Fear and Loathing (and a little loving) in Childhood.

Sometimes, there are things about your kids that you notice immediately. Sometimes these are cute, sweet, happy things. Like Sassy and the two identical (except for color) baby blankets that have been at her side since she was born. One pink (now faded to white) and one purple.

Sassy

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no snuggles while I'm sick.

I got her two thinking she would prefer one over the other, but she ended up bonding to both equally, so we took them everywhere with us. All the trips we’ve been on from 2004-2010 have included pink and purple blankie. Oftentimes I would think, “Life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to keep track of these stinkin’ blankies!!!” Once, I left them at a hotel buffet, and spent the next 2 hours tracking them down from maintenance person to manager person back to maintenance person back to concierge back to desk clerk back to housekeeping back to maintenance person. By the end of it, I was probably a crazy looking woman hyperventilating about two very important blankets. She loved them just that much, that I couldn’t bear to leave them anywhere without her.

And sometimes the things you notice are stressful, and you wish you could change them. Perhaps even try actively to change them! Like Golfers extreme arachnophobia. Obviously, I mean his acute fear of spiders. Like me, he would often not sleep at night just imagining there might be one in his bed somewhere. He couldn’t watch them on TV. When the third LOTR movie came out, and Frodo and Sam met up with the mega spider??? The most traumatic thing Golfer had ever seen. He couldn’t even talk about them without shivering and wincing.

He also experienced a pretty extreme people phobia. He was shy to the nth degree. At 2, when we’d go to the park, he’d play for a few minutes and then come back over to sit beside me and touch my knee with his hand. Kind of like a recharging of his batteries, and then he’s walk back out for a few minutes before coming back. At 4, when the big group of kids would be playing on one side of the street, he’d be on the other, kid-less, side. He didn’t like talking to new people, or sometimes even people he did know. He was my little shadow. A cute one, and a cuddly one for sure!

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But people would tell me I babied him too much. That I was letting him be a mama’s boy. One neighbor dad came up to Golfer (when he was 4) and demanded to know, “Are you a MAN or are you a WIMP?”. Golfer hightailed it behind my legs and peeked out. “I’m a wimp…” he whispered. I won’t deny that I was worried and afraid that Golfer would be so incapacitated by these two qualities, that he’d live in fear the rest of his life. And I was conscious that people around me blamed me for fostering them and making them worse because I let him come and touch my knee/hide behind my legs/cuddle in my ‘spider free’ bed.

I tried, briefly, to make him face his fears. You know, kind of like dropping a kid off into the deep end to teach them to swim. But really, it never felt right to purposely create anxiety in my sweet little boy just to teach him a lesson. And I never felt right making light of his fears, or not respecting them. So I felt torn between feeling like I was enabling them vs. feeling like I was tormenting him.

Around the time of unschooling, as I started reading more about empowering kids to take charge of their own lives, I let go of a lot of the fear for the future…since who can tell what will or won’t happen. I changed my tone from “Golfer, why are you scared of such a little spider?!” or “Golfer, just go say hi! It’s not hard!” to “I know you’re scared of that spider right now, maybe tomorrow he won’t look so scary” and “You can hang out with me, let’s both go over while I say Hi!”. I tried to respect his aversion to people and spiders without changing our routine…we still faced people and spiders, and I tried not to make a big deal about what a big deal they were to him. I just let him see by example how to deal with both. (which meant, ironically, facing my fear of spiders so he would see that I wasn’t afraid of spiders…)

Fast forward to the last little while, and I realized that a few milestones have been reached in both their lives. I finally opened up a garbage bag that I’d stuffed full of Sassy’s special stuffed animals from home way back in February. And what did I find? Her pink and purple blankies! I hadn’t even noticed she didn’t have them…and neither did she. !!! 5 years of constant companionship now broken by a crazy moving experience and a grown up little girl.

And Golfer is quickly assimilating into So. Cal. culture by bringing a basketball around with him everywhere he goes. There are pickup games on every street corner, practically. Golfer paid attention when Hubby modeled for him how dudes get themselves playing on street teams…even when they don’t know the other people…and even though prior to now he’d never wanted to make those moves himself…well, now he’s right in the mix. Using the dude lingo to be a baller on teams full of people he doesn’t know. Even people who are years older than he is! All of a sudden, his people phobia is almost gone, and I hardly noticed the shift. He just….shifted. Developed. Grew!

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In a final milestone, when we were back in Colorado, Golfer went to a place called The Butterfly Pavillion and held a tarantula. A freaking tarantula!!!!!! On his hand!!!!!! While it was still alive and crawling around!!!!! I’d have pictures of it, but he did it when I was in another exhibit, letting butterflies land all over me. I asked him why he’d do it, and he just shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “Today, it didn’t seem so scary!”. Or maybe it was more like, “Today, I watched Sassy hold one and I’m 5 years older so I couldn’t let her show me up!” Whatever the case…just like that, no more spider problem.

Knowing how these (good) attachments and (horrible) fears slowly dwindled in the course of my kids lives, I’m glad I held back and let them ebb and flow in the lives of my kids without asserting my will into it. I’d have wanted Sassy to give up the blankies quicker than she did, but when she was ready, then she did it herself without tears or trauma. I’d wished Golfer could man up and stop being so afraid of stuff. I feel bad for the times I tried to guilt, humiliate, or downplay his feelings to try and get him to toughen up. Because when he was ready to face up to things, then he did. My fears that what was true today would be true for the future just didn’t hold water, and I’m glad I let them go a while ago. What’s true today is true today, but I try to treat it as if it may be totally different tomorrow. And sometimes it really is!

How To Rock, a tutorial from Golfer.

How to Rock

1) decorate your guitar hero guitar with stickers.
2) play “The Joker” (Steve Miller Band), “No Sleep ‘Till Brooklyn” (Beastie Boys), and “Eye of the Tiger” (???) over and over.
3) If you have a rock star dog like Frito, put them in your lap while you play.
4) Put on your best snowman/penguin fleece pajamas.

Voila! Now you rock!

Long Live the King!

No, I’m not going to talk about how my little, snuggly, tiny, cute as a button boy is turning 9 today. 9!!!! 9!!!! NINE!!!!!

Now he’s old enough to request that I treat him like a King on his birthday, complete with a fancy dining room table and meals on demand.

Instead, I’ll focus on the fun of Facebook. I tried myspace a while ago, and was scared off by all the freaky deaky strangers soliciting me. That kind of ruined me for social networking sites, and I stayed away from Facebook even though all my friends were doing it. However, I have seen the light and am happily reconnecting with people from high school and all my other blogging buddies.

Even though I’m neck deep in birthday preparations and being the ‘Royal Diaperer’ (or, wiping Golfers face at meals for all of you who haven’t read “The Prince and the Pauper” lately…) I did have a moment of fun when I finished filling in a map of countries I’ve lived in and visited. Facebook summarized my activity by saying:

Tiffani has been to Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Switzerland and lived in Hungary.”

And by golly! That makes being the Royal Diaperer a little more tolerable, because that sounds pretty adventurous and awesome! And sometimes I forget that I haven’t always been wiping other people’s butts and cleaning their faces.

And, actually, being an unschooling stay at home mom is pretty adventurous in its own way. It’s not Europe, sure…but looking back it’s been just as great.

So now it’s off to bowling, Pizza Hut, and a birthday cake that has specifications thusly: it must be a skillet brownie (crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside) topped with chocolate cookie dough ice cream (not a little cookie dough! Lots! and not vanilla ice cream! Chocolate!) and lots of whipped cream. And if I don’t get it right, heads are going to roll. The King has spoken!

Napoleon of the Stump

And…we’re back! We left a couple days early, due to the freezing temps at night and Hubby’s need for his own personal bathroom rather than the KOA one. However…4 National Parks in 4 days, not to mention tons of camping fun, means that we are back home tired, happy, and fulfilled.

While I’m sorting through pictures and washing stuff that Golfer threw up on today (MY blanket! Why is it always MY stuff that is on the business end of his vomitous wrath?!) I’ll leave you another snippet of aforementioned Golfer. It’s rare that he asks me to take his picture, but when we got to our campsite, he started yelling, “Mom! Take a picture! Look at me! I’m James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump!”

My American Studies heart leapt for joy. And, I thought of another reason why I love They Might Be Giants. They inspire kids (and adults!) all over to appreciate our “austere, severe” 11th President. Golfer listens to this song on a loop when we’re in the car, and at night before bed. He watches videos that other kids make with it on YouTube.

And yes, this makes 2 TMBG video posts in one week, but what can I say? We’re obsessed. And on lots of long car rides, which means listening to this over and over. I even heard Hubby humming it under his breath, and he’s not fully on our TMBG bandwagon…yet.

In any case, I think Golfer makes a cute Napoleon of the Stump. Even when making faces like this:

Love letter.

We’re all in the Valentine’s Day mood over here, but none more so than the Golfer. He’s been leaving messages like this all month on our dry erase easel.

Look at the perfect execution of exclamation points! Look at that form! Look at that well placed capital letter! Look at the proper spelling of ‘have’ and his firm grasp of homophones! Who needs formal lessons when this kind of quality work is being produced?!

It’s enough to make a mom burst with pride.

The big butt thing? We’ll talk about that later.

Thanks Santa!

While dipping oreo’s in melted chocolate and writing letters to Santa, The Golfer wrote down a short and sweet sentence. No long lists for him…he just wanted two things this year:

Namely, the video game ‘Heatseeker’ for the Wii, and ‘so I won’t be sick.’

The Golfer is a born worrier, and it’s quite natural for him to think of all the negative possibilities that might happen (like getting sick on Christmas) and then try to make sure they don’t. So, this preemptive move to avoid sickness seemed like he was just being hypervigilant.

Christmas day came and went. The day after Christmas he seemed a little listless, two days after Christmas he started complaining of a sore throat…today he came down with a full blown something that has given him a fever along with the sore throat. Poor kid. He doesn’t handle being sick well. Unlike the two girls, who will make up symptoms so they can get some medicine, The Golfer shakes and cries and generally breaks down when it’s time for Tylenol.

He’s on round the clock chicken noodle soup to help with the sore throat…I’m watching to see if this is strep or a generic cold, and if it will develop into an ear infection, etc. etc…you know, the fun mom thing where you wonder at what point meningitis comes into play…and as I sit here cuddling his poor feverish head I’m SO GLAD this didn’t happen on Christmas Day.

So, thanks Santa! Oh, and also…

Hope it was a good one for you! It certainly was for us. And, thanks for Heatseeker.

Birthday Surprise

In about a week, it’ll be my thirty something-ish birthday. The chatter between the kids and Hubby has intensified over what birthday presents they are planning to give me. I pretend to be blissfully unaware of it all so I can be surprised when the 12th comes.

The Golfer gets so excited, and so worked up over the whole thing, that he really can’t keep it all to himself. He’s the kind of kid that rarely has a thought that he doesn’t express out loud–when he’s done something really good or really bad it only makes it that much harder to keep it in. It makes my job as mom so much easier when he easily volunteers the who-what-when-where-why of situations without any poking or prodding on my part.

The Naturalist, however, is a much tougher nut to crack. I estimate she tells us about 30% of what she’s actually thinking. And about 10% of what she’s actually doing. When push comes to shove, she can out semanticize President “It depends what your definition of ‘is’ is” Clinton. She’s pretty good at keeping birthday surprises quiet.

So, that being said, it won’t be shocking when I mention what The Golfer and I talked about while grocery shopping today. The Naturalist wasn’t around to rein him in….she knows he’s the weak link and usually can quiet him up when his thoughts (and, thus, discussions) turn to upcoming birthdays. Without her, he’s an open book.

Him: “Hey, Mom. Can I ask you a question?”
Me: “Sure!”
Him: “If we got Mario Sunshine again, but it was NEW, would you play it a lot?”
Me: “I don’t think so…we’ve already beaten the game! Remember how much time we spent playing it?”
Him: “No, I mean, if we got it again and it was a NEW one you never played before…would you play it as much, again?”
Me: “So, you’re talking about a new Mario Sunshine game…but a different kind of one I haven’t played? In that case, yeah, that would be fun!”
Him: “That’s good to know.”

two seconds go by.

Him: “Because there’s something that’s coming out a day before your birthday. Do you know what it is?”
Me: “Is it something you’re getting for my birthday?”
Him: “Yeah!”
Me: “Then I want it to be a surprise! Don’t tell me!”

two seconds go by.

Him: “Are you sure you don’t want to know?”
Me: “Yes!”

two seconds go by.

Him: “I’ll just give you a hint. It’s something to do with Mario!”

two seconds go by.

Him: “And I’ll give you another hint. It has to do with space!”

two seconds go by.

Him: “Do you know what I’m talking about?”
Me: “No, I sure don’t! But it sounds fun!”
Him: “Do you WANT to know what I’m talking about?”
Me: “NO!!”

two seconds go by.

Him: “One last hint…”
Me: “NO! No more, or I’ll know too much!”
Him: “OK, but itssomethingwecanallplaytogetherontheWii!” (the last part just came pouring out of him, there was no stopping it.)

Tonight, The Golfer mentioned that he’d given me some hints about the birthday present. The Naturalist rolled her eyes, sighed, and declared she’d never share a birthday surprise secret with him ever again.

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