Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Standing Up

Last week I took Harry (now two years old) to the county library to pick up a book I had ordered through inter-library loan but accidentally had sent to the wrong place. We visited the children's room, which is huge and beautiful, and went to the back so that we could sit, read, and do some puzzles.

A group of young adults with developmental disabilities was visiting the library at the same time, and a number of them were lying on beanbag chairs in the children's room. One appeared to be sleeping, but as Harry walked near him he jumped up and screamed, "Can't you see I'm sleeping? Get away from me!!!"

Needless to say, poor Harry was terrified and became hysterical. It took me almost ten minutes to calm him down. The librarian came from her desk to see what was the matter and make sure he wasn't injured. When I described the situation to her, she got very angry. Some people in that group don't know how to treat children, she said, as she stormed off to talk to their chaperon.

Personally, I was not that upset about it. Everyone is different, and it's not like the young man was mean-spirited. I hope that Harry isn't permanently scarred by the interaction (though he might be, he's that kind of kid), but it gave me the chance to talk to him a bit about how some people are different and act differently in certain situations, but that the man meant him no harm. I'm sure he didn't understand what I was saying but I don't think it's ever to early to start to talk about these things.

But then I started to wonder: Should I have been angry? Am I am bad mom because I didn't stand up for my son, because I didn't reprimand the young man for scaring him, that I didn't seek out the supervising adult and voice my displeasure at Harry's treatment? Will my children end up feeling that I cared more about other people's feelings than theirs, and I was unwilling to defend them in difficult situations? Should I have gotten all Mama Bear on this guy's ass?

I think that comforting Harry was enough. I think that setting an example of understanding, compassion and forgiveness was the way to go. I didn't tell Harry to buck up and shake it off, and I acknowledged his feelings of fear and surprise, but I didn't make it into more than it was - just a young man with a developmental disability that causes him to be socially awkward acting out in an inappropriate way. And, let's be honest here - who isn't socially inappropriate now and then anyway? In the end, I guess we have to accept that we can never know how our children will interpret our behavior, how they will feel about the way they were treated and youngsters. All we can do is the best we can do - and if I had it to do over again I think I'd do the same thing.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Great Expectations

Today I had a lot of work related errands to do, followed by a yearly checkup for Bess. I dragged the kids out of the house early this morning, brought them to the rink, expected them to sit in the office while I met with our copier guy, then stuck them in the car, drove them around for awhile, brought them to the law office of the organization's President and expected them to behave while I spent over an hour meeting with a banker, then stuck them in the car again, brought them to Whole Foods, asked them to select and eat their food in ten minutes so we could get back in the car and run to the doctor where we then proceeded to wait an hour and fifteen minutes for our appointment to begin.

They did not behave well. By which I mean they were loud, unable to sit still, hungry, and distracting. In other words, they acted like, you know - kids.

Needless to say, I was irritated by their behavior. I was tired, embarrassed and unable to concentrate. I ended up nursing Harry in the glass-walled conference room at the law office, which was met with looks of shock, dismay and I think I even detected a little disgust. I have been trying to really focus on what is important, and on making my kids my top priority no matter what other people think or say, but this was one of those times where that was impossible. For me, anyway. I needed to have these meetings, I needed to have them with me, and I wanted them to act like adults.

I started to think about all the things that my kids do, and that people do in general, that upset me and wonder what that is about for me. I think a lot of times it's really simply about a mismatch between expectations and reality. In the case of children, it is often a mismatch between reasonable expectations and reality. That was certainly the case today. If I set my kids up for failure, is it really fair to then get upset when they fail? They are who they are, and is it their fault when who they are does not match who I want them to be either in general or in a particular circumstance. No, I don't think it is.

I'm going to work on that.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

So the Princess Got Kicked out of Machine School

Bess loves playing games in the car - but they can get a little tedious for Mom and Dad. There are only so many knock-knock jokes that don't make any sense (Knock Knock! Who's There? Elephant! Elephant Who? Elephant horse! HAHAHAHAHAHA!) that one can take, and though she enjoys playing I Spy, it doesn't really lend itself to highway driving. By the time she's done describing what she sees - I spy with my little eye something that is YELLOW - we're already half a mile past the object.

So we came up with a new game to play that is actually fun for grownups and preschooler alike. Really, it's not that new - I've read about it other places though I can't remember where, but it's new to us. One person starts a story by saying one sentence, and then the other person gives the next sentence, and you take turns adding on until someone ends the story. I'm really enjoying this activity with Bess, because it is interesting to see how she tries to manipulate the stories so that they go the way she wants instead of going with the flow that I try to establish.

For example, yesterday she started a story with "Once upon a time there was a princess" (of course). So I continued, "The princess really liked to fix machines that were broken." But that was definitely not the direction Bess had in mind, so she continued, "But the princess didn't know how to fix machines." So, "The princess decided to go to school to learn how to fix things." Bess: "But she threw something at the teacher and got kicked out of that school and wasn't allowed to come back, so she never learned how to fix machines." Eventually, the princess turned into a mermaid or something - that's the way the stories often end, with someone swimming off into the sea to live happily ever after, the end.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Spring is here, again

Spring is here, and along with it the irresistible urge o be outside. The past few days have been absolutely beautiful, not so outrageously hot. Today we did some work on our garden:

We added to our hay bale garden this year, a vegetable garden on the left and an herb garden on the right. Last year, we planted two strawberry plants in our little garden, not knowing that they would totally take over the entire plot and make it impossible to plant anything else without ripping them out. We also did not know that they really don't start producing until they've been in the ground for a few years, so clearly they are here to stay.

We put in some regular basil and Thai basil, sage, rosemary, lavender, sage and peppermint. We'll see how it goes - last year our basil did horribly which was a big disappointment - especially in the winter when there was no homemade pesto in the freezer - but the sage grew out of control. Everything else did okay, as far as the herbs went (the vegetables were all a huge bust). We also got our tomatoes and bell peppers in today. We're planning on getting some cucumbers from a friend tomorrow, and maybe some squash as well.

A big focus for me this year is making our back yard an inviting play space for the kids. Now that they're older and can go outside without me being within an arm's length, it's nice for them to have things to do together or alone if they prefer. We put up a zip line which has been a big hit, and they have a swing set and a sandbox. They also have some ride-on toys on the patio (including a huge iron John Deere pedal tractor that I found at an antique store in PA) along with an easel and some sidewalk chalk. We spent a few hours collecting sticks and building our backyard tepee, but it hasn't gotten as much use as I expected. Still I think it's pretty cool, aesthetically speaking.

This thing, however, has been my backyard nemesis. The kids love playing on it, especially Harry who can finally climb up and go down the slide by himself. It was a hand-me-down from a very generous friend, and a great addition to our play repertoire. But let's face it - the thing is downright ugly. The more I read, the more I am coming to believe in the importance of creating a visually pleasing play space, so something had to be done with this. Today I used some landscaping fabric I had laying around to carpet the inside and make it a little less overgrown (it gets moved every now and then to cut the grass inside, but that usually doesn't happen until it gets eye-high to Harry and the kids don't want to go near it lest a grasshopper jump on their heads), and I will cover that with some wood chips. I also put a border around the edge and will plant some sunflowers, so that by the end of the summer - I hope - it will be a shady and magical sunflower house. It's all a work in progress.

Friday, June 4, 2010


I know it's been a long, long - okay, loooooooong - time since I've been here. I've been busy on the Wellspring Community School blog (we've even started a podcast!), and I've had some computer issues, and I had some health issues that had me taking time off from blogging altogether, but I'm trying to get back in the swing of things.

Everyone is talking about the BP oil disaster, so naturally I feel compelled to add my voice to the conversation. I've been trying very hard to avoid watching or listening to any coverage of the spill because it is simply too depressing for me to see. I do not have the intestinal fortitude to see any more pictures of birds covered in oil or a huge slick overtaking the ocean. That said, it is quite difficult to stay away from it altogether since it is all over the place all the time.

Let me first say that I don't really get how this happened in the first place. I mean, as someone who is always preparing for the worst case scenario as a way of life (not as a sign of pessimism but of reducing stress - I find that if I am prepared for problems they don't really bother me that much), I can't see how no one anticipated this possibility and how no safety measures were put into place to turn the well off in the event of emergency. I have an emergency shut off for the water in my kitchen, for heaven's sake - no one thought to put one in the Gulf of Mexico? I have seen several stories saying that the best bet for turning off the leak is to drill an adjacent well to the existing one, divert the oil to the new pipe, and then close that pipe off. We couldn't have done this when all the people and machinery were out there building the well in the first place?

Anyhoo....what I really want to talk about is a press conference I saw the other day with the CEO (or COO, I can't remember) of BP. He said - and I quote, because this is unforgettable - "No one wants this over more than me. I want my life back."

Are you KIDDING me? Dude - really? There are thousands of people who have lost their livelihoods, not to mention the eleven who lost their lives, because of this disaster. The marine life is being decimated, and the ecosystem may never recover. And you're complaining because this whole thing is cutting into your time on the links? Does this company not have a PR department? Does this man have no heart? Every time I think I've heard it all, I am saddened to find that I, in fact, have not.

Every time I think about what is going on down there, it makes me physically ill. No one has the first clue how devastating this will be in the end, and no one has any idea how to stop it. I certainly don't, and though I am not in the practice of criticizing others unless I have a solution in mind, I do have to say that I am starting to wonder if there is, in fact, no solution at all other than stopping offshore oil drilling altogether. If this could happen once, it could certainly happen again, and then what? We're running out of oil to start with, and now there are untold barrels of oil floating on the Gulf never to be recovered for use. We don't really have a drop to spare if we are going to continue to use it at the pace we're going, never mind millions - billions - of gallons of the stuff.