Monday, May 20, 2013

Prune your roses for God's sake!

 “One of the new things people began to find out in the last century was that thoughts—just mere thoughts—are as powerful as electric batteries—as good for one as sunlight is, or as bad for one as poison. To let a sad thought or a bad one get into your mind is as dangerous as letting a scarlet fever germ get into your body. If you let it stay there after it has got in you may never get over it as long as you live... surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place."
                                                                 ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

Alright parents, I am going to level with you.

Something has been bothering me for several weeks now and I need some answers. So I am going to be perfectly honest with you, and I need an honest answer in return.  I will preface this post with saying that special-needs parents are completely and utterly exempt from these questions. You are all super-hero's in my book.  I direct these questions at parents with children that do not have any social challenges beyond just learning to grow together.

In the last month or so, I and my children have had the privilege of being a part of many, many birthday parties/school functions and/or other social gatherings that have involved lots of kids running around like crazy - a mix of kids. All ages, all different school-styles, all different home lives. Usually lots of sugar and/excitement has been involved, so there is a certain amount of grace I am willing to extend.  But please, hear me out. You see, I am an observer by nature. I have often talked of this. I watch people. A lot. I watch interactions, re-actions and general social habits of all sorts of people, young, old, parents, kids and everything in betwen. And something lately has caught my eye. A re-accuring theme that is popping up right and left and it is leaving me confused and bewildered and I will admit, more then a little angry.

So I have some questions. And I want honest answers.

1. When did it become perfectly acceptable for kids to yell at their parents? And I am not just talking about little ones, all kids. From the very young, to the young adult. And maybe I am just missing something here. But parents are responding to these...I can only explain them as "angry summons" with a mild, humble "yes sweetie pie?" as if it is the most normal thing in the world.

I am honestly asking this question. Why is it acceptable behavior? Why are parents rolling over, presenting as doormats and allowing their children to speak disrespectfully to them?  Is my standard simply off somehow? Am I the only one that see's this as wrong?  Please and Thank You are gone, "Mom! I'm Hungry! Get me some food now!" has replaced it. And yet, no one is saying anything about this being not ok.

2. When did it become acceptable for children to destroy property that does not belong to them? To walk into another person's house and trash it? To rip things off of walls, to knock over furniture, to break items...I don't care how old the child is. When your kid is being destructive, whether they are 6 months or 6 years (and I saw both in the last few weeks), you stop them. You remove them from the situation, you apologize to your host. You make amends for the items that have been destroyed...but no, I am wrong again. The answer look on blankly as it happens right in front of you. You don't notice, and when it is pointed out, you shrug it off as if it was bound to happen and don't even lift a finger to help make it right. "If I don't acknowledge it, it will go away" seems to be the attitude.

Why is this ok? I truly need an answer. I am completely appalled and confused. I saw this time and time again and I really don't understand. I wanted to say something, and perhaps I should have. But when the host, and the child's parent are both sitting inches from me and no one says a damn thing...who am I to complain? It left me confused and disarmed.

3. When did it become acceptable for children to scream. And I don't mean just the "kids are having fun" happy yelling of outside play. I mean SCREAM. Yell, shout, screech- sounds that would make a banshee blanch. A complete disregard for those sitting very, very close. Now, I suppose this question may not be fair. I have very sensitive hearing and suffer from tinnitus. So for me, everything is amplified. But for heaven's sake! (And now I sound like an old lady) Can we PLEASE keep our voices at a reasonable level? I tell my children that the purpose of screaming is to alert me when something is wrong. You know the boy who cried wolf? When kids scream (and I mean scream) as a part of normal play, it takes away that alert that parents naturally have to jump up and act at a sign of danger. It all becomes noise. And it makes me want to stick forks into my ears! I truly cannot handle it. And yet "she is just a screamer" seems to answer the question. Of course she is a screamer, she has never been taught how to control her voice! Is this normal? Am I the weird one? I am asking honestly. Why is that ok?

4. Why is it ok for children to push, shove, hit, slap, and body slam one another all in the name of play? Now, if it is a group of older kids I do understand that a certain amount of physical play is fully expected, that doesn't bother me. But if a mixed group of kids are at the top of a playground structure, and the large kids are continually shoving the small ones aside, running the risk of knocking them off the structure completely...why am I the only one that seems concerned.  When I actually catch a child mid-air that has been knocked down from 5 feet up...and it is not my own child...and the parent of the older kids just sits and is that ok!?!  Do you not see the blatant disrespect for another person's body? Their safety? Their well-being? Not to mention waiting your turn to go down the slide! They shrug their shoulders, or mumble a scarcely heard instruction but never, not once did a parent act. Not once did someone remove their child and fix the behavior. Not. Once.

Why not?

And why am I the only one watching? Why am I the only one asking the big kids to be aware of the small ones?  I have to tell my own kids just as much as the others, my kids get distracted and forget just as much as their friends do...but I am there to remind them. But after a while, at several events I found myself giving direct instructions to specific kids who had parents sitting 3 feet away ("please don't throw sand in other kids faces" "grabbing a toy is not ok" etc.). And the parents either nodded along or ignored me entirely...I don't understand.

Why am I the only one? I am honestly asking. When your child is putting other children in danger because they are barreling through and/or not watching where they are going, WHY are you not there reminding? When your child knocks another kid down because they are being reckless, why are you not removing them from play until they have a moment to settle down and re-group? When your kid hits a smaller kid, or grabs a toy or worse, pushes them down entirely - why is it ok to simply not notice? I need to hear the justification. Because I am angry at how these kids are treating one another. I am angry at the hurtful words. I am livid over the disrespectful tones that kids are using when speaking to their parents. And I need to know why.

5. And with this I'll end my rant for now. When did we become ok with our kids being demanding, disrespectful, hurtful and jeering with one another. Especially the girls. Cattiness, insults, one-upping each other when it comes to toys, clothes, shoes, abilities and even worse, friends. It deeply saddens me. And what is worse, I am pretty sure this is a learned behavior.  When we as adults speak disrespectfully about one or to one another, it catches on.

How is that ok? Why do we barely blink as we tear down one another with words. Our spouses, our friends, our families.  It has become so mainstream we barely even notice when our kids do it to one another faces. Not only that, we are not equipping our kids to stand up and tell someone "that was not a nice thing to say." I hear an angry tone, and see a hurt face and then the subject is changed and the words are simply skipped over and the one who said it. While the one who heard it shrinks. It is ok to use words to tell someone "that hurt me" but we don't teach our kids that. Why not? We have this whole "politeness" thing backwards! We don't see the need for "please" or "thank you" but to tell someone "those were not kind words..." Ooh no! We don't want to be rude!

So we shrink.

I am not a helicopter parent.  I like letting my kids figure out things for them selves as much as they can, I do not feel the need to fight all of their battles for them. I want them to be able to experience the lessons that scrapped knees and hurt feelings have to offer. This is not the kind of play that concerns me. I am talking about complete, 100%  disregard for anything and anyone surrounding you. And I'm sorry, but give your kids a little credit. They are not too young to understand, these lessons start the moment the behavior does. At least that is what I have always believed...

That is why I am honestly asking. Because it is midnight and I can't sleep because so many of these scenarios are running through my head and I Don't Understand.

The world is a harsh place. Finding a balance for my wee ones can feel like an impossible task. And again I will be honest with you. I believe in the "it takes a village" parenting idea. If my babies are out of line and I do not see it, please - correct their behavior. Because rest assured, I will do the same for your children. If I see danger or malice around a child I will address it, that kind of behavior will not be tolerated on my watch. If this bothers you then please, let me know. I will stop. I will leave your child be, but be fair warned. If you do not correct the dangerous behavior, my children will be removed from your child. Because it is my job first and foremost to keep my kids safe. As it is yours.

My goal, is to place agreeable determinedly courageous thoughts at the forefront of my children's minds as much as I can, especially when they are small. It is my job as their parent.

For you see...

"Where you tend a rose, A thistle cannot grow.”  -F.H.B.

  Let us tend our roses well. Both those of our children as well as in ourselves. And let us hold one another accountable. I know I need reminders sometimes. The thorns need pruning quite often.

For God's sake, please! Tend your roses well.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

"Good 'ol J.K.!"

 “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.”

Do I really have to tell you who wrote that? If I do then you should be ashamed. Truly.

I have just started reading Harry Potter again for the second time. I have always been a big re-reader of books, but for some reason I have never again read those books, though I did thoroughly enjoy them the first go-round. What I somehow missed when I read them the first time, that has jumped out in words of gold and purple on the page at me this time, are the many good, true, life-lesson statements that the book is simply riddled with. for instance:

"It takes a great deal of courage to stand up to your enemies, but even more to stand up to your friends."
 - J. K. Rowling
I am reading these and feeling metaphorically flattened over and over. Who would have ever guessed I would feel life-challenged by a children's fantasy author? Of course, knowing my history I suppose it is a very logical place to look, and perhaps the first place I should have looked!  Ok, now that I think about it I am feeling a bit foolish for that first statement there...can I change it? Perhaps something like: 

"As always, I am feeling challenged by a children's fantasy author."  

Now I am wondering why I just put that last statement in quotes since technically it is the first time it was ever said and therefore could not have been a quote...ah yes! I was quoting myself as it should have been...and now I am confused. I think I need some tea.

Ah Lady Grey, the brew of high thoughts and cold nights.

Anyhow - back to the subject at hand.  One quote, as I was browsing, especially caught my eye: 

"It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default." 
 - J. K. Rowling

I do not fail well. Not gracefully anyhow - I don't fall gracefully either, or do anything gracefully for that matter...perhaps I should get this looked into professionally....but that is besides the point! 

I have failed a lot in my life. Sometimes at little things, sometimes at very big things, like my failure to get a college degree because of one bloody class.

Very little comes easy to me. I am not graceful (as previously mentioned). 

I have no artistic talent, yet I seem to be cursed with the reliability of an artist, which means I have failed many friends. I am bad at responding to people's texts/emails/calling back/rsvp-ing and the like. Not to mention following through on the whole "We need to get together!" promise. I have good intentions, I truly do - but it just doesn't happen. I fail to follow through far to often, and have let-down those that I hold dear.  For that I apologize, and I will also apologize in advance, for there is a very good chance it will happen again despite my best effort.

I have dismally failed as a house-keeper. I can't even get "stay at home mom" right because I cannot seem to stay at home. I hate being at home, probably because it is such a mess all the time it just screams "failed" at me and my head hurts. I currently have 8 baskets of clean laundry in my room, waiting to be folded and put away. When it comes to laundry I always fail, dishes too. Because I cannot keep up, I just cannot. 

I fail to be on time to most events, I don't even have the excuse of a baby anymore. 

My kids have been on the brink of driving me so absolutely insane recently - They have NOT been well behaved, so I feel like I am failing as a mom. And usually it is just one that is challenging at a time, but lately it has been all three, sometimes all at the same time -  and I am feeling clueless as to how to manage it. My ears have been buzzing a lot, I know it is related to thyroid and stress but it means all sounds are amplified, especially whining and bickering. So I am yelling way to much, just trying to get a moment of peace in-between the noise. But that of course just perpetuates the cycle.

I have been so spent at the end of the day lately that I feel like I have very little to give my husband. And he is working very long hours right now, so at the end of the day he is so very spent he has nothing left to give to me. We are not always as kind to one another as perhaps we could be, and that feels like a failure too.

I have been living outside of my budget which makes things feel out of control and un-organized and scary. It all ties in to my failure to be organized in general. But everything feels so huge that I get overwhelmed and will try to start small (like the laundry) but when I have been working for two hours and have hardly made a dent, where is the hope? I have failed again...

I am not at the gym as much as I should be right now, so I am failing myself. And my fashion sense is abysmal - not to mention the fact that it has been at least several weeks since I last flossed...(unforgivable I know. My dentist would be appalled.)

I have not been giving my kids enough vegetables...and PB&J has been on the menu for kids and grown-ups alike far too often of kids are thrilled, my husband?  Not so much.

"And the idea of just wandering off to a cafe with a notebook and writing and seeing where that takes me for awhile is just bliss."  -JKR

And I read that statement and the tears roll down my cheeks unexpectedly...

...But I can't, because I have to watch my kids. And there is not enough time, and they need me, they are growing so fast!  And I know I need to write, that I will feel so much better if I could only write! But I can't even form coherent sentences. And I sit to write and someone has an accident of some sort or another and by the time that is cleaned up it is time to start dinner or my motivation is entirely gone or I know that if I start something I wont get to finish it anyhow and that is just depressing and awful and goodness I am failing so much these days! 

But it is ok...because all these failures? They mean that I am NOT living cautiously. Not by a long shot. And for some reason, that makes me feel better. Because I will never, not in this lifetime, fail by default. I will fail, oh I will fail many many times, sometimes in a matter of seconds! But never by default.  My knuckles may bleed with my effort, but I do not surrender!  

I have not failed my kids, not completely anyhow. They made me cards for mothers day and gave me lots of hugs. That feels like a success. 

Despite my failures at keeping in contact with people, I have some truly golden friends that fill in those gaps for us, and keep me accountable. Knowing it is not personal, I do care - I just hate the phone and I forget. And they forgive me. That is success, and blessing!

The laundry is not done, nor the dishes....but the toilet is clean! That is a success right? was clean a day or two ago. I suppose that does not necessarily mean it is still clean when you live in a house with small children. But it was cleaned very recently! So I will claim that as a success. 

My husband and I still like each other - We marked 9 years of marriage just last week. That is truly a success and an amazing gift.  

I may have no fashion sense, but I am really good at getting my clothes 50-80% off the normal price (the two things could be related...) My kids too. (their clothes, not the actual kids - for them I paid full price! Well, except the last one...) And while I may never be entirely in fashion, my kids are ridiculously cute. And while I may not be at the gym as much as I want to be, my husband still thinks I have a cute butt. So it's ok.

I can't dance, paint, draw, sculpt, play an instrument, sew or do anything remotely "crafty" without it become a complete and utter disaster.  But I can write. I can write things people want to read. I can paint with words, not REALLY well, just sort of well - even if my spelling and grammar is atrocious. But I think I could do it REALLY well, someday - perhaps. That is one part of me that is just starting, it still feels like it is in it's baby stage. Perhaps someday that could be a real success - perhaps that is the reason I didn't finish college, because there is more out there that I only have just barely begun to discover. I like dreaming about that...

My story is not complete. There are more adventures. I fail a lot. But I am collecting stories, so I guess I have to. Me and my family, we fail each other a lot. But we come back stronger, and wiser and sometimes we even come back laughing through the piles of laundry that have become mountains perfect for hiding and burrowing. I am only just beginning, we are all only just beginning. We have eternity to become who we are meant to be. 

And that is exciting. 

"It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
 - J. K. Rowling,
 Today I choose to try. There is a good chance I will fail, but that is ok. I like life that way.