Wednesday, February 25, 2009


The Boy looks just like his dad. Well, just like his dad and grandfather. Two days after he was born, Joe brought out a picture of his grandfather and the similarity seemed to silence any assertions that he looked like anyone on my side of the family.

Some kids are like that. They look so much like their dad, you'd think think their fathers had carried them for nine-plus months, gone through labor and birthed them. Sometimes we mom's just don't get cut a break.

The Boy has his daddy's face, his daddy's curly hair and his daddy's brown eyes. Oh, Joe tries to be nice and tells me that kiddo's eyes are really hazel, but I see that his affection for me has left him a bit colorblind.

But wouldn't you know, he has my eyelashes.

Now, for those of you who weren't studying my lashes, they are pretty average. But when I was a kid, they were strikingly long and dark. This is my son's one inheritance from me. And what a bum deal at that.

See, today he fell down the cement stairs on the porch. We had some tears, but he quickly recovered. Then, just about an hour ago, he rubbed his eye the wrong way and those long lashes got stuck under his lower eyelid.

This is quite possibly the worst thing that has ever happened to him. Only, this is the third time that it's happened.

Each time is traumatic. We have to hold him down, hold his arms down, and pull his eyelid just the right way until those long lashes come back out. This involves a lot of screaming and tears. The last time took nearly twenty minutes. Thankfully, tonight it was only five.

Still, my heart broke a little, as a lot of mama's hearts do when you have to do something like this to help your kid and they are scared and suffering. Eyes are sensitive and don't like anything touching them; I don't like wearing contacts for this reason, even if I was told I was prettier with them. Bah humbug! Stick something in my eye voluntarily--never again!

So, somehow with the tumble off the porch and my hereditary eyelash curse, I feel like Bad Mama. I know I'm not, but still...

Joe told me that a coworker had a suggestion for the eyelash problem: curl Kiddo's eyelashes.

You have got to be kidding me.

I may be Bad Mama, but I'm not the dumbest person on the planet. Apparently, someone else is busy earning that award..........

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Undiscplined Discipline

My discipline is running wild.

It all started with some copy I've been working on. Some of you may know that I'm starting a nursery school in my home this autumn. And if you haven't heard this from me, well, it's because I've been incredibly busy because I'm starting a nursery school in my home.

Nursery school in autumn doesn't sound like it should be a lot of work right now in February, months before. But believe me, there's plenty to do. Like prepare the all-important brouchure. Must have the brouchures done by the end of March. Parents want information, and I want to give it to them.

I know what we'll be doing relative to seasonal activities, the materials available for different aspects of play, and how our days will look. I can write all these nuts and bolts things down so easily, but when it comes to discipline...well, here I falter.

It's a struggle to write down one uniform method of 'how I discipline', mainly because children are each their own unique person and this "one size fits all" sort of discipline that many books and magazines tout just doesn't work for me. And it very certainly doesn't work for a lot of kids I've cared for.

I do understand what's attractive about it. Teachers of large classes don't have the resources to figure out what exactly works for each individual child, and they must have some order, and must explain that structure to the students. Each year, as I started new classes with new teachers, they always explained their way of letting you know how deep the doo-doo you were getting into was piling up. Most of them did the standard "I'll write your name on the blackboard" as a warning. Then a checkmark, which equalled 15 minutes detention. Two checks was 30 minutes detention. Three was a visit to the Principal's office.

It was interesting to watch how my fellow students reacted to this. I, myself, only ever had my name on the blackboard once, in seventh grade reading class when I told off a bully and got busted for talking out of turn. It was absolutely humiliating and I was so embarrassed and angry I wanted to cry. Then there were the other kids who just seemed to feed off the teacher. "That's two checks by your name, young man!" to which Young Man would reply "Well, I'll save you the trouble. I'm going to the Principals office anyway" or something not quite as eloquent, usually involving hand gestures and the slamming of the classroom door.

Kids aren't always served by the Standardized Discipline. I've noticed this in the past with Time Out. Some little children became angry and fought sitting on the chair. Usually they were angry because they were angry to begin with. They'd had another child take something away from them or they felt provoked in some way and struggled with their emotions and self-regulation, lashing out. In retrospect, helping the child make amends for the situation and then leading them on to a different activity would have been better. Other children were utterly destroyed by a time out. Their sense of shame went into overdrive and they were unable to shake it off for a considerable time. Time Out was also a demonstration of "this is what happens to you", because there was very little privacy, and children were quick to associate kids who sat in time out as "bad".

What an incredibly harsh label for a child to wear.

I don't care much for time out at this point. At the most, when I have a child who is uncooperative and needs some time to cool off, I provide a place for them to do just that. They can look at a book or pound playdough or do something else to move through that emotion. I like to help children work out their conflict and make amends, or to channel their strong emotions into something physical, like pounding playdough. Or when they aren't being very nice, to let them act out their feelings with dolls or puppets. Some kids respond very quickly to redirection, others need to have very clear limits given and a specific task to perform to help them along.

All this said, I can't say I have one clear discipline method for every kid. These little ones, older toddlers and young preschoolers, are so misunderstood most of the time. They are clumsy with their emotions and how they respond to them. They need opportunities to fix their mistakes and they need someone to have confidence that they can, indeed, figure out how to do the right thing. Some would say I'm a softie. I don't think so. I have clear limits for all the children, my own son included. Disrespectful and hurtful actions are not allowed, and when they do happen, we must stop and fix them. Children learn more about how to be with each other when they are taught how to mend their relationships face to face, not sitting on a chair until teacher says they can get up.

So maybe this is my discipline policy: love and respect in action. Not while the child watches from afar. We learn best when we participate in our learning, and when a child makes amends and then can move on, something inside them is given room to grow and heal. These experiences foster self-discipline and self-regulation and are hopefully what children will come away with at the end of the next school year. At least, the beginning of it. These are skills we all spend a lifetime learning, and the context of when we need them become more complex as we age. Look at Bernard Madoff.

Well, bad example. I'm sure he's in for a really big Time Out.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

I Hate My Yard

Really, there's no deeper meaning. I'm just tired of my yard. I have ideas and a limited budget of both time and resources.

And I have a kid.

Here's a question: is it bad to want to tie a rope around your kid's waist so that they don't run into the street? Or is it less abusive to risk having your kid get hit by a car? I'm just curious.

Yesterday we spent some quality time in the backyard. Actually, I should call it "quantity time", because I spent a lot of that time reminding Joaquin that he needed to play Over There. Over There where I wasn't digging up the toxic foxglove. Over There where my tulip greens aren't starting to peek up from the ground. Over There where the Forbidden Stairs to the Deck are. Quantity time spent pulling Boy off tulips, away from Crazyworking Mama in the midst of dangerous digitalis, and off the steps, even though I'd blocked them off with buckets filled with broken pavers. His foot is a fraction of the size of mine and he knows how to exploit the tiniest of spaces. And how to laugh at Mama each time she comes over and says "Feet stay on the ground." Laughing as if to say "Oh, you helpless, deluded lady. Ha ha ha!"

All this before he seemed curious about the gap between the retaining wall and the neighbor's fence. A one foot gap with a four-foot drop. Ha-freakin'-ha-ha-ha. Scary.

We packed it in for the day.

Today I wrestled with about a hundred tasks that needed to be done: roses waiting to be pruned down, tons of perennials needing to be trimmed back, old dead iris leaves smothering new growth that begged to be cleared away, forsythia needing some loving care, and the weeds. Ugh. And a few plants that Just Need To Go. Other than clearing out the coreopsis, nothing else was completed. On my part, anyway. And just when Boy got settled into a fulfilling task (pulling the dirt off an old, dead clump of iris that should have been planted before he was born and depositing said dirt into a watering can), it was time to make lunch and then go pick up Susie Sunshine and Evan Everbright for afterschool care.

Oh, and I stopped at Belmont Station and picked up a couple beers for tonight on my way over. Good thing I did.

Joe home late, stir fry a little too bok-choy-y. A long day and I can't stop thinking about my damn yard. I just hate it. I hate not having enough time. I hate the idea of possibly having to hire a babysitter, and I hate the idea of my child getting hit by a car or literally falling into a crack.

But you know, ten to one I'll be out there tomorrow while the sun is shining. Just don't be surprised if you see a rope tied to my porch and my boy holding onto the other end, having escaped and laughing. Ha ha ha.