Monday, July 4, 2011

Fostering Independence on Independece Day: But First - A Couple of Stories!

Well, that last post was a tearjerker, if I do say so myself.  I've had some requests for Funny.  "Be funny!" y'all say. 

The funny thing is, I don't currently feel like being funny.  I'm not blah blah depressed or anything, but I'm wanting to talk about thoughts I've been having, lately.  Thoughts about how children and teens are treated within our society, and how the ways in which they are treated are directly at odds with how we wish them to behave.  But then I'm not being funny, am I? Sometimes Sardine Mama is funny, sometimes she's inspirational, and sometimes she's Just Plain Smart - but who likes a smart ass?  Not me.  But still, I'm going to go all smart on you in a minute.  But first I must deal with the funny business you people demand.

Since I seem to be all out of humorous musings, I'll go with good old-fashioned storytelling, instead.  As in, A Funny Thing Happened To Me On The Way To....

You see, yesterday, I unintentionally shed panties in the parking lot of the local grocery store.  How is that, you ask?  Are you laughing?  For me, it was more embarrassing than funny, but go ahead and laugh at my expense.  It's what I'm here for.

How does one unintentionally shed panties in public?  Well, if one wakes up the morning after a late night out at The Cove during Pridefest...and one hastily bends over and picks up the very cute and not as tight as they used to be (yes! i've lost some weight!) dark denim capris from the bathroom floor, and then puts those dark denim capris on to run to the grocery store without checking those dark denim capris for the stray panties that are wadded up inside them, one runs the risk of having those panties from the night before fall out the bottom of the capris to land upon one's foot while one is in the middle of the crosswalk leading from the parking lot into the grocery store.  One might or might not accidentally kick the panties up into the air while strolling, just in case the guys sitting in their pickups at the crosswalk failed to see the panties fall out in the first place.  Then one might say to oneself, "What the hell is that and where did it come from?" And then one might recognize the item as one's very own pair of panties from the night before and feel compelled to snatch them up and act like shedding panties through the leg of one's capris is a perfectly normal thing to dropping one's keys.  "Oopsie!" one might say as she bends over to retrieve the fluttering panties.  "Clumsy me!"  Then one would have two options:

a) Stuff panties in purse and continue into the store.

b) Take panties back to the minivan.

In the spirit of needing a little recovery time, I suggest one choose the second option, whereby one could hope to collect herself and regain one's composure before heading back into the store for a gallon of milk.  Once one has properly collected oneself and headed back into the store for a gallon of milk, one should try to avoid getting sucked into the belief that there are possibly still an infinite number of panties waiting to drop out the leg holes of one's dark denim capris. One should not become fixated on the possibility that there might be panties creeping out the waistband and down the legs of the the dark denim capris, or out the arm and neck holes of one's t-shirt.  One shouldn't do that because then one will find it difficult to focus on the expiration dates on the milk jugs.

OK - well, if you didn't laugh at that you probably cringed.  I actually did both.

It reminded me of a High School Incident (and I'm having dejavu at the moment - so either I'm still sufficiently traumatized or I've already shared this on the blog). Anyway, here is my High School Boy, Was My Face Red! story.  Because the recent Panties in the Parking Lot Incident wasn't quite enough. I was sitting in Geometry, and I reached into my purse to retrieve a hairbrush. I firmly believed that brushing my hair during Geometry increased the blood flow to my brain, which had become completely numb about one and a half minutes into Geometry.  So I yanked out my brush (I fully intended to apply make-up right there in my seat when I was done with the brushing ritual) and began brushing my hair.  The boy next to me watched me and I assumed it was because my Hot Sexiness was thawing his geometry-numbed brain.  Only he didn't really look turned on.  He looked curious initially, and then slightly mortified.  I continued brushing.  I had really thick hair so I only kind of felt the light little tapping of a something or other as it hit my head with each stroke.  Whatever could that be? I wondered.  And then I saw the something or other out of the corner of my eye.  It was white-ish....tubular shaped....and attached to a string that was hung up in the bristles of my brush.  That's right, people.  I was repeatedly smacking myself in the head with a tampon in front of a classroom full of kids who would have watched ANYTHING....absolutely ANYTHING...over the Geometry lecture.  This was way more than any of them could have possibly hoped for in the way of a distraction.  I still occasionally see that boy...he always grins.  I think he's a grandfather now.

Okay - have your funny bones been tickled enough?  Now let me get on with my Important Thoughts.

I don't think I realized, until recently, how much independence we give our kids compared to Most Kids.  I don't think I realized just how much more freedom they have than Many Kids.  I don't think I realized how much faith and confidence we bestow on and have in them, compared to Lots of Other Kids.

We don't speak for our kids, unless one of them is going through the I'll Whisper What I Want You To Say For Me stage.  If one of them is in that stage, we fully cooperate with that tag-team form of communication. Almost all of our kids have been at that stage at one point or another and I see nothing wrong with helping them express themselves over their shyness.  Anyway - I'm OT, as they say.  Off-topic. 

What I'm not used to is parents of teens speaking for them.  Not really FOR them, either, as in, "My child would like me to express this for him..."  I'm talking "this is what I want to express for my child."  And that's totally different.

I recently volunteered at a piano competition for Ellie.  I simply registered pianists, telling them what time they played, asking for music, making sure their measures were numbered, etc.  And in only ONE CASE did I actually talk to the teen pianist.  The parents were the ones who came up to the desk, signed their kid in, flipped through the music to check measures, etc.  Their teens stood behind / beside them, appearing either disinterested or frightened to death.  I didn't talk to them.  I talked to their parents.  It was strange to me.  I could no more have checked Ellie in at her own room than I could have taken Joel's Black Belt test for him.  I didn't know what music she was playing, the order in which she was playing it, or whether or not her measures were numbered.  And even if I did know all of that, I would still expect her to be the one to check herself in.  She needs to hear the information, she needs to be able to ask any questions she might just never occurred to me to do it for her. 

The strange thing is, Attachment Parenting is often confused with Helicopter Parenting. What people don't understand is that we're not hoverers.  We're really not.  We're Emotional and Physical Need-Meeters. The acronym for that is EPNM....which is lame.  If someone wants to come up with a better title and accompanying acronym I am All For It.  Get to work on that, would you?

Anyway, we attempt to meet the needs of and give legitimacy to our kids in infancy and beyond because it fosters independence.  They are in charge of identifying their needs.  Not me.  Who am I to argue with you if you say you're not hungry?  Who argues with me if I say I'm not hungry or I don't feel like sleeping or I'm not really interested in continuing to learn about tarot cards?  Nobody.  So why do parents feel the need to tell their kids things like, "yes, you are hungry - it's dinner time!" or "you can't quit soccer simply because you don't like it! then you're a quitter!  for the rest of your life! i'd rather you develop an intense fear of trying new things!"

Sheesh.  Anyway,  honoring their needs, even if what they needed was to sleep with us for comfort, or continue breastfeeding, or whatever it is that they wanted/needed to do....all of the things that made them look possibly clingy to people who didn't get it, just ensured that they felt worthy of having their needs met.  That's a Huge Thing.  Think about it.  I'm worthy of the things I need. I believe in the legitimacy of the things I need.

Truth be told, I don't have that level of confidence about myself.  I wish I did. 

Kids who are Attachment Parented learn how to express their needs with the complete expectation that value will be placed upon those needs.  It means they can look adults in the eye and speak to them with the knowledge that they deserve to be heard.  Likewise (and here's the part where those of you who believe this results in egocentric and bratty kids lose your leg to stand on), they firmly believe that everyone else also deserves to be heard and that their needs also have value.  Bingo.  Do you realize how many of society's perceived ills are solved with this simple idea of giving worth and value to the needs of your children? Oops! I think I got off-topic again. 

Here's the incident I'm working towards:

Yesterday I had to attend a Parent Meeting for a music festival Ellie's participating in.  There are only five kids in this group, and they spent an hour and a half telling us things that only the participants needed to know.  And yet, the other parents were intensely interested and involved in this meeting.  With the exception of one young man (the only other homeschooler), none of the kids said a word during the entire thing (I'm sure that will change - they all hardly knew each other at this point - and Ellie really didn't say anything, either).  But what I'm getting at is, the parents spoke for their children, and about their children, as if they weren't sitting right there next to them.  At one point in the meeting, the leaders talked to the teens about how they would be attending many receptions with artists and patrons and how they should Speak To The Adults at these events.  Like this was a really Big Concept.  They told them that if they are introduced to their benefactors (all of these kids are being sponsored by patrons of the arts) they should Say Thank You and Maybe Even Something Else Like Nice To Meet You.  They were repeatedly told to take advantage of opportunities to socialize with the professional musicians.  But when you looked around the room, the kids had their heads down and the parents were nodding enthusiastically and speaking and talking and I wanted to point out the obvious, which is that you can't expect kids who are raised as if they are mutes in adult circles to suddenly know how to stand up and take their places as know...on command. **I don't know these kids and doubt very seriously that they are all raised as mutes by their parents, I'm talking about the Bigger Picture of how our culture and society tends to treat young people as somehow lesser than those who have simply been here longer, as if any of us even have anything to say about the order in which we arrive.

Just a little something to think about.  I'm SO FAR FROM PERFECT, believe me.  And if you don't believe me, I can ask my kids to leave their opinions in the comments section and you will get the Real Dirt on the Subject. 

Sometimes I have to remind myself to pay attention to and honor the needs of my littler guys (not so much with the bigger ones....I have a problem treating the little guys with the same respect as I do the bigger ones....I'm a Work In Progress).  Sometimes it is something simple, like Camille will say she doesn't like something and I'm tempted to say, Yes you do!!  And instead of thinking she just doesn't know what she's talking about, I'll force myself to believe that she absolutely does.  And then I just keep on doing it the rest of the day.  Not just giving in, but believing in what she expresses to me.  It makes me see her differently.  It makes me honor her, respect her, and yes, love her, differently.  It makes me value her differently.  And then? It makes me value everyone a little differently, myself included.

I'm more likely to believe my own needs deserve to be met when I can see that simple truth in the needs of others. 

OH MY GOD.  I think I just bestowed the Golden Rule upon you people.  I told you I was going to be all smart!  Just did it in my usual Wordy Way. 

Happy Independence Day!


  1. You say everything so well that I usually want to give up blogging (because why bother??) every time I read one of your posts.

    I feel that way today, too.

  2. No way Ami! Your voice definitely needs to be a caregiver for other people's children who RESPECTS the needs of those children -you are an Awesome Voice. And a good blogger!

  3. Comment #1
    I am halfway through the "panties" story and I am laughing my ass off. By your own warning, I know this post won't be all funny but I wanted to write this while I was in the mood. Okay, now to the rest of your post.
    p.s. At least they were your own panties.

  4. Comment #2
    A Tampon? You should have just killed yourself right then and there. Texas, right? I'm sure you could have borrowed a gun from one of your classmates. m.

  5. Oh my, you are smart! Now if only you were smart enough to toss your dirty panties in the hamper when you are done with them...
    Okay, I will take all of this into consideration. I have no teens yet, as you know. However, I have one approaching and he might be the most difficult of all to speak up for himself with strangers. No "Look Me In The Eye" going on there. I wish I could start with Claire or Jacob because they have no problem with social interactions. And poor Joshua, I'm not quite about him. But he's cute so that should help him along.
    Thanks for having your kids before me so I can see your mistakes before I make them. I owe you! m.

  6. If Ellie didn't say anything, there probably wasn't anything that needed to be said if people were paying attention ;-)

    It's weird how they want the kids to interact with the adults and then undermine the process by having the parents in the room.

    It reminds me of a baseball camp we were at last summer. We had been to several of these and knew at the end of the day, the player was going to get individual feedback from one or more of the colleges coaches there. This happens with the players on the field and I had never seen any parents on the field at any of the camps.

    Then at this one camp, the director starts off by saying how the college coaches don't want to talk to the parents, they want to talk to the kids and that you're probably just messing up the kid's chances when you do the talking.

    So what happens at the end of the day? Apparently the director told the parents it was okay for them to go onto the field when the kids were talking to the coaches. I wasn't there at the time, I was sitting across the street in the shade. I see all of these parents moving out of the bleachers so decide to see what was going on. There was only one parent left in the bleachers, guarding her ice chest while the husband went on the field with the kids.

    The only explanation I could think of was maybe this was some sort of test by the director. He had been at other camps we were part of and he hadn't done this before. Maybe he just wanted to see how many of the parents were listening and would actually go onto the field. I wonder is he was surprised or not about the results.

  7. Mark - I can't say how much I appreciate 3 separate comments. It makes me look popular! Not popular like bloggers who get 80+ comments...and really, don't you think they look more pretentious than popular with all those comments? Come to think of it, I guess not. I think you topped off at 96 with your last post. Not that I'm counting. Anyway - thanks!

  8. Mark - see how I'm leaving separate responses to your comments? You know, for some kids it is always going to be hard to interact with adults (or even peers) and it has nothing to do with the parents having raised them this way or that and everything to do with their own personalities. And that's ok. I also have a "look me in the eye - NOT" kid. I'm more concerned with them having a sense of power and control over their own lives and their ability to advocate for their needs to the best of their abilities to do so. And really, this is all a big experiment for me, too. I could be doing EVERYTHING wrong, instead of just some things. If that happens I'll just quietly remove myself from the blogosphere :).

  9. Michelle - that's hilarious. I wonder if he was setting them up? You know, there are people in the piano competition circuit who have no idea I'm Ellie's mom...after all these years of seeing me at things...they're just not sure what I'm doing there :).

  10. I agree wholeheartedly with the need to treat children with respect and foster independence in them. I love the "teach a man to fish you feed him forever" concept. Over parenting only hurts a kid in the end because they leave the house not knowing how to do anything by themselves. I did my own laundry from the age of 10 onward and my kids will learn to take care of themselves too. I hope to God I'm not a helicopter parent and that I let my kids represent themselves.

    Right now I'm struggling with my (VERY independent-minded) toddler and the line between her need to be independent and call the shots and do things for herself and my need to keep her safe and teach her morals. She might feel like she needs to vent her frustration by bludgeoning her baby sister in the head, or that my bed makes an excellent trampoline (resulting in her bludgeoning her own head EVERY SINGLE TIME) but I have to step in and ban hitting and jumping on furniture because there really are situations where she just doesn't know any better just yet. And no, the wailing of her sister and the pain of her head meeting the floor have yet to get the message through to her. It's a struggle to give her independence right now because she so often has shown us she can't be trusted with it. She runs away full tilt the moment we let go of her hand, whether we're in an empty field or a crowded stadium, in the back yard or standing next to a cliff. I wish I could trust her at this point to walk nicely next to me when we go places, but I can't. Sleep is another thing I can't trust her to do for herself at this point yet. She would stay up all night and then crash in the middle of the floor if we let her, but we've established a bed time and nap time and she's far less cranky. I think toddlers need that imposed structure, yet I knew a 15 year old who still had a bedtime. Nuts. Independence should be given to a child age-appropriately. Obviously you're not going to hand your 4 year old the keys to the car and say "take her for a spin!" i think what happens isn't that parents are mean-spirited and don't trust their kids so much as they just get used to giving them a certain independence level and never progress from there. They get stuck talking for their kid when their kid is too little to form sentences and as their kid grows their kid never protests so they just keep doing it. They keep track of their kid's music at their first piano lesson at age 4 and then just keep doing it. Just a matter of parenting consciously and realizing when your kid is ready to handle more and then letting them handle it.

    Another thing that drives me nuts is parents that don't let their children fail. Failing and overcoming failure is a part of life, and learning to pick yourself up and brush yourself off and get back on the horse is an invaluable lesson, as is learning consequences of poor planning or rehearsing. Yet parents will actually run into school and ARGUE WITH THE TEACHER when their child earns a poor grade or receives the consequence associated with a missed assignment even when the child fully deserves that consequence. Moms and dads will stay up late hot gluing popsicle sticks together because Junior forgot to tell them they had a science fair project due until the night before it was due. What does a child learn when you continually bail them out except that they can just continue to be irresponsible and mom will bail them out? Do parents really prioritize GRADES, which should not matter that much, especially in grade school, IMO, over their child learning to become a responsible human being?

  11. Too funny with the hairbrush...Richard and I had a good laugh. I love the way you tell a story!

  12. Hugs - Susie and Rich!

    Amber - thanks for such a well thought out comment!! And you're right about so much!! And while I do foster independence, I am absolutely charged with the task of keeping my children safe, and that does require my saying NO whenever a NO is called for. The younger they are, the more it is called for. I'm not afraid of that word. I also think that the ability to delay gratification is something that is oh so important (has been proven to be a predictor of social and academic success) and there are fewer teaching opportuntities where it is concerned due to the fast-paced world we live in.

  13. Hi Sardine Mama, thank you thank you!!
    I thought I would just quickly check for a now post on your blog and hurray! but I am laughing so har that I have tears streaming over my face and I cannot read the rest - so it will wait till later on and I will SKIP the first (really funny) part and read the rest and comment on that afterwards - hurray for loosing wait and enjoying parties till late at night!
    See you soon,

    Jade (off to look for a paper tissue now)

  14. laughing so hard, see, I missed the missing d in my above comment because of the tears in my eyes...
    oops and it is hurray for losing weight, did I write wait? no way, that was really wrong - sigh

  15. this is completely unrelated to your post (which is great as usual) and I should just send you a PM, but I just found this and thought you would just love it, and maybe somebody else would like it too, hence the post here:

  16. Thanks Dinster! Yeah - that is the theme song of the blog...was the theme song for our Cali trip that started the blog - so very cool. Lovely song...on my Funeral Playlist - which really should be another post for another time :). Because I do have a Funeral Playlist. And it's so rocking awesome that it's just a shame I won't hear it.

  17. ok, so I read the rest and now I feel all dumb and useless as a mother again - I'm just no good at all at fostering independence and keeping them safe at the same time (talking about NOT getting them to bed on time and let's not even start on getting them any good food - but yes, I will often speak for them -aah, all wrong and I did know it before reading your post, but somehow I seemed to have forgotten it all...) - so this will be one of the lamest comments ever, but: thanks for the advice ! I'll be coming back to read the serious part regularly, even if just to remind me that I could be a different kind of parent...

  18. What does it mean if your child (who is 17, not exactly a child anymore) doesn't want you anywhere around? And what if he ignores pretty much all your advice? Is that a good or bad thing? Just wondering.

    Dwaine just heard me making a muted "hff-hff-hff" sound and he asked if I was laughing or crying, an appropriate question right now. I replied that I was laughing! Of course! (I didn't read the Ellie post, and you can't make me.)

  19. Julie, it means you have a 17-year-old who is developmentally on track :).

    And oh god - don't read the Ellie post. It was Really Good and would make you cry Big Tears.