the founding toddlers

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a parent of young children at a time of great uncertainty.

Near as I can tell, there are a few elements to be reckoned with.

1. Oh, how I yearn for clowns luring kids into the woods.

Has ANYONE ever looked down at their sleeping baby and thought, "Wow, I really timed this right. The next 90 years are guaranteed to be smooth sailing. There definitely will not be any unforeseen natural disasters, wars, famines, outbreaks of Ebola, or technological advances that give monkeys the power of human speech and a thirst for vengeance upon the inventors of tiny embroidered vests."

No. For every generation, the specter of doom takes a new form.

But honestly, my generation's doom-specter is kind of lazy. It's like, Russia? Again? Jeez. Change the record, doom-specter.

2. There's something to be said for not having time for feelings. 

I have a 2-year-old and a 4-year-old. I do not have the luxury of not giving a fuck and seeing how this plays out. I do not have the luxury of falling spectacularly to pieces and then pulling myself together with highly theatrical Tweets about phoenixes (phoenices?) rising from the yadda yadda yadda.

Without feelings, the needs of the situation become... well, not clear, but certainly clearer.

Without feelings, I can act decisively to protect my children and our family, and our literal and metaphorical neighbors, who are far more at risk than we. (We live in the gay Muslim immigrant journalist district of Seattle.) (Not really.) (But if such a district existed, WE WOULD.) (And we would totally blend.)

And it's easier for me to just put my head down and power through, to punch back the billowing fear that rises like dough from a bowl.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

I don't have time for that.

My kids have to get to school and I have a community to serve.

3. How we try to teach young children to relate to each other = How we should all relate to each other.

Unfortunately, the tactics that often work in the short term are the same tactics that often knock out the bridge after you manage to get your cart across, SO TO SPEAK. But if it works, why not just do it already?

It can be really hard to make an argument for the harder, slower, more compromisey thing, especially when we are torn between two entities that are passionately dedicated not only to their own ideas, but also to the utter annihilation of the ideas of the other.


Hang out with my kids for an hour.


Real conversation at my house:

Chicken and Buster are doing that thing where they are each gripping the edge of the table, trying to sit in the same chair, each child trying to push his brother's butt off the single chair with his own butt, complete with that "Nnnnnghhh" pooping-grunt sound. There is an identical empty chair literally 4 inches from the only acceptable chair.

Chicken: I want to play toy store!

Buster: I want to play farm!

Me: Looks like we have a problem.

Chicken: Yeah.

Buster: Yeah!

Me: OK, what's the problem?

Chicken: Well, I want to use the table and chairs to play toy store, but Buster wants to use them to play farm.

Buster: YEAH.

Me: OK, so, that's the problem. Let's come up with a solution.

Chicken: I think the solution is Buster should go have a time-out.

Me: Ignoring him or making him go away is not a way to work together.

... (I pause while they continue to push each other's butts with their butts.)

Me: It looks like we need to get the chart.

"the chart"

Me: OK, so what would you like to try?

Chicken: I think we should put our plans together. Buster, what's your plan?

Buster: Well, I wanna sit here, and I wanna do farm, with the cow.

Me: OK, Chicken, what's your plan?

Chicken: My plan is to change Buster's plan.

Me: Telling someone else to change is not a way to work together.

Chicken: (pushes Buster off the chair)

Me: Kicking someone out of the game is not a way to work together.

Buster: (steals the chair and runs into the other room with it)

Me: Stealing the toy that you both want is not a way to work together.

Chicken: Mom, give him a cookie.

Buster: Cookie?

Me: Bribing him to go along with your plan is not a way to work together.

Chicken: (SIGH) Well, what IS a way to work together?

I'll let you know when us grown-ups figure it out, kid.

4. This is my job.

You might get annoyed when you overhear me at the grocery store, talking for much longer than a person oughta, when Buster says, "I want the girl hat," and points to the purple hat with sparkles. "What makes that a girl hat?" I'm just trying to teach them that the colors people like do not make them tough, weak, male, female, cool, lame.

You might roll your eyes when you see me putting back the Christmas board book with Aryan Mary and Swedish Joseph on the cover. You might think I'm smug and sanctimonious when I ask the bookseller if he or she knows of any books where Mary and Joseph actually look like people who would have been born in the Middle East. Which is, you know, Africa. I'm just trying to teach them that we don't own every story.

You might scoff when I tell you that I give Chicken a pep talk every day about how it is his job to be a good friend, and good friends don't let their friends hurt people, with their bodies or with their words. Good friends say "That's not okay." I'm just trying to teach them to stand up, especially to their friends.

You might wince when I tell my children that the most important part of getting money is giving away their money, when we talk about where they want to give their saved allowance dollars. Chicken's leaning toward toys for kids without houses. Buster's leaning toward dogs. I'm just trying to teach them that everyone is a neighbor.

You might think I'm hitting it a little too hard when I repeat, and repeat, and repeat, "If someone tells you to stop, you stop, the first time, every time, even if it's just a hug, even if you're only holding a hand."

You might think I'm putting on a show when I ask, "Can I have a hug?" and he responds, "Not right now," and I put my hands up in the air and say, "Okay. I respect your body."

You might think I'm no fun when I hear Buster say "Stop," through his giggles, while you're wrestling with him, when I come out of the kitchen to say, "Buster said stop. It's time to stop, right now."

You might think I'm playing right into his hands when Chicken slyly says, for the umpteenth time, "I think girls are sweeter than boys," and I ask him, for the umpteenth time "Why do you say that?" When I say, "I disagree. Girls are just as strong, fierce, and mad as boys. And boys are just as sweet, tender, and sensitive as girls." I know he's testing me to see if I'll hold the line. I know it's a script. And as long as he keeps asking me to talk about this, I will keep telling him that boys don't have to be salty, and girls don't have to be sweet.

You might think I take myself way too seriously.

You might think that I'm a joke, that I'm performing my parenting for you.

But I don't fucking care what you think.

1 comment:

  1. Very impressed by The Chart. Will have to remember this, I have a feeling it may be useful in a couple of years. Love #4 by the way.