Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Genius of Max & Ruby

I’ve yet to meet a parent that likes the show Max & Ruby. In fact I’m probably the only parent that actually finds the show cute and funny. Of course I’ve talked to the girls and they see it the same as I do, so I’m not concerned.

Two little bunnies, Max and big sister Ruby. Live (seemingly) alone. There’s a grandmother close as well as friends, and some adult bunnies. The beginning of the show Max wants to do something, but Ruby wants to do something else. Inevitably Ruby either doesn’t understand Max, or ignores him. At the end of the show Ruby figures out what Max tried to convey and everyone’s happy.

Most parents don’t like how bossy Ruby is, they also don’t like how she puts her wants over Max’s, they don’t like how she ignores him while she pursues her own desires. They don’t like that the majority of the program shows Ruby being mean and only the last few moments show a better way to meet everyone’s needs.

Ella and Agatha think it’s funny that Max knows what’s going on, that he tries to tell Ruby, but she doesn’t stop to listen and gets into one problem after another because of it, but if she just listened to the younger, smaller Max, then everything would’ve been okay from the start.

I suspect many parents don’t like the show because subconsciously they’re aware that the show mirrors their own actions and words. Max wakes up and Ruby’s eating yummy strawberries for breakfast. Max wants them, but Ruby has an egg for Max. He refuses. She threatens “No strawberries until your plate is empty”. She eats the strawberries in front of him, “Oh these are yummy, if you just ate your egg, you could have some too.”

It hits a little close to home. Especially when the show makes it very plain that it doesn’t matter if he really eats his egg or not, it doesn’t matter if he gets dirty. It’s easier to clean him up, than get upset.

But it’s easy to say one child shouldn’t treat another in such a way. Adults are different. It’s okay for a parent to tell their child one day they can’t get muddy, they can’t play with a certain toy, they can’t do what they want, but the next day (when the parent wants to do something quietly) the parent encourages the child to do exactly what the parent says ‘no’ to the rest of the time. Then the parent gets mad when the child comes over to see what’s happening. The parent doesn’t need to find out why the child comes over, they’re the parent. But if one child treats another in such a manner, then it’s considered rude, impolite.

I find it amazing that parents expect children to learn to cooperate, to share, to listen to other’s views, yet as adults they don’t bother.

Don’t get me wrong, I know many parents who do. But I also know how difficult it is to spend the majority of your life with someone else as boss, and now that we’re no longer children with someone else dictating to us, it’s really difficult to let go of the little bit of power we have.

However, I believe it’s very important that we do. We need to model to children how to behave. Show them that all people deserve respectful treatment, including those smaller and weaker than ourselves.

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Unschool Life

When someone walks into our house, they see a home well lived in. Some people may see the paint on the floor, or the million-and-one pom-poms scattered from wall to wall. But others race in, unaware of the clutter. Instead they find one station or another and begin working.

 

At the dinning table we have crafts of one sort or another. Right now we have popsicle sticks, pom-poms, paint, feathers, and the glue-gun. We’re all working on a structure of sorts. We hope anyone who comes to visit will help build it. Though so far no one’s really shown that much interest in the crafts.

We have crafts supplies in various places around the house. We believe availability will increase the girl’s desire to create, as well as their ability to express. Right now the girls enjoy working at the kitchen table. It’s close to where I spend the majority of my day. There’s also easy access to food, music, and shows.

Over the past few months we’ve seen our girls blossom in their ability to create masterpieces using the materials available to them.

We try to keep snacks available at all times.

Beyond the stuff we strew around for the girls to use, they also find other items to play with, and new uses for old toys. Here are the scissors and Ariel wig Ella first used to practice hair cutting on.

 

 

 

We’ve moved bean-bags to the living room so the girls have a comfortable place to sit while watching shows or playing Wii. They also provide a place for the girls to climb and jump. Otherwise they climb on our recliners – I really don’t want our recliners broken, and I don’t want someone hurt by them flipping over the back. Now there’s a place for their BIG activities right there in the heart of the home.

 

 

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Permission Granted

Yesterday the girls cut their hair. Today they did it again. Ella more so than Agatha.

She had a great time cutting it. And I think it actually looks pretty good. There are a few patches that are a bit too close to her scalp and the back has a few cuts that are pretty obvious. But overall it suits her.

Ryan was really upset. When she first started cutting again he started to say ‘No.’ He wanted to tell her we’d go to a salon instead. He wanted to teach her when to stop, to know when enough was enough.

I stepped in. After all, saying No, really wouldn’t give her a reason to stop. But what was our reason? Because we didn’t like it so short.

I asked Ryan to consider a few points. If she were 16, would we tell her she couldn’t cut her own hair. He said maybe. But when I was 16, I cut my own hair; it turned out better than when my mom cut my hair. If she were 16, would it be our place to tell her how she can or can’t wear her hair? Would it be good for her if we did?

In the end she asked our opinion, and looked in the mirror. When it was all done, her smile faltered, it was too short. But it can grow again, and now she knows to look in the mirror, and keep her hair just the length she wants.

It really doesn’t matter what the girls want to do, if our knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘no’, then we need to stop and examine why. Is there a valid reason, or should we step back and allow, even assist them in reaching their objective?

Do we really know more about them and their bodies than they do? Maybe it’s time parents stepped back and allowed their children enough freedom to discover their own desires and limits.

Should Ella ask permission to cut her hair in the future? Does it really matter? I did tell her we have hair scissors, and if she wanted to cut her hair, she could ask for the proper scissors. But whether to actually cut her hair or not? No, I don’t think it’s my place to either deny or grant permission.

 

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First Haircut

I came into the kitchen and this is what I saw: my baby girl cutting her hair. She wanted to look like Flynn Rider.

There’s hair all over the floor and less on her head. I could have been upset. She had gorgeous, long hair. It came half-way down her back. I could have yelled, I could have shouted, but it wouldn’t change anything.

 

 

Instead I took pictures, and waited.

The end result suits her very well. I did cut a couple long strands that she couldn’t see, but this hair cut was all her doing.

She also cut an Ariel wig and a Cinderella wig we had. Then she asked Agatha if she could cut her hair. Agatha said no and ran away. About two minutes later she returned. With her own scissors. She promptly gave herself her own first haircut. Her curls are gone.

I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m sad. There’s a lot less ceremony and curls than I prefer. I’m proud. They knew what they wanted to do, and they did it. Ella even practiced a few times before she tried her own head. She had an image in her mind that she wanted to copy, and she tried. She asked for help where she needed it, she also let us know she wanted to do it herself.

Agatha saw Ella cutting, and wanted to also. She asked first. Then she did it.

My girls are growing up, and they invited me to join them. I wouldn’t miss it for the world, even if that means my girls have less hair than they used to.

 

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My Secret Parenting Weapon

Every parent has one. Something that calms the savage child faster than anything else. My secret weapon is a God send. If only I remembered to use it more often.

This has been one tough week. Cordelia’s a tad distracted during the day, and so really doesn’t nurse. Which means she’s latched on pretty much all night. I find I don’t sleep near as well when someones biting me. I’m not sure why.

Agatha’s taken to waking up after roughly ten hours of sleep. Anything less than twelve usually results in massive tears within moments of opening her eyes. It also means she’s likely to attack her sisters over every little slight.

Ella’s growing. I’m not sure in what way yet, but each day presents us with a different personality. Most of them are happy, but a curve ball is still a curve ball, even if we manage a home run.

With roughly four hours of disjointed sleep per night, I’m trying to help my girls navigate a crazy world full of so many different opinions and ideas. By itself that’s pretty tough, but I’m not the most pleasant person when I’m tired.

The other day we were out with friends and Agatha took both hers and Ella’s babies for herself. And refused to give one to Ella. I tried pleading, cajoling, begging. But nothing worked. I was ready to force her to hand it over. Just in time, I remembered.

I said. “Agatha, we have a bit of a problem and need to find a solution. I really need your help.” A huge smile spread across her face at the word ‘solution’. I said, “I see two little girls, and two babies. But I see one little girl holding both babies while the other little girl cries. Can you help me find a solution?”

She instantly handed over the baby Ella wanted and said, “How about Ella hold this one, I hold the other one?” She handed it to Ella and asked Ella if it was okay. They both agreed.

This secret weapon didn’t work over night. We needed to use it several times before the girls trusted me enough to use it. They needed to know I’d listen to their ideas, without discounting them out of hand. They needed to know, that I wouldn’t force my own ideas. They needed to know I trusted them to find a solution, they also needed to trust themselves.

Over the past few days I’ve used this on several occasions. The words alone are enough to calm a tense situation. It’s such a wonderful tool. Everyone leaves the scene feeling loved and respected (though I don’t guarantee happy). All I need to do now, is use it whenever a conflict happens.

Tomorrow I have an appointment and want to go alone to make things fast and easy. Agatha wants to go with me. I’m going to explain my point of view, and ask her to help me find a solution. I wonder what she might come up with.

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The Hidden Danger of Toys

There’s nothing to do, but take it away. Someone gave Agatha a doll for her birthday, and she can’t have it. The head is disproportionately large, the eyes are huge, the one arm is stitched on a little crooked, and it has a cute little cupid bow mouth.

It has to go.

It’s nothing like a real baby and I’m concerned she’ll be upset because her eyes aren’t as large, or her mouth isn’t as small. I’m much too concerned for her mental well-being to allow her such a toy.

Everywhere you turn there’s another danger facing our children. One of the biggest, it would seem, are toys.

Don’t let your children play with a pretend phone, or their imagination will shrivel and die. Don’t let your child have a play sword, or a stick won’t be good enough. And what ever you do, don’t let your daughter play with Barbie, or she’ll forever feel inadequate and end up with an eating disorder.

I know what the studies say, but I think researchers are causing fear and panic where there needn’t be any.

No, I’m not taking any toys away from my children – unless you count the million and one bite size pieces Cordelia finds everyday.

Parents believe children are capable of turning a stick into a sword, a cane, a catapult, a bow and arrows, as well as a dog named Rover. Yet they can’t believe their children are capable of realizing a toy is nothing more than just a toy. For that matter they can’t believe their children will be capable of pretending a stick is anything, and everything, if they’re ever exposed to a real toy phone, or sword, or dog named Rover.

They use children from several generations ago as an example. “Our fore fathers never needed a toy, they just made do, and look at the fun they had.” But our Fore fathers only had stories about things they had experience with to some degree. A knight fighting a dragon was easy to imagine when they’d seen real fighting. Today’s children, thankfully, haven’t seen real fighting. There’s a lot today’s children haven’t experienced. Inherited memory only goes so far.

Through books we introduce our children to one idea or another. Mummies, pirates, kings & queens, as well as deep-sea diving and any other thought they care to explore. But sometimes they need an image in order to internalize it.

A toy sword is fabulous. They suddenly KNOW what the word ‘sword’ meant. From there any stick can become a sword, because they have the basic outline in their heads.

If we believe, have seen, that our children are capable of such a degree of imagination, then why are we concerned that a toy will interfere? To some extent a child may demand the specific toy in order to play, but I believe that’s more likely with older children, rather than younger children. A young child is still discovering the shape of the world. A hazy image can be anything. They have no basis on which to say it’s something specific because there experience ‘vocabulary’ is still so limited. But an older child knows that each item in the world has a true shape. And older children know that adults use the true shapes, not the hazy shadow children must settle for.  An older child insists on taking the first step into adulthood. A stick can no longer be a dog named Rover. A stick is just a stick, maybe a sword or a cane. In order to be a bow, it needs a string. As the child ages their awareness increases. Their willingness to remain blind to the true shape of the world diminishes.

Nothing can change that, not a million toys, and neither will the refusal to give toys. children are natural scientists, natural philosophers. The true shape emerges no matter what.

A Barbie is disproportionate. But a child knows that’s not the true shape of humans. I believe humans are more at fault for the poor self-image of children. A child told at five or six that’s she’s chubby may see a Barbie and wish she were thinner. But without the comments made by people, the thought wouldn’t occur to her that any shape other than her own is the true shape.

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A Stand Against Bullies

In elementary school, I sat on the small, white pebbles next to the school doors waiting to go back inside. I never played with the other kids. I wasn’t welcome. In middle school, I cried almost every day, some days I feared I’d be hurt. One memorable day, at the start of school a teacher, the cool male teacher everyone liked, singled me out, made fun of my clothes and the way I talked. That was the best day of the year. The next two years in the school improved only marginally. One day 5 girls encircled me, taunted me, tormented me until the bell rang. I told my teachers. Nothing. I told my parents. They contacted the school. The girls upped the ante.

In high school, I was an outsider. If anyone liked me, I had no clue. I received daily messages in my locker telling me how much no one liked me. A few times I received messages from multiple individuals. My second high school was better. Being much larger it was possible to find a group willing to allow me through the door. But even there a person or two were more than willing to inform me I wasn’t welcome at their lunch table. For quite some time I ate on my own because I didn’t even know anyone else at the school.

I was bullied.

I’m not sure why I was such an easy target. At least not in the beginning. By the end I’d wager those vultures could smell my low self-esteem from a  mile away.

I never want my children to experience anything even remotely similar to what I went through. I want to protect them. Of course there’s really only so much a parent can do to prevent it from happening to their child. Part of me wonders if it’s possible, in an effort to protect their children, they somehow create a child willing to bully others?

I’m not really sure. What I do know is that one woman has taken a stand. A stand against bullies. Not just a cheap show that falls apart the second someone actually gets bullied, but a real stand.

I applaud this woman.

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