Monday, August 26, 2013

fostering your child's independence at the expense of your overpriced heath ceramics

more talk about preschool and poop. apparently my new metier.

the new preschool is all about the kids' independence, self-confidence, "emergent learning," positive discipline... blah blah blah. at orientation they had homemade play dough (and they were weirdly obsessed with the smell of it. they kept being like, "oooh, did you smell it? how good does it smell? what do you think it smells like? eh? eh?" ummmm... it smells like... play dough? for a minute i had a weird flashback to college and i thought, omigod, is there pot in the play dough?? there wasn't. i don't think. we didn't eat any. also? my hands keep writing douche not dough. is that bad that my fingers engage in rote name calling?)

anyway, they had scissors and knives out for cutting the play dough. because they "trust" that the children will "rise to the occasion." alright. good on ya. i hope your liability policy covers lefty scissor lacerations and getting shanked with a plastic shiv (shivved with a shank?) i tried to proactively manage the situation by explaining to J$ that he is in preschool because he is such a big boy and that is why at preschool, and only at preschool, he gets to play with things like scissors and knives. but that cup o' independence has already runneth over. last night he threw a holy terror of a tantrum because i told him he could not use a steak knife to spread butter. "I WAAAAANNNNIT!" "I'm sorry. You can't have it. Sharp knives are only for grown ups." "WAAAAAAAA. RAARRRRR. AAAAAAAH. *slam a door* *kick something* *throw something* I WOULD LIKE TO BE A GROWN UP! PLEEEEEEEAAAAASE!!! I SAID PLEEAAAAAASSSE!!!!!" [impressively, he usually manages to mind his manners, even amidst his psychotic breaks.] "I'm sorry. You'll have to wait 15-25 more years for that." "But they let me use  knives at 'cool..." and so it begins.

the teachers also explained that they were going to start out serving drinks in paper cups, but that soon they would work up to glass, "just like you use at home." HA! gurrrrrrl, that's just crazy talk. you obviously do not have children. the only person in our house who's allowed to use a glass-glass? is me. we do often use actual dinner plates, but there have been several (expensive) casualties (including the fancy freakin salt shaker) so i have recently been rethinking my strategy there. bring on the melamine!

in addition, the school encourages parents to let the kids "help" pack their own lunches, which is generally the opposite of helpful but can be fun or sometimes terrible depending on the day. the school director warned that they "would not engage in power struggles" over lunch, "so keep that in mind when choosing what to pack." obviously, she said, if you put cookies or goldfish along with healthy fruits and vegetables, the kid's going to eat the cookies first, and probably only the cookies. she said, "hey, if you want your kid to eat cookies and goldfish for lunch everyday, we're not going to judge you." [false.] "we're just telling you how it goes."

they also "strongly suggest" the kids pick out their own clothes and dress/undress themselves. J likes to pick out his own clothes. he also likes to decide that the outfit he picked out last night, or, thirty-seven seconds ago, is the worst decision he ever made in his entire life. dressing/undressing is another issue entirely. sometimes he insists on doing it himself, sometimes he views it as an insurmountable task. the level of difficulty may or may not have something to do with whether he's gotten enough sleep, whether he is suffering from low blood sugar, and/or whether mercury is in retrograde.

even on the best day, if i were to have J pick his own clothes and dress himself from head to toe... oh yeah, and also... eat breakfast (do you know how long it takes to choose which cereal to eat?), brush teeth (i think he has, like, twenty of them at this point... and did you know that, if given the proper incentive, a child's jaw can exert force equal to that of a crocodile?), get out of his pjs so he can get into clothes, apply sunscreen (you'd think it was agent orange the way they carry on), lug his own lunch box (SO HEAVY), walk to the car (SO FAR), get in the car (SO HIGH - but GOD SAVE THE SOUL of anyone who tries to help him), get in the car seat, face the direction in the car seat that does not guarantee a ticket and a visit from CPS, securely fasten 5-point safety harness (how long does that take? multiply infinity TIMES FIVE), drive (less than a mile now, thank you Jesus!), unbuckle (involves mind-reading re: whether or not he would like assistance this particular second), get out of the car (you'd think he was rappelling from El Capitan), and walk to preschool (farrrrr. lunchbox so heavy. arm might fall off. not to mention the fact that, meanwhile, i am hauling my overgrown baby chile, who weighs significantly more than J's lunch box.) fight over who gets to sign in (if you don't want my kid to write on the sign-in sheet then don't put it at his EYE LEVEL), pass the "health check," (still unsure re: acceptable levels/colors of snot), walk to classroom [dead man walking], hang up lunchbox (BY HIMSELF). pee (even though he decidedly DID NOT have to pee AT ALL 7 minutes ago, or maybe it was an hour ago, who knows). wash hands (total germ annihilation becomes supremely important at 8:29 a.m.) finally, finally, i think i'm going to make a clean exit but at the last minute, as per usual, i need professional assistance peeling the wailing child off my leg :( the moral of the story is, independence slows progress by a minimum of 73%.

so, yeah. that's how mornings go around here. i let the kids do things for themselves when and where i can, but if i completely handed over the reigns i'd literally have to wake them up at 3am so that we could all get to school/daycare/work on time. on the other hand, if i dress the kid the way i want to, it's a dead giveaway that i am not following proper preschool independence protocol. i suppose i could intentionally pick ridiculous and mismatched ensembles, or let him wear the same shirt every day for a week, but that really offends my particular sensibilities. instead, i just let daddy pick out his clothes, as his sartorial stylings are akin to that of a small child. nobody's the wiser ;)

another area of independence is wiping their own asses. as you may or may not know, J can't effectively wipe his own because, according to him, his butt is crooked. despite this physiological challenge, self-administered butt-hygiene is a life skill that they expect my 3 year old to master. when i asked about the logistics one of the teachers said, "we just show them how to do it themselves." i was like, "okay, well, can you maybe give me some pointers because my methods of instruction are clearly insufficient." then she and another mom (who apparently teaches kindergarten) laughed and said, "oh, yeah, it's not a squeaky clean operation or anything, there will be skid marks for another 2-3 years at least. hahaha." um, ew. as our family's chief-laundress and shit-stain supervisor, i object! not only on my own behalf but as the proxy for my poor kid who has to walk around with an itchy poopy butt all day! so sad! i guess ya gotta learn sometime, but man. welcome to "the real world," a.k.a. preschool!

when we I was pregnant with C-diggity, one of DM's mentors from work gave him his "parenting bible" - a book called "your self-confident baby." DM respects the guy a great deal and says his kids are super well behaved and totally entertain themselves and let him and his wife sleep in until 9 on the weekends and do not need a constant stream of eye contact, verbal validation, and rewards (unlike somebody else we know, *wink wink*), so i thought it would be worth a read. it had some good pointers, though, in my view, nothing totally earth-shattering. however, at the time i was reading this, J was almost a year and a half, and the book basically said if you haven't done all of this by the time the kid turns 2, you're f@#%^&. so we had 6 months to implement two years' worth of cognitive behavioral therapy. i more or less took that as "better luck next time!" i'm (mostly) kidding. i don't think J's a complete lost cause ;) (and in any event, to the extent there are any magical keys to his independence and sanity, i don't think i'm going to find them in a book.)

the thing is. i want to be a chill, free range mama. well, sort of. i want to be a free range parent whose little free range chickens clean up after their own damn selves as opposed to leaving a constant trail of detritus and destruction in their wake. and obviously i want to foster independence and self-confidence in my children. but i also don't want anyone to needlessly break a leg, lose an eye, or to have to buy a new dinner set every three months. i definitely used to be that A-hole who said, "i'm not going to let having children stop me from having nice things. i will just teach my children to respect and take good care of our nice things. it's as easy as that!" i should have heeded the warning signs, e.g., that i could not even teach my husband to respect and take care of our nice things. if nothing else, 3 years of parenthood has taught me that, for better and for worse, there is a limit on your powers as a parent in the face of kids' unerring tendency to be kids! as always, it all comes back to balance and finding what works for you. and also, not having people tell you - subtly or not-so-subtly - how to raise your children all the damn time.

that is all :)

honestly, my dog could probably get ready faster than these children.

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