Veronica's Garden

Rachel Creager Ireland on writing, living, the Flint Hills, and the Post Rock Limestone Caryatids

Tag: kids

I Know My Kid

As soon as we got to school, my daughter realized she’d forgotten her lunch. She had a field trip today and didn’t have another lunch option. It’s not very far, and I wasn’t in a hurry, so I went back home and got it.

I was a little self-conscious because I’ve been seeing that meme going around facebook, about not bringing your kids their lunches and homework when they forget them. It’s supposed to be bad parenting to help your kids these days.

Sure, that meme was aimed at parents of kids in high school, but most of the comments I’ve seen on this subject don’t specify any particular age. My daughter is only in sixth grade, but she’ll be going to the “big school” next year. Right now, I know this kind of help is good for her.

When I was newly a mom, and trying to figure out what on earth I was supposed to be doing in that capacity, I found a lot of good advice in the community at mothering.com. It’s an amazing, large, and diverse community that I would recommend to any parent for advice on practically any parenting question you could think of. Mothering.com mamas come from many political, religious, socioeconomic, and racial perspectives, and everyone gets along (or gets gently corrected by a moderator). What they have in common is a preference for natural, compassionate parenting.

One statement I saw people make frequently on the forums was, “I know my kid.” “I know my kid so I trust him not to bow to peer pressure.” “I know my kid so I can leave her at home alone.” Reading these comments, I always thought about the things my parents didn’t know about me in adolescence. I had no idea who I was, and often tried on different attitudes to see how they worked. Could parents know their kids better than kids know themselves? Are all these people kidding themselves?

Here’s what I know about my kid today: she isn’t very good at remembering things. She’s lost more than one item of value, things she really cared about, because she set it down and forgot to pick it up again. But I also know that she is more self-motivated than any kid I know (I’m sure there are more self-motivated kids, I just don’t happen to know them). She sets high goals, and strives to achieve them. When she fails, no one is harder on her than she is on herself. She may not be able to take the burden of remembering things off of the adults in her life, but she won’t hesitate to take on the burden of making herself feel bad. She’ll do it on our behalf, if that’s what we teach her. “Making her suffer” the consequences, lecturing, and anger do not enable her to do better; they break down her confidence and self-esteem. I can imagine the possibility that those strategies might work for another child, but they do not help this one. I know because I know my kid.

Sometimes kids need tough love. Sometimes they need compassionate assistance. Who knows when to do which? This is what I know: those people making memes and snarky comments, blogging about parenting, they don’t know my kid like I do. They don’t see the way she struggles to grow herself up, the ways she already suffers her own perceived inadequacies. They don’t see her kindness, or willingness to help others, or the ways those qualities might be connected to my choice to model them, by helping her. They may see the ways that I have failed to make her the kid they think she should be, and for that I do not apologize. She is her own person, with strengths and weaknesses, both known and unknown. We’re all just trying to figure out how to live the best we can, and today that means giving my daughter a little help.

rosadie

She likes to wear cat ears, but she’s a dog person at heart.

 

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The Fairy of Invisible Magic

She asked me what kind of fairy I am. I could be a Rainbow Magic Fairy, or a Romance Fairy. An Outdoors Fairy or a Creativity Fairy, or I could make up my own kind of fairy. I thought a while and told her I am an Invisible Magic Fairy. It appears I’m not doing much of anything, but I’m actually imbuing the world with magic, and magically making things happen that otherwise wouldn’t. Nobody knows, because it’s invisible.

Later I lamented that I’d gotten so little done that day. She said, “You were doing Invisible Magic, though.”

Some Days

I’m supposed to be finishing the Costa Rica journal, but instead I’m writing poetry. Some days are just like that.

Some Days

Some days feel heavily burdened by
a miasma of inertia. The work refuses
to get done, the kids whine and refuse too.
Some days nothing works, no effort bears
fruit everything is a futile struggle, and the only
thing to do is to recognize
the hopelessness of it all and quit. Give in
to your children’s demands to go to the pool,
get there fifteen minutes before closing,
be in the water as long as you can,
until the whistle blows. Because—
remember this—on days when trying
doesn’t work, not trying doesn’t work
either, it’s just a little easier, a little more
likely to precede an inexplicable
moment of sublime grace when you
suddenly notice you love everything,
the dust on the wall, chigger bites,
the tomatoes you still haven’t planted
and the picnic you’re planning. Simple pleasures
like the swimming pool and the city band
that plays music in the park. Quit fighting,
and notice it’s a remarkably nice life you have.
Notice the way time passes and
every moment is slightly different
than the previous one, until it’s another season,
you’re middle aged now and it’s okay.
Accept that nothing works, and get in the water,
be in the water as long as you can, until
the whistle blows.

Professor Lucretia Blackwing

The kids wanted me to play outside with them. Be a Hogwarts professor, they said. I had a million things to do, but it was a fine day and it seemed reasonable to take an excuse to do the outside stuff instead of the inside stuff, so I said I would, because: about a month ago, I got spring fever and bought some tomato seeds and planted way more than I have space to grow, and I’ve never had much success with tomatoes from seed, until this time. So I needed to prep a bed for them. I told the kids I’d be Herbology professor and we’d study nightshades.

So I started digging and first thing, Kiran (Hogwarts name Lila Blackwing, because she is my daughter in Hogwarts world, and I am Lucretia Blackwing) asked me what I wanted to teach about nightshade. She said it made her think of “deadly nightshade,” and I concurred that some nightshades are deadly, but there was one in particular that we commonly eat. She was not able to guess it, even when I told her that what I was doing at that moment was a hint. Finally I told her tomatoes.

Rowan (Hogwarts name Stella Galaxy) was in a more academic mood (I always think she should be a Ravenclaw, but she was a Slytherin today), so I told her to go inside and get my Jeanne Rose Herbal and look up nightshade and write me a report on it. She couldn’t find the book so she started searching the internet. Conveniently, her computer is next to a window that overlooks the tomato bed-to-be, so I told her to search “Solanum,” and she found an enormous amount of information. I’d forgotten, myself, that potatoes are nightshades, too. She took lots of notes, but I haven’t seen the report yet.

I dug until I hit some concrete, and couldn’t plant a tomato there. Kevin came home from church and we got ready to go the the in-laws’ for Sunday dinner. So it was a fruitful morning. I did a small amount of gardening, got some sun and fresh air, and progressed in my ongoing lesson that magic is absolutely real, and everything is magical, if you’re willing to look at it the right way.

Photo by Rowan Ireland

Photo by Rowan Ireland

Why Intentional Parenting Is So Much Harder

What happens when you don’t let the kids have screen time:
There Is A Couch Underneath All This

Over Lemonade on the 4th of July

Having a glass of lemonade with R, who is 9.

Me: Wow, Daddy’s done half the chore chart today. I planted some tomatoes.

R: I’m the only one who hasn’t done anything helpful. [After this conversation, she made lunch for herself, her sister, and me.]

Me: No, you’re not the only one.

R: K helped you plant.

Me: She did very little. I sent her back in.

R: Why did you send her in?

Me: It’s like she’s in this stage where she really wants to be helpful and independent and do things for herself, but when I give her a job, it’s too hard, or she can’t do it perfectly the first time, and she whimpers and gives up. It’s driving me crazy. Do you have any thoughts about this?

R: No.

Me: Have you ever been in a stage like this? [Yes, she has, but I wanted her to think about it and remember how it felt. Maybe she would have some insight that would give me something to work with with her younger sister.]

R: I don’t know, because I can’t tell when it’s happening.

Me: I could be in this kind of stage right now and not even know it.

R laughs.

This, of course, is exactly the case. I don’t know what to do about myself any more than the kids.

Happy Independence Day, friends.

Girls Studying a Map

Girls Studying a Map

“Scissor-Tailed Flycather! Killdeer!”

It seems to have become a full-on habit, to call out the names of birds I see while driving. It’s like my own personal version of Tourette’s syndrome. The kids have taken to critiquing my performance. “That wasn’t as loud as you could yell, Mama.” And most of the time they don’t catch a glimpse before we’re on down the road, though the scissor-tailed flycatcher that flew in front of the windshield yesterday gave us all a lovely view of the stripes on his tail.

I get most excited about the more interesting birds, such as the said scissor-tail, which has a relatively small range, and isn’t seen many places in the US. I’ve never found any good footage of the scissor-tail in flight, even though it is the state bird of Oklahoma.

You regulars know how fond I am of turkey vultures, which are quite common and widespread in North America. But just the other day we were talking about the return of bald eagles from near-extinction, and it occurred to me that perhaps my failure to pay attention wasn’t the only reason I never saw turkey vultures when I was growing up in Emporia, just twenty miles down the highway from where I see them every day now. Their populations were hit hard by DDT contamination, like other raptors. Their numbers have increased steadily since DDT was banned in 1972, when I was five years old. So I remain unapologetically thrilled when I see them gliding above the highway, and, besides writing poetry about turkey vultures, I do not hesitate to shout out their name when I see them from a vehicle.

The kids are also used to my shouts of “Blue heron!” and “Red-winged blackbird!” and “Franklin’s gull!” We finally got my car’s air conditioner repaired, so no one outside the vehicle is likely to hear. But if you see me driving by, look to see if I’m pointing and shouting, and maybe you’ll get to see it too, whatever it is.

I tried to shoot a scissor-tail while driving once, and the best shot I got was of my own leg. Here's a cat instead, the late Toulouse.

I tried to shoot a scissor-tail while driving once, and the best shot I got was of my own leg. Here’s a cat instead, the late Toulouse.

And Yet More Prairie Burning. This Time At Night.

I talked a little about the ecology of controlled burns on the prairie, and posted some photos, and thought I might be done with burning for this year. (Though it’s possible the fire bug has bitten me, and I will be out doing this every spring, as long as I live in the Flint Hills.) But late yesterday afternoon as I sat at the computer, I could see through the window smoke billowing up from behind the fairgrounds across the highway. As twilight set in, I was preparing dinner, and just as I was setting it on the table, Kevin came in and told us all to go outside and look. We could see ribbons of flames stretching across the hills, too close not to go have a look. I quickly took the food off the table so the cat wouldn’t get into it, then loaded the kids into the car.

My magic device from the future isn’t really equipped to take night photos, but it does surprisingly well, considering that the first camera I owned would have required special film (measured in inches), and manually twisting some dials to get anything at all, and then you’d have to take the film into a special little room and dip it in stinky chemicals in total darkness. It sounds like some kind of joke, doesn’t it?

But here we are, and this is what I can get. The focus isn’t good when the light is poor, but I won’t complain if you won’t.

And a note to the kids’ teachers: Sorry if they’re tired today, some life experiences are more important than school.

Dangers Of A Snow Day

It started so innocently, with the kids off school because of heavy snow. It went like this:

Me: I’m going to do some yoga.

Rowan (age 9): I want to do it with you! Can we do sunflower . . . something . . .

Me: Sun salutation. Yes. Start with your feet together . . .

[A while later]

Rowan: Oh, that was hard!

Me: Really? That was the easy version. I used to do the Power Yoga version, it’s a lot harder.

Rowan: Show me!

Me: Um, okay.

[The next day]

Rowan’s back in school today. Normal life returns, but with my muscles reminding me just how many of them get a work out from Power Yoga sun salutation. But oh man what was I thinking?????

Eyes and Heart Open

Sometimes I see amazing things passing on the highway that rolls by my front windows, and I wish I could show you. Yesterday it was a truck pulling some kind of tank as big as a house. The tank was cylindrical and probably about 20 ft in diameter, and too long to be carried on a standard trailer. Other times I might see one propeller of a wind turbine, riding on its own personal trailer; or the nose cone of a jet. But they always pass before I can get a picture.

I have mixed feelings about the level of industrialization of the world we live in; but whatever I think or feel, I am always in awe and gratitude for the immense privilege it is to be alive and aware in this place, in this time. Even the biggest things of humans are tiny specks compared to the vastness of our solar system, our galaxy, the nebulae so dense with gases that they implode and spit out freshly-born stars. We are just the right size to see and appreciate what we can see, from a gnat to a skyscraper, and it is a privilege that is too often squandered by going through one’s days half asleep, or so self-absorbed as not to notice what is happening all around one. Wherever you are, look for amazing, weird, unusual things or happenings in your world. They may be human-made, or natural, living or ancient or ephemeral. They usually pass quickly, so keep your eyes and heart open, and come back here and tell me what you saw.

Here are some things I saw in 2013. Some you’ve seen before, some I’ve never shared. Happy New Year.

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