Monday, July 11, 2016

Good News & Bad News

How often has it happened that we hear our words parroted back from the mouths of babes?

This is why we eavesdrop while they play with toys. A known corner stone of play therapy, children play what they know. Hold on! Did that mom dog just threaten to spank the puppy for not listening?! Okay - she said time-out, phew. Wait, do I threaten my kids? That's not right - I'm supposed to provide logical consequences for actions. Pause for mental self chastising in lapses of best parenting practices Oh good, she is reading them a story. The mom dog is hugging the puppy! Yea! Not emotionally scarred today!

While we may take responsibility for situations our children encounter, it's important to keep things in perspective. After all, how often has a young person in your life made a statement that echos a certain princess with a bow and arrow? Or a super hero, evil genius, or Cartman from Southpark (if they are, hopefully, older teens)? Kids try on phrases like a mom getting ready for swim suit season, a seemingly endless & unsatisfying amount until they happen upon one that fits them just right or at least adequately.

Youngest recently happened across "I have good news and bad news."

Sitting near the sliding door, I watched as Youngest heaved open the obstacle and rushed forward. "Mom, I have good news and bad news," she announced in somber tones with wide eyes.

"Okay, tell me," I directed, then waited while she formulated the order of sharing within her mind.

"The good news is that Mr Nibbles [the guinea pig] isn't lost - he's just in the back yard and I found him. But the bad news is that there is a snake in the guinea pig cage! They keep running away because there is a snake!"

Hmm, mental check - catching wild snakes in the outdoors, not my area - cross reference topics and current occupants in the area... "Oh-no! You better tell Dad." Upon which she turned and delivered the entire explanation, verbatim, to my husband.

He dutifully put his shoes on, after she told him, "It's a giant snake in their cage! It will eat them up!" and out the door the door they went - only to discover Checkers (pig 2) was sitting on the creature and seemed unfazed by his house guest. Upon capture it turned-out to be a legless lizard (yes, there is such a thing) and Boy released it away from the pigs' home.

Since that day we have had numerous good/bad news incidents. I have heard everything from the fish are okay, but all the fish food fell into the tank (just miraculously fell in there) to I colored this picture for you, but the markers (sharpies she isn't supposed to touch) colored the kitchen table.

I like this phrase; it is reinforcing looking for the bright side in situations, a life skill that could use brushing-up in most of us.  It also offers many moments to laugh silently of course while maintaining a serious composure, as she delivers it with the full measure of gravity she deems worthy of the matter at hand.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dreadful Duty

At the tender age of 8 weeks it begins. Washed and dressed, ready for an outing we carry  our precious packages into pediatricians' offices around the country. Anxiously we hover as they are weighed, measured, and evaluated. We smile our replies as doctors ask about feeding and sleep schedules and ask our questions.

Then it is time. We knew it was coming and steel our spines as we watch our tiny treasures endure the first intentional harm to come to them. The prick of the needle.

Over the course of four children I have seen reactions ranging from slight surprise, that  perfect O forming on infant lips, to instantaneous piercing cries that can be soothed only with prompt nursing. Generally, though, the first and second series of immunizations are not devastating to anyone but the parent. It tends to be the toddlers who take personal insult with the whole business. This tears at our hearts as they wail without the luxury of instant forgetfulness induced by bottle or nursing. We comfort as best we can, and distract to the best of our ability, and we hate the inevitable necessity of it all.

And the reactions do not, necessarily, mellow with age. One of my children, who shall remain nameless, was so terrified of needles (due to other medical encounters) by the time she was 5 that she began crying before the shots. And afterwards? Well, let's just say ear plugs would have been a treasure for the 25 minute car ride of howling after we left the office. For her encore performance, 5 years later, she stormed out of the doctor's office in tears after additional immunizations and sat in the yard at the office screaming that she hated me. Ah, fun times.

But wait, there's more! For each series, there is the requisite dose of acetaminophen before the shots and the follow-up response to general lethargy and typical low (or not so low) grade fever. Youngest, having completed her 5 year check-up yesterday, complained of a sore arm - that MMR is brutal - and said, "Mom, you can't give me a snack because I eat it with this side and it won't reach my mouth."

Fear not, she can move her arm and has taken in sustenance, though not much since she started running a fever shortly after this and has been mostly miserable since yesterday afternoon.

I can see why parents would look for any excuse not to inflict this pain on their children. After all, isn't a parent's job to protect them? But from this comes not only immunity against potentially lethal illnesses for the child, it also gives the parents a reminder of a vital aspect of parenting - be a parent.

Children live in the present. It is the parental role to protect against the future. We don't give our children a time-out because it is pleasant or erases the fact that little johnny ran into the street. We do it to guard against the next time. Shots are another, albeit painful, reminder that life requires us to look to the future and endure the hardship of today to arrive at tomorrow safely. So, while I do not relish the tears of the patient nor caring for the feverish, I will always be firmly in favor of immunizations for our children. It is the act of a selfish parent to look to their own wants, be it ease of parenting over action or misplaced belief in anti-vaxxer mythology, before caring for the needs of the child.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Experiential Learning

From the oldest to the youngest they have all been through the ritual. Sitting on their haunches at the sweet spot, just where the wave breaks on the the shore, they wait. In it comes and out it goes, causing them to leap into action. Chubby preschool hands or slender competent teen fingers, they all know the routine. Take a scoop, not too much, of the newly soaked sand and deftly sift through until the feel of firmness meets your fingertips. Hold them tight and give a rinse to reveal the treasure of coquinas: tiny, delicate shells in an array of pastels from peach to violet. Then they release the treasure to the sand to watch intently as each shell swiftly upends itself while digging its way down into the soft wave washed sand. While toddlers, they call out excitedly for help as they watch the mollusks bury themselves, not quite able to make their fingers move with the deftness required to separate the creature from the sand. As they grow they collect them in buckets of water until some unspoken quota of colors is achieved before pouring them back into the waves to watch them return to safety.

Children at the seashore understand things tourists don't: stingrays require a bit of shuffling feet in the sand to scare them away, sharks teeth have a definite shape and hue when found among the grains of sand and crushed shells, and sand dollars are live animals that are best kept in the ocean. They are versed in the plethora of mammoth sized insects and lizards, both native and invasive that frequent the area around their homes. Many kids clamp anoles to their earlobes as makeshift earrings once they've reached a certain age, only to chase others around in a modern day native dance that plays itself out on the playgrounds across the state. Their knowledge can be impressive.

But there are definite holes.

It was muck out the guinea pig pen day, and I was outside helping Tween to shovel shavings from the playhouse they call home. While watching shavings fall from the heaping mound, I mentioned that this would be much easier with a snow shovel. Tween uttered a noncommittal sound and continued to hold the bag for a scoop or two. Then she paused, lowered the bag and in the searing 95 degree sunshine asked me, "What does a snow shovel look like?"

She can differentiate between a Florida and Cuban tree frog, knows when to reapply sunscreen and that a manatee is a safe swimming partner, but she has no frame of reference when discussing anything cold weather related.

It's a price we pay to live in paradise, but it might be good to take a trip north this winter...