Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Tyranny of Good

Parenting and family living are full of tyrants.  You might be thinking of the pint sized ones who rage over food choices and dictate everyone's sleep schedule but that's not exactly what I was thinking.  I was thinking of the passive aggressive ones, the tyrants who sneak into your house without you really even being aware, who you find yourselves in servitude to even though you don't really recall making a conscience choice to do so.

One of those tyrants seems to be connected to good.  It pops up when your daughter begs to do dance classes.  It appears again when your church starts a new program that promises to help your children become more spiritual.  It just continually resurfaces with fliers from school, Facebook posts from friends, and newspaper photos of the latest sports camp.  Our culture has created a smorgasbord of "good" opportunities and activities for families.  Each activity is somehow connected to a facet of child raising that we should be tapping into in order to raise well rounded, even Godly children.  Apparently, our kids should be taking piano lessons, acting in the community play, participating in at least one sports related activity, registering for robotics workshops, and attending our churches' weekly Bible club.

I hesitate to say that lest others think I am a big stick in the mud.  Those things are good things and really don't seem like tyrants.  But they are.  They are tyrants because they make parents make choices they would not ordinarily make.  They cause parents to abandon personal values connected to finances, time management, and childhood in general.  Instead parents feel guilty, as if they are depriving their child.  It seems like it is really hard for parents to say things like "No, we're not doing that activity because they practice twice a week and have a game once a week and that is too much of a time commitment for our family."  "No, we can't make a regular commitment to that activity because it interferes with our supper hour. (or our bedtime.)"  "No, we can't afford that activity."  "No, we can't afford that trip."  "No, we're not doing that because I don't like the values that coach or organization seems to stand for."  I say it seems that way because in my own personal experience, it has seemed really hard for me personally to say those things.

Our fear or guilt over depriving our child of amazing opportunities in childhood has meant that people keep their kids out way too late, eat supper via a plate of food carried out to the car, and spend the amount of money many people around the world make in an entire year on one activity for their child to participate in for 6 weeks.

The longer I have been a parent and the older my kids get, the more I realize how upstream I am swimming.  And it makes me frustrated because I am pretty sure I am no the only one who feels that way.  This week, I heard another parent describe a situation involving her small group at church that was considering pushing their meeting time until 9:30, on school nights, despite everyone in the group having elementary aged children.  She appeared to be the only one who had a problem with such a late dismissal time.  

This summer, the whole idea of swimming upstream smacked me in the face as my 7 year olds brought home the sign up sheets for summer tee ball/baseball/softball.  Apparently, our local park and recreation programming no longer sponsors tee ball, baseball or softball for anyone who is out of kindergarten.  The only option available is to join the club team.  Both D and I saw the sign up sheets at different times and we both had the same reactions.  The initial impression from the paperwork was that it would cost $145 per child to play for 6 weeks during the summer.  (After asking around a bit, I found out this wasn't quite accurate as $100 of that was a deposit that was refunded if you worked in the club's concession stand.)  For us, the initial impression was that it would cost us $300 since we have two kids.  (And we would also have to travel in two directions since one of our seven year olds would be playing softball and the other baseball.)  Deposit not withstanding, for girls to play softball, at age ten, the fees jump to $150 plus the refundable deposit.  None of that is particularly out of line for a club team.  But it just seems crazy that if you are wanting to introduce your child to a sport, that you should be shelling out such a significant amount of money.  It left me feeling like I was the only parent who thought the fees and immediate jump from tee ball to a traveling club baseball/softball was a bit much.

So what's the point?  Am I just ranting and then crawling into a bubble, where my kids are sheltered from the horrors of an American childhood?   I hope that isn't how this sounds.  Every family makes different choices, and if you are happy with the choices you're making about organized sports, music lessons and other creative outlets, and academic pursuits, then so be it.

But for those of you who do feel like you are swimming upstream, know you're not the only fish.  Let go of the guilt that you are ruining your child's high school or college football career.  (Because quite possibly, you're not.  Natural athletic talent is natural athletic talent, club sports or not.  As a soccer coach, my hubby always says the best way to increase your ability is just to play.  It doesn't matter where, whether it's shooting baskets in your driveway or playing football in the empty lot at the end of the street.  I have to agree.  The times when I grew the most in terms of athletic ability were the times when I just played a lot.)  It's okay if you don't have the money to buy your child 14 different dance costumes or hotel room for a club tournament.  Saying "No, we can't afford it" is a life lesson your kid needs to learn.  (Even if it feels brutal to say it as a parent.)  No one will think you are weird if you can't do a weekly activity because it dismisses hours after your child's bedtime.  (Okay, maybe people will.  But not me.  I completely understand.)  Just keep swimming.

Friday, September 19, 2014

I'm Late (And No, Not That!)

Kenson turned 8 way back at the beginning of August.   For lots of reasons, I'm just now getting around to posting the pics.  His three wishes were:  1.  Spiderman cake  2.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys and 3.  taking a friend to Lost in Fun.  

At age eight, Kenson loves to play football or soccer at recess.  He loves to read super hero books.  He does a great job with babies and younger kids.  He smiles easily and makes friends easily.  I loved hearing at the last parent teacher conference, "Who doesn't like Kenson?"  He is still a pretty sensitive, thoughtful soul.


Ninja Turtles galore-books, cheapy paper masks (which he has played with and played with), a figurine, and movies

The cupckakes of Facebook lore-they were a bad bad thing.  I'll blame Walmart which did not have any black icing for piping in a tube with a super small tip.  We ended up using black licorice that was hard and very unflexible.  I laughed a lot by the end.  Trust me, when I say that they look better in the pictures than they did in real life.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Disappointment

Sunday, Zeke and I headed off for Minneapolis for a visit to Shriner's Hospital.  It was just a routine check up, where the hand surgeon was checking the progress of Zeke's new finger.  We really didn't have any concerns since having Zeke's cast off 6 weeks ago but we did have a few questions and the doctor wanted to see how the nerves were regenerating.  For those of you wondering, right now, Zeke is unable to to use new finger but that's not outside the norm.  That said,our questions for the doctor involved the puffiness that still exists on palm side of his hand, under the new finger and the angle at which the finger was sitting.  Right now, the finger is kind of askew, not creating a 45 degree angle with the rest of his hand, like fingers do.  We assumed this was due to the swelling that was there and that this would correct itself once the swelling went down.  We had not seen much of a change though over the last few weeks at all even though the swelling had decreased quite a bit.

After talking with the hand surgeon and getting a set of x rays, it is clear that Zeke's finger is not healing correctly.  At some point, it slipped from the correct position and drifted into its current one, at an angle.  This may account for why he has not be able to really use it yet because the bones are not aligned properly.  Dr. Moran was not certain why it did that other than to say that even though they x rayed the finger after taking the cast off and everything looked good, that the bone could have not been as healed as it should have been and it just slipped off.  Or it is possible that he actually broke it at some point but didn't feel any pain since the nerves have not yet regenerated.

Nevertheless, this all has to be fixed.  I don't know all the details yet because I need to ask a few more questions but at some point in the near future, we will be returning to Minnesota and they will do some type of procedure to realign the bones.  Then Zeke will be casted for another 4 weeks.

 Disappointing?  Definitely.  Not only do I not want Zeke to have to have another procedure with anesthesia, an IV, and a cast, but it is really hard to figure out the logistics of trips, specifically what to do with the other kids.  And no one really relishes the thought of more trips that mean 8 hours of drive time, one way.

It is also one of those situations where it makes you fearful that you have made the wrong choice, that somehow this issue will be permanent and that you have just screwed up your kid's hand and foot for nothing.  I know on a head level that this is not true but emotionally, it makes me doubt our choice as well as makes me wonder if we could have prevented this.    There's also the feelings of wondering if we should have noticed this was wrong earlier and mentioned it to the doctors.  (We did notice that it was not lined up but no one said that we should be wary of this type of issue and we assumed that it was just an issue of swelling and perhaps just how his hand would look.)  Again, on a head level, I realize that wouldn't have made much difference other than being seen by the doctor a few weeks earlier than our actual appointment.  But parenting is like that, isn't it.  Irrational fears (or rational ones) feed on your anxiety and grow bigger and bigger the more you think on it.  Guilt and insecurity creep in and you are certain you've made a mess of things.  So thankful that is not true, even when it feels like it might be.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Kai is One!

Kai turned one on August 28.  We celebrated with the grandparents as Derek's dad and step mom and my mom came for a visit.  It's hard to believe that we really do have a one year old but the month has been so busy there hasn't been a lot of time for reflection on that.  (Which may or may not be a good thing.)

Derek and his dad took in the McNeese State Husker game on Saturday

Grandma JoAnn with the baby-I love Kai's expression as he looks at her

And I love Grandma JoAnn's expression in this one

Conleigh helped with the cake.  With so many birthdays in the months of July and August, I was looking for something simple and Conleigh found this idea in a coobook she checked out from the school library.

He really didn't turn the cake into a disaster.  But he did think it was yummy.

Hanging out with Grandpa Dave

Presents

Monday, September 8, 2014

Correct Answer

Yesterday, I posted a little quiz regarding the recent events in our family.  It was a bit like an on online version of the party game, "Two Truths and a Lie."  So which event out of the following is the lie?  Kai cut his top two teeth, Zeke poked a rooster with a stick and has a large scratch, or a child superglued items to our basement floor?  If you picked a, Kai cutting his top two teeth, you are the winner.  While he has dealt with bulging swollen gums for the past week or so, they are still not through and don't appear to be any closer to bursting through.

As for the others, yes, Zeke poked a rooster with a stick and was attacked by a rightfully scared rooster.  A family friend was watching the boys while I was at work and I think it nearly scared her to death.  Her exact words were "I was so worried it was going to peck his eyes out."  I of course kind of figured that perhaps Zeke got what he deserved.  Zeke was a bit worried that his sitter was going to be mad at him because she was yelling but I think she was yelling mostly at the rooster.   Interestingly enough, the rooster incident was not the worst thing that happened to him that day.  He was most upset because he really wanted to catch grasshoppers and every time he did, they would poop on his hands.

We also experienced a bit of a glue bandit as someone used glue to affix random objects to the basement floor.  Yes, everything in the photo is glued down.  Yes, the other glue spots were from other objects that had already been removed.  Yes, it was completely random things like felt, an arm band, a ball, a fabric turnip, a cup, and a semi truck trailer.  No, I do not know which child did it and no, I do not know where they got the glue.  The child I most likely would have guessed was banned from the basement for messing with my sewing machine which also including gluing something on to my sewing machine.  And I'm pretty sure this happened after the banishment.  But I'm not 100% on that.  All children have now been banished as this is just one more thing in a long series of incidents connected to misusing the basement play space.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Multiple Choice Quiz

One of these is not an event that actually happened this week at our house.  Can you guess which one?

Choice A:
After a good week of swollen gums, Kai finally cut his top two teeth.

Choice B:
Zeke poked a rooster with a stick and is now sporting a 4 inch long scratch on his cheek.

Choice C:
Some extremely creative (eh hem-naughty!) child super glued random objects to the unfinished basement floor.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mean

Mean.  Sometimes people are just mean.  Sometimes kids are just mean.  Sometimes we might even surprise ourselves and find that we are mean.  Or we are completely embarrassed to learn that our kids have been mean.  Mean just stinks.  There isn't anyway to stop it.  There's no inoculation against it.  It is not selective and affects every gender, every age, every skin color, every economic class.   Mean is not the same as bullying although every bully is mean.  Mean causes your cheeks to blush and your eyes to well up.  It can make anger rise up in you but in the same moment, causes you to squash that anger back down lest that provokes more mean.  It makes you want to hide, want to fight, want to wilt, want to flee.  No one wants mean to visit and no one wants mean to camp out on your doorstep, making every day full of misery.  Most of all, no one wants it for her kids.  But you can't stop it.  You can only contain it, teaching your kids how to respond to it in ways that reduces the power of mean.  It's a bit like teaching your kids how to deflect some evil spell, minus the the magic words and beam of light, showing them how they can take the mean and magically shrink it into a smaller package that is lacking all of its oomph.

Our latest encounter with mean was one my kids didn't even hear.   At least, they didn't hear it in the moment.  But I chose to run a bit against the grain and told one of my kids about it anyway, because he is going to probably experience plenty of mean and he needs to know how to twist mean into a deflated pile of words.  As the kids and I were getting into the van after school, there was another group of elementary kids walking on the sidewalk by our van.  As they neared us, Zeke saw a snake in the grass so he ran away from the van, towards the snake.  I redirected him back to the van and was starting to walk into the street to help him buckle when I heard one boy yell loudly to his friends, "Hey look at his hands!"  Mean just showed up as a carnival barker, pointing out Zeke as some kind of freak side show.  By that point, Zeke was already in the van.  But the poor boy who said it was still close enough for the mama to give him a piece of her mind.  My alter ego, which resembles as a first grade teacher, arrived just in time to tell him that it was not okay to say that, to ask him how he would like it if someone yelled such a thing about his hair or shirt or face.  There's something about being redressed by a stranger which usually makes most kids get instantly quiet and this little guy was no exception.  

The interaction then left me with a decision to make:  ignore it and pretend like it hadn't happened or tell Zeke about it and use it to preteach what to do.  Oh it would have made me feel a bit better to just have just let it go.  I hate that people are mean and I'd rather not think on it or dwell on it.  But the next day at lunch, when it was just Zeke and I, I started the conversation and told him what had happened.  I asked him what he could say if that happened and I wasn't there.  He matter of factly told me that he'd just tell the boy he had surgery.  When I asked him what he would do if the boy kept talking about it, he told me that he would just ignore it.  We then spent a bit of time talking about how people who use mean words will use mean words regardless of how many fingers you have.  Someone who is mean will always manage to find something to critique.  If it's not your fingers, it's your hair, or your glasses, or the way you run, or the way you read.  Knowing ahead of time that people are mean, that you are not powerless to deal with it, and that it is not about you but always about the person who is choosing meanness are all ways to help our kids navigate life.  

I hate that for one of my kids, his hands are such an easy target.  But gosh I love that this same kid is so amazing that so many of his friends don't even see his hands; they just see him.  It makes me think about a story my friend, Nicky, shared about her daughter, Saige.  They had just finished watching an episode of Daniel Tiger which featured a character in a wheelchair and the theme of how to deal with differences.  Saige was quick to point out that she had friends who were different.  Nicky was so sure she was going to mention Zeke and his hands.  But no, she just wanted Nicky to know that her friend, Emilie, had red hair.  May all of my kids be blessed by friends who love them as they are, who will help them be confident and sure.