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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Parenting without Power Struggles, Susan Stiffelman -- Review

I've just finished my third book of the year, and it was a parenting book. I started it more than a year ago, and have been plodding through it slowly, when I need it, and I need it often.

My kids are very spirited, and very loud. And it was hard for me to get them to do what I needed them to do without resorting to yelling or bullying of some sort.

And I hated it.

There are a lot of crap parts to this book. A lot of false dialogue, a lot of scenarios that will never happen in real life ever. A lot of her proposed solutions would not work in the way she wrote it down.

But, some of the core basics were very solid and things I needed to hear.

I needed to hear that I didn't need to hammer home a canned parenting point every time I spoke to my kids. The book spends a lot of time on separation. First help the child get the thing they need to do done. Don't talk about it. Or when you are saying no. Just say no. And let them feel how they feel. Do not spend a lot of time explaining it, thinking they'll come around, see things your way, or understand the logic. They won't and they can't and to try to get that whole message through at the time will result in disaster.

This has happened so many times to me.

What she advises is talking to your kids long after the direct order.

Another good thing in this book was the concept of coming alongside your kid when they feel negative emotion or don't want to do a thing.

Think of three reasons why they shouldn't want to do that thing, she wrote.

Now, I don't want to do that because dammit, do the thing, kids. But she's right.

One of my main mistakes with these kids is that I come at them from a state of irritation. Because why can't they just see the things the way they need to see them? Why can't they understand things and do them and behave?

I've noticed that when I do allow them their feelings, even if I'm impatient about it (in my own head), or I think their feelings are misguided, or downright wrong...if I give them the space to feel, they will come around on their own.

The biggest thing I learned, though, is that parenting without power struggles means getting rid of the bargaining.

I wanted my kids to be able to debate me and be heard and make their points, but that was absolutely the wrong way to go (at their young age). Right now, they need to know that "someone is in charge of the ship" as the book says. They have to hear in my voice that I mean what I say when I say it, and that they can trust what I say. If I leave what I say open at all times, they can never trust me. They don't know if I mean it or not, or if I'll change my mind with a little wheedling. They need me to be solid for them. Even if that solid says no.

Anyway, I recommend the book. Like I said, there's a lot of blah in it, but there is a lot of good in there too.

It helped us. It really did.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The last debate

I'm here, watching the last Republican debate before the Iowa caucus, and I'm looking at all of these men talking about immigration, and I'm still just as boggled as I was three months ago when this all started. Why do none of these people know what they are talking about?

Listening to the Republicans versus the Democrats, and it's like they are talking about two different countries, with two different sets of issues. And the Republicans keep talking about issues that don't exist. Or, the issues exist: immigration is an issue that is very important.

But the solutions don't address the problem.

Like, building a wall, stopping people from coming in, not trusting those born in other countries, using them as scapegoats for hate and fear. These are the solutions to immigration that they're talking about. And they're arguing over who wants to be the most extreme about this.

Meanwhile, the Democrats talk about the middle class and how to fix our ailing infrastructure, what to do about climate change, how to stop ISIS, you know, important things.

The most of this debate, as with all Republican debates, is a sniping match between the candidates. They spend all their time pissing on each other. They are all scurrying around as if their fellow Republicans are the scourge of the Earth. The only thing worse than the primary opponents are the Democrats.

They are looking so desperate right now. Why are they so frantic and testy? Why aren't they calmly telling us what they would do for the country?

Why is the Republican Party its own reality show this year?

Donald Trump isn't even there.

This isn't a debate. It's a pissing match.

There is no winner here.

Just seven desperate, angry men making themselves look bad.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mommy, why would white people want to let Black people be equal? And other stories

So, my kids are learning a fair bit about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as they should.

Their limited world experience and faint grasp on big-picture ideas, however, combined with curriculum that could probably be improved, has thrown them for a bit of a loop.

Last week, one of my kids came home talking about this amazing "lesson" their teacher had them learn.

"Mommy, he split the class up in half, and he put us in two groups, then he told one group we were going to have a party, and he told the other group they couldn't come. They had to sit in another classroom. I was in the party group. I was sad because my friend was in the not party group. I was almost crying. But then he didn't do it, mommy. He didn't do it. He told us it was just a lesson."

Now, something sat funny with me about this lesson, but coming from my white-person frame of reference, I couldn't put a finger on what it was. So, we talked about what the lesson was supposed to be, and how unfair that would have been, and we applied it to the political, social and cultural backdrop of that time in history.

A wonderfully patient woman online soon explained to me why this lesson is off-base.

The approach is incredibly white-centric as it assumes that all the children in the class need to learn the lesson of discrimination through a cutesy classroom activity. It assumes that all children in the class don't already know how this might feel. Meanwhile, children of color already experience this on a daily basis throughout their lives, and don't need to play-act it to get an idea of what discrimination could possibly be about. And it's certainly not about parties.


Flash forward to today when my children were talking to each other about how funny Dr. King's voice sounded during his famous speech. I cut in to explain that he spoke fervently to evoke passion in his listeners and get support for the very important action he was trying to help facilitate.

We talked about how brave he and others were for standing up to the status quo without any power to do so, and without any guarantee of their safety. We talked about how very important it was to stand up for equality for all people, no matter where we fell on that spectrum.

Then one of my daughters comes out with this, after sitting silently for a moment, thinking it all over.

"Mama, why would the white people then want to give equality to the Black people? You know, since they had it all? They would want to keep it."


So, that was a really insightful and legitimate question. I answered with a grandiose speech about how all people were very important and the white people who were kind and good and thoughtful and smart knew that it was wrong to treat other people like they were. And they wanted to give equality because it was the right thing to do, and we must always do the right thing.

Another brief silence.

Then this:

"But, mama, you always tell us that life isn't fair, and that we can't make it fair."


And, man, can I just tell you I am not smart enough to be a parent?

I thought a while about how to simplify the different between fairness on an individual level and equality on an institutional level.

Eventually I settled on telling her that even though life wasn't fair in many, many things, it was up to us every day to try to make it more fair for those around us who had it harder. And I threw in a few "plus, that's a totally different thing, it's just the words are the same," for good measure.

The world is hard. Concepts are hard. The fact that we still live in a world where discrimination, inequality and oppression exist is hardest of all.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Reasons my kids couldn't possibly go to sleep before 10 p.m.

The girls slept late this morning because of the holiday. And tomorrow, we're up at 6:30 a.m. again. Do they care? Noooooo. They do not. They do not care that tomorrow at 7:15, I'm going to be tearing my hair out trying to hurry them up, putting on their shoes they suddenly can't find even though I laid them out tonight, combing their hair in a frenzy as they dramatically scream in fake pain, and force feeding them cereal via high-powered watergun. OPEN YOUR MOUTHS.

No, they do not care.

Here are the reasons they absolutely couldn't possibly have been asleep before 10 p.m. tonight:

1) They had to play a game of balloon volleyball in the living room because daddy told them they could.

2) The last point in that volleyball game was super contentious it totally DID OR DID NOT touch the couch before going over to the other side. This required mental replays, various explanations, three near tantrums, and seeking out a neutral party to decide for them. (The decision, by the way, was GO TO BED).

3) They had to finish their chocolate milk that they didn't even like at dinner time.

4) They NEEDED dessert. They were so so so so so so so so so hungry. Even though it took them nearly ninety minutes to eat dinner. Can't argue with the stomach, I guess.

5) They couldn't tell if they needed to go number two or not.

6) Brushing teeth is harrrrrrrrd.

7) They wanted to change their underwear randomly.

8) They needed to talk in bed. They had things they forgot to discuss in the 16 hours they were awake and together apparently.

9) They were suddenly so itchy. They needed to turn the lights on to examine their itchiness and call me in to check it. (It was invisible, by the way.)

10) They needed more water. They drank it all. For the first time in six months.

11) Wait, was that a ghost, mom?

12) Well, if it's the dishwasher, it's too loud. They can't sleep with the dishwasher on. You know, like they did last night. Or the night before.

13) They needed the closet door shut. But they needed it shut by a grownup. Just in case.

So, like, tomorrow, they'd better be walking to school before I even wake their little butts up. Because GO TO SLEEP.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The non-existent gummies

My kids are smarter than I am.

It's true and it's scary.

I say a thing, and suddenly we're talking about an entirely different thing (usually which isn't even in existence in the logical realm). Today, amid dozens of things, we had a long chat about who WOULD get the last bag of gummies if I had any gummies in the car. Which I didn't. And I said four times we weren't going to have the conversation before they finally stopped.

You see, the other day, while Natalina was eating other food, Dulce asked for gummies and I gave them to her, unbeknown to both of us that it was the last bag.

This made Natalina very sad, as you can imagine, but she got over it fairly well.

Today, Dulce asked for gummies in the car, and I reminded her that we were all out.

Natalina piped up that if we DID have any gummies, they'd go to her.

Dulce disagreed.

I said we weren't talking about it.

Natalina explained her side of the story (which I already knew). That she had had one less gummy bag than Dulce, AND that Dulce had agreed she should get an extra one later, so therefore, it should be hers.

I said we weren't talking about it.

Dulce explained her side of the story (which I already knew) which was that it's a totally different day, and Natalina had had other food at the time that one day, and she really wanted gummies right now so why should her previous gummy consumption matter.

I said we weren't talking about it.

The girls continued in their separate lines of thinking until they were ready to basically kill each other and I had to be like, "Girls, you are fighting over something that does not exist. There are no gummies."

And the whole thing would have been fine if it sounded like it reads, but don't for one second think they said any of these things calmly or in an inside voice.


It's been a long day.

If anyone knows how to make kids who do this, um, not do this, I would be eternally grateful.

Good thing they're cute.


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