Saturday, Mar 6, 2010 | Exercise, Family, Photos, Siblings |
I woke up feeling unpleasant. So did Fooey. She felt even more unpleasant than I did. I won’t get graphic on you, but let’s just say it was messy. And she was feeling so unpleasant that she just leaned over the side of her bed. CJ almost suffered a moment of sympathetic upheaval himself, but AppleApple was able to coax him away from the scene of carnage. I seem to be on the tolerable side of unpleasant as long as I don’t eat. I can stand and cope and do laundry (very important, under the circumstances, especially since Kevin is working in Toronto for the day.)
Photo number one depicts the three eldest children (yes, Fooey, too!) embarking on the walk to school, yesterday, without adult supervision. Well, to the walking school bus, which is only a couple of blocks uphill. At the family meeting, we’d decided that for the purposes of crossing the street, she would walk in the middle and each of the older kids would hold one of her hands. The after-school report was pretty good, though they had difficulty crossing “the hard street,” the one with the four-way stop and cars hurrying to commute to work. Apparently there were conflicting instructions from the drivers at the four-way stop. One woman waved them on, and another “old woman” waved to them not to cross, because she wanted to go. She went. The kids wisely waited. I was proud of how they handled it, making the best decision for themselves.
Photo number two depicts us this morning. Yes, I’m strangling Albus. Mostly in jest. He is a natural ham in photos and strives to hog the limelight. A gentle restraint was in order. I love the chaos. I love my family. We had ourselves a bit of fun.
The two oldest are quietly playing Lego together, after taking charge of lunch. With a bit of nauseated-Mama assistance, and some decent teamwork, they made tuna melts in the toaster oven. AppleApple sliced the bread and cheese, Albus worked the broiler. A friend has offered to bring supper, and I won’t turn her down. Even AppleApple, who had experienced a mild frisson over being in charge of the food prep today, thought it was a happy development: “Or we would probably be eating peanut butter and jam sandwiches for supper.”
If all goes as planned, the two eldest will be heading out soon with hockey sticks for a game of street hockey around the corner. I’m glad this gorgeous spring-like weather won’t go unappreciated.
Saturday, Jan 16, 2010 | Family, Sick, Swimming |
Can I really take a day off? I’ve been sick for two weeks, and moving at the usual pace required to maintain our family’s happy every day life, and finally asked Kevin last night: Do you think that if I spent a day in bed, it might help me kick this virus? And he said: What are you doing tomorrow? So, CJ and I slept in till 10am!!!! I’m leaving supper up to Kevin (he could pull a soup or stew out of the freezer). And I’m planning to go to hot yoga this afternoon. I skipped my Thursday evening class due to sheer exhaustion.
Kevin and I both operate in similar ways: we both like to improvise. We’ve made many of our major (and minor) life decisions on the fly, on what might seem gut instinct rather than carefully plotted research, though I like to think our quick-strike decisions actually arrive out of a long, quiet and invisible processing period. One small example: the way I’ve chosen the “right” time to move babies out of our bed and into their own–each time different, but each time also quite suddenly arriving at a moment when change seemed imperative, and the answer miraculously appeared.
Long explanation for the penny jars you see above, labelled “Movie Jar” and “Respect Jar” (which could also be called “DisRespect Jar,” but that doesn’t have quite the same positive ring to it). I’d written my previous post on Thursday afternoon, wondering out loud how to educate our family on the larger community and global issues around us, and how to motivate us to act on our values. I appreciate the thoughtful responses that arrived. We’re not alone in thinking about this. Kevin and I briefly discussed holding a family meeting, and I scrawled out a few ideas on a piece of paper.
Thursday afternoon, the kids started swim lessons. On the whole, the solo-mom outing went really well; we were all working together. But on the drive home, my cherished eldest son was using language that was not acceptable (mind you, he doesn’t use swear words; but the words he was using were equally disrespectful: “fat,” “poopy-head,” and my all-time fave “butt-brain.” Yes, my sweet Albus, when in a fit of frustration, particularly likes to pull that one out of his back pocket.) As we walked through the front door, me laden like an over-worked camel with toddler under one arm, diaper bag and swim bag and someone’s snowpants and etc. over the other arm, listening to my half-grown child growl because I’d insisted he carry his own backpack, I said, “We need a swear jar.”
(In fact, to make a long story even longer, I’d lost my patience over said backpack. I’d been standing beside the truck, holding it out to him to carry while he destroyed snowballs instead, till finally I’d tossed it into the snowy driveway with a semi-sarcastic comment, which, I was embarrassed to observe, was overheard by a neighbour walking his dog. Nothing like being confronted by a little “as others see us” perspective. The kid wasn’t the only one in need of a swear jar, in other words).
At supper, I said, Let’s have a family meeting. And then, When could we do it?
How about right now? said AppleApple.
The meeting was informal, which is how our family seems to operate. It was brief. It was to the point. We talked first about Haiti. Everyone but Albus offered ideas about how we could help. Then we talked about finding ways to express our emotions appropriately. Again, Albus was silly rather than receptive. I was feeling rather hopeless. Are we in for a decade of defensive eye-rolling? But fortunately, Kevin picked up the ball and asked Albus what he thought about what we were discussing. After some hedging and more silliness, he slipped closer to seriousness. And that’s when we came up with the penny jar idea. I’m not even sure whose idea it was, in its final rendering. One jar, into which we’d put enough pennies to rent a movie plus buy some candy, the other jar, which would receive a penny every time we used a bad word–but more than that. Every time someone behaved in a way that was not respectful to someone else. It would be a family jar, not an individual jar. We’d have to earn our reward together. Any money in the “respect jar” would be given away.
We’re only on day two, but it’s a good thing this week is a short week–movie night will be on Saturdays. I’ve noticed that I frequently (to myself and under my breath) use words I consider to be disrespectful. Every time, I drop in another penny. This will hopefully begin to take effect on my behavior. Albus is certainly taking it to heart. Respect is a concept we can all grasp. The idea is that we help each other to be more respectful rather than pointing fingers or accusing.
We shall see …
And I liked that family meeting. It was noisy and chaotic, but everyone got a chance to speak. We must make it a regular occurrence.
That photo above is what’s happening RIGHT NOW upstairs. Everyone in the playroom (my office) playing Playmobil, Daddy watching soccer on the internet.
Thursday, Jan 14, 2010 | Family, Mothering, Photos |
So. I have a plan to hold a family meeting. But we have two separate topics to discuss.
First, I want to talk to the kids about the humanitarian crisis happening in Haiti right now, and I want to ask them for ideas about what our family could do to help out. And I want to broaden that out to talk about ways we could help in our own community more often.
(I’ve also requested an interview for my ParentDish column with Craig Kielburger, who is a young Canadian man I greatly admire–his parents, too! The mandate of his foundation Free the Children is to help North American children to help other children around the world–in essence, educating our children, helping them to make the connection between their own actions and the effect these can have on other children’s lives. I’m really excited about talking to him.)
That’s topic number one.
Topic number two might sound a little out there, but I’m thinking of having a family meeting about creating a family mission statement (and I must confess, we NEVER have family meetings, and I’m not entirely sure what this will look like in practical terms–sitting around the dining-room table with pieces of paper and pencils? Will we make it more than five minutes before chaos erupts??). Now, a mission statement sounds almost too serious, but what I’m hoping to accomplish is that we can all agree on some basic guiding principles for our household.
This is what I’ve jotted on my piece of paper: In our family … everyone is respected. In our family … it’s okay to feel mad or sad, but we express our feelings appropriately. In our family .. we ask for help when we need it. We help each other. We help others, too.
These are my ideas. How to bring everyone’s ideas into it? We’ll see. This is yet a pipe dream. My motivation for doing it, however, comes from a rather dark place, and that is the anger we’ve been seeing our older children express, recently, and our inability to help them find ways to express this anger appropriately (or to interpret it). I want to stress that I don’t think anger is a bad emotion. It’s human. But destroying your baby brother’s duplo project in a fit of rage isn’t a good way of expressing that emotion. So far, Kevin and I are not getting far with our attempts to step in and help the children find another way. Time-outs work, sort of, at least for removing the child from the situation. But anger tends to be an emotion that is actually pointing toward or masking more complex emotions. Ever felt angry about a situation, only to gradually recognize that your anger was saving you from experiencing a much more frightening emotion like fear or grief? Sometimes anger can give us a feeling of power in a situation in which, if we stopped to think about, we’d realize we feel awfully terribly vulnerable.
Stop me now, I’m rambling.
And it’s time to get ready for swim lessons.
Above, my youngest, sharing a quiet moment on the couch. And I caught it before it devolved!