Am I Doing This Wrong?

I have no idea if I’m doing this parenting thing right. As far as I can tell, there’s not a commonly agreed upon metric beyond the basic ‘do no harm, no, seriously‘. I can also tell that this is a common insecurity held frequently by people doing a damn good job. I look at you all as paragons of parenting or paragons of good advice, or both. Perhaps you have advice or speculation?

Things I have worried about of late:
1. Not encouraging RR to be on the swim team (stick-to-itive-ness)
2. Not insisting she learn to swim AND breathe (survival)
3. Not taking her to practice riding her bike (practice is important if you want to do something well)
4. Not buying her oil paints and a guitar (it’s worth it to nourish your hobbies)
5. Letting her watch too many YouTube videos (live life in person)
6. Not having more playdates (social life is also important)

Now, I know no one is perfect. I did bake cupcakes with her this weekend, Debra played stuffed animals with her, we didn’t make her run errands, we played with her in the pool, hell, we TOOK her to the pool which, given my current body image, was a feat. Still, she says she’s lonely and she still watched too many videos and didn’t ride her bike. This is a lack of follow-through on my part and what is that teaching her? If we continue on this path, it becomes a downward spiral so let’s not.

How do you let it all happen without worrying? How do you handle it when your child says she’s lonely but doesn’t have particularly close friends? How do you insist she leave the cool house to practice a skill she doesn’t see a need to learn? It’s useless, this worrying, but here we are. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. I feel better.

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The 80s Called

For the first time, there are kids in the neighborhood RR’s age. I’m delighted by this and more delighted that at least one of the families is relaxed enough to let their kid ride down to our house. Of course, this means that my child rides back with her to her house since our house is decidedly Not Fun.

And since my child rides back with her it means she’s alone out in the world on a street with no way to call home. Or, she’s having fun in the neighborhood, potato potahto. Between D and I, one of us is decidedly more anxious about the entire thing. Will she come back? What if something happens? What if she gets hurt? How will we find her if she’s missing?

Of course, some of these things are also true when she’s home alone when we go to the grocery store. There are equally dangerous things in the house but for some reason it feels like there’s less to worry about. We know the statistics about kidnapping. My sister was part of a failed stranger danger child snatching when she was six so I’m not really excited about those particular statistics.

RR does not have a phone (yet) but she’s equipped with a device to buzz when it’s time to come home. I just KNOW she will leave a phone behind unless we make her take a backpack with her everywhere. Maybe we’ll give her a fanny pack to go with it when we do cave. Teeny tiny fanny pack.

We’ve definitely gotten less worried the more she does it but does the nagging what if she doesn’t come back ever go away?

Changeling

We do not recognize our daughter. Someone stole into our home in the night and replaced her with another daughter. This one is tall and all limbs, strong and fast but a little lazy, occasionally sullen, has a much better memory, and asks for specific toys and gifts. This one will only sometimes dress herself and likes to shower. This one is packed with sass.

We didn’t notice at first. You see, this changeling still has accidents and disappears for hours at a time to play by herself. She still likes to get up early and turn on the TV by herself. She still dances naked in the living room. But there were glimpses that made our eyes skip over her, looking for the real child. Our little girl, the barely-past-toddlerhood girl. The one who was still rocking 3T shorts just a couple of weeks ago.

changeling

She’ll be seven next month, just like our old child, and if in fact she’s ours, she is finally, suddenly, and startlingly a kid. She has habits and preferences. The tiny wolverine we’ve lived with for so long has disappeared. She cuddles. She has friends. Let that soak in. Right? This is obviously not our child.

She wants things. You guys, RR has never asked for things. With prodding, sure, but years of television have skipped past and she has been impervious to the wiles of advertisers and, when sucked in, quickly forgets the object in question ever existed. Now she has focused her mind and has turned a laser focus onto robot dogs of all types. Her drawings have become less detailed and elaborate. I catch myself being a sad about that and then I’ll find an itty bitty drawing in a corner of a page and it’s precisely illustrated.

pics

This is not to say that this kid is better or worse that the kid who lived here before. Just surprisingly different. It happened so quickly, she seems like a whole new person. It must be her though, I’m sure of it, because she’s still six layers deep in dirt, sprinkled in freckles, loves dancing and parties, and other children love her (even when she doesn’t love them back. No changeling could be so matched so well. Seven at the end of June. Or a teenager. It’s hard to be certain.

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My Parents (Boundaries, Part 3)

My mom and dad decided to put their elderly farmhouse on the market. This is not as charming as it sounds, except when it is, which is only just as the sun sinks below the Blue Ridge, casting the crepe myrtles and blackberry bushes into shadow and when the breeze swirls the scent of freshly cut grass and young pine trees through the summer heat. The rest of the time, it has mice and the plumbing is sluggish. The pipes burst, the slate foundation leans, there is a bear in the woods.

I fully support this decision. My dad is having more trouble with stairs (and walking in general) and they have an hour drive just to have an appointment with the doctor. It never really made sense to buy the house but they did and there it is. I think it’s smart to downsize and to be closer to emergency care. I think they will be happier to spend less on gas and to be less dependent on their questionable car to take them back and forth. I think they will like plumbing. It’s nice.

It isn’t easy though. They want what they have always had* – a spacious house with a large yard. They want it to be one level and close to town. They would like to pay two pennies for this house. I’m a little surprised at their inability to truly downsize but I shouldn’t be, I guess. It’s exactly as they have approached my dad’s diagnosis on the whole: out of sync with reality.

My mother has been crying about money and moving which is really crying about my dad. I’m pretty sure that’s how you can class all the crying around here. And I reassured her that they wouldn’t be on the street. That if the house sold immediately (ha) and they hadn’t signed a lease, they could live temporarily with us. Can you imagine what my mother heard? I believe it was something along the lines of: You should move in with us right away. Debra and I will move into the unfinished basement so that you don’t have to use stairs. Live here forever.

My sisters will hopefully help to turn her away from this collision course she is on. But that seems flimsy, doesn’t it? How do you say no to a man with cancer and his bereaved wife?

 

 

*They have forgotten the tiny trailer in San Bernadino, the brick box in Benson, and all the times they moved in with my grandparents.

 

 

Sneaking Out

Dear Sophie’s Mom,

I understand Sophie will be picking RR up at around 11pm to go on a Secret Mission. I’m sure little Sophie will be adorable in her tiny pedal car. I’ll be sure to pack some sort of Secret Mission snack. I believe the girls will be driving about three hours and RR will be sleeping in a trailer in the back while Sophie drives. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I wonder if you might send Sophie with a tarp to cover RR since it hasn’t stopped raining all day. Also, the directions to our home have been inscribed in RR’s Tiny Book of Secrets and so I’m not sure if Sophie will be able to find us before daybreak. I’ve included it here, just in case it helps.

From one mom to another, I’m sure you had a good chuckle when your daughter announced that she was going to sleep at 7pm, in her clothes, so that she was “ready to sneak out at night for the Secret Mission.” Adorable, wasn’t it? Oh and I’d almost forgotten, since the girls are sneaking out and driving three hours to see Tyler, that scamp from Cabin 4, would you remind them no smoking, no drinking, and no sex for the next decade at least? Thank you so much. I’m sure Sophie will see RR waiting for her on the curb. At night. In the dark. To sleep in a trailer. For the Secret Mission. Please send the tarp.

RR’s MomIMG_0220.JPG

The real question – had Debra and I not faked a call from The Real Sophie’s Mom, would our daughter have crept out in the night to the street? I was willing to bet on her sleeping too soundly or being too nervous to try but Debra faded to a remarkable shade of pale pea green at the mere thought.

I admit to a teensy tiny worry though, as I hear her in her bedroom, an hour after I left the room, singing and chatting animatedly and shuffling around making noises that some might say sound very Secret Missiony indeed. Send a tarp.

 

RR Hates Camp

Well, it had to end sometime. RR’s three weeks of bad-planning bliss have come to a close. You see, back in April (APRIL) when we had to sign up for camp, Debra and I were grappling with how to afford both school tuition and camp fees in July. June was okay, no tuition. But July and August are double months. Ouch. At the time, we were already on a shoestring (thank god for a raise) and so we made the decision to keep her home for two weeks. Turns out we didn’t schedule three weeks so Debra and I have passed RR like a hot potato since the fourth of July. Mostly that fluffy steaming pocket of goodness landed with my wife because work didn’t go the way it was supposed to go and not only could I not take her during the day, I missed several bedtimes as well.

This worked well for RR. This is a child who abhors organized fun. She loves the moment and is nonchalant about what’s next. She loves her mothers. She loves cool, quiet spaces. She loves drawing for hours on end. She loves to dance and run and hide and chase when she gets bitten by crazy. She connects with one person. She sometimes stutters when rushed by others who wish she’d spit it out already. She likes to take naps. She spends hours, happily, playing in her room. She wants to read, and add, and decode secret messages. She wants to play music and twirl.

She does not want your woven bracelet.
She does not want your bus songs.
She does not want your Boom Chika Boom.
She does not want your broken crayons or your markers on the high shelf.
She does not want your “time to go!”
She does not want your comfort, your chants, or your smiles.
She does not want your ball games.
She does not want to capture your flag.
She will not have your toilets. NOT A SINGLE ONE.

The rivers of urine, you guys. She came home soaked each day. She came home in tears, left in tears, and cried at bedtime. She sobbed that it was too loud. She sobbed that she couldn’t tell she had to pee. She held our hands and screamed at the bus stop. You can understand the agony we felt in sending her back.*

But send her we did. We sent her with headphones for the bus. Our miracle-worker physician prescribed a new medication and the accidents she had with us had almost stopped. Debra emailed the camp to describe the predicament. We bought a new backpack that matched the other kids’, replaced her water bottle so it didn’t leak, and got new shoes that didn’t reek of pee. We bribed the unbribeable child with a game of Crazy 8s, a lollipop, and dance classes. You’re six now, we said, you can do anything. You can do this.

Today is only Tuesday, which means we really only have Monday to go on. I’ll whisper this so there will be no karmic backlash**: She came home dry. She came home smiling. She didn’t cry herself to sleep. There were storm clouds this morning but no tears. Cross your fingers that when we pick her up today we’re on the same track. I’ll just take one of those things. Anything is a miracle.

*Nope. No other full day options that aren’t identical. No friendly neighbor or sister or grandmother. No way to manage another 4 weeks of having her at work. It has to be done.

**I know that karma doesn’t work this way, yes.

 

Right Now

bob-ross

Tell me you’ve seen Bob Ross. Tell me you’ve watched his show. Ok, stop. Just hang on right there and go reacquaint yourself with the tone of his voice, his pacing, his whole deal (by the way, autoplay). He’s a mellow dude, soothing, and not very dynamic. I mean, he’s a dynamic painter in that…holy shit I could not do that. But he isn’t dynamic in the way that a four-year-old would stop to watch. And then keep watching. RR has been drawing happy little clouds and happy little trees ever since.

trees

Debra said today at soccer, rather, watch-RR-spin-and-grin-in-the-middle-of-the-field, that at least the social time with her teammates is valuable. And it is. But that pretty much sums up what RR is getting out of it right now. Well, and handfuls of mini muffins and oranges slices brought by the other parents. I say without judgement that RR loves everything that she does and does exactly what she wants to do, which is not flipping over the bar in gymnastics, moving her arms in the water, or kicking the ball in soccer. Sports, maybe, are not her thing right now*.

orange

Which leaves us wondering whether it’s time to return to music and try dance. But what she loves to do right now* is to color and draw and paint and dream on paper (and walls, and floors, and today on our quilt). It seems strange to let her try everything else in a formal-ish setting except art. I mean, are there even art classes for the almost five set? I feel weird thinking about sending my kid to art lessons, like it’s somehow pushing her. But how is it different than soccer, or swim lessons, or piano? I don’t want to make a mistake.

cool-Bob-Ross-birds-painting

Mostly, I just want her to have fun instead of focusing on planning for the future (and I mean I’m the one focusing, not her). Because that’s what everything is. Swimming so she doesn’t drown. Or can get a job as a lifeguard. Or can be on the swim team. Gymnastics so she can run fast and jump high. So she learns practice, perseverance, and a tolerance for risk. So that she feels part of something. Music so she can keep a tune when she sings to her own children or can belt out Bob Marley with her arms wrapped around her friends at a beach bonfire. So she can join a band. Or read music. But what she wants to do right now* is art. Nothing but art.

stream

Of course, I don’t mind leaving stacks of blank paper everywhere and endlessly replenishing her colors. But when I think about it, it’s not really different than kicking the soccer ball with her in the yard while also letting her play on a semi-organized team. And so I think it’s worth considering. Art. If only to save my walls. And really, if she’s happiest painting, so why not.

happy

* all things subject to change at a moments notice and thank goodness for that