Monthly Archives: July 2014

Just You Wait Until Your Father Gets Home

Just you wait until your father gets home. Here at the end of our thirteen hour days, six AM to seven thirty at night. Every last shred of patience spent. Just you wait.

Just wait while the door slams open and your heart beats faster and he walks in to hear all about our day.

He’ll listen to the things that frustrated us, the rules broken and the feelings hurt.

He’ll listen to the stories of the adventures that we had, and the books that we read,

And he’ll sweep you into his arms and give you all the patience that I’ve been struggling with these past few hours of our too-long day.

Just wait. Daddy will be home soon. I know that you have missed him, and he has missed you too.

Sometimes We Talk About Sadness.

Alexander: Mommy.. Are you crying? Look. Your eyes are making tears.
Me: Yes I am crying.
Alexander: Why? Do you have a boo boo?
Me: No, I am crying because I’m sad.
Alexander: Why are you sad?
Me: Because sometimes things change and you’re not ready. Because you can see how they used to be so clearly and you want them back that way. Like when a toy breaks and you can picture how it just was. But you can’t fix it to be like that again. So it’s sad.
Alexander: Oh. That is sad. Did your toy break, mommy?
Me: No, love. I’m just remembering something that I miss.
Alexander: Is it sad?
Me: No.. It is beautifully happy. So happy that I wish it was like that again. But it’s not because life changes.
Alexander: But if it’s happy why are you crying?
Me: Because tears let out all the sadness so that only the happiness stays. Like when we put those rocks in the bucket and filled it up with water to wash the rocks clean and then we poured the water out and we had more room in the bucket for more rocks and other cool things.
Alexander: Yeah, and we found more rocks!
Me: Yes. Sometimes you have a type of happiness that feels all muddy because you’re sad that you can’t have it back again. Crying lets that sadness out so that you can remember all the happy things, and so that you can be happy again.
Alexander: That’s cooooooolllll!
Me: Yes it is.
Alexander: Mommy, you stopped crying.
Me: I did.
Alexander: Why?
Me: Because I’m not sad anymore.
Alexander: Can we go find rocks?
Me: Yes.. Yes we can.

Discussing Death

Death. I start talking about it little so that when it comes around in a bigger way it is a familiar topic.

Keenie: bug! Its not moving!
Me: its dead.
Keenie: oh. Dead. lady bug move?
Me: No, its dead. It won’t move anymore. It drowned.
Keenie:sad. Dead. All done. Bye bye ladybug.
Alexander: whys it dead?
Me:it was in the pool too long.
Alexander:but I got it out!
Me: it was already dead.
Alexander: is it still dead?
Me:yes.
Alexander:but I got it out.
Keenie: dead. Sad!
Me: you did get it out, but once something dies you cant make it alive again.
Alexander: do you remember when I got the other beetle out and it was still alive?
Me: I do. You saved it.
Alexander: and it wasn’t dead.
Me:no, you saved it so it wasnt dead.
Keenie: saved it!
Alexander: but I saved this one too.
Me: you tried, love. But it was already dead.
Alexander: oh. I am sorry.
Me: I am sorry, too.
Alexander: will we be dead too if we are in the pool?
Me: only if you get stuck under the water. That is why a grownup needs to be with you to make sure you never get stuck.
Alexander: oh.
Me: remember when Keenie fell and couldn’t stand up and I helped her?
Alexander: yes.
Me: until you learn to swim the water is dangerous unless an adult is watching to help you back up.
Alexander: is that why I cant swim unless you watch me? Would I be dead?
Me: yes. I need to watch you while you swim until you are big.
Alexander: you keep me safe.
Me: yes.
Alexander: like I keeped that beetle safe.
me:yes.
Alexander: I wish I could have keeped the ladybug safe, then he wouldnt be dead.
Me: Are you sad?
Alexander: Yes.
Me: Do you need a hug?

And he ran to the side of the pool we hugged for a bit before we started talking about something else.

We have talked about death before. “Why’s the deer laying there?” “It’s dead.” “Why is it dead?” “It got hit by a car.” “Oh.”

“Is the caterpillar dead?” “No, it spun a cocoon. It will turn into a moth and fly away.”

“Grandma Donna is sad because her little dog died.” “Why’d she die?” “She was very old and sick and her body was broken and not working anymore, so the veterinarian helped her die.” “Why is she sad?” “Because she loved her little dog very very much and she is sad that she won’t be able to see her anymore.”

I try to avoid the idea that death is “sleep” because I don’t want my child to fear sleep. I try to avoid the idea that death is scary. Death is undesirable. Death makes you miss people. Grief is normal. Death is something to avoid. But it’s a simple fact of life.

Dragonflies Will Sew Your Mouth Shut if You Lie, and Other Convenient Untruths

Dear Mister Four,

You recently stopped picking up the toys in the bathtub and frantically putting them away as the bath drained. Inconvenient, yes. But a step forwards in understanding the world around you. For months you would cry if anyone took out the drain plug before the toys were put away. You didn’t want them to go down the drain.

It would have made my job easier to perpetuate this myth. I mean. You cleaned up the toys every single time the bath was over.

There are a lot of lies that parents tell children to get them to do the things that they want them to do, or to discourage the things that they don’t want them to do.

Your grandmother was told that dragonflies would sew her mouth shut if she ever lied. The day that she told me about that we were sitting on a wooden foot bridge across a creek that I loved. Dragonflies were darting through the air. I thought that they were beautiful and pleasant. I was in my late 20’s and your older brother was not yet a year old.

I was sad when my mother told me this. Sad that she still got uncomfortable when the dragon flies flew too close. Sad that these pretty iridescent bugs were tied up in memories of being lied to and manipulated.

I was glad, though. Glad that she told me that story. Because often people fall into patterns without really thinking through to the long term consequences of what they are doing. It’s fast and it’s easy and everyone around you is doing it. It seems to be effective and hey- maybe it’s even cute that the kid believes something silly and unfounded. Maybe they’ve come up with something all on their own, and it’s just convenient for us as a parent.

Hearing her story made me recognize the long term of those cute little “tricks”.

No, child, the dragonflies won’t sew your mouth shut. The consequences of a lie don’t come in some mystical form of Santa Claus bringing you coal. They don’t come from insects or from any of those things. They come from the sadness of knowing you have been less than honest. They come from a loss of trust.

And that is why I tell you the truth even when it is inconvenient. That is why I admit my honest mistakes even if it’s scary to do so. That’s why I don’t pretend to be blameless when I am to blame. Why I don’t say that you broke the glass that I dropped. That’s why I showed you that the bath toys don’t fit down the drain.

Because lies have consequences that aren’t worth it. Because I value your trust just as you value mine.

You no longer pick up all the toys in tears and worry. Instead you pick them up because I ask you to please pick them up and put them away. And I give you a huge hug afterwards.*

No lies needed.

<3 Mama

* You aren’t perfect at the picking up on request thing yet. Sometimes you won’t, or you get distracted and start to play again. But you’ll get there eventually.

Don’t Think of Pink Elephants, and the Annoying Repetitive Behaviors of Children

Don’t think of pink elephants. Stop thinking of pink elephants. STOP THINKING OF PINK ELEPHANTS! If you keep thinking of pink elephants you are going to have to sit on the bottom stair for one minute. TWO MINUTES! FIVE MINUTES! STOP THINKING ABOUT PINK ELEPHANTS RIGHT THIS MINUTE!

There are some behaviors that my children start up on the minute that certain adults come home.

The behaviors that have to STOP RIGHT NOW. The behaviors that have consequences. The behaviors that pop up randomly across our days together but in small and manageable amounts that quickly pass.

When someone is fixated on something you don’t get them to stop by talking about it.

Remember the pink elephants? I’m guessing it became a bit easier to put them out of your mind after I stopped talking about them as much. Because you started thinking about what I was talking about instead. Your mind moved on.

I call these behaviors “Pink elephant behaviors”. They aren’t going to stop no matter how much you DEMAND THAT THEY STOP.

Change the topic if you don’t like it. Teach them something else to do if they’re bored. Remove them from the room where they’re doing the thing. Let them know that they can do it in a specific place, then insist that they go to that place, instead.

But stop talking about the pink elephant in the room.