Part of what I like so much about taking care of kids is that you have to deal with different layers of your own “shit” in order to look at them as individuals. The wonderful kids who visited last night have an entirely different structure to their lives compared to most of the kids we hang out with and as a result it was neat seeing some of the social differences.
These kids… respect authority. Holy shit. And they are capable of sitting still and focusing. Whoa. Unschoolers that I know are capable of intense focus but it’s kind of random when it happens. It is an accident rather than how they approach most problems. These kids sit down and do an activity to completion then do another activity to completion. They aren’t hummingbirds.
I think it is good for my children to learn how to deal with this very different attitude towards life. The kids who visited last night are being socialized such that they will be capable of being successful in a school environment. They show me some of the layers of why I think I would fail at teaching my children how to be successful in that environment.
Hell, these kids have a better attention span than me.
And I could assume that they just aren’t comfortable enough to be sassy yet (probably partially true) but I think it is mostly true that they just aren’t permitted to be assholes in the way I let my kids get away with pushing boundaries. I see layers of learned behaviors that I couldn’t even begin to duplicate. These kids are not rule breakers in the same way. I don’t think they’ve been told that breaking rules is part of life. *Ahem*. (I won’t tell them.)
I think I uhhh disrupted the social order enough by telling them that actually, yes men can be queens too. Doesn’t matter if you’ve heard of it before, I’ve met some.
I will barely wave my gender-freak flag. Just a little bit. A tiny bit. Just barely a wave. No, boys don’t have to be one way and girls don’t have to be another way. Uhhhh Forget-That. (Which is way better than Fuck That to my friend’s children because boy howdy are they not allowed to talk like that. I was good!)
It is very hard to be a good example when these children need to turn out in a way that I completely failed at. The life they are leading is a life I am singularly unqualified to be a good example of living. I fail. Over and over at school after school. I don’t know how in the hell to handle that social dynamic. I hate jumping through hoops just for the sake of jumping. I get very angry with busy work. It’s taken multiple decades to squash my rage over being bitched out because I was “doing art wrong” and it’s hard for me even now to do group art activities.
I have finally learned how to make art for myself. I still can’t bear to have anyone in control of what or how I am doing my art because I’m fucking tired of being told I’m doing it wrong.
These kids are a challenge to me because I have to manufacture behavior I have specifically rejected. Oh shit. I have to watch my fucking mouth. Which is obviously not something I enjoy doing. But I do it for them because they would be in a lot of trouble if they picked up my language. That’s not fair. My kids don’t really get in trouble for saying fuck. So they do sometimes. I can’t slip in front of these kids because they would get no end of trouble and that’s just shitty and awful. I don’t want to be a bad influence for them.
I want to be a good influence. And that means consciously choosing behavior that is opposite of my normal priorities.
I think this is part of what being community means. We don’t have to be exactly alike. We don’t have to be on exactly the same path. We are very different and that’s ok because it takes all kinds. Being these different ways involves different skill sets so we don’t act very similarly day-to-day and that’s ok.
It might even be optimal and make the world a better place or some shit.
I talk to my kids about the fact that I am a stay at home mom because *I* want to do it. Because *I* have things to learn here that I won’t learn in other environments–about patience, forgiveness, trying and failing, and attachment. Those aren’t lessons other people need to learn at the same time in their lives so staying home is NOT the right path for every mother.
They are very curious how the dynamics work in other families and I’m really grateful we are being allowed this window into how it works. I don’t pretend we understand from one night of visiting…. but we got a peek.
These kids are different from my bonus kids. The only people who got into trouble for screaming last night were my progeny. Because we are so fucking loud all the fucking time. Ahhh, I’m so proud. These borrowed kids…. would not be permitted to be loud like that. They looked a little stunned by the volume. We did work on it. I’m so sorry. I hope we didn’t burst your ear drums.
We really need to learn how to tone down better. It wasn’t as upsetting as it was to my niece, Jenny’s daughter, but it was… over the top. We get so excited about seeing people and then our volume just goes up. It’s not a good approach to life.
I’m starting to work with Shanna on such things and I haven’t really started working with Calli yet because I think that the easiest developmental window for dealing with the loud is 5-7 when they are doing an awareness shift, cause/effect thing in their brain. Clearly it could be taught much younger. But you sacrifice other benefits if you squash this young.
I want kids who are capable of being as aggressive as they need to be. You can’t develop that later if it is squashed out of you young. You also can’t be very good in a school environment while young if it isn’t squashed out of you. Life is complicated.
I say you “can’t” and that’s bullshit. Lots of people learn how to be more aggressive as adults because they have to do it. I would prefer if my kids just have that force of personality from the get-go.
I asked Shanna why she is so good at knowing that other peoples feelings aren’t her fault and she laughed. She said that I taught her. I laughed and said that is funny because I’m not very good at actually believing that. She said, “I’ve noticed. You should work on that.” I said I was not very good at listening to my own advice. She said, “You know, you should listen to you. You are a pretty smart lady.”
I started crying and she hugged me. I don’t know if she is 6 or 26 sometimes. I’m very grateful for these children I have born. They make every day a pleasure and a joy. Even when they bug the shit out of me.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to deepen our relationship with these kids. I’m afraid I didn’t reach out as much to them as I wanted to. My back hurts wicked bad and I spent part of the visit lying on the ground trying not to cry. That sucked. I am going to call local chiropractors on Monday. I’d like to not be hurting like this before the trip. It would be very hard to do the work.
The older girl plays with my two very easily. I’m going to have to work harder on finding games and activities for the two youngest (my youngest and the borrowed youngest) because they aren’t figuring out friendship as easily. The two oldest and Calli are all bossy, pushy kids. The other younger girl is… just not. She’s not “LOOK AT ME” in the same way. I’m going to have to work really hard at getting to know her over the years because she doesn’t shove her personality in everyone’s face and say, “NOW LOOK AT ME” the way the others do. I will have to decide to work at getting to know her. I only know her a little at this point and I feel kind of ashamed of that. Maybe I should have asked to hold her more as a baby. I don’t like asking to hold babies. I feel presumptuous. I take offers. I help when people need help. This mama is very competent when she has her kids so I would never presume to snatch her babies from her. So I didn’t bond as young with this kid.
That’s ok. We aren’t dead yet. There is still time. She’s a nice kid, just a lot more shy and reserved. That personality type isn’t really my specialty but I am always in the market for new skills. I’ll figure something out. It will be something that will require thought is all.
They have much better manners than my kids and they can sit still. It’s a bit dreamy. They sat in a chair for a meal without needing to be pestered.
I have some parenting envy right now. HOW DID YOU DO THAT?! But to some degree I understand part of how it was done and it was done in a package with stuff I don’t want and so… I have to deal with some behaviors I don’t like as much because I get so much that I do like. That’s life. I can live with the end of the stick I’m carrying these days.
I don’t feel like I have the short end of the stick any more. Not that I think this mama does. Maybe that’s a bad metaphor. Uhm, I don’t feel like I’m parenting all wrong because my kids are much more annoying than these kids. I feel like I have very different goals. I don’t think that my goals mean my kids will be “more successful” or “happier” or “fill in the blank”. Well… I think my goals are aligned with creating people I can live with. That means very weirdly attuned to the world. It doesn’t mean better. It means better-for-me which is SO MUCH not “BETTER”. If you know what I mean. It wouldn’t work for everyone.
I like these kids and I can see how their mom is doing a good job of preparing them for the life they lead. They are learning the skills that will allow them to do the things their parents want for them. It’s really neat to watch. It is fascinating having that next to my kids for a day. We want different things and that’s very ok. It’s good. It’s wonderful. It is how the world should work.
The world requires folks like their parents. IT workers and engineers. They are important. They build things and keep things up and running so other people can get the health care they need. Those are real skills that are actually impacting the world. In order to get to such a point you have to have a whole framework of skills… I pretty much lack.
Starting with the sitting still. That’s been a problem for me all my damn life. I can’t teach it to my kids because I haven’t mastered it. I can’t model it. Sometimes I feel kind of ashamed of myself when I deal with five year olds who can sit still and I just fucking can’t.
I try to just feel happy that their mother is past the horror of car seats. I too will someday arrive at the coveted world of booster seats.
Please, oh god, oh god.
It is hard feeling like you are doing the right thing. Especially when everyone around you is on a different path. It is hard to see what the path even is. The path I want to be on includes community building. Which means figuring out having community members who aren’t friends. It means supporting my friends. It means figuring out how to support people in gaining skills they need that I do not have. It means being supportive of all different kinds of ways of handling situations.
It’s hard. Because I’m really a judgmental asshole and I have these kneejerk, “I couldn’t sustain that” feelings about behaviors and then I want to loudly comment on how they aren’t sustainable. When really they aren’t sustainable for me and other people don’t have a problem. That’s kind of embarrassing to announce out loud. (Ask me how I know. Or don’t. Just assume it is an embarrassing story, ok?)
If my back pain were below a 4 I would feel like I was having a party. My back pain is hanging out this minute around a 6 and yesterday was up to 7/8 so I didn’t feel like I was having a party. I didn’t feel like I was having that much fun. But it went really well anyway. I tried hard to be aware that my cloud of “ugh” was pain.
Also, my period finally started. Only a measly 7 days later than expected. And it is slow going this month. Hardly anything is coming out of me and that’s kind of weird. At 36 hours into my period this time I’ve lost about as much blood as I usually lose in the first 6 hours. I know because of how fast I soak the pads.
I haven’t been able to eat much lately. And most of what I can eat without feeling really sick is fruit and vegetables. WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON WITH MY BODY?!?!?! THIS IS NOT LIKE ME. I’ve been a carbitarian for most of my life. I live on wheat, meat, and dairy. Those are my three main food groups. I grudgingly eat vegetables because I have to and I rarely eat fruit. I just…. don’t really do it. The textures bug me.
Until now. When dinner is artichoke and orange. Or strawberries and fennel. I ate fucking strawberries and fennel for dinner. What the motherfuck is wrong with me?!
I’m not feeling ok. I’m eating what I’m craving because if my body is craving fruits and vegetables after 30+ years of treating them like poison… ok I’ll go along with this but I don’t feel ok. And my digestive system is so fucking whacked. I’m barely pooping because there isn’t enough mass to move. I can feel my system feeling pissed off at me.
I’m eating what I can eat. It’s just not a lot right now. I feel like I’m dropping weight again. I might actually buy a scale just because I feel like it is bad to not know when I’m doing these sudden intense weight drops. I feel like I should “work harder” at keeping my weight stable and I don’t know what that would mean.
I’ve never had a not-eating-month in the spring before. It’s always October. It’s usually around my dad’s suicide. I have always thought it was partially emotional and partly that I don’t handle that weather transition well. October is the most miserable month weather wise where I live. This year the weather is awful in spring…. maybe the weather transition impacts it?
I don’t know. But I’m eating like a fucking vegan and this isn’t working for me.
I feel like shit.
(Not saying veganism is bad or that no one should be vegan. I have nutritional issues. It would be very hard for *me* to be a healthy vegan given the texture issues I have and aversions to some flavors.)
You have to deal with the whole system you have. Even if it is annoying. One of the things I feel most comfortable about as I get older–life is annoying and that’s ok. Just breathe through it.
I went to Outrageous Outgrowns yesterday morning before the folks arrived. I was actually tardy getting home because the line was insane. Good thing Noah was here. I would have timed differently if I hadn’t had the slack.
The girls are mostly set on dresses through size 10 now. Yee haw. And I got a whole huge stack of neat looking books. Yay! If you can get 20 items of clothing and 30+ books for $200 that’s a good shopping day. Especially because most of the items of clothing were fancy dresses because that’s what my kids live in. I really got the daughters of my dreams. I wanted to dress like that as a kid and I couldn’t. I’m very grateful I can buy them a closet full of fancy $5 dresses they can wear any way they want without getting in trouble. That’s a special kind of privilege.
And legging. Always leggings because you little twerps never keep your legs down. Under clothes should be under your clothes and if you can’t keep your skirt down, pants! Yay!
Then I got home to a box from Amazon. Because I’ve been on a book buying spree. All multi-cultural stuff. In the past few weeks I have picked up a bunch of books on Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism for kids. I already have Christian stuff aimed at kids because I had it from my childhood. Books on mindfulness and meditation and Zen and all that good stuff.
I will be reviewing them on the kid-friendly blog because most of them are excellent. I’ve perused them all but I haven’t shared them with the kids yet. I’m excited about reading these together.
I’ve gotta say, it’s convenient that there is a Hindu temple on the corner because the more I read about the faith the more it actually sounds the closest to the hodge-podge of my beliefs. It’s kind of funny. I should go more often. They are happy to have sincere visitors of any stripe.
These kids do not provide the euphoria of my Bonus Kids. That’s partially my fault. I spent a lot of time holding my Bonus Kids when they were really tiny because I went over to their house and helped their mom do work. That creates a very different kind of bond.
These kids instead provide a different kind of opportunity. I missed the window to get in on the baby-bonding. I didn’t understand that I was missing it. I didn’t understand how I should have tried to assert myself. The oldest girl is older than my kids and I really didn’t have the confidence to assert myself as “someone who should hold babies” then. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost! Hey, I’m good friends with their mom and I met her as an adult. Clearly the possibility of a relationship isn’t over.
But it is interesting seeing how I will have to work for these relationships. I will. I want to. It is a specific thing I have as a goal in this lifetime. I knew when they were born that these were kids I wanted to know for a long time. I just didn’t know how to insert myself into their life. That is hard.
I have learned from this visit that I am not who I want to be to these kids yet. I will have to work harder. Good thing I know how to work hard.
The visit has gone very well. I hope this is a sign of many wonderful visits to come. We are a long way from grown up. There is a lot of time left to bond before they run off to the wonders of their own lives. I haven’t missed the window yet. But I better not get snotty about that belief or I will miss the window.
Thank you so much for the gift of time with your children.