Monday, June14 was not a very good day for my family. I was still parenting without a voice, and the children, who for the last few weeks have been living with a pregnant and/or sick and/or grumpy mother, were very bored. Bored children are unhappy, disobedient, and very difficult to manage. To sum up, mommy + pregnant + kids + bored = no fun.
I realized that the next day had to be better, or it was going to be worse, and worse might kill me. Or, someone. I purposed to make it better. I used the rest of Monday to get the house squared away. Not completely cleaned, not completely organized, but at least up and running, and the kitchen and dining room, (the heart of all parent-child activity) was clean and ready-to-go before bed. (It helped that my mom came by in the afternoon to distract the children. Love you, Mama!)
I tried to think of some activity I could do with them in the morning, and I hit upon coloring home made play dough. It is good for finger strength. Very important pre-writing skill. So, I got on the internet, found a recipe, and made the play dough, in anticipation of our big day. This is when the learning began.
You can't make homemade play dough with course ground sea salt. It does not dissolve, leaving salt crystal in the dough, which simultaneously cut your hands and rub salt in the resulting wounds. I went to bed disappointed, but not defeated. We would find something else to do.
In the morning, I had everyone fed and dressed and ready to leave by eight o'clock. Hubband took Jonah, and my car, to school and then himself to work. With only two-thirds of my children, I was determined to be at least one-third better at being their mother. But, I still had no car. We walked to the park around the corner. Well, actually, only I walked. Catherine was pushed and Sam road his bicycle. The park is a great place to learn stuff. For example:
Those who don't move have no advantage over those who can't. At that hour of the morning, the only people in the park were four ancient Asian women. They walked in small circles around the play ground. They used the play ground equipment to do strength training. They stretched. They talked fast and happy in a foreign language, laughing often. Note to self: If you want to live to be ancient, get up off you duff now, while you still can. And bring a friend.
Sam is fast. When he is not riding his bicycle around the outside of the playground, he likes to run around it. A gaggle of older teen girls came jogging through and he followed them, keeping up for quite a distance, until I finally managed to call him back.
Cate is tough. She wanted to swing on the big kid swing, but I was worried she would fall off, so I showed her how to swing by laying on her belly. She slid off face first, followed by her feet which, thanks to the momentum of the swing, manage to bend back over body and kick her in the back of the head. It looked like she should have broken her neck. She was completely still for a blood chilling second. Then she screamed for 20 seconds and went about her day.
It takes all kinds, and I am the judge-y kind. As it got a little later, other people wandered through the park. Like a very skinny and heavily perfumed woman of indeterminate age, carrying a fluffy white toy-poodle. She wore a red straw hat and a bright yellow dress that just begged to be called a frock, which I refuse to do, because I won't be manipulated by inappropriately whimsical fashion. You must understand, this is a (figuratively) beige park in a (literally) beige neighborhood, in a (deliberately) beige town. Who are you, lady?
After awhile longer, we were alone again, until one of the McMansions across the street opened up, releasing a woman and her son. She was about forty-five with unfashionable hair, shorts, and a heavy sweater. She screamed "scientist". Her son was about five. She used big words with him. I'm all for that. But they were words I didn't understand. The mom smiled and said hi and then went and stood in a patch of shade to do her sudoku puzzle. Her son never left her side. He just stood there in the shade staring at me and clutching his homemade bow and arrow. He made me sad. He could have done this in their own yard. The kid didn't know how, or did not have any interest in, playing, and the mom had no interest in showing him. But, what do I know. We sort-of shared a park for twenty minutes one Tuesday morning. And, it takes all kids.
His bow and arrow was really cool though. Which brings me to the next thing I learned.
Don't bring your most prized possessions to the park. In fact, as a mother, I don't see why anyone needs to bring any toys to the park, ever. The best thing that can happen is that they get lost, or broken by someone else's kid. The worst thing, is that they lead to a toddler world war. And the more attractive the toy (probably the reason it is the child's prized possession in the first place), the more likely it is that other children will be drawn to, and not easily distracted from, it.
The bow was awesome. It was made from a real unfinished branch, and well strung. He had an arrow with a point whittled at one end and a notch cut in the other. But, he only had the one. I found this out when the kid first arrived at the park and Samuel peddled right up to him and said, "I play with stick?" The mother replied "That is not a stick, it is an arrow, and he has to be careful. If he breaks it, he won't have any more arrows to play with." Poor kid. He had the coolest toy in the world, but he was afraid to play with it. Sam wasn't afraid. He tried again, "I play?" The mom said, "No, he is playing with that now. It is his. He is not going to share." Those were her exact words. You might think that is a bit harsh, but I found it refreshing.
Which brings me to the next thing I learned. Well, I've known it for awhile, but it is worth mentioning now.
Sharing is for suckers. If I walk into Starbucks, and there is a guy in there with a new iPad, what do you think the chances are that I can walk over, try to take it, raise a fuss when he refuses to let me, and then have some authority figure, (a barista, say) make him "share" or "go home right now, young man"? The whole idea that kids need to learn to share their toys at the park is absurd. Why do they need to learn this? So they develop the instincts necessary to protect their stuff when they are adults?
In our house, we try to teach our kids that things belong to people. You respect their stuff and they should respect yours. This does not mean that we don't encourage them to share. We do. But we don't make them share. That is not really sharing is it? It is wealth redistribution. I want my kids to share things with each other, but by choice, out of a generosity of spirit and kindness toward others. I know this sounds foreign and naive. But it works. I'll admit, it doesn't always work well, but that is life. And they're young yet.
Don't count your mother of the year award before it hatches. When we got back to the house, I had a brilliant activity for the children. Samuel has sensory issues. If your kids have them, you know what they are. If they don't, you don't, and it doesn't really matter. But one of the therapies is to let him experience different textures. Like a box full of beans or rice. I took two two-liter boxes and put stale useless rice and quinoa in one and stale useless coffee beans in the other. I also put about ten M&Ms in each box. It was a sense therapy treasure hunt. I rock.
We have a picture of her Auntie Cara making this exact same face when she was Best Man at our wedding.
I stepped into the house to call Hubband and tell him "I rock," when the phone rang and I had to schedule a pediatrician appointment. Good thing. I went back outside to find Samuel spitting out chewed up coffee beans. Ugh! When I came back out with a damp rag to clean him up, Cate was out of her high-chair sitting on the table, eating coffee beans out Sam's box. And, she wasn't spitting them out. Double ugh! Boy I am glad I never made that call to Hubband.
He dug up the candy, but ate the coffee. I am such a bad mother.
I should pace myself. By eleven o'clock, I decided it was "free time." Young children should have plenty of unstructured play. All the experts say so. So, I slept on the couch while they took turns "riding" me. "Gimidy up, Mommy...Gimidy up."
What did you learn today?