that marmalade quote I like so much

I made an error, recently. I relied on two entities who were sending checks. Both of them, insurance entities. Both of them insist the payment is on its way. They’ve told us this a little while now (months; weeks resp.). So far in our post office box blows tumbleweeds.

I counted on that money (that was my error). I bought the things our family needs. Now we are in a tight spot.

It’s easy to let a mistake slip into feeling sorry for oneself; into self-criticism. I can be patient with this a while.

But I also know an antidote to this, or at least a spiritual balm. An antidote to self-pity, to self-recrimination: work. Or as my friend John used to say, “chores”.

Not mindless work for the sake of doing it, but the work I should do no matter what. The work I’d do no matter what because it has to be done.

I have rice to cook, for an event I am helping with tonight. So. I saute up fine-minced garlic in olive oil and coconut oil. I set aside broth to simmer; season rice with pepper.

Dishes. Laundry. Yoga; coffee.

Breathe in; breathe out.

My son will wake soon. He will then be the next thing I get to attend to. I don’t know what our plans are for the day – our reduced circumstances have cancelled our road trip – but I do know I bought him lychee yesterday and he loved them as much as I thought he would. I do know I bought him a fifty-cent creampuff at a bánh mì shop and he saved that for this morning.

I do know that he and I will be provided for in some way – whether I can see it, or not. I often can’t.

in this world there is always danger for those who are afraid of it

Yesterday a man shows up at my door and tells me he’d seen my babies walking, and he wanted me to know there was a registered sex offender in our neighborhood. A new one. He showed me a picture. I told him Yeah, you could look that stuff up online and all the local crime too, which I had done. He was surprised (OUT-SAFETY’D, SUCKA!!!) but then returned to talking about this guy. He kept reiterating he saw my babies walking and he thought he’d talk to me. My babies. I wonder how he knows where we live. Then he says he was trying to get the sex offender OUT of our neighborhood. He says, “Why don’t they knock on doors and ask around, ‘Do you have kids?’, and ask if it’s okay if a sex offender moves in?” I have no words. Just, no words.

I thanked the man for his concern. I closed the door. I feel oddly depressed. Later the kids and I had a little talk about strangers and walking about.

Life goes on.

Now this evening it’s dark out and I know where my kids are, but I’m a wee bit uneasy. It’s not related to the guy who showed up yesterday but he didn’t help or anything. It’s as if, at a certain point I have this tingling sixth sense. I walk outside with the dog and see my kids across the street, returning home in the company of an extra kid (who is now here and staying the night). It’s like I don’t rest easy until once again I see my children safe. The kids, all three, run up and inside and make up bowls of dinner (pork fried rice and green beans) and get to some cleaning up: vacuuming and doing the dishes. Phee is soon on her laptop and giggling, playing online with friends.

I wonder when I’ll get used to how sufficient, how competent, my children are. Today they packed up their swimsuits and towels and went out with my mother to the lake. Before they left I asked them to do some housework, and they cheerfully obliged and got the kitchen cleaner than Ralph or I generally do it, talking the whole while to one another in meme-speak, almost unintelligible. At a certain point I just kept adding on suggestions, feeding the cats and sweeping, and can you put this away, and that, and they did these cheerfully enough, since they knew they were off to the lake as soon as I was off to my volunteer shift at the gallery. It’s like I worried all these years about teaching my kids life skills and I have some kind of anxiety hangover.

Sometimes besides feeding and snuggling and taking the kids where they want to go, I don’t know what else I’m supposed to be doing for them. They are exceedingly happy and well-balanced and perfectly okay asking me for whatever they want, which means each day is an opportunity in trusting in something greater than myself. My ability to plan, manipulate, execute.

Family life is a lot easier than I used to make it.

#goodnight

Ten List: Things That Make Parenting Easier, #5

A few of my Twitter followers asked that I elucidate on “ten lists” I’d turned out recently. Here goes with the fifth installment of my first list: “Things That Make Parenting Easier”, based off my ten-plus years being a devoted and hard-working parent. I hope you find it helpful. That is the only point of this post. To help those who could use it. 

This is item #5. You can find item #1 here, #2 here, #3 here, and #4 here.

Each post will have a picture from my life, my day, when I wrote the post. A picture from this afternoon: my children cleaning up the play/bedroom upstairs. Within about ten minutes the beds were tidied, linens in the laundry, Legos put away, floors vacuumed, and costumes and stuffed animals bundled away. The kids also vacuumed the large bedroom and my sewing room. No threats, bribes, or coercion were employed.

Housework; Upstairs

#5. Allow myself to suffer public discomfort for a few minutes; stop parenting in a reactionary fashion.

I’m going to get down to brass tacks and say it: there are very few emergencies in public that require us to step in forcefully with our children. Full stop. And yet, we do it anyway. For many of us, it becomes a way of life. It isn’t the handful of times they run into the road at age two, when most people could easily understand a deeply-frightened parent grabbing a child and striking the child’s bottom. No. It becomes our way of life. We grab their arms or yell at them or perhaps, even more sinister, we impart consequences, many not necessarily violent, and build a world so fearful for them they are petrified to make mistakes in public. We do whatever we can to coerce them to behave well.

I have so much empathy and sadness for how this starts for so many. Maybe it starts at age six months when the infant cries in a restaurant and we capitulate to the glares of those who think children do not belong in public spaces; resentful, embarrassed, overwhelmed, and full of congested shame we flee the restaurant. We skip our meal, we women (usually) who sleep little and don’t eat enough and are overwhelmed and often ill-supported; we make sure no one is inconvenienced by our young child. And there it starts.

Sooner or later comes the day we are too tired and too overwhelmed and we don’t leave the restaurant and our kid cries and we think, “Fuck it.” Perhaps we hate our child. Perhaps we hate the world. We feel the disapproval of strangers or father-in-law or whomever but we cannot bring ourselves to march out that door and abandon our rights; nor can we cope with our current reality. Sadly, our parenting skills decline. Sadly, our child – sensing she is not welcome in the cafe and she is somehow disappointing her mother or even incurring her mother’s wrath – is left frightened and defenseless and without an advocate. This becomes a way of life; feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, resentful. It becomes a problem we cannot name but we feel it’s effects.

Our children suffer the most. Not the stranger in the coffee shop or the father-in-law. Not even us, although we suffer a great deal. But:

our children suffer the most.

And they learn how to parent their own children; and they learn how to manage those who need help. That is, they learn to MANAGE them. Or to try. They cannot tolerate the pain and suffering of others; they cannot tolerate their own pain and suffering.

If there’s anything I could take back, it’s the time and time again I parented in a reactionary fashion (I sometimes call this “reptilian parenting”), caring more for my reputation and for my kids’ “good behavior” than parenting according to a long view of what parenting is really about. And that is, briefly, this: as my children’s parent it is my job to keep them safe – and for a time, to keep others safe from them – and to nurture them and to be their advocate and helper.

It is not my job to make sure others approve of their very existence and/or my parenting or any particular episode of my life.

I have little patience for those who call the practitioners of punitive parenting “monsters” or some such, who loudly call spanking “child abuse” on internet forums. Certainly hitting someone smaller and less empowered than us is abuse, full stop. But someone being called a “child abuser”, her ears will close up. You have effectively tapped the shame she’s been feeling. She will stop listening. She will hate you. She will feel more lost and alone.

It is very unlikely she will stop hitting her child. She will not know where to seek help.

There are many who believe punishment is the right way of things; but these people are not monsters. They merely believe in a strategy I myself do not support, but they have come by these beliefs through intense indoctrination. Even so, there are few parents and carers who don’t feel pangs of conscience when they punish their children. Calling these parents or carers names, shaming them, will effect little change, no matter how briefly exhilarating it is to rehearse righteous anger.

When you call them names you are demonstrating YOUR inability to tolerate other people’s suffering.

In any case, so many out there vilify and call parents names that I can relinquish this right. It’s being taken care of by other parties.

It is never my intention to shame parents or carers who read here. I have not always been skilled at being careful, and I have my own biases and prejudices I may not be aware of. But hopefully I am better today than in previous writings.

I have a few closing remarks.

If you yell at your kid, give them a “time out”, count to three (repeatedly or once), hit them, scream at them, pinch their arm, cold-bloodedly smile while planning to later remove their most precious precious thing EVER when you get home, employ “natural and logical consequences” – in short, PUNISH them, do something to them to elicit emotional pain – and EVERY parent/carer has done this

– if you do any of these things:

DON’T PANIC. I’ve done them all (well, except maybe the “count to three” thing). I don’t do them anymore. If you want to stop, it’s possible. It’s a beautiful way of life, and it works. My children’s character, empathy, strength, loving nature, self-control, and care for other human beings is testament to a better way. I write here to help people who want to learn how to parent non-punitively; or rather, those who want to unlearn mainstream schema of punish, mold, “correct”, coerce.

It’s possible and I’m happy to help any who want it.

All the soarings of my mind begin in my blood.

Waiting

As I believe I have on occasion expressed before, I have a love/hate relationship with giving blood. It’s scary and upsetting and uncomfortable but only at a few specific junctions and not enough to be a deal-breaker. It feels good to help but I won’t lie, it feels even better to have Phoenix’s esteem. She was happy to accompany me today in her little white fleece leggings (a cozy and lovely gift from my mother) and big boots and sweater. An old man flirted with her in this condescending but affectionate way and she handled that just fine. She kissed me and told me “Good luck” and told me she was proud of me and I was “smart”.

The Big Stick (BOOBSCAPE 3000)

I was their last “customer” and when I finished (8 minutes) they pretty much told me to fuck off, get out of there. I know they have a lot of work to get done after the blood-cattle leave. I’ve always been treated so well by bloodworkers. An impressive record considering they have to work long hours in a cramped space, in an, ahem, charming town like Aberdeen.

Short entry today as I have a fair bit of laundry; Ralph and I are also finishing up a batch of matzoh ball soup. No one is sick but that doesn’t mean delicious preventative measures aren’t a good idea!

Cashier
(Small Stone #6*)

I don’t know why you’re especially cheerful today
But I’m not joining you.

Small stone project

those spare, Socialist housekeeping tenets

I feel kind of chagrined that my husband did not mow the lawn before putting up our “Obama – Biden” sign – but I’m not irritated by this because, did you hear the part where I said he mows the lawn? Still, I’d like to look a little more “respectable” and less, oh, “welfare-recipient lazy Democrat”, and lawn care being a source of pride for many in Grays Harbor, I fear we fail in this regard.

I should confess here that I have never once mowed a single lawn (princess alert!) except one time, pregnant with our first child, when my husband taunted my expressed desire to cut our knee-high backyard with our old school push mower. For some reason (pregnancy hormones?) I took this as a slight and proceeded, in the sun, red-faced, to finish the job. It looked horrible of course, like my cat’s shabby ass when she’s been chewing on it during flea-season. Turns out those non-electric mowers are meant for the types who apparently always have short, trim yards and just walk about going snip-whisper when it’s 1/4″ above code (I picture some foppy overly-posh kind of a lifestyle when I think of this). In any case one of the reasons I haven’t mowed a lawn, besides being disinclined in this regard, is my fear of those whirling blades and rocks or whatever they might dislodge. Directly at my eyes.

Yesterday a woman stopped over for help with her sewing machine. On walking in she exclaimed, “What a beautiful home!” I was a little surprised, because I felt my home looked a little messy and disorganized (including children in underwear, not in school, playing on the floor) but I said, “Thank you.” My home has been complimented on its order and appeal but what most people don’t realize is their experience is not one of “nice things” but one of “less stuff”. Now, I’d been to this woman’s house and it was full of furniture, clutter, dogs and dogs’ detrietus – in other words, a typical American dwelling. Oh and I must say, a tremendous amount of McCain Palin signage in the yard… something I almost brought up because I have been loving political discourse lately. But I was first concerned with A. getting her machine fixed if I could, and B. getting my kids dressed and out on the bike.

Now that I think about it, in light of my ever-pressing desire to simplify, I guess one solution for the lawn is, possibly, pouring a ginormous slab of concrete.