Monday, May 7, 2012

“Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

I have a new theory. I call it: The "Calvin Effect" or would that be "Affect?" Lots of people around me are spelling/grammar hounds, and proud of it. Makes me a little scared I will confess... And, of course, very certain that if I ever do actually publish something for real that I will have editors coming out my ears and there is NO WAY any book of mine will go out with even the slightest of typo's.

Until then? Or is it than...

I would go look them all up and make sure that I have the actual proper usage of all my appendages, but I am four sips into my glass of wine, and lightweight that I am it has already made me too sleepy...or is it to?

I swear I had no intention on starting this post with a grammar lesson, or rather an anti-grammar lesson. I will admit, seeing one of my major life short-comings glaring at me from the page in the form of red squiggly lines every time I do something that I like, perhaps better then most things in the world...is a bit hard to take sometimes. I know my spelling is atrocious, I know my grammar is sorely lacking. I even know that I use ... and - far too often, if only to avoid knowing whether or not I should have used a ;. darn ;! And please, no long lists of how all my grammatically induced literary questions really are properly supposed to be. I know you want to do it! For me, just this one time, resist and purposefully spell a word incorrectly in a public setting. I dare you!

Heehee, perhaps I am feeling a bit fiendish tonight? Ah, now I think just to prove it, I shall misspell a word purposefully somewhere on this page! But you won't know if it was a mistake or something I have done just to bother you. Perhaps I shall now do that in every single one of my posts and see how long the hounds can resist braying?

Alright - I make fun. But to be honest I fully respect you people that have an eye to see and a mind to remember. I wish I was more like you. I can write so people want to read, however - I lose part of my audience because it is sometimes hard to read. I understand this, it makes me feel sad. But I am going to say that at 2 weeks shy of 30 years old I am better off hiring an editor then attempting to fix it all, at least for the moment. I am afraid it is ingrained in me. Perhaps it is laziness on my part? Perhaps it is that most days getting through to bedtime without completely collapsing out of exhaustion is a huge endeavor and adding grade-school lessons into that equation makes me laugh that scary laugh that makes my husband think twice about not institutionalizing me while he had the chance.  Ok, so I use run-on sentences too... I also end sentences in prepositions. ALL THE TIME. And I use too many words, just in general. You could go through my past posts and likely cut down each of their lengths by at least 2/3rds and have every bit of the important information fully intact.

I'll have you know, as a mark of good will, I just went back over that last sentence and took a word out of it...and then I went over it again and added like 7 more. Hopeless I tell you!

Alright - so now that I have wasted all that above space by writing about a completely UN-planned subject, and all in about 10 minutes and half a glass of wine I might add...Let us on to the subject I meant to write about when I sat down...which has now lost some of it's appeal and I am starting to wonder why I sat down to write about it in the first place.

Ah, yes. The Calvin Affect. Or perhaps it should be Tom? You know the one I mean. Or Mary Lennox, or Wile E Coyote? What do all these have in common you ask? What all these put together tells me very plainly, is that I think today's childrens books suck. Yes, I said it.

My Taylor has recently been given some new books - some even by me. And with her Birthday money she purchased a new movie. Now, I have never encouraged exceptionally "girly" toys. But to be fair, I have never discouraged them either. I wanted my kids to like what THEY liked. Not what anyone told them they should like. Now, my kids have their fair share of baby dolls and princess toys, cute teddy bears and pink, so much pink. But pink is REALLY hard to avoid when you have little girls, I know because that I did try, and failed.

I remember playing with My Little Ponies. With my baby doll and with barbies and miniatures growing up. Though I will admit that a good deal of my play with the barbie involved things such as, attending pterodactyl/doll weddings and my baby doll was truly horrid and was constantly running away from home. The My Little Ponies...well to be honest I don't remember much about what they did. Perhaps they were perfectly normal My Little Ponies? Oooh! And Pound Puppies! Remember those? I went through a Pound Puppy phase for sure. Most of my play as a child was with little plastic lions and tigers that had extremely complex personalities and magical powers. Rather unisex as toys go I suppose.

I will admit, when I became a parent I never gave much thought to "girl" centered toys as being dangerous. After all, I played with them and I seem to be ok. Alright, so that is still up for deliberation. But I seem to have well adjusted children so far, so I must not be too messed up! (See? Preposition.) Those things would come out somewhere. But even when the whole "we are a Disney princess centered society and it is ruining our children!"thing came out I mostly scoffed and moved on, not giving it a second thought. I give my kids more credit then that.

However, I am starting to change my mind. It all started about a year ago when the "new" My little Ponies started coming out. This is also about the same time my beloved child entered Kindergarten. We were playing in the toys at Target. Oh yes, I am THAT parent. Rainy day? Go play at Target! And I pushed a button on a giant purple pony. Only to hear "I am the prettiest girl in the library!" come floating out of her perfect plastic lipsticked pony lips. I was shocked. Suddenly I had an almost uncontrollable urge to go out of the store directly and burn my bra for all to see! Ok, perhaps not. But I really was shocked. I pushed the button again and heard another less shocking phrase. Something to the effect of "You're my best friend" or something....

But the damage had been done. And it didn't end there. Since then I have noticed it everywhere. Sickeningly sweet messages pouring out of toys, movies, books, t-shirts, posters, etc. All geared towards little girls. Designed to make them feel warm and fuzzy and not at all rejected. Designed to make sure they stay sweet and kind and that they treat everyone equally and encourage others when they feel sad and be nice and compliment everyone ALL of the time And most of all...DON'T say anything that could possibly be misconstrued as mean or hurtful or not PC. And make sure we build up their precious self-esteem! It is the idea of Monkey see, Monkey do. If we show our girls how they SHOULD behave and how wonderful they make others feel, and how nice it feels to be nice all of the time to everyone...they will. Right?   

But see, I don't think it works.

I know lots of woman my age that say one of the most damaging things to them growing up was watching soap operas. You know why? Because just as we bash in today's glamorous magazine bodies as "fake" and "giving us an un-realistic view of ourselves" Soaps do the same thing for relationships.  I will even go so far as to compare it to the porn industry giving guys an unrealistic idea of girls and sex. But we know all that...right?

Then why are we doing the exact same thing emotionally to our baby girls? Why do we allow them to read books where the bad girls always reform in 10 pages or less and become the best friend of the main girl who was nice from the beginning? What if our daughter is not the prettiest girl in the library? Our kids are smart guys, they KNOW when they are being fed a load of crap. They know it just like we know "Brock" will likely not chase after us into the night just to unload his "feelings" and swear undying love. Or whatever soap opera's are about...is it bad that I am writing this and I'll admit I am not sure I have ever actually sat through one whole episode?

We know all this, and yet we still feel cheated. And you know what? So do they. But it doesn't come out in depression or even a laughable conversation with their girlfriends. It comes out in needless "drama" on the playground. "Such and such said I am not the prettiest girl in the library!" Well, let us gang up on her! Make her feel just as bad as she made us feel! Then sides are taken and words are said and the mean girl doesn't change her ways...because everyone is now the mean girl AND the nice girl depending on who you ask. And are you telling me that at the end of each day, these kids are not magically encouraging each other and braiding one anothers' hair because "it is the right thing to do and we all FEEL so good when we are nice and kind and understanding and make sure everyone has high self-esteem...?" And the cycle continues. And it doesn't make sense to me why we are not changing this tactic, because it is obviously not working.

Now I know that all these attitudes are not a new thing. But what does seems new to me, is that fact that these attitudes are not going away once adulthood starts anymore. I am flabbergasted at the things so-called adults are making a scene about. Petty, useless, meaningless things that are creating enemies among adults and pointless "drama" because "such and such said I am not the prettiest girl in the library."

Am I making any sense here? Perhaps it is just because I am 2 weeks shy of 30. I am getting older, and therefore I have less patience with any kind of behavior that is childish in my head. Maybe that makes me just as bad as the rest of them. Am I the one saying Such and Such is not fillintheblank?

Maybe. But I will be real here for a moment: I really, honestly don't care who the prettiest girl in the library is. I know for sure it is not me, it is probably not you either. It doesn't matter. What matters is what you make of yourself. How you behave. Do you have self control? How is your attitude? And when those things are not where they should be, what do you do about it? Do you sulk, pout, put others down, make excuses for your behavior and try to rationalize it in your head? Or do you politely excuse yourself and go and re-focus? do you learn from your behavior, from the behavior of others? Because we never stop learning. I would even venture to say that as soon as someone says they have mastered their attitude, that they don't create the drama, that is a red flag indicating the very opposite. We are all works in progress. So no, you are not the prettiest girl in the library. We are all learning together to be the people we are supposed to be. THAT is what I want to teach my girls. I get confused. I get angry. I don't have the answers to some of the stupid life questions that are out there. Sometimes I make wrong choices and I screw up. Sometimes I need to apologize, and what a gift it is to be able to say "I was wrong!" Isn't that amazing? That when we make mistakes we get to go back and say we are sorry? I Love it! We are not held captive by our mistakes. We can learn from them!

Today, Taylor and I were having a conversation. We have been working on being bossy lately. I told her that Mama is still learning not to be bossy. I told her that not being bossy (or an arrogant know-it-all) is one of the things God is still teaching me everyday and I am still learning everyday. That in my life I have chosen to be bossy to other people and that it has sometimes caused them to choose not to be my friend. I told her that I missed out, on some very good friends because I chose to not think of them first, and I chose to be bossy instead of being kind. Her eyes got very wide. "Mama,when you learned how to not be bossy, did you find those people and say you were sorry?" she asked?

Wow. Talk about a blow I was not expecting! Umm, to be honest? Not very many. I need to. "Some of them." I was able to tell her, "but not all. I still need to apologize to some of them." I am still learning. "And did they forgive you when you said you were sorry?" She asked, still amazed. "Yes! They forgave me." How wonderful to be forgiven!

Everyone knows about Calvin. You know, the one with the tiger? And Tom, and Mary - well, not everyone knows about her.  Where am I going with this you ask?

We don't learn from watching other people do the right thing. Not as well anyhow. Just look at the Bible, full of mistakes. There are very few stories in the Bible, short of Jesus - where the main character does everything right and because of him being so very "Good" all the bad people change their ways and become good too. Now remember, I said aside from Jesus. That is basically what Jesus did, so I say he was the great exception. I will argue that the shock factor of him being so good was just the thing that made his story different. Of course, it could also be argued, that by taking on the sins of the world, he was the very worst of the lot. But that is a whole debate in and of itself.

No, most Bible stories are full of people screwing things up royally. We learn from watching other people's mistakes. And not just the mistakes of the "bad guys." No, the mistakes of the good guys. David, Sampson, Moses, Solomon, shall I go on?

Calvin is backwards. He does everything wrong, tries to get away with it all. We laugh, we cry, we are entertained. And guess what. I don't think that - aside from your odd sociopath, anyone has ever become a terrible person just because they read those stories.

I think, the most effective lessons we learn when we are young, are the ones we learn from the fictional "terrible kids." The ones with the biggest attitudes, the ones that lie, cheat, ditch class (Farris?). We laugh while we learn, and that makes us learn all the better because we don't even know we are learning. Barbie didn't learn any lasting lessons from preventing the magic love spell from making whats-her-name marry Ken. The fairies made her forget it all! And by watching that show,our girls learn nothing aside from that we judge someone based on how we think they perceive us because of how we look - even though she was perfectly kind and sweet and polite the whole time. But in one short page, or even a quarter page, Calvin learns the hard way, about pretty much everything: And even when he doesn't learn, we do. I would even venture to say we learn the lessons better when Calvin doesn't.       

Perhaps it is just me, but he even has the "how to be" thrown in there occasionally:





All in all - I think we are doing it wrong. I think that all these "goody-2-shoes" movies, songs, books, etc. are hurting us. It is not real, it does nothing to prepare us for life. It does nothing to equip us with tools, it does nothing to teach us right and wrong or how the world is. It does nothing even to protect our innocence just a little bit longer. It hurts all that. It makes us shallow, it makes us care about things that don't matter. Calvin is terrible. He doesn't obey, he steals is parent's car. He is mean - but we learn!

Ayla has become quite the comedian lately. The other day I was asking her to do something - I can't even remember now what it was. She responded with a joke, but within that joke she was not doing as she was told. I told her again, she again responded with something funny, designed to make me laugh. Again, she did not obey. I stopped what I was doing. I got on her level, I told her she was being disrespectful and that was not acceptable behavior. She needed to obey NOW or she needed to go into her room until she had fixed her attitude. She responded with "No, you need to go into your room!" mimicking my tone in a happy joking fashion, obviously trying to make me laugh - as I had been as she had made jokes all day. I will admit, it was so ludicrous I had trouble not laughing. But she was being disrespectful, she was not obeying. And funny as she may think that she is, attitudeis all that mattered to me. So I sent a giggling, happy girl into her room, to tears and a cry of being utterly betrayed by her mother who was not affirming her desire to be funny. Did I hurt her self-esteem? Will she now, not attempt any jokes because I have squashed that in her? Nope, she is funny as ever. I asked her what I should put in her hair a little while ago and she said "I want a dingle hopper in my hair today!" The girl cracks me up!

Last week Taylor lost another fish. For my sensitive girl, this is a big deal. I want to protect her. I want to make the hurt go away. I want to surround her with things that are fuzzy and happy and that poop rainbows so she never has to feel horrible again. But you know what? I think that would be wrong of me. Instead I will let her sit with her grief, we will bury her friend and probably eventually buy her a new fish, knowing it will die too. And so we learn what real grief is, little by little. We learn how to make it through the hard times and still come out a whole person at the end of it. A hurt person, a grieving person, but a whole one. I hope and pray she never has to use these lessons in the real world. Knowing that is a futile prayer, but I still pray it. And we will buy another fish, and we will practice some more. Giving hugs and cuddles and being real with our emotions. Because sometimes we need to do that.

Maybe that is one of my problems with all this. Strawberry shortcake is not as good at leaping high like Lemon whats-her-name. So she is sad. And everyone around her joins forces to "make strawberry shortcake feel better!" they practice together, even the ones that are already good at it, just to help boost her low self-esteem. And at the end she is leaping with the best of them! But you see, that is not how it should be. This is something Strawberry needed to work out on her own. She needed to find the motivation herself to keep going, even when it is hard. I am not saying that her friends can't help, but SHE needs to be the driving force, because honestly, in the real world, her friends are not going to do that. And even if they did, what happens the next time she comes across something that is hard and they are not there? What will she do?

However, when something is truly wrong. Say Strawberry lost her grandmother, or her best friend moved away. I am so very glad to know her friends will be there. I want to teach my kids to be there when someone is hurting. But not manually hold someone up that needs to learn how to stand on their own a little bit. Does that makes sense?











And so we are all still learning. Always learning.


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