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Teaching Consent

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With two boys and one girl growing up in this culture, I think about teaching my kids good lifestyle practices. I think about it a lot. I was reading this article (which is hilarious and you should read when you are done here) about a very simple metaphor to explain consent.

But here’s the thing. I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain consent to adults. Sadly, we still do, and part of the problem is that we don’t do a good job of explaining consent to kids. We don’t and we should. Consent and its surrounding concepts should be part of the language/concept soup that we raise our kids in. Also, it’s a parenting super-tool. Allow me to elaborate.

We (adults) do a lot of things that push kids’ consent realities. It’s often unavoidable. We hold our toddlers down while they flatly deny consent so that we can baby wipe their filthy little butts. Those things are necessary and part of the job. But other things – like tickle games until kids melt down and we all feel bad…those are something we (adults) get to do because we are bigger and stronger. And tickling, wrestling, and chasing are all super fun when everyone is consenting. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater here — I still want to tickle my kids breathless and enjoy them saying “No! Stop Mommy Monster!” while I chase them. But I don’t want to abuse my size and strength and ability if it gets out of control. Then there is the forced affection issue. It’s been written about a lot in many places, so I’ll just sum up: it’s not okay to force a kid to show or receive physical affection. Not to grandparents, aunts, uncles, people who buy Girl Scout cookies… Not to anyone. Ever.

Teach Consent

*Use the Word consent* with your kids. Get it in the language. Make it a familiar word and concept. Explain it a million times. This is a parenting super-tool. Instead of saying “Brother-Bug, don’t snatch that toy! Play nice!” Instead I can ask “Brother-Bug, did you have Sister’s consent to take that toy? Sister-Bug, did you have Brother’s consent to hit him in the face?” Nope? Well, then it wasn’t a good choice. Let’s change it. Let’s do it differently. There’s not a lot of blame or finger pointing here. In sibling spats it’s often both people who are ignoring consent. Go back and do it over again. Kid climbing all over you after a long day? Adults have consent too! “Hey, I need you to get my consent before I am your jungle gym.”

*Make it the rule in your house* and help other kids understand it. This means you get to explain consent a lot more, often in front of your kids. And again, it makes dispute resolution easier. Once everyone knows what consent means, then they can go back and do over.

*Expand the phrase to Enthusiastic Consent* when appropriate. We need to know the difference between consent and enthusiastic consent. The difference between my daughter kind of shrugging her shoulders and mumbling yes to her someday-date versus a big smile and leaning in for a kiss with yes! on her lips is vast, and I know which one I want her to feel good using. (Yes, it is hard to think about my child in these types of scenarios, but they are coming along someday and I can’t get my kids ready for them if I don’t think about them. They aren’t going to be little and adorable forever.) In the here and now, with little kids, we use Enthusiastic Consent particularly in the area of weapon and fighting games. You may not, under any circumstances, use a weapon with/on/at a person in this house/yard without their Enthusiastic Consent. Again, this leads to me doing a fair amount of explaining to other kids.

*Explain when you violate their consent* and use consent language. I’ll stick with the toddler and poopy butt scenario from earlier because that’s where the Toddler-Bug and I find ourselves these days. “I know you don’t want me to wipe your butt and you are doing everything you can to show and tell me that I don’t have your consent. I’d love for you to put your poop in the potty and then I wouldn’t have to wipe your butt like this. But until we get there, my job is to keep you healthy and part of that is cleaning the poop off you. You can say yes and consent to this and I’d love that. Or you can poop in the potty. But my job means I have to ignore your consent for this moment, even if you don’t like what I am doing.” Yes, I have this little discussion with my toddler on the daily right now. Do this with car seats, bedtime, diapers, and whatever else you can. Stop and respect their space and consent if possible – at least for a minute. Give them the opportunity to decide to consent to something they can’t control anyway.

*Stand up for your kids’ right to consent* with everyone. I was stunned and a little outraged  at Brother-Bug’s last check-up. He was doing great, everything was lovely. And then the doctor went to manually examine my son’s genitals without telling him what she was doing!! Brother-Bug did exactly right. He jumped and hit the doctor’s hands away and said something like “What the heck!?” I explained to the doctor that my kids had been taught that no one should touch their genitals without their permission once they were able to keep them clean on their own time. Ever. Anyone. And she should ask. The doctor looked chagrined and talked to Brother-Bug about what she was going to do and why. It’s one of those places where we don’t think to look for consent, but we must.

And don’t force your child to kiss, hug, talk to, high five, or interact with anyone just because they *should*. That’s just…swear words. Kids will learn how to use good manners because we show them good manners. They will learn to hug people they want to hug when they see us hug people we want to hug.

Finally,

*Give your kids a safe word*. Nope. I’m not joking. Remember the tickle games I mentioned early on? They are super fun and everyone feels good in our house because we have a safe word. It’s a funny one. One that won’t be said in the craziness of the moment like No or Stop. Ours is FishPepper. If someone in a game says FishPepper, all game play stops. Sometimes just for a moment while everyone catches their breath. Sometimes for good. We are careful about using our safe word; the big kids know that it is a powerful word and they must use it only ever For Real or it will lose it’s power. Just in the last week or so, Toddler-Bug started using it of his own free will when Papa-Bug was tickling him! It was a proud moment. Our two-year old knows how to use consent concepts!

I’m going to digress for a moment. I assumed that we just know that No Means No. And we teach that too. But sometimes we are playing games and No is confusingly fun. Sometimes it’s hard to hear. No should always mean no with kids and their games. But if we get carried away (kids or adults) it’s really good to have a fallback safe word. You can play harder. I promise.

This means more explaining. To kids friends: “Oh! Sister-Bug just said FishPepper. In our house that means she needs everything to stop for a minute until she feels safe.” To their care-people: “Thanks for watching our kids…their safe word is FishPepper…just in case you are playing. That means they need to stop until they feel safe.” To parents of other kids: “My kids taught your kid the concept of a safe word…{how we use safe words with kids}…so if you hear your child using the idea of a safe word, you know where she got it.”

I always try to do the explaining in front of kids. I want them to hear me explain and support consent over and over and over and over.

If we all did this, as parents and people who love the kids we are around, eventually…someday…we would have to explain consent to adults a lot less. And maybe our kids could do it lovingly for us!!

So go out in the world and give your kids a safe word.

Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

There are so many reasons we choose to homeschool. Here we are on the fifth one. I was thinking about this today as I hunted around on the internet for a worksheet for Brother-Bug. I was thinking about this yesterday as I worked with Sister-Bug as she read a BOB Book.

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Reason Five: Different Levels and Styles

Brother-Bug was a precocious reader. He came to me at 3 1/2 and said “Mama, I’m not really reading my books.” I asked him what he meant. “Well, I am only looking at the pictures. Not reading the words.” I asked him if he wanted to read the words. He said no. Two months later he was back. “Mama, I am ready to read the words now.” And he did. We got some easy readers, we played on Starfall. I expected him to lose interest in a couple of days. But everyday the first thing out of his mouth was “When is my reading time today?” He drove the project and read Hop On Pop independently before he turned four. By his fifth birthday he was reading things like Magic Treehouse to himself. Sister-Bug is almost five. She wants to be a reader, but it’s not her main priority. So we play sight word games and read some BOB books and use our felt alphabet to spell easy words. She has some reading games on the iPad and also enjoys Starfall. But it’s not easy for her like it was for Brother-Bug. She needs me to keep it fresh and engaging and fun. Brother-Bug needed me to reach the easy readers off the shelf.

As I write this, Toddler-Bug is sitting on my lap. He’s singing Mamma-Mia (ABBA…yes, I know…). He’s very musical and has crazy fine-motor skills. Eventually he is also going to learn to read and he will also learn in a different way. And that’s part of why we are here, homeschooling. Sister-Bug loves working systematically thorough a math workbook. Brother-Bug needs more challenge – he get’s math concepts very quickly and needs those concepts to change and grow and diversify. He gets so bored with a linear book.
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Because these are my kids, because I have watched them grow and learn and change from babies, I can make that distinction. Because they are the only 3 kids in my “class”, I can teach each one a different way and follow their lead on what they need and how they learn. And because of this, I believe they are learning deeply and well. They are not struggling to learn in a format that is unnatural for them, which would make that subject doubly challenging.

Additionally, we are not locked into a single grade level. Brother-Bug does 2-3rd grade math, but reads like a 4-5th grader. His writing is around 1st grade (that’s his hardest thing). Sister-Bug is just about on track for K-1st, but she’s still mostly playing in her school work and we don’t pay too much attention to her grade levels. No one is bored in an too easy class or frustrated in a too hard subject because I can adjust our lessons and experiences to fit in that niche of just challenging enough. I can pull us down a level if we are getting so frustrated we can’t learn or add complexity if we are feeling bored. I can add tactile elements for my SPD kid, or do all StarWars writing all the time to engage my StarWars obsessed child. It’s my choice, and their education, and I am so glad that we have the time and flexibility to reach each child in their time, and on their level.

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Want to see our other reasons to homeschool?

Reason One: A Hot Cup of Tea

Reason Two: School Scheduled Around Life

Reason Three: Play Happens

Reason Four: Getting Out or Staying In

What Happened Here?

I must have blinked. This wee baby turned two yesterday. We went to the zoo and had Zebra Cupcakes. He opened presents and played with new toys.

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It's a bittersweet birthday. He's not a baby anymore (even though he prefers to be called “BabyMouse”). He's a busy, learning, going, running, drawing-on-the-walls toddler. He's picking up language and concepts with a rapidity that is astonishing – even after watching two other kids as toddlers.

 

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My baby has vanished in this busy little boy and there aren't more babies coming. So it's bittersweet. He was such a beautiful, tiny little squidget of a baby.

And now he's two. Oh so very two.

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Happy birthday, BabyMouse.

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Join This Imperfect Project

ParadiseThese two articles made me think. A lot.

Glennon Melton (on Huffington Post) // A Whole New — And Necessary — Way To See Your Messy House

Coffee & Crumbs // It’s Their Day Too

I thought about many things, but mostly about what I show to the world through my social media streams. I rarely share the hard moments. The messy and horrible moments. The “why am I doing this?” moments. The whoops moments. Partly because in those moments I rarely have the wherewithal to get out my camera and partly because I want to share, and look back on, positive moments.

Of course, we also know that my perfect Instagram pictures are making some person somewhere feel inadequate as she compares her backstage to my highlight reel. So I am proposing a challenge for myself and I’d love to have other people join me.

33 Imperfections

Starting on October 25th I will be posting a daily picture on my social media pages. The game is to post 33 pictures (or updates) – to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, wherever – that are are imperfect. Stains, spills, temper tantrums, bad hair, missed busses, projects gone horribly wrong… You understand what I mean.  Post it with the tag #imperfect33. Tell us why it is imperfect AND why it is also perfect (or at least not awful). Where is the good in the imperfect?

“Missed the bus and being late to work isn’t good, but now I get 30 minutes to wait and read on this fall day.”

“Spilled the birthday cake frosting… I’ll start over and make sure I follow the directions in order. The next batch will be even better.”

“Child just painted the floor. He’s making me mop!!”

“This is my messy kitchen. The fruit flies are thick. Let’s be glad I can’t post the smell from the compost bucket. But the baby is asleep on me. I’ll let it be messy and take this moment to read to my preschooler.”

“Look at this pile of laundry. It’s been almost a month since I’ve folded and put away. Family has been in town. I’m lucky that they came to visit me and we had a wonderful time!!”

Voltaire

How does something catastrophic turn out good? What blessing is hiding under the tears or the mess or the accident? How can we change how we look at things and what we are willing to show the world about our funky lives?

If we start on October 25th, it will take us right up to Thanksgiving. We will look at our imperfectly perfect lives and (borrowing a word from Glennon Melton) having those perspectacles on for the previous 33 days will really tell us how special and quirky and wonderful our worlds are, in all their imperfections.

Who wants to join me? Who can share their imperfect lives?

And Now He is Eight

I remember eight being really monumental in my life. I think because I was old enough to audition for the local children's theatre group. Anyway. Today Brother-Bug turns eight. Here are some of my favorite pictures of him in the last year….

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He's grown so much and come so far this year. He's thoughtful and funny, witty and disgusting (ah, the humor of childhood). He's obsessed with weird things that make him chuckle at odd times. He's an incredibly thoughtful and nurturing big brother. He's learning…so much. Words fail me here. He's amazing.

 

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Eight looks like it is going to be an awesome adventure with this guy. I couldn't be a happier, or more proud, Mama.

 

Teaching Princesses

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I’ve written about princesses before. I care a lot about the messages I send my kids and that they receive. I care a lot about supporting their interests. Before my three little individuals showed up to challenge everything I once believed about parenting, I had some pretty opinionated opinions about things like parenting. How quickly those were all stripped from me.

One of my ideals had to do with princesses and helping any daughter I had avoid the princess trap – I would never allow those misshapen Disney harlots into our house! But of course, never say never. As luck would have it, my darling son introduced us to the Disney princess phenomenon and his small sister took up that pantheon of goddesses with Enthusiasm. So it goes.

Kids bring their own agenda to the table and it is our job to help them learn about the world through their interests. Hopefully I can use their interests to teach them good lessons about being good people.

Princesses are not inherently evil. What we teach our girls, or let them passively absorb, about Princesses is pretty sinister. But we can choose what we want to direct our kids’ attention to when we interact with the Princess story. We do not need to be stuck in the “classic” messages in this image.

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Images like this, that perpetuate the idea that Princesses are somehow inherantly damaging to our daughters make me angry. Because it seems like everyone has missed the lessons that are available. So let’s break it down, one at a time.

Snow White

The prince doesn’t protect Snow White. He saves her, but he’s actually not there when she needs protection. She runs into the woods and learns to support herself by trading her skills (housekeeping – a seriously valuable skill set that everyone should have) with those who can benefit from them. She is cheerful in the face of adversity and makes the best of a horrible situation. That’s pretty cool.

Jasmine

When she finally realizes that her mariageability is her only asset and that the law governing her is unfair, she runs away. She rejects the premise that she is only a bride. She adventures and fights with Aladdin and at the end of the movie, her courage gets an archaic law changed.

Belle

The only person absolutely obsessing over Belle being the most beautiful is the villain Gaston. And he falls from a turret. Of course Belle is beautiful. It’s the title of the story. But she’s also brave – rescuing her father at her own peril. She’s compassionate – caring for Beast when he is injured. She’s a rebel and doesn’t care about other’s narrow judgements – reading and learning when women are clearly not encouraged to do so. These things are all a part of what is inside Belle’s heart. Just as Belle learns to look deeper than the Beast’s appearance, everyone in the story can look past Belle’s appearance and see what a clever, brave, and loving person she is. Everyone except Gaston, of course.

Cinderella

Like Snow White, Cinderella faces up to an awful life with dignity and courtesy and kindness. She finds joy where she can. She takes good care of those around her. Sure, she goes to the ball and the Prince falls in love with her. I know it is totally far-fetched. But so often good things happen to people who look for the good in all situations – if only because they can frame their situation positively. It takes a strong person to stay positive the way Cinderella does.

Ariele

She always wants to go to explore the land. The whole first part of the movie is about her fascination with this other place and her burning desire to visit it. Prince Eric is her catalyst (and a pretty appropriate one for a teenage girl). She gives up her home, her family, and her voice to follow her dream. That is so brave. That is so strong. She wants this adventure so badly that she makes great personal sacrifices to achieve it.

Sleeping Beauty

She’s been my Everest on this one. Mostly because she’s asleep for most of the movie (NOT dead – sorry people, but sleeping and dead are really different things). She’s never in a bad situation that she is aware of. She sleeps through the scary bits. She’s kind of a blank. BUT, while the Prince rescues her with the kiss, he’s not the real hero. The real hero are three middle-aged fairies. It’s the three good fairies who protect her in the woods. They help the prince all along his quest and provide him with the weapons and tools he needs to succeed. Not only that, but as Maleficent chases them across castle, the three fairies turn Maelficent’s weapons (boulders, arrows, etc.) to flowers and bubbles. They do everything they can to save their darling girl and support the Prince on his quest and they never resort to violence. Three middle aged ladies. Awesome.

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So that’s what I teach my Princess-loving daughter about her heroines. These girls are brave, determined, compassionate, resourceful, and oh-so-strong.

The creators of Princess Magic are listening to our desire for awesome characters for our girls to adore. Tiana, Rapunzel, Merida, Elsa, and Anna are all kick-ass young women who take their adventures and destinies into their own hands. Obviously the tide is turning.

There is still a tremendous amount of work to do with body images (and eye size – what is up with the gigantic creepy eyes?). But we can turn the tide and stop teaching our girls that the lessons learned from Princesses are bad. We as adults are just as guilty of perpetuating the negative Princess story as Disney when all we see or show to our daughters is what is on the surface. When we judge these girls only by their beauty (she’s a Disney Princess…she must be brainless/only interested in marriage/every other negative stereotype) we fail our daughters. We teach them exactly what we fear Princesses are teaching them. That the surface appearance is what matters. We can dig deeper. We can actively give them another story as they play and learn. As we watch these movies with them we can applaud the heroic actions of these girls and play that their dolls are scaling mountains or whacking each other with frying pans.

Princesses are powerful, as I have written about here. As parents we need to choose if we want to perpetuate the story of the helpless princess or tell the other story that is below the glittery surface. I’m not going to judge a book by it’s cover, nor a princess by her ball-gown. My kids deserve to have their heroes and heroines supported and understood and celebrated.

And for full disclosure, my favorite princesses are Belle & Tiana. Who are yours? (I know you have them…)

 

Ergo Re-Do

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My Ergo is essential. And wearing out. It's about seven years old now and has carried all three kids. I know we have another two years or so when we will need to pop Toddler-Bug up on our backs to finish a hike, a long grocery store trip, or other adventure. But I don't want to buy a new Ergo because they are expensive. And really, it is only the lining on mine that is the problem. It has started to tear out all along the bottom.

Before I decided to re-line my Ergo, I went over every load bearing seam, checking for weakness. The issues were only cosmetic, so I went ahead and did the new lining. If you have an old baby carrier, it is a good idea to periodically check the seams and weight bearing areas.

Since it was in good structural shape, I went ahead. I cut a square that was about 16″x16″. The only sewing machine work I did was right here. I sewed two 1/2 inch wide, 3″ deep darts along the bottom, each about 3 1/2″ out from the middle (I aligned them with the two deep quilted line on the waistband.

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Starting at the bottom/waistband, I pinned the lining along the bottom. I didn't pin the whole thing in place at once, just the bottom. Using purl cotton and a sharp tapestry needle I whipped stiches the bottom edge in place.

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Next I went up one side, pinning small sections and working the fabric around the straps and corners. I had to do some creative folding to make it all fit, but with the single piece of lining, the fabric has enough give that it isn't an issue.

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Going around the shoulder straps and the hood was definitely the most challenging, but pinning it in 1-2 inch bits and being patient with getting it good enough worked just fine in the end. I didn't even swear (much).

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The other tricky spot was around the side strap, but I managed. And just that whip stitch across the bottom, up one side, across the top, and down the other side and shaman! My ergo is revitalized and ready for more adventures.

The other thing I did was I used some scraps to cover the bite area on the shoulder straps. Those edges were getting pretty worn out. I just cut squares to the right size and whipped them on in the same way.

I love my “new” Ergo. It is already in heavy use. The zebra print is way more fun than the plain blue that once was. And ToddlerBug loves it – zebra enthusiast that he is. So here we come hiking and berry picking and beach combing, summer! My Ergo, my toddler, and I are ready to go!

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