Walking with Children

This morning found my little family of five in the car bringing our youngest cat, at the ripe young age of 10, to the vet for the last time.

The decisions we made were simple.   Armed with the knowledge that it was merely a matter of time and not one of a cure we did what made sense to us.   Find a way for him without the pain.  Without the suffering.

Being with our children in this, particularly our oldest, was likewise simple although difficult.  My son is clear spoken and blunt, subtleties or euphemisms are not in his nature, and still I can not deny the inward cringing I did when my seven year old asserted we were going to kill our cat.  This was not a time to mince words, to hide behind softer words (as desperately as I wished to), it was a time to address the why and to take responsibility for such a heavy decision.  Life deserves the reverence of truth and that was ours.  Killing a beloved pet.   

Thus standing with him as he and his four year old sister made decisions about how they wanted to be with Arthur, or if they did, in his last moments was nothing more or less than what made sense to us.  Doing our best to answer complex questions about the process [“how did she (the vet) kill him?”  “what chemicals did she use?”  “how do they work?”] while dealing with the emotional upheaval of his grief, as well as our own, was still difficult.  It was something we knew would be hard but in truth had no idea just how hard until we were there.  In the end he decided to stay with his father and our beloved kitty.  My oldest daughter was in and out of the room, in turns saying goodbye through tears and enjoying the in floor scale for dogs in the waiting room, while I simply followed and obliged each request they had as best I could.  Pictures were taken before Arthur died, ones of the family with him, loving him, and lots of hugs and hand holding remained the constant.

There is a reverence that comes from such an experience.  A bonding that seems steady through out the volatility that comes with grief and I remain grateful for this sad day and being able to share in it without pulling away or penalizing them for the arbitrary judgment that they need to speak their piece about it NOW and be done with it.  That there are only certain ways they can talk about it; ways I or my husband deem appropriate – another piece of self protective judgment.

Grieving is a lonely experience, but it should not ever be cause for abandonment.  It is a moment for heart, for being present, for showing that even in our messiest and most heartbreaking moments we should not expect to be left to it on our own.  We deserve connection.  Through grieving ourselves love is shown.  Should we choose it.

Though today was sad – all of us missing Arthur’s bedtime shenanigans – there was a goodness, too.  It is that goodness I cling to even as I allow the tears to flow.  It is what I hope my children remember as they continue to experience theirs.  We walked together on this path.  No one was left behind or turned away, but held closer.  Including the one we had to say goodbye to.

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The Beauty of a Harrowing Trip

This was the first day of my husband’s long anticipated trip back out to Denver for a little thing called The Great American Beer Festival.  It is not the first trip he’s taken since we’ve become a family of five, but it is the first since our littlest started walking and getting into pretty much everything.  Attitudes have been remarkably poor for the last few weeks – I like to blame transitions of a new schedule as well as having a little sibling that now really demands a whole lot of hands on time from Mama – and so I have been viewing this trip with a great deal of bracing.

What I am finding thus far is merely the need for quiet.  Time for connection.  For less busy.  I had tried to plan things so there would be a lot more busy during this time and when plans shifted (my youngest was diagnosed with croup a few days ago – she’s amazing and already almost fully past it) I was looking upon things with hostility and frustration.  Frankly, I felt abandoned.  That I didn’t have community, that I was bereft of tribe.

That feeling is largely gone.  It did not disappear due to some words with a friend (although this happened), but rather because I looked at my life and saw the places it had been lacking and found, strangely, it had been lacking me.  The busy of keeping up with my children’s interests had us going in different directions all too frequently.  Emotional space, conversations, play – they were fragmented in all the wrong spots.  I had allowed myself to get preoccupied with events and people who do not enrich or strengthen my relationships with my family.  Psychic vampires as my husband likes to call them.

It was in discussing such things, in my obsessive way of addressing a current upset, that he said to me:  Most people do not go out of their way for someone else the way you do.  They do something for others when it’s convenient.  You will break yourself if necessary to do for other people; hoping to receive from them what you have never received before.

It was a punch to the stomach.  Truly, the wind was taken from me and the ground beneath my feet shifted.  Moments later we were kissing goodbye.

My day continued, but it continued with every piece of criticism I throw at my kids being heard a second time in my head.  A piece of knowledge of how frequently I shuttle them around to different activities, to seeing friends…  How I do this FOR THEM and yet I do not respond kindly to them when they ask me to read stories and my frustration is audible in either a sigh or irritated tone when I respond to demands for attention.  Attention they are telling me they need.  Attention they clearly feel they have not been getting.  Attention they are entitled to.

Somewhere along the line I gave up on BEING with them in favor of DOING THINGS for them and others, thereby creating the same damn problem.  So much of my parenting life has been like this – and giving up on the notion of “doing things” being important is going to be so very hard for me – but it’s time to end it.

I want them to know that I it is not out of the way to change plans or routes to be with them in the places they choose.  It is part of my journey with them.  And so it is for anyone we choose to help.  Sometimes, the circles just need to get a little smaller, a tad more selective, so that we can nourish the relationships that need it, that can accept it, and that can also nourish us.

Tonight I snuggled my son and told him we’re going to be less busy from now on.  That I have missed talking to him and his sister and I would prefer to not keep missing them.  And he agreed.

So the steps I am now taking are slower.  The circles, smaller.  The time, revered.  The love, deeper.  The breathing, easier.

Always in the (traumatic) past…

It was once told to me that as humans it is impossible to not always be living in the past.  Even what seems like such an immediate event it is ultimately something that we can not respond to without it having happened nor without acting out of the summation of the events and stimulii that had shaped us up until then.  I suppose it’s both more complicated and simpler than that – but it’s what strikes me as relevant currently.  

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reminiscing – most of it inadvertant – and sadly it is upon a trauma from last year. No matter the attempts I’ve made at moving past it I find myself simply stuck in the space of reactivity.  Brutally compartmentalized, my two year old breaking her arm was something I pretty much had to just move through.  Six months pregnant with my youngest and now, at five months old, I am finally processing the whole event.  It’s wretchedly unfair to my kids that my mind keeps wandering there, but as the weather warms up I find myself thinking about all the things we didn’t get to do last year because of it.  No beach trips.  No playing in the sprinkler.  No vacation.  No playdates at parks with splash pads.

I don’t get bitter.  I get nervous.  What if it happens again?  What if something worse happens?  What can I do to prevent thisabsolutelyunknowablecatastrophethatswaitingaroundthecorner?

It’s a game of insanity.  Or rather it’s one that puts my crazy on apt display.

We’re daring to plan a vacation this year and I admit to being fixated on this event from last year that led to the derailment of a much needed long weekend away as a family.  The closer the vacation date gets the more my mind seems to want to spin in this direction – the horrible recollections of that night in July.

I remember her being in so much pain she could neither cry nor speak.  I remember the look of her arm with the extra angle in her forearm that simply shouldn’t have been there.  I remember being in the kitchen, not five feet away, when I heard her scream.

Worst of all I recall holding her still as the twilight anesthesia was administered; the look in her eyes that could not focus nor how they could not remain still, her body limp.  I remember talking to her about Little Einsteins as she couldn’t respond hoping she understood and that there was comfort to be had in it.  Everything about that night might as well be encased in amber so perfect is my memory of it.  It’s something I wrote about back then – that I thought I’d be done with by now – but somehow feels more intense presently.

It’s a reminder of how things can change so damnably fast.  How we can not prevent hurt nor make safe the world for those we love and that DESPITE that knowledge and understanding the guilt, the self blame, the recriminations are still there.  No matter how I cut it, no matter all my reasoning and logic I can not escape the thought that it’s all.  my.  fault.

No, I quite clearly did not break her arm.  My children are incredibly strong willed, my daughter has almost always been outright fearless and yet….  It’s my fault in some weird way and I can’t get past it.  My baby girl had a broken ulna and radius and it was because I didn’t do SOMETHING.

There is so much grace I feel for others, so much compassion for the hurts, pains, and doubts confided in me – and for myself that well of steadfastness runs dry.  The best I can muster is to recall how I held her through all of what came after that break.  The x-rays were the only things I gave over to my husband.  IV?  She was in my lap.  Splint?  Ditto.  When she tried to remove the splint two days later?  Yep.  Cast?  Five days after the splint – you couldn’t have pried me away.

It heartens me to think of the other actions she made that evening in the ER.  She refused to drink water until she was told she couldn’t leave until she had some.  I remember when they said they were getting paperwork to release her she took off the heart monitor hooked up to her toe, stood on the gurney and said “I’m out of here”.

It was moments after that we all went home in stocking feet.  The trauma came home with us, rooted in our hearts, and the unlocking of it is only now happening.  If only this culture, this society were not so bent upon notions of culpability, that someone is always to blame and they must be punished, then perhaps we could more readily accept some of these horrible moments as the accidents they actually are.  The game of “if I had only” being one that was only written about in fictional tales that made us all think “could you imagine if folks actually thought that way???”

Without this issue, this Tyranny of the Shoulds, healing would be more readily possible instead of an arduous task undertaken by the already traumatized.

 

 

 

Mirror, Mirror…

There are some parts of my day that almost always have me facing down what I view as the worst in myself.  It’s uncomfortable, but after a while it feels like old hat.  A sucky one that fits too well, but old hat nonetheless.  Then comes a day where it seems like reprieve is a reasonable expectation – until it becomes clear it isn’t – and I get a face full of ohmygodwhythehellamidoingthiswtfiswrongwithme?!?!?!

Tonight it was in dealing with my son’s unreasonable – to me – fears.

I looked at his terrified, tear streaked face and screamed at him to do what he was afraid of.  To go into the room I was standing just outside of.  That was it.  And even now I have a hard time with this.

So much of our daily existence lately has been in dealing with this fear of being alone.  He won’t go upstairs to the playroom without his three year old sister in tow (or without checking to see if one of our cats is up there) and it’s getting exhausting.  He’ll do classes by himself no problem.  Go from curb into a class is likewise not a problem.  Ask him to go into a room by himself even if I’m six inches outside it?  Epic, panicked, clawing tooth and nail fits ensue.

Mostly I ignore the issue provided he isn’t forcing or manipulating anyone into the space he wants to go because of his fears, but tonight it was a huge issue on top of a difficult evening.  Control dominated and that part of me that judges everything was pissed off at having to deal with this absurdity when it simply came to getting dressed for bed.

With my husband’s help I reigned in my tongue and we got through all of it without any further issue, but it left me in a space of deep regret and reflecting upon myself in ways I had done before.  What makes a person want to break someone smaller than them – not physically, but mentally?  What is that compulsion and drive about?

While I can not deny the issue of convenience the bottom line was simply my lack of compassion.  For my son.  I had forgot about his humanness, about his tender heart, and wanted to steamroll who he was and make into something I related to: someone afraid to communicate his fears to the people he loved and relied upon.

Putting it like that makes my yelling all the shittier.  We all have fears and sometimes, for moments, those fears can be bigger than us; overwhelming and very truly mortifying.  This is still sitting ill with me, but in voicing the truth of my life experience and recollection I feel better equipped to be a better human being with him.  No one deserves derision for that which paralyzes them; for condescension to be the assumed response toward emotional honesty.

No one.

So when I snuggled him after his sisters had already succumbed to sleep I apologized.  No stories about my youth, about what my experience was, but simply saying I was sorry.  That I loved him and he did not deserve my anger.  When he became panicked that I might leave him before he was asleep I simply brushed my hand across his forehead, hugged him tighter, and told him I would not.  And so that’s where I stayed until his breathing was deep and his mind had wandered into dreams.

Then I realized this child of mine, my oldest, my only son, was so hard to love as he reminded me so very much of myself.  Except everything he acts out were things I always kept inside and his freedom of expression was merely a resentment; a reminder of what I never had.

Perhaps he isn’t so difficult to love after all…  it is me.

 

The Crunchy Rock Star Life

There are many days I feel undervalued – that is to say not valued at all – and overworked.  There is almost no help for it being a stay at home, homeschooling mom of three littles.  I’m either cooking, cleaning, planning, nursing, pacing, yelling, deep breathing, crafting, doing science experiments or sleeping.  Albeit not much of that last one.  My three year old has only ever experienced me not being with her through a bedtime routine a handful of times in her entire life.  She weaned some time around when my littlest turned about a month or so old and will, even still, sometimes asks to nurse (very briefly and only at bedtime).  My seven year old is currently sitting next to me as I type this because he had a bad dream and simply could not settle.  His sisters being in the same room as him did not give him the same comfort as having an adult did – his words.  So, here I am writing as he reads a book on endangered species while sitting between me and my husband.  A man I wish I had more time with.

And still I have a hard time regretting it.

You see, earlier this evening I tried to skip out on bedtime by taking a shower and then getting to a craft project to show the kids tomorrow.  Instead, I took a shower, heard some low tones from the bedroom indicating things were not going well, and so back I went.  My three year old held her arms out for me, wrapped me in a hug and said “Mama, you came back.  I love you.”  Her older brother grabbed my hand and said something similar.  It was as rockstar of a greeting as I have ever gotten and it solidified to me what exactly it is that makes me continue on this path I am on.

It’s that, despite all my failings, there are these little people who need me.  I am the keystone to their foundations – for now – and I have no interest in crumbling or removing myself from this position.  Someday they will not need me to be that for them and that will be okay.  For now, they do.  And that reason, above all else, is why I do not mind (terribly) that my son flips pages in a book next to me right now.  That this is happening because he simply could not calm down in the same room that a 20 eyed monster chased him through the woods in.  There were times, a sum total of a wretched number of hours, that I was not there for him; was not there to hold him, to kiss his tears away, or to whisper soothing words.  Too many moments of resentment for having to be there instead of understanding that it was a gift to be so.  It is painful for me to recall those failings while knowing there will be more as my relationship evolves with each of my children, but it is a reality I do not shy away from anymore.  That is life.

Messy.  Painful.  Frightening.  Beautiful.  Transient.

To rush through each moment is to belittle all of it and to shortchange ourselves the full experience of it.  And so I go to the arms of the crying child or sit beside the one who needs light and company and embrace that the to do list never seems to get shorter while inexplicably never containing the things I absolutely need to do.  Like simply being with my family.

 

 

 

One of Those Moments

I am not talking one of those “this is why I do what I do” moments, but rather those “why do I do this?!” moments.  Every day I seem to have some realization that strikes me.  A new awareness that has my inner voice standing off to the side (yeah, I know – just go with it), crossing her arms and saying “you know all the reasons this is wrong”.  And yes, yes I do, but I didn’t know I was going to do that until I did it and then it was a little late to do anything about it except kick myself in the ass for it later while listening to my seven year old point it out to me ad nauseum for the next two weeks.

For example: Yelling at kids to be quiet.  Nothing says awesome quite like raising my voice to declare “You’ll wake the baby!!!!”  Insert crying *here*.

Another example: Grabbing something from one child because they grabbed it from the other child.  While delcaring they shouldn’t grab things from people.

Now, these are only the examples I am willing to share publicly.  There are more.  So many more.  All of them make me wince in their recollections.  Too many of them are hardwired from the deepest, most primal part of me.

The part that yearns and screams for power.  To be heard.  To be recognized.  To be respected.

When I first started being a parent I thought what I needed to do was to work.  To keep myself as myself – a sovereign entity lest I “lose myself” to simply “being a mom”.  This made sense to me back then.  No matter how much I clawed at the notion of being the same as I held my baby boy, it was still something I bought in to.

It didn’t fit quite right.  I didn’t even try to be something else.  Instead, I exposed him to every bit of knowledge I had on a regular basis thinking it was best while never truly acknowledging what he needed or maybe what he wanted.  As he got older this shifted slightly, but only slightly.  The experience in our relationship was still predominantly about me all while I had no clue that it was.  Understanding that would have taken a person much more self aware and honest than I was at the time.

After having my second child it was still about me.  Only it was that way with my oldest still NOT with my daughter.  This behavior and mentality are only just starting to come to a nasty head with her and it has caused me to start fighting myself in ways I only wish I had done sooner.

Without having ever had her in daycare, preschool, or any other such program I have had the opportunity to watch her, support her, and learn from her in ways I didn’t with her brother.  Her seperateness is something that wasn’t forced – by me or external forces/choices (like working) – and so it’s come about gradually.  Naturally.  She does not want to do things I like doing and that is okay.

My son seeks out things I like in many ways and I sit with the understanding that they might not be things he would have chosen if he had not learned my presence was so damned conditional.  I would like to pretend it isn’t now, but as I have ventured back into the world of social media the awareness sits like a lead ball in my stomach.  Present.  Heavy.  Regretful.

This is not to say that my son doesn’t have his own personality, that his will is not strong and focused in certain aspects, but it is to say that it is obvious to me that my own egocentrism was weilded (unhealthily) against him – much as his is now being so in our family.  When I step back from my investments, from my need for approval, the love and support flows from me much easier.  The resounding issues in his behavior diminish as acceptance for who he is becomes the norm of the day.

It is hard to look upon my errors, to feel them so deeply every single day, and not have that spill over into the ultimate statement of “I screwed up my kid/s” with the inevitable and logical partner to “my kid is screwed up”.  This is the place of repeated damage we – me and my son – get caught up in.  There is no redeeming factor in this mentality; it only seems to get more hard wired into my behavior and emotional landscape each time the thought occurs.

My behavior becomes bent toward “how do I change him/her” and not “how do I love him/her better”.  It took reading this rather poignant article  to fully process exactly what it was that’s been going on in my house when it hasn’t been going great.  With record breaking cold temps and a cold bad enough to cause people to stay home, but not bad enough to leave them wanting to hang on the couch, there’s been lots of opportunity for that kind of learning.  Mostly in reflection shortly after all the short fuses of the people in the house have been lit.

As a parent I am not effective if my default setting is one of changing my child/ren not acceptance.  Compassion and love are the rule in a healthy individual who does not have needs of defense.  I can see it in both my daughters.  The three year old in her sense of righteous justice, her defense of anyone she loves being wronged, and my infant who just smiles when the people in her tribe smile at her and talk to her.  My son…  He is compassionate, kind, intense, and seemingly always left wanting because, in my opinion, he did not have the benefit of having parents who were tuned into him and his needs from the start.  This is our failing.  Not his.

For no matter his difficulties, no matter the obstinance, or mischief making – underneath it all he, just like all children, is love.  And there is no need to change him for he is not wrong.  *I* have been wrong.  It took having the great teacher that is my son to show me.

History Unschooling Style

History is a huge topic. One that by necessity is often taught without context in the school systems in order to cover what many consider to be the highlights. Obviously, there are many flaws in this approach. In the US it has led many to be rather ethnocentric while remaining ignorant to the philosophy and motivations that led to major events. As an unschooling parent I am pleased to say I am not limited in class time nor is there a specific test my child needs to be taught to pass. This allows us the luxury of time.

When the subject of war came up (again) rather recently my seven year old decided, that instead of focusing on one war (he was aghast there were a lot more than that) he would learn history beginning with… well, the beginning. At least as near to it as he could manage. For him this meant learning about Pangea, continental drift, and of course the dinosaurs. There are so many ways to tackle this and, honestly, I was unsure exactly how to start. But where there’s a will, there’s the internet!

First thing I did was look up things I thought my very tactile and artistic son would enjoy. Lucky for me there was this handy dandy print out.  So the first thing I did was print out two copies – one for my son and another for my oldest daughter so she could join in the coloring activity as well.

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Serindipitously said daughter also wanted to watch Dinosaur Train so in came the Pangea/not Pangea game. Each time the Pteranadon family boarded the train and the time period of their destination was announced my son would declare if it was the time period when Pangea was still theorized to exist or not (incidentally, that one lone dinosaur time period was the Triassic).

This was followed by taking out an old dinosaur activity book that had been left collecting dust on the shelves.  It had a whole bunch of dinosaurs with fact sheets inside that included the time period in which each existed.  My son read through each and pointed all the ones that lived in the triassic out to me while we worked together to sound out the names.

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Shortly afterward he disappeared into the playroom and started drawing them:

 

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This has led to a lot more discussions about other prehistoric creatures and a (failed) search through Netflix to find a suitable documentary.  Thankfully, we have a trip to our local library planned so we will be bending the ear of our librarian to find a good recommendation to further our knowledge and exploration of the topic.

What is your homeschooling style?  Unschool?  Curriculum?  Is there a specific way you handle history?

Inquiring minds do want to know!

Mama Unschooled

I don’t know when it happened. But sometime after the birth of my first, and definitely by the time I had my third, I became unschooled. Don’t get me wrong, I was definitely all about being authoritarian – inadvertantly (and isn’t this the worst kind of “do what I tell you” parent there is??) – but at some point well after I started speaking the words advocating for unschooling my children unschooled me. Unfortunately, in all my attestations of being self aware I was still blind sided by this knowledge until today.

Forget that my oldest will be seven next month (don’t get me started how much that is freaking me out – or as he would say – giving me the freaks), that I am just starting the potty training gauntlet with my sweet two year old turned possessed and demented three year old, and my third is not yet eight weeks old, and that I have been unschooling my children for several years now. Yet this is the first time that I knew *I* was being unschooled. As a parent, as a person – I am relearning, unlearning, adapting, and totally changing how I interact with people and this world.

The moment of realization came in the form of a play date. A moment, a small inconsequential one (don’t all big epiphanies seem to come during such quiet meetings?), presented its self in a less eventful manner than a tiny pothole in the road. I spoke to someone I didn’t know while my kids were playing – an exchange that was lovely and easy, unremarkable in subject matter – and it dawned on me: this is something I grew up thinking was a wrong and terrifying thing. That what ever I said was being judged harshly by EVERYONE. More so by people who did not know me. Better to not say anything if I could manage it. It’s safer that way. For me.

And there I was having a perfectly lovely exchange with A STRANGER as though it were the most natural thing in the world. THE HORROR!!!!

Then I observed my son doing it casually. His world has always encompassed chatting up and playing with whoever he met at a playground, a homeschool class of one sort or another, or people at the grocery store… Why? Because even my subconscious authoritarian temperament knew the only reason I possessed to tell him to be quiet with other people would be for myself. I couldn’t be judged if my child conformed to “social norms”. That never seemed right to me.

So here I sit taking a breather after looking up new crochet techniques and patterns while making sure I have Chinese New Year marked on my calendar (new homeschool projects on the horizon) reflecting on how I have shifted in the last few years.

I no longer require approval for what I do as a parent – homeschool or otherwise; being absolute in my ethics is becoming easier even if it means eating crow from my almost seven year old; learning is something I am doing along side of my kids – not from a place of authority but simply as someone who just loves to find out new things and is not worried about being wrong while doing so; the places of fear I have are no longer about me. They’re about those I love.

Any limitations that existed in my world were dictated by the fear of rejection, hurt, and other egocentric concerns that come about through damage done to a young person. They’re self perpetuating and damned hard to get past until you are willing to go against the grain and challenge everything you’ve learned through mainstream social interaction. Until you’re willing to be an outlier. That’s where the heart of unschooling yourself lies: Letting go of the concept of “normal” and embracing the truth that at our cores we are all unique. Unschool yourself. Embrace life anew with humility and curiosity and recall what it is to be a person unafraid of making mistakes or being rejected.

Unschooling. It isn’t just for kids. It’s for all of us.

Provided we have the courage to welcome it.

Homebirth Number Two

Occasionally I like to share pictures – as a result of me not feeling inclined to show pictures of my ass on the internet this will not be one of those times. However, I did want to talk about how my second homebirth went with my third child. It was blissfully uncomplicated and what I would consider to be “normal”.

I know, I know – how can something so incredibly varied and unique be equivocal to an average of sorts? Well, it simply was how it is meant to be when there are no extraordinary circumstances necessitating medical intervention. My tribe was present, kids sleeping in the living room with a dear friend, midwives and husband upstairs in the bedroom giving me words and support that I needed, and blissfully that was all. Truth be told this is the first online announcement (and last) of the birth of our youngest – at least from us.

The life that I was getting relatively sure would ALWAYS be inside me (I had just gotten that email that said “you’re 40 weeks pregnant” and admittedly got a tad grumpy) decided to leave and present herself to the outside world very early the next day. Once again, my midwives made it here in very good time and within an hour of the birth. This is what happens when one procrastinates about having the call made.

There was little about the birth that was orchestrated – supplies were gathered like chucks pads, alcohol, cotton balls, and some herbs for warm compresses to aid in the stretching necessary to bring life from within the body to with out – just a selection of people I wanted in my space during such an intimate time in mine and my family’s life.

My husband, who I had been cursing roundly for pretty much the two days prior to labor (this is what happens when you decide to tear off some of the kitchen wall when your wife is 39 weeks + 5 days pregnant), stayed present and massaged/pummeled my sacral attachments at my demands. When I couldn’t speak during contractions he stayed there and allowed me to simply move my body where it needed the pressure from him. He didn’t leave the room without asking and in the few moments he had to in order to aid in some supply rounding up my midwife was there for me to hold on to and to take over the massage.

This was my second birth with these two wonderful women present and each time they were grounded, present, and unwavering in their words of support and encouragement. My husband was also the one who, once again, caught the wee babe as she slid into this world. I think I can say for him as well as myself that it was nice this one entered a little slower than our last. The catching was far less harrowing as a result.

The experience, upon reflection, was nothing short of wonderful – even if I did look aghast at my son who, a mere two hours after the birth, said he would like the next baby to be a boy – and everything I wanted in a birth. Memories of the pain, the belief that my daughter’s passage would be impossible as I felt her head descend and pause within me – on the verge of entering this strange and fascinating world, the fear of it all is already fading. It was but one moment in time; a precipice from which life resumes and stumbles forward.

And so begins our journey as a tribe of five instead of four.

The Reason to be a Helicopter Parent

This goes against everything I have come to advocate for as a parent and yet…  There I am.  An almost helicopter parent.  While there are a few reasons to be one still – most of them having to do with my neuroses – the legitimate one I’m finding to be true is that other kids are not raised to be self sufficient in the ways that matter on the playground.  When other kids are unwilling to engage directly with or resolve issues with another kid that’s when it is helpful to be on hand for a wee bit of coaching.

Perhaps this isn’t really helicopter parenting, but I do my best to be aware of and in tune to what my kids might be experiencing.  The neurotic hyper vigilance born of having an almost three year old in a cast might also have something to do with this.  At least sometimes.

Now, this story (referenced briefly in this blog post) was a particularly difficult one to deal with.  My son was being soundly rejected by other kids at a playground for simply being him.  He operates on the assumption that everyone at a playground is there to play with everyone else.  I see it in how he is when we meet his friends at parks and other kids are there already or show up afterward:  nine times out of ten he introduces himself and includes them in playing.  This particular day his friends hadn’t arrived yet so he did what he always does – attempts to play with other kids.  Sometimes he does this without telling them he’s doing that, and in many cases this has worked out fine leading me to sometimes hear him and the other boys doing introductions at the top of their lungs as they engage in a game of tag, but this time…  Not so much.

When I heard these kids – bigger AND older than my six year old – running toward their mothers and saying “this kid is chasing us” I looked up and saw D (my son).  I called him over and asked him what was going on.

Awareness.  Dialogue happens with awareness.

The story I got was that he was trying to play with these kids and they rebuffed him rather rudely.  This hurt his feelings and he tried again by introducing himself.  They then called him something different and refused to call him by his real name.  Well, my son did what he always does when he’s hurt and pretended to be a dragon as he proceeded to chase them around the playground.

D talked about how he was hurt and how all he wanted to do was play with them, that he would prefer it if they would at least have called him by his real name since he had told it to the boys.   So I did what made the most sense to me and what I hoped would be good advice:  To go over and talk to the kids, apologize for chasing them, and ask them if it would be okay if they could all play together.

That is precisely what he did.  Before I come off as some stalker type parent I feel the need to say that my daughter was in a swing as were the other two boys in question so hearing and seeing what went on at this point was very easy to do without intentionally hovering.  Although, if I am to be fully honest, the eavesdropping was quite intentional.

Back to my son attempting to correct a wrong.  He apologized and asked them to play.  The boys ignored him.  Did. Not. Respond.  At least at first.  After a few moments they finally did and said, “No.  We don’t want to play with you.”

And then the real heartbreak.

My son said, “Okay, but could you at least use my name, though?  It’s D.”

The kid, swinging, looked at him and called him something else.

My son tried again, “I told you my name before and it’s D–, so if you talk to me could you please at least use that instead?”

Other kid:  “Whatever.”

In deference to my son, he can be full of piss and vinegar when crossed or hurt, but when he’s sincere he is all out kind and soft.  This is how he was in tone and demeanor by the end of this brief attempt at making right.  To see his pain was tremendously hard as was hearing the next question:  “Why don’t they want to play with me?”

The only responses I had were not kind so much as what I perceived to be the truth: “Sometimes people don’t forgive others when they make mistakes.  When you first played with them it sounds like things weren’t nice right off – so they might not be ready to try and play with you.”

D: “But I said ‘sorry’.”

Me:  “I know, but sometimes it isn’t easy for people to accept that.  A first impression can’t be undone and if they seemed scared by you at first they might be still.”

Oh, how I wish this ended there.  Truly.  Instead my son heard them telling other kids about him and pointing at him.  Yep.  Awesome.

I don’t care for the tattle tale bull in general (really, it seems like an epidemic these days), but this gossipy stuff really pushes my buttons.  Where the hell are kids learning this is the appropriate way of handling situations?  That it’s appropriate to poison others against someone they hardly/do not know?  And because of why?

Instead of launching into THAT as my response – oh how momentarily satisfying it would have been- when he informed me he would do the same when his friends arrived I fell back on the old adage “two wrongs don’t make a right”.  Such paltry words.  Very dissatisfying to hear when one feels victimized and with that last piece, the “don’t play with THAT kid”, that is indeed what he was. Apparently since they were surrounded by discussions of how it made him feel and why that wasn’t a fair thing to do to someone he seemed to latch on to it anyway despite his annoyance at the lack of retribution.

If there’s one thing I try REALLY hard to not do it’s to tell my kids what they should and shouldn’t do (unless someone’s in danger).   Truth be told my son rejects such ideas anyway.  Logic and reason have greater sway on his behavior than anything else could, does, or has.  So to him understanding that the wrong action – making someone an outcast among strangers – was enough to keep him invested in playing with his friends instead of engaging in doing the same thing to someone else.

The pain of what I have come to view as conformity education is a hard thing to witness my kid experiencing, it’s a pain that resonates so deeply within me, and yet the only solace I can manage to find is in the hope that his knowledge of being loved and accepted for who he is will hold him steady through it.  It does not negate the issues of kids forming in, and resulting out, groups – nor the hurt – but if nothing else support for his hurt, for who he is might aid in the formation of compassion and empathy instead of bitterness.

Perhaps he wont’ be the most popular kid on the playground, but when I see him going up to younger kids and asking them to play and engaging them in gentle games of chase or imaginary games of “hunt the dragon eggs” my heart is full at seeing his so readily on display.

Hopefully, some day, such broad acceptance of others will not be an anomaly.  In the mean time courage is what’s necessary as is a whole lot of love.