that marmalade quote I like so much

I made an error, recently. I relied on two entities who were sending checks. Both of them, insurance entities. Both of them insist the payment is on its way. They’ve told us this a little while now (months; weeks resp.). So far in our post office box blows tumbleweeds.

I counted on that money (that was my error). I bought the things our family needs. Now we are in a tight spot.

It’s easy to let a mistake slip into feeling sorry for oneself; into self-criticism. I can be patient with this a while.

But I also know an antidote to this, or at least a spiritual balm. An antidote to self-pity, to self-recrimination: work. Or as my friend John used to say, “chores”.

Not mindless work for the sake of doing it, but the work I should do no matter what. The work I’d do no matter what because it has to be done.

I have rice to cook, for an event I am helping with tonight. So. I saute up fine-minced garlic in olive oil and coconut oil. I set aside broth to simmer; season rice with pepper.

Dishes. Laundry. Yoga; coffee.

Breathe in; breathe out.

My son will wake soon. He will then be the next thing I get to attend to. I don’t know what our plans are for the day – our reduced circumstances have cancelled our road trip – but I do know I bought him lychee yesterday and he loved them as much as I thought he would. I do know I bought him a fifty-cent creampuff at a bánh mì shop and he saved that for this morning.

I do know that he and I will be provided for in some way – whether I can see it, or not. I often can’t.

How do I deal with a toddler who hits?

Last night, with Nels, watching “The Adventures of TinTin”. We typically don’t get five minutes in before I’m sleepy. He loves the show; I find it quite clever and sweet.

***

So it’s been a minute since I wrote about parenting issues here; I do get asked for advice fairly often. Yesterday I received an email yesterday so I thought I’d post it, and my response:

Hi my name is m*** and I was reading through comments on the “spanking facts” video on YouTube and would love to know what methods work for you. I have a 16 month old who hits everyone bites growls very angrily at myself and others when he doesn’t get his way. I have spanked yet as he isn’t even 1 1/2 and that’s awful but I need some kind of structure with this before he’s kicked out of anotherrrr daycare :/ love&light  <3 m*** 

m***,

I have a few resources for you, that other parents recommended to me. First, a little about my history.

I have always known it wasn’t right to hit children. When my kids were toddlers (as yours is) I tried not to hit them, but I did anyway. “Positive discipline” books and sites didn’t help me much. That said, here are some resources that other parents have recommended (so I can’t speak to them personally); I will then give you some of my own writings and recommendations.

Hold Onto Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers, a book recommended by Carla Bergman (@joyfulcarla on Twitter).

Positive Discipline A-Z: 1001 Solutions to Everyday Parenting Problems, as recommended by MaLora (@MaLora_Ann on Twitter)

http://shop.kidsareworthit.com/, a site featuring the works of Barbara Coloroso, as recommended by Carla Bergman (@joyfulcarla on Twitter). I have not looked into this author but probably will take the time to do so since Carla sent this along.

Now here are some works I have found helpful.

Anger: Wisdom for Cooling The Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh

For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty In Child-Rearing and the Roots of Violence, by Alice Miller (this book is very dry and also very intense, but quite wonderful).

And here are some things I’ve written personally about non-punitive parenting. They have helped others; perhaps they will help you:

https://kelly.hogaboom.org/tag/non-punitive-parenting/

I more have a few thoughts. If you know you don’t want to hit your kid, but you are afraid that his hitting and growling will get him thrown out of a daycare, those two things may eventually come into collision. Your situation will feel strained, and that doesn’t help us be gentle with ourselves, so that we can be gentle with our children.

It might be worth the time to talk with your daycare supervisors in a calm moment and ask that they help your child in a gentle way, to not hurt others. Tell them you are sure your child’s behaviors will wane if he is in a kind fashion removed from hurting others when he hits, and treated with patience. If they seem unwilling or non-receptive to this, you may want to find a daycare that is 100% gentle and well-staffed enough they can handle a child who growls and hits. A little one who growls and hits is not a monster or “spoiled” or anything – he just needs some help! Even if a better daycare costs more or it is a bother, it is worth it because you are learning not to sacrifice your child’s wellbeing to other people’s harmful concepts of discipline. It is your child’s childhood and that is so important.

I did my best not to hit my kids but I kept hitting and yelling. Eventually I discovered that I was very sick with a disease I did not know I had. When I took responsibility for myself and my illness, things got better. I am a gentle mama today and although I can’t change the past, it is at times painful for me to think about. If anything I write or say helps others to be gentle with themselves and their children, I will consider it a partial amends for my early parenting years.

Kelly

mothers’ day

A lovely morning with the kids. Sewing. A lunch date with my family, and my mother. Some volunteer work. A visit from a friend. Holding my husband’s hand. About to get into bed with him, now. It’s been a long day!

 

 

This morning my mom came over and told me she was giving me the most beautiful thing she owned – some columbine she’d waited three years to bloom:

 

From Ralph and the kids: a coconut cream cake and a pop-out weasel card – both homemade! #wins

 

While I was out doing my volunteer thing, Ralph made a video. I love that he uses only: his voice, his uke, his car keys, and his wedding ring.

 

 

I’d love to write some awesome verbiage but today was a big day for me and I’m beat-ass tired.

G’night, my lovelies!

that spluttering pilot flame

It’s cold, grey, and rainy outside. Nels and I sit in the still-warm car with the engine off; waiting for the arrival of my daughter’s school bus.

My son climbs over and lays across my lap. He has just told a sly joke, re-shared a funny moment of a film we watched the night before. He loves making me laugh almost more than he loves anything. I kiss the top of his head; I smell his hair. We have a new shampoo for him: sugared violets. The sweet grittiness mixed with with the smell and warmth of my son, is incredible. I hold him for a while but I know he’ll move any moment. I hold him because for a brief bit I can feel wonderful, amazing.

I’m a bit down, this afternoon. It seems I have been surrounded lately by the plights of children being raised, and schooled, according to the Poisonous Pedagogy – a worldview so rooted in at least Western society that, until I began to awaken to it, I didn’t believe it was very real, very much alive! Today I was exposed to several examples, several reminders – the specifics are not something I’m interested in recording, just now and in this space – and I am a bit discouraged. It is incredible how quickly I start to feel isolated in my desire to provide something better for my children, for the world’s children, for all who suffer, and for my grand- and great-grandchildren and so on.

When it comes to my children, and the world’s children, I teeter out of emotional balance often; it is easy for me to be overwhelmed at how much we’re failing at our responsibilities. I can feel sick when I think how much our children depend on us; and how vulnerable they really are. I can feel so angry when I see an adult promoting and then defending manipulative, or even cruel, methodologies of child stewardship.

It is easy for me to get out of emotional balance, indeed.

Today, I am committing to addressing my imbalance. I am committing to re-subscribing to a journal that I find edifying (and, probably, I will resume my career writing for it, if they’ll have me). I am committing to taking more care in the consumption of communities, individuals, and conversations purporting strategies I don’t want to enact, and ideologies I don’t promote. I am committing to deepening my practice of humility, and to enjoying my own family (“minding my business”). I’ve worked hard to do right by my  family – my own little spiritual community – and the fruits are self-evident.

I am re-committing to Buddhist parenting; I am so glad it is there for me to take refuge in.

I am aware that over the years I have helped many parents to find their authentic self; to turn away from violence, cynicism, cold-heartedness, and callousness. If you’re one of those adults and you are reading here, know that I’m doing the best I can to practice the self-care I need, so I can keep up the general effort.

And thank you, as always, for your support.

TIME FOR GO TO BED

Today I swam a long swim, hustled money from one old rotten tree stump to another (to cover bills about to post), did the housework, got my kiddos where they needed to be, took an alcoholic and an addict sans vehicle to two back-to-back meetings, and swooped in to pick up and foster a kitten displaced by an evacuation in Hoquiam.

Beyond tired. No quips here; and I lack the stamina to write a bit more about it, really.

Crashing into bed in 3, 2, 1…

presence / presents

My son is crying as he heads into the bathroom to brush his teeth. No – he’s not crying, he’s wailing. He’s devastated that I am making him take a trip with me. He wants to stay home.

I can’t leave him home alone. It doesn’t matter why really, because when you get down do it it’s just one of those grim realities of parenting that sometimes we have to do shit to our kids we don’t want to, or we have to make a crummy decision where someone’s going to be pissed, and sometimes it’s fatiguing. I still feel that panic, like somehow I should have said it another way or made smarter plans or, or, or bought him a pony – so he wouldn’t be upset. But the truth is life’s rough sometimes, and sometimes I’m just stunned into submission by it all. “At its best, Life’s a bitch,” as my now-departed friend Sandy used to say. I can’t protect my kids from all the ish and really, that’s not my job.

But I can gather him to me now and hold him and kiss him on the top of his head; his hair smells sweeter than anything I’ve known. “It’s okay, Little Guy,” I tell him now and he calms in my arms like a struggling little bird finding peace.

It’s cold outside but the house is warm and quiet. I’ve a busted-up vintage coat I picked up a few years ago for $20 at The Washington Store, one of those high-end tailored coats, not too fashionable really but it fits and it’s warm and I’m grateful as we head out into the brisk autumn air. My son is now bundled in layers upon layers, wrapped up, teeth brushed and face washed and now – sated, munching on a sandwich. Every couple nights Ralph bakes up a few more loaves of bread for the kids’ lunches and that fresh bread is immensely cheering no matter what else is going on.

And even now, my little boy, he cheers a little more that the car is warm and I’m buying him an eggnog at the coffee stand. Soon he is rattling along about this and that and I am using all my concentration to listen to him. My son’s mind is swift and enthusiastic and bright; a discrete little butterfly flitting from one flame-colored flower to the next. I am sluggish and distracted and pinched, mentally counting up dollars here and there and thinking of how much to put in the gas tank, how much to spend on dinner, how much I’ll need for postage. It seems I’m always aware I can’t let this stuff, or I won’t let this stuff, sap me from being here Now and being with my child. Being a present Mommy, the one person my kids want pretty much all the time or if not all the time, when they need some food or some love or some company. It’s a struggle and sometimes I feel like I’m drowning but I’ve never given up.

In the checkout I let Nels have my debit card and he pays for the purchases – “Like a Sir,” he says, pulling a mock-serious face and withdrawing the card from his wool coat’s breast-pocket. An older woman behind us in line is so thrilled at this little boy’s sweetness and energy that she can’t help but giggle at the slightest provocation, watching him with alacrity. Her delight in the child reminds me in looking at past pictures of my children, even pictures within the last year, that they grow so fast and I feel so much nostalgia, a kind of sadness, a kind of terror. I worry and fret and count pennies and make plans and it’s very, very easy for that to take the soul right out of me.

But I never have to let that happen. If I can just breathe in, right now. Just breathe, and Be.

small stone #4

rain-drenched earth and new mushrooms
my dog and I on a rural path.
He runs ahead, now and then swinging his head back to check my position –
very satisfied indeed

warts & all

Doubtless some of my readers have wondered why a few days ago I wrote about an excruciating experience in graphic emotional detail, but with little other disclosure. After a few days, and a few more developments, I am ready to share a little. Only a little, at this time.

Friday we found out that something assaultive, or more likely than not, more than one event, happened to one of our children. The discovery came as a complete shock to us and is taking an unpleasantly long time to accept. At this point, institutional and investigative entities have been employed. Because this is an incident that concerns one of our children, you can understand I don’t think the kids deserve me to sell out their privacy. Suffice to say my children and my family can benefit from support, and good, honest, safe-ass people in our lives.

One of the most agonizing aspects of this development is we do not have all the answers as to what has happened, and it may take time to get them. Also: unlike other sorrows I have gone through – like my father’s illness and death – this seems to have temporarily but painfully removed my ability to think about much else for very long. Life is suddenly surprisingly difficult – for me, at least. I can’t speak so much for the other three members of the family, who seem to be holding up well. I find myself going for many hours without being able to eat – then, like now, suddenly my appetite is back (ravenously so!). I have had two nights out of four that were just nightmarish, sleep-wise. I wished for Oblivion but I patiently waited that wish out.

I rode the bike about eight miles in a rainstorm again today for an appointment, and thankfully no one criticized me for this (just: don’t). You’d be surprised what I’m willing to do in hopes of restful sleep. (There is a lot I’m *not* willing to do, too!)

I am better off than I was Friday but I put that down to incredibly fervent prayer, and using the many types of support I have available to me.

Then there’s the “little” shit that is hard. It is frustrating that although it seems it would be easy for me to perform the tasks I normally do, I am having a great deal of trouble. Planning meals, doing the simplest of chores, let alone creative work or playtime with the kids, is almost entirely unmanageable at times. Compounding this is the fact that: doing work, within reason, is a good thing and I know it. Lying around watching Netflix and trying to blot out my brain – not so much.

One of the things I am still functional at is volunteer work. I do this – again, within reason, as I have responsibilities to myself and my family. I can’t tell you how meaningful it is to me to do something useful that doesn’t just serve myself and my family. I am daily in a place of gratitude for this opportunity.

I am definitely in that One-Day-At-A-Time space. Soon I will have experience to share, and will be able to share others. But I’m patiently waiting for that to come on its own time.

Thank you for sharing this time with me.

on a walk

My daughter, my mother, my dog, and I walk together along the moss-rich gravel road. My son and his friend trail us, deep in conversation. Suddenly that blood-chilling cry echoes out, a sound every mother knows. A scream of pain tore from the depths. I turn and my son is running towards me at speed. “Mama, Mama I’m hurt! I fell! I tripped! My hand is hurt!” Nels is eight now, but his cries have the same element of rawness I recognize from my first days of knowing him.

I don’t run to him or even move; I wait and collect myself. It never doesn’t hurt, witnessing the pain of one’s child. I wait in this cold sunshine, next to my own mother, and my son runs for me. I hold Nels close when he arrives into my arms. I inspect his hand; it is raw and bruised, and looks as if it has encountered a nasty sharp rock. I brush off his hand carefully, and I tell him that his hand saved his face from being cut. I wipe his tears and kiss him.

Instantly, he has stopped crying. Only a moment before he was wailing aloud. Now he’s thinking about his hand and his scuffed knee and how they protected him. He calms and his hazel eyes are deep in the storm of thought. He is now calm because he ran to me in distress, trusting I would save him, and I saved him.

This sort of thing happens everywhere, everyday, in a myriad of ways, with children and their mothers all over the world. Why do we not acknowledge what a miracle it is, and how deeply we needed, or still need, this mother?

"You happy now, bitch?"

a rebuttal

Another typical unschooling-defamation piece makes its way into my Tweetstream. I was inspired to make a little something I will picture in my mind every time this happens. Call it my personal moment of Zen.

"You happy now, bitch?"

This little bit of Photoshoppery has nothing to do with unschooling. It has everything to do with being awesome. For instance how awesomely I LOL every time I read or hear some other persnickety, tired-out, anti-child, parent-dissing pearl-clutching screed recommending enforced child-class institutionalization.

***

In other news: I wrote a new post at UB, but it’s kinda grouchy, fair warning. I had a good day today though, honestly.

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.