Sunday, July 27, 2014

Auto Parent

It feels like I've been on Auto Parent.

Like most other things in life, though, it's not black and white.  I have.  And I haven't. 

You know what it's like?  It's like in the movies when the good guy is being attacked by six people and he spends the whole fight fighting one at a time while the others "patiently wait" to have their butts handed to them. 

I know what you're thinking.  You're thinking "What? No.  That's not even a good analogy."  But it is.  See, kids go through so many stages of development, sometimes they even which almost always overlap.  So as a parent you see this new pattern of behavior and you jump on it and start learning how to deal with that and what's the best way and what's the best language and how can you help them and not kill them and still be patient and know what's happening and be compassionate and firm and parent-y.  All the while there is another thing brewing and it might pop up in the middle of this first thing or else it might not and then it will spring on you when you think you've got the other thing handled (which maybe you did but it morphed into something else and now your other tools aren't working) and now you're dealing with that thing and then a new thing comes at you and you're like "Woah."  And then the things kind of stop happening for a while and good guy mom relaxes; she may even go into a reverie about all the amazing stuff she just went through.  All the while a new troop of henchmen have filed into the room and she has no idea what's about to hit her. 

See?  Makes perfect sense. 

That's where I was.  Only it wasn't henchmen and I wasn't in a vacant stare of reverie.  I was busy.  I was busy trying to deal with re adjusting to life as a home schooling family.  And, in a heroic effort to completely exhaust the metaphor, I'll say that facing off with that challenge was it's own set of anonymous henchmen attacking me one (sometimes two) at a time. 

POW!  BOOM!  SPLAT! Take that!  Aaaand that! 

Only to stumble to the seat after the fight thinking I'm between rounds (yes, yes, mixing the metaphors) and see that a new old nemesis is ready to rumble, as it were. 

You're right.  This isn't making sense.  Abandon metaphor! 

Okay.  Plain speak.  Yes.  This is good plan. 

As I mentioned earlier, I've spent the last year re learning how we function best as a homeschooling family.  To schedule or not schedule?  To use time blocks (egads! that's much too much like school!) or not to use time blocks?  To be more rigid or more relaxed?  To force grammar exercises or encourage more reading?  How best to help the boy and his need (but lack of desire) to move his body in a helpful way?  Two very different learners; 10 million different approaches.  Then there were supporting questions: what books to get, what math programme to use? How do I manage their mathematical skill set development?  Holy times tables, batman - we've got to redo the basics!  Stat! 

In the mean time, I lost sight of helping my kiddos with their relationships with each other.  And with themselves.  On that front, I was mos def (trademarked?) on auto parent. 

You know how it is with siblings - all the bickering and hitting and 'leave me alone!'s.  I was kind of thinking that would be over by now.  It's not. 

Thanks to insightful conversation with a good friend, I realize I still need to be describing and naming my kids emotions to them.  Helping them to understand their motivations and reactions and to observe themselves so they can make conscious decisions about the kind of person they want to be.  Early Intropsection Intervention, if you will. 

Now look, the truth is that I'm not entirely confident that kids can be introspective, but I don't think it would hurt them to introduce them to that way of engaging with one's self and showing them the possibility of being the in charge of how you deal with self and others in life. 

I was all of 30 before I had my first inkling of self awareness.  Honestly.  Think of all the missed opportunities all those years before that.  Think of what they can choose as they develop into adults rather than un- and re-learning things after the fact.  I know that living - just being alive- is a grand opportunity for growth in an upward direction.  I know that as long as I am alive I will continue with the process of "growing up".   I hadn't thought, before now, that I could give that insight to my kids so "soon". 

Remember when they were toddlers having a tantrum and we would validate, name and characterize their big emotions for them?  That doesn't have to end with toddlerhood.  Thinking about it now, I would have really benefited from that in my tween (and, honestly teen) years.  Who knows, I might have resented it.  But this isn't about me or "then". 

This is about my children and now. 

Let's do this.


Anonymous said...

"...that's just how it is! You are aware of all these things and doing your very best to juggle them. I have no doubt that we give our children our best, even when we 'lose it', and at some point, they will remember the little voice of 'mom' in the background. You are doing just what you need to be doing. Keep on keeping on!!!!"

Anonymous said...

No I get the metaphor! The whole naming emotions and encouraging self awareness through all stages makes so much sense. Definitely taking some of that advice away with me!

Anonymous said...

I was trolling the Net looking for you today and noticed a new post - whew! go on girl!!

Milkshaken said...

Thanks guys. I have copied your comments here so I can have them always. Like little sprinkles on my cupcake. :)

Anonymous said...

Love the article. Can definitely relate to it! Parenting does seem as though it constantly evolves and we as parents need to evolve with it. There are the moments when all comes together in bliss and we can sit back and think yay! We did it (collectively as a family unit) and there are moments when we feel like we have been hit by a truck! :)
& I have also this summer thought/reflected on what is better? Carving out designated blocks of time for specific activities or just flowing with the day?
Parenting is definitely a journey! :)
Loved this article! :)

Jolie said...

Well as a new mom I'm learning that its "as we grow" is the best way I can do this. I have honestly felt that my son is growing and learning his sense of self in this "new world" at an astronomical rate of development. I mean babies learn to communicate their emotions very quickly, they rollover, creep, crawl, stand, walk, talk, grow teeth, run, climb speak all in a record amount of time and my slow brain processing and feeling and adjusting going whoa !!!! Cus adults slow down we do!!! We become bogged down with work, life, husband/wife paying bills, rent, mortgage and finding self. And then we decide to have a baby. There is no manual on how to be the quintessential parent so you read, you ask advice from those who you think have been doing a good job at balancing it all and you melt it all together and do what feels right. I'm still in the infancy stage but the adjustment from single carefree to now being responsible for this beautiful little creature is overwhelming sometimes. Because I sooo want to get it right. But I've fast realized that I'll learn as I grow. I'm lucky to have a support in my really lifelong friends who I can share pictures of poop with and get some meaningful advice. And share without feeling guilty how tired I am and ask the questions and get real answers because let me tell you all these great books out there don't give real time experience. So it's forums like this where you can be unabashed and real that gives valuable lessons. So thanks Cian I'll keep reading and learning and growing.