd handle certain situations and what I'd name my kids and how many were enough than I spent planning careers - and there were *many* different hats I tried on in the career department!

It is so funny... I was *sure* I knew pretty much how parenting would go, how it would be... Almost all I imagined was so far from the truth as to be almost inconceivable. Then there are the things that never occurred to me...

I would have been the first to tell you, 13 or 14 years ago, that you were crazy, if you'd have told me what kind of parenting I'd be practicing today! I had my ideals and they were nowhere near then what they are today. I had planned out how I'd handle the "tough" stuff... never even dreaming that those things might never come up, and was totally blindsided by other things that I'd never considered: like my 5 year old being terrified of death and dying and his parents dying and not really being able to wave a magic wand to make that fear disappear in a motherly wave of compassion and gentleness.

I fully believed that a parent should not be a friend to their child, and today I am thrilled to count my kids as my friends; they are awesome people and I'm glad they consider me to be their friend, too.

I had no idea that my kids and I would enjoy the same kinds of music - even having the same favorite songs! It never entered my imagination that we would regularly ride along in the vehicle, singing happily together... Nor could I have imagined the peace, joy and contentment that would bring me. Tears-in-my-eyes happiness. Granted, they're often telling me to, "Turn it down, Mama!" - gee... who'd've thought?!

I couldn't have dreamed up a first-born kid that could catch me off guard with his quirky, smart humor - to the point that I spew laughter unexpectedly. :~D

I'd never have conceived that my almost-teen son would not only still want to hug me, but snuggle with me, want his head kissed, want me to tuck him in - prefer that I lay down with him for a while.

I still find it almost incomprehensible that I have a youngest kid who routinely, *daily*, runs around sing-songing, "This is the best day ever. This is the bestest day ever. This is the best day ever." It seems to be his mantra. How incredibly awesome that each subsequent day is the *best* day! And when I think about it, he's right! It really is!

I've been thinking about how I started learning about partnership parenting, lately. I know I've told the story so many times, but I still am kind of awed by it. Reading about unschooling on the radical unschooling boards elicited strong reactions from me. Things like,
"They're CRAZY!"
"Oh, that's just stupid."
"Well, that would never work *here*!"
Very strong, adamant responses - almost to the point of being shocking. But, the other things I read with those "crazy" ways of doing things was about results. About kids and parents who wanted to be together. Who shared with each other. Who *listened* to each other. Most amazingly, though, were the teens - teens who *wanted* to hang out with their parents, who were kind and thoughtful and open and *talked* with their parents openly, who came to their parents first and right away when there was a problem. Families who *trusted* each other. I knew teens. I'd been a teen. This concept was totally foreign to me. I wanted this - and the more I read about it, the more I wanted it. I was not easily convinced that being a partner to my child would end up with those results, but I grudgingly, slowly accepted that the alternative rarely got those results (and never the trust spoken of, that I knew of), and so I dove in.

At one point in my early struggles to grasp the concept, I "threw in the towel", thinking that it wasn't "working", and decided I was going back to traditional parenting! Within a day, I knew I could never be that parent, again - if I ever had totally been that parent. I found that once you learned how to respect someone, you couldn't ignore that and treat them with less value, with less honor just because you decided so. For a day or so, that had me desperate and flailing. Eventually, I found it strengthening - it backed up the ideas I so loved and wanted for my family.

When you find something that makes your heart sing with joy and makes you radiate sunshine and happiness, you want to share it. You wish everyone could be as happy as you are. As I look back on conversations that happened online this week, I see the enthusiasm with which people share these ideas of partnership... I can sometimes get a infintessimal glimpse at how some others might perceive the rush to share as intolerance for other ideas that don't mesh with partnership and respect. I still don't see the threat, though. Even though I experienced a little tiny bit of that when my ingrained ideas were challenged, I had no sort of "fight back" kind of reaction. Maybe I'm just tired, but even after all these years, I still am a bit baffled by the vehement reactions to unusual ideas - to ideas that challenge one's assumptions and ingrained societal "norms"... Is it because it is parenting? Is it because it is personal, rather than a difference in the workplace? When does something change from being two differing viewpoints to an "attack"?

I thought writing it out might help me process it, but at this point, it hasn't. I'll let it stew in my brain for a while.

Today has been music, games, movies, good food, hugs, laughter, learning, idea-bouncing, helping each other - the best day *ever*!

Friday, July 29


I started discussing this on Facebook, then realized my kids both have accounts and could possibly run across what I was writing... ! If they know about my blog, they don't know how to get to it. I think.

Storm's tooth has been loose for a few weeks, now. We've been keeping an eye on it. Not very loose, but last week, it got a bit wigglier. Tuesday night, after his teeth were brushed, we noticed a big difference in the movement - it was really loose! Wednesday afternoon, he'd come to me occasionally with how wiggly it was, testing it, chatting casually about it and really just touching base with me about his tooth. Toward late afternoon, he was wiggling it a lot and I jokingly said something about him pulling it out. He immediately grabbed it with his index finger and thumb and... well, anyone who's ever tugged on a slippery, smooth tooth knows how well that works. I offered the information that he could use his shirt tail for better grip, if his fingers were slipping, if he wanted to. He had a hard time getting his shirt in his mouth and something caught his attention and he was off.

Now, mind you, in all these weeks - heck, all his life - we've not mentioned the Tooth Fairy. I had issues with TF (as I've been calling the Tooth Fairy this week) when Wyl was little, but overcame those with good advice and wonderful stories from other folks. Since we've come to a more balanced, trust-based relationship with our kids, I've also quit telling them all about things - especially legendary things like Santa, TF, Harry Potter and Hogwarts, Thor, etc. I like to answer questions they have with "What do you think?" And wait for more specific questions for which they don't have an answer or opinion before I give information. Even then, I like to give general information and include lots of different things I've heard, so they can decide what to think, what to believe.

Wednesday night, right before heading up to prep for bed and snuggle together for sleeping, Storm was coming in from the little pool we put up in the back yard, shivering, and talking about his tooth. He said something about wanting to pull it and I suggested his towel. I think the towel was too big. He couldn't seem to get a grip on it. He turned away and a moment later he was quietly saying with wonder, "My tooth is out!" (Again, SO different from Wyl - my oldest would have been shouting and yelling and giddy. :~D ) He had been wiggling it back and forth and it just popped loose! He inspected it. He gave it to me to inspect while he felt the hole in his mouth. He showed his brother his hole and his tooth. He showed Daddy his tooth. He brought it to me and said, "We need to put this under my pillow tonight for the tooth fairy!"

Uh... Okay... ! So, I'm scrambling to figure out how (since it has been a few years since I last had a tooth under a pillow to deal with) much the going rate is (posted to Facebook), trying to find the half dollars and silver dollars I had stashed for Wyl, while Wyl is kindly helping Storm get ready for bed. I'm thinking I *have* to do this right after he falls asleep, or I'll forget! Which means, I need to find the stuff and take it up with me, in moments...
In the middle of my scramble, Storm comes down and says he doesn't want to put the tooth under his pillow tonight, because he wants to keep it for a while more. While I'm relieved I have some extra time to work it out, I'm also intrigued. I don't think I would have thought of that, as a kid. Things were done by a certain structure and with specific rules and I learned to know those rules and follow them without question, so I didn't miss out on anything.

We talked today (thanks, Meredith!) about where he learned about the tooth fairy, what he knew (he thinks the tooth fairy "... brings random amounts like $20.58 or $50.10" I'm not sure if he thinks it is actually that *high* of an amount, or if he was just using nice, round numbers to clarify the change... We talked about what she wore, if she had a wand, if she had wings, if she glittered... I loved hearing his take on the TF! He told me he wanted to write a note to TF, telling her he wanted to keep the tooth for a while, and at first, I thought the note was a "substitute tooth", where he'd put that in place of the tooth and get his money. As I talked with him, though, I got this urgency feeling - like he felt he needed to let her know before it was "too late"... like there was a deadline. He also wanted to leave the tooth *in* the envelope with the note as "proof" that he'd lost it, and wasn't just writing a note to get money. I *really* don't know where he got that idea... I told him that he was an honest person and I'm sure the TF would believe him, but he could put the tooth in there, too, if he wanted.

So, tonight, when it came time to write the note, he told me he decided he wanted to keep it another day. (He loves that tooth! He loves the hole in it and the bloody stump and everything! He is amazed by it and really thinks it is cool... ) So, we wrote a note (he dictated, I just moved the pen):

"I lost a tooth but I have decided to keep it a day longer and I hope you trade it in for cash like you're supposed to , if you are real.

And I hope you get this.

TO Toothfairy"

(The all caps are his writing) Then, he put "FS" on the envelope and told me, "That means 'from Storm'" and zipped upstairs to put it under his pillow.

I brought the note down with me, after he fell asleep, because my memory is pretty bad, and I wanted to answer it, but I left the envelope under his pillow, just in case he woke and felt for it. :~D I put together 2 brief rough drafts, trying to disguise my handwriting, then the one that was supposed to be the *actual* note, I wrote too big on and ran out of space, and then reverted to cursive on the last word, so I had to do it over. :~D I settled for plain, white paper with purple marker writing... but I REALLY wanted to go all out, with purple paper and glitter and stickers and beautifully printed font... Ahh, alas... the disappointments of a procrastinator.

Anyhow, I replied (in beautiful purple marker and handwriting from my teen years - minus the circle-dotted "i"s... ):

"Dear Storm,
Thank you *so* much for your note! I am happy you'd like to keep your tooth for a while longer. I like teeth, too!

If you ever decide you don't want your tooth any more, you can give it to your mama and she can figure out what to do with it.
From ToothFairy

Then, on a different envelope (why don't I have purple envelopes?!), I put FTF. :~D We decided on one Susan B. Anthony silver dollar and one presidential gold dollar. Still coins, yet more than a quarter.

I really love doing little things like this for my kids. I don't really know if they enjoy it or not... I don't know if it will ever be one of those "keepsake memories" for them, as they get older... But, I enjoy it. Even if they don't enjoy these little things individually, specifically, they are all small ingredients in a happy childhood, a happy life. I like butter in my chocolate chip cookies and a bit of salt. I like to add coconut, chopped nuts and bourbon vanilla. I like to make sure there's a *wee* bit more chocolate chips than the recipe on the bag calls for. Some people notice, some don't. I do it because I like to, and because I like them that way. :~) You could probably leave that teaspoon of salt out of the chocolate chip cookies or use vanilla flavoring instead of extract or use shortening instead of butter and they'd still be good to eat. But, little snippets of this and that can make what would be a regular cookie into a wonderful, delicious experience that makes someone say, "Wow! I had a wonderful cookie! I don't know what was in it, but *man*, it was great!" My kids will know they had a great childhood. They may not be able to pick out the specific little tidbits or ingredients that made it so or they may; it doesn't matter. The "what" is vastly more important than the "why", for me.

Tuesday, July 19


Funny how ideas about parenting change after becoming a parent. I thought I would be teaching my children to listen to me... funny. Turns out, one of the most important things I could learn as a parent was how to listen. Sometimes, I still have occasions where I struggle to shut my mouth and listen, but I am always better off when I do.

I am naturally an impulsive person. I struggled long and hard to pause before jumping in with full gusto or speaking without considering my words first. In my eagerness to share my knowledge with people, especially my kids, sometimes I forget myself and jump right in with both feet. Knowledge is often a good stew: something that is better when bits and pieces are added as needed, and stirred and left to simmer and bubble for a long time.

I've learned to not answer a question immediately, to pause and let it hang in the air a bit, sometimes. I've learned to stop launching into an immediate instructional "rant", and offer small bits and wait for them to be incorporated before checking to see if more might be needed. One of the most valuable things I've learned is to ask, "What do you think?"

So often, when my kids ask me a question, it is their way of opening a dialogue, of getting something started so *they* can tell *me* what is on their mind. Questions like, "Do the people who work in the store stay there all day - do they sleep there?" and "Do bunnies brush their teeth", get amazing answers if I ask, "What do you think?", and I often learn a whole lot about the subject and my kids.

Last night, while lying down with Storm, we had the DS on for light. On the hour, it gives a little chime, which Storm really likes (I do, too!). After it chimed for 10:00, he sat up and looked over to it; the face of the DS was turned away from the bed, but the radio alarm clock was facing us. He laid back down and after a pause asked, "Why does the DS have a 12 when the chime happens, but the other one says ten oh oh?" (Storm can tell time on an analog clock, but has difficulty with a digital and Wyl can read a digital but not an analog)

I explained about how the "analog" face on the DS showed the hour by not having "minutes after", and that if we waited a minute and the hand clicked one dot, it would be a minute after, but the hand being straight up at the 12 meant that it was exactly 10, with no minutes after. He immediately chimed in with, "And when it is a minute after on the other clock, it will be ten oh one! -Look! It *is*!!"

So, I thought I'd go a little further with the time thing and said that there were 60 minutes in an hour and he seemed to have known that, but maybe forgotten it. I asked if he knew what half of 60 was. He thought, "Half of 6 is 3... so 30." Pretty good for a 6 year old, I thought. I said, "Some people, when it is 10:30 or 9:30 or 3:30 will say it is 'half past' or 'half past the hour', because 30 minutes is half of the 60 minutes in the hour."

He digested that for a bit and I asked, "Do you know what half of a half is?", trying to figure out how to get to "quarter after" in a way he'd understand. No pause, he *knew* that, "A quarter". Wow. I had no idea he knew that! I find it is way cooler to find out my kids know stuff this way, rather than being "instructional" and rattling off facts and information like an encyclopedia and having them huff at me and say, "I KNOW that, Mama!" and roll their eyes. Way cooler. So, I asked, "Can you figure out a quarter of 60? Half of the half?" while I'm digging around in my head, trying to figure out if I can relate that to him and how...
"Well, half of 3 is one and a half..." What?!! My six year old knows fractions?! Who the heck knew?! So, as one of us mumbled something about 30 and 15, I was trying to jump-start my stunned brain into function again as Storm said excitedly, "I'm going to count as high as I can in math!" And proceeded: "Two plus two is four. Four plus four is eight, eight plus eight..."

That is so often how discovery and learning happens in my own head: main question, supposition, smaller questions, ideas, more questions, "ah-ha!"... so I guess it really isn't that surprising that it works externally as well, and is very much more satisfying to have a back-and-forth dialogue with my kids, rather than me spouting off and them being quiet and *possibly* listening while I get on my soapbox and "generously" hand down my knowledge. I suspect it builds a better relationship, as well.