Tag Archives: Madelyn

Flower Wars

Flower wars

Maybe I’m just easily amused, but every single day my kids give me cause to rethink something, or learn more about myself and this world.

On this day, we had friends over for a backyard BBQ. It was an all-day affair to celebrate my husband’s birthday, with a bonfire, marshmallow roasting, a giant wild salmon to grill, hula hooping, hackey sacking, tree climbing, chickens, sprinkler play and all sorts of other treats.

Evelyn chasing Maddy with flowers


Madelyn (7) enlisted the help of our friend’s 14 yr old daughter to collect a wheelbarrel full of flowers to dump on the lawn so she could lay on them. When the “bed of flowers” was finished, she called us over to share her moment. It was really sweet. After a while, the kids began picking up the bunches of flowers and throwing them at one another, like a snowball fight, only with flowers.

My friend and I were calling it a “flower war” and enjoyed watching the kids having so much fun.

 

Evelyn came and sat with us at one point, she’d been enjoying the flower game with the other kids and needed a little break. One of us mentioned the “flower war” and she looked confused. It’s not a war, it’s called “flower catching” and we were struck by the idea that we’d chosen the word “war” whe she was choosing the word “catching.”

My drink caught a flower

To be truthful, when the 14 yr old girl pinned her big brother down and stuffed his mouth with flowers, the word “war” might have been a little more accurate, but it’s all about perception, right?

Kids and Competition – naturally

So the other day, Emilee (16) carries a very limp & teary-eyed Grace (4) into my bedroom where I’m working and says “Mom, Grace is sad.” So I stopped working and held her in my arms and asked her why she was sad. She explained, with Emilee’s help, how it bothers her that Maddy (7) always wins. She was so very sad about it, and she wanted to beat Maddy at something. So we tried to help her think of things she’s good at, so she can beat Maddy. She was amused with our suggestions, but ultimately rejected each one, including “nose picking” and “being 4″ and “jumping over floor tiles” These are things we know she’s proud of.
Maddy, trying to beat her own time
In the end, she came up with her own ideas, “a race” and “tying people up” and “making homemade band aids.”

Madelyn wouldn’t even compete in the tying people up category, which made Grace a winner by default. The look of joy & pride on Grace’s face when she beat Maddy at making homemade band-aids was priceless and I suspect Maddy let her win the race, when she realized what was going on.

Around here, we’re not much into competitive sports, where other people make up the rules. And we’re definitely not the types that wake up at the crack of dawn to drive the kids out to a field to play. I prefer that the kids engage in activities that encourage them to be their personal best, rather than focus on “beating others.” Plus, I’m not a fan of waking up & leaving the house that early anyway.

In principle, I’d let them participate in group sports, but in realty, it hasn’t happened. Sign-up dates have often eluded us, as this information gets sent home with kids at school. I’ve often wondered why these groups (soccer clubs, little league, etc..) don’t have more informative websites. Probably because they’re run by volunteers. I don’t make much of an effort to find out about these things because I’m not interested in attending practice 2-3 times a week or sitting in the sun or wind at 8am on a Saturday while they play. Now, if there was a drop-in way for the kids to play group sports, then we might reconsider.

Yes, competition is a natural part of life. Yes, competition is healthy and normal. No, we don’t need to invent situations where kids can experience competition. Life presents plenty of natural opportunities to experience competition, without expensive uniforms, ongoing repetitive “championship rounds” or anything like that. Rivals can (and should) be friends, always. There’s more to competition than warfare.

Arbitrary rules of competition set kids up to live by the other people’s definition of success, instead of creating their own happiness. This might work well for people who define success by keeping up with their neighbors, but around here, we have different expectations.

I also take issue with the idea that dressing kids up in one color and telling them that everyone in the other color is their opponent. It seems so contrived, so… unnecessary. I’m not impressed with the battle-cry that often accompanies such displays, where kids & parents express their intention to annihilate the other team.

I expect my kids to excel exactly as much as they wish, at whatever they choose to be a worthy exploit. I expect that they are in tune with their own inner longings, and find it easy to decide what games they’ll compete in and whether or not they intend to win, or just want to play. I trust that the activities they choose and the decisions they’re making today are part of their ultimate identity, something I would never dream of influencing or “shaping” that process, to do so would violate the principle of self-design.

Things I’ve learned from my kids

Meagan took this picture

In the unschooling community, there’s a great respect for children’s inner wisdom. This week, for me, has been filled with confirmation that I need to follow my kids’ lead more often and to value their life’s experiences and authentic reactions.

Be fearless
 

I love going to the park and often, when we’re waiting for kids to finish their dance, drama or singing classes, we wait at the park where we swing, skate, climb, run or just do gymnastics in the grass. Yesterday, Maddy and I were doing tricks and she said “Can you do a front flip?” I said “no, can you?” It didn’t look like she even had time to think about the answer, she just did it. When she was done, I clapped my hands and said “Oh my goodness, I didn’t know you could do that, wow” and to my surprise, she said “Neither did I, I just did it.” I said “have you ever done it before?” and she said “no, I just did it.” WOW. OK. SO I did it. I was amused at my inner dialog, wondering whether or not she had mentally talked herself into it or if it really was as simple as she’d made it sound. In the end, I took a deep breath, pictured myself doing it a few times and just DID it. She was so excited for me, which was sweet. It was easier than I thought it would be and we both spent the next few minutes perfecting our front flips. I just thought it was funny, though, that I tell people “just do it” all the time and here I was being “schooled” by my 7 year old. Thank you, Maddy.

Flipping, for the fun of it

Love and conflict aren’t opposites

When my kids fight with each other, I don’t always handle it well. Over the years, I’ve gotten better. By stepping back and letting them work it through, I notice they end up fighting less. By discussing anger management techniques and communication skills during peaceful times (rather than in the heat of the moment) we’ve all learned how to avoid conflict or resolve it quicker, finding win-win situations and making allowances for one another’s preferences sometimes. But sometimes, I fail. The other day, Gabriella and Madelyn were fighting and Gabriella lowered her voice to a scary tone and threatened Madelyn. I snapped and made my own voice scary and told her to get out of the room until she could communicate without being mean (Ironic and pathetic, I know) Gabriella left the room and Madelyn looked at me with the sweetest face and said “It’s OK, Mommy, she can talk to me that way. She just wants her Barbie back. We were working it out. I’m not giving it to her until she gives me my doll’s dress back. I planned it this way.” I felt about half an inch tall. I brought Gabriella back and apologized for sending her out, I apologized for using a mean voice and I explained that I am still learning how to handle things nicely and I get upset when I think someone is being mean. I should have asked if they wanted my help first. Then I thanked Maddy for helping me understand the situation.

Barbies in my house are almost never this dressed or this well-behaved


 

Forgive, forget and whistle while you work

My 2 year old LOVES to put her own laundry away. There are other household tasks she likes to do, too. She likes to scrub the kitchen table while I load the dishwasher, she loves to help push the clothes into the washing machine, she loves to help carry groceries in, she follows me around all day “helping.” Well the other day, I put her clothes into her drawer for her. She was so angry with me. She can’t reach her drawer, so when she puts her clothes away I have to lift her up (while she’s holding the folded clothes) and she puts them into the drawer. It seemed like more than I wanted to do at the moment. She was taking her shoes off and I didn’t feel like waiting until she was done, so I just put her clothes into her drawer. You would have thought I’d stabbed her with an ice pick. she grabbed her belly and screamed at me “You puttid my clothes away, I wanted to do it MYSELF.” Her little angry yell was adorable, her face was red and filled with tears. I snickered a little bit because she’s so tiny and so sweet and I loved that she was so passionate about it. I took the clothes OUT of the drawer and scooped her up to apologize (I really should have known better) Then, I helped her put her clothes away, like normal and she went on about her business, without the slightest sign of anger. Later on, she said “Mommy, I sorry I freaked out about my yaundry” and I apologized for putting it away. I really do love that she values her “work” and enjoys helping around the house. I have to remember that it’s ME who secretly wishes someone else would do the laundry, not her. I’m also proud of myself for not teaching her how to hate housework, when we clean, we sing and dance and have a very good time together. If I keep this up, she will gladly take over the responsibility one day. (not that I have any coercive ulterior motives, right)

Being in tune with my kids, communicating honestly and respecting their preferences and desires is a very important part of what goes on in our house. I am, by no means, perfect at this. Clearly, I screw up. We all screw up. But I guess we’ve been doing this long enough that we’ve established an open and constant dialog that they’ve mastered faster than I have. I will continue to be impressed and amazed by their pure love and sweet dispositions.

Grace, collecting germs from her shoeGreat opportunity to discuss germs

 

May 26th, 2010 | Category: Cleaning Kids MessesEvelynGabriellaGraceMadelyn