Friday, April 29, 2011

Twisters in our neck of the woods...

I've been MIA this past week, due to a night of doula work and the twisters that ripped through SE TN! (the doula work being obviously more fun than the tornadoes! It roared over our house on Wednesday night and shook our windows and doors, littering our lawn with pieces of other people's homes and possessions. :( The neighborhood behind us was pretty much obliterated, and we've lost power/water for the time being, so the girls and I are staying at my parent's home.

Just wanted to say that we're OK, and to encourage everyone to pray and send aid to the families that were effected by the twisters. :O)

Monday, April 25, 2011

What am I hoping to teach (and what are they learning)?

If you're a parent, you've probably had at least one moment where you stop yourself mid-action in dealing with a child in an irrational age/stage and asked yourself, "WHAT, in the name of cinnamon apple pie am I DOING?!" If you're not that parent, I congratulate you. If you are, you're in decent company. :grin:

After much mulling to discover a common thread for moments like those (in effort to avoid them in the future!), I've discovered this truth: When my parenting becomes trying to control my child's actions/behavior rather than teach them and equip them for successful adulthood, I become a giant horse's behind. In a nutshell. :OP

Whether or not you agree with Kohlberg's Moral Stages, we can all generally agree that a higher level of thinking, emotional life and spirituality are reached when a person stops doing something out of fear of punishment (relying on authority for moral compass), and starts to value the right thing because it is right/avoid the wrong thing because of the actual damage it causes.

I've found my experience with children to be no exception. For some children, knowing that their parents/teachers will be disappointed with them is enough to discourage them from disobeying. For others, the fear of punishment is enough to discourage them from out of bounds behavior keeps them "in line". And, as always, there's always the spunky segment of the populous that weighs the cost/benefits of what they want vs. punishment received and goes for the forbidden fruit anyway, because it's totally worth it to them. Some children simply lack the impulse control to do any of the above.

As I think the above paragraph over, I ask myself: But is that the point and goal of my parenting? Compliance and rule following? There's the theory that eventually a child will begin to do the right things for the right reasons once adulthood is reached, but I've observed too many adults STILL doing the right thing for approval/safety (or doing the wrong thing because they never learned why they shouldn't) to believe that this is an practical approach.

Which brought me to this-What am I trying to TEACH my child when I allow them to experience the consequences of their actions? And what are they really learning from what's coming out of my mouth?

For instance...if they slap their sister, and I respond by smacking her on the leg, what am I actually teaching? Certainly not that the bodies of others are sacred and to be treated with respect (um...hello! :P) Certainly not honoring physical boundaries. Definitely that it's OK for the person in authority gets to smack, and that if you're small, you don't have that right (age/might makes right). Perhaps that if you you hurt others, you'll experience pain.

What if I want to actually TEACH gentleness and kindness?

So, then, my goal becomes teaching skills and values, rather than simply teaching my children to associate with "bad" behavior and avoid it at all costs. But HOW?

If my very small daughter gets very angry and tries to throw her glass of water on the floor, what's the actual issue at hand? Is it my frustration? The mess on the floor? What skill does she actually lack that makes it impossible for her to have another reaction?

My mistake when this first happened 5.5 years ago or so was to assume that the thing I had to teach her was respect for mommy's floor. :OP Making MY goal as her parent to teach her how "not to throw things on the floor". (I laugh at the hilarity of it now! :giggle Keep in mind that I was parenting a toddler, meaning she had zero coping/behavioral modification skills whatsoever.) I'd look very cross (at this point, having committed myself to not training a la fear of spanking). I'd do my best to intimidate her, shame her, illicit guilt; all of which had exactly the same result: a very frustrated Esther and mommy.

Finally, I realized I was not seeing the bigger issue. Esther was frustrated and had no appropriate way of expressing it. She was angry, anger is an acceptable emotion, and she had no idea how to express it in a way that was appropriate to the situation. She had little concept of the effect of her outburst on others.

Essie needed skills. She needed to see me model compassion to others before she could learn it herself. She needed to know that I could handle her big feelings without flying off the handle myself. She needed to be walked through ways to cope with her own frustration. She needed comfort to help her release the adrenalin that had built up in her little body.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A spring Haiku. Because I have Spring Fever. :P

The year's first sunburn
Dirt beneath my fingernails
Garden clogs are here

No time for anything more than that today! I'm all twitterpated. ::grin::

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Imagine my surprise...

When Nate and I went to make dinner, and found this! ;oP It seems we have a trickster in our midst. Ah, well. A little strawberry never hurt anyone...though I'd be intrigued to see the chicken who laid them!! The ever elusive Strawberraucana? Plymouth Barred Berry, perhaps? We never did find the eggs.

In other news, we were planting fools today, and got peas, kale, chard, mint and lavendar planted today, along with various flowers. I saw a honey bee. It was so springy, I practically floated around the yard with joy. More tomorrow, and I hope the weather there is making you just as happy as I'm feeling now!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How to survive as an introverted parent.

Since a couple of people asked to talk about how to survive as an introverted parent, I thought I'd share my (admittedly limited) experience from the past 6.5 years. I'll be even more inclined to call it "advice" if I survive the next 6.5 years! Until then, we'll just call it musing. ;oP

Here are things I've learned the hard way:

-marry an extrovert. ;P They have more relational energy at the end of the day. (I say this only half jokingly; Nate and I are both introverted, and while we understand with a good deal of sympathy each other's need for space and quiet, it makes it harder when we're spread thinner. :P)

-be frank with your children about what it means to be introverted, tell them that you like them a lot, and make sure they understand that "needing quiet" is just your way of recharging. My oldest daughter needs a lot of alone time, too, and is actually really understanding when I tell her that I need a little space to gather my thoughts.

-leave the kids at home with daddy. One of my friends put it to me this way (and I happen to wholeheartedly agree): Dads don't babysit. They parent. It's not an imposition to ask a parent to spend one on one time with their own child. Take advantage of your spouse's ability to supervise your kids, if you have a spouse. If not, grab the nearest and dearest person you can, promise to bake them a nice pie or something in exchange for cooperation, and leave your kids for a few hours. It doesn't even have to be daily; one afternoon or night a week seems to be enough to do the trick.

-Quiet Hour. It's hallowed and sacred in our home, because mommy is not a very nice mommy when it's not honored. People who can't say their ABCs are exempted and instead placed in a tub full of some sort of sensory gook that entertains them for a while. People who cannot talk at all nap during this time. :P

-Outdoor play. Most neuro-typical kids become quieter, less clingy and totally engrossed in their own world when taken outside. We spend a LOT of time outside when the weather is nice, thus lowering the overall noise level.

-Buy your reading children as many books as they care to devour. If they're not into fiction, give them encyclopedias and how to manuals. Sell your hair if you have to. Give the talkative child unlimited access to decent literature.

-When you feel like tossing your clingy child across the room, hug them closer. Consider this an investment. I've caused both myself and my touchy feel-y child needless hours of agony by avoiding her rather than gritting my teeth and spending that agonizing 15 minutes she needs. Not worth it. Suck it up and do the interaction, even if you're brain dead, and your child will be able to move on more quickly. It's OK to fake it...even forcing yourself to fake it comes from a place of love. ;)

-Don't over-commit. Especially if you're a relational introvert, don't commit yourself to more interaction outside your family than you can handle. A couple of outings a week seems to be my limit as a mom of smalls, unless, of course, I'm just hiding in a corner of a coffee shop with a book by myself. I have a few close friends that aren't counted as "outings", because they're more like family. Which brings me to....

-DO cultivate friendships with people who you connect with, who you trust with your children, and who do not wear you out. If you're an introvert blessed with an extroverted child (God help you), having trusted friends who are willing to chat and read and play with your little ball of relationship will become invaluable to you (and your child). I may be exhausted the end of the week, but grandma or my best girlfriend who doesn't yet have children might be delighted to read a bedtime story to my chatterbox. And I'm delighted to LET them. It really does take a village.

-Feel free to decline random interaction. If I'm running on "low", energy-wise, and I know I still need to give a little for my kids, I don't make it a point to carry on a detailed conversation with Betty Sue Shopper at the grocery store. Even though I cringe as I say it, I'm learning to say, "You know, I don't really have time to chat right now. Have a great day!" I don't always have to answer the phone or go to the door or respond to the email right away, if it's not pressing.

-Be reasonable with myself about how much alone time is actually attainable at this point. Right after my firstborn entered our lives, I was absolutely gob-smacked by the loss of my "alone" world I'd had my whole life. I seriously grieved it. I spent quite a lot of time intensely angry over the fact that I was never. ever. alone. Gradually, though, my kids become part of my new "normal", and I find myself less uptight over the fact that they're constantly present. They've kind of entered my inner sanctity bubble, in some ways (out of necessity) more than even my spouse, especially when they're nurslings. It helps me to remember that this chapter of life is fleeting, and they won't be so close to me in physical and emotional proximity forever. I have hugely conflicting feelings about this, of course. ;oP Nothing's easy come or easy go for me, and I'm already bracing for the grief that their absence will bring, once they're ready to try their proverbial wings.

That's pretty much what I've got tonight. Others feel free to post ideas in the comment section! :O)

Friday, April 1, 2011

My early introversion.

When I was in college, I used to set personal goals for myself...not about grades or exercise or performance, as those things tended to fall into place naturally for me. Studying into the wee hours wasn't an enormous intrusion for me. No, my goals were more lofty than that. They revolved around...wait for it...spending time with other humans. ;oP

Don't laugh. It's not at all funny. (OK, maybe it's a little bit funny..) I literally had a quota that I forced myself to fill, a quota of time spent having "fun" with other people, usually in the form of eating or movie watching or get togethers or hikes or what have you. (Parties, the extrovert's code for being crammed into a room full of people who yell at one another over music, were simply beyond my realm of understanding, and totally out of the question.)

Being *social* and a relational being at my core, I had enough of a spark of wisdom to recognize that in order to maintain a certain degree of emotional health away from family, I had to make connections and talk and BE with people. Generally speaking, I enjoyed the interaction once I was there, especially after meaningful, warm relationships were formed. But that first year of test driving friends and forced interaction on principle? Pure HELL for this introvert. I'd often find myself in a house or room or outing looking at the people I had absolutely no common threads with, and think to myself, "How in the name of all that's good and sensible did I land here listening to this girl jabber on and on about how much she loves Breakfast Club at 1am?"

To be sure, out of these forced outings (6 hours a week outside of classes and rehearsals and study groups) sprung many a fond friendship that I carry with me this day, once they started to sport the comfortable sheen of familiarity and the joy of being known well. Remarkably, during this time, within my own little circle, I could have even been called popular, or at least well-known, although certainly not the hostess or social coordinator extraordinaire like some of my more extroverted friends. I could be silly, amusing, gregarious, funny and social in turns, and, for the most part, my "quietness",a trait I value as an asset, wasn't the defining feature of my personality.

But, oh, how I flopped on my bed in sheer bliss once I felt I'd been sufficiently "socialized" for the week! How I'd grin and whoop and waltz around in my pajamas to jazz once my roommates all left simultaneously for a long weekend! The *only* other person I felt equally fantastic around in those happy moments was my then-boyfriend, Nathan, and he was only allowed to be around because he happened to be more introverted than I was. (In fact, we never actually socially dated as much as we sized one another up, informed each other that we made a smashing
pair, and became a "couple") All my best thoughts and feelings and dreams happened (and still happen) when I'm not being yanked to and fro by the intrusive conversations, emotions, opinions and interactions of a group of people. I'm brilliant, creative and at peace. The world slows to a reasonable pace and makes much more sense.

Forcing interaction is no longer a problem for me. Because people are my passion, my own nature tends to demand exchange of thought and energy. I exhaust myself at the alter of human relationship. :P It tends to seek me out with a relentless insistence, and, for the most part, I welcome the interactions of a more thoughtfully constructed social life of my adulthood. Turns out, there are other people out there who share my sensibilities, who wear me out a tidge less than the general populous! My "family" base is bigger, and I have to expend less energy putting myself out there in order to maintain connection. (I have the deepest empathy for displaced introverts searching out new friendships and family, I assure you!)

Even so, I'm a little more prone to indulge my inner flights of fancy and appreciate my need for "alone" processing time much more than I did in my earliest adulthood. After all, it is where all my best thoughts occur. Thus far, investing in alone time (or as alone as a mother of 3 snuggly children can ever be) is never a decision I regret, and increasingly, one I don't feel the need to
apologize for. My deepest sense of whimsy, my inner philosopher and poet, my happy flower-picking inner child, is much, MUCH more at peace after several days to myself.

I am, and ever shall be, an incurable and unapologetic introvert. It's a lovely way to be, isn't it?