Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Furture Plans

Today G said, "Mommy, I already know what I will do when I am growed up. I am going to stay and live here with you forever."

I tried to savor what feels like a rare blissful show of unconditional affection.

At age 4, she is supposed to have a sunny disposition. Yet, she hasn't read the books that I have on child development, so she doesn't know this and thus her sunny disposition does not dominate her behavior. I wonder if I read them to her, if this would inspire her.

Honestly, I have found age 4 to be more work than I would have expected with her. She's super sensitive to physical things. Can't wear a coat in her car seat because she doesn't like how it feels. Won't abide by a drop of water on her clothes and thefore hates to wash her hands. She's a tremendously picky eater. I worry that she doesn't get enough food because she so infrequently is willing to eat what I cook, even if she loved it a week ago. She yells and screams her frustrations, despite my best efforts to get her to talk them out. She has trouble sleeping now more than she ever has before. She lays in bed thrashing around and claiming she cannot sleep, but the moment she stills herself, she falls asleep. I could make a long list of things that I find incredibly challenging.

Yet, I get these glimmers of absolute sweetness and it is remarkable at how quickly all of my weariness melts away. I know that someday I will be wishing she still wants to live with me forever. Hopefully I can maintain my patience until then!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


My relationship with my hair can be viewed in eras. When I look back at old photos, you can see these eras vividly. The stone age of my hair is the wispy baby hair that grew into long brown locks with curling ends. From here, things actually devolved into a series of bad haircuts all imposed by my mother’s desire to not have to bother with combing or braiding it.

Later, as I claimed control of my hair, a long list of regrettable hair episodes continued to occur, including the wall of bangs in high school. I never truly hated my hair, but when I look back, I realize I should have. Until the golden age of hair began.

When I worked as a lawyer downtown, Nunzio cut my hair regularly. He worked at the salon in the chi chi hotel across the street from my office. Nunzio made my hair look fantastic. He told me to grow out my bangs. “You should have no bangs at all on your face. Look at your face! You must grow them out.” And he was right. I spent twenty something years with bangs because my mom told me I needed them. Nunzio said no more bangs and I never looked back.

Sadly, Nunzio moved to New York to cut hair, as so many talented metrosexual hairdressers do. I was suddenly anxious over my hair. I had never really loved my hair before Nunzio and I didn’t want to let go of that affection.

In true “close a door/open a window” fashion, I found Jonna at a funky little hair salon by the waterfront. If anyone could be better than Nunzio at making my hair look fantastic, it’s Jonna. She would talk to me the entire time she was cutting my hair, rarely looking at me or the work she was doing with the scissors. And every time, she turned my hair into something that I loved and could easily replicate. Jonna became my friend that I saw regularly to maintain my cute haircuts, each one a little different from the last. She even convinced me to use a hair dryer and “product” to style it.

With the advent of motherhood, another age has taken control of my hair. It’s the age of “I don’t have time for that” hair. At each visit, I would explain to Jonna that whatever she did, it had to be able to look good as a wash and wear cut – literally. No hair dryer will be used. No styling products. Just finding time to wash my hair seemed like a vastly challenging task. With great disappointment, Jonna relented to simpler cuts. And as a testament to her skill, they still looked pretty darn good.

With three kids in my life, my haircuts have become fewer and farther between. As I walked into her shop this week, she greeted me with the usual enthusiasm and said, “It’s time for your annual haircut!”

Oh, my. It’s true. I think it has been a year since I have had a haircut. To her credit, her great cuts really do make me look good for a long time. It is months before I start putting my long and shaggy hair into a pony tail.

The upside of waiting until I have a really shaggy mess of hair is that the resulting cut is appreciated more. “Wow! Your hair looks terrific!” people will exclaim. They are too kind to say, “Boy, I didn’t realize how crappy your hair looked until you finally got it cut.” But that is certainly part of the reason they notice and comment. It’s no secret to me because I feel the same way.

But the downside is that my kids are traumatized. They don’t recognize me when I come back home with most of my hair missing. They spend several days criticizing my haircut and looking at me with skepticism as though I am someone they don’t recognize.

Hopefully one day I will find that sweet spot of having great hair again. I am not sure if I can ever prioritize hair in the way I once did (along with manicures, massages, and leg shaving). But maybe I can get it cut before I traumatize anyone.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It's hard to be a kid

This conversation happened today in my house.

Middle child to me when I disagreed with her plan: "I read somewhere that if you want to be a mother, you have to do what your kids want to do."

Oldest child (who agreed with her mother for once): "Actually, if you are a kid, you have to do what your mother says."

Middle child: "Then I don’t want to be a kid."

Ah, yes. I understand. Sometimes it's hard to be a kid. I can remember feeling this so strongly when I was a kid. In fact, I lost a lot of good kid-time wishing I wasn't a kid. I hope that I can help my kids avoid that. So, tomorrow, we will try to do more of what they want to do, especially that middle child who is far too young to not want to be a kid yet.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


I have a complicated relationship with the concept of unschooling.

Ultimately, it’s not for me. Mostly, I can’t imagine that if I let my kids do whatever they want that they will choose to do the things that are difficult, and I think that part of my job is giving them the courage to try things that are difficult, and the skills to kick the butt of difficulty whenever possible.

So, when I was recently listening to an unschooling homeschooling parent rave about how her kids were thriving under her unschooling wing, I found myself cringing and squirming. She painted a rosy picture of how her children at first didn’t take to several things, but how if she just let them alone with it, they all came around and became brilliant at those things. She credited herself for staying out of the way and she credited all children with being so amazing that they just naturally develop brilliance given the space to do so.

Ugh. I find that these broad generalizations inspire my own feelings of guilt and frustration. Why is MY kid not naturally acquiring the skills and ethics that the other kids do? Why does my life not unfold so perfectly and conveniently? It leads to the ultimate question: What am I doing WRONG?

I have enough problems, enough reasons to blame myself, enough hyper-focus on my own inadequacies. I don’t need to emphasize more of my own failures. So, I find reasons to disagree with unschoolers. I say that guidance and structure are good for kids. I see my kids reacting positively to the boundaries and expectations I set that they would not otherwise set for themselves.

Of course, I agree with unschoolers that kids should have a lot of choice over the way in which they cover subjects and in many of the things they get to learn. I find myself nodding when unschoolers say that kids learn more and retain it better when they are learning about things that interest and inspire them. I concur that learning can happen in a multitude of ways and that those diverse ways should be honored.

Still, I have expectations around core subjects like reading, math, spelling, and writing. As a result, I routinely ruin perfectly good unschooling moments to foist lessons on my children. And for the most part, I am unapologetic about this. (Okay, I’ll admit that sometimes it would have been better had I stood back and let things unfold more organically, but I don’t always have that luxury. After all, there are three under 7 of them all with competing demands at any given moment.)

But the other day, I met a woman who has a kid in a very progressive, very gentle and nurturing elementary school. And she explained that she really wanted to homeschool, but she just couldn’t do it with this kid because she hates being the one to push him to do things. He doesn’t want to do things that he doesn’t feel interested in, and she likes that it’s his teachers and not her with the job of constantly requiring things of him that he doesn’t want to do. It’s enough how much we fight over his homework, she cringed. I would hate to fight all of the time with him. She also said that he gets overstimulated at school and has sensory integration issues, and being at school makes that difficult sometimes.

Much to my chagrin, I found myself thinking, “Oh, my. He needs a bit of unschooling.” If only this kid could follow his own passions and not be forced to do homework every day, he would probably enjoy learning a great deal more. If he didn’t feel like learning was about someone forcing him to do something he didn’t want to do all of the time, he might be a more passionate and joyful learner. If he could only get a break from the sensory overload he must feel every day and think without the clutter of sensory data beating him up, he would probably feel more open to learning. But I couldn’t find a way to say any of this without making this mother feel the way those stories about brilliant unschoolers make me feel. So, I cringed and squirmed instead.

I’m still not backing down on my regular lesson plans. But I’ll concede a point to unschooling.