formerly Diane's Addled Ramblings... the ramblings are still addled, just like before, and the URL is still the same...
it's just the title at the top of the page that's new

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I Feel You, Little Homie...

I posted this on Facebook this morning:

This morning, on my way to work, I saw my neighbor dragging her small son to the bus stop, quite literally. He had thrown himself onto the ground, his expression one of resolute determination.

He. Was. Not. Going. To. School.

Mom had him by one arm, pulling his prone and remarkably Jell-o-y form, his heels scraping the asphalt the whole way. When I passed by, I nodded to him in solidarity and understanding. His eyes pleaded with me to help. Alas, I could not. All I could do was mouth, “I feel you, little homie. I feel you.”

I meant it as a funny post, and I think it was received it as such, but it prompted a comment from a friend: “What a little brat.” This friend doesn’t have children, generally doesn’t like them (about which he’s vocal), and resents having to share public places with them. A conversation about children’s behavior ensued.

I get frustrated, as do all parents, I think, when a childless person, who spends little time with/around kids, puts his two cents in regarding how children should be raised. My friend, an overall great guy (except for the whole ‘children are devil-spawn’ thing), feels quite justified in giving his opinion because 1) he was a child and, therefore, does have ‘experience’, and 2) he is forced to share the world with little humans. They’re fair points, I suppose, but having been a child is far different from parenting them. I admit that I was judge-y before I was a parent. It’s so easy to say, “If I had a kid…” but you don’t really know until you have that kid. Then a whole lot of what you ‘know’ flies out the window.

Here is what I do know, based on my own years parenting and many years of working directly with small children:

Good, happy, healthy kids misbehave. Period. Good, happy, healthy kids can be brats and have melt-downs, sometimes (gah!) in public. Good, happy, healthy kids will sometimes push their parents to the point of exasperation and exhaustion, making them want to kick their little butts so far into the future, their clothes will be out of style.

I’m betting that every single parent in the world knows this. I’m also betting that every parent in the world has been (or will be) embarrassed by one of these situations at least once (or 400 times).

Imagine how this mom felt... (heh)

Kids – all kids, but especially little ones – are learning. They’re learning everything. They have no real control over their lives – and sometimes they want it so very desperately. They have little control over their emotions.  They don’t understand that being tired can make them act like the Anti-Christ, that being hungry brings out the demons in them, that when they’re angry or scared, they can’t just lash out at whoever is near. They are learning. We, as parents and as adults, are teaching. Or we should be.

Condemning a child – labeling him negatively, especially based on just a snapshot of behavior – is wrong. Assuming he always behaves badly is most likely inaccurate. Not understanding that there is a reason for the behavior is doing that child a disservice. There is always a reason. The reason might not be readily apparent, it’s true, and it might not be a good one (according to adult standards) but it’s always there. Trying to understand the reason tells the child that what is happening in his head and his heart is important. It’s validating. It teaches empathy and tolerance. It creates healthy, empathetic, caring adults.

And I think we need more of those sorts of adults in this world.

None of this means that bad behavior should be condoned.

It doesn’t mean that kids shouldn’t be held appropriately accountable for their behavior.

My little neighbor obviously didn’t want to go to school this morning. I don’t know why. I don’t know his reason. I do know he’s a lovely little guy with a normally sunny disposition and his resistance (I can’t even call it a tantrum) to heading to the bus stop was unusual. I also know that his mother deemed his resistance futile. He went to school, like it or not (not).

And I went to work this morning, like it or not (not).

That’s Life.

Parenting is a hard job. It’s a really hard job. Some of us are good at it. Some of us are not. Most of us are just trying to get through the day. Most of us are also well aware that our kids are the results of our efforts – the good, the bad, the ugly, and the utterly exhausted. And it scares the shit out of us.

I don’t believe in wrapping kids in bubble wrap. I don’t believe in protecting them from loss, from losing, and from the pain and frustration that comes from not getting what they want. I believe they need freedom to explore, to make mistakes, and to learn to think for themselves. I believe we have to prepare them for living in the real world, which means working hard, paying dues, losing (hopefully less than winning), helping others, being grateful, and giving back. I believe that competition can be good but not at the expense of learning to play fairly. I believe that teaching our kids that there are consequences for every action, as well as how to deal with being hurt, with pain, with anger, frustration, and loss are some of the most important lessons we can teach. And I believe that making sure kids understand that they are not their mistakes and shortcomings – and that they are worthy of great love in spite of their mistakes and shortcomings – is key to bringing them up in the healthiest possible way.

When kids are loved and taught well, their behavior generally follows. Make no mistake, every child will misbehave. Every child will have bratty moments. But the child who chronically misbehaves is missing something (or may have a condition or disability which makes managing his behavior difficult). And that is not his fault. So attempting to understand his reasons for misbehaving can only help him.

We have become a society so willing to judge and condemn people for behavior/ideas/words we don’t like. We demand tolerance of our views but we’re not willing to extend it. This world needs change on a grand scale.

And I think it needs to start with the youngest among us.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Four Years

When I was diagnosed with cancer three years ago, before I knew its name or prognosis or treatment, my world went entirely grey and I was gripped by an overwhelming fear. It wasn't for myself (not at first, anyway. That came later). It was for my girl.

Ryan was just finishing up middle school. She was at a vulnerable age. She still had high school ahead of her - four years of high school. After that, she'd be off to college, off on her own, making her way in the world without me.

But until then? She needed me.

So I needed time. I needed four years. Just four years. Anything after that would be icing on the cake.

It's an interesting thing when an Atheist is faced with an existential crisis. There is no asking God for a favor, no bargaining with him, no prayers that will help. Oh, one can "send thoughts/needs/desires out into the Universe," but when it comes right down to it?

One must deal on one's own.

So I sat myself down, shaking with fear, sick to my stomach, and I crawled into my own head. I reminded the sad, sick, tired mama staring back at me that she was not alone; that there was a little girl (for she will always be a little girl in my head) who needed her, no matter the diagnosis, prognosis, or treatment.


That little girl - that best-by-far thing I have ever had a hand in creating, that brilliant, funny, self-sufficient, utterly fabulous, completely colorful person - wasn't finished growing up yet. And though she had people who loved her, who could help her to stumble through Life, she only had one mother.


So I resolved that no matter what the oncologist said, I would get four more years. No matter what the cancer was called, no matter how much of me it wanted or needed, the wants and needs of the girl who calls me 'Mom' would take precedence because she - she - would always be more important.

We are now three years gone.

It hasn't been an easy time. I've spent a lot of time sick and tired and frustrated and angry. And though the prognosis is not devastating (for which I am ever so grateful), the cancer has still taken from us - from both of us - in measures of time and well-being and peace of mind.

But we are here. Together. I will get my fourth year. And I will get icing on the cake, too. Now I'm looking beyond next year; I'm looking forward to watching my girl graduate from college and going on to do big things in this world. And she will do big things, in part, because she was mothered. By me. I don't take credit for her accomplishments, mind you, but I do take credit for giving her the love and support she has needed to become the spectacular person she is.

So today, on my 17th Mother's Day, I'm looking back on the last three years, but only for a moment. Today I look forward to all the Mother's Days I will celebrate with my girl. The cancer will still be with me, always there, lurking in a dark grey corner of my head... but always - always - far less important than she.