Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Joy and Narcissism

Leave it to the interwebs to make another seemingly innocuous thing controversial. There was this post about the ice bucket challenge that brought up a very good point. The ALSA donates some of their funds toward embryonic stem cell research. There are many people, myself included, who find this line of research immoral due to the the destruction of life. Not everyone agrees, I understand. However I have another, perhaps more practical, reason for opposing money being poured into this type of research, which is: never, not once, has this research been effective at producing a practical solution to the problems it seeks to address.

Adult stem cell research, however, has had multiple successes. Let's focus our time, talent and treasure on that which offers the most practical hope and does not have legions of people concerned about the ethics of such research.

But there was another issue at hand in this post that I have seen other places. The idea that these things are wasteful and rooted in and encourage narcissistic tendancies. First let's talk about narcissism. I will grant that social media seems to feed the beast that is our Culture of Me and our cultural lack of empathy. Of course this is true! Anything that gives a person the chance to put on a "display" can indeed feed that sort of darkness.

That being said, there is a large blindspot in this claim. You see, the ice bucket challenge is fun. Yes, doing something seemingly inconsequential, and daring others to do the same is playful. Playfulness can build community because we tolerate one another so much better if we know we can set all of the baggage down once in a while. Sure, it's seems wasteful. Isn't all fun peered at from the outside looking in a bit wasteful? "But good drinking water!" I hear you gasp. Stop it. Unless you protest swimming pools and water parks, just stop your nonsense. We have access to water, and using a little for fun is okay. If there is a draught where you are, then yes, by all means refrain from the challenge. But also? Be creative. My sister, Geek, chose instead to sing "Ice Ice Baby" in carline while waiting for her children to be let out of school. (Gee, I hope she wasn't wasting gas by keeping her car idling!) She was nearing the 24 hour deadline, and decided that she could be creative and meet the challenge in a fun and silly way.

The second blindspot is this idea that all things displayed on social media are inherently narcissistic. If that is the case, then all things done publicly must be so. Do we not understand yet that Facebook and Twitter can be much like the water cooler? We live an online life now, and that is not a sin. Maybe it's not as good as authentic in-person relationships, but it can also keep those relationships strong when time and distance cause them to whither.

My parents had weak relationships with their siblings when I was young. Oh, sure we were family, and God knows we had one another in times of trouble. However, the day-to-day sharing and caring was missing because we didn't live close, and there was this weird thing called "long distance rates" that meant calling someone in another area code cost money. When you are raising a young family, those expenses have to be held to a minimum. But now? Our family is strong. I love my cousins and I know how to contact each of them. Each of my 8 siblings is on Facebook, but none are in my hometown. We make each other laugh, we call if we are concerned, and we groan when one of us is getting too righteous online.  That is just my family. I can't tell you the number of friendships I've strengthened online. My friend Sarah, whose ups and downs have allowed me to cry and cheer in communion with her family. The boy from grade school who reached out to me on Facebook and told me of the troubles he had faced post college. He later committed suicide, and while I am heartbroken, I am so glad I could lend a shoulder to a suffering soul for just a little while. Nora Rose, whose family has been in our lives for a very long time, but whose journey I could follow first hand thanks to social media.

I understand the impulse here. The ALSA donates to things that are sketchy. ALS is a horrid disease in need of eradication, and posting a video of getting a bucket of ice water dumped on your head seems to make light of a very serious disease. But the world needs light. The world needs fun. The world needs communion and understanding and encouragement. This is what this challenge can offer, my friends. The good news is there are organizations that you can donate to that won't fund embryonic stem cell research. There are hospitals, maybe even local organizations, that can hunker down and help out your actual real live, and not just virtual, neighbor. You can look it up and post that on Facebook as your ALS charity of choice. Celebrate the charitable inclination of your fellow man and have some fun!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Kindergarten 4.0

The Blurry Child Who Never Stops Moving
Dear Handsome,
You are the fourth child I have seen off to Kindergarten. On Monday we brought your supplies and met your beautiful teacher, Mrs. G. She is a Buckeye, which I'm sure makes Cappy (and Kiki, of course) very happy. Today you dressed in "button shorts", a belt and a golf shirt. You wanted your hair combed like Cappy, something that makes you feel connected to the man you hardly remember. You ate breakfast with a tea towel around your neck and on your lap, and you were barely still for the photos I wanted to take. You seemed excited because you kept getting into the car before it was time to leave.
His genuine smile is like a vampire--never  to appear in photos
Two pretty girls and a goofball.

On the way to school we said our prayers. We asked our Gaurdian Angels to care for us and and help us make good choices, as well as keep us safe. We prayed for everyone going to school, and then I heard a little voice say, "Help Molly not be scared...and maybe me too."

We've had a great summer, you and I. We bonded over our hatred of being spoken to in the morning. We snuggled deep under covers when you were not supposed to be in our bed. You started really taking becoming a gentleman seriously. I began to see that my baby boy is not a baby at all. Even when you pitched fits over things like swim lessons, I saw through your naughtiness and learned to coach you. Your skin went from pale to brown over the course of a few weeks, and any chunk left from the toddler years disappeared to reveal bones and ropey muscle.
Not an ounce of body fat anywhere but those cheeks and lips!

As we walked in to the room, you grew quiet, but this year you didn't bury your head into my hip. You showed Dad your desk, we hung up your backpack, and you handed Mrs. G your papers. Mae sat next to you. I snapped a picture, which happened to reveal the truth; you were very scared.
Mae is ready for Kindergarten, while her brother is ready for this to be over already.

Dad and I left anyway, knowing we had to let you march through to the other side where happy chatter and friendship waited. Before I left, I kissed your cheek and reminded you that I couldn't wait to hear about your day. There was a small smile, or at least a corner of your mouth lifted in an attempted smile. We left to go find some friends and to peek at your sisters, but my heart stayed right there with you desperately, hoping you would feel better fast.

Molly's Motto: Why carry bags when you have so many other's willing to do it for you?
You were first in this afternoon carline today. Your hair was sticking to your scalp like a 90's Clooney. You had a huge grin on your face. As you climbed in the car you said, "Hi Mama, good seeing you!" I asked how your first day of Kindergarten was. "Oh, great! It's not hard work at all!" That was all I got from you, though I was waiting for stories about friends and teachers. Instead you asked if you could buy lunch tomorrow, letting me know for certain all was well with you.

I'm glad you still love school Buddy. I can't wait to see what the rest of the year brings!

Overly Sentimental Mama

Thumbs up for Kindergarten!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Quick Takes Pre-Back-to-School

It is Back To School time, y'all. Remember that commercial with that guy going through the Staples buying supplies with the song, "It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year" blaring? Cut to his kids who are not feeling it. Imagine that, but in reverse up in here. My kids love the beginning of school. They have long forgotten about homework, early wake up times, bed times, the desperation of looking for the other shoe, and my demands that they continue to make their beds and brush their teeth. All they can think of is that they will spend 8 hours a day with people they like who don't expect them to empty the dishwasher and feed the pets.

I, however, have enjoyed the luxury of no homework, not caring as much about hygiene (because the ocean is sterile, you guys. It's Science!), and lax bedtime/wake times. This year I was so smart and created a spreadsheet for school supply shopping, and then went to the inter webs and had it all delivered to my house. I don't do the school sponsored boxes. I never remember in time, or, when I do remember, I have spent all my money on froyo.
But then I decided to do a room switcheroo. You see, the oldest will be semi-homeschooling with virtual school. She made a really good point that she would like to sleep in a little, and yet shares a room with a sibling who will be getting up at 6:30. That, coupled with the fact that the baby was starting to get closer and closer to getting out of her crib, lead me to the decision to move the kids around. K has her own room, M &C are together now, and the baby and Paul are bunking in the "camp" room, that I will one day finish decorating as a camp bunk because the furniture is very rustic.

Let me tell you something about trying to organize and swap clothes with a two-year-old in the house; it's terrible. Especially if this particular child likes nothing better than to "reorganize" all the shoes you have lined up to weed out and repurpose. Especially if said child also loves to pull perfectly organized clothing onto the floor and then "refold" it and place it somewhere you shall never look until you move. She's a helper, that one.
Kate has her own bathroom. I recognize that this is a risk I am taking. She is already very entitled as witnessed when I told her she would need her own toilet brush.

K: What for?
Me: To clean your toilet. I'll get you shower cleaner too.
K: Why do I have to clean the toilet?!
Me: The same reason you have to make your bed and vacuum your rug. You use it, you clean it.
K: That seems excessive
Me: I regret to inform you that if you neglect your bathroom you will become responsible for all the bathrooms in the house. Also, please make a note that the size of your bedroom will be about the size of your first apartment, if you are lucky, so try very hard not to be too comfortable.
K: Oh yeah, living here is so luxurious.
Me: Glad you understand.

I am so looking forward to the teen years.
The baby sleeps in a bed. Like, actually gets put in a bed, falls asleep in that bed, and then stays in the bed until morning or nap time is over. I would like to know, what in the heck in going on, Internet? It should be noted that this is for her own safety. She began to get her leg up on the railing a couple months ago, and had since built little stools out of books and stuffed animals to make it easier to get out. She has not been successful (low muscle tone, FTW!), but it was coming. Because she is a bit weaker, even if she puts her arms out to catch her fall, she would likely bust her face. The bed is very low to the ground with a bunky board rather than a full boxed spring.

The bonus is that Paul has stayed in his loft bed since her move. He is there to protect her, after all, and he takes this very seriously. For now.
I am walking a lot lately thanks to my husband shaming me with his Hop-Out-Of-Bed-And -Go-Running routine. Wait, first he does push-ups and dips, then he goes running. Lying there listening to all this productivity has shamed me into at least taking the dog for a power walk. Running is too excessive in the summer. I've done it off and on every summer since moving to FL, and I simply hate it. I also have an easier time meditating and counting my blessings if I am not panting and hating life. I'm also nicer to my kids when I get home. It's really a lose-win-win-win. The loser is my bed, who loves me so dearly and surly misses our coffee-and-news mornings. Poor thing.
Can I just say, I finally get the mother/son relationship lovefest? Paul has always been turned to 11, regardless of that being good or bad. He overwhelms me with his full-throttle passion. However, I'm slowly learning about his particular needs and finally meeting them. Everyone has sensory needs, it's not a diagnosis, or problem, it's just like nutritional needs vary, so do sensory needs. Paul is a proprioceptive seeker. Think wrestlers and football players. So when he's hurt, he hits things and runs around, and when he's happy, he snuggles you to death and kisses you so hard your nose feels broken. Now that I understand, I've been able to give him lots of input and now he's so much calmer, and more charming, and hilarious.

One interesting thing I have found is how easy anger is for him. Since he was a baby, if he were scared, hurt or sick, he would get mad and hit people. Now that he is a little more mature, I can say that he can just be hurt without being angry, and it hits just the right note for him. He'll start to spin out, and then come in for a hug and tell me what is bothering him and what he wants to fix it.  The weirdest thing is to see how that has translated into his ability to admit when he is wrong and to apologize as well. Yes, some of this is maturity, but a lot of it is the sensory needs being filled too. I can see how much he neede this from ME. He needs a woman to understand him better just as the girls need their Daddy to work to understand their needs.

One thing I want to leave with is the fact that I'm tempted to feel guilty that it took me 5 years to get it together with Paul. Yes, I use the term tempted. Some guilt is constructive and helps us keep trucking toward being better human beings, and some is destructive and makes us naval gazing depressed narcissists. I let a little of the guilt hang out enough to remind me to be patient when he needs it, and I tell the rest to buzz off. I love my son, and I'm confident in that. I will never meet all of my children's needs no matter what. I'm comfortable with that most of the time. That's how I handle the guilt anyway.
There is a lot of bad news in the world, and I mean a. lot. of. bad. news. Sometimes it makes me think God made a mistake when He promised not to wipe us all out and start fresh a la Noah. And then there are stories like this.  I was lucky enough to meet this fine lady at my little Edel excursion and she is amazingly funny and interesting and silly. I then found out she had a blog and I was all up in that business. I promise you, if you were to meet her, you would not for a minute think she has a bunch o' kids, that two have SMA, and that she home schools. I mean, honestly you wouldn't because there is no blinding halo keeping you from getting too close. So, yes, humans are awful. However, they are awfully wonderful also. Congrats to Kelly and her family. It is a well deserved blessing.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!