In the midst of holiday celebrations and preparations, a round of the stomach virus, A studying for her upcoming finals and the day-to-day parenting mayhem this week I stumbled on this article on what a four-year-old should know and it has stopped me in my tracks. I can get very impatient with my kids, often about getting things done and behaving well, but also about what they do or don’t know or what they will or won’t try. Why hasn’t she learned yet that she always needs to… Why won’t he just sit down and do this… It is hard in my often hectic-feeling life and our competitive culture not to feel behind, and not to look at my kids sometimes and think of them as behind, when what is really important is a different set of things entirely.
1. She should know that she is loved wholly and unconditionally, all of the time.
2. He should know that he is safe and he should know how to keep himself safe in public, with others, and in varied situations. He should know that he can trust his instincts about people and that he never has to do something that doesn’t feel right, no matter who is asking. He should know his personal rights and that his family will back them up.
3. She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always okay to paint the sky orange and give cats 6 legs.
This advice for parents is gold too:
That being the smartest or most accomplished kid in class has never had any bearing on being the happiest. We are so caught up in trying to give our children “advantages” that we’re giving them lives as multi-tasked and stressful as ours. One of the biggest advantages we can give our children is a simple, carefree childhood.
I have no further comments. I am still digesting.
Seriously: only 11 posts all year? What a lame-o blog you are reading. A person starts a blog because they have something to write about. When I started this blog I had something to write about. Actually, here’s something I never told you. When I started this blog what I wanted to write about was my thoughts on how to do church. It was the fall of 2007 and I had all sorts of thoughts about worship leading and prayer and getting small groups of people together and just doing life together, and I was thinking about how church didn’t need to be done the way church is always done in the tradition I come from. I had been in a volunteer or leadership role of some kind in a church or parachurch organization for around 12 years and I had a few things to say about what I thought it was all about.
However 2007 was also the year the last church I led in closed down, and other significant circumstances in my life all whirled into one mighty storm, and pretty soon what I had to say about church organization and service structures didn’t seem quite so important anymore. The topic on my mind was now this storm, and getting the hell out of it. And, you may have noticed, that pretty much occupied all my thinking and processing on this blog, with the occasional distraction, until this year.
Now the storm has passed (hurray), and, if I may extend the metaphor, I have looked around and noticed I seem to be in the middle of the ocean. Not all by myself, fortunately, but with family and friends around me and activities I am involved in. A pretty good life, I think. But I am in the middle of the ocean. I lost sight of land long ago and now when I’m not actively combating it I feel listless and without direction, and overall without much to say.
On the other hand I have three little impetuses (not to be confused with imps) who keep me busy and right now are careening around the room waiting for me to play with them. So for the next half hour at least, I have a direction.
A New York Times article by a woman married 20 years to hear her husband say one day, “I don’t love you anymore.” Her completely unexpected response here. Worth the full read.
If you’ve ever found yourself using the phrase, “too much information”, now may be a good time to click on to the next post.
So when my three-year-old is through sitting on the porcelain doing his best interpretation of a Play Doh Fun Factory, he hollers “WIIIIIIIIIIIPE!!!” as he waits with his elbows on his thighs. I come in to perform my duty for his doodie, and he pitches forward and grabs behind my knees while I clean the operative area. And most times it takes four, five, maybe seven, twelve times before the paper comes back with only the acceptable tan tinge. It’s like the poop just keeps on coming. It isn’t as though he continues to press mud while I catch it as fast as I can tear Charmin. Just the opposite, in fact – even when I look back there to see where all this brown is coming from, it looks clean. Then I wipe, and there’s poop. And I check again and it’s clean.
Where does it all come from??
The other night I was putting my four-year-old to bed and I asked her if there was anything she wanted to say to God. “I already asked him to help Gianna’s leg feel better” she said. The baby’s leg, incidentally, is broken. She got caught in a sibling sandwich Tuesday night and is back this morning to the hospital to get it casted.
“You can tell him again,” I said.
“Ok,” she said, and grabbed a blanket from her bed. “I have to go into my secret place.” She pulled the blanket up over her and was silent.
“Ok, go ahead,” I offered.
“I am, I’m whispering,” she confirmed. And sure enough her little whispers began to creep from under the blanket. After a short time she popped back up again and said “Ok, I’m done.”
This sounds like the sort of thing parents teach their children to do and then are tickled to see them actually do it. This though she came up with on her own, which tickles me even more.
A few nights prior to this I was putting our 3 year old to sleep and somehow God came up in conversation. He looked at me matter-of-factly and declared, “God is white.” Once again – let me be clear – not something to my knowledge he’s been taught or prompted to say. And I certainly haven’t noticed him studying 20th century western Christian imperialism on his own. So I was amused.
“Like, his clothes are white?” I asked.
“No, God is white.”
“You mean his skin is white?”
“No,” he insisted, “God is white.”
“Ok then, ” I conceded, and replied with something dumb about God being lots of colors.
If he ever clarifies that statement, I’ll be sure to blog about it.
I realized this morning as I caught up again to the same guy who had been going 5 under the speed limit earlier and somehow taken a short cut I hadn’t yet discovered that it’s much easier to be angry at nobody than at somebody. Or at least at the wrong guy. I made some sort of quip directed vaguely at the bumper of the guy’s Ford barge that was partially a result of his driving choices and partly of my ignorance of the short cut, which in any case would still have put me behind him the whole way.
As the painting and unwallpapering is at a stopping point and the move has happened, or at least all of our stuff is in the new house and mostly waiting to be put where it goes, I’ve realized how stressful it’s all been on all of us, including some of our dear friends who have sweated and bled with us in the process. (Yes, I mean that literally.) I’m just lately starting to catch up on sleep, as are my wife and lovely chilluns, who I fear have borne the brunt of the worst of my exhaustion.
Why is it that it’s easy to let loose on the kids when other people who know me well don’t ever see that side of me, unless they happen to be in the room? Clearly they’re not the ones who cause me the level of angst I display at times towards them, but then who is, since no one else seems to present themselves as a reasonable target? To be fair, it isn’t often that my frustrations come out towards them in a way I regret later and have to ask them to forgive me for. But it’s happened lately, and more frequently than I like – which I suppose when I think of it equates to any frequency at all.
Perhaps it’s what they represent – not the generational or genetic prospects, but the in-the-moment representation of That Which Thwarts My Desires. I get this upset with them only when they don’t do what I want them to, and not when they invent some sort of mischief on their own. When they won’t stay at the dinner table, for example, or when they don’t stop antagonizing each other. Most often though the moments i’m least proud of happen when they won’t stay in their wonderfully far away bedrooms and lie quietly and go to sleep and let me enjoy the 60 or 90 minutes a day I get alone downstairs with Amber at the end of our long days. In these moments they’re reduced in my perception to little No-fairies. I want to rest. No. I want to watch a movie. No. I want to have an uniterrupted conversation. No. I want to be done with responsiblities for the day No. I want to – No.
And of course in my lesser moments I’m not tuned in to what’s actually happening in their world, whether a request or protest is bona fide or manipulative, or frustrations and fears are genuine or contrived. I see through my own lenses, and all they tend to show is what I’m not getting that I should be. Cooperation. Respect. Rest. Things done. Time. Parts of my life back. They’re really wonderful kids with genuine desires and valuable things to say.
So who am I angry at then? What I express to them is coming from somewhere, it’s greater than the sum of the circumstances, and I know it’s real because I’m not characteristically like that. And it’s not them, it’s me. But it’s not even really me. The last four years have been an exercise in not getting what I want, in a variety of ways in a variety of areas of life. And it’s taken its toll on me in ways I don’t think I’ve really comprehended yet. So what that leaves me with is a bunch of stuff under my skin tha’s got nowhere to go but in until I find some helpful and healthy way to blow it off. A friend and I have been joking that I should get myself a baseball bat and an old tire in my backyard and just have at it. Which would certainly help in times like that, and would divert the energy away from more harmful outlets. But which also would leave the causes unaccounted for, and so ultimately not fix the issue. Anger is ok. Inordinate amounts of anger, anger directed at the wrong target, and anger unmitigated by other contributing factors are not ok. And I can’t haven’t yet been able to navigate that last list.
So one thing I’ve discovered in myself recently is an onset of Daddy Brain. Daddy Brain is in the same family of conditions as Mommy Brain, but manifests itself in quite a different way. Mommy Brain causes the short-term memory to atrophy, shrinking the retention of most information to a few minutes at best, unless it’s information that pertains to the necessary care of children and maintaining their schedules. It also is known to attack the language centers of the brain, causing one to lose grasp of 70-80% of the English language. What remains tends to be words like binky, Cheerios, and Target, and phrases such as get over here, where’s your sister, and get off the table.
Daddy brain on the other hand, targets the motivation center of the brain, dulling it and ultimately rerouting its neurons to the hunger and sleep reflex centers or the escape instinct function. In advanced cases, Daddy Brain has been known to cause a man to confuse impulses of constructive motivation with the overwhelming desire to hold a remote and/or take a nap.
I think I’ve had Daddy Brain for at least a year or two now, in various degrees at various times. I recognize it fairly often, but my knee-jerk response is ya, but who’s got the energy to try to overcome this? It’s a vicious cycle really, and one that I’m just on the front end of navigating my way out of. Two years ago I was an extraordinarily motivated guy, with a bunch of ideas and not enough time to pursue them all. Granted, my circumstances were different then (only one toddler and a baby, instead of two toddlers and an almost-toddler), but I can say with certainty that in retrospect I like myself much better then than I do now.
Figuring this one out will be tricky. As for right now, I have to go wipe a bottom.