Tiny Human or Mini Adult

Today I shared this Offbeat Home article,“On being raised as a ‘small person’ instead of being ‘treated like a child,’” on my Facebook page. I resonated with the ultimate message, about the inherent dignity of children, but after having two texting conversations with moms of young kids, I started to really evaluate and re-evaluate my position on the whole matter.

My Facebook status said, “this is my parenting philosophy. Potamus is a tiny person.” But then I began to reflect, on how some adults treat children like mini adults. That they forget the cognitive and emotional place of being 2 or 3 or 4, and how children do not have the same life experience and/or reasoning of consequence and pre-frontal cortex control and development that adults do. If the teens in my class can’t emotionally regulate, or think about consequences in the future, getting caught up in the moment, then how could I possibly expect a wee toddler to do that? I think there are parents who treat children the same way they would adults, and maybe they think this is giving respect to the children, but expecting a 2 year old to have the same cognitive reasoning or emotional control, is actually detrimental, in my opinion (and I’m sure there could be research out there, but I’m just a wee blogger and not looking for a persuasive argumentative paper).

An example, that I could think of from my own life, was the difficult ‘adult’ decision that was asked of the kids in our family when we were faced with an impending move. I was 12, my brother was 10, and my sister 7. We had been living without my dad for a year. He was home on weekends, but spent the rest of the week three hours away working for a radio station in Eastern Washington. My mom worked an early morning school district job, then came home, got us out the door for school, and then went back to work at another school district job. She was exhausted by 5pm, and I picked up a lot of the slack. While not a little child, I was still a kid, and when posed with the rock and hard place choice of “move to where your dad works,” or “live like this for six more years until you graduate from high school.” At the time the choice seemed ‘easy,’ but the emotional fallout of moving to an entirely new culture and making friends and leaving everything I loved behind. Because we had voted, it felt like there was no room to dislike the choice. I felt stuck, and like if I had voted to stay I would have been making my mom miserable, who was stuck parenting solo. I think if my parent’s had just said, ‘this is what we are going to do,’ I would have been angry with them. I would have lashed out and blamed them and been upset. Instead I swallowed my anger and it sidled into depression.

Then, there are the families that I’ve worked with as a crisis counselor, where the tiny people are treated like friends. Where five year old are privy to impending parental divorce before their other parent is. The teenagers who are crying out for boundaries, but met with the wishy washy bubblegum popping mom who sneaks out to clubs in her daughter’s Silver jeans. The adult thinks they’re respecting the kid by being friend-like, but it puts youth in the position of trying to figure out adulthood without an adult role model.

A few weeks ago I read some commentary about body autonomy, and how when they “have children, we’re not going to force them to do things that their body doesn’t want to do,” and I liked that idea, because doesn’t it feel shitty to have someone bigger than you telling you what to do? Like a boss, or the government, or your parents at Thanksgiving who can’t seem to realize you don’t want more turkey. You know? But here’s the thing, when you’re 3, and you have an ear infection, and you don’t want to take the bubblegum liquid, your parents might have to hold you down, and stick their fingers in your mouth, risk being bitten themselves. You might be sobbing, and saying “no mama, no mama,” but you don’t know about burst eardrums or hearing loss. You don’t understand ‘it’s for your own good,’ because you’re three years old and it just feels like you’re being forced into something you don’t want. And that’s a true story, from the Potamus ear infection files over the last week. Because, my job as a mom is to get him to take his medicine, and wear a coat. I might give a lot of body autonomy and freedom of choice over dinner options (yogurt? peanut butter crackers? blueberries?), but we will absolutely not go outside in sub freezing weather in basketball shorts and a Spiderman tank top.

So after I posted, and texted, I immediately thought “oh shit, I don’t believe that article at all,” and yet…yes I do. Because Potamus is short, he’s still a person, and I treat him like the tiny human he is. But I don’t want him to be a mini-adult, and he’s not my friend, (though sidekick, I’ll allow). He’s aboslutely equal on the soul level, worthy of every human dignity, and yet it’s my role to shephard him toward his own brand of adulthood, and that means letting him be a child, not forcing him to grow up too fast.

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The Ugly Christmas Sweater

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My parents made a last-minute appearance at our place last weekend. And I didn’t hate it. Who have I become? Seriously, this shit is getting weird. It’s like after the 5 out of 6 weekends of seeing them this summer I developed some sort of weird soft spot for them I should probably go to therapy or something. Because this shit ain’t normal.

What’s worse, is that I called my mom today and asked what they were doing this weekend. Seriously Monk-Monk, get it together, it’s been 4 days since you’ve seen them. I might have had a mason jar full of wine, but had been musing about going to see them long before that. There’s something about Potamus asking for ‘buppa and gammy,’ that warms my heart. There’s also something about the comfortable freak flag ugly christmas sweater that is my own’ family’s dysfunction. It’s warm. It’s known. It’s shiny, with tinsel, and little yarn balls sewn on. And it’s not hidden.

For someone with an almost-arrogant ability to intuit things, I have a real blind spot in areas. There have been several instances over the years where I have felt cosmically duped by people. My ex-boyfriend, who I internally labelled as ‘liberal hippie,’ because he grew up in a geodesic dome and went to an earthy home church, turns out to be a gun-totin’ member of the NRA, who is so far Right he makes Georgie W look liberal. Seriously. Having grown up with a Republican Conservative Christian=business suit wearing dad, I sometimes get duped by people who outwardly appear one thing, but are really something underneath. Like wearing their damn ugly Christmas sweater under a button-up work shirt.

So somehow, after 8 years of being with Boof, I have made the transition to an appreciation of my own family, which wears its Ugly Christmas Sweater on the outside, in a very transparent way. It’s causing me to desire driving 2.5 hours to hickville and see my parents for 1-2 nights this weekend. I surprise myself. I hate the town I went to high school in, but for some reason I have this longing for Potamus to have good memories from there. My parents are neurotic, and I’m going to end up seeing them NEXT weekend again, which makes my whole plan even more borderline insane, but it feels so good I can’t help but pull on that wool sweater and head out of town, sans Boof, for a magical Eastern Washington excursion. Maybe we’ll even see a tractor. And I know my mom will talk in her loud voice, saying “Pawl, Pawl, we need ….” (because that’s how she pronounces my dad’s name. It’s fucking ridiculous. But comfy, like that worn in sweater…

New Year Resolutions?

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For the past few weeks I have been struggling with my motivation for yoga. I initially attributed it to the end of the 30 day challenge, that had taken a lot out of me emotionally, but as I processed with Mari yesterday, I think I’ve come up with some interesting reasons why it’s been hard lately. I mean, really there are probably a million factors, like I’ve been doing it consistently for a year, I’m not seeing any more weightloss or health benefits, some of the initial newbie growth has slowed down, and the premature dark weather has left me wanting to just sit around eating bon bons. But in processing, there were a couple more things that trickled do the surface and seem a little more substantial. Namely, the idea of fitting in to a community, and that reasons/motivations for doing things change.

Fitting in is exhausting.

I’m not sure people think about fitting in as exhausting, but for me it is. I typically self-identify as other in a lot of ways, sorta dancing on the edge of the campfire, rather than really getting in to the fray. I figure there’s a bit of adoption trauma and some personality traits at play here, because this idea of fitting, of being ‘home,’ or comfortable with people puts me on edge. Because if I’m ‘in’ then I could be ‘out’ and it’s easier to be ‘out’ when it’s by choice rather than fucking up and getting kicked out, ya know? It’s easier to be seemingly ‘less predictable,’ because when I do things a certain way for a certain amount of time the routine starts to stick to me in a way that makes deviating from it difficult. Like being the ‘funny one,’ in a group of friends. I am funny (despite what Boof things), but I’m also a really deep thinker. I like playing the fool as an archetype, but I don’t want to live there permanently. So part of my hesitation for even starting a yoga studio was because I knew it would fit me. I knew I would like it. And then what? What do you do when you find your place? Settle in? Get into a rut? That rebel part of me wants to bail before I get too comfortable. I love my yoga studio. I love feeling a part of something. And yet, feeling a part of something is also exhausting.

My other thought was about how much I’ve grown and changed in the past year. I think if I’m to do new year resolutions, or old year reflections, I should honor myself and the rhythm I feel in the academic calendar year. Fall feels like newness. Fall feels like the time to look back and see, who was I this same time last year? And the answer surprised me. Because last year I strongly advocated for myself to have 2-3 nights off for ME time. I went to therapy on Mondays, and Tuesday/Thursday was about yoga. Boof had worked a crazy busy season as an accountant AND THEN worked a second job all summer at the Mariners, and with long home game stretches left me alone with an 18 month old toddler and little sanity. I forcefully took back time for myself and treated my yoga as a body and spouse empowerment exercise. I got sexy in the weightloss department, finally shedding those baby pounds. I felt like an adult and like I mattered in my relationship because I wasn’t just being a doormat martyr whiny wife. It rocked.

But this year? This year feels different. Rather than wanting time away to feel empowered, I crave those connecting quiet moments with Boof and Potamus. And yet the consistent routine getting me out of the house twice a week is actually a good thing for my mental health. Otherwise I’ll want to go to sleep at 5pm when I get home. So I realized that my perspective had to shift in order to enjoy yoga again. That I was clinging too tightly to the old reasons and not allowing it to change to embrace my new reasons. Like introvert time after a long day of teaching. That rather than driven empowerment competition with myself, it was more about relaxation and fun and simply being present in the moment.

The instructor, halfway through the class, as we were lying in our first round of savasana, read a quote about happiness. That happiness needs to be allowed to come in many forms. That it needs to be allowed to grow and change like a child would grow and change. And that seemed to fit and make everything click inside me. It felt right to be in the studio even though it felt different than last year at this time.

So that’s my new academic year resolution. To simply allow happiness, or my yoga practice, to be different and change and grow to meet the present moment. It feels right that way.

A Break in the Clouds

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In the past 24 hours, Seattle has been pelted with an insane amount of rain, complete with incredible thunder and lightening displays. It seems like Fall has been ushered in, in a very wet, dreary way, but then, just as soon as the storm started, the sun came out. I was walking to my car and realized that it was sunny, warm, and I probably shouldn’t have dressed Potamus in a sweater since it was approaching 70 degrees. What a drastic, dramatic, and unexpected shift in the weather.

And it was just like that with my mood. Two days of just feeling down, depressed, frustrated with my parenting and then Voila (which my mom pronounces wahv lah, haha) my attitude changed. And I’m feeling misty eyed just thinking about it. The first perceptible shift was while trolling around on Facebook and seeing this story posted by the yoga studio that I attend. This gist is: we shout in anger because when we’re upset our hearts feel very far away from the person we’re upset at. Whoa, that was such a beautiful image and I couldn’t help but think about how it has been troubling me and Potamus and Boof in the past few days. My heart certainly has felt distant and shouting has ensued.

The second shift happened while nursing Potamus to sleep, while I was reading Huffington Post on my phone. This article called “A Letter To My Son’s Best Friend” almost made me cry, as I was experiencing, momentarily, how fast Potamus is growing up. The author, writing to her son’s stuffed bunny, says:

He’s going to outgrow you. And me too, in some ways. No, I’m actually not fine with that. Yes, thank you… I would like a tissue, please

There are moments where I am exhausted by the constant neediness. The way in which I am being tugged on and pulled at and cannot satisfy his need to be near me. There are the hard times where I’m still 100% parent, even when Boof is here, because he will always choose me over daddy (unless I’m out of the room or out of the house). It’s exhausting. And it’s temporary. But when I’m totally, completely, and utterly exhausted, it’s hard to be his whole world and give just a little more.

It reminds me of the deep pranayama breathing practice we do to start the Bikram practice, where the instructor says “breathe in, a little more, another sip of air, just when you think you can’t, breathe in a little more. It might feel uncomfortable, or make you feel dizzy, but one more sip.” And then repeats that on the exhale. Because I can always get just a little more air in, and I can always exhale just a little more. 

So, just for today, I’m going to give a little more, love a little more, breathe in the sweaty sleeping toddler neediness a little more, because it is going fast.

What things have you encountered that change your perspective just a little bit?