Daily Life Here

They experiment with many
techniques. Sponges and craft
sticks are among their favorites.
Marko is using his newfound verbal ability to protest. "Stop it, mama!" and "I don't want it" are his favorite phrases. Yesterday I asked him to put these plastic letters away so that we could get out the art supplies - he and Laurel had just asked to paint. He looked right at me and dumped them on the floor. I wanted to tell him that he was being a jerk, but he's two. That would make me even more of a jerk. Instead I told him it was probably going to take longer to clean up now. He responded by kicking them all over the kitchen. We sing a little song now, "Everybody cleans up, what they dumped out, everybody cleans, cleans up."

Laurel made up a second verse about little brothers dumping everything out but not picking it up. I heard her quietly singing to herself while she was cleaning up one of his messes. I have a newfound appreciation for the maturity of five year olds. She has great economic sense, by which I mean she knows what it will take to get what she wants.

We have a yelling problem here. I think part of it is we are just a very loud family. We like loud music. We shout at each other from upstairs when we need something. We talk very loudly at dinner, especially when we are excited. When we argue, we yell at each other. We yell swear words. And sometimes the kids just shout really, really loudly for no apparent reason. Rule #2 in our house is "no yelling" and we spend lots and lots of time talking about this one, brainstorming ways we can be quieter with our responses. But we never change our ways. Sometimes I wonder why I bother. We live on a loud street, we're hardly bothering the neighbors. Perhaps it's just in our nature and we should revise that rule.

Marko builds letters.
Laurel is learning to read. To clarify, she's teaching herself to read. Rereading the same books over and over again. Using recorded books to memorize text and then repeat it back to herself. Reading board books to Marko. Carefully sounding out words. Copying words from books. She stays up very late in her bed with a flashlight and practices. We could be firmer about making her go to sleep, but school doesn't start until after 9 and I'm not inclined to yell at anyone for reading. Marko copies everything she does, so often I'll find him in a corner with a book, "reading" it to himself. He stops and starts with his babbling in a way that sounds just like Laurel blending sounds together. 

Watching my children develop language and literacy is one of the most fascinating things I get to do these days. It's also very interesting to see how having an older child influences the sort of books you keep around and the complexity of the texts the younger one ends up hearing. I have always been a big fan of mixed aged classes in schools, which is how Laurel's school works. The first school I taught at also had mixed grades, which also helped in keeping kids from getting held back. Marko doesn't have many friends his own age, but I actually kind of hate playdates with a couple of 2 year olds. They are horrible at playing with each other. If you get a couple of older kids around, the dynamic changes. An alpha emerges and the group knows what to do.

When I found out I was pregnant with Laurel, I spent way too much time on the internet researching how I was going to handle the first year of her life. Breastfeeding, diapers, vaccines, co-sleeping, etc. It was all terrifying, because every person writing about these things is basically telling you if you pick wrong, your kid will not love you or will get autism. In reality, this is not how attachment or developmental disorders work. Also, in reality, they are a baby for like a minute, and then you have an actual person to deal with for many decades to come.

Several years ago, I realized I needed to decompartmentalize my approach to parenting and I wrote the following....philosophy? Manifesto? Now I read it on occasion when my toddler is glaring at me and my five year old doesn't want to go to school anymore and we are spending a lot of time breaking Rule #2. 

All members of the family deserve equal respect.
Behavior is motivated by needs.
Practicing to identify our needs so that we can ask for things directly from our loved ones is a great thing.
Everyone's needs matter. When someone is asking for something that they need, and it interferes with something someone else needs, compromise is required.
Everybody messes up, gets mad, says things they don't mean, acts out in inappropriate ways and can be otherwise unpleasant to others from time to time. The role of the family is to love unconditionally, speak up when someone's actions interfere or are hurtful, and to guide by example.
One of the greatest lessons we can learn from each other is how to recover, repair and heal from mistakes.
As parents, we have a responsibility to teach kindness, social norms and manners, self-care, tolerance and knowledge about the world.
We do this through modeling these behaviors ourselves. Like all the things that we as adults learn, some lessons take longer than others to learn. There's also a lot of gray areas that need to be explored.

The daily work of caring for children can be rather monotonous at times. Virtually everything I do in a day has to be repeated the next day. While I actually do enjoy the work of taking care of the house and kids, it's a tough blow to my ego to no longer earn a paycheck for my efforts. And while this parenting philosophy is not specific to me being a stay-at-home mom (I was always a full-time mom - it's not something you leave behind for eight hours a day), I do have significantly more time with them each day for all of this life stuff to play out.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love to read about daily life in your family. Love from, Aunt Mary