Saturday, November 21, 2009

Miss Brooke Teaches Those Boys

Today, the fact that our youngest child is clearly the Alpha became a little more obvious. We've known it since she was 2. There's no denying it. Way back then, she could walk up to Russell who was 4 and say, "I want that swing" (that he was using) and he would silently hop off and give it to her. She's always done this. I've alternated between patting her brothers on the back for being so kind to their little sister and telling them that it's okay to stand up for themselves. Brooke will convince them to do things her way no matter what though.

Several months ago, a box full of educational character building tools arrived in the mail. I had signed up for it on a freebies website. I've been meaning to open it and put it to use all this time. However, it's been on the top of a bookshelf in a hallway instead. Yesterday, Brooke got it down and fell in love with it. She played school in her bedroom most of the evening using the colorful posters and white board. Then, this morning the game took a new turn.

Lane and Tatton were fighting over video games as they're likely to be found doing on a rainy Saturday morning. Miss Brooke (as she insisted we call her) arrived on the scene. She taped up her "visual aids" and used a drumstick for a pointer. It sounded something like this for the next couple of HOURS:

Brooke: "Lane, what are some ways that you can manage conflict?"

Lane (mumbling): "Umm- I dunno."

Brooke: "Tatton, don't you think that looking for a compromise might be a good start?"

Tatton: "Yeah."

Brooke: "Lane, what does compromise mean? Give me an example."

Lane: "To like make a deal."

Brooke: "Good, but that wasn't an example. Now class, I'm going to list some ways that we can manage conflict:"

(pointing with her drumstick)

"First, stay cool. Talk it over. Focus on the problem. Look for a compromise. Know when to walk away. Be a leader. Be a friend. Be reasonable. Be responsible. Practice real courage and put your ego aside. Mom, what's an ego?"

It was seriously cute. I was both laughing (in my head) at how seriously she was taking all of this and sort of shocked and amazed at how good she was at it. She really blew my "Boys knock it off!" out of the water! I also want to say to the boys that I'm very proud of them for what good sports they were and how long they let their sister "play school" with them when I'm sure they had other things they would rather be doing than being lectured by a 7 year old. The only less than nice thing they even said was when Brooke handed Russell a "detention slip" for not following "direkshons" and he said, "Oh! Come on! I have to follow your directions and you don't even know how to spell it right?!"

And So It Begins

I've realized that as the cold and impending gloom of the grey skies have set in, so has my need to write. Funny how that works. There's a reason that Seattle (the entire Pacific Northwest really- but Seattle gets all the love) has turned out so many artists. Well, and coffee shops to be fair. For me, it's a tradition and a survival instinct both. Not unlike the squirrels hoarding food away for winter or the geese flying south, once that cold moisture finds it's way to my bones my brain screams to be creative. Or maybe it's been creative all along but I had plenty of serotonin from long sun filled days of activity to quiet the noise. Who knows?
No matter what the reason, I have to say that I have a love hate relationship with this tradition. I have to say that "creating" words isn't really as productive as say, oh, vacuuming is. And at this time, I'm really forcing myself to go through the motions of day to day life. Things still have to get done. So, I do them with as little effort as possible and then I make a mad dash to the computer to research and type. I don't think it's healthy (but very little about winter feels healthy.) I've wondered more than a few times if I shouldn't get a sun lamp or something.
So, anyway... the blog will probably be getting updated more often. Until spring that is... ;-)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Being Thankful

Every once in a while the kids say or do something that makes me think that MAYBE I'm getting through to them. That happened this week with Tatton. Shortly after Lane received his Birthday presents, Tatton came down with a case of the woe-is-me-gimmes (go figure...) It went something like this:

"I don't have ANYTHING! EVERYONE has WAY more than me! Why can't I just have ONE single thing that I want for once?"

Note: This is one of my all time biggest pet peeves as a mother. I simply cannot stand putting in my blood, sweat, and tears just to be met with ungrateful whines and pleas that make it so brutally clear that my all will never be quite good enough. That said... I get it. I do. He's only almost 11 and let's face it- a human. Who of us hasn't thought that the grass just MIGHT be greener on the other side of the fence once or twice? So... I held my tongue (this time.) I simply stared at him as he went off about the injustice.

Then, he paused. The saying "I could see the wheels turning in his head" seems exceptionally appropriate as I felt like I could literally watch his brain switch gears. Seeming to be suddenly aware that he sounded like a big ingrate, he tried a new tactic. It went something like this:

"Okay, I know... I know... I have shelter, and food, and clothing, and education. Oh, and health care. But I mean, besides having my basic needs met... I don't have..."

He stumbled around with that for a few minutes more (going on and on about how ALL of the kids in his class have way more modern technology and way funner toys than we do) as I continued to stare at him in silence. Thankfully, he switched gears again. Just as quickly as his tirade had started, he let out a deep sigh of resignation and said, "I think I'm gonna shut up now." and turned around and walked out looking content as the cat that caught the canary.

I love that his thoughts basically came full circle and I never had to even utter a word. It's so interesting to me actually. The thing is, I have a major problem with the way that we as a society are so "gimme" oriented. I remember several years ago when I was a teenage mom and I felt like I had to bend over backwards to try to achieve enough to allow my children to have a "real" life. Of course, my ideals were unrealistic and when they weren't met, we all survived. Not to mention, learned and grew. That's when I first realized my first mistake: I thought that in order to be a "real" happy family we had to be living the "American Dream" which in my mind was a perfect suburban house with a white picket fence and 2.5 kids that were in every extracurricular activity imaginable and were always perfectly dressed. Only:

A. The concept of an "American Dream" didn't actually make all that much sense when I considered that when you break the words down what you're looking at is America (not the whole world or even all of the developed countries but one lone country that isn't all that popular due to it's known greed and corruption) and Dream (which can be defined as a series of mental images and emotions occurring in the mind; "I had a dream about you last night"
imaginative thoughts indulged in while awake; "he lives in a dream that has nothing to do with reality" have a daydream; indulge in a fantasy ;a state of mind characterized by abstraction and release from reality; "he went about his work as if in a dream" ) So, I was stressing myself out about an imaginative thought that is connected to a lifestyle in one country. My real life was still way better than a lot of other people's and as poor as I felt at times I was definitely better off than most of the people in Africa and Afghanistan just to name a couple of places.

And B. Nothing will ever be enough unless we first appreciate what we have. We all do it. We want that new car so badly. Then, after we've had it for a little while we start looking around at all of the other new vehicles on the road and we don't like our car that much anymore. Don't get me started on how many times I've changed my mind on what color I want my kitchen painted alone. And no matter how long ago you bought your cell phone / computer / gaming system you can bet that something newer and better is in on the horizon sooner than you can call your new crack berry a dinosaur. When will we ever be satisfied unless we stop in our tracks and take stock of how much we actually have to be thankful for?

My point is this: I'm so relieved that even though Tatton got greedy for a moment, I'm so relieved that he caught on to his thought error & corrected it on his own. It gives me hope that MAYBE someday my kids will be able to look back on their childhood with fond memories of family togetherness and special traditions and feel like they were blessed. This parenting thing can get a little scary and it's nice to have hope that I'm not just raising materialistic people who don't know how to be thankful for how good life really is. What are you thankful for?