Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Fever Dreams

I went to bed last night with a fever and had a dream that I worked at the North Pole with Santa Claus. Really. What does this mean? Anyone? Please? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I also went to bed with the book Toymaking with Children, by Freya Jaffke. I love this book. Yes, it is about making toys with and for children - in a Waldorf-schooly kind of way - but it is also about our responsibilities as the parents and teachers of our children. My favorite passage appears a mere 3 pages into the text of the book:

"One should never forget that one's actions and the manner in which one acts, may have a profound effect on children... ...The fact that the child learns through imitation means that adults should behave, in the presence of the child, in a manner worthy of imitation."
The thing is, I know that the above statements are true, and good, and come from a very well meaning place but I am sitting here at the computer trying to type this post while my son plays by himself in the living room because I have told him that I am busy and he needs to entertain himself for a while. Is this behavior "worthy of imitation?" It can take me a painfully long time to write what I feel is a "meaningful" post. The whole time I feel like I am constantly shooing Ben away in fits of increasing impatience and frustration. This book is about "Toymaking with Children," OK, ie "Spending Quality Time with Your Kid." I want to read and absorb all the goodness of this book, and I want to pitch it out the window onto the compost heap. There have been interruptions during the writing of this post. Earlier this morning Ben asked me how old he was. "5" I said. "Still 5?" "Yep. Well, 5 and a half. You're more than 5 but not quite 6." Ben is playing with Cranium Cadoo - a "big kid game" - today because he is a big kid, more than 5. He was only allowed to take this game out after putting away the grown ups Cranium game set which he had spread out over the floor. I managed to take whatever impatience and frustration I was feeling out of my voice when he announced that he could not put the cards away by himself because he would be "too exhausted." "I will not do something for you just because you are too bored to do it yourself. I won't do it just because you think putting the game away isn't as fun as taking it out and playing with it." I then patiently and without condescension showed him how to put the cards away properly: their feet need to be on the bottom of the box, their faces looking at you. When you've put them all away the card box needs to be put away in the big box. I left him to this task and returned to the computer. A few minutes passed and he approached (my throne) with a picture he drew on one of the games drawing tablets. "Look what I drew!" (crescent shape with a line down the middle) "WOW! That is GREAT!" (really, he draws very little, and never with much detail, so this was a truly enthusiastic response from me) "Do you know what it is?" "Well, I think it looks like a moon, what does it look like to you?" "It's a banana!" "Ben! It is a banana! A really good banana!" And it really is a great banana likeness. "Did you put all the cards away?" "Uh huh." I got up and walked, followed by Ben, into the living room. He did it. He put all the cards perfectly away in their box. He didn't gripe or grumble about it, and I was so impressed that I helped him put the rest of the pieces in the box and store it away again. I am trying to teach him about taking responsibility for his actions. Then I wonder, am I somehow projecting this boredom, this impatience? Is this imitation? I know that patience is a constant struggle for me. One of my own parents has no patience for children much past the time they learn to talk, more precisely when they learn "No." Acting and speaking in impatient tones is a knee-jerk reaction, but it is not a birthright. Behaviors can change. I am changing. And I will hopefully behave in a manner worthy of imitating often enough that Ben won't be left with this tangled mess to unravel with his own kids. A while back, Ben told me about something he overheard at school. There is a boy in his class who has a learning disability. Ben overheard the para assigned to this boy call him a "bad boy." "What happened?" I asked "Well, he took all the toilet paper off of the roll in the bathroom." I can tell you I am shaking even as I write this. In two weeks I have my spring conference with his teacher (not the one responsible for that comment) and you'd better believe that I will be bringing this up. I told Ben that this boy is not bad, that maybe he did something that he should not have done, maybe he made a mistake, but making mistakes doesn't mean you're bad. Behave in a manner worthy of imitation I want to stencil that on a wall, BIG, where I will see it every day.

13 comments:

NotSoSage said...

Well, even with all the interruptions, a VERY meaningful post. Will you be modelling graffiti art for Ben soon? I think you should tag the school with that...and maybe my house, while you're at it.


Now, for that dream...?

theflyingmum said...

Well, there's this...
Sounds like a great time, actually.
As for the dream - I have no idea. But my fever dreams are usually just totally bizarre anyway.

theflyingmum said...

And that link was not intended to reveal any fears I might have about parenting a teen-aged boy. Nope. Not me. No way.

NotSoSage said...

BTW: I hope you're feeling better.

I have weird dreams even when I'm not feverish, so I understand. Oh, the teen years are going to be an adventure!

Beck said...

Gorgeous post. I've dreamt about Santa, mostly because I just LOVE Santa and wish he was real. Sigh.

Kyla said...

My almost 5 year old is always trying lines like "But it makes me too BORING!" or "I just need to rest!" It cracks me up a little, but we don't go for it either.

And as for using the computer while he entertains himself? I think that IS behavior worth imitating. He is learning how to behave as a grown up (by watching you) and he is also learning to entertain himself, which are both good lessons.

As for the para who said that?? Grrrr. Give them hell. :)

McMama said...

wow
thanks for the quote
breaks my heart actually
I spend so much time trying to escape mentally...meanwhile the baby just walks around looking for something to get into when all he really wants is me.
i wanna shake that parapro btw

theflyingmum said...

Thanks, Jill, I am feeling much better. I do wonder about the breast milk thing and Ben's immune system, though - he seems to be sick an awful lot. Good news is the medicine he got from the Dr. yesterday tastes like "delicious banana bubblegum!" Mmmmmmmm!
Beck, I am with you. Santa rocks! And he's a really great boss too! Thanks for the comment, I love your writing.
Kyla, thanks for the support. I hope you're right about my computer use. Yes, hell will be given, in a very mature and composed way, I hope - I mean of course!
Mcmama, yeah, I know that sinking feeling re: the quote - that "ohhhhh." And don't think the fact that Ben was pulling out games that require two or more players was lost on me...

Mad Hatter said...

This is a great post. I think we all struggle with that fear that we are not modelling good behaviour and our own need to just relax and behave in the moment. We can only be who we are, after all, even though "who we are" does leave the door open for transformation in our parenting and personal practices.

It really is one of the hardest struggles of parenthood: finding that balance between the me and the us.

BTW, if you want to really hear me belly-ache about breastfeeding, you can read this older post: http://madhattermommy.blogspot.com/2006/11/milk-let-down.html And it is a toned-down version of the despair I felt.

bubandpie said...

Funny how that "worthy of imitation" thing assumes that it's important to us that our children become better people than we are: we wouldn't want to just relax and be ourselves in front of the kids, because then (horrors!) they might turn out just like us!

I suppose the real value of remembering how imitation-prone our children are is that we need to censor ourselves a bit from behaviours (like swearing, let's say), that children aren't old enough to know how to use responsibly - i.e. not old enough to realize the difference between muttering &^%^@ when we stub our toe vs. shouting it on the playground.

theflyingmum said...

Ben was under the kitchen table just a minute ago, and I stopped to eavesdrop on what he was doing/saying. I heard him say, in a very wicked voice "...and you need to clean up your room, and pick up this mess, and then you're going to have to make your own dinner!" All uttered at some time or another by me. (The last comment, after he refused to try the dinner set before him by me. "OK, if you don't want to eat what we're eating, then maybe you'd should just make your own dinner.") And you know, this isn't a BAD suggestion, but it's the spirit and tone of the delivery that have stayed with him. I think that's what I take from the books quote, not that relaxing or taking "me" time are bad behaviors to model. In fact, Ben is very familiar with the comment from both my husband and myself that we need a little alone time. He respects it in a way and plays by himself for a while. My frustration is with myself, my struggle with impatience, my sarcasm and hurtful words that I can see painted across his face as soon as they leave my mouth.

nowheymama said...

Speaking of meaningful, I have been trying to get to the computer all morning to write a comment worthy of this beautiful post, with no luck. Thank you for the food for thought!

Sara said...

This was a really great post. I hear Eddie talking to his stuffed animals, even at age 3, saying "do you want to go in a time out?, YOU DO NOT TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!! or do you want me to turn the TV off?" And it's his tone that gets me. Do I sound that harsh? Gaaaah. Hopefully he picks up more good than bad from me.