Motherhood as Continuing Ed

I recently finished reading a book called You are Your Child's First Teacher, by Rahima Baldwin Darcy. An Amazon reviewer lamented it was long on theory and short on practicalities. I disagree because i did find practical advice in the book-- at least enough to get the gears moving, and I felt the "theory" or rhetoric provided soulful salve at a time that isn't all butterflies and moonbeams with the kids. As you can tell from the quotes i jotted down below, one of the theses of the book that resonated with me is all about how parenting is our own adult journey-- spurred on by our kids.

Just as babies don't wait until the world and our lives are in perfect order before they are born, children don't wait until we are "perfect parents." Indeed, we will be better off if we can give up the idea of perfection in regard to parenting. Parenting is a process of mutual growth, in which parents and children grow in different levels through their interactions and through elements they bring into one another's lives.

I gave up on perfection a long time ago. I was raised amongst perfectionists and i never did see the return in that last 2%-- enough to make me happy and to do a good job has pretty much always been my mantra. And yet, this idea that we are to keep growing and learning based on the interactions we have with our children resonated.

I can't easily think of anything else other than the experience of parenting, that causes you to look at a pregnant lady, or a pregnant mom of a toddler and think "boy, you just wait." And, it's not ego necessarily, not completely a need to revel in your own hard-won experience. Part of it is just an honest knowing that one way or another, one personality or another, the new phase these folks are going to enter into is going to push their boundaries at some point. Of course the same way a mother of three or of teenagers or of grown children looks at me.

And this is where Darcy's book really started to emit sparks for me:

If we see parenting as part of our own inner growth and development and see our children as unique individuals with their own personalities and lives to live, we will be less likely to fall into feelings of guilt.

I also don't tend to carry guilt so that wasn't the hook, but this ideas that being a mother, parenting these two boys is part of my own development has really spurred a bit of a renaissance in my mothering. I've struggled with how to describe this because it's not as if i was "Sleeping Mother" going through the motions of childrearing, suddenly awakened to an interest in my children. No, it's more that i've always loved my boys in an unbounded familial way and now i've discovered a way to apply all my functional "work" skills and interest to the family.

Bear with me if this sounds strange, but i love organizing things, creating schedules and problem-solving. I've been drawing on these skills ever since i started this parenting jig, but somehow in the last few weeks i've really began to apply these skills and interests to the kids in a focused way. And one of the best parts is that JT and i have been brainstorming and strategizing together.

I worry this is sounding a bit nutso. It is difficult to describe. I think the take-away is that i've had a bit of an awakening recently that the kids will not stay young or even in our house forever-- that days are long but the years are short, and finding a way for us all to feel like we're growing and moving together is crucial.


I've been talking about how i'm working to infuse more crafts into our lives and i have a few pictures and some stories to relate on our efforts. I was reminded of something the other day by Henry's preschool teacher "I like the kids to focus on the process, not the product," and have been trying to emphasize the same in our efforts.

We installed a new display line in our kitchen for all of the boys' artwork. It's primarily filled with Henry's creations but Silas is bursting with pride over the one piece of his that is tacked up there.

In anticipation of Halloween we've been making pumpkins and ghosts for almost a month now. Here are ghosts hung up in Henry and Silas' room. Once Halloween is over we'll use this line to display more works of art as well.

I made this little guy for Henry after he repeatedly requested a soft doll like Silas'. He seemed happy and genuinely thankful and (using his big words) told me he was "very appreciative."

We've got more projects, big and small, in the works for Christmas!


Parenting Tricks

I've got a longer essay in here somewhere, but for now a few new techniques i've introduced this week that i think are going to work quite nicely.

Anyone that has spent time with Silas at home knows that his favorite place is in his own house. Even when he eventually has a great time outside the home, getting him to leave can be hell. On the whole he had been okay getting ready for school but last week even this deteriorated and we had a few terrible mornings (lots of shouting, tears, inane attempts to reason-- when will i learn!) I decided we had to figure something else out. Two things, JT is now getting up at 7 so that the kids will get up (they had been laying around in their beds/rooms until 7:30 or even 7:45 some mornings) and have more time to eat breakfast, play, get dressed, play, brush teeth, coats, etc. This i think is crucial and definitely helped.

The second thing we did at the end of last week was to have Silas pick out his coat and shoes and put them on the chair by the door so everything is ready in the morning. We did this again tonight and i intend to continue doing it. I don't expect him to make a beeline for the chair, put on his coat and shoes and declare he's ready for school, but if we could avoid tantrums about wearing a coat i'd call it a victory. I'll keep you updated.

The last thing we did is institute a "ticket" system for screen time. A big portion of me wants to outlaw "screen time" almost entirely and i can attest to it being a slippery slope if you aren't on top of it. In my experience, you all agree to 30 minutes, or no tv on weeknights or whatever, then the next thing you know the little ones are whining for more, or melting down because they can't watch George or other types of behavior that i'm keen on avoiding. So, we're in the pilot stages, but each boy gets a specified # of tickets for 15 min. increments that they keep in special coin purses. They can watch 15 mins at a time and spend their tickets. They get more each Friday.

Generally the bulk of their screen time happens on the weekend (an hour to an hour and a half) but if they want, they have the opportunity to watch a show or two during the week-- which is a nice tool for both the boys and Mom if we're having a rough day.


Fall Fun

A noted lack in posting. I was away an entire work-week two weeks ago and i feel like i'm just about caught back up where i have some time to mess around once the boys are in bed. Plus, i hosted my parents for a fall visit this weekend that was lovely; albeit cool.

After several years of sticking largely close to home during their visits, we were all over greater Chicagoland. The nap schedules or our little people still constrain all day touristing, but we headed out to the NW suburbs for fun at a local pumpkin patch. The highlight of Silas' trip was the tractor ride-- which i remember him balking at completely last year. Henry loved every minute of the kids truck ride he got to go on. I believe the wacky fun house and the strawberries were also a hit, although at that point i had taken Silas to look more at the animals because the wanting to ride, afraid to ride conflicting feelings were just too much for him.

From October 2009

He did very much enjoy watching the sheep eat, the chickens peck around and the rabbits nuzzeld up against the warm back corner.

That night Henry had his first swim lesson at the new "warm" pool and he seemed to do quite well. Once i saw him get in and follow the teachers' lead without begging me to get in too, everything else was gravy. It was a little chaotic before class started with so many kids getting sorted out, but i'm hoping it will be a little calmer and Henry will be a little more assured.

Sunday my parents and i went out to the Frank Lloyd Wright house and studio in Oak Park. I hadn't been out there since soon after moving to Chicago, and it was very fun to play tourist again. It's a cool house and amazing to picture the prairie coming right up to within sight of his house. The boys sat this trip out and probably just as well. Henry might have at least listened attentively for the tour but we had a 2 hour wait before it started that would have thrown him over the edge.

Last event was JT volunteering at Henry's school to get the flower beds cleaned out and planted with spring bulbs. Volunteering seems to be a new thread running through our days. This Saturday it's my turn to help set-up the fall festival.