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  • Whining Is Not A Strategy

    January 31, 2013

    There is an old saying that we all know:  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    In other words, those who complain the loudest and the longest and in the most annoying repetitious way possible —  get what they want.  Except from me, then no, they get nothing.

    My policy is this:  I don’t negotiate with terrorists or toddlers. Or those who behave as such.

    At the House of Antique, if you are whining, the answer is automatically NO.  If you continue whining, you will get the Antique Mommy fish eye, which has been known to stop a charging rhino in it’s tracks.  And if you still insist on whining, well let’s just hope you’ve got your salvation plan worked out.

    It would seem that whining is built into children, as a survival mechanism, as all children try it out at one time or another.  Which, now that I analyze that, it would appear as though I am devoid of the instinct to see to the survival of my child.  Yet?  So far, so good.

    Some people are gifted in their ability to tune out annoying noise, and those people become teachers.  I can’t think or have a conversation if the TV is blaring, and the leaf blower makes my eardrums ache.  But I would take 1000 leaf blowers over one 40-pound child whining PleasepleasepleasePLEEEEEaaaasssee-PUH-leeeze-Uh!

    Sean is a super bright boy and he figured out early on that whining and saying “please” in various intonations four hundred times in a row was not going to work with me.  I think he tried it out once or twice, and after he fully recovered from the sting of the fish eye, he moved on in search of other more civilized candy-getting tactics.  Back in the day, when he was my grocery store boyfriend, we’d pass a kid who was whining and he’d just keep licking his Tootsie Pop and shake his head as if to say, “Whining – what an unsophisticated strategy.”

    Last year, I was doing a project in Sean’s classroom and this one particularly energetic boy jumped out of his seat and ran up to me and started jumping up and down waving his hand in my face (which is a good way to lose a hand) and started in with the PickmePickmePleasePleasePleeeeeezPrettyPleasePickMe!  Sean came to my rescue (or maybe he came to the boy’s rescue) and nudged him and quietly said, “Dude.  She won’t respond to that.  If you’re whining the answer is automatically no.”

    I gave the boy a my crazy lady half smile-half fish eye and he slunk back to his seat.


    January 27, 2013

    Boundaries have become the issue lately — geographic boundaries.

    Some families in our neighborhood are of the free-range philosophy.  They have chosen to let their children roam unattended.  AD and I have decided that is not a good choice for Sean right now.  Some of the reasons behind our decision have to do with Sean and where he is in the process of proving himself as responsible, reliable and of good judgment.

    Other reasons have to do with us; our perceived risks and rewards that come with allowing him to roam beyond the reach of my eyeballs.  And really, what more important thing do I have to do than to keep track of my kid?  I can’t think of anything.

    Sidebar:  For those of you who will accuse me of hovering, I would like to point out that there is a huge difference between hovering and keeping track of your kid. I do not hover.  I do however spy.  I watch him make mistakes from a distance and only intervene if it means I might have to make a trip to the ER.

    Nonetheless, when he sees a boy a full year younger riding his bike down the street, he bristles with injustice.  “Why does he get to ride his bike all over and I don’t?  He’s younger than me!  Everyone gets to ride their bikes by themselves except me! That’s not fair!”

    And to this I say, “That is the choice his family has made for him.  Life is not fair.  We never make choices based on what other people are doing. Never.”

    He sighs.  He huffs. But he accepts it because he knows he would have a better chance of moving the Great Wall of China than to budge me an inch on this issue.

    The fact of the matter is, not everyone is doing it.  Some families let their kids roam unattended and out of sight, but many other families like ours, do not — and those are the boys that Sean hangs out with, boys from families who share our parenting philosophy and that makes it a little bit  easier when we can counter with, “Bryan doesn’t.  Nathan doesn’t.  Aaron doesn’t. Reagan doesn’t.  Clayton doesn’t….”

    I know that at some point I will have to let him go off on his bike and out of my sight, but I think he has some proving to do.  I want to see him demonstrate good judgment over time.  I want to feel like if he found himself in a tight spot that he would have the physical and mental resources to get out of it.

    It’s a different word than when I grew up in the 1960s.  My mother seldom knew where I was. I would roam on foot or bike for four or five miles away from the house by myself and be gone for hours.  One time I got so far way from home that a policeman brought me home in a police car. I was about nine.

    Some might say that those experiences were good, that I learned how to manage in the world. That may be true, but I think more so than that, that God placed hedge around me to protect me from my own stupidity, one that covered me many times well into adulthood. The hedge may have protected me from stupidity, but unfortunately not from the lingering embarrassment from stupidity.

    Does Sean have a hedge around him too?  Yes. For now, it’s me.

    So, I’m curious — what is your policy on boundaries for your kids?  What factors in your world, your life, your experience influenced your decision?

    A Good Friend

    January 23, 2013

    This morning, I watched two boys tumble out of the backseat of my car and scramble towards the school.  Their backpacks bounced wildly as they ran and playfully shoved each other off the sidewalk.  I couldn’t hear them, but I knew that they were giggling and calling each other out with mock indignation, “Duuude!?”

    Since the day I knew I was pregnant, I have prayed for many things for my child, but my constant prayer has been that he would be blessed with a good friend.  As I watched the two boys disappear around the corner, I sensed that for this season at least, my prayer had been answered.

    When I say “a good friend” I don’t mean someone who enjoys the same things he does or someone who will reciprocate play dates.  What I want for Sean is a friend who possesses the Biblical quality of goodness – a good friend.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A good friend loves at all times” and a friend who loves at all times does not let his buddy do something that would make his mommy sad.

    And in Bryan, Sean’s BFF for this season (or dare I even hope, for life?) I see a boy who has the fruit of goodness growing in him.

    Not long ago, Bryan was over to play and Sean was being a real toot.  When I took Bryan home, I told him I was sorry that Sean had not been very nice to him and he said – and this blew me away – “That’s okay, he’s probably just tired.”

    Grace and goodness – what more could you want in a friend?

    Bryan’s mother tells me he has his days too (who doesn’t?) but on the whole, I see in him an innate desire to do what is good and right.  He is a boy who is cautious and doesn’t like getting in trouble and Sean needs someone like that to temper his sometimes dramatic free-spiritedness.

    I know that with each passing year, the influence of the world will increase in his life and my influence will decrease.  I know that the company he keeps will influence the choices he makes.  I know that the stakes only get higher as his world gets bigger.  The people he chooses to partner with in friendships along the way will have a hand in writing the story of his life.

    I know that the time is coming when I will have to lengthen the rope, to let him go with his friends (clear out of my sight!) and in letting him go, he will encounter choices to go left or right.   And I think the best I can hope for is that he will have at least one good  friend who will hold him accountable, who is willing to challenge a questionable choice or at least speak up and say, “Dude. Maybe you shouldn’t do that…”

    At some point in life, one has (hopefully) developed some wisdom and discernment, and friends of all sorts is a good thing; I think we are called to that.  But for a nine-year-old who has yet to fully develop those traits —  right now he needs, and has, a good friend.

    And that is an answered prayer.


    Everyone Has A Story

    January 13, 2013

    I recently came across the Washington Post story of Joshua Bell, a world class violinist who agrees to work in cahoots with the Post for a story.  He positions himself as an anonymous sort of starving artist in a Washington DC subway playing for tips during morning rush hour — that is, a starving artist playing for tips with a $3 million Stradivari.  As he plays his glorious music, for which he earns millions, for which he has played for kings and queens, he is largely ignored.

    The story is not new, it came out in 2007, but I didn’t see it then because at that time I had a just turned four-year-old and I was as likely to have time to read the newspaper as I was to take trapeze lessons.

    Nonetheless, I came across the story on Facebook, and as you might expect, there were hundreds of comments about how awful people are because here they were in the presence musical genius and they neither recognized it nor would they take time to stop and smell the musical roses.

    I, however, did not think the story was about how awful people are for not recognizing Joshua Bell or stopping to enjoy awesome violin music.  Until I read this story I had not heard of Joshua Bell and I only somewhat enjoy violin music. Paint my collar blue.

    That people don’t recognize a celebrity out of context is not surprising, especially a non-Hollywood celebrity.  That the majority of people don’t recognize a famous classical musician is not surprising as the majority of people who can afford seats at the symphony are not the majority of the subway-riding working stiffs.  That people won’t stop and close their eyes and sway and appreciate musical beauty as they are late to work is not surprising either, because if they get fired, how are they ever going to afford symphony tickets?

    Recognition of celebrity or beauty out of context may have been the intended story, but I thought the real story was about how everyone you pass has a story — a tragic beautiful amazing heroic unique thrilling and wonderful story, co-written with a mighty creator.

    Everyone you pass has a story that is out of context.  The mom I often pass on the way to school, who wears yoga pants and drives the Mercedes, who never makes eye contact or speaks to me, who makes me feel like she thinks she is better than me — she has a story.  And if I knew her story, it might provide some context.  It might change my perspective.  I might view her differently.

    The mom who is 30-pounds overweight.  The mom who is always pulled together and volunteers for everything.  The mom who is a little too loud. The mom who lets her kid wear shorts to school in January.  The mom who….

    Everyone has a story, which in the subway station of life, is out of context.  And no, I’m not suggesting that we stop and take in the story of everyone we pass, because then we would never have time for those trapeze lessons.  But we can try to remember that everyone we pass has a story and that if we knew it, we would have the context to recognize the celebrity and beauty in them that God sees.

    The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.  1Samuel 16:7