Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Strange New Worlds

“In the darkness I went outside/ I got to see the moon/ And I so happy/ And you are the greatest mom!”

Gotta love that song!  All I had to do to earn that wonderful ballad was set up a telescope in the driveway during a rare clear night with a full moon.  My younger daughter loves space and everything associated with it.  To her, a few minutes outside after dark (and after her big sister had already gone to bed!) was amazing and wonderful.  She was so excited about seeing the moon that she kept running back into the house trying to find other people to come out and see it – leaving me to guard the telescope of course. Squirrels can’t be trusted to not mess with science equipment.  She found her grandmother first.  “Nana, Nana!  You want to see the moon?  It’s outside!”  She even tried to share her joy with our cat.  “Guinness aren’t you so excited?  Aren’t you excited about seeing the moon?”  Of course, being four and having a bit of a speech delay (she’s multilingual and struggles a bit sometimes with English pronunciation), she couldn’t say “telescope” when she was trying to tell people/cats about what she was doing.  That didn’t matter.  Even calling it a “science scope” got the message across because her sheer joy was so contagious.  We all couldn’t help smiling and each took a turn squatting to look through the “science scope” at the bright moon.

Of all the things I love about being a mom, this kind of experience is high on the list.  Even though I was a Trekkie as a kid, I never really got into astronomy.  That is a subject which is new to me, and my limited knowledge is almost all because of my daughter.  Yup, everything I know about space I learned from a four year old.  But it is so wonderful to be learning it this way!  Finding out what my daughters like and running with it keeps every day interesting.  I am learning new things, finding new joys that I don’t think I would have otherwise.  I never knew how much fun standing in a driveway at night could be, or how thrilling seeing the moon could be. 

I remember a conversation I had with another mom once while we were watching our kids’ hockey practice (my older daughter).  She was saying she didn’t think her son would stick with hockey, and I asked why.  He seemed to be enjoying himself and he was pretty good.  It was because his father didn’t like hockey.  She thought it would cause a gap between them as he grew up if because it wasn’t something his dad would be interested in sharing with him.  She wanted him in baseball because that was his dad’s favorite sport.  She was really worried about it.  I couldn’t help feeling sorry for that family.  The mom who wanted what was best for her son, wanted him to be happy and active and still have a good bond with his dad; the son whose father wouldn’t accept him if he didn’t conform to his father’s same likes; and the father who was going to miss out on so many new adventures because he wouldn’t vary from his own path to learn from his kids.  I pointed out that neither my husband nor I had known anything about hockey before our daughter started playing.  She chose it herself, and we are learning as we go.  We love it now because she loves it.  We try to see it through her eyes and that makes it exciting.  We love it because it makes her so happy.  Doing well out on the ice makes her just as giddy as seeing the moon through the telescope made her sister. 

Parenting is such a wonderful, marvelous, delightful adventure – when we let our kids lead us away from our comfort zones.  Who knows if my girls will grow up to become astrophysicists or professional hockey players, but in the meantime I am looking forward to adding to my own knowledge of those two areas and putting a few more awesome memories like that night's in my brain.

(pssssst.....don't forget to stop by my shop, too!)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Say What?

 "'Boldly go where no MAN has gone before.' I don't like that. It doesn't make sense. They should say, 'girl.' Or 'human.' 'Boldly go where no human has gone before' is better because human can mean man or woman."

Language IS powerful.  Just ask anyone who was ever called “poop head” or “idiot” how they felt.  The fact that we have censors who monitor which words are used on tv just reinforces the argument that words do matter.  The notion that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is romantic, but about as true as “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”   Our verbiage affects the people around us, especially when we are the people in power – we are the parents.

Our words define our reality.  Just ask this lady.  As parents – the primary teachers for our children, the authorities, the experts – our words also define their realities.  So we must ask ourselves, “What kind of world do I want for my children?  How do I want them to define their role in the world?  How do I want them to define the roles of the people around them?” 

I have daughters, and am Catholic.  This makes things tricky for me as a person who values the power of language.  I do not want my daughter to see herself as someone outside the group, someone of less importance.  She herself is already aware of how uncomfortable sexist language makes her.  She knows she’s a girl, and she knows she isn’t a man.  When people refer to all humans as “man” she either cringes or assumes they aren’t talking about her.  This is not good.  Luckily we have a large supportive community around us who – like the Star Trek producers who changed the wording to be “where no ONE has gone before” – realize that using only masculine terminology isn’t healthy and is really outdated.  My daughter will, hopefully, grow up recognizing sexist language as erroneous and define herself outside of it.

But what about violent language?  Derogatory language?  My husband and I are careful with our words.  Although I used to swear like a sailor, I realized around the time my older daughter was born that ugly language just made the world ugly.  We certainly do not call things “gay” or “retarded” as a put down.  If we did use language like that, that would be the norm for our girls, and, in their reality, “gay” and “retarded” would equal less than them.  That is destructive for not only our children, but for society as well.  The same goes for racial slurs.

As parents, we can’t shield our children from all destructive, hate-filled language.  We can, however, try to set a level of normal for them which does not include it.  We can teach them through the words we choose that all people are created equal.  We can define a reality for them in which both men and women have value.  One group is not superior to others because of intellect, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or religion.   Hopefully, when they hear slurs, swears, or hurtful words my daughters will be shocked and dismiss that kind of language as not rooted in reality.

(pssst… sure to swing by Happy Walrus on Etsy, too…..)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Down the Rabbit Hole

“Moooooom, there’s a naked baby in the closet!”

Being a mom is surreal.  I love it, but it is definitely strange at times.  The things I hear my daughters say, the things I hear myself say, the parenting debates my husband and I have – none of these things are what I expected and I often find myself pausing and thinking, “What strange rabbit hole did I fall down?”
The naked baby in the closet was the result of my daughters playing with my old dollhouse furniture.  I was in bed with a migraine while the girls kept themselves entertained destroying my old dollhouse on my bedroom floor.  As they played, I drifted in and out of awareness of their conversations, catching a sentence here and there.  Then that gem was shouted up at me.  It took my pain filled brain a minute to figure out what she was talking about.  Of course, she was referring to a miniature baby whose clothes had vanished at some point in the last twenty years before the baby was stuffed inside a miniature wardrobe and locked up in the dollhouse.  Makes sense. 

But not all our conversations make sense.  Like my younger daughter proudly telling me that now that she is four she isn’t afraid of zombies, only to run screaming from the room two seconds later, “I have to put on jammies!  Zombies eat naked people!” (It was bedtime and she was in the middle of changing when we had that conversation.)  Or when I put on a DVD of the Disney “Beauty and the Beast” movie.  A few minutes into the movie both girls started shouting, “Turn it off!  Turn it off!  This is not appropriate for children!  This movie was not made for children!”  When I asked what they wanted to watch instead, they answered, “Dinosaurs are appropriate for children!”  So we ended up watching “Walking With Dinosaurs” – a series about dinosaurs eating each other and their babies.  In this house at least, robotic dinosaurs and Tim Burton movies are fine, but Disney movies (they had the same negative reaction to “Princess and the Frog”) are terrifying and clearly “not appropriate.”

Through all these trips into the alternate realities of my daughters’ brains, I can’t help feeling grateful that they have their imaginations, creativity, zeal for inventing new worlds, lack of fear of science, and distrust of movies centered around dead parents.  Parenting is not easy, and I am far from a perfect parent, but I am encouraged when I see my girls thriving as strong individuals.

This blog will follow some of their trips down various rabbit holes and the lessons I am learning from them about life in the real world.

(psssst – Inspired by my daughters, I started an Etsy shop.  Please feel free to check it out, too.)