Nurture Her Nature

All the World’s a Stage

Story has chips in her two front teeth. They were made by a coffin. (Ahem, before I get hate mail, I want you to know this did not happen during my watch.) At age two, Story climbed up on a coffin after funeral services and fell, knocking her teeth into the hard surface. I’m sure she thought the coffin was a stage.

My daughter is very theatrical, and she has the personality to sustain it. I’ve told you how she wakes as a different animal every day and is that animal for a time. This sometimes carries over outside the home. She’s been put in time-out at school because she ignored the teacher’s requests for her to sit on her pockets. When placed in the time-out chair, she told the teacher that she couldn’t possibly sit on her pockets because snails don’t have pockets.

IMG_0552She has led a coup in tumbling class. She stood on a tall mat, declared herself the new leader of the group, and told the kids in her class to follow her to a different station. They did.

During outings in public places, Story will recruit strangers, kids and adults alike, to be a part of her play. She casts them in roles and gives them directions on dialogue and action. Sometimes she says hi first.

One of her favorite places is church. It has a built-in audience, after all. The children’s message is delivered with all the children in front of the congregation. Story answers every question posed, tells stories of her own, declares things such as “But Jesus is dead,” and once stood up, opened her arms wide, and stated in a strikingly booming voice that she would give a hug to everyone so they wouldn’t be sad and always remember she loved them. She also does interpretive dance in the aisles to the choir music.

I love to see Riley and Maddie let their personalities shine too. This week, Ali signed Riley up for a kids’ fun run. She showed me the adorable outfit she had picked out for Riley, and then she showed me what Riley was wearing: an Elsa costume. Riley said it was her running dress. And it was! Riley was all smiles as she ran by wearing the dress. Maddie is turning out to be nothing like what we thought. Sure, she’s sweet and all, but sly and sassy takes the dominant spot. She may also have a little bit of diva in her.

There are a lot of things about Story that are just like me. There are a lot of things about Story that are nothing like me. One of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn as a mom is to let her grow into herself, not a vision of what I want her to be, not someone who would stuff her personality into a box to please strangers, and certainly not someone who forgets what happiness is. It took me a lot of years to remember how to love life and be me. Story, Riley, and Maddie have that now, and I’ll do everything I can to help them keep it.

Lessons learned: Don’t come to the rescue of strangers; just watch in amusement as they try to respond to your child’s directions. Don’t even bother with the pretense of embarrassment; it’s just wasted energy. And never let your child know that something she’s done has made you uncomfortable; that something will become her mission.

The Old, the New, and the Digital Native

Easter was busy as usual this year. As a child, I eagerly awaited the hunt for my hidden Easter basket in the morning to see what sugary delights the Easter Bunny had left me. It was a fun, understated, and simple holiday. Not for my girls. Their Easter tradition starts the Friday before Easter with an Easter egg hunt at daycare. My Easter tradition starts the Thursday before Easter with a mad dash to the grocery store before work to buy candy for the thirty-two plastic Easter eggs I need to stuff for the hunt. I know it’s coming every year. Daycare knows it’s coming every year. Still, they do not post the sign till the week of, and I forget that I am not prepared until the day before.

Easter BasketAfter the Friday sugar buzz, we move into Saturday for the start of our family Easter traditions. We attend an Easter egg hunt put on by a local church. They do a fantastic job, but it is much, much more than an Easter egg hunt. The first year we went, they had a bouncy house and school-carnival-type games for the kids. The next year, they had the bouncy house, the games, and pony rides. This year, they had the bouncy house, the games, the pony rides, a rock climbing wall, a fire truck, and an ambulance that provided the kids with a real-life experience of having an EKG done! Not to mention, their egg hunts happen on the half hour with thousands of eggs. Three egg hunts total for Saturday alone. By 5 p.m. Saturday, we are all pretty exhausted.

Easter morning is the simple tradition of my childhood. We wake up, find the Easter basket, and have a lazy, sugar-buzzed morning. Sunday morning, Riley woke up at 6:30 a.m., turned her head to me, and whispered, “Where is the Easter bunny?” Those sweet memories are what make the traditions worth it.

This year, I noticed a new phenomenon inspired by another phenomenon Riley discovered the summer of last year. Riley, who is typically of the go-go-go mindset, does not usually slow down for small details. This year, she took the time to sit down with her Easter basket and open each individual egg, announce what was in it, and put the contents and the egg aside in their own respective piles. What was she doing? It didn’t take me long to realize that she was acting out what she has been watching nightly for the last eleven months: surprise egg videos on YouTube — a craze that has mesmerized kids, one that I just cannot understand.

These videos show only the hands of a person opening “surprise” (Easter) eggs containing a toy inside. The voice narrates what he or she is doing and tells what the toy is. Riley is fascinated. She is not a child who will sit down and watch TV. She will watch five minutes and then move on to the next activity. But she will sit down and watch these videos for hours! I was shocked to find out that these videos have millions of views. The lead of this group of video creators seems to be a lady who calls herself Disney Collector. She remains anonymous but is reported to be making millions on these videos. In my opinion, she deserves every penny, and I wonder if she stumbled onto this phenomenon or knew exactly what she was doing. I look forward to research that will explain children’s draw to this type of video. Is it the instant gratification, the small surprises?

Surprise egg videos

About a month or so ago I was watching the girls for the night while Lesley went to a reading from a beloved author who was in town. The moment Lesley walked out of the door Riley and Story began bickering like sisters. Poor Maddie was just along for the ride. After about 45 minutes of timing turns with one of the babies toys that would not interest either of them on a normal day, I decided to break out the videos. We have an Amazon Fire TV and are able to watch the videos on the TV through the iPad. Lesley, who is much more savvy than I am, has convinced Story that these videos are only available on  iPads and not the tablet she has at home..I knew that Story would be thrilled. The moment I put the first egg video on the screen Story shouted, ” I LOVE THIS SO MUCH!”. Both girls sat cross-legged on the floor screaming in delight each time an egg was opened. Unfortunately for me the reprieve was short lived and I returned to refereeing turns as Riley wanted to watch egg videos and Story wanted to watch Play Doh egg videos.

Shamefully (maybe), I let Riley watch her videos before bedtime while I get my necessary cleaning done. Of course, I have had my share of mom guilt. (I also secretly wait for the research that tells me she’s learning something.) I imagine this brand of mom guilt is much like the guilt moms felt when video games first came out. This new digital forum is entertaining my kid, but is it good for her, is it taking away from something I should be doing, or is this just the world she’s growing up in? I’ve contemplated, struggled with, and come to terms with my mom guilt now. Riley enjoys it, and I get my cleaning done. It works for us. Who am I to stand in the way of my digital native?

Lessons Learned: Stick with your family traditions no matter how hectic they are. Embrace things that are new. Let go of guilt and get your cleaning done.

 

Safety and the Single Mom

Safety FirstI’m a bit of an anxious person by nature. After my mom left, and I was alone with a newborn, my anxiety shot my imagination with a hefty dose of steroids. I was just fine with the baby. I was more worried about things like becoming violently ill, fainting, and drowning in the toilet or tripping on my way to stir the spaghetti and falling face-first into the pot of boiling water. I even refused to go to the mailbox for so long that the post office began holding my mail because I was afraid that I would slip on the ice and crack my head open, and then the dogs would become so hungry that they would eat the baby. Yes, I’m serious. (more…)

Born to Swim

We had our first glimpses of spring this past week. Sixty degree weather and SUN! Each year, I am amazed by the transformation of the mood of the town, the workplace, and my home. No longer are we confined to the house; we can venture outside, and in my house, we venture outside from sun up to sun down. Riley’s warm-weather agenda includes two things: park and pool. The slightest mention of either of the two P words is a binding promise, locking you in to the activity for at least the next twenty-four hours. She will not forget. Mention to her at lunchtime that you will be going to the park tomorrow, and without fail, she will wake up, sit up, turn her head to you, and exclaim, “Park!” Last year, knowing that our time at the pool would be limited with the new baby, I bought her a Nemo swimming pool with all of the bells and whistles. At 8:00 a.m. the next morning, I awoke to a wide-eyed “Pool!” By 8:30, I had blown the whole thing up, and she was in her bathing suit happily splashing. (more…)

How to Train Your Dinosaur

 

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For the past two years, Story has woken up as a different animal every day. Each morning, I must drape part of myself over her covered form to pretend I am sitting on an egg. She twitches just slightly, but this is just her preparing to hatch. Apparently hatching from an egg is a rather drawn-out process. After some more twitching and wriggling, a hand or foot appears, and as the mama, I have to wait patiently as my little one struggles to release herself from the clutches of the eggshell.

Finally, she emerges, and I ooh and ahh over my most precious offspring. (Story whispers what creature she is for the day.) Hugs, kisses, and general celebration ensue for a respectable period of time, and then I must growl and snap at the zookeeper in order to escape the zoo with my baby.

Side note: For those of you wondering, yes, Story and I have had the conversation about which types of babies hatch from eggs and which do not. However, after having gone through what I’m guessing is every single type of hatchling, Story got bored and threw “magic mammals” into the mix—those capable of hatching from an egg.

This backstory is important for you to understand how seriously Story considers these transformations. She is whatever creature she has chosen for the day for a good period of time, whether at home, school, the grocery store, church, wherever. She once was placed in timeout because she refused to follow the teacher’s instruction to sit on her pockets. You see, snails don’t have pockets.

One day Story scratched at the back door. She had been playing outside as a troodon, I believe, this time. She let me know in troodon-speak that she was ready to come back inside because she had gone pee outside. Was she just playing, or had she really done her business outdoors for all the neighbors to see? I was afraid to ask. I didn’t have to; her smile told me the answer.

She gathered plastic food and “supplies” and headed back outdoors to explore the jungle. I watched her dart from bush to tree all over the yard, stopping occasionally to scavenge while keeping a sharp eye out for predators and making horrendous noises. From the window, I marveled at both her imagination and energy level. After a while, she scratched at the back door again. I opened the door for her and she proudly exclaimed, “I pooped outside!”

No, she didn’t. I stood my ground in disbelief. “No, you didn’t.”

“Oh yes I did! Troodons potty outside.” And I knew she did.7958703620_6e9a4b3a08_m

I quickly looked around. Had anyone witnessed this? Would Child Protective Services be knocking at my door? I ushered Story inside.

Story and I had a long discussion about the rules of the house for all creatures, whether in Story form or not. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to poop-scoop my daughter’s mess from the backyard. Something within me is abhorrently against it. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

Lessons learned: When your daughter is an animal, DO NOT let her in the backyard without close, attached-at-the-hip supervision; be okay with calling your toilet the litterbox; and always expect the unexpected, no matter how disgusting.