Saturday, February 20, 2010

I guess when you're out of energon cubes, Cheerios are the next best thing.

Winter Break

Warning to Kris: the last photo in this post will partially spoil your quilt surprise, so don't look if you don't want to know.

We've been on Winter Break here, which means I've had Andrew home from school for the last week and a half. I was kind of dreading this, since he and Aaron can have their fair share of conflict, and he tends to get antsy and bored when we're home a lot. But Emma is fussy at night if we go out too much during the day, so we've been mostly home bound. The weather has been great, but I can't really take Emma out for long in it, and the boys have decided they "don't like the cold", so we've been essentially hibernating. So what have we done, you ask?

We've made "computers" out of orange boxes

Watched excessive amounts of the olympics (this is Olympic bedtime - Dave's idea)

Set up a restraunt in the basement
Built and rebuilt innumerable lego robots

And, what is bound to become the new perennial favorite game around here:
Pestered our sister.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Discovering Joy, Part 2 - Parenting and Perfectionism

I have never really been a perfectionist. "Good enough" has always been my motto. In my better moments I have striven for excellence and achieved it. In my worse moments, I have done enough to get by and had a lot of fun in the process. I generally have pretty high expectations of myself, and at a young age I realized that I could spend my life anxious and frustrated because I couldn't be perfect, or I could enjoy life, learn to laugh at myself and work enough to get the job done well.

All this changed when I became a parent. I was married 10 years before I took the leap and had children. This was partially because I got married at 18 and wanted to finish university and get a few years of teaching in before I had children. And this was partially because I was terrified that I would be a bad mother. And equally terrified that I would become one of those women who never really recovers from the rigors of motherhood, and goes a little bit odd after having children. I wanted my children to be parented differently than I had been parented, though I wasn't sure exactly what that would look like. I wanted my children to mature into adulthood with no "issues" left over from their childhood, so that they could approach life with a confident attitude and a strong sense of well being and identity.

The problem was figuring out how to do this. I knew several people whose parenting and children I admired followed the ideas behind attachment parenting. So I started researching these ideas, and they seemed sound. When my oldest son was a high needs baby, I was happy to have the skills and ideas I needed to gradually mellow him down into a child who we could all live with. As a baby, this worked pretty well. He was still intense and demanding, but we could all survive.

As he grew, and discipline became important, I started to research a lot about discipline methods and parenting styles. I didn't want to be overly authoritatian, but I didn't want to be too permissive, either. What I seemed to run across a lot was a theory of parenting that essentially asked you to manage the child's circumstances to help them behave, rather than insisting on good behavior and enforcing or allowing consequences. To this end, I spent a lot of time managing Andrew's environment. If he started to misbehave, I figured there must be something wrong with his situation. Did he have to go to the bathoom? Was he hungry? Was he over or under stimulated? What was causing the mischeif? Because he was a very sensitive child, I began to assume that all misbehavior related to his sensitivity, and that if I could just make him comfortable, he would behave perfectly well.

As time went on, however, I realized that this didn't work. First of all, it was making me responsible for his misbehavior. If he was grouchy or demanding, it was my fault for not presenting him with ideal circumstances. If we went somewhere that I could not control when he ate or how much was going on around him, he would be terrible. When he did not get his way, he would purposely act awful until I gave him something to make him feel better. It was a downward spiral. My entire life was wrapped up in making the environment perfect for my child. No time could be spent on my own needs or desires, as that might interfere with my son's needs. And when Aaron came along, I discovered I had created a monster -- a child who had no ability to amuse himself, take care of himself or do anything by or for himself. I had monitored him so closely, he was not even self aware of his own hunger cues. When he went to preschool, it was even worse. He was not used to having to do anything that he didn't want to do, and simply ignored any requests his teacher made that didn't fit with his ideas about the world.

Not only that, but I was stressed out and frustrated when he didn't act the way he was supposed to. After all, I was sacrificing everything -- my career, my social life, my individual interests, my right to sleep, personal space and basic hygene -- for this child. How dare he not respond in the way I asked him to. I was angry and resentful that he would take all that I was doing for him and throw it back in my face.

I had several realizations that helped to free me of this anxiety and perfectionism:

1. Andrew and I are separate individuals. I needed to give him some space, and he needed to give me some space. As two highly sensitive people, we are both very empathic and easily fall prey to enmeshment with other people. I needed to let him be, and teach him how to let me be. This will help him to do this with others later in life.

2. Not ever single, tiny thing I do is going to effect my son for life. One thing that frustrates me about parenting books (which I have generally stopped reading) is that they make your every act as a parent seem so important. If you don't use just the right words and techniques in every situation, your child is destined for depression and failure. I am just not that important in the long run. It is our societal obsession with blaming everything on our circumstances, our parents, and our society rather than taking responsibility for ourselves that has led us to this over-parenting. I needed to help Andrew take responsibility for himself and his emotions and responses, instead of trying to take them on myself.

3. I needed to get my needs met so that I was in a head space to enjoy my children. When my own basic needs for sleep and cleanliness, and the needs of our house to be orderly and run well were not met, I could not really attend to my son. I was in survival mode, and even the littlest thing that went wrong could push me over the edge. I needed to allow myself to take care of myself.

Giving myself a break as a parent, letting myself be a "good enough" parent, was very freeing. It gives me the freedom to enjoy my children, and my life. I know that I am a better parent when I have had a shower and let the boys watch extra tv while I have had a nap. I know that I am happier if I am creative. So I take some time to sew or bake during the day, even though it means the boys have to entertain themselves. I forgive myself for my parenting errors, and take them as lessons on what not to do next time, instead of obsessing about how they will effect my children 20 years from now. In short, I accept that I should approach parenting the same way I have approached everything else: enjoy life, laugh at myself, and work enough to get the job done well.

This is what happens when you try to get a few cute photos of your kids in the morning . . .

Will you be my Cyclops Valentine?

Its Aaron's fault, really. At playgroup last week we were supposed to make a card with one heart on it, with one set of googly eyes and one pom pom nose. Instead he asked me to cut out lots of hearts in various sizes, and put tons of eyes on each one. Then he bent pipe cleaners into assorted sized smiles (think tiny hearts with giant smiles) and glued them on. Unfortunately he destroyed the evidence before I could get a photo.

Andrew was so enamoured with this fantastical work of art that he decided he wanted to do a whole set of googly eyed heart people for his class. So we spent several days this week doing this:

These are Aaron's -- I suggested he make robots, but he just wanted more eye people.

I love the cyclops ones with eyebrows instead of smiles:

Andrew decided that he needed to make "proper" ones for the girls, because they like things to be done right. So all the nice, smiling hearts with the pink and purple pom pom noses are for the girls. All the bizarre heart monsters are for the boys.

I can't wait for the next time I bump into one of the moms of a boy in Andrew's class . . .

Friday, February 05, 2010

Oh, the Whiteness

The snow is white.

The roads are white.

The trees are covered in thick snow -- also white.

The sky -- is it blue? Is it grey? Nope. White too.

Our walls? White.

Our carpet? White (well, theoretically).

The only way to combat this? Playing with some scaldingly bright fabric. Think this will do?