It Seems Like It’s Disappearing

What makes a childhood?  I’ve been giving that question a lot of thought since the day I first read Neil Postman’s The Disappearance of Childhood. That thinking took on an urgency once becoming a parent.

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Sweetgirl had a playdate for the girls in her new classroom last week. As I eavesdropped (because, MOM) on their conversations, I heard one eight year old exclaim to another that so-and-so in their class asked her out. One girl squealed, another put her hand to her heart and sighed (I kid you not), and another asked if it was The So-And-So from their classroom.

Wait.

Back that train up a sec.

HE ASKED HER OUT?!?!

She’s EIGHT YEARS OLD.

Yes, I am yelling.

Before I get an onslaught of negativity about not taking their little conversations so seriously and they are just testing out this growing up thing, SHE PRODUCED A PHONE NUMBER! He apparently wrote his phone number down and said, “Call me sometime.”

Full up stop.

Just stop.

Because, childhood? It seems like it’s disappearing.

When I was eight, the only adult things missing from my social life were teeth.

Neil Postman wrote about the phenomenon I was witnessing in his book.

More, and more frequently, I am struck by how we are losing our social idea of children as separate from adults. The divide between what experiences a child should have and what experiences we encounter as adults is shrinking.

It bothers me.

Does it bother anyone else?

Of television Postman writes,

“The six-year-old and the sixty-year-old are equally qualified to experience what television has to offer…For in speaking, we may always whisper so that the children will not hear. Or we may use words they may not understand. But television cannot whisper, and its pictures are both concrete and self-explanatory. The children see everything it shows.”

Television isn’t the root of all evil. (We all know money is, right?) But, what the t.v. does is “eliminate the exclusivity of worldly knowledge and, therefore, [eliminate] on of the principal differences between childhood and adulthood.

Right?

I mean, take a look at any current cartoon geared towards “children” and you will hear plenty of adult humor peppered throughout.

Reading this book opened my eyes to the ways in which media can negatively impact our children’s ability to have an actual childhood. And while it won’t leave you with warm fuzzies, it will open your eyes to the realities of the techno-world we live in.

Parenting is full of pitfalls and epic fails. I’m thankful for Postman’s ability to draw my eyes to the places where it can get especially holey. It helps me be more aware.

And I’ll take all the help I can get. Yes indeedy.

We’re winding down here in the Write 31 Days Challenge. If you’ve missed any of my other posts in the Best Books Ever series, click the button below. (They’re not all this heavy!)

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Maybe It’s Just Me

Brad Paisley got it right. When he described his girl as “sunshine mixed with a little hurricane”, I’m pretty sure he was describing Sweetgirl. That kid is a whirlwind of toothless eight-going-on-eighteen.  Ahab and The Nana would surely describe me similarly… plus a few teeth. And pounds. And years.

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The times I have to watch my Sunshine hide behind clouds of doubt or insecurity, though, because of the way others treat her, it’s my own inner hurricane that starts brewing.

I can’t be the only one who identifies with the inner hurricanes I see within these tender-hearted girls. Self-doubt is a powerful ingredient in an emotional storm and it surely does seem like there are far too many of us huffing harsh words out onto others in hopes that we will feel smarter, prettier, more popular, and even seen. We whip our attitudes around and lash out at others in an effort to boost our own meager confidence. We think more highly of ourselves than we ought in hopes that we matter more than the next girl.

And none of it does a single thing to advance love, joy, peace, kindness or goodness.

No. In fact,  witnessing how hurtful and mean girls can be toward one another is distressing. Watching the devastation left in the hearts of the hurt is heartbreaking. Too often this meanness starts a vicious circle of behavior: Be hurt. Hurt another. Feel better. Be hurt again. Hurt another again. Feel better again. And on and on it goes.

And, I’m tired of hearing that this is just how girls are with one another. Responsibility gets to fly off on the shoulders of Blame, that way. And, assuming that girls will determine social hierarchy with little emotional fallout makes about as much sense to me as throwing a non-swimmer into a pool and saying, “Good luck with that swimming thing.”

Comments sharing how there will always be mean girls fall hard on my heart, too, because I’m a firm believer in doing what you can. Don’t we all remember the Starfish Story? We can throw one starfish starving for it’s watery habitat back, and it will make a difference for that one single starfish, won’t it?

Aren’t the hearts of girls worth just as much effort and attention?

With their increasingly younger noses perpetually pressed to their smart phones or tablets, and seeking social acceptance there, it seems obvious that guidance is needed. We adults need to be checking in often enough to know who and what these girls of ours are trying to get their self-worth from.

And, while we’re at it, where are we trying to get our own self-worth from?

As I’ve mentioned here and here, I do believe our worth is something a few of us adults need to be reminded of, too.

Or, maybe it’s just me.

What do you say we work on battening down those hurricane hatches together?

God knows Grace gushes in my general direction because I desperately need it.

Often.

Can we agree to work on showing, not telling, our girls how to treat themselves, first. Can we remind them again and again that they are created in the image of One who loves them more than any Facebook or Insta “like” ever will. And can we do that together, by caring more about the eyes watching us refresh our screens than those on our screens.

Sweetgirl needs some help learning how to combat The Mean with the truth that we are each a special God-designed mix of sunshine and hurricane. Especially as we boot up for a new school year.

And, quite frankly, her mama can always use some more work in that area, too.

Always.

Yes indeedy.

Who’s with me?

Ask First

Her blonde curls unfurled behind her as she chased her little neighbor friend across the field. All eight years of her pumped those legs to catch up with all three years of her little friend.

And, when she did catch up?

Giggles.

Galore.

“I’m gonna get you! I’m gonna tickle you silly,” she kept saying, to the delighted cries of the neighbor.

My Sweetgirl gently tickled and chased, causing the newly three-year old fits of laughter. There was more glee to behold in the scene than my heart could take in.

But, I did.

Then, I waited…

For the right moment to have that uncomfortable conversation with my precious child, who meant only good. I’m talking about the reality that tickles can also be bad. And that, to be appropriate, you must always ask first.

“But, it ruins the moment, mama,” she insisted!

This is where #parentingishard. It’s in these joyful moments that you are loath to interrupt, that you realize you must.

I didn’t want to. And I most certainly wish I didn’t have to.

But, touching varies radically from family to family. Respecting that fact means asking first. I had to convey this to my sweet one without dulling the beauty of a precious interaction. An interaction that happens not only amongst her and her friends, but also within family.

And it hit me – this is where the lines get crossed. Or not.

These are the conversations that can allow fear to skyrocket if not handled delicately. But, at the same time, I want her to know that if anyone tickles her, and it makes her uncomfortable, we are a family who talks together. All the time. About everything.

Even uncomfortable tickling.

So, if you find yourself in a situation that requires some gentle conversation about appropriate touching, here are a few things that I found helpful. Hopefully, you will too:

  • Watch for cues. As we were talking, she mentioned that when I tickle her, it sometimes hurts because I tickled “too hard under my armpits”. WOW! I had no idea. Just talking about this opened up the opportunity for me to apologize and acknowledge that she didn’t like that. It also helped me use language she was using as I forged on with my harder points.
  • Keep it simple. I chose to wait until this age to have this conversation. You, or families you know, may choose to do it at an earlier age. Or, a later one. My goal was to make sure my child understood that asking first also meant respecting any form of “no thank you”. And, again, I used the language my daughter used. “Friends”, “family”, “appropriate” “tickling”, “hurt”, “uncomfortable”, “like”, and “secrets” were all worked into our conversation.
  • Allow for questions. This one was hard. Because, when you open up this can of worms, sometimes they stay in their nice round can, and sometimes they come out in every direction. Our conversation? There were no shoving those worms back in the can! So, I just let the questions roll in. And, some of my more brilliant answers included the words, “Maybe” and “Sometimes” and even “I’m not sure”. I hope it’s obvious that I didn’t have all the answers. And I thought it was important for my Sweetgirl to know that while I will always accept any question, I might not always have an immediate answer.

Is this a hard topic to tackle? Yes. Yes it is.

But worth it.

Yes indeed.

 

 

 

Silently Correcting Their Grammar

Few things slay my inner grammarian like hearing someone botch a perfectly good word or phrase. Folks do it “alot” (ahem).

And I’m silently correcting their grammar.

Hearing Americans talk and write about the Republican and Democratic “cannidates” could spell disaster for the future of our country. And, I’m talking about the mispronunciation of candidates, not the potential election results.

I’m silently correcting their grammar, and praying for the elections.

Listening to a young lifeguard friend tell about the time she had to swim “acrosst” the bay to make sure someone didn’t “drownd” while goofing around in the surf, makes me cray-cray.

I’m silently correcting her grammar, while thanking God for her bravery.

But, for all intensive purposes, I think it’s best if people stop using that phrase. Because, for all intents and purposes, it’s being used incorrectly.

Providing me another opportunity to silently correct grammar.

And I make jokes with my other grammar abiding friends about this private act of silently correcting others’ grammar.

Never once did I give it another thought.

Until…

jokingly used a phrase with my sweetkids the other day. “Listen up peoples!”

And my children not-so-silently corrected my grammar.

Humility…I am still learning it.

Parenting, it is a mighty teacher.

Oh, yes indeedy.

I am trying to train those children up in the way they should go. But, Lord? Could my training not come back and hit me upside the head so very often?

While my defenses rose and I felt the need to shout-explain, “I know that!”, I felt Humility, Himself, knocking on my heart’s door. With each knock, there was a growing unease in my soul at my many silent corrections.

Proverbs 3:7 harked back to mind,

“Don’t be conceited, sure of your own wisdom.”

But, as usual, grace laps over the edges of my spirit as I submit my desire to know more to His desire for me to love more.

The rest of that “train your children up” verse? It says to do so in the hopes that when they are old, they won’t depart from it [their training].

I’ve departed. Oh, how I’ve departed again and again.

But Grace…

I’d like to stop departing now. Please, and thank you.

In the meantime, I’ll stop silently correcting grammar.

Thankfully, there is no statue of limitations on grace.

An Open Letter to the Author of “12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay”

Hi Mama,

I wanted to reach out to you regarding your blog post, “12 Reasons Why Peanut Free Schools Are Not Okay.”.

Brava! Seriously, Nicolette, I want to thank you for sharing your different perspectives on peanut allergies and attempting to “walk full circle” around this sensitive issue. As the parent of children both with a severe peanut allergy and without, and as the sister of a sibling who had needs of his own, I applaud your desire to point out how the typical kiddos’ needs sometimes get lost in the shuffle. They surely do. And, wow, do I ever know it!

Are you still reading? I hope so. Because now, I’m going to offer you just a couple of different perspectives. This is not a bashing. I promise. You’ve had enough of that.

Regarding point #7, you had me at utilizing alternative methods for educating your child because, as any parent of a child who is immunocompromised will tell you, yes! That is necessary. Their childrens’ bodies cannot handle the influx of germs that are constantly circulating within a school building. They must seek alternative education sources and venues for this very reason. Is it hard? Oh yes it is. Is it their life? Yes indeedy.

But, you lost me at meeting a “basic set bar of expectations”. I’m wondering if you envision a society where the folks who can’t meet a basic set bar of expectations are required to live, work, and play in areas that don’t infringe in any way on those who can. Will my child, with autism, who is most times able to meet that bar, but not always, be allowed to interact with those who’ve met the bar? Or, should he be educated at home. And, once he becomes an adult, maybe he should just work from his home, or mine (whichever – we’re cool with however that plays out) so that his needs don’t infringe on the needs of those working diligently, you know, at the bar.  Because, of course, our children are equal.

If my son becomes a brilliant scientist (from my lips to God’s ears!) who is able to research a cure for cancer because of his experiences and perspectives, but can’t be near peanuts while he’s researching, he will take the necessary precautions. Because, here’s another place we agree, it’s ultimately going to be his responsibility to take the precautions necessary to guard his life.

Here’s the thing, though – any adult he is working with is probably going to take precautions as well. Because, respect for differences manifests itself through kindness and consideration. We don’t take breaks for those kinds of character traits.

Another perspective I’d ask you to consider is when my son, who is peanut allergic, attends school with sweet Sally. I’m talking about this precious child, that you mentioned, who just lost her sweet mother to cancer. And, Sally does indeed need to eat peanut butter each day to help her soothe her grief over her mama’s recent death. So, because I care about all children, I encourage my child to leave the table where all of the other children are sitting and go sit at the peanut free table. And, he does.

He’s told by their teacher, of course, that he can ask a friend to sit with him. But, at the tender age of 9,10,11… no one wants to sit with him because, well … I’m sure you are totally aware of the social interaction dynamics of pre-adolescents. So he sits there. Alone. And, that’s okay. That’s his cross to bear. Not sweet Sally’s.

But then, there are a group of Sally’s, or Sals, who have parents who have voiced their own perspective about why “these kids” even need to be at school with their typical children. They get agitated that they can’t bring in candy for holidays and cupcakes for birthdays. It is so frustrating that they vent about it. At home, of course. But, Sal and Sally hear all of this venting and begin to live out what they hear at home, as children sometimes do. And one day, they jokingly smear peanut butter across the back of my son’s shirt as he is eating, at the peanut-free table, because they think it’s funny. And, well, he shouldn’t even be at school anyway.

“My child would never!”, you are thinking. Right? I mean, I would too! But, the reality is that lots of our children do.

Unless…

Unless we stress the importance of not taking a break from kindness and consideration. Not because we want to maximize the importance of some over all. But because that’s what respecting differences is all about. I move over to make room for you because it’s the right thing to do.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I respect you. You are a human with different perspectives than me. And I hope that you never stop writing what you think – because then we shut down dialogue, altogether. I don’t want our society to become an us versus them society. And, I’m pretty confident that you don’t either.

So, I’ll wrap up my letter to you by asking you to never stop walking full circle around these issues. And, please, never stop listening when others point out that you didn’t quite close that circle up.

Sincerely,
Missy (Another Mama)

Why I’ll Never Ask Her to Clean Out Her Room Again

There comes a time in every parent’s life when they take a peek into their youngest child’s room and decide they’ve had enough.

Enough of the teeny tiny toys that pierce the tender undersides of feet.

Enough of the stuffed animals covering the floor like carpet.

Enough of the doll clothes strewn like confetti.

Enough of the two crayons and 4 markers randomly located in the four corners of the room. Along with the 15 pieces of tape strategically placed on blankets, dresser, floor, and animals. (What is that all about, anyway? Do I even want to know??)

Enough!

Last weekend, the time had come for this parent.

“Alright Sweetgirl, mama’s all done with this toys-on-the-floor business. Let’s get this room cleaned out.”

This little announcement, as you can imagine, was not met with joy and excitement.

I began gathering all of the things we would need to clean up this mini-human explosion in the purple room down the hall. Baskets of varying sizes (I had delusions of organizational grandeur), laundry basket, big black trash bag that you could fit a human into.

“Why do we need a trash bag, mama? NOT THE TRASH BAG!?!” (The way you just read that last sentence? Not one ounce of exaggeration in how she presented her case against the dreaded trash bag.)

There are some parents for whom a messy room is their child’s problem, not theirs. It doesn’t bother them one eensy bit. They can roll with it.

Unfortunately for Sweetgirl, I am not one of them. You can only close the door on disaster so many times.

We set to work picking up the stuffed animals, first. As I lifted each one, I’d hold it up for her and ask, “Are we still in love with this one?”

I’m happy to report that she made a fairly large pile of stuffies to donate. Her mantra, each time she opted to let one go was, “It’s someone else’s turn to love them.”

Bless. (Her)

Happy Dance. (Me)

We talked through each meticulously curated pile of toys. She informed me, for example, that the lined paper cut into the shape of a haphazard oval was vital to the comfort of her mermaid Squinkie toy. But, that the pink glitter crayon lying beside them both was magical and couldn’t be moved.

Story after explanation after rationalization was doled out, in the hopes that some piles could remain.

Nope.

We finally got to our last corner of the room, when Sweetgirl put her hand on my shoulder and said, “I love you Mama. You listen to my stories.”

And that? That earned her a smooch and a hug. And a nice long break to admire what we had accomplished, so far.

I told her we could quit for the day. But, she opted to finish what we had started. So, we did.

As we finally, blessedly, wrapped up, I started dragging the trash bag of to-be-donated stuffed animals down the stairs. But, I had to pause on the second step. She had made her way into Sweetboy’s room to tell him something “important”.

“I’m a big kid now, brother,” she informed him.

He asked her why.

“Because, mama and I cleaned out all of my little girl toys today. So now, I’ve got a big girl room.”

A tear rolled down this cheek of mine. It was never my intention to clear out her little girl toys. I never anticipated a need to make her room a “big girl” room. But, she saw it as a rite of passage somehow. It meant something completely different, and, well… big, to her.

I don’t think I’ll ever ask her to clean her room out again.

Well played, little one. Yes indeedy… well played.

5 Lessons I Re-Learned About Parenting While Filming a Video

I made a mini-rap video for a sweet group of friends, recently. I needed tech support. And a back-up dancer. I recruited Sweetgirl for the dancing and Sweetboy as my videographer. Seemed legit.

And, it worked well enough.

Until I messed up.

By the seventh “take”, however, my filter started to slip.

Then, I remembered that I was in front of little ears. I was reminded that even the tamest of DADGUMMIT’s could be imitated in all the wrong ways.

When the “filming” wrapped up (after Take 14, by the way), I had re-learned a few precious parenting lessons.

1. Whatever dance moves you are attempting, whether poorly or worse-than-poorly, the six-year-old will emulate.  This is not the time to attempt those fly moves (do people say that anymore?) from J. Lo’s latest music video. And for goodness’ sake, it’s not all about that base!

2. Your reaction to a flub up will be on video. The person filming you will be watching intently as he films you. Therefore, he may start stomping around and screaming “DARNIT DARNIT DARNIT” the next time he makes a mistake. You will think he looks ridiculous, and start to tell him so. Until you remember where he got it.

3. The backup dancer is closest to the under-the-breath mutterings. She will hear them. She will ask questions. Questions you didn’t intend to have to answer for your six-year-old.

4. Making up your own words to a song like, say… Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” is all fun and games. Until one child, or both, asks if they can see “the real song” on The YouTube. That’s a whole lot of behinds. And bad hair. And explaining. They get enough of All The Real with media pushing pictures of champagne corks popping and backsides. You will regret choosing that song. You may also end frantically looking up pictures of puppies, instead, with promises to talk to daddy about getting one. To divert their attention, of course. Possibly.

And…

5. Your videographer and back-up dancer will have enjoyed the experience so much, that they will ask you to show them other rap songs that they can change the words to and make videos of themselves singing. You will realize the scarcity of appropriate songs. You will rue the day.

Oh, yes indeedy.

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*A note to The Nana, Ahab, Gammy and Grampy – I did not let them actually see the “real” video. They were far more interested in the adorable French Bulldog puppy video that I was able to switch over to, oh-so-quickly. If we end up with one, I blame myself.

*Also, a note to Sweetman – we may end up with a French Bulldog. I’m sorry.