Parenthood: May 2008 Archives

What ifs

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The other day I was finishing using the bathroom while they boys argued with each other in the living room.

"I can't take this anymore! Go upstairs and aggravate your father," I hollered, because I like to practice awesome parenting daily.

We removed all the baby gates from the staircases except for the stairs at the top of the third floor as Ewan can easily walk up and down the stairs; though I still either trail him or watch him from the bottom step. I washed my hands and planned to walk over to the staircase and monitor him when I heard it: FUMP, WUMP, THWAP! CRY, WAIL, SCREAM!

Foot stomps echoed throughout the house as I dashed over to him and Chris raced to get downstairs. Ewan tried to carry his Thomas the Train backpack up the stairs with him on his fat little legs; he got as far as the fourth step when he lost his balance and toppled over, hitting both the front and back of his head. He had a scrape on his forehead and a goose egg was forming on the back. Before I choked on my heart I calmed him down as Chris readied and ice pack. He was fine, except for his knot-head and scrape. I felt awful. He fell because I told him to go upstairs when I should have been waiting at the bottom of the stairs before I told him to go up. If I had checked to see that he had his backpack I could've prevented the tumble, if I had demonstrated a bit more patience I wouldn't have told him to go upstairs, if I had used the restroom faster I could've been at the stairs quicker, and if my aunt had balls she'd be my uncle.

There are a lot of "what ifs" in parenting. I didn't bring my A-game and as an indirect result of that, Ewan has a knot on the back of his head. Fortunately, it's shrinking. I could beat myself up over it or acknowledge it as a lesson learned and a continuing opportunity to practice true, non-facetious awesome parenting as best I can.

(Though I still snuggled the mush out of him today and slipped him a few M&Ms with his breakfast when he asked.)

My mother has the ability to embarrass me simply by speaking. One time, after I returned home from a choir competition, I asked my mother what she and my step-dad did all weekend.

"We got naked and sat all over the furniture," she responded in an unintentional impersonation of George Carlin.

It seems that Liam has inherited her power.

A couple of weeks ago I took the boys with me to shop at Trader Joe's. As we wound through the aisles Liam asked a multitude of questions about this or that; he's responsible for reading my grocery list and locating the items we need. He always greets people and knows no stranger; despite all the worried emails I get about how homeschooling will turn him into an unresponsive social freak.

He knows many of the checkers in the store and grills them about their jobs, why certain things are on sale, even what my motivation may be for denying him a box of the candy near the register. They always chuckle and engage him. During this particular excursion our checker was a woman with a disfigurement around her eye. I never dissuade Liam from asking questions and try to view them as an opportunity to teach but sometimes I just want him to shut his mouth - like the time we saw a little person while visiting my uncle in the hospital and Liam stage-whispered in my ear: "LOOK, MOM, he's like Mike T.V. from Willy Wonka."

I swiped my card at the register and chatted with the clerk while monitoring Liam from the corner of my eye. He stood silent; his head cocked to the side as dogs often do, and stared at the cashier. I could sense his questions coming. Just don't, just don't, just don't I said to myself. I tried to send him a message with my eyes: IS RUDE. NO. His eyes responded: WHATEVER, I'M NOT LISTENING. WE'RE IN PUBLIC.

"What happened to your eye there? Why does it look all funny?" he asked. I know I said that I don't discourage him from asking questions OK, but I was raised to not ask any question which may cause someone else discomfort. Honestly though, I don't know what's more discomforting: asking someone a personal question or pretending that an aspect of a person doesn't exist so as to not cause yourself potential embarrassment. Luckily the woman was very laid-back and demonstrated the enduring patience of one who is used to children.

"I shot a firecracker and it hit my eye," she told him as she put my frozen stuff in my velcro bags.

"Did it hurt?" Liam asked.

"It did. I lit up a bottle rocket and wasn't being careful." She explained it a bit, including how he should always be careful with fireworks. I had to practically drag him out of the store so we could leave. He wanted to ask which particular fireworks might put out his eye, and he wanted to know whether or not her eye came out at any time and it was all I could do just to grip his wrist a little tight, talk over him, and usher him out to the car. I forgot my wallet in my rush, which she kindly brought out to me in the parking lot, right as I was telling Liam that if he MUST ask a question, ask A question, don't grill the woman. He understood. I don't want to scare him away from natural curiosity but at the same time, there's a way to decorously go about it.

I'm still learning how to teach him that.

The trickle down effect

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Chris spent all last week in Madison, Wisconsin, mixing a record at Butch Vig's studio. He left last Sunday night and no sooner did he close the door behind him than Ewan erupted into a chaos of tears and wails. It was a hard week for the brothers Loesch. I've said it before in this space so many times: I cannot fathom how military wives deal with their husbands' absence for so many months.

I slept with a firearm responsibly located near my bedside. I've no apologies; I'm a woman with two young kids in the city and it, along with our alarm system, gives me peace of mind. The boys understand firearm responsibility and I've written about it extensively here and other places. I was even more glad to have it after I received email alerts about a guy claiming to be from the water department attempting to force his way into homes in my area.

While at his homeschool gym class, Liam overheard one of the kids say that guns were "stupid" and "people who use guns are stupid." Liam said "What about for self-defense?"

"No," the kid replied. "All of it is stupid. My mom says we're safer using swords."

"You don't know what you're talking about," Liam responded. The exchange angered him and he refused to interact with the kid. He waited to tell me about it until we got home.

"Well that's just goofy," I explained. "It's the people who aren't familiar with firearms who are scared of them the most and it's usually those people that end up causing or being the victim of an accident. That's statistical."

It wasn't the gun conversation that shocked me; this was my first real headlock with an opposing parental view. The strength of how we raise our kids, the quality of what we instill in our kids is tested in moments like these. I was impressed with how Liam handled the situation. No matter what we teach him, I hope we continue to successfully incorporate respect and tolerance into his viewpoints, like mortar to the bricks, despite what he may experience in future disagreements. 

Content with enough

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As we walked into Liam's art fair/competition on Wednesday night I immediately scanned the room for his entry because shame and I, we've never met. I finally saw his piece, an interpretation of a work by Jackson Pollack, with a red third place ribbon affixed to its corner.

I checked in my purse to assure that I'd packed a jar of Vaseline so as to get our egos back out the door before showing him his ribbon and congratulating him. Liam is at the stage where he could accomplish quite a lot artistically (more so than now) if Chris and I wanted to really push him, really cultivate him. But we don't. We let him do as much as he wants. We first thought that perhaps we were doing Liam a disservice, holding him back. We've since decided to the contrary. I always second-guess my parenting decisions. (I'm sure that will make the kids feel fabulous when they read this as teenagers. Hi! We've no clue as to what we're doing! Love, Mom and Dad.)

When I first began homeschooling we decided that our major goal was to discover each of our kids' particular gifts and then teach and encourage them to use those gifts for societal benefit. I don't want to burn them out on their passions during their childhood, besides; I want them to enjoy their youth. We know another young artist whom I believe to be equally advanced as Liam. He's always in some art workshop, studying in a mentor program, doing this, doing that, going here, going there. He's a brilliant kid but he doesn't act like a kid. Perhaps he's just super mature for his age but the last time we were around him and his parents in a social setting I fully expected to see him smoking a cigar and clutching a glass of scotch. I want Liam to run and revel in all that defines childhood. We have a period in our life where we're afforded a free pass to behave immaturely and explore all of our options because of our age. I want him to enjoy that. Besides, I think he does wonderfully as it is.

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