Lessons Learned

image

Things I learned from my kids today:

1. Little things bring a lot of happiness.  Oliver was so excited today when I ordered him a pair of jeans that came with a belt. His first belt!  He was also thrilled to be able to use a little lamp I just clipped onto his bed to read just one more book before going to bed.

2. If you teach your mono-lingual child about false cognates, and he comes up with a Nintendo DS being a false cognate for diez-the Spanish word for ten-you should just go with it.

3. Sometimes, having someone else around to help you change your underwear and sheets after you wet the bed can make your whole night better. (And major props to Kullervo for his ability to change sheets lightning fast! If there were parental superpowers, that would definitely be one of them.)

4. If you tell kids that their Auntie E really misses them, they will pose for a picture to make her day.

Advertisements

Gun Talk

All Oliver can talk about is guns.  Nerf guns.  Water guns.  Real guns.  He desperately wants a Nerf gun for his birthday.

Now, in principle, I am okay with toy guns.  My concern is that in a society for which violence has become commonplace and not a big deal, without a lot of care and due diligence (for lack of a better term) by the parents, that same casual attitude is passed down to our children.

I think it’s a big cognitive leap to understand that playing with toy guns in a game and pretending to kill people (!) is okay (and is it?), but playing with real guns where people really do get hurt or killed isn’t.  We’ve avoided this, in part, in the past, by having games that we play with him that do involve shooting be able shooting marshmallows and getting each other so sticky that you lose the game (totally Kullervo’s imagination at work there, mind you!).

I’m not going to pretend otherwise–real guns make me really uncomfortable.  I’ve had some bad experiences in my life associated with them.   I lived in a house once where the gun that was there (not mine) that was for self-protection was turned on us, and we were sort of held hostage.

At the same time, my baggage is my baggage, and not something that my kids need to live or deal with.  And part of being a responsible parent, in my opinion, is recognizing that, and thus teaching my kids appropriate caution without terrorizing fear.

So, for now, we talk about it.  We talk about real guns and toy guns.  We talk about how they are different, by a seriously huge magnitude.  We talk about killing, and death, and hurting people.  These aren’t fun conversations to have, but important in the context.

And I have to figure out–or rather, Kullervo and I have to figure out–what sort of play is okay.  Kids have been playing cops and robbers for ages and ages.  Is it bad to pretend to kill a bad guy?  Is it wrong?  What do we allow?  On the one hand, when kids pretend to kill things, it’s downright creepy.  On the other hand, death is a part of life.  And, for worse (not for better), killing and hurting other people is a part of life.  And exploring difficult, complex, and philosophically deep ideas about life and death through play seems appropriate.  We are supposed to role play to teach our kids how to handle things like smoking and bullies… is it okay to role play to teach our kids about death? About the darker nature of man?  If I tell him that he can play with toy guns, but he can only pretend he’s hurting someone, not killing them… does that make death seem like this big, terrifying thing?  What do we do, then, when our enormously-fat-probably-won’t-live-forever-seven-year-old-cat dies?

I’m sure that a part of this conversation also has to go into religion.  Which means I’m going to have to prayerfully figure out what the heck I teach my kids about hard questions like that, religiously.  This probably belongs in a whole separate post, but I feel like Jesus’s way was wholly different from the instinctive response to this.  For example, bullying.  I want to teach my kids that if someone bullies them, or hits them, they should hit back.  Knock a kid out.  Bullies only respond to strength.

But Jesus didn’t teach that.  I don’t want my kids to hurt… but I do want them to follow Jesus’s teachings.  Those two might be mutually exclusive in some circumstances.  And I need to spend some time with God figuring that out, and then with Kullervo to make sure that we are on the same page in terms of raising our kids inter-faithfully.

Another aspect of the whole gun issue revolves around hunting.  I respect that it’s a sport, and that lots of people seriously enjoy it.  I personally find it repellent, but I can see and understand where other people would feel differently.  And Kullervo loves going shooting (not hunting, but shooting).  He was an infantry soldier, and he’s a good shot.  It’s something he excels at.  How does that fit into all of this?

In addition to the concerns about Oliver playing with Nerf guns, letting him do it exposes Hazel at a much younger age to them.  Which means that she needs to be a part of the conversation as well.  I don’t think she’d show as much of an interest in them, but I think it would be really easy to have the conversations with Oliver, and then just assume Hazel picked up on it, when her cognitive development is that of a three year old, not a five year old.

I don’t have any answers at all, just question on question, so any feedback or suggestions are appreciated.  Do you let your kids play with toy guns?  How old were they when you let them start, if it wasn’t always?

The Kids

Many thanks to an old friend, Kimber (aka One) for letting me know she wanted to see pictures of my kids!

First, there is Oliver.  He’s four and a half now, brilliant (of course), funny (obviously), talented (clearly), and has an unbiased mother (indubitably).  He also totally gets Christmas.  He was telling me today all about all of the presents that he wants for Christmas, and I said, “Now, you know that Christmas is about more than just getting presents right?”

He responded, “Yeah, I know that.  It’s also about snow.  And candy.”

Then there’s Hazel.  Her world is made of magic and you can’t help but fall in love with all of the epic cuteness.  She says such wonderful things that I can’t help but wonder if she’s plotting world destruction through adorability.  She memorizes the lyrics to songs after hearing them twice, and sings along with the radio she insists on leaving on in her room all the time, tuned to the local country station.

So, these are my kids.  I love them.  They drive me crazy, they bring out the best and the very worst in me, and I wouldn’t change them for anything in the world because they are the absolute perfect versions of themselves.

Teach Me! Teach Me!

One of the best surprises about our new place is that it turns out that we live in the district for what is considered by many to be Chicago’s best public elementary school. They also have a preschool, and give preference to kids in the neighborhood (us!). Which is great news.

The bad news is that they didn’t have any openings for the current year, and we don’t know (and won’t know for a couple of months) about next year. It’s possible that Oliver won’t be going to preschool at all, and it is definite that I need to get in gear and get applications in at some other places if I want him to go next year, just in case this school doesn’t work out.

Going hand-in-hand with this, Oliver has begun refusing to take naps. This is incredibly frustrating for me, because naptime has always been me-time. Both kids are really demanding of me–they aren’t content to be in the same room with me, they want to be sitting on me, climbing on me, playing with me, etc. So from morning til night, I don’t get a break, either mental or physical. So, after spending a few days being frustrated with Oliver’s naplessness, I decided to be all Serenity-Prayerful about it, and accept the things that I cannot change.

Which means that while Hazel naps and Oliver doesn’t, I spend some time with him one-on-one doing preschool activities. And he loves it. I’m no teacher, and I think I might actually be quite terrible at what I’m doing, but he comes with a lot of raw potential (i.e. he’s kind of brilliant), which helps. I’ve been printing out alphabet and numeral handwriting sheets and really simple word searches, and we’ve been taking them a letter and a number at a time, tracing them and practicing writing them. He really enjoys it (we only spend 15-30 minutes every day, depending on how excited he is about it, and I try not to push him too hard on any of it). And during preschool time, he insists on calling me Teacher.

Oliver has had a good grasp of numbers for awhile, and even surprises me sometimes with his basic math skills. Last week, I was making lunch for him and Hazel, and had put five chicken fingers into the microwave to heat up. Oliver asked how many I was heating up, and I told him that I had made three for him and two for Hazel. And he said, “Oh, so you’re making five?” It blew my mind a little. In a good way. 🙂

Along with getting comfortable with writing the numbers and what the numbers mean, I was curious about whether he could actually recognize numbers when he saw them, and put it together with what they represent. So I decided to try making some matching games on his chalkboard, drawing goldfish crackers and having him match the number of crackers to the number. As you can see, he did a great job. Also, I am terrible and drawing.

Movie (Snuggle) Time!

The kids love the movie Cars. We had a busy morning of playing outside in the really, really cold (I was hoping to freeze Oliver into a nap, unsuccessfully), and this afternoon I had promised Hazel that we could watch a movie. It’s really hard to say no when she asks to “wotch a mooooooovie”.

I put on the movie, hoping that I’d be able to get some unpacking and organizing done, but Hazel said she wanted me to sit on the couch with her. I figured her attention span wouldn’t last too long, so I would sit with her for a couple of minutes and then when she got up to wander around, I’d get up and get to work.

But she just melted into me. She put her arms around me, lay her head on my chest, and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

So I watched her beautiful face while she watched Lightning McQueen, noticing her nearly-translucent skin, the way the light from the TV reflected in her eyes, how her face shape is so similar to Oliver’s, and just enjoyed the feel of my incredible daughter snuggled up with me to watch a movie. And I hoped it would never end, because one day she’s going to grow up, and I don’t know that I’m ever going to be ready for that to happen.

Stay at Home Mom

Today is my first official day of being a stay at home mom. Kullervo began his job today, and left at 8 this morning to catch the bus. The kids and I are at home, trying to figure out what our new routine will be.

Oliver is going to take a gymnastics class today, and we are going to work on some arts and crafts. Oliver was disappointed when we took down the holiday decorations, so I decided that we would make new decorations for winter to put up. And, if Oliver decides that he doesn’t want to nap today, we are going to have some at-home school, and work on reading, writing, or math.

Photobucket

Hazel is continuing her love of tutus, and has started letting me put hair pretties in her hair. In other words, she looks adorable… pretty much all the time. Add that to her super-expressive face, and she’s just magical.

Photobucket

I still have some unpacking and organizing to do, and we haven’t even begun things like painting the walls or hanging pictures. I also need to figure out what I want to do and focus on so that I am still Katy, and not just Mommy.

In other words, today is the first day of our new adventure, and I can’t wait to experience it all! The photos aren’t great, but they will have to do until I take some with something other than my iPhone.

Time Out for Oliver

I feel like there’s something LDS related to Time Out (Time Out for Women?  Time Out for Love?), which I have no idea what it is, but the title stuck, and that’s why I titled this post what I did.  (Oh, and it’s about time outs, too.)

So, time out.  I mentioned here that the way that I do time out is different than it used to be.  Most books and magazines that I’ve read recommend giving time out for a minute per year of age.  I’ve also heard theories of letting your kid be in time out until they’re ready to get out and behave.  I don’t really do either of those.

I’m going to illustrate the way that I do time out with a couple of typical examples in our home.

1.  Oliver gets angry that Hazel is playing with one of his toys.  He snatches it from her, and then hits her.  Hitting is one of those ‘don’t pass go’ cards straight to time out.  He usually gets really upset about having to go to time out, and I often have to carry him over there.  He sits in the designated time out spot by the door, facing the wall, and I usually st behind him and hold him while he’s crying and carrying on.  I try not to talk to him until he’s managed to calm down a bit, and if I do talk to him, it’s usually to say  (or whisper) that we’ll talk when he’s calmed down.  (Aside: Sometimes he’ll shriek that he IS CALMED DOWN, and I have a hard time not laughing.)  When he stops freaking out about being in time out, we talk about why he’s there.  I ask him why he got sent to time out, and he’ll tell me that he hit Hazel.  Sometimes he tries to interject with, “I hit Hazel, but…” and I interrupt him and tell him that there aren’t any buts because we don’t hit.  And we talk about why we don’t hit–that it hurts people, that we don’t want to hurt people, that he loves Hazel, even when he’s angry with her, and that she is smaller than him, so hitting her isn’t fair, and that there are better ways of dealing with a problem than hitting.  If I still have his attention, I try to talk to him about what he could do instead.  Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t.

2.  I ask Oliver to please get his shoes so we can go outside, and he yells at me, “No!  YOU do it!”.  Now, my problem here isn’t that he didn’t obey me, but the way that he told me.  If he had asked me politely, and I wasn’t doing something else, I wouldn’t really have a problem with doing it.  But I won’t let me three year old boss me around.  Then we’re stuck in a battle of wills where he’s said he won’t do it, and I won’t back down because that wold be a parenting nightmare.  So, we often wind up with a statement of, “Oliver, if you don’t get your shoes by the time I count to five, you’re going to go to time out.”  I don’t love putting him in time out for this, but I’m not sure what else to do when it’s a stand off.  So, I wind up having to carry him to time out if he doesn’t do it.  Again, I sit with him, and when he’s ready, we talk about why he’s in time out, and what he could have done instead–he could have politely asked.  Or he could have said, “Mommy, I’m in the middle of putting my cars in my bookbag; can I do it when I’ve finished?”  Here, it’s a matter of learning how to speak to each other respectfully, so we talk about why we don’t talk to each other that way.

It sounds kind of touchy feely, I guess, but maybe that’s okay.  Mostly, we try to adapt our punishment to make sure that we and the kids know why they’re being punished, and also try to modify it so that they aren’t being abandoned and forced out of the family because they acted out.  I don’t want my kids to feel like we don’t love them as much or want to be around them when they’re behaving badly.  I don’t want them to think that my love is conditional on perfect behavior, because it’s not.  So, I love them harder when they’re rotten, and try really hard to stay calm.

And I apologize when I yell at them or snap at them.  Because I want to treat them with respect too.  And I want them to know that they deserve to be treated with respect.