Saturday, November 16, 2013

The truth about sleepovers.

Thinking back to childhood play dates and sleepovers, I have a hard time remembering any grown ups in the picture. 

I assume it's because we grew up in a different time. When "free-range parenting" was just simply referred to as "having kids" and the over scheduled kids being shuttled all over town in "Mom's taxi" were the exception, not the rule. 

Kids were kids who did kid stuff while parents...I have no idea where they were or what they were doing. I was a kid!

It sometimes feels, looking back, that times have really changed. I am so IN my kids' lives! But all it takes is a sleepover at my house to remind me that, actually, things are just like I remember. 

Bill and I are holed up in our room like prisoners of war, afraid to open the door for fear of what we might find. Last time I snuck out for more coffee, there was a trail of pillows running the entire length of the house; toys, dishes and blankets pretty much everywhere I looked; and four "wild boars" in the living room where the children had once been. 

I was warned to stay back. "We bite."

It's a strange thing to have your space taken over by little people. No wonder I can't picture grown ups hanging around my childhood sleepovers - they were hiding from us!

Bill and I are well aware that WE are in charge here, but I'd be lying if I told you we were comfortable with that. The truth is: we're terrified. 

(They bite!)

We're scared to lay down the law which is so not how we usually are. I'm not sure if it's because we don't want to be meanies (no one wants to be those parents...) or if it's simply because we're outnumbered, but there's definitely been a lot of "not it!" called around here in the last 18 hours. 

"Do you think the kids should brush their teeth..."

"Not it!"

And now, since there's nothing else they have to do, Bill and I are just hiding out, hoping that whatever it is that let us survive a "parentless" childhood is still in full effect. 

We'll be in our room if you need us. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Homeschool highs and lows.

We talked about my expectations most of the way to class and as we pulled into the parking lot, I asked him one last time what he was supposed to do.

"Be a good listener?" he replied, shoving the last bite of pizza crust into his mouth.

"Seriously, Liam? Have you not heard a word I've said this entire time? I'm talking about your article. You need to finish your article! Remember?! I typed up some of the information for you to use as a guide but you need to have your teacher help you turn that into an article for the newspaper!"

"And be a good listener?" he said, trying to redeem himself.

"Yeah," I scoffed. "That'd be great."

I probably don't have to tell you that the article? Never got written. Instead he turned in what I wrote (what?!) and spent his time in class drawing a scene from Angry Birds StarWars (for the paper, but still!) and presumably listening.

Do I have to tell you that I berated him most of the drive home? I can never tell if people expect that kind of thing from me or not. Maybe I come across super sweet in writing? I have no idea. Not that I'm not nice to my kids (insanely nice sometimes!), but I also have fairly high expectations.

Like if I tell you to do something eighteen times, I EXPECT YOU TO DO IT!

That's how most of the ride home went only when we got home I remembered Liam had a hair appointment so we turned around and went to the salon. By the time we got there, Liam had written a good chunk of his article and we had put the whole thing behind us. He promised to finish it as soon as we got home.

He pulled up a picture of Anakin Skywalker to show his stylist (he wants to grow his hair out longer but it needs a little direction...) and got right down to business, chatting with her, getting his hair washed like a pro, and just generally acting like someone who hasn't been getting his hair cut by his mom his whole life.

All things I didn't tell him to do on our ride there. Things I never even thought to consider, actually. I was so busy freaking out about his failings as a potential Pulitzer prize winning journalist, I forgot to see what was actually before me: a completely awesome seven year old kid.

Fortunately the girls at the salon don't see a lot of little boys come through there so their perspective was more than enough to bring me back to reality.

It's a BIG DEAL that Liam can carry on an interesting conversation with a grown up. That he knows what he wants and can ask for it. That good manners flow effortlessly from him at all times. These things are not nothing! And really, at this stage in his life, aren't these the kinds of things that should be at the top of my great expectations list? He's a kid! A kid who likes to draw Angry Birds and play but who can also hold his own in a grown up situation. A kid who can write one heck of a newspaper article (really - I was so impressed!) but who would so much rather do just about anything else.

I'm thankful for that perspective.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Everything I need to (un)know I learned in kindergarten (etc).

I often say I loved school but when I try to think back to what I actually enjoyed learning, it's nearly impossible. Most of what I remember from school is feelings.

Some wonderful feelings, of course, but also a lot of difficult ones. Feelings I rarely encounter anymore. But throughout my school years I can remember feeling intimidated, embarrassed, unworthy, insecure, anxious, ashamed and scared to be myself. I felt like I wasn't enough. Like I didn't fit in. Like I was never quite right.

Even thinking about it now, my stomach is in knots. And I liked school! I had close friends and acquaintances, got good grades, was involved in extra curricular activities, had more than enough family support and was for the most part a healthy and well adjusted child. It was a good experience - good schools, good teachers, good peers - and yet it still makes me feel a bit uneasy all these years later.

It makes me wonder: How much of what we learn in school needs to be unlearned later? I'm not talking facts and figures - that stuff largely gets forgotten anyway - I'm talking about the stuff that really matters. Stuff about who we are as a person.

If you had never been bad at math or the smartest in your class or the most popular or the chubby one or the last one to finish your science test or a late reader or the girl who didn't have a date to the prom or the kid who wet his pants in 2nd grade or the boy who always got picked last for kick ball or teacher's pet, would it change who you think you are today?

How much of our adult lives are spent trying to unlearn the things we spent so many years believing?

What if instead of spending our childhood trying to fit into some box, we just got to be kids? Playing with friends, learning about the world by being a part of it, discovering who we are by what we feel and think instead of what somebody else tells us.

What if parents and teachers sought to educate the person, not the student? Or better yet, what if the person doing the learning largely took the reins?

Imagine the foundation we would have to build our lives on! How much more productive and fulfilling adulthood might be if instead of trying to figure out who we are and where we stand, we could just take our strong sense of self and build on it.

Learning is easy. But the unlearning? That can take a lifetime.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tricky treat.

You probably know by now that when it comes to worrying about my kids I'm more free-range parent than helicopter mom. I typically assume everything is a-ok unless I actually see blood.

Trick-or-treating was no exception. We went with a group of neighbors and friends so the whole "it takes a village" thing was in full effect. The kids ran from house to house while I went at my own pace, chatting with friends and loosely looking after whatever child happened to be closest to my person. Every now and then Bill would yell out in a panicked voice, "Do you have Finn?!" and I'd shake my head like, "Dude, you must trust the village..." before scanning our hodge podge group and confirming that, yes, indeed someone was looking after Finn.

It went on like this for a few blocks before we decided to head back to the house. There it shifted from "it takes a village" to "Lord of the Flies" because, well, that's just how we roll. The kids do their thing while the grown ups do theirs. The lines blur from time to time of course (sometimes a grown up want to jump on the trampoline while a few kids might want to join the conversation...) but at no time does it feel like someone's "in charge".

(Except maybe Liam.)

I happened to glance into the Rec Room at some point and notice all the kids going through their candy, sorting, making trades and eating as much as they could before somebody stopped them. It was so cute and completely reminded me of Halloween when I was a kid. It was usually just our family but we were still up past bedtime, in costume, a little cold and worn out from trick-or-treating and eating candy like it was our job.

My dad would always test a few pieces to "make sure it was safe" and, even though I knew he was just teasing so he could steal my Mr. Goodbars, I also remember that being a pretty legit fear. Is it just me or were all kids in my generation raised thinking they might find a razor blade in their mini Snickers? Seems ridiculous now - I mean, who in their right mind would ruin a perfectly good mini Snickers with a RAZOR BLADE? - but I guess I had seen enough local news to know that stranger things could happen.

I have never for one second thought I should check my kids' candy to make sure it was safe. That may seem completely ridiculous to you, I have no idea. But we stay close to home, avoid creepers and use common sense. Plus, it's just candy, right?


Imagine my surprise/panic when I found this in Finny's bed the next day:

No, it's not a tequilla sucker (my first thought) but that doesn't make it any less bizarre. THERE IS A FREAKING WORM IN THAT CANDY! Of all the tricks and treats, I NEVER expected to find this stuck to my three year old's pillow the day after Halloween.

Turns out, our neighbors got it at the Adventure Science Center a while back. My friend thought she had gotten rid of it but apparently her daughter had been stashing it, waiting to surprise someone with it on Halloween.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013.

I have nothing against a store-bought costume - ours are some of the most played with things we own - but there's something so great about throwing an outfit together with whatever you have lying around and a little imagination. I think it's especially fun on Halloween...

Homemade Halloween - 2008. We didn't have to buy a single thing!

This year I really wanted Finn to be Hulk Hogan (his friend Coen was going to be Macho Man Randy Savage...) but he insisted on being Luke Skywalker. At first I wasn't so sure (it seems like such a shame to waste a perfectly good blond mullet...) but when I spotted a Darth Vader mask at the grocery store for $8, I started to come around to the idea.

The boys have been Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader pretty much all month but Bill and I didn't pull our costumes together until the last minute. We were obviously planning to be Princess Leia and Han Solo but when Bill realized he could use some of my leftover bun hair for a long braid and hang out in a Snuggie all night, he decided to be a young Obi Wan Kanobe.

I think it was a great decision.

As for my Leia costume, it came together pretty easily. I knew as long as I had the hair, the rest of it wouldn't matter all that much.

I put my hair in side buns right above my ears and then wrapped several braids around each one. (I made the braids from a weave I got at Hair World for $5!). I used lots of bobby pins and hair spray and everything stayed in place all night long which is kind of amazing considering how insane the weather was last night. 

Like 10' tree branch through our neighbors' windshield insane. 


As for my outfit, I just cut a neck hole in a sheet, stitched up some sleeves and added a few gold accents. 

We tested our costumes out at a party over the weekend and when I got swarmed by a group of boys who WOULD NOT leave me alone, I knew I hit the Leia on the head. 

And when we all got suited up to go trick-or-treating last night? I have to admit we looked pretty darn cool.

It was such a great night. The forecast called for a 100% chance of rain plus possible tornado warnings but we were lucky enough to stay safe and dry all night (well, except for that car...). It was warm enough to hang out on the porch well into the night but the menacing dark clouds and howling wind made it feel extra dark and spooky. It was a perfect Halloween night.

My independent little trick-or-treater...such a big boy.
(To which he would immediately say, 'I'm not a boy, I'm Luke Kywalker!')

Hope you and yours had fun! (Or, if your Halloween got postponed until tonight...enjoy!)