Posts tagged ‘empathy’

Right Under our Noses

I don’t talk a lot about Feeleez, our line of empathy tools. It’s funny because almost daily I print out labels and Nathan scoots off to shoot Feeleez packages off to excited customers. Kris and I talk business talk at the park while our children shovel sand, and we have big hopes and dreams for this little seed we are watering. In fact this very blog was started as a place to discuss Feeleez news and triumphs, yet I almost never mention them at all. In fact, even though Feeleez forms the fabric of our lives I even forget to use them as tools in my own parenting. Maybe it’s the case of the bookkeeper’s own checkbook remaining unbalanced, the therapists own relationships continuing disastrously, or the housekeepers own house staying perpetually messy, I’m not sure. But in any case I used Feeleez last night for conflict resolution and felt like a doofus for passing our poster by so many times, for not using it for all it’s worth, for not employing it ten thousand times a day.

Nathan is a thespian, so he has been away during the evenings this week rehearsing for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and I have been holding down the fort. So you can imagine the scene at seven-fifteen last night. Three tired girls, dirty from a day at the corn maze, and frayed at the edges from non-stop sister dynamics. A sink piled high with dishes. A mama working feverishly against the clock so that when things went downhill she could usher them toward tooth-brushing and story reading and later when she emerged from the sleep-filled bedroom she wouldn’t still face that ugly mountain of pots and pans. In other words, the perfect scenario for a scrap and the perfect scenario for Mama to yell and fail miserably at gentle parenting.

And so it went. In their last-ditch efforts to squeeze every last drop of fun from the day Bella and Xi flitted about from one game to the next, finally settling on drawing. But when Xi slid a piece of paper out of the pile she hit Bella in the arm. Bella was pissed, yelled. Xi yelled back, explaining it was an accident. Bella, not believing her, struck back. Xi cried and stomped away. I watched it all go down and continued to wash dishes. Eventually I explained to Bella what I saw, but it was biased and preachy and my speech certainly didn’t inspire her to run to the bedroom and drape empathy over Xi’s shoulders. I washed more dishes. Then I dipped into the dark bedroom and ladled out empathy myself. Xi felt better but she could hear play continuing in the living room. She wanted to join back in, she wanted to have fun but she didn’t want to act as though nothing had happened either. She was trapped.

I stayed on the dark bed with her for a while, reminding myself that mothers don’t have to know what to do. I could simply hold her and sit in the dark, there are no rules that say mom has to make everything better, and in any case I didn’t know how to do that anyway. Finally I thought of the poster. Glory be! Xi was game so I invited Bella to join us there. They stood awkwardly, like newlyweds in a tiff, and I acted as host. Who wants to start? Will you tell us how you felt at the very first hit? And so we went through the progression, not how the fight went down, but how the girls felt at each stage.

Bella: Well when Xi first hit me I felt mad like this:  Then, I also felt like this: . And like I wanted her to hurt too, like get back at her. So I felt like this: ,

and:  . After I hit her, I have to admit I felt a little like “doh!”, like this: . Now I still feel a little like that but also a little like this: .

When I asked her what she would prefer to feel like she said, less of the “doh!/oops” feeling and more of the happy one.

Xi said: When I accidentally hit Bella and she yelled at me I felt like this: 

But I also felt a little like this:  because I wish that I had been more careful getting the paper out.

And then when she hit me I felt sad still and also like this: .

I still feel sad but what I want to feel like is this: .

I stood in the background and said almost nothing, only oh, uh huh, and oh yeah. That’s it.

The girls started out with their bodies turned as much away from each other as they could while still facing the poster. As they pointed and described, the space between them closed. By the end they were nearly belly to belly and grinning, shyly at first and then full throttle. They hadn’t directly exchanged a single word. They hadn’t “worked” anything out, they simply saw what is was like emotionally for one another. And that was it. I eventually said: Are you guys looking for a sense of closure? It looks like you want to hug. And they did, collapsing happily into gigggles and each other.

It’s miraculous. It’s empathy via pointing and it takes very little. As dirty, tired, and crunchy as they were last night I had very little hope that things would turn out. I imagined surreptitious elbow jabbing during tooth-brushing and crying ourselves into bed. I imagined herculean emotional feats on the part of mama, a collapse on the couch in exhaustion kind of evening. Instead we snuggled, all three of us in the big bed, close, warm, and well-loved. They drifted off to sleep with smiles on their faces.

Holy shit.





October 22, 2010 at 8:55 am 6 comments


There’s a sheet of paper floating around the house right now. Scrawled in Bella’s nine-year old print, is:

“Special Club Members”

Bella: Club Leader

Xi: Tracker

Echo: Assistant

Doesn’t that sound about right as far as classic family dynamics go? Bella, the oldest, of course would not only come up with the idea of a club, but would also designate herself as the highest officer in the land. Next in line? The middle child, offered a post that indicates a modicum of involvement (as it turns out “tracker” is our girls’ version of secretary), without directly challenging the oldest sister’s superiority. And the little sister? Well of course she is given a role that satisfies her need for inclusion without offering any actual duties or tasks.

This hierarchy is kept in tact whether the game is Special Club, Gem Child, or Farm Game. Bella comes up with a stunning title and the most awesome character for herself, Xi complains of inequality, that Bella always gets the best name (Blue Star, Diamond Child, etc.), Bella concedes something slightly awesome to Xi, a title cool sounding enough to soothe Xi’s ego, and Echo flits about like a fruit fly, begging for recognition of any kind and then forgetting her role entirely. It’s like a template you could lift off at bedtime and then drag out again the next morning, to settle over the current fantasy scenario.

In fact this dynamic is so common at our house that yesterday when Papa was gearing up to pick up Bella for the weekend and Xi broke into tears we were outright flabbergasted. Xi, out of the blue, declared she was dreading Bella’s visit because in her mind Bella and Echo play all the time and leave her out. Nathan and I could barely pick our jaws off the floor. What?! We looked for clarification, peppering the middle child with questions. Are you serious? You really aren’t kidding? She was serious. Despite the fact that, by parental calculations, Xi and Bella spend approximately thirty consecutive hours each weekend, with heads bent, invisible strings of imagination binding them together, and eyes entirely blind to the rest of the world, Xi feels differently.

That’s the thing about life. To my great frustration, there is no official screenplay. There is only perception. Darn it all. Even though I know this, somewhere in my rational mind, I can’t help but drag out the dog-eared script, the thing I think must be the official version because it’s how I see it! I wanted to draw an illustration for Xi, two fused lumps representing her and her older sister, and a blurred orb circling around them representing Echo. I wanted to pull out graphs. I wanted her to see that what she was saying was pure lunacy. And we tried. At least a little. Reminding Xi that we, the parents, are almost constantly nudging the older girls to involve the little one, and if she conceded that fact then couldn’t she see that that meant she and Bella play together? A lot?

No, she couldn’t.

The basics of the situation were that a child was upset, and our usual response, at least our desired parental response during a moment like this, is to empathize. But it’s hard! When the feelings the kid is having simply do not make sense, it’s hard to find understanding, hard to dig up empathy. I become resistant, feeling like if I pat her back I will appear to agree with her perspective. If I wipe her tears I will be saying: You’re right honey. You ARE left out all the time. And she isn’t! Ever! But somehow we did it. We found empathy. In our minds we agreed to disagree and reminded ourselves that empathy is not agreement, it is simply acknowledgement.

Empathy is acknowledgement.

Empathy is only acknowledgement.

So we acknowledged.

You’re really sad. It’s upsetting to you to feel left out, even for a second. Yeah. Bella is important to you. You are so excited to see her and it’s hard when she pays attention to Echo huh?

And she felt better.

As we were hugging I remembered the family dynamic, the difficulty of the number three, everything I’ve read or heard about middle children, and my heart went out to the little pink-clad seven-year old. Nathan and I circled around her, smoothing her hair, squeezing her taut back, and said:

We love you so much. You are so important to this family.

Again and again.

September 25, 2010 at 8:36 am 1 comment

Hot Cocoon

I felt a bit like a bozo the other morning as I wrote triumphantly of sickness conquered, of having fought my way through puffy tonsils into the land of the living, of having passed the baton of family life into Nathan’s hands so that I could sleep my illness away. I was up early the day I wrote, full of the kind of energy that one feels after having suffered the anti-energy of sickville. I packed Xi’s lunch, swirling about like Mary Poppins, giddy with health. I wrote the “I was sick but now I am better!” post in record time, hitting the publish button before the household had even roused itself for the day.

But almost immediately after that I realized a different baton had been passed to Echo, that icky tonsil baton.

She called from the bedroom and I scooped her up, a docile, hot cocoon*.

Like me the day before, she attempted to go about her normal business, but after climbing into her chair, the herculean type feat that toddlers accomplish all the time, she muttered softly to herself, Oh, I’m a little tired. Our girls never say those words. I watched her carefully, and she encountered each and every one of my symptoms within a matter of minutes. Mama? My throat hurts, right here. Mama? My tummy doesn’t feel so good, I don’t want this cereal. Mama? My head hurts when I walk.

I’ve passed a lot onto this child, it seems my mongrel genes are determined to carry on. To be fair, I can not be absolutely sure that any physical trait Echo displays comes from me, but when I look at her I can’t help but see myself. The creases on her forearm, permanent evidence of baby fat. The wild, Barbie-like tangles. The knees that hyper extend. These things are little winks, a genetic nod to our relationship. When I see them, when they catch me unawares, I am filled with love for her, but also for me, for the kid that I was once was.

But there are some things a mother does not want to pass to her daughter, like acne, a tendency toward tooth decay, or pain of any kind. As Echo staggered toward the couch my heart leaned toward her, feeling guilt for having delivered the illness to her door. The acute knowledge I held, of what exactly that kind of tonsil pain felt like, exactly what she meant when she said the spot over her eye ached, made it all the more difficult. I wanted to commiserate, tell her how accurately our symptoms matched, but I held back. I know what it’s like to receive oh that happened to me once instead of empathy. To meet a girlfriend for coffee for help with a breakup, only to hear how her boyfriend cheated on her too, and all the details preceding and following. Moments like that leave my feelings untouched, unrelieved and left at the bottom of my heart while the rest of my emotional being tends to the needs of another.

My girl doesn’t care if my tonsils felt the same the day before, or that I too experienced head pain while walking. Her experience is personal, unaffected by what came before for someone else. So I was careful, as Echo described her ailments, to keep my responses entirely empathetic.

Your head hurts? Darn. Right here? Ouch.

Does your throat hurt when you swallow? Shoot.

And with the energy of newfound health, I was able to give her empathy through action as well, holding her while her head ached, or carrying her if she lacked the energy to move herself from room to room. We soaked in hot water to soothe her tender ears, we read stories, and snuggled, her feverish body heat warming me against the rainy afternoon.

Of all the sicknesses a child suffers in their lifetime, fevers are my favorite. A fevered child is warm, docile, and sweet, one that craves closeness, one easily contented with blanket tucking and special stuffed animals. I like that. I also like the delirious, languid chatter. The not-forecasted statements, To me, all pigeons are boys, and the tender declarations of love:

Mama? I want to be buried under the same stone as you. I want to lay with you in death.

This girl. How firmly she has hold of my heart.

* Cocoon. Apparently only moths make them. The caterpillar to butterfly transformation is a classic theme in childhood, as we all know. I’ve always used the general term, cocoon, to describe the magical hammock that opens to reveal the surprise butterfly, and every time, apparently, I have been wrong, The proper term is chrysalis. I thought you might want to know this as well. Oops.

September 20, 2010 at 9:47 am 3 comments


Me: Do you know how much I love you?

Echo: Yes.

Me: How much?

Echo: As much as a… camel.

A camel? She said it so matter-of-factly, like we’ve gone over this a thousand times and the answer is always the same: As much as a camel. I was having one of those moments, you know the kind, where I am filled with so much, almost uncontrollable love, that I want to pop the child. Or eat her. Or scrunch her. The safest way to express myself in these moments is to use my words, repeat my declarations of love, and quiz the child on the degree of that love.

But a camel?

I suppose camels are big, and I’m sure they love their babies, (calves?), a whole lot, but I’ve never mentioned camels in my love confessions before. Although if I think about it, any answer that describes a volume of love is satisfying. I simply want them to know about my feelings and if desert mammals are the current measuring stick I guess that’s alright with me.

Sometimes I totally blow it. I say no before I even think through my reasons. I assume the worse before finding out for sure. Sometimes I yell and use intimidation.

In the check out line in that Wal-Mart Supercenter on our road trip, buying snacks and flip-flops for the girl who forgot to wear shoes, I juggled annoyance, debit card swiping, and a lurching toddler while noticing that Bella was systematically and subtly body-blocking Xi from getting closer to the cart. I watched as she silently and surreptitiously bullied. I didn’t offer empathy, followed by information. Oh Bella, I see you’re upset by something. Are you wanting to bother Xi because you’re mad? Yeah it’s hard to feel that angry isn’t it…. Nope. I produced a guttural, whale-like, quiet bellow: BELLA. QUIT IT. GET AWAY. It was under the radar enough, like a dog whistle, that other shoppers were unaware, but my children were like deer in the head lights.

Or at Pickathon where Emily had her beautiful clothes displayed, and dust fluffed up with every step, and the children were coated in not only dirt, but also stickiness of an undetectable sort, and I watched Xi run through the booth, squeezing between dresses, I didn’t gently approach her and remind her once again that clothes that are for sale need to be clean. Nope. I used my dog voice. The one I save for when Henry is eating barf off the fraternity-house lawn, or stepping off the curb into the street before I’ve given him the command to cross. It was a huge voice, loud, and primal. XI! NOOOOOO! Her dirty face clouded and darkened, and not because of dust or dirt.

Or yesterday morning when Echo wanted to nurse for the fifteenth time and I didn’t have any milk left and my nipples were raw and she ferreted out my breast from behind my gridlocked arms anyway and locked on with a vise-like suck, I didn’t draw on a motherly reserve of patience. I didn’t explain once more the state of my nipples, the low supply of milk, or the state of my feelings. I whipped her mouth off of me quick, like lightning, and had her flipped over and tucked into a prison-like spooning position before she could let out a squeak of protest. The protest did indeed follow fairly rapidly, a freaked out wail of surprise and anguish that would have torn my heart in two if it hadn’t been temporarily hardened by stored up martyrdom and justification.

Sometimes I fail to meet my own standards of parenting.

Which is to say that if Echo believes whole-heartedly that I love her as much as a camel, I’ll take it. After shameful parenting moments I’m glad that the notion of me loving them is ingrained, a fact, a question that results in eye rolling because the answer is obvious.

When I was little and my father asked me the same: How much do I love you?

My sister and I always responded with feigned irritation at the repetitive question and then the correct response: Jillions!

Jillions was the self-coined term my dad used to describe the immensity, the impossible grandness of his love. If I could only provide a bank statement that indicated the jillions I feel for our girls, the towering pile of love I have for them, they would have proof that they could pull out and check after I yell at them or rip their mouths off of my body, and I might rest a little easier. But statements of that sort don’t exist. For now I’ll have to make-do by making every effort to operate with a calm voice, to use empathy, to provide information, and to draw on deep reserves of patience, so that ninety-nine times out of a hundred they can see my love in my treatment of their tender souls, and feel no need to ever question its volume.

On other days, or in less than stellar moments, I will have to be content with the reassurance that comes with an answer like camel.

August 12, 2010 at 11:22 am 8 comments


Obedience. The holy grail of raising children. Well mannered, polite, obedient children is the goal of many, but I think if they gave it a little thought, more parents would toss this goal aside, maybe even drop it like a hot cinder. Why? Because requiring children to demonstrate absolute obedience to authority results in adults that are fearful, mindless sheep.

When children are young we, the parents, are the authority, and it feels good that when we say DON”T, they… don’t. We tell ourselves we know better, that we are teaching them how the world works, that minding their parents is the most important lesson we can impart. But what happens later when we are no longer the authority? Or if we aren’t present? If our children are taught to follow orders and their standard authority is at work, running errands, or watching tv, they will have no choice but to seek out an alternative authority. The tricky thing is that parents don’t get to choose who that alternative authority is. Often a boyfriend takes up the position, or a pack of peers. We cannot require them to obey our every command while at the same time teach them to think for themselves.

So what does a parent do?

1. Demote obedience in the hierarchy of child behaviors and instead relish the moments when your children challenge your ideas, ask questions, and assert themselves. These are desired qualities that will serve our children in the long run as they become adults and are given the opportunity to make their own decisions. If they are given enough room to think for themselves during childhood the likelihood of these decisions being good is high.

2. It seems counterintuitive but to have more control you must let go of control. With fewer rules to resist, children resist less. Many of us have created numerous and senseless regulations that are needless. Rethink your own list of “don’ts” and see which can be loosened. Whenever it is safe, give your child freedom to explore and discover natural consequences. When given time to move freely and think independently a child will be more open to following reasonable guidance.

3. Use NO sparingly. This word is most potent when used only in critical moments, such as immediate safety situations. Watering it down by automatically using it at every turn renders it useless. And even if your answer is negative there are ways to frame it so that  there is less friction to brace against.

Yes, I will be able to read you a story, but I want to brush my teeth first. (Instead of: No, not right now.)

That’s a possibility. Let me think about what our next steps might be and I’ll let you know how we can fit a trip to the park into our day. (Instead of: Well, we have a lot to do today, probably not.)

Yes, I hear that you want to go to the library very badly. I’m not sure we have time today but I know it’s important to you and I will work to make that happen as soon as possible. (Instead of: No, not today.)

For further examples of saying YES more, and No less, look here. For more on the hazards of an automatic NO look here.

4. Use empathy as a way to teach empathy. “Good” behavior or obedience, can be achieved by encouraging empathic behavior. A child that can recognize feelings as they occur for others automatically considers how their choices are contributing to those feelings. This often results in actions that we have come to consider “polite” or “proper”. A child that recognizes another’s pain and feels bad for bumping into them will naturally apologize. An enforced Say your sorry! isn’t necessary. When given the information that Aunt Flo feels sad when kids chase her cat, an empathic child will, more likely than not, stop chasing the cat. A rule that declares NO CAT CHASING isn’t required. The most effective way to develop empathy in children is to treat them with empathy.

The related topic of manners can be found here.

5. Look for the underlying need behind the action. When a child is driven toward a particular action, and especially when they won’t stop doing that action, even when you have asked them not to, there is a very good chance that a strong need is their motivation. Look and listen closely, open your mind to strange possibilities and you just might be able to offer information and an alternative solution that meets that need.

I see that you’re banging that hammer on the wall… I am concerned about making marks. Are you wanting to fix something and be helpful? Hmmm. Can I set you up with the work bench outside? (Underlying need: purpose, effectiveness, or creativity)

Honey, I asked you to stay out of that tree. It isn’t strong enough to hold you. Are you wanting a challenge? Shall we go to the park where you can climb that dragon’s tower? ( Meeting the underlying need of: freedom or competence)

Please stop hitting your sister. She doesn’t like it and is getting angry. Do you want her attention? Can I help you find a way to get that in a different way? (Meeting the underlying need of: love, to be seen, or companionship)

A complete list of needs can be found here.

6. Offer as much information as possible. Disobedience is often due to a lack of understanding, something easily remedied when the parent is willing to take time to explain. We often have very good reasons for asking our children to do something, or to stop doing something, but don’t share them. Providing information allows children to see the thought process behind our decisions.

Tommy that stroller was built for a baby doll so I’m pretty sure it can’t hold you. Will you climb out of there?

Elizabeth, I notice that the cat is putting her ears back and swishing her tail. I think that means she doesn’t like the way you are petting her. Will you try something else?

7. Respect children as human beings and treat them accordingly. Children are not pets to be directed with barks and commands. They aren’t even yours, they are theirs. They have their own opinions, thoughts and desires and recognizing this will go a long way in getting them to do anything.

Letting complete obedience go might feel like a scary thing. Many of us are attempting to meet our own underlying needs by controlling our children. But the benefits to our children of rethinking this goal are well worth it. In the moment, explaining, using empathy, and offering alternatives can feel trying and time-consuming but I think that most of us would trade those few minutes and extra energy in exchange for independent, bold, thoughtful, and spirited children.

July 23, 2010 at 8:12 am 3 comments

Did I ever Mention This?

This is my girl today. Eyes ablaze, striking first, screaming second, pissed.

My logical, solution-seeking brain wants to know why? I scan through the last twenty-four hours. Did she get enough sleep? Food? What the bleep is wrong? Eventually I come to my senses, it doesn’t matter. I feed her all the time and we strive for as much sleep as possible. There aren’t days where I let sleep slide, or forget to offer nutrients, so even if I found a culprit to blame there still wouldn’t be anything to do differently in terms of physical needs.

After flailing about in this direction, I remember that I can still address emotional needs and quickly pull out empathy and information.

Empathy: Oh Echo. I see you’re really upset, really mad.

Information: When you scream at Bella like that she turns away from you and doesn’t want to play. Can I help you talk to her and figure out a solution?

I use my face to show understanding, I make myself physically available in case a hug or snuggle is desired, and I keep listening, searching for deeper feelings that can be empathized with. This is our formula and it works. It is time-consuming, at least in the moment, (although I’d argue that time-outs, threats and bribes take more time out of your life in the long-term), and quite verbal, but our children thrive under this system.

That being said, I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned the fact that I also use physical restraint. Today, empathy is reaching Echo’s ears, but not before she lands a few blows. Once I caught wind of her fierce temperament this morning I have been quick to slide my body between hers and her adversary. When the safety of others is involved I follow the same formula, while gently but firmly holding Echo in my arms.

Empathy: Oh Echo. You’re really mad. You want to hit her, huh? Oh you’re sad too? You wanted to play with that toy and she picked it up before you had a chance.

Information: You want me to let you go so that you can hit her and scratch her? Well, I think I’m going to continue holding you so that your sister stays safe. When you hit her she feels mad and probably won’t give you the toy. Do you want help figuring something else out?

It’s a safety clause but you have to be very mindful when you use it. It’s tempting to convince yourself that you are keeping others safe when in reality you are looking for ways to justify controlling your child’s movements. It’s better for your relationship to assume the best and be mistaken than to continuously and thoughtlessly jump in and use restraint. In addition, blocking a blow to spare another child harm is very different from grabbing an arm as an expression of your own anger. Empathic restraint is a short-term, temporary measure to protect others, the real, effective work is being done by your words, expression, and empathy.

July 20, 2010 at 4:58 pm 7 comments

mental collage

I’ve been a little out of touch with my thoughts and feelings as of late, basically too busy to watch them float by, and never, ever, alone. Well there is the six-minute ride to yoga class but it goes by really fast, and then once I’m there my mind fuzzes out into hamstring awareness. After class I usually meet my brood at our coffee shop, I am afforded four minutes of transit time between class and latte but after bending and breathing for an hour I’m like a leaf floating down the alleyway river. In fact yesterday I was so airy and blank that en route to my family I allowed myself to drift right into the arms of a sidewalk solicitor. Usually I steel myself with a ready answer as to why, thank you very much, I don’t have a few minutes to save the environment. But yesterday I couldn’t formulate any thoughts, couldn’t drum up any resistance, and thus, was netted immediately. I forked over the contents of my wallet and signed up for at least a year of unwanted emails and environmentally themed phone calls before the tide sailed me forward to my waiting family.

Short story? No concrete helpful musings.

But there are bits and pieces that occasionally surface:

1. For all those waiting in suspense, (ha ha), my new bikini is day-glo melon-orange, a color that looked fabulous on the white shores of the turquoise gulf but feels a little blingy on the banks of the Clark Fork. But then again, after I squat on some gravel, or shove a few more toddlers in toobies up a sandy slope, it might just be dingy enough to pull off. I’ll give it a go and let you know.

2. Nathan and I have been reading Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce and feeling newly inspired to raise our children with consciousness and magic. One thing Pearce describes is the almost super-natural abilities that children possess and can utilize if certain elements are in place, particularly the belief on the part of the parents that these powers are perfectly normal, almost a given. So when Echo picks up the novel that I have been reading aloud to her and says that she is reading it by herself now. I believe her. If she wants to skip letter identification and sounding out words, and move right on to instant comprehension-at-a-glance, perfect. Acting as though that is reasonable is the first step in making that a possibility for her. There is more, so much more in this book. It is mind bending stuff and really exciting. Magical Child is a dense read but worth it.

3. Empathy can be accessed quite easily by taking out the “but” from all of our parental explanations.

Mom! I want my other sock.

I know you do honey, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere.

Waaaah! I fell and hurt my arm!

Oh, you sure did. You scraped your knee, but, you know that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been running. I told you that running isn’t allowed at the pool.

Mom can we watch a movie, pleeeaaaasssse?

No, my love, we aren’t watching a movie tonight.

Ah! But I REALLY want to watch one!

I know you do honey. You really like movies but it’s just too late tonight. It’s almost bedtime.

If you remove the bold print the result is empathy, pure empathy. Explanations and information are really important. Never explaining the reasons behind our decisions is not good parenting, but so many of us rush past the empathy part, mush it right into the explanation, which neuters both.

4. Nathan has been writing some really incredible articles over on “A Beautiful Place of the World”. At times I feel a bit inadequate, as my posts are generally anecdotal first and educational/helpful second, and Nathan’s are like well thought out, mini-research papers, but most of the time I feel proud, and so glad that these ideas are entering the world so gracefully.

5. I’ve got a running list in my mind of reasons why one should never split from the father/mother of their children. The newest addition is summer scheduling. The amount of time Nathan spends figuring out how the girls we share can make it to the various summer events is equal to a part-time job.

6. Children are good for getting over body image bullshit. Days on the river mean days in bathing suits, which can be difficult if you are tinkering with thoughts about what your body should look like. If you don’t have children you might set yourself up in a flattering semi-reclined position, on a clean towel, with a chic, thigh-hiding sarong close at hand. But if you do have kids, or if you have our kids, there is no reclining, semi or otherwise. Our days at the river include trekking, in a bikini, toddlers on hips, up the most traveled biking/walking trail that runs through the middle of town (basically the most exposed you will ever be in your entire life), and dipping back into the river to float back to our pile of bike trailers and snacks. And when athletic-minded little boys are with us, the day also inevitably includes a foray onto the nearby football field. A bikini by the river is one thing but a bikini on a football field requires a different kind of confidence.

7. I’ve also been reading the Red Tent by Anita Diamant, and musing over rites of passage. When I got my first period I slumped sadly in the living room. There were no songs to be sung, no dancing in the moonlight, no gathering of loving matriarchs. I feel sad about that and want to do things differently for the girls in our community, I want to celebrate with them, guide them into womanhood with pride.

There might be more, I’m sure, but there are currently three little beauties, with summer reading charts in hand, ready to cash them in at the library for ice cream coupons.

July 17, 2010 at 2:10 pm 1 comment

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