"Rich states another distinction succinctly when she discusses the frustrations mothers feel as they are “alienated from the institution of motherhood, not necessarily mothering itself” (Rich, 39, 1976). She is arguing that the conflicts mothers feel are not so much with the experiences and practices of mothering, nor with their children, nor with their spouses/partners, but with the institution of motherhood that has created a space in which mothering suffers under the constraints and pressures of society that has been not so friendly to women."Read More
With death it is the same. It was days, then weeks, then months. Every month on the “5th of...” there would be a wave of emotion to anticipate, to sit through, and then to mark. It’s not markers of development like with the littles, instead it’s markers of things no more. She’ll never see my kids ride bikes or hang upside down in trees.Read More
I know two weeks is not long to me, but will feel like an eternity to him. I also know that requiring him to wait for the earned money from work done well at school will make him a better person in the long run.Read More
I was so excited for my seven-year-old to learn about the political process and election this year for the first time. We rarely watch live television, but we started watching morning show coverage of the candidates last year and discussing it over breakfast and on the way to school. He was so interested, had lots of questions, but eventually we had to turn it off and stop watching.
I regularly use Common Sense Media to help me determine what shows and games are age-appropriate for my kids. I have a feeling if they had to rate Trump's speeches, he'd be for the 17+ age group. I don't let my kids watch R-rated movies, so I couldn't let them listen to Trump. It should go without saying that his discourse is wildly unpresidential. He has said Mexicans are rapists, proposed ejecting all Muslims from the country, made fun of people with disabilities, and much more. He stated, "I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn't lose any voters. It's incredible." It's not incredible, it's terrifying.
The last day of school was a blast! The local ice cream shop sent a truck that parked outside of my son’s school. Parents and kids chatted, ate ice cream, and played. It was an idyllic end to the school year.
And the next two days were hellish. Never in my life has there been a longer 48-hour period than the Thursday and Friday following the last day of school. My daughter’s preschool had already been out for over a week. The urgent and angry grunts of the barely speaking toddler were wearing on us all. I had pictured lemonade stands and sprinklers. Instead it was them screaming about who would get to turn the hose on to fill the kiddie pool while the 19-month old pulled handfuls of poop out of his diaper.
But this summer, it’s not really my problem. My husband is on primary caregiver duty. He worked to get his non-teaching requirements on campus out of the way during the school year so he could have a flexible summer to play with the kids while I study. We are both academics, but he is a few years ahead of me. I worked for years while he did a masters and PhD, then as he neared the end of his doctoral work, I went back to do a PhD. We had kids in the midst of it, knowing that though it pushed graduations off for both of us, we had the flexibility we wanted to co-parent our kids. He was, as we called it, the PCG (primary care giver) for our son as a baby and toddler. By the time our daughter came along, I was one year into my coursework and the oldest was in pre-school three days per week. We were able to make work and life happen by handing off kids and schedules, supplementing with a babysitter one day a week. It wasn’t always magical, but it was certainly valued, upon reflection if not always in real time.
The two bigger kids were set to go to art camp a week after school was out. But my eldest woke up with a fever, sore throat, and no voice on the first day. He was so sad to miss it, especially since his sister could still go; she was sad to not go with him, the most fun part for her. I must confess, we were bummed that we had already paid the camp fee and that we wouldn’t have a quiet house for a few days—two kids at home instead of just one (that still takes naps).
When he realized he couldn’t easily communicate, my otherwise very chatty seven-year-old boy became so quiet. He watched a lot of cartoons and rested on the couch. After a few of days, his fever lessened. His energy was returning, but not his voice. Without his voice for those days, his personality changed a bit. He softened. The effort it took to talk made it not worth it for him to express himself with whispered words no could hear unless they crossed the room to be right next to him. So he just started smiling a lot. He was always smiling at us. He was desperate to interact, but couldn’t use his default of words, so he smiled. He didn’t hiss. He wasn’t cranky despite feeling bad. He just kept smiling at us. When he did talk, he sat close and was so tender and gentle. The quiet of his voice seemed to lend to a development of a more calm demeanor those days. He read to his baby brother in a whisper. He shared kindly with his sister. At one moment I wondered if this is what he might be like as an adult, when all of the nervous energy of youth has been used up and you can see a little more of the core of a person.
After a few more days, he was back to normal. His voice was back, along with his big and bossy personality. He was back to directing his sister and brother around and trying to bring us under his management too. But I saw that all of the antics simply are because they are boisterous children figuring life out and bumping into everything around them all of the time; not just physical bumping, but emotional, intellectual, and psychological too. He actually isn’t that cranky while he is talking as I often perceive him to be. He isn’t trying to be disrespectful. He is trying to engage in a direct way. And he is smiling. Maybe it’s not so clear because there are so many loud words (screams!!) that fog my view of his sweet face. I am grateful he has big, loud words to use; it is a part of who he is as a person. I also am grateful for that opportunity to see his quiet side, the side that will still connect through sweet smiles even when the words aren’t there.
My Big Bird (i.e., the oldest of my three kids, a seven year old) recently had a first grade animal project. He selected a rhinoceros. He had to make a poster with a series of facts and pictures from research he did from books and the internet. Though I find most homework unnecessary, I don't mind projects like this one. It had some parameters, but lots of room for creativity. We helped a bit (can't let a kid browse the internet alone or load paper in the printer), but for the most part we just asked him what he learned and reminded him to check his spelling and capitalization.
He chose rhinos because this is the animal he uses to describe himself when he is angry. He always says he wants to "charge like a rhino" when he is angry, and he often does. As long as he isn't charging one of us, it is fine. He generally charges at a couch, chair or bed, making for a soft landing for a frustrated little boy.
On a recent trip to the Central Florida Zoo, we went to the rhino show. They brought the rhinos out into an open area and fed them while a zoologist gave us information about the life cycle, habitat, diet and other such details of the rhino as well as taking questions from the audience. She mentioned how rhinos like to charge. Mine and Big Bird's eyes made immediate contact and lit up. The zoologist said that rhino's have excellent hearing, but their eyesight is terrible; they can't see more than five feet in front of them. They charge because their size is intimidating to would-be predators, but they are basically terrified of everything. They are "big fraidy cats," to quote her.
I looked at my son and gave him a soft, knowing smile. He smiled back sheepishly. There has been so much talk about tiger moms and elephant moms, French moms and American moms, mommy wars, and endless other mom identifications. At any given time I could fit into one or more of these mom identities, but it is now much more clear to me that regardless of my parenting style, I have a Rhino kid. His personality and presence are big, bold and even intimidating at times. (And it seems like he eats 100 pounds of food a day, as we learned the rhino does.) But the most important resemblance is that when he is frustrated, angry or overwhelmed and decides he wants to charge, inside he is scared. A scared little boy who can't see what is happening up ahead of him and feels if he just pushes through it with all of his emotional power and might, then maybe he will scare off a seeming predator. Rhinos are not mean or vicious or manipulative, nor are small children. They are simply powerful beings in our lives who, when scared (anxious, stressed, angry, etc), use their loud but limited power to try and change the course of things. My job is to teach him how to change from a rhino into a big boy. I'm still working on that one.