Sunday, February 18, 2007

A few weeks ago, Tammy wrote about how parenting seems to get harder the older our children get. There’s a German expression that goes, “small children, small problems, big children, big problems”. Which I certainly didn’t think was true when my children were small. Taking care of babies and small children consumed every minute of my day, many moments of my nights, my thoughts, my intelligence… every bit of my heart and soul. I just couldn’t see that how raising older children could be more strenuous, worrying, nerve-wracking than trying to keep your young child alive, fed, comforted, and challenged.

Now that my two children are older (12 and 16), I still don’t know whether Tammy and popular German saying is right. Is parenting harder now than it was ten or twelve years ago? Are the problems bigger?

The only thing that I know to be true is, children, no matter what age only seek challenges where the outcome is uncertain. It seems part of human nature: don’t go after an easy catch.

Small children climb on furniture that is precariously high, they play with complex stereo equipment capable of intimidating any adult, and they willingly wash dishes only if they are small enough to fall into the sink while standing on their highchair. As a mother, every time your small child goes off on an adventure, you have to ask yourself “Can she or he survive this?” Survive, in the sense of, will-we-be-calling-the-ambulance type of survival.

Currently, some of my friends have babies and small children, and while I cringe to see the two-year old child running in the direction of a glass door (does he see it, will he stop, arggh, that must have hurt), the mother makes an executive decision about whether or not the child will survive the experience if he doesn’t stop soon. And, then she nonchalantly picks up the crying child and calmly kisses the bonked nose, and off the child goes on his next adventure.

Larger children also set out on various innocuous adventures every day, which parents have no control over: bus rides to school, shopping with friends, school trips to the big city, Friday night parties, travelling to visit their father on weekends, chat rooms in the Internet… Yes, as responsible parents we should try to supervise our children’s activities, minimise the risks, and talk about the dangers, but whether our children will survive these adventures is unknown. And that scares the bejeebies out of us.

A wise and wonderful friend of my mother once told me… there comes a time when your child no longer wants you as a protagonist in theatre of their life. They don’t even want you as one of the silent but mighty spear-bearers standing in the back of the stage. They might, just might, be willing to have you sit in a front row seat in the audience: cheering them on when they succeed, weeping at their disasters, and glowing with pride when strangers applaud.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Don’t you love it when a conversation with a friend leads you to a new understanding of some old dilemma? This is what happened to me yesterday, during a conversation about quality time and a three year old boy’s ability to make life difficult.

My friend was bemoaning the fact that her son refused to come to the dinner table, eat his dinner, change into his pyjamas, brush his teeth, and wash his face, every evening without making it into a Huge Production. Her three-year old son uses every means of procrastination… whining, ignoring, being belligerent, crying, screaming… wasting the precious time he and his mother have together. This exhausts his mother: who has been at work the whole day.

She just can’t understand what to do about her and her son’s difficulties. She is frustrated by the fact that the two or three hours she gets to spend with her son each day is, in most part, taken up in an endless petty battle and not edifying, playful, fun activities. Three quarters of their time is taken up with bickering and one quarter with cuddle up and read a book time.

And then it hit me… the reason Quality Time is such a farce is because no matter how much or how little time you spend with your children, three quarters of the time is spent “raising” them, and one quarter in pure enjoyment of them. There is just no way to change this balance. You cannot walk into a home to bathed, powdered, and pyjama-wearing children and expect their inner or emotional beings to bathed, powered, or pyjama-wearing. No, their inner child is whiny, stubborn, crying, and needy: relentlessly demanding the three quarter time before settling into the last short moment of pure enjoyment.

P.S. This piece, in no way, is a statement about the pros and cons of working moms versus stay-at-home moms.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

maureen from grenada, caribbean ... I think to myself, the only way I am going to move into my passion of writing is to write and to take on these new innovative writing projects. I have taken on a writing project here in Grenada that involves writing with a writing partner. Every Monday evening Joachim, my new writing partner, drops by to write. We do timed writing exercises and then write poems from these unedited pieces... (more).