Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Babies and Ballerinas

I've been waiting for the other shoe to drop. I knew that there would come a day when Lucy would broach the subject of race. I kept waiting for the questions and the observations to start. Then, the other day, we were buying some fabric, and there happened to be a display of baby dolls next to the cutting counter. Lucy picked up an African-American doll, and here was our conversation:

Lucy: Mommy, I know people that look like this.
Me: Yes, you do, like Zoey and Cousin Elijah, right? Isn't it wonderful that God makes people in all shapes and sizes and colors? God is so creative, isn't He?
Lucy: Yup!

The end. Very anticlimactic. 

Lucy got a painting set a couple of years ago - one of those DIY deals where you mix plaster and put it in a mold, and then paint the figurines (in this case, ballerinas) when they're dry. She's had a lot of fun with these, and we've had a set on the counter for about a week, waiting patiently to be decorated. I feel silly admitting this, but I enjoy painting them as much as Lucy does - she tends toward the abstract in her painting method, whereas I prefer a more realistic approach. Here are hers:

She's actually getting quite good at layering the paint for different effects - the more paint, the better, right? ;-) PS - I apologize for my grout - yuck!

Okay, show and tell time - here's my first ballerina, from a few weeks ago:

I know...my artistic prowess has rendered you speechless.

Anyway, I guess that conversation I had with Lucy must have still been rattling around in my brain, because this is what I came up with during this afternoon's painting session:

I had a lot of trepidation about painting a doll that did not look like me - it felt weird and somehow wrong, like I was treading on forbidden territory. I have to think more about why I felt this way...it's a loaded subject. But, I really wanted to continue that conversation with Lucy, so I took a risk. Here was what transpired:

Lucy: Mom, she needs more sparkles.

The end.

This conversation will probably replay itself many times - I'm not ready to talk to my five-year-old about Ferguson, or slavery, or all the many forms of inequality that she will encounter. Like I said, it's a loaded subject. But for now, I'd like to think that this conversation means I'm doing my job well.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Out of Breath and Laughing

I sat on the side of the field, crocheting and doing the mommy-scan, making sure I had occasional eyes on Hannah and Julia up on the playground while still keeping tabs on Lucy during her PE class. Eighteen or so little people ran up and down the field, chasing a soccer ball and each other. Lucy was right in the thick of it, and she seemed to be doing fine. That is, until I saw her face and realized that she was crying hysterically.

I froze mid-stitch, unsure of what to do. Do I swoop in and rescue her? Is she hurt? Do I let her figure this out on her own? And seriously, what could possibly be THAT BAD about running around playing bunch ball? Why the hysterics? I have a horror of being "that" mom; you know, the helicopter mom who won't let her kid fall down or fail at anything. And yet, I didn't want to just let her cry - it's her first time doing anything like this, and I wanted it to be a positive, fun experience for her, not something she discusses with her therapist as an adult. And so it went, this wild oscillation of thoughts and feelings as I watched my five-year-old with tears running down her face. I brought her a water bottle and knelt there on the field, patting her back and lamely encouraging her to keep trying. It was the best I could think up on short notice. I truly have no idea what I'm doing.

This is brand-new, uncharted territory for me, and let me tell you, it was rather uncomfortable to be the mom of the emotional shipwreck in a sea of seemingly well-adjusted kiddos. I could feel eyes on me like gnats, and I tried to ignore them and focus on the little girl in front of me.

I found out later (when the storm had subsided) that Lucy was crying because running was so hard for her. She was hot and winded, and she didn't like that sensation, hence the tears. Andrew and I talked about it that evening, and decided to start making more of a point of playing with the girls after dinner each evening, just running around, kicking the ball, being active, having fun.  No pressure, just fun.

I try to run in the mornings before Andrew leaves for work, but that's for my own sanity, not in order to be a shining example to my children. The girls don't see me run (no one would see me run if I had my druthers), although when I get back they are sometimes plastered to the front window like those little suction cup cats, just waiting for me. The soccer incident made me realize that I need to involve the girls in the physical part of my life. Lucy needs to see me exerting myself. She needs to see that it's okay to get sweaty, to use her body. She needs to see that it's fun to run around - I want her to know that I don't run in the morning so that I will be thin (thankfully, she doesn't even know what that means yet), or strong, or even fit. I do it because I enjoy it. She needs to see me out of breath and laughing. I don't even care if she plays soccer past this month's class, but ten years from now, I want her to love using her body. Ten years from now, I want her to be right next to me, out of breath and laughing.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

My Favorite (Broken) Things, or, A Sixth Love Language

The other day I discovered teeth marks in my deodorant, and upon further investigation, I observed that Julia's breath was remarkably shower fresh. I debated whether or not to call poison control, but I'm not sure if they keep a running total of how many times you call. I've already called once this month...I didn't want to push my luck.

It's official - nothing is sacred, not even the stuff that I smear on my armpits.

I've had my suspicions for a while - my favorite necklace that got broken, that perfect camisole that got transformed into a tube top by a toddler armed with scissors, the constant clomping of little feet shod in my shoes, their obsession with my latest crochet project, my broken watering can, the pen marks all over my sheet music, my super-cute purse that died a sad death from being sat upon, Julia's insistence on chewing on my running earbuds, and their deep-seated conviction that my food tastes better than theirs. Sometimes it feels like being beaten to death with feathers.

There's a book that's been around for years - the Five Love Languages. It's supposed to be really good, although I haven't found the time to read it yet. In spite of this, I propose an addition, because I am fairly certain that my kids' love language is destruction.

I know that my children love me, but it seems like they can't leave my stuff alone. Wait, let me rephrase that. I know that my children love me, and therefore, they can't leave my stuff alone.

How does that saying go? Imitation is the highest form of flattery, right? If you translate that to short-person logic, it goes like this: I love you so much that I'm going to play with (and subsequently break) all of the things that I see you wearing and using, because playing is how I learn and I'm learning all about you so that I can be just like you. 

Well, girls, I'm flattered. And...I'll try not to take it personally.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

FOMO, or, Teacher God

In my younger days, I had this fear that someone was always doing something more interesting than I was. I remember one incident from college when I was scheduled to work and had to miss a concert that I'd had been looking forward to for weeks. I was devastated - I mean, over-the-top angst that all my friends had spent the evening in an outdoor amphitheater under the stars, while I had to work the tool corral at the hardware store. Looking back, it was such a silly thing to get so worked up over, but when you're nineteen and a little high-strung, missing something like that feels like your whole life has passed you by.

That fear has not gone away as I've gotten older; it just keeps dressing up in different costumes. I struggle with a tendency to overload my family's schedule with social events and day-trips, because I don't want to miss out on anything. It doesn't seem like I'm doing it at the time, because when we get invited to something that sounds fun or worthwhile, my natural response is YES! But in saying yes all the time, I sometimes ignore the needs of the rest of my family, especially its more introverted members. I also ignore my own needs, because I desperately need a little margin in my life. And it goes deeper than that, because as we've started school, I've begun to unintentionally project this onto Lucy - I don't want her to miss out on anything, and there's a temptation to overload her school day with field-trips, enrichment, art classes, PE, workshops, etc.When I overload our day, bad things happen: the meat for dinner gets left in the freezer, lessons get double-booked, and my three-year-old starts doing things like cutting the straps off my favorite tank top with the scissors that I forgot to put away (true stories, all three). But, I digress.

When I was getting my teaching credential, I learned a technique called spiral teaching. If you're not familiar with it, here's the gist - a concept is introduced in its most basic form, and then revisited many times over a long period, each time spiraling upward in complexity, thereby committing the concept to long-term memory. This idea struck me not too long ago: God is a teacher as well as a potter. A potter works in a spiral, revisiting the same material many times, each time deepening the complexity of his movements until the form of the pot is set. The fact that I have fears does not mean that God is unfaithful to me, because whenever my fears put on a new outfit, I have another chance to trust the Lord. God is faithful to mold me, and with each turn of the wheel, He asks, "Child, will you trust Me?" As I've gotten a wee bit older and have taken a few more steps down this road of faith, it's gotten easier to recognize the disguises that my fears take on - I've gotten better at seeing them for what they are.

That internal pressure I feel to say yes to an invitation, even though the party falls on our family's only free evening all week? Same fear, different clothes.

That irrational feeling that homeschooling will somehow doom my children to a life of social isolation, despite the fact that we are surrounded by a network of extremely supportive friends and family, and despite the fact that my kids spend tons of time with other children their age? Same fear, different clothes.

That nagging doubt when I scroll through my Facebook feed and see all the activities that my friends have their kids doing, when I wonder if my kids are missing out by not doing T-ball, or soccer, or whatever, even though two of my kids are too young, and Lucy has no interest in doing any of those things? Same fear, different clothes.

And each of these things is another time around the wheel, with my faithful God gently pressing my heart, molding me, giving me eyes to see my fears for what they are, His Spirit whispering in my ear, "Child, will you trust Me?"