Ten List: Things That Make Parenting Easier, #9

A few of my Twitter followers asked that I elucidate on “ten lists” I’d turned out recently. Here goes with the ninth installment of my first list: “Things That Make Parenting Easier”, based off my ten-plus years being a devoted and hard-working parent. I hope you find it helpful. That is the only point of this post. To help those who could use it.

This is item #9. You can find item #1 here, #2 here, #3 here, #4 here, #5 here, #6 here, #7 here, and #8 here.

Each post will have a picture from my life, my day, when I wrote the post. A picture from this evening: on an 8 o’clock walk, Phoenix and Hutch pause and goof around. Hutch is RARING TO GO, out to the mile long semi-wild loop we call “The Flats”, just a few blocks from my house. The kids and Hutch get to here every day; usually Ralph or I (or both) also take the dog this way later in the day.

Happy Pup + Happy Daughter

#9. Parent my hopes, not my fears. Works brilliantly.

I parented my fears for many years. I thought about writing in a general way to cover lots of ground, but I’m worried these Ten List posts are too general. So let me talk about something specifically. Manners and so-called “socialization”.

For years I tried to parent my kids to be “polite” and well-mannered. I know that sounds good on paper, right? But unfortunately, “manners” were required at the expense of my kids’ authenticity; and, to be honest, at the expense of my own. Specific social niceties were required years ahead of when it was reasonable for a child to develop them. These behaviors were essentially enforced, rather than looked at as something they would naturally learn if I modeled them; what I like to call the long view of compassionate parenting. You know those annoying adults who give your three year old child a treat and then sing-song, “What do you saaayyy?” (meaning: This was not actually a gift, YOU MUST THANK ME FOR LIKE AN ANGRY AND CAPRICIOUS MINI-GOD I DOLE OUT CORN SYRUP BLESSINGS)? Yeah, I basically went along with that. “Say ‘please’,” I’d order them. Like a douche.

I sold my children out.

Oh, not every single time of course. And hey, weren’t my intentions good? It’s something many parents do, if not most (if you seriously think I’m judging, you don’t read me too closely). Today I have compassion for my former strategies. I wasn’t just culturally-trained to parent my children this way; it was also a family lifestyle. I certainly came by it honestly.

Yet, parented this way myself, I had not only resented it, but I’d learned the wrong things. I remember going out to a restaurant and one of my parents was so servile to her perception of the waitstaff’s time schedule that often I did not get to order the food I want, rushed through my selection I’d be forced to eat something I didn’t want. I wasn’t treated like an adult would be. Well into my adulthood this same parent did the same thing. A couple years ago she apologized to the waitress when I asked, perfectly politely, for an ice tea refill. “Excuse me, may I have a refill on my ice tea?” I ask. “Sorry!” my mom winces and calls out at the waitress. TRUE STORY.

This sort of thing was not an isolated incident, but hopefully it serves. I didn’t like being parented that way for about a dozen reasons. One, I learned as a child I was less important than an adult. I always knew this was bullshite, but I didn’t seem I had many people to back me on this. (Later, sadly, I would treat my own children as “less than”.) Two, I often felt like my parents, in particular my mother, would sell my ass out to meet some kind of approval from a perfect stranger. I hated my mother for needing that kind of approval from others. I hated her for not being in my corner. If your mom’s not in your corner, who is?

I’m happy to tell you today I no longer carry that hate and resentment; my mother’s need to get approval is none of my business. But releasing the resentments of my past does not mean I don’t remember how it felt and the reflexive responses I developed. Namely, being a people-pleaser. Saying “I’m sorry” for stuff that wasn’t mine. Caring more about “polite” and “nice” than kind, compassionate, and authentic. Saying “Yes” to stuff and coming to resent the person I’d said Yes to. Twisted shit.

Years ago I read an article by author Naomi Aldort entitled “How Children Learn Manners”, which fully articulated what I didn’t like about the way I’d been raised and the way, de facto, I kept treating my own kids. This article blew open everything I couldn’t fully articulate as a child. I’ve sent it to parents now and then who struggle with this issue.

I began to parent my hopes. I began to stop demanding my children perform in public. I began watching my own behavior and talking to my husband more about the problems in our previous approach. We figured if we modeled civility the kids could learn it (we were right).

I wasn’t perfect at this – specifically relinquishing controlling behavior. Old habits die hard. There was this weird gap too where I hadn’t learned to address my kids’ deeper issues effectively, but was determined not to be scary to them in public, and there were times I was caught amiss and the kids were too. (Here’s a great, gory story you’ll love.) I went through doubts and fumbles. But I am so glad I stuck to it.

Today I have no regrets. My children are kind and considerate. When they say Thank You, they mean it. They have well-developed consciences. Two days ago I came home and the children hadn’t done the dishes as they’d said they would; when my eight year old walked in from taking the dog out he said, “I apologize mama, for not doing the dishes.” then he did them. Stuff like that. The system works.

The truth is, it is rather easy to bully one’s children into being “well-behaved”, but it is not a lasting model, and there are so many negative side effects, as I’ve written on at great length in many other writings. It isn’t the issue so much but the methodology; I was parenting out of Fear. Fear they wouldn’t be nice and that it would reflect on me. Yup, I didn’t want to admit that to myself, but that was just about it. Talk about being self-absorbed!

Today I can parent out of Hope. Not even hope – Faith. I absolutely know children grow up on their own terms, and are best served being treated well and being around adults who treat all people well, big or small. I know it because I’ve seen it. I’m passing it on here, so maybe you’ll believe in it for long enough until you see it for yourself. Maybe you can have some Hope until you get your Faith.

a child’s purpose is to be a child

First. Hard at work with my first ten list. I hope anyone who reads finds it helpful.

***

The first rain in a long while helped me feel better. We leave the front door open and our pooch Hutch sits on the porch. He travels over to my mom’s next door now and then as she has this kind of expensive dog-treat/jerky business over there. He has probably lost about twenty pounds at this point. He’s feeling more spry every day. Saturday on our walk he chased a deer (not coming close, of course) BEST DAY OF HIS LIFE

The children’s summer activities are mostly getting into business outside, bookeneded by long periods playing video games – Terraria, Minecraft, and MapleStory. They’ve caught several frogs and delivered them to my mother’s pond. Friends come in and out of the house and eat any food that’s not nailed down. The kids are all getting ready for school. We’re getting ready to keep catching frogs and such, plus celebrate eleven years of marriage September 8th and then, get our Halloween festivities together.

Some older photos from my phone, just uploaded.

Archive Photos: Nels, Post-Bath

Nels out of the bath, ready to watch a movie.

Archive Photos: My Daughter Sleeps

Phee sleeps. True picture of sleeping. Not fake-sleeping. Yes I smooched her.

Archive Photos: THAT'S A LOT OF CALZONE

Ralph receives a huge-ass calzone. Everyone reacts.

Archive Photos: N1SF

Phoenix drew this a while back. I liked it so much I kept it around. Recently she re-discovered it and gave it to our friend Emily; I’m told there it adorns her refrigerator and meets much approval from houseguests.

stole my money, & my cigarettes

Before I forget. I wrote a piece about unschooling, and the many comments “skeptics” like to make. I hope you find it helpful.

***

Hot. Friends invited us to the River. Where we hid out. It was excellent.

Wynoochie River With Friends

Wynoochie River With Friends

Wynoochie River With Friends

NELS’ TEETH, I DIE EVERY TIME

A few pictures of a shy guy, my friend S. Whom I adore. My kids love him too. Kids are a good judge of a person.

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

S. at Wynoochie Wildwood

RIVER-DOG

Hutch, GOOD DOG At The River

My mom’s birthday. I made her a custom pincushion and got her flowers; then set up a surprise movie/dinner date complete with SUPER-SURPRISE birthday visit from my brother and his lady. Anyway here are the presents:

Jenny's 63rd Birthday

Jenny's 63rd Birthday

The local florist in Hoquiam is wonderful. Lucky to have some great businesses here.

verily my mind hath been blown

Today I was ill, in only one regard I can identify: I slept so incredibly poorly last night, not falling asleep until long after sun-up. So I put one foot in front of the other, literally, once I got up. I walked as much as I could. I walked with my kids and dog downtown on business- and pleasure-errands. I walked with my kids and dog (and one other child) to a meeting, then back. I made some food and did some chores and rested and watched a made-for-TV movie.

A bit ago Nels calls me from the bathtub, because he does not like being alone when it’s nighttime. I go in and sit down and he’s floating in the bath in the warm red light of the bathroom and he’s beautiful. So in a minute he tells me his penis is like a boat, bobbing in the water like a raft, and he does these little ocean-waves with his hand. Then: “What’s on the raft… a germ?” he asks. I’m like, Yeah, imagining a little germ with a captain’s hat standing like a coxswain on (what would be to the germ) a massive penis raft. And Nels says, “Two germs and a flea…” (we’ve had horrid flea problems with the new dog, which are finally abating thanks to a kindhearted-soul’s donations to our family) then while I’m still thinking on this ludicrous image Nels sits up very serious and says, “Can fleas see germs?”

CAN FLEAS SEE GERMS, this seems entirely reasonable. Holy shit, it’s like, I have been high a few times in my life, but my kids come up with these questions and/or observations straight-up sober, and pretty much any time you have a conversation with them.

Tonight is night two in a row of children camping in the backyard. A neighbor child D. is over here whenever he can be. He stayed last night, ate a great deal of food here today, and is staying tonight. I really would take him in and raise him but you’re not allowed to make those kind of overtures where I come from. So instead it’s like, I have this extra little guy with me. I wonder how he’ll remember our family. I wonder what the future has in store.

Today Phoenix and I are walking with the dog while the boys trail behind us. And I say, “I think D. has a crush on you,” and she says, “Obviously,” and flicks the dog to attention and bangs on the button for the crosswalk lights. OBVIOUSLY, spoken with a thousand percent aplomb. She really kills me.

friday links: the garden of your imagination

Today: Hutch was invited to be the official newshound of Grays Harbor Down. Pretty cool stuff!

 
Someone’s cutting onions up in here.

“Letter to a Teacher from an Aboriginal Parent (1977)” – if you’re a human being, you should read this.

The trouble with kids today. OK, there’s so much to love about this post. I cringe-laugh at the Connery interview. I know I shouldn’t feel bad for him, publicly airing his ignorance and fear, but I kind of do. And it’s ironic our macho, best Bond (well, I like all the Bonds, but got a soft spot for Mr. Connery) is in reality a frightened person, who hits and then justifies hitting as making sense. But I really liked all the quotes at the bottom. “Get off my lawn”, the world is going to the dogs, “kids today”, et cetera. Good stuff.

Some comments on the MSM’s depiction of Mr. Holmes, who last week murdered people in a theater in Colorado.

A piece on Spiritual Bypass; a concept I’ve been thinking about a lot, lately. Good stuff.

Who Gets To Be A Geek? Anyone Who Wants To Be by John Scalzi – a great piece (except for the obligatory hipster-diss – what is UP with that?). ANYhoo, a wonderful takedown of Peacock’s crap.

& finally: NEVER FORGET

my 2000th post, broseph

I’m pulling out of the driveway but only a little bit nervous, as Ralph still isn’t home. I forgot what I’ve known for some time now – this week he starts 4/10 shifts with Fridays off (yay!) and won’t be home quite yet. Nels runs outside. Nels never. And I mean never. Ever. Let’s me leave without giving me a hug and a kiss. “Hug and a kiss!”, every time. He’s hung off the car before. He’s chased me partway down the block in his underwear. These days, obviously, I stall in the driveway so we don’t have to go through any of that.

“Where are you going?” He asks.

“A meeting.”

“But you’re going to throw up again,” he says.

“I’m better today,” I tell him.

“I hope so. I pray so nothing will happen to my Little Mama.”

I know what he means. I struggle with fear, because pain is so great when it comes. I am still trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be learning. I have learned a few things. Maybe if I write them out, I’ll feel better.

***

I was busy today. First a long walk-run with Hutch. Then a doctor’s appointment (by the way, my doctor recommended, as treatment for a kidney stone attack, slamming two beers in quick succession! I kid you not. And needless to say: ain’t gonna happen).

Then sewing some rad shit:

Cocktail Napkins!

(more pics to come!)

Something I’d looked forward to: D. with Freedom Tails came and visited and we talked about Hutch – who is at least thirty pounds overweight, and is suffering from a mild (but could-get-worse) skin reaction, likely from his food. D. and I talked quite a bit about the dog, his past and present (you can see him here as a past graduate, under his previous name “Hootch”).

D. had some absolutely wonderful recommendations and daily I am just super-pleased with what I’m learning from our dog. He already can walk well-healed and without stopping or marking, travel with me off-leash, respond to a “heel” command off-leash, and will come when I want him back on leash. Considering I’ve had him only two weeks and by the time he came to live with us he was an escape artist and a dog who pulls on leash AND sniffs and marks when he felt like it – well, things are going well indeed.

Not to mention I LOVE HIM SO MUCH AND WANT TO POST PICTURES OF HIM CONSTANTLY and sometimes do (on Twitter).

The pets rested after a busy day.

4 Out Of 5

I LITERALLY NEVER GET TIRED OF TAKING PICTURES OF MY CATS

Hamilton, Keepin' It Classy

All Pooped Out

Harris

I shall not comment on the cats’ lifestyles. I shall not.

the god of hellfire & wieners to boot

E. Gets Her Hot Dog On
She roasted that fucker LIKE A BOSS

My Son
Nels. Is it just me or is he stunningly beautiful! He’s full of the devil too. If you haven’t caught on.

Concentration, Part 2
Focus… focus

Hutch, Chillin'
OK, Hutch kept “accidentally” sliding into this weird dark hole behind him. He was nervous about the fire. I had him off-leash all night and he behaved perfectly. He’s a winner!

I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE
It was a lovely night.