Friday, March 23, 2012

The Art of Curiosity and Wonder

This big box of awesome landed on our doorstep yesterday. In it were various science kits, a molecular model set, a microscope, and ,of course, slides for microscope viewing. I greeted this box with a hearty, YAHOO!! Upon opening the box, however, a little "I have no idea what I am doing with this stuff" set in.

I spent most of my 9th grade biology class in the hall. I am not really sure why. I remember the teacher, a boisterous man who wore a lot of hawaiian print shirts. I know I had a propensity to be very social, a trait that would get me in trouble until I started applying for jobs in the real world and then it would be a huge factor in my favor. Go figure.

I remember bits of physical science class. But I think what I learned in school about science was that it involved a lot of math and required a bunch of experiments you were not interested in and really did not understand.

Over my adult life, my understanding of what science is has evolved. As I learned that so many scientific advancements were discovered by mere accident and unbridled curiosity I began to see that I am very much a scientist.

Watching the girls play with the microscope yesterday and talk about what they saw on the slides with one another was amazing. "Did you see that Mina!", Ari would say with amazement and glee. To hear Ari explain what she was seeing in terms of art. To see the girls build whatever they wanted with the molecule set- no plan, no need to actually make a certain molecule. Makes me believe that I am indeed raising a couple of scientists, no matter what they end up doing with their lives.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happenings and Stuff

On Sunday, Mina and I went to local museum called The Leonardo. We spent most of our time in the area of the museum where you make art. Mina made a puppet using cardboard, skewers, and various markers. Her puppet reminded her of the movie Despicable Me and that was on the menu as soon as we walked in the door from the museum.

On Monday, we spent some time working with light and various things like sheets and cereal boxes to try and create a shadow puppet theatre for her puppet creation. Cereal boxes with sides removed and a piece of paper over one side work well if your puppet is small, a sheet over a table works well if the puppets are bigger, in case you want to try this at home.
On Tuesday, Ari began the first of what will be a rather long journey in orthodontics. She was pretty brave. Then we came home to do some science with peeps.

Peeps were injured. We melted them in the microwave. We soaked them in vinegar and water to see which would dissolve faster. Peeps were smashed and cut in to tiny pieces. We expect to be having a visit from the Peep Authorities anytime know. We have no excuse for our behavior, other than no one in our family will actually eat these nasty things except Mina.

Oh the carnage, the horror, the ummmm, well humanity is not quite right here I guess.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Broken Vases

I remember how I felt the first time I held my oldest daughter in my arms. I am going to be completely frank and say the words in my head were, "Oh my God, what have we done". An armadillo on a desert highway as a big rig convention was coming in to town could not have been more afraid. Back then I did not realize that somewhere in the folds of my brain I had latched on to an idea that I could ruin her. Over time, through doing a lot of work on myself, I have come to the idea not only that I cannot ruin my kids, but that no parent is responsible for how their kids turn out. The way I thought of to illustrate this point is the vase and the seedling.

When my oldest daughter was handed to me, the thought process in my head was comparable to being handed an expensive, irreplaceable vase. Vases have no potential, they have already become what they will be, they have no will of their own, a vase will not spontaneously jump of the table. The keeper of the vase is solely responsible for what happens to the vase, if the vase breaks it is all your fault.

Children are more like a brand new hybrid seedling the world has never seen. The keeper of the seedling is going to have to guess at first what the seedling needs. Does it like a lot of water,a little light, or a little water and a lot of light? The keeper of the seedling has no clue. Only by interacting with the seedling and then experimenting as the seedling grows can the keeper know what the seedling really likes and what the seedling really needs.

One thing we know about seedlings is that some can grow anywhere. Some can withstand absolute negligence, drought, wind, some can even live if uprooted and turned upside down. Some seedlings can survive anything.

This is not my way of saying that it does not matter if kids are neglected, abused, and mistreated. As full human beings in their own right, kids have a right to be treated with decency and respect. My point is that I no loner believe that parents can break their kids. Parents are part of the picture but they are not the whole and I believe that often parents take too much credit and too much blame surrounding how their kids "turn out". If we want to enjoy the parenting journey, it makes more sense to study our little seeds, give them what they need, and watch them grow.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Kitten Theory of Parenting

I am a mad scientist and all of life is my petri dish, beaker, and lab. I used to be horribly afraid of making even the slightest error. I thought if I could be absolutely perfect in every way, I would be safe from harm and criticism. Perfection and striving for it are a straight jacket and I put that jacket on myself and then waited for life to get better. And it didn't.

I am not sure how I got from the straight jacket to the mad scientist. I can say it took a lot of inner work, a ton of support from my husband and friends and a recognition that life is uncertain and unpredictable. Recently, I have seen the mad scientist in me busting out all over the place. I hear myself saying things like, "Let's just try it." Or "What can we learn from this no matter how it turns out." Or even, "What is the worst that can happen." Some of the time I don't recognize myself and it stops me in my tracks and then I remember that I am a mad scientist in my own life experiment and I see Dr. Horrible in my mind and I giggle, cause I find myself really funny sometimes, and keep on going.

About a year ago I was at the veterinarian with our two cats. There was an article on the wall about kittens and kitten behavior. One particular line of the article struck me. The gist of it was that kittens fight to know their own limits, know how strong they are, and that this behavior helps them to be better cats. It helps them to be a cat who knows when to stop or in other words knows where the line between playing and hurting is and then can learn not to cross it.

I remember coming home and sharing this idea with my husband and because humans are animals, whether we want to accept that or not, inquiring whether or not this might apply to kids. And then I forgot about it completely, because I get distracted by shiny objects, oh and digital ones too.

The girls have been getting to a point where they were fighting about everything all the time. John and I were getting in the middle because we thought it was our job. We have modeled problem solving, walking away, and other ways of handling differences. We have sent them to their rooms, asked them to sit for a minute and think about it and other strategies. Nothing really seemed to be helping.

Last night we talked about what our next strategy was going to be. I call this strategy The Kitten Theory of Parenting. We know our kids really well. We knew that Mina, although only 5, would not back down from Ari. We knew that if it came to blows Ari would run, quickly. We knew that they both had safe spaces to go to and we knew we would be here if it went bad fast.

This morning the girls got up and started to fight. John and I remained radically silent, offering no options, opinions, or judgements. When Ari asked me for my input I observed that each of us has to manage the only thing we can manage, our own behavior and got in the shower.

By the time I was out of the shower they were playing together. John and I are a little dumbfounded and we know that The Kitten Theory of Parenting might have just worked by fluke this time. But the mad scientist in me is pleased that once again we saw life for what it is, a grand experiment, and gave it a try.

(Bwahahahahaha, I will clean you my nemesis. You will rue the day we met.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Stop the car

When I was a young child, probably around 5 or 6 I had an interesting experience. An experience that as I look back on it now, tells me a lot about what I must have been like as a kid and also helps me to reframe my interactions with my own kids.

One day, my family and I were driving down the street. I remember very little about the street or the car for that matter. What I do remember is that it was a car with one long seat in the front. I was sitting near the door with my oldest brother next to me and my mom on the other side of him. Of course, no one wore seat belts because the 70's was the age of taking your life completely for granted every time you got in a car. I am not sure why I was near the door and my older brother was in the middle. For one thing, I have a 5 year old and she is prone to playing with latches and opening things at the worst possible moments. Although, looking back, I also see that my brother often acted as my human shield from my mother, at least while I was small.

Back to the story at hand, driving along my door either became loose or it became obvious it never had been completely shut in the first place. I remember the ensuing conversation. My mom told me to trade places with my brother so he could open and shut the door. I told her no. This went on for some time all the while my mom not pulling over to the side of the road and stopping the car. When I finally tired of the arguing, I just took matters in to my own hands and pulled the latch to open the car door. Once again, car still moving. This was not a particularly well thought out move, but please remember I was 6. I fell out of the car and the only reason I did not get run over by the car was because of my white knuckle grip on the door handle. I guess my mom finally decided it would be a good idea to stop the car.

I don't remember what happened next. I don't remember being hurt in any way. I do remember that I was punished by being kept home from a bowling outing that I had really been looking forward to.

There are days when my younger daughter seems to have zero impulse control, where she does not think at all before making a choice. When I remember my child self, I see that I was lot like her and that I can work with her to help her make safer decisions. And I become fully aware that sometimes you just stop the car because you can't get anywhere arguing with a head strong 5 or 6 year old, or adult for that matter.