Tag: parenting

Hobbies And Parenting

I lost myself a bit when I had a kid. Reading a “for me” book was the only hobby I managed when she was a baby (i.e. without much opinion of content). I read text books, historical analysis, and crime/mystery novels out loud while I held her. But now ‘reading’ means her books, and sitting quietly to read something on my own … more stress than it’s worth.

About two years ago we got few new hires at work, and my boss sent out a quick intro for everyone. He has known me for a long time, so included a list of things that … yeah, I used to do all of those. It was, frankly, a depressing read. I decided to pick one thing I used to enjoy and start doing it again. To my surprise, the tiny person wanted to do it with me.

Well, she wants to be with me all the time so the wanting wasn’t really surprising. But she actually does my hobbies too – like pays attention when I show her what to do, respects the equipment and uses it properly, accepts there are some things she’s not old enough to use yet, and enjoys doing the projects. I was really worried the first time she wanted to make jewelry with me, and yeah she made a big mess with the beads. But she also re-sorted the beads back into their containers and was super proud of the bracelet she made. She’s got her own box of beads that is sorted her way,  and she’ll ask me if she can have some of something from one of my boxes. My beads aren’t a haphazard mess, my tools are where they belong, and she leaves the not-for-Anya tools alone.

Now she’s got a sewing machine and sews while I sew. She’s got paints and stamps and scissors — which isn’t really my thing but she’ll paint while I sew or paint en plein air while I garden. She’s getting interested in gardening beyond picking veggies, so this year she’ll be starting her own little garden. She cooks with me – although she’s not old enough to use a sharp knife or handle hot pans, she gets ingredients / chops softer things with a dinner knife / measures and mixes ingredients. And has a lot of fun “thieving” little veggie bits from the cutting board as I cook.

Hiking and biking aren’t as aerobic with a tiny person (unless you’ve got that bike that bolts onto the back of your bike and lets the kid peddle too. That thing looks awesome), but it’s more exercise than sitting at home. Running on paved trails – she doesn’t have the endurance I do, but she can do about a mile and a half at a pace that’s pushing it for me.

Hobbies might be a little different when done with a tiny person, but when someone says I have a hobby homestead, enjoy crocheting, sewing, and bicycling … I don’t feel like they’re talking about five years ago me anymore.

Parenting Books

When my girl was < 1 year, I bought a LOT of parenting books because the advertising promised me some sleep. Quickly formed a hypothesis that a large percentage of parenting book sales are completely desperate and sleep deprived moms for whom the content isn’t as important as the fact they’re trying SOMETHING. Because as a how-to guide? Absolute useless. Which makes sense since human being aren’t automatons, thus it’s pretty much impossible to predict the result of any set of inputs.

I haven’t found the toddler-themed books to be any better. “I hear that you are angry because I won’t let you go outside without a coat when it is 3 degrees” or the toddlereze version “Bean angry, don’t want coat” never once had my kid perk up and say “I’m glad you understand my frustration here. Now that you validate my point of view, sure I’ll do what you’ve asked of me”. My daughter seems to get angrier — “ok, you know I want ice cream for breakfast so why aren’t you doing it?!?”.

Choices are completely ineffective for us too. Presented two equally awesome choices (do you want to go to the zoo or the aquarium), sure she’ll pick one. Otherwise she’ll make up a third option that she does like. Or go with “C: None of the above”. Which, stepping outside of the immediate situation … props to a 3 year old kid for the thought process. But it certainly didn’t help me navigate the day.

That being said, I did like “Time-Out for Parents” (ISBN-13 978-0971030930) which didn’t so much focus on how to parent a child but asking yourself why you get stressed out over some scenarios (i.e. Why do I care if she goes without a coat when it’s 45 degrees outside? No clue, let it go and bring a jacket in case she gets cold. Why do I care when it’s 3 degrees? Health and safety, wear the coat!) and how to re-center yourself now that you’ve got massive amount of conflict in your life.

The Address Game

There are some things that a young kid just needs to know as they venture out into the world — be that a trip to the zoo or a day at preschool. Their address and a parent’s phone number are high on that list. I made a phone number bracelet for her — number beads and a few sparkly stars with a magnetic clasp – for her first trip to the zoo, and I’ve been adding sparkly stars to make it larger as she grew. She more or less accidentally memorized our phone numbers from reading the bracelet. But learning our address wasn’t so easy. I suspect the impetus behind “make a song out of it” isn’t that it’s easier to remember the song but that a kid is quite willing to sing something they’re not normally willing to repeat. Anya wasn’t particularly excited to sing our address either, so the traditional method was out.

Instead, we play a lot of games where she buys something from me (where do you want this unicorn delivered?) or has to get a license or permit (you need a license to fly this aeroplane, certainly need a dragon permit before you can own one, construction requires zoning and building department approval) and she needs to provide her address as part of the game. While she didn’t want to repeat the address as a learning experience unto itself, she happily accepted my prompts, repeated, and memorized the information as an incidental component of the game.

Before she knew the address reliably, I made sure she knew to tell people a regionally well-known (and Google-able) fact about the town. It’s a small town, so really getting to the police here and telling them we live across from the mini golf course would suffice. Fortunately, I never had to find out if a stranger who happens across a small child lost in the woods would be willing to search for buzzard day and acquiesce to her request to call the police at the Buzzard Day township. But I figured that had a better shot than nothing to go on. Plus, I figure it’s a good fallback position if she’s panicked and unable to come up with the address.

Don’t Talk To Strangers

It was 68 degrees, and I took Anya to the beach by a local lake to build sand castles. Three different kids, with three different families, wandered up to us and started playing. I said ‘hi’ to each one, and got a funny look. Each kid spent around fifteen minutes playing with us without saying a word. It was really strange. Until I heard the horrified mother admonishing her kid as they walked away: “you know not to talk to strangers, what were you doing?”. Here’s a guess – he wasn’t talking to strangers. Playing with, yes. Walking around on the beach with, yes. But he dutifully avoided talking.

Kids process language literally. It’s funny, sometimes, what Anya doesn’t get because figurative and abstract reasoning are not well developed in four year old kids. I’ve heard the don’t get into a car with a stranger / don’t talk to strangers/ STRANGER DANGER!!!! through most of its evolution from perfectly reasonable advice (seriously, don’t GO somewhere with a stranger. I remember trying to convey this to friends when I was at University – go to a club, meet a cute guy, don’t go somewhere alone with him. It isn’t like this is advice merely for young kids.) to absolute paranoia (kid lost in the woods who spent his time hiding from the strange people who had volunteered to search the woods looking for the missing child). Until yesterday, it never occurred to me how children process these messages (and I’m not talking about the whole “living in fear of seven billion people” thing that’s got to have psychological ramifications).

I don’t know how we’ll convey an appropriate level of caution to Anya – “don’t go anywhere with a stranger” is a good first step. Especially now that most people carry cell phones – know your phone number and have them call us. Don’t go anywhere, we’ll come to you.