Sunday, September 17, 2017

Mal at (Almost) 3

A week from today, we'll have a newly-minted 3-year-old. Things are likely to accelerate this week, with visitors and errands and appointments and preparations, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to reflect over this auspicious occasion. I'm going to intersperse the unorganized thoughts with pictures I pulled off of the memory card in Mal's camera. All of these have been taken by him at some point during the past year (and, honestly, the vast majority of these photos are the fans in our various rooms and of our patio flooring... so, yeah, I'm cherry-picking).

Mal's vocabulary has exploded this year. He was certainly not "at level" when he turned 2, which is something like 75-200 words. But now, he pretty much knows all of the words and uses them correctly, including sarcastically and manipulatively. But as conversational as he is now, there are three "baby" phrases that have persisted: 1) boh-bos, for breasts; 2) dee-dees, for breastfeeding, his take on "nursies;" 3) la-la, which is to say "the other one," or "You're trying to put that shoe on the wrong foot; try the other one." All we have to say is "la-la" and he'll stop trying to put his shoes on and he changes feet. Or he'll look at me and ask, "La-la?" I say, "No, that's the right one."

Mal has experienced so many milestones this year, in addition to the verbal explosion.

The first time I visited my new church after we moved, it was January 1, and hardly anyone was there. The next week, they had childcare. At 2 years and a few months, Mal had still never stayed in childcare throughout the church service. I dropped him off, giving the attendant my cell number so she could message me if Mal decided he was through. I never got a text. He stayed the next week. And the next. And he has never looked back. In fact, in August when we had our student-led worship and so there wasn't "class," he cried, bitterly disappointed. He loves his playtime, and I love being able to participate in church for the first time in years.

Basically, he adores our church. From the minute we get on campus, he rushes to check to see whether the fountain is on or not. Typically, it isn't on yet when we arrive, but someone turns it on later. Somehow, in his brain, Mal has associated the piano music happening with the fountain being turned on, and he assumes that Darlene playing the piano is what activates it.

Then, as we head inside, he acts shy but loves being greeted by "Miss Jackie." Once we're in the sanctuary, he runs over to the coffee table to pick out a doughnut (usually pink or white frosted with sprinkles) and one chocolate doughnut hole. During the beginning of the service, he often goes into the "youth room" to hug the giant teddy bear or play with the foosball set. And he likes to get a name tag to "fill out"... and cut up.

When it's time to pass the peace of Christ, Mal usually says to me, "Mommy, hold me! I want to get peace!" He will high-five people and be generally charming, if, again, somewhat subdued by direct attention.

He's gotten to where he will sit in my lap for the children's message, and even hold hands during the prayer afterwards. But his favorite part is when that's over, Darlene plays "Jesus Loves Me," and he knows that's the signal that he can run into the other building for free play. (Sorry; he's not very spiritually mature.)

As physical as Mal is, gymnastics seems like it might be as good a fit for him as it was for D at this age. However, we took a free trial class a week and a half ago, and it was exhausting... for me. Mal just isn't ready to (or isn't in the practice of) pay attention to a sequence of instructions, then line up, wait his turn, and remember the instructions. They had about 40 minutes of structured class time, then 20 minutes of free play. He really enjoyed the free play, but not on their gym equipment! They have a big toy/book area where the kids can do stuff while they're waiting, and that's what he chose to do.

One issue I had with the class setup was that there were just too many kids. It might have been because it was the first class of the session, and a lot of people were like us, trying it out. But for a few kids, including mine, it was difficult staying focused in the long stretches between "turns." And there were only two adults: the coach and an assistant. So several of us parents had to walk our kids through the paces to keep them on track.

I was pretty tired after the whole thing, but since Mal enjoyed it, decided I'd let him try one more time (because they give you two trials before you have to commit), anyway. The next week, though, he made it easy on me. I asked the night before, "Do you want to go to gymnastics tomorrow?" He said, "No!" His answer was the same the next day, and I'm glad we were on the same page!

Mal has always been a big kid, weight well off the charts when he turned 2 and weighed 36 pounds. He was in the higher percentile for height, too, at about 90 cm (35.5 inches, more or less). During the past year, he has not gained a single pound! He has, however, shot up a few inches. I'll measure him later this week, but he's closing in on 39 inches, I believe.

We don't impose "arbitrary limits" on Mal, meaning that he pretty much decides when and what to eat, when to use and what to do on the computer, when he goes to bed and gets up, and that kind of thing. It's definitely made interacting with him more peaceful (compared to my first attempt at parenting a small person), which we really need, given Mal's naturally demanding personality (which my first did not possess, but was pretty phlegmatic).

While this might sound like a nightmare waiting to happen, it's panning out quite well at the moment. At two years old, Mal will often watch videos for twenty minutes, put his computer to sleep, and invite one of us to play with him. Or ask to get out the Play-Doh. Or go into his room to play with Paw Patrol. Yes, there are days (like Friday) when he goes back to the computer multiple times throughout the day. But there are also days like today when he doesn't think to turn it on at all, even though James and I were both ready for him to chill in front of some videos by 4 PM! Even though we (almost) never say "no," (unless, say, we're getting ready to walk out the door), we never suggest it, either.

Same thing with bedtime. Mal will play or watch TV or want to sit outside and look at stars or whatever, and then stop at some point and say accusingly, "Mommy! I'm tired! I need to go to sleep!" He knows when he's sleepy, and by the time he goes to bed, he's ready. Of course, there are exceptions that prove this rule. Tonight, for instance, he was going physically bonkers at around 7:30. I had to keep asking him to stop jumping on things or falling into things because he was going to injure himself. He's usually pretty coordinated, but when kids get tired, they get clumsy. Finally, at around 8:15, I asked him if he wanted to go for a drive. I felt like having him strapped in was the only way to keep him from harm, and he did want to go on a drive, but he wanted to end the drive at the park, wherein he intended to play on the playground.

He's gotten so bold on that thing recently that I didn't want to chance it. So he cried in the car for a good while, lamenting that we wouldn't take him to the park. "I'm really sad that we can't go to the yake." "I know you are, Mal, and I'm sorry." After about half an hour, he said, "I want the music class music!" I put the CD in and he listened happily the rest of the way home. When we got here, he requested that I carry him "like a baby" to his room, and he rapidly went to sleep.

To answer your questions: Yes, he still nurses to sleep. Every time (sometimes he *does* conk out in the car). Including when he wakes up in the middle of the night, which is frequently. How frequently? I don't count, but I'd say I consider 3-4 times "normal." It used to be 6-12 times, so we're improving. But, yeah, we usually "expect" a 3-year-old to sleep "better" and that is just not where we are. We're making it work.

Mal is a crazy sleeper, so we have a futon mattress on the floor. He rolls off of it almost every night. Many times when he wakes up asking for "deedees," he's lying with his feet on the pillow and his head toward the foot of the bed.

Increasingly, he has dreams. He'll say things, seeming to be awake, but that make no sense to me, so I'm guessing they're related to whatever is in his head. "Mommy, stretch it out. YOU CAN!" ??? He's also awakened at least a couple of times in the past month crying and scared. I went to pull him in one time, and he yelled, "No! I want my mommy!" I kept assuring him it was me, and he finally calmed down, pulling my arms tighter around him.

Once, we had to get up and walk around, as he insisted we get out of the bedroom and into the living room. We sat on the chair for about half an hour, then he was ready to go back to lie down.

Another remarkable thing about this little kid is that he expects to be taken seriously. When he says, "Let's go to the park!" he will start getting his shoes on because he has learned that we try to honor his wishes whenever possible.

He has his favorite places to go and things to do, but will often (as with the gym class, and sometimes even things like the library's storytime and other events) choose just to stay home. Any time we're gone for a while and come back, he croons, "Aww, I missed my home."

His favorite things to do are to go to the lake (and he has a circuit of playground, "gump rocks," visiting the doc - much to our horror - and then back up to the playground), to play and eat at McDonald's (4 chicken nuggets, strawberry GoGurt, apple juice or chocolate milk, and fries with ketchup or ice cream), go to the mall ("Mickey Mouse store;" indoor playground; inflatables playground - which he wants to enter but is terrified of the jump structures because they're loud, so we often argue about not paying $8-10 to walk around and do nothing for 20 minutes; window-shopping at Build-a-Bear; and newly a big fan of the escalator), Chuck E. Cheese, and to go to any store (drug, grocery, and even gas stations).

Mal is kind of obsessive about color order. He has a series of "cubbies" in his room with drawers that are red, orange, yellow (on the top shelf), green, light blue, and dark blue (on the bottom). One time, after he'd taken them all out, James returned them willy-nilly and I just left them, because whatever, right? But a couple of days later, Mal announced, "Daddy made a 'stake," and switched them all back.

We also have a marble maze with two pieces that have things like "water wheels" for the marbles to go through. The way those pieces came, and are shown on the box, is that the piece with the yellow frame has a purple wheel and the piece with the red frame has a yellow wheel. Mal will not allow the maze to exist like that. He insists that the yellow wheel goes with the yellow frame, and anything else results in destruction since he can't take the wheels out without pulling everything to bits.

Mal's imagination is ramping up. Many times, he'll be playing in his room and I'll think he's fussing for me, but when I go in, he's just playing, acting out an argument between two characters. He makes up games and scenarios that he has to (and can) explain to us so we can play along. He is alternately a baby, or a monster, or a dog, or a "bad guy." He also talks about what other people are doing when they're not around. And what they might be thinking or feeling.

He also recognizes that the above-pictured cat is Rudy, which is his cat. He knows that Carol is D's, and might scratch him if he's not careful. And he knows that Aish is "the pretty one," so soft, and belongs to Daddy. He tells me that I need a cat, but I assure him that I have enough to take care of without having a cat of my own.

Mal still cannot sit through a meal, so we know where all of the places with play areas are.

His favorite foods are scrambled eggs, grapes, chocolate rocks, Runts-style bones, French fries, bananas, cupcakes (but only the frosting part), yogurt, straight sugar, and Mommy's soda.

Mal doesn't really have a lot of patience for sitting down to read stories, although he likes to look at certain books. He prefers books that have pictures but no plot, so he can chat about the pictures. His favorite picture books are: The Jellybean Book, Diggers and Dumpers, Colors, The Big Animal Book, and a collection of number books my mom gave him.

Those are tiny board books, with like 5 pages each, and on every opening, the left page will have the ordinal ("2") and the word spelled out ("two"), then on the right will be a picture of that amount of something (candles) with the word written underneath. This morning, we were looking through the first book, and before I could turn the page, he said, "Wait!" Then he pointed to the right page, "r, a, t, t, l, e... for 'rattle.'" Next, he pointed at the left page and said, "o, n, e for 'one.'"

This kind of decoding isn't anything we've ever done with him, and I'm not sure where he picked it up. Anyway, on the next page he did the same thing with a drum, then said, "o, n, e for 'one' again." I assured him it would be spelled the same way every time.

He "spelled" "one" on every page, but not the object. And by the time we got to the "2" book, he was just finished with that whole exercise. It was pretty neat, though.

Mal also recognizes sheet music for what it is.

There are so many other things James mentioned when I asked him for ideas, but it's almost midnight and I had to shoo him out and tell him to stop, because as much as we might want to record everything for posterity's sake, we just can't. If I've left anything notable out, he can write his own blog post about it (hint hint).

Suffice it to say that these are the magical times. As much as I don't adore being the primary caregiver for a baby, I absolutely relish the toddler and preschool years. Yes, even on the days when I'm ready for a mental health break by lunchtime. There's just something so cool to be able to watch a kid figuring things out and growing and becoming a person totally separate from you or your spouse.

Happy almost birthday, Mal!

Here's a goofy video of Mal dancing with my keys to distract me to keep me from leaving the other day. Sorry for the weird angle, but he's pantsless. (Which leads me to another thought: he's almost totally potty-trained, something I wouldn't have believed possible a month ago. #blessed.)

Saturday, September 16, 2017

"Marriage is Hard"

More than a decade ago, I read a story in a Christian book about marriage. This guy, Gary Thomas, was talking about how frustrated he got that his wife never refilled the ice trays. He said that every time he had to refill them because there wasn't enough ice available when he wanted it, he got more and more resentful. One day, as he was slamming stuff around and mumbling to himself about the whole thing, he thought, "Why can't she just do this thing? It only takes about seven seconds."

Then it hit him: It only takes seven seconds. Why was it such a big deal that he had to do it? Was he so selfish that he was willing to strain his marriage for something so small? He went on to talk about how being in such proximity to someone really shines a light on our "sin" and that maybe that's by design.

It's a convicting story.

It's also a tiny part of a bigger problem with the way the Christian church treats marriages. I've had many friends whose marriages were in crisis, including myself, be told, "Yeah, that's rough. But you know, marriage is hard. You just have to keep at it and trust God to work a miracle."

Which, I mean, is great advice if your marriage's problem is that your insensitive spouse doesn't refill the ice cube trays. Or forgets your birthday. Or if you're in a rut. Or if your kids are gone and you don't know each other and can't figure out what to do next. Or if you've allowed hurt feelings to fester and have covered them over with a veneer of carelessness.

But there is a difference between "He knows I wanted that cereal for breakfast, and he always eats the last serving," and "He took my phone when I got home because he said I didn't know how to use it properly as I texted him instead of calling, as he demanded." There is a difference between "She said she'd pick me up from work, then she forgot and went out with friends, and I can't get a hold of anyone," and in your wife talking on the phone to her paramour while she's taking a bath, and then gaslighting you when you explain that it's disconcerting.

There's a big difference between the myriad of "people brushing up against people in close proximity" problems that are common in the world and in consistent, repetitive, unaddressed habits that stem from chronic infidelity or undiagnosed mental illness or controlling and manipulative personalities. 

There are ways to abandon your spouse that don't include physical abandonment or sexual infidelity or violent abuse. There are ways to slowly destroy a person from within that might not be overtly visible.

And when the church tells these people, "God hates divorce" in an effort to strong-arm them into staying in an unhealthy situation, I believe they are incorrectly using the scriptures. When every single person and healthcare (physical and mental) provider says, "You need to get out" but the church says, "You need to stay and bring honor to God," it can't always be just that everyone else doesn't take marriage as seriously as they should.

There is a level of dysfunction that should never be summarily dismissed as "you're just selfish and you're not trying hard enough" by spiritual leaders. This, to me, is not only spiritual abuse, but it also does one of two things: Further batters the spirit of the person being advised, or pushes that person away... from that church, and maybe from all churches and even God. And maybe a combination of those two.

Here is something I've learned that I hope you can believe me when I tell you, because, really, I don't want anyone else to have to learn this through experience: Marriage isn't effortless. It takes attention and intention and sometimes just going through the motions because that's all you can do. But, you know what? There might be moments when it's hard... really hard... but it's not difficult. And it's not always easy, but sometimes... it is. If there's never a moment where you can rest in your marriage, then just know that's not how it should be. And if you're being told you're at fault for realizing there's something very wrong, then go somewhere else and get better counsel.   

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Notes From Hurricane Harvey

For the sake of posterity, this is really a series of emails that I sent Khrys.

Aug 26

12:21 AM

I've spent the past 2-3 days hearing about it probably being a
Category 3 when it hit land. But I just got a notice that it upgraded
itself to a Category 4.

Most of the nastiness is supposed to stop 4-5 miles east of us. The
only thing we're supposed to have to worry about is flash flooding.
And we have this nifty canyon just behind our back yard that should be
great for dealing with that sort of thing, as long as we don't
actually try to go anywhere.

Things might get nasty for some of our neighbors who are closer to the
lake, and a lot of awful things are going to happen (starting a few
hours ago) to the southeast.

We should be completely fine. Laura's only concern is that she only
has a 2 day supply of soda.

I probably should have grabbed more booze on the way home.

But I just got an announcement from the NWS reminding me that this
*is* a serious, life-threatening storm (there's some chance it will
spawn a few tornadoes). So we're supposed to let someone know that
we're alive and doing fine.

I don't know how long we'll have internet. I don't really expect any
power outages, but I won't be surprised if they happen.

Love you!

 2:12 PM

So far so good. We're fine. We good a lot of rain this morning, then a
long break. It looks like another round is heading our way, but we
seem to be on the furthest outskirts.

Laura has a couple of friends in east Austin who don't have power. One
of them since 2 this morning. And we have a public works truck that
keeps driving past, probably keeping an eye on the low-water

Laura said that it's downgraded to a Category 1, and is only expected
to last another day or so (as opposed to the week they were predicting
originally). Part of what made it so scary was that no one has been
able to predict anything about what it was going to do.

7:32 PM

It sounds like the really dangerous stuff is's down to
"tropical storm" levels. Now we're going to get pounded with another
week of heavy rain.

So we could still get some flooding, especially as the ground gets saturated.

But that will still all be southeast of us. Now I'm almost certain
that we're out of danger.

Love you!

Aug 27

1:01 PM

Not a letter to Khrys. Just a note about a conversation.

After church, Laura was thinking of taking Mal shopping, or to get food, or something along those lines.

But the driveway into her church has a dip. She was a bit  nervous about all the water flowing across it when she arrived. It had gotten bad enough by the time church was over that she wouldn't have crossed it to get in. She was afraid that anywhere she went would have even worse problems.

Aug 28

5:43 PM

Follow-up letter to Khrys:

We're clear. It's blowing eastward, and we started getting blue skies this afternoon.

The radio said we have a 20% chance of more rain tonight, then 40% tomorrow. But we never got enough to even get a little waterfall going into our gorge out back.

Sep 02


The storm revealed a minor roof leak, in the vicinity of our back porch. Its roof had some water damage when we moved in. Now it's quite a bit worse.

The frame for our back door warped enough (or maybe hinges wiggled loose...something went wonky) that it no longer opens.

There's a strange warp in our hall floor that we haven't noticed before. Almost as though some of the foundation pillars settled a bit. Or maybe we just haven't been paying attention.

So, really, we got away incredibly lightly.

Friday, September 1, 2017

More Stuff Mal Said...

There is a dark cloud hanging over my head right now, and I wish it'd go away. I know it's circumstantial: a mix of hormones, issues my immediate and extended family are having that don't directly affect me but that I bear because I care about them, and then some personal disappointment today when something I'd really been looking forward to doing didn't pan out.


To combat that, I'm going to share some stuff that Mal has said lately. It's like his vocabulary just went from nothing to every word in the universe all at once. That, plus now when he wakes up from a deep sleep, it takes him a while to transition, but he's still super verbal so will often say things that don't make sense or that are impossible.

For instance, he'd taken a rare nap yesterday, and the first time he woke from that, he woke up asking me to "fix it" an pointing vaguely at his leg. When I asked him what he wanted me to do, he said, "Pull that. Mommy, you can. Push it!" Then when I asked again what he wanted, he said, "I need batteries." I asked, "You do? For what?" He said, "My neck!" and pointed toward his throat. I laughed so hard at that, and so did he. Then he fell back to sleep. When he woke up the next time, it was to report that someone had stolen his books.

Last night, he woke up at one point asking for a dragon sucker. I told him we didn't have one, and he started crying. "Mommy, get one!" I told him I would. He said, "I want it now." So I said, "Okay. Here it is." Then he said, "I don't want that one. I want a Paw Patrol sucker." Then we had to start over with my staying we didn't have it.

When we were out today, Mal was very sad that I wouldn't plough more quarters into some machine he wanted, after having paid $8 for him to play in the "bounce park" where he refuses to go into the inflatables at all, because the ambient noise scares him.

Anyway, we'd gone into the restroom (still waiting for him to use the toilet in public; nothing so far) and he was bawling, complete with snot running down his face. He never likes for me to wipe his nose, and this time as I went at him, he said, "No! I just want to cry!" "You can cry!" I assured him. "No, I can't. You wipe it off!"

Oh, and last night he woke up, upside down and hanging half off of the bed, so I grabbed him up to reposition him. At that, he yelled, "No! No! MOMMY!" I said, "Sweetie, I *am* Mommy." "NO! Mommy! Not you!" I said, "Mommy has you, sweetie." Then I kissed him on the head. He softly cooed, "Aww, Mommy."

Last night, we'd driven out to see the sunset from Sunset Deck. In the picture above, Mal is telling me, "The dinosaurs are coming!" I guess dusk ushers them in?

Mal's latest interests involve: using tools to play with Play-Doh, playing "dirt" with his marbles and "instruction" trucks, and "driving" around the house in his "car" asking, "What's the problem?" and wanting us to give him something to fix.

There is more, but Mal has been asleep for almost five hours already, so I need to go to sleep NOW to prepare for the inevitable pre-dawn wake-up. *yawn* Did I mention that I'm 45 now? Not surprisingly, the frat boy schedule of a toddler is not getting easier as I "mature." But, goodness, what a fun age.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Updates... from another dimension!

I have a few random things to share here, starting with this most amazing one:

Yesterday, during the eclipse, I suppose some kind of weird time/space wormholey thing opened up and sent my shirt from 13 years ago into Mal's closet. I don't have timestamps, but am including pictures with my Pepa and D to show just how long ago I had this shirt. It must have shrunk during the time travel. But there it is.

Item the Next:
The weekend before last, during the children's message, Mary asked the kids, "What's something good you can tell me about your week?" A couple of kids answered, things like feeding their pets or getting some neat trading cards. Usually, Mal kind of tries to say something when it's his "turn," but is usually just silly or shy. But this time, he said, "I helped my mommy in the kitchen." So that's a notable first! He answered a group query appropriately.

He does help all of the time. If I get out the vacuum to clean up, he pulls out the carpet cleaner, pulls off every removable part, and "vacuums" as well. If I sweep, he pulls out the Swiffer and shoves my pile around. He even helps by being an encouragement. This weekend when I was spot-mowing (read: half of our back yard), he followed me around saying, "Mommy, you a good worker!" And, yeah, our lawn mower is electric, so I could hear him.

New topic:
I had a sort of epiphany this week. There are quite a few popular sites, like Stimtastic and ARK, that sell "chewable" toys. D has several, as well as some fidget toys. I've written about this in the past, but a now-subconscious habit I have had basically since I stopped sucking my thumb at the age of 5 is chewing on my fingers. I am not aware that I do it, but like sometimes I'll pick up my phone and can't do the fingerprint recognition because my fingertip is wet. And I have callouses on four fingers. It's truly weird, because if you ask me to stick my finger in my mouth and show you what I do, I really can't. It feels awkward. But obviously I do it.

I think it's likely that I have an oral fixation, which is one likely reason I start to panic (on a fairly low level) if I don't have something to drink, and that I use that oral stimulation as a way to deal with deep thought or stress. So my epiphany was: If these items had been around when I was a kid, might my hands be worthy of manicures today?

When I mentioned this to D, my rather astute teenager said, "It's never too late to start." That's true, but I can't imagine what mental gymnastics I'd have to do to switch, since, as I mentioned, I don't know I'm doing it, often until afterwards.

But also, I'm very glad for kids (and adults!) that there's more to address the issue than just, "Put your hands down!" "You're so pretty when you're not gnawing on that finger." "You're too big to do that." Ad infinitum.

Final entry:
Literally every day, at least once and often two or three times, my son will lift up my shirt and lay with his belly to mine, perpendicular, announcing, "Mommy, I love you body." Other times, he'll just rub my stomach and be so sweet, cooing, "Mommy, you body is hot." And every stinking time, it makes my day. I mean, I know he means that I'm warmer than he is (since I wear clothes), but it's still nice to hear.

I have other thoughts on that, but will end for tonight. Mostly because I want to play a game before head to bed. Night, all!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

A Brief Word on "... they'll just have to..."

There was an article in the paper today about how some area schools are starting back early this year, and how the kids are noticing. Someone commented (I KNOW! Never read the comments. Nonetheless...), "Just wait until you have a real job. In the real world, you don't get a summer break at all, so soak it up."

As an aside, it's weird to me that even people who don't have alt-ed viewpoints consider school something other than "the real world." Interesting. 

But the level of resentment dripping off of this - how dare kids be disappointed their typical break is shorter?! - is my main focus.

Look around and you'll see something: A lot of adults are really pissed off at kids in general. Pardon my English, but it's true. I think these adults feel like they've grown into productive members of society with good work ethics and a healthy dose of stoicism, and that kids "these days" are just whiny toots.

I'm pretty sure these same people would have had these same reactions as kids were the circumstances the same. Also, one of the kids interviewed was talking about how it was a challenge to get the summer reading assignments completed in less time. So this wasn't about languishing by the pool while the 'rents work their butts off.

My question is: Why do grown-ups seem to hate kids so much? Why do grown-up people decide to have kids, and then just seem to lose all compassion and empathy for them?

I have a kid who has anxiety, and we are dealing with that. One thing I've heard concerning not just our situation, but others', too, is, "Well, someday, they're going to have to XYZ 'in the real world.' You need to make them start doing it now, because the longer they ABC, the harder it's going to be to adjust."

May I tell you how ridiculous this is, whether it's leveled at a child or an adult? 

People who have phobias or other impairments that prevent them from functioning typically in any given situation might or might not find exposure therapy useful. I can tell you now, if you have a fear of snakes, I'm pretty sure that if I lock you in a box with 50 non-venomous snakes, you would not thank me later for assisting in your recovery. Or maybe you would. I'm not irrationally afraid of snakes, but I don't think I'd like that, anyway.

It is furthermore the height of self-righteous pride for anyone to tell a parent, "Here's what's wrong with your kid, and all you have to do to fix it is..." This might shock those of you who observe from the outside and then have the audacity to propose a simple fix, but I can promise you that parents have thought of EVERYTHING. They've researched, they've sought opinions, they've gotten opinions that they never solicited (including yours), they've second-guessed themselves, and eventually they have settled into what is working for their family. Your input at any point in this process is worthless, unless you, too, have been through the EXACT same thing and offer a viewpoint with the caveat that you truly understand no two people or situations are the same.

Lastly, any time a person says anything about how someone "has" to behave "in the real world," I am truly blind-sighted by how narrow a view of what constitutes a functional life so many of us have. Not everyone needs to be able to maintain eye contact for an extended amount of time. Not everyone needs to be able to drive. Not everyone has to wear close-toed shoes (shout-out to my friend Dave for that one :D ). People can and do create lifestyles they can manage all of the time. Now, can you get a high-paying corporate job if you can't do these things? Except for driving, maybe not. But not everyone's life needs to look the same. Some skills are worth honing because they will be useful, but not otherwise (like cursive; and please don't flame me). Not everyone needs the same social skills as everyone else. Not everyone needs to conform to the same box or boxes or cylinders or whatever. Does that mean the off-beat person's life will be more complicated? Maybe. But it's going to be more complicated, regardless. Some people just have a more challenging time with certain functions than others. That's okay. It's different, but it's not bad.

I have a bonus point: If you see a situation which you think is not ideal, whether it's a person you don't think is meeting their potential or a family you think could operate better if only they'd listen to this thing you've reasoned out... and if you really want to help... rather than offering an opinion unbidden, how about saying something like, "Your family really means a lot to me. Is there some way I could help you?" then be willing to do whatever they ask, if they take you up on it. Seriously, your unbidden input can only strain your relationship. Trust me, everyone's doing the best they can.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

In a Hurry?

Parents: "Kids want to grow up so fast! Why don't they just enjoy their childhoods?"

Parents, also:

In so many ways, we give our kids the impression that they're not fully people; they're people in training. But do you remember being a kid? Did you feel like an actually-fledged human being? 

I think we do this with really good intentions. We know our time with our kids is limited, and we want to "prepare" them to release them out into the world as responsible, equipped adults.

However, I'm afraid this often leads to our making long-sighted parenting choices when short-sighted ones would actually be better. For instance: If my kid's room is a mess, maybe it's just that they don't have the energy to clean it this moment, or even today... and it doesn't have to mean that OMG, they're going to grow up without any self-discipline and their house will be overtaken by roaches, and they'll get evicted and therefore I'm turning off the wifi until the room is clean, dang it.

Kids see this. So much that they know, as they get older, that even their education isn't important in this moment. Otherwise, why would they ask, infamously about algebra, "When am I ever going to use this in the future?"

How often has a kid, discouraged with an extra-curricular lesson or activity, been encouraged to keep going because, "Someday you'll wish you'd mastered *this* so you can do *this other thing.*" 

Do you know when I've learned the things I've needed to know as an adult, for the most part? Exactly when I needed to know them.

This might surprise you, but I never learned a darn thing about real estate until I had to "learn" it to take a test. And even then, I didn't *actually* learn it until I was working in the field. Same with insurance. And video production. And script-writing. And parenting. Yeah, pretty much all of it.

And I have a theory about why family vacations are so much fun for our kids (other than the splurging in terms of fun and money throwing-around and whatnot): When we're on vacation, we are in the moment with them. We're not planning for the next thing. We're enjoying the thing we're doing right then and right there.

What if we lived like that all of the time? Or most of the time? Or at least some of the time?

Maybe our kids would be more content being children if we let them know they're important *now.* They can do things in this day that have value. We don't always have to be projecting them into the future.

Nichole Nordeman tells a story of how she had volunteered to play a song at one of her kids' school events, and as the day approached, she hadn't prepared anything. Then this following song came to her. And although the song is directed toward the children, she said that, of course, the encouragement to "slow down" is actually for the parents. I'm trying.