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serena with drops.jpg, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

These photos, taken by are so beautiful they hurt to look at. Also, they make me want to carry not just my little point-and-shoot camera everywhere I go with my kids, but a really nice digital SLR. And a photographer who can use it to it’s fullest potential.

A conversation tonight provoked this question, and I was surprised I had not thought it through more clearly. I guess my answers sort of evolve through the doing, but here’s a rough estimate of what I strive for as a parent:

1. Patience
2. Nonviolence
3. Patience
4. Sobriety
5. Patience
6. A commitment to self care
7. Patience
8. Modeling one’s ideals
9. Patience
10. Clear, honest communiction
11. Patience
12. Humor
13. Patience
14. Attention and energy flowing toward the child
15. Patience
16. Physical stamina (obviously you can be a great parent without this, but it’s a damn useful tool)
17. Patience
18. An ability and willingness to set clear, consistent limits
19. Patience
20. Creativity and encouragement of free expression

What do you think makes great parenting? I’m curious what my fellow parents and not parents think of these issues. If you have kids, I’m curious if your perspective changed after they were born.

Serena just stood up in the middle of the living room and, very slowly and unsteadily, took a step toward me and Rio.

She promptly fell on her butt, and I applauded wildly, because hey! my little girl took a step. The first totally unassisted step she has ever taken. She’s taken a few steps before that were more like stumble-fall moves from one object she was holding herself up on to another, but this was new.

She just learned how to stand independently when we were at the Growing Center the other day, after a month or more of pulling herself up on stuff, letting go and hovering. She was sitting in the labyrinth alone and she just stood up. And then gave herself a round of applause and knocked herself over. 🙂

All weekend I was telling everyone she saw that this was the last time they’d see her as a baby. She’s changed so much this week – standing, talking more, playing with other kids in a distinctly toddler-like way – I just knew that any moment now I’d be seeing my baby walk away from me into the land of childhood.

So I was only mostly surprised when the first thing she did after that one shaky step was crawl back to her starting point, stand up again, and walk across the entire living room into my waiting arms. Where she gave herself a big round of applause and promptly fell down.

We picked the first strawberries from the garden today, which resulted in this conversation:

“Mama! I ate all the strawberries!”

“I thought you were saving them to share with your family?”

“Well, yes. But I was so excited, and I didn’t have any room in my tummy to not eat them.”

“You did not have any room in your tummy to not eat the strawberries?”

“Right. I only had room to eat them all up.”

1. Serena has reached the stage of life all babies seem to go through where nothing is more interesting or important than examining Mommy’s teeth. She spends a lot of time trying to stick her hands in my mouth. Tonight I cleverly gave her a little stuffed frog to hold while nursing. This worked surprisingly well. She played happily with the frog, squishing and pinching instead of poking at my mouth. I grinned down at her with pride. She gazed up with perfect love and stuck the frog in my mouth.

2. Driving across town with the girls today, we had a rare moment of comfortable silence where everyone was just lost in their own thoughts.

Then Rio said, “Mama, I don’t want to be an aminal (her special pronunciation of animal). Not even an octopus. Because it would be very uncomfortable.”

“Do you think there’s some danger of you turning into an octopus?” I asked.

“No,” she said, and we all lapsed into silence again.

Rio had a very spirited day, by which I mean challenging, unhappy and somewhat violent. I take full responsibility for this: we’ve been going out all day almost every day since her birthday a week ago, and for the past day or two its been obvious she needed a break. Even to her; she’s been asking to stay home and have a “down day” where we do nothing alone together. But I pushed it because I had ‘important’ errands to do, people to see, etc. And today we paid the price in tantrums. To my credit, I never lost my cool, raised my voice or said an unkind word to her.

I also did something I have never done before, which was refuse to nurse her because she deliberately hurt my body. When she was at her peak of anger she dug all her fingernails into my chest and dragged them down my skin, leaving a trail of scratches. It hurt a lot. A few minutes later it was still hurting when she wanted to nurse. I surprised even myself by saying, “No, I don’t share my body with people who hurt me like that.” I’m sure it was the right call. I’m sure not all my gentle readers will agree, and I don’t fully understand *why* I said that, or *why* it was right, but it was true.

When she realized I meant it she ran upstairs like a flash of angry lightning and slammed a door. Silence followed. I went upstairs to look for her and she was nowhere to be found. Eventually I realized that she’d gone into my bedroom and dived headfirst under the comforter. The blanket looked a little mussed, but really there was a small girl fast asleep, submerged in down. I let her be.

She woke up later, had another big tantrum, and when she eventually calmed down we had a long cuddle in the rocker. We talked about how hard it is for her sometimes to feel tired and do too many fun things. We made some silly jokes about the things she likes or does not like. She invited me to eat her “no” all up, and I mimed chewing all that angry “no” energy. A few minutes later, she said no to something I asked her to do, and I laughed and said, “You can’t say no! I ate your no all up!”

And Rio, dead serious, said, “I had an extra No! I had it all along! I can always say no!”

Me, “Where did you keep it?”

Rio, pointing to her chest, “In my spirit. In a secret room, behind a locked door locked with a key so you can never take it. I keep my yes in there too. So I can always say yes and I can always say no.”

Me, “Yay! You can be your own authority!”

She then told me that she keeps a picture of me and a movie of Daddy in her secret room in her spirit, so we are always with her.

I’ve been feeling a little remiss in her spiritual education to date, but now I think my work here is done.

Flickr Photos

Holding hands

Emerson graduation smiles

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More Photos

A little bird told me…

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