Wednesday, May 16, 2012

You In Jail!

As every parent knows (or learns fast) there are some parts of the job that are absolutely not fun. Correcting your child’s actions, or asking for a “redo” when a child’s dialogue is demanding or inappropriate, though on going, quickly reaches a point where it becomes a reflex reaction rather than a conscience effort. But it is the punishment for a wrong doing - the sentencing - if you will, that I loath. I realize consequences for one’s actions are required and necessary to help raise responsible, and considerate young adults, but at times my heart aches when I have to carry out this part of my parenting duty. Questioning whether the punishment fits the crime - am I being too tough or too lenient - weighs heavy on my mind every time, as I would much rather WILL the lesson learned through osmosis over having them serve time. 

Treya is our bossy boss. Her forceful tendencies, and head strong nature, lead her down the wrong path constantly, often leading her to the “thinking spot” for her 3 minutes of pondering the correct or better solution. The word “obey” has been slow to enter her vocabulary! Her offenses; however, are small and appropriate for her age, and we know that consistency in our correction will eventually lead her to begin engaging those listening ears of hers soon. Beginning to turn the corner all ready, she now does not just sit in the corner with a scowl of madness, but shows remorse for her misguided action. Progress and promise are blossoming in her.
First time bowling - a birthday party she earned the chance to attend.

Devi on the other hand, has reached a rough spot, for lack of a better phrase. A rather bright child, I am stymied by her inability to learn her lesson as they old cliche goes. At wits end...this mom is filled with guilt, as I feel the root of the problem was caused, in a large part, by me (said with lowered eyes, pulsating my pointing index fingers directly at my face). That said, learning the hard life lessons, that “life isn’t fair”, or “patience is a virtue”, or “your time will come” are all just a bunch of words to a five year old. Obviously, she knows the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, so is this defiance  really a matter of being mean spirited, disrespectful and stubborn or is it exploring choices, developing reason, and part of the natural process of maturing?  Either way it is exhausting!

Getting the hang of it and having so much fun!

A-typical for a child of her age, Devi’s behavior at home is aces. She is helpful, respectful, and a delight to have around - rarely is she out of line, but at preschool it is another story. As her excitement for kindergarten as well as her level of boredom rises, she has had trouble sharing with others, has been rolling her eyes at her teachers and has been disrespectful, calling one little girl a name, and she even uncharacteristically pinched one child because she was just mad! This, of course, has landed her in the director’s office two out of three days this week alone, having to phone her dad to tell him she is in trouble. The preschool, having annually seen this type of behavior of it’s soon to graduate older group is not surprised. So they have offered many incentives for her to be a good role model to her peers, even becoming a special teacher’s helper, but she can’t seem to rise to the occasion for long, constantly losing those privileges.  

Naturally on these troublesome days, we follow up at home with predetermined consequences, that back up the detention she served at the time of the infraction at school. After receiving the call from Pat that Devi has gotten herself into trouble, I instantly start dreading the end of my work day, knowing that after I pick the kids up and go home, Devi will be sent straight to her room. Treya, “the helper”, lets Devi know, “You in jail!”, though I have no idea where she got that terminology.  Then with my heavily leaded feet, I will trudge up the stairs, have a brief discussion about what happened how she could of behaved differently, and there she must stay to ponder the alternatives until dinner. All the while she cries, trying every excuse in the book (if she were a superhero, her power would be manipulation...wink)  to try and get me to enter the room again to engage her. I ignore it, but it kills me.

As she serves her sentence, I can’t help but wander with my thoughts as well. How could it be that the same child who philosophizes that train cars being joined in a railway round house is just like composing music, as each car is a bar and when hooked together in patterns they form a rhythm - just like musical notes...could later resort to pinching a child just because she was miffed? Or my prissy, dresses-only, eye rolling, valley girl, could be the same child who reasons that the cells in her body must be nocturnal, because while she is asleep they are working hard to heal the scar on her face? Does she possess the ability to weigh the outcome of her misbehavior, reasoning that giving up a stuffed animal or a birthday party is worth the laugh from her friends for misbehaving in dance class or during swimming lessons? From a parents perspective, it is like being a contestant on the TV show Survivor - out wit, out play, and out last your daughter. But as everyone knows, trying to control  another human being is futile, like herding cats. Further exploration, I've decided it is most like bowling with the bumpers up. She as the ball might begin rolling off center, but we parents are the bumpers ready to gently bump her back on track toward those pins. The problem is, at five, she does not yet have the skills to fully understand why she does these things herself, so therefore can’t tell me why. That is frustrating and hard to navigate. 

In truth, during these times of struggle, I just want to grab her into my arms and cuddle her to make everything better. Perhaps these reminiscent feelings have come flooding back because it is so close to Mother’s day. Whatever the reason, it is becoming more obvious, that our time when human touch resolved all issues is slowly disappearing with her maturity, partially replaced by the tough part of one’s parenting job of guiding her through the school of hard knocks, where her needs are sometimes far greater than a diaper change, warm bottle, or rock in our favorite chair. Where watching her fail - only to suffer the consequences and try again, is part of the bargain. I guess what I am saying, is my baby is growing up and neither of us knows the answers just yet, but we are learning. Now if we can keep her out of jail!

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Maternal Memories

Though the details are now a bit foggy, one of my earliest childhood memories I can recall is pulling carrots with my grandma in her garden. I must have been about 3 or 4, and although she planted a garden annually, she was a city dweller so the fruits of her labor dotted various beds and plots around her neighborhood home. I remember a sense of wonder as together we gripped the green lacy tops just above the soil line, and heaved with as much effort as I could offer, staggering to unearth a bright orange root - a recognizable vegetable - that just moments before was totally concealed. It took convincing to persuade me to only pick what was needed, as I would have delighted in reliving that excitement over and over again, clearing every last carrot out of the ground - one at a time. 

Beyond the bottomless coffee can filled with home made sugar cookies that adorned the kitchen counter top or the fresh cinnamon rolls that just happened to come out of the oven as we drove up their driveway, grandma and grandpa’s house was an adventure to be experienced every time. They never catered to us kids, but rather with the patience of a saint, let us experience their daily life of chores when we were there, making every duty magical. From watching the careful selection of a favorite tattered recipe card, from it’s wooden box, or taking in that first deep breath of fresh sawdust, waiting for the clearing of the dusty haze that stirred with the opening of grampa’s wood working shop, we were captivated. 

Stirring the dry ingredients for Easter Bread
My heart is warmed, that my girls have come to know and love this same kind of magic in their Oma. The girls squeal with delight when we say we are going to Oma’s house, knowing that there is always something new to explore just 25 minutes away. Oma has that same air about her that I recall about my grand parents. A level of patience to be reckoned with, she allows each girl to share in every moment without a care in the world. She delivers instruction in the calmest and unwavering of ways, explaining in detail an age appropriate reply to each of their unending questions, while I secretly cringe at each near disaster. 

Cracking the eggs into a bowl so the extra shell can be fished out
dumping the shell-free eggs into the bowl.
Devi is particularly fond of the harvesting vegetables from the garden, and tending the compost pile and all that it entails. Dumping food scraps, adding a shovel full of dirt, stirring it about and even holding the worms that eagerly find this spot home. Quietly, in the back ground, one can hear Oma giving her instruction, how to hold and manage the huge, heavy shovel that dwarfs Devi’s size, never becoming excited when dirt goes flying or when the shovel handle comes within inches of Oma's nose. 

Punching down the dough after the first rise.

Buttering the tops before a second rise and baking
The flower beds are another source of entertainment, as Oma always has several arrangements of whatever happens to be in bloom beautifully displayed throughout her home. Outfitting each girl with a collection basket or bucket, out they go to collect from the flowerbed bounty so that we might have a proper centerpiece at our dining table. Resisting the urge to grab handfuls of blue bells or clear a bed of everything with color, the girls listen as Oma explains that long stalks are required and it is best to clip just one at a time, encouraging the need for some greenery too,  to showcase the delicate blooms. Perfect vases are selected, many of which are the works of Oma herself from her years as a potter, and the girls get to work. Oma operates the snippers and praises their "creative" arrangements, giving suggestion here and there, as together they produce works of natural art.
Before the egg hunt in Oma's back yard

After the egg hunt in Oma's back yard
Oma's kitchen; however, is like heaven where delicious creations just seem to magically happen. This is where Treya feels right at home jumping in with "I do it", "" with every task that is offered. Tradition is learned and passed on in this kitchen with the making of age old recipes like Eierkuchen and Easter Bread. Once again, with the utmost in patience, the girls do the work as Oma explains the significance of each step, occasionally adding her hand of wisdom atop theirs for guidance. Ingredients strewn about, Oma never frets about the mess, saying things like "that's okay" or "never you mind",  just considering it all part of the experience. 

Easter dinner with Easter Bread front and center in the special bread basket

Lastly, the deep and binding thread of family is experienced through the use of treasured dishes like the bowl used for the rising of the dough, or the porcelain bread basket that contains the finished product at our dining table. These material things evoke the stories told and re-told of those, now long since passed away, that hold significant places on the branches of our family tree. Devi always intervenes with a plethora of questions, even though at five, she has heard many of these tales countless times all ready. I guess there is a certain kind of comfort that comes with knowing what is going to be said next. The same kind of steadfast comfort that comes from visiting their Oma. She has captured the hearts of these two children, known to her as her dears, who absolutely adore her.