The best part of childhood is exploring, getting dirty - experiencing the outdoors in all its splendor. Not everyone agrees with me.
I live on a small lake. I love going down to the water with my kids. We skip stones. We throw rocks in the water. It's part of the reason I chose to live here.
There is a dead tree that fell into the lake. My two have been systematically taking it apart. Tearing off the bark, breaking off the branches.
dead tree 2015
I would have done the same thing when I was ten. And while growing up in my family was not always easy, my best memories are of exploring the outdoors. Creating potions with leaves. Building clubhouses underneath bushes.
Last Tuesday after dinner, we were out breaking branches. All of a sudden, I hear "Are you going to clean that up?" I didn't know where the voice was shouting from. A neighbor was standing on his second floor porch and proceeded to curse us out (literally). I started gathering the wood chips together.
He shouted things like "we all have to live here. Now that tree looks like sh*t without its branches." "I've seen you here with your kids. How can you let your kids do this? You're a (insert expletive here) mother".
We went inside. I was shaken and upset. My kids were shaken and upset.
I checked with the leasing office to find out the rules and to report this guy. Sometimes people are jerks, which is what I told my kids. If he has an issue with me, then he could have come down to the lake and discussed it with me as an adult.
Part of the injustice of it is that I know I'm a good mom. Allowing my kids to explore the outdoors (while I'm right there) is part of what makes me a good parent. Some jerk saying that I'm not a good mom, because he doesn't like what I'm doing is just his opinion, and doesn't make it true.
But part of the reason it upset me is that I work really, really hard to be the best mom, the best person I can be. One guy's opinion doesn't change that. And isn't it odd that we can hear twenty positive opinions but the negative one is the one we remember?
What kind of world will we live in when kids are indoors all the time in front of screens? We already spend too much time in front of screens, consuming. I haven't read the Nurtureshock or free range parenting books, but I'm familiar with the concept. We spend so much time protecting our kids, so much time in sanitized situations, children are unprepared to deal with the world as adults.
I will continue to go down to the lake with my kids. We will continue to explore the outdoors. Maybe we won't take apart the dead tree, but I'm not changing the way that I parent.
Perhaps it was that my Mom grew up in mid-northern Canada (where it rarely got above 65 F in the summer). Perhaps it's that her Mom was born and raised in mid-northern Canada.
Perhaps it's the other side of the family who has told multiple stories of driving through blizzards in the Utah/Idaho/Montana/North Dakota area where the interstates are closed (but they still keep driving).
February is here (the time for resolutions long past), but I heard this podcast the other day about goals. I always heard about goals and goal-setting growing up, so to actually sit down and set goals seems anathema to me.
But I have set goals in the past (even sneaky goals) and I have met them. The cast talks about sharing goal setting and successes with other people as encouragement. So this is my encouragement to the few cranberry blog readers I have left; along with some of my current goals.
*I stopped drinking a particular diet caffeinated beverage daily.
This was not an easy thing. One day I woke up and I had been drinking a particular diet beverage daily for years (probably over ten years). I had a routine.
I have no qualms with caffeine, but I had also read the numerous studies that showed this beverage's negative effects. And my dentist wasn't happy with it either. So I switched to unsweet tea and lemonade. My dad (famously) said it wasn't possible but I've kicked the habit. Frankly, I think the additives were more addicting than anything else.
*I stopped using as many paper plates.
At one point, paper plates were de rigeur at my house. But with all the changes in my life in the past year, this is one thing that that has changed. Perhaps it helps that my kids can help load the dishwasher.
But I've moved almost completely away from paper plates. This gives me a strange satisfaction. It's not as if my use of paper plates (or non use) will save the environment. But it is one small thing I can do. And I'm also washing some dishes by hand! That would have been unthinkable some years ago.
* I try to read a classic book each year
So this goal I haven't been so good about following. I did read The Mill on the Floss in 2013, but I haven't been as consistent as I'd like. Fortunately, this is an easy goal to remedy, and the only person I'm accountable to is me.
This year the goals and resolutions are similar to last year, particularly this one: *Try new foods
Trying new foods isn't terribly difficult for me, but it is a stretch for my kids.
*Spend an hour without screens each day
This one is also difficult for my kids. We've been reading books together (which counts), and also doing experiments from this book (Totally Irresponsible Science). In the end, it's a good practice.
*Continue to work out
My apartment complex has a workout room that my kids can use with me. It's a great benefit (though I think we probably annoy my neighbors). I work out regularly and am planning on walking a half marathon in May.
*Continue to volunteer
Since I now have a lot more free time, I have time to volunteer. While I have mixed feelings about my increase in free time, it's nice to be able to volunteer for various causes. I'm honest about how much time I can spend, and can set my own hours.
*Pass a certification test for my work
I took this test last year, and unfortunately didn't pass (although I use the software daily). Basically the test is written multiple choice with some trick questions (depending on the version of software). I missed passing by two or three questions. So I'm confident that if I study this year, I will be able to pass.
Best of luck to my readers (I haven't been writing as much, of late) in setting and working towards goals.
I recently listened to this fmh podcast about perfectionism and the perfect mormon family (the fmh podcast is great, if you haven't already heard it).
It should come as no surprise to my friends and regular readers, but I was not raised to be comfortable with different narratives and different needs. I was not raised to be comfortable with disagreement. In fact, most things were black and white (hence I identify with Christine's experience). I believe many mormon families (particularly those with mental illness or tendencies towards scrupulosity) may have a similar experience or experiences.
I find it challenging to not give advice, to not jump in with my take, and to honor other people's feelings while still honoring my own.
That's what I want, in the end, to show love to the people in my life.
I don't have any answers on this one. This particular part of relationships is not easy. The only thing I've found that has been helpful is to acknowledge that there are multiple truth(s), even in the same family - even in the same relationship. Each person is able (or not) to acknowledge certain events, and views them in different ways. And each person processes things in their own way. I find I'm incredibly opinionated, and it's hard to not always share my opinion. But my opinion is often not helpful.
I'm doing the best I can, and I acknowledge the others in my life are doing the best they can. And, as I was discussing with my friend Kathryn the other night, time tends to bring clarity. I wish I had known that at 20.
My first caveat is that I'm not 100% familiar of the specific situation, who said what, what may have happened.
But it sounds like there are some older males (I'm considering over 35 old) who are adjusting to society's new understanding of consent.
Because there is a new understanding of consent.
I think about the rape scene in Sixteen Candles. I'm embarrassed to say that I was much older (much too old) when I became aware that the behavior in the movie (sex with someone who is too drunk) was rape. I was never taught that was rape (particularly growing up mormon).
That's why the conversation about consent is important.
I'm not surprised that there are older people (male and female) who hadn't revisited this. It's true, sex and relationships can be complicated. And our society changes (our ideas of appropriate/acceptable change). This is a good thing.
And I think this should be part of a larger conversation in our society. Conversations can lead to new understandings. I wonder if it's frightening for people. It's not comfortable or lauded to admit one was wrong. Some people will do whatever is possible to not admit they made a mistake.
I'm glad our society has changed and continues to change. I'm glad we're having a conversation as a society; it means that beliefs have changed. For a long time, women simply had to accept the status quo - and many men didn't realize they were doing anything wrong (privilege).
I'm not trying to defend the rape apologists here (perhaps I am defending the rape apologists). What I'm saying is, it's okay to change your mind and to admit you were mistaken. Consent is a good thing (particularly as an over 35 male) to revisit and gain a new understanding. Our society sees consent differently than we did, so it behooves all of us to understand why and what that means for our daily lives.
There are two trendy ways to talk about motherhood, much like the virgin/whore dynamic. Either one loves and cherishes being a mother every moment - or motherhood is the most difficult, soul-crushing experience ever. With that said, it's progress that anyone admits that parenthood is exhausting or difficult - for a while it was heresy to admit in many circles.
In All Joy and No Fun, Senior talks about how perceptions of parenthood have changed radically throughout the years. It's no surprise that children and teenagers were viewed differently in the 19th century and before. Children were seen as real assets to the family (in the assistance they could provide to the family)- not the current state where parenthood is a relatively conscious decision in later life. She writes:
Children are no longer economic assets, so the only way to balance the books is to assume they are future assets, which requires an awful lot of investment, not to mention faith.
Not only has our perspective about child-rearing changed - we now have the choice about when and if to have children in the first place. Then, we're told from a young age that we can be whoever we want to be - whether or not it's actually true. Senior writes: "Even if our dreams were never realizable, even if they were false from the start, we regret not pursuing them".
And I agree completely that this is one of the most difficult parts of transitioning from an autonomous adult to a new parent. I had some idea of what I was in for (being the oldest of six), but not for how much I would lose. What I lost is something I am gaining back (slowly) as my kids grow older - just simply being able to go out on Friday night and not worry about who would watch the kids and where the money would come from.
I welcome this notion of the paradox of modern life - that many of us hold ourselves and our lives to a standard that was never possible (given current social norms, class mobility, opportunities, etc.)
I appreciated this book because it talks about social issues and attitudes that many middle-class parents face. In the early days, one can feel alone. Parenting recommendations (and trends) change all the time - what worked for my grandma (give them cereal at three months) is no longer recommended. Then there is the constant anxiety that one is not doing enough - not pushing one's children enough, not doing enough activities, etc. This book helped me remember that losing myself, exhausting myself as a mom doesn't help me OR do my children any favors.
As I've said before, I love being a mom. Yes, it's hard work. It is a high cost/ high reward activity.
I'm glad that as a society we're drifting away from worshiping at the cult of motherhood - that women can now be honest about the impact of motherhood on their lives. And my hope is that we can start to think about both parents being responsible for their kids (and how they turn out) - not just automatically blame the mother if something happens (this is the typical media bias). It is our society/community as a whole who is also responsible.
And to be aware that women (and parents) need to remember themselves and their mental health throughout the process - parents who are exhausted, not setting boundaries with their kids, not being present, not asking for help - are not doing anyone any favors.