Just Saying “no”

Eliza learned to say “no” yesterday.  It was actually quite cute; she wasn’t saying no to something we wanted her to do.  She has been repeating words and sounds that she hears us say, and, at that one point yesterday, “no” was the choice to repeat.

She didn’t say it once, or even twice. It was more of a “no…no…no…no…no…NO…no…no….” We chuckled together as she practiced holding her mouth to pronounce it clearly.

“No” can be cute.

To be honest, Eliza was able to tell us “no” even before she she could say “no.”  Several weeks ago, as I was getting ready to count her piggies (tickle her toes), she got a really serious look on her face and shook her head.  This meant, I understood, that she didn’t want to play piggies at the moment.

Suddenly I recalled that there were times when, as a child, I didn’t feel like being tickled or having some other cute “look at the little kid” thing played at my expense.  There are times when Eliza enjoys these games, so I decided to respect her wished at the times she doesn’t.

Eliza learned “no,” and her own ability to say (or choose) it.  There are times, of course, when she will say no that she doesn’t get her way.  There are times when I’d like to say no, but I’ve learned that I don’t always get that choice.

In learning to respect Eliza’s “noes,” I couldn’t help but wonder if some of the challenges our kids face when they are teens are short-circuited if we don’t respect their “noes” when they are younger.  This is just one aspect of giving children a voice, but it could be an important one.

I don’t know how much difference it will make for Eliza when she reaches adolescence.  Check back with me in about 12 years.

Maturity – What?

Once upon a time, I heard that a baby’s cry is one of the most disconcerting sounds there is to human ears. I don’t doubt it. Eliza has been cutting her eye teeth for several days now.  Rachel tells me she has heard and read that this is quite painful.  I know something has been waking her at night in quite a bit of pain.

While I realize my disccomfort at hearing her cry is nothing compared to what she must be feeling, my heart aches to do something, anything, to ease her pain.

“If only she could express in words for us what hurts,” I caught myself thinking a couple of days ago.

But, alas, this is one of the things babies cannot do; express themselves with words, let alone appropriate words. As parents, we succeed to a great degree if we can bring our children to express verbally what they are feeling.

I too quickly realized that I, a reasonably mature 48 year old, still fail too often to express verbally what I am feeling.

I suspect we would have a better shot at teaching our young to verbally express what they are feeling if we would ourselves learn to do so.

I am going to practice this especially this advent. I invite you to do the same.

What a tremendous gift this would be for everyone we know!

If it doesn’t take a village, it at least takes an adult.

Last night we did a session about grief with our kids.  The topic was timely as many of our kids face difficult times in upcoming homevisits for the holidays.

If you think Thanksgiving with the family is tough, try being an adolescent whose mom or dad choose the new spouse over you, which panded you in a residential care home.

During our time together last night,w e were all invited to write down and share what has made us the saddest. Several kids wrote that their mother or father gave them up in exchange for a new husband or wife.

I remember when, in 1996, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s It Takes a Village was published. Many people reacted against the notion that families could not be expected to raise their own children.

I believe that the main thing it takes to successfully raise children these days is for those of us who are adults to actually start acting like adults.

Real adults don’t chose a new relationship with another adult over their own children.

It broke my heart to read those notes, written last night, with things like “my mom chose her new husband over me.”  It broke my heart a few minutes later when I realized that my own daughter, now 22, may well have felt that way about me at some point in her life, since her mom and I divorced when she was 13.  There were some rocky years in there.

So, yes, while I am railing against all those adults who choose some new hunny over their own child or children, I am not standing off at a distance and addressing it condescendingly.

This is OUR problem, not theirs.  We, all of us adults, must do the hard work of behaving in all the mature ways we would like our children to grow up into.

More Sexist than I thought I was

This past holiday weekend, Rachel, Eliza, and I each took turns being sick.  Fortunately, Rachel’s stomach bug and my stomach bug did not have us both out at the same time.

Saturday, the day I really started feeling myself again, I learned that my self was more sexist than I thought.  Rachel was down all day.  This means I had Eliza.  She and I did the weekly grocery shopping and a couple other errands.  We finished the day off with her tubby time (which she loves, but which Rachel and I almost always handle together) and milk, stories, and bed.

As I walked out of her room having put her in her bed, I felt like I deserved a medal for handling her all day by myself. Almost immediately, I realized that a lot of parents, especially moms, do all this every day.

I got over my little pity-party pretty quickly, but I am still pondering the depth of it all: I believe it is fairly normal (correct me, guys, if I am wrong) for dads not to feel quite as connected to and thus hands-on responsible for our children as women.  I think this is, to some extent, a wiring thing; a Mars-Venus difference, if you will.

I have never been a dad to shirk his share of parental responsibility, so when I realized what I was thinking and feeling, it really caught me off guard.

This morning I salute all you parents, especially you single parents, who work so hard for your children day in and day out.