Tuesday, February 26, 2013

here is apple klepto

Frances came home from school one day last week and went directly to her crafts table where she immediately put together a book. 

Here is Apple happy
Here is Apple sad
Here is Apple sleepy
Here is Apple mad
Here is Apple cut in pieces small 
But baked in a pie is best of all. 

It was a book they'd used at school and she'd memorized it, come home and put it together with her own drawings. (Apple mad's face was particularly charming.) It wasn't until the next day when she read it to me again that I noticed the apples themselves; rather than draw them she had taped on apples cut from construction paper. And as I looked at it I realized they were die cut, that she did not cut them, and I wondered where she might have gotten them. 

When I asked, she sucked in her breath and ducked her head into my side.

I asked again.

"What will you DO to me?" she whined.

I promised her I would not be mad.

Turns out she took them from her kindergarten room, had snuck them in her underwear so no one would see. Ha!

"There were so many of them," she said. 

These are the kinds of parenting issues that make folks say it's harder as they get older, not easier. It's all in how you look at it, really. For sure it's not as exhausting now. For instance, I actually sleep. Plus I walk around with two free hands that I can use for things like dishes, or ordering shoes online, or taking a freaking shower rather than carrying babies. But these new issues matter, and that's what makes them so hard. Because the way we deal with them, or don't deal with them, matters. They determine who our kids will become, and how we see ourselves as parents.

I thought of letting it slide. I mean, it was five measly construction paper apples. BUT! It's the principal of the thing, right? So I called my aunt, who has been teaching kindergarten for 35 years, and asked her what to do. In the end I emailed Frances' teacher and asked if we could meet sometime soon. I told her Frances took something from the classroom. Her email in response said, "You can tell her that I am so glad she is going to talk to me about it, and I will not be mad at her." How great is she? 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

treading, and fighting siblings

Hallooooo! Been a while since I've been here. I've missed you! Missed being here. Much afloat and little time to process in writing. Plus, I've been thinking I will switch over to the new blog about which I keep talking. It will come, it will come. For now we are here. Together.

I am so far behind with - um - everything. Emails I meant to answer ages ago, christmas decorations still to pack away, laundry that has filled up the shute literally from the basement past first floor so we have to go to the second floor to put anything into it. The rental office of the beach house we're renting this summer called about the money I hadn't sent. "We sent you a contract," they said. "It's probably here in this stack of mail I haven't opened," I said. "But we sent it in December...!" they said. "Yes, probably here in this stack," I repeated. They sounded incredulous. I have this tape running through my head, a kind of ticker tape with all the things I need to do. It's very annoying. Things have been a little nutty and I can't seem to get from in front of the plow and back around behind it where I can steer. I'm just moving moving, as fast a clip as I can manage.

This is what parenting is for many people, isn't it?

I'm trying not to think about how behind I am. I'm choosing to look at it as the stuff of the sitcom and just keep rolling.

Today Clark made it clear to me that he needed some normal time at home. What I badly needed was 40 minutes on a treadmill at the gym but I decided to forgo that so Clark could have some time to settle. I thought about the fact that the gym is one of the things I do for me, and that I was giving up something good for me in exchange for something good for him. But this is my job. Not the giving things up, but making sure that he is settled in himself, teaching him how to do it and giving him as much practice as possible so he knows the feeling he's trying to create. Sometimes my job does indeed mean I need to sacrifice things. The trick is finding the balance. As moms we're only doing our kids a disservice if we give it all up. And figuring out when one should hold fast to filling our own needs is a complex art.

I keep singing Bob Dylan's Buckets of Rain: "Life is sad, life is a bust. All you can do is do what you must. Do what you must do, and you do it well."

Frances needs a lot of physical affection. She gets it from us, of course, but she also wants it from her friends, and most importantly from her brother. She loves her brother. Loves him. Thinks he's charming and funny and fun to be around. He loves her too, but she has this habit of pulling the superiority card, to trying to help him with things he cannot yet do by himself. And this drives him crazy. Their 17 months of age difference is so little that often they are on par with each other, more or less. They started activities like karate and swimming at the same time and so are equally experienced. Frances doesn't mean to put him down when she does it, she just so desperately wants to be helpful (and perhaps a bit in control...), wants to show her love this way. And wants for him to be grateful. He's not. He's resentful.

Which means he does not want her to hug him. And since he's 4, he's still unable to clearly say what it is he indeed wants. Instead he pushes or grumps or hollers at her. And these actions, believe it or not, tend to destroy her feelings of affection and good will, at least for the moment.

I don't have any brothers or sisters. I didn't learn how to fight with someone I'm close to. (In fact, this is a skill I've found it necessary to learn as an adult, what with the marriage and all.) So I don't know what healthy conflict looks like between a 6 year old and an almost 5 year old. Do I ignore it? Redirect? Talk to them? Explain? Separate? Drink heavily? Tell them stories about little fox siblings who have a hard time getting along? Waldorf believes this last one is the way to go, but I have to say, it's really hard for me to get up the inner energy for story creation. Maybe I'll work on that. In the meantime, I keep tissues in my ears and hope for the best.