Good With Kids

June 19, 2011

Thought struck me yesterday, as I was analyzing the state of my Motherhood at the moment. Admittedly, I’ve been exhausted. I don’t feel like I’ve been a whole heck of a lot of fun.

Sometimes parenting when you also work full time feels like the army, and I’m the reluctant drill sargeant: Brush those teeth! Wash that face! Eat those greens! Do ten on the floor if you mouth off!

Last week I went with my daughter on a field trip, held her hand and sang funny songs and talked to all the kids. I was entertaining. I made them laugh and feel special. I’m good at that. I’m “good with kids.”

I normally don’t have the energy or drive to joke, sing, tell funny stories with my kids on a daily basis. No doubt I’ve had my Julie Andrews moments…

But you know, kids might adore their parent for being funny. But being a parent isn’t about performing. Being ‘good with kids’ isn’t about making animal balloons, doing magic tricks – on the field trip, the enthusiastic police officer interrupted the tour of the station to open up his tackle box and do some slight of hand tricks.

Someone had decided that his magic show abilities -and how loud he talked – made him good with children.

But I noticed that he rarely listened to them. He didn’t inspire dialogue. He was proud, I guessed, of how loudly and slowly he could talk about what it’s like to be a police officer, but he didn’t connect. He was giving a presentation. And it really held very little meaning or impact for the children.

Being able to listen to a child – I think that is the skill that makes you good with kids. They can turn on the TV or go to the police station, apparently, for entertainment. What they need from me, from you, from the rest of us – is the chance to ask questions, to design ideas, to share feelings, to tell their own stories and dreams. They need to be heard, they need our undivided attention.

“Children should be seen and not heard.” What kind of idea is that? I am not at all advocating for pure child-centered or child-led child-rearing – kids need to listen, too.

But where are they going to learn how to listen?

From you – listening to them.

 


When the 4 year old Turns 13

May 25, 2010

I didn’t think it would happen to MY daughter.

Not because I didn’t think she had it in her. I tend to think I can avoid natural evolution, sometimes. I remember being around 9 and disgusted with teenagers and promising myself that I would NEVER become an adolescent – I would never think I was going to live forever, I was never going to think I knew more than my parents, I was never going to be sullen and a pain and overwrought.

I figured I had been duly warned by novels, TV shows, and by my dad – and this knowledge was my suit of armor against hormones and cultural conditioning. No problem.

Ha ha ha.

So, anyway, in the last year or so I’ve watched my friends’ daughters in the 4 to 6 year range suddenly adopt the kind of attitude one only expects from a teen. I’ve also watched them pass through it- or it to pass through them – successfully. One minute cute kids; the next minute, whining selfish ferocious monsters, then back to cute kid again. And then last week, as if coming down with a virus, Josephine hit the patch.

Stomping up the stairs, yelling: “You are NOT the best mommy in the world!”

And: “I’m NEVER coming downstairs AGAIN, EVER!”

And: “I DON’T EVER WANT TO BE YOUR KID, EVER!”

Wailing, crying: “I want a donut I WANT A DONUT I WANT a Do-NUT NOW NOW NOW” etc.

What the heck? This is mild Josephine, sweet-tempered Josephine, go-with-the-flow Jo we’re talking about. Her ‘terrible twos’ hardly registered. Her three was breezy. Her four – well, here we are, and she’s deliberately going against the rules, pushing all the boundaries, leaping off the dinner table, running out the front door, testing me, poking me, driving me insane.

On the good side? I know this will pass. I’ve seen it happen. I know it’s what they do.

On the down side? I know it will come back, and worse, when she’s older. I’ve seen that happen, too. And no amount of knowledge can prevent it.

But, there are things we have to go through, and it’s not about avoiding or skipping them, but remembering the larger picture, that we are waves part of an ocean, and that everything passes. We can’t get around pain and growth, but we can have some humor and wisdom and awareness as we pass through it. And compassion.

This phase of Jo’s is not only about her growth, but mine as well. It’s good practice for me to stand my ground, and also to love her even when she’s acting bratty and spoiled and rotten. Her desires for independence and love, her frustrations, need to be treated with kindness. This is my work – later, hers. To teach her about kindness – and to teach her that, no matter how awful she is, I will love her. Which is something I can only do if she acts awful. So – good thing!  Great opportunity.

Although, I will admit – I look forward to my 13-year-old turning 5.


My Love Affair with Julie Andrews Continues…

April 9, 2008

Listen to Julie Andrews being interviewed on Fresh Air regarding her new memoir and you will know what it’s like listening to a goddess.

Okay, that’s a bit much, I know, but I adore her. In talking about her childhood, she responded to Teri Gross’ attempt to spin her childhood as hard or difficult because of growing up during WWII by saying (I paraphrase) : “It wasn’t a hard childhood – it was a childhood -” –

I was thinking the other day about how many of us feel like we spend our adulthoods recovering from our childhoods, and then you’re left with seniorhood, the period in which you remember or forget the other hoods while you wait to go into deathhood… and this seems kind of sad and weird and again I realize how I have a false template in my head of How Things Should Be and if I didn’t have that, I would just be Living, instead of Getting Through or Getting Past or Getting By all these hoods.

Speaking of hoods, I was reading Little Red Riding Hood to my toddler the other day and she ran to the other side of the room saying “I’m not red riding hood!” and I realized she was terrified of the Big Bad Wolf – in the Three Little Pigs, he’s not so awful, so she enjoys pretending to be the wolf – and I felt awful for scaring the crap out of her. But really, tying up Grandma in the closet is a pretty darn scary thing to do… and that’s the nice version…

Anyway, I guess I have such an affinity with Julie Andrews because we had similar childhoods in some respects – well, sort of. She was a child prodigy, touring in vaudeville acts with her mother and stepfather, singing on stage when she was just little… I started acting on stage when I was 3 years old, and we toured and I sang and performed with my parents, as well. I wasn’t exactly a prodigy, but I was a young talent – the young talent – in my parents’ theater troupe for a long time, and just as Julie says, it was a lot of fun as well as being really hard.

Of course, Julie went off at 19 to star on Broadway, and I did not… which is kind of a bummer… sigh…