Tuesday, August 24, 2010

boys will be girls

Clark is all boy. Climbing, jumping, running, tumbling, car-zooming, rocket-blasting, tiger-growling, monster-roaring boy. But he also LOVES his big sister and wants to do whatever she does, which these days means wear her clothes.

"Sissy's clothes!" he says, and pulls open her drawer. "Princess dress!" It started with the dress up clothes, pink tutus and velvet leotards, but now it's Frances's actual clothes he demands, usually a skirt and tank top. His favorite tank top is orange with a bejeweled pineapple on the front. It's lovely. 


I let him. Everyone thinks he's a girl, of course, what with his long hair and stick on earrings. I don't correct them. (The stick on earrings were a big thing for a while and looked particularly funny with his regular boy clothes, but now that Frances has her ears actually pierced he's not interested in the stick ons anymore, I assume because she's not.) It occurs to me that it's a good thing his hair isn't buzz cut short--I'd really have to deal with comments then. He looks so funny to me dressed in poofy pink while zooming cars all over the family room floor and walls. I try to squint and see him as a girl but I can't--he just looks so boyish, despite the frills. Handsome as he is, he would not make a pretty girl. 

Salon recently did an article on this, from the point of view of the dad who was much more distressed about it than I am. His son was four and in school, and he was worried about whether the other children would tease him. We start school in about 3 weeks and we'll see then if it's still the fad. I might make a we-wear-our-own-clothes-to-school rule. Then again, I might not care.

My mom was here recently and she bought him a spiderman shirt for dress up. I think she hoped having some dress up of his own would mean he would abandon his sister's. He loved it. He accessorized with a wand and fairy wings. Very nice. 

Monday, August 23, 2010

time for bed

Finally, FINALLY we've got a new functional bedtime system. (All parenting is about systems, isn't it?) For ages bedtime around here was pretty easy. Clark was a dream: plop him in his crib and wave goodnight as you close the door behind you. Frances sometimes argued and negotiated but you can't have everything.

Then a couple of months ago everything changed. It's all Clark's doing--we moved him into a toddler bed and he literally could not stay in it. It was like his feet were physically pulled to the floor. There was lots of carrying him back to bed, back to bed, back to bed, discussing with him, possible threatening, then more simple repetition. Finally we moved him back to the crib, which helped for about 2 days. (For a split second I really thought we were onto something there--that maybe he didn't feel safe in the toddler bed or something, and that being in the crib would solve the problem.) Then he just climbed out of the crib over and over.

Finally he impressed upon us that he wants someone to sit in his room until he falls asleep. Some new fear / insecurity that he's developed, also probably related to his insisting that all the lights stay on like it's daylight in there. (For a short time I would sneak in after he'd fallen asleep and turn them off, leaving a closet light with plenty of light to see by, but he'd just wake at 3 am and insist that the lamps be turned on too...) So these days someone sits in the armchair by the crib until he falls asleep. We'll only stay if he doesn't talk or sing or bang on is crib in an effort to keep himself awake. Now that he trusts we'll be there, doesn't have to argue with us and chase after us, he actually falls asleep pretty quickly. I bring reading material--it's certainly bright enough to read, after all. I have Frances read to herself on her bed while I sit in Clark's room; I tell her I'll come back and lie with her for a few minutes after. And sometimes by the time Clark's fallen asleep, Frances has too.

So. Whew. It's funny the way things move in stages with kids. So often it's hard to spot; you think this new thing is some personality flaw or parenting failure, something you need to address and fix, only to discover a month later that it was a phase and just passed on its own. It would be so much more helpful if the phases would announce themselves.

For now, though, bedtime is no longer a 2 hour ordeal. So happy.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

brave big girl

Frances got her ears pierced. She's been asking for a couple of months and decided she wanted to do it when my mom was here visiting last week. I told her it would hurt, tried to impress this upon her so she would be prepared--she is a big wimp when it comes to pain, the tiniest scratch can bring hysteria. Some random person told her it would be just a "little pinch" and she kept repeating this to me. I said, "It's going to be more than a little pinch, Frances. It's going to hurt." "Just a little pinch," she said. So we went.
She was beside herself with excitement while they drew the dots where the piercing would go. They use two folks for the actual piercing so that both ears are done at once (thank goodness) and it was only when they told her to look straight at me and hold very still that she realized it was serious business and nervousness crossed her face. Then the guns clicked and she looked stunned for a moment. Her face crumpled and she leaned into my chest and cried very softly. She tried not to cry, tried so hard to be big and brave. I said, "it's okay to cry, honey," and she did only for a minute. Afterward there were lollypops and she was so proud. She's shown them to every single person she's come into contact with, strangers in the grocery included. And she's very into taking care of them, reminds me when we're supposed to clean them. What a big girl she's getting to be. 

Saturday, August 7, 2010

it's not a competition

Saw a friend of mine last weekend at a birthday party and she said she had a question for me. She had read my blog post that mentioned Frances' writing the alphabet and wanted to know if it was something we'd worked with her on, if she initiated interest herself, etc. My friend had recently taken her son for his 4-year-old check up and the doc scolded her because her son wasn't writing yet. Later in the visit when they discussed some other developmental strength, the doctor said, "See? You're doing some things right."

Ack! This makes me nuts. It's a wonderful example of the pressure we put our kids under. WHO CARES if he's not writing yet? He's only four! If he were eight and not writing, then perhaps someone should take a closer look at what's going on. But it's not a competition!!!!! It's the very same thing as parents who brag that their kid walked at 7 months. WHO CARES?!

Kids are different. They develop at different rates. I have a friend whose son didn't walk until he was 22 months old. (He's now four and walks just fine.) When I asked her if this had worried her at the time, she said no, that he was very verbal and she just trusted that he would do things in his own time. She's a wise woman, and an exception, I think. There's so much pressure for our children to be successful in the very same ways, and so much assumption that we parents are doing something wrong when they are not. (This doctor, someone who should know better, pointed this out to my friend specifically--"See? You're doing some things right!" Funny that she'd meant it as an encouragement, because it actually was a condemnation. Which, now that I think about it, pisses me off even more--even if this child were delayed somehow, the doctor assumed this was the fault of the parent, and not the result of many many different and complicated factors that make up this particular child.)

I just wanted to put that out there. It made me wish I hadn't mentioned Frances's alphabet writing in the first place. And for the record, her dad has been working with her on it, and she did initially show interest that led him to work with her (mostly she wanted to use the computer, so they started spelling things on it, which led her to writing...) and at her school they do no letters or reading at all, which means she's felt no pressure from that direction. I mention the school because I firmly believe that teaching letters and reading in preschool is a detrimental thing for those many children who are not yet interested. It just makes them feel pressure and many times eventual dislike for reading and writing. Frances will be attending a Waldorf school in the fall and the Waldorf philosophy specifically holds off on any reading until age seven. I'm for it, but maybe it's easy for me to say that since my kid loves to read and write.

At the risk of sounding like a Waldorf advertisement (which I don't intend to be), I'm going to include a response from the website linked above about the question of why Waldorf teaches reading so late (I just happen to agree with them strongly here...):

"There is evidence that normal, healthy children who learn to read relatively late are not disadvantaged by this, but rather are able quickly to catch up with, and may overtake, children who have learned to read early. Additionally, they are much less likely to develop the "tiredness toward reading" that many children taught to read at a very early age experience later on. Instead there is lively interest in reading and learning that continues into adulthood. Some children will, out of themselves, want to learn to read at an early age. This interest can and should be met, as long as it comes in fact from the child. Early imposed formal instruction in reading can be a handicap in later years, when enthusiasm toward reading and learning may begin to falter.

"If reading is not pushed, a healthy child will pick it up quite quickly and easily. Some Waldorf parents become anxious if their child is slow to learn to read. Eventually these same parents are overjoyed at seeing their child pick up a book and not put it down and become from that moment a voracious reader. Each child has his or her own optimal time for "taking off." Feelings of anxiety and inferiority may develop in a child who is not reading as well as her peers. Often this anxiety is picked up from parents concerned about the child's progress. It is important that parents should deal with their own and their child's apprehensions.

"Human growth and development do not occur in a linear fashion, nor can they be measured. What lives, grows, and has its being in human life can only be grasped with that same human faculty that can grasp the invisible metamorphic laws of living nature."

My truest hope is that I am able simply to see my children for who they are, to allow them to be who they are before the pressure of who they are told, by other people and by my own expectations, they must be. One of my jobs, as I see it and hard though it may be, is to protect them from those expectations and to remind myself--and them--that they are more than the sum of their abilities. They are worlds unto themselves. 

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

perspective from below

My son is in love with a pinata. It's a Dora pinata (rather large) and he drags it everywhere behind him by a string.

And I'm depressed.

Those are the main news items coming over the reel.

I hate that I get depressed. It's just a part of my life, something that comes and goes, and these days as long as it doesn't hang around for too long, I can ride it. I've been so tired, so tired all the time. I thought at first it was because I hadn't been exercising, but then several days of 40 minutes on the elliptical at the gym didn't seem to change much.

I'm having trouble keeping in perspective that I won't have a 2-year-old forever. One day, no one in this house will scream at the absolute top of his lungs anytime he disagrees. Somedays I feel like this, this, is my world forever and ever, packing snacks and cajoling into carseats, wrestling hollering toddlers to the ground simply to change a diaper, pulling dimes out of mouths to screams of protest.

But then there are clear moments when I can see my life in a long flat plane, and I realize that This Time--with babies--is a distinct phase, and one day (and not that long from now) I'll look back on it as some previous lifetime. When I think this way it all feels so sweet, their chubby little cheeks, their tight hugs, the way Clark smashes his entire face into mine. There are people, certainly, who are best cut out for this work, who in previous eras served as wet nurses and nannies for an entire career lifetime. Though I sometimes wish I were, that's not how I'm built. And, frankly, I suspect most women aren't built this way. Isn't that the trouble, though? That we all expect ourselves to be good at all the jobs, or at this one in particular? We think we are somehow less if we can't easily do this mom thing.

But all that is another issue. For now, I just try to see them. (They are both so sweet. Yesterday Clark brought Frances his own cherished blanket when she hurt herself, because we were at a friend's house and it was the only blanket available. He tucked it under her chin and then patted her back.) I focus and feel my smile every single time Clark says "No dis going," the cutest phrase ever, which means several things from "this toy isn't working" to "I can't get the lid off the applesauce." Cute cute cute stage (except when it isn't), even when he's mad. One of my favorite moves of his right now is his hollering: MOMMY! BAD! GIRL! when I lose my cool and holler at him for hollering at me. Nothing like being called flat out on your stuff.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I feel like the summer is going by too fast. I know that's crazy anxiety talking, but anxiety about what? Frances is going to camp this week--9-12 every morning--and I'm all flubbered about that too. What's my problem? It's like I fear summer will be ripped away, my time with them gone, my children suddenly grown and I missed it. Is it just all those people (ALL. THOSE. PEOPLE.) who KEEP telling me that it goes faster than you realize...?

I KNOW THAT. Life goes faster than you realize (unless you're a prisoner of war, then it moves much too slowly).

But the truth is that even after her week in camp, and then a week with my mom visiting, there will still be almost 4 weeks of summer. (School here doesn't start until nearly mid September. Don't know why.) It's like I somehow think this is the only summer I'll get to have with them... and I suppose that's true to some degree; this is the only summer I'll have where F is 3 1/2 and C is 2. But--comeon!--that's not such a fabulous thing. Summers to come will be better, more fun, filled with more activity and less screaming. (Oh I can't wait to move past the screeching stage. It's hard on everyone for a household member to be 2.)