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Rio: I am smaller than seven

Me: yep. How many years until you turn seven?

Rio: I dunno.

Me: Do you want to use your counting beads* to figure it? It’s very easy.

Rio: No.

a moment passes while I wipe down a counter and wonder what to do next. Let it go? Push the lesson? Is this a moment for teaching discipline or letting her follow her own inclination? The moment ends when Rio shouts: “Three! I will be seven in three years!”

Me: Hey cool, you figured that out in your head.

Rio: This reminds me of something.

Me: What?

Rio: My head has counting brains! They were a present from my spirit magic for my brain’s birthday.

Me: great!

* a sort of portable abacus we made this afternoon with some of the beads generously donated.


A few months ago I took

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fractal food, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

Our farm share is full of art!

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Rio’s math cards, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

Rio and I are making a math game which requires us to have fifty similar small objects. They could be anything – little rocks, marbles, shells, acorns, large beads. They should have no sharp edges and fit well in the hand of a small child.

Before I go out to the craft store and add to the endless cruft in the universe, I have to ask: do you have something like this gathering dust in your home? would you like to donate it to our game?

EDIT: Does anyone have an acorn-producing tree in their yard? acorns would really be perfect for this, and I imagine that for someone out there, getting rid of a basket of acorns is at least as valuable as collecting said basket would be to me.

Today came home from work around 5. We hung out for twenty minutes, and as we started planning dinner, I realized I’d forgotten to pick up our farm share. So I threw the baby in the trailer and biked over to Fresh Pond to get it. We made it there just in time, and got our last farm share box and a loaf of fresh bread.

Then I biked over to Sandro’s house, stole his toothpaste and petted his dog, and rode home by way of The Dairy Bar and yet more fresh bread. By the time I got home, I had a week’s worth of fresh food in the back of my bike trailer.

Rio, meanwhile, had spent the time alone with her dad making “math cards” out of brightly colored felt, helping him cook dinner, and learning to wash the dishes.

Can I say how much better this is than dragging two tired, hungry children in my car, on the highway, to a HUGE grocery store of infinite fluorescent-lit doom and then home again to try to cook dinner alone before their dad gets back from work at 7:30? There are no words.

Leaving the zoo today, Rio engaged in some civil disobedience. On the way in, we’d passed a playground she wanted to play at. We told her no, we needed to get to the gorilla house to meet the rest of our party, but we could play there on the way out.

On the way out, we passed the playground again, and she wanted to stop and play. She was told no, she couldn’t play because we had run out of time, and some of us wanted to go to yoga class.

She sat down and would not move. My impulse here was to say, “Go play on the playground while we wait for the other family we came here with to catch up.” But I foolishly did not, because I’d come into the conflict already in progress and did not want to second-guess the other adults who’d already told her no.

We tried reasoning with her that she could play there later, next time we come to the zoo, and that I would take her to our local playground tomorrow, etc. No dice.

Finally, she banged her feet on the ground and growled: “SKIP YOGA! SKIP YOGA! YOGA IS STUPID”

Now a part of me was mortified and outraged to see my child behaving like this in public, and I also felt angry and sad that she was holding my friends hostage. It’s bad enough that she does this to me, and I am frequently late for events or miss them altogether because she digs in about making a transition from one place to another, I hated the fact that she was doing it to my friends.

But I managed to keep my feelings in check and take that elusive deep breath I always wish I’d taken when moments like this turn into full-fledged tantrums.

And I noticed that her position and mine were strikingly parrallel and equally fair. She wanted me to give up my activity so she could do hers. I wanted her to give up her activity so I could do mine.

I sat down on the ground next to her and reached for a compromise.

I didn’t reach very far because the rest of our zoo companions caught up with us at that moment and leapt into the fray with ideas of their own. The added input was too much and Rio just melted into tears in my arms. I picked her up and started carrying her toward the exit; she quite sanely struggled and kicked until I dropped her and ran back to the playground of her desires.

I sent everyone else ahead and then did something radical. I said, “Sure kid, go play on the playground.”

She was shocked and immediately stopped tantruming. She told me what she wanted to play on while we walked over to the slide. I told her she had one minute, and then I was going to put her in the backpack and leave the zoo. I started counting to 100 in my head. She was at my side and ready to go by the time I hit 80.

I don’t think I handled this particularly well. I made her a promise and then tried to break it. I mistrusted my own instinct about what my child needed and said ‘no’ to her when she should have gotten a qualified ‘yes’. I tried to use my ability to physically carry her away from the situation to end an argument. Finally, I gave in to her bad behavior and changed my boundaries. I know I’ll pay for that one sometime in the next few weeks.

I’m kind of grateful that I handled this badly because it gave me that moment of clarity about our competing agendas. The only thing that gives me the right to expect her to give up what she wants so I can do what I want is “I’m the Mommy.” It comes down to me being bigger and stronger and in control of more resources. It’s not fair.

It drives me *crazy* when I feel like she’s holding me hostage to her whims and desires. What I realized today was that I am not teaching her to be considerate of others’ needs and interests and commitments if I plan all of our time without her input and expect her to step in line with my agenda. I need to find ways to bring her into the conversation about how we spend our time, and be more open to give-and-take.

A lovely book* I picked up on a whim the other day suggests the following:

Meeting in Bed
…For our Meeting in Bed, we all gather first thing in the morning and begin our official meeting of the minds. Everyone is at the ready with clipboard, paper and pencil or crayon. We all simply go around and talk about what we would like to get done, projects we want to work on, things we will need help with. Then, together (based largely on the ages of the children), we come up with a prioritized list of what’s to be done for the day, being sure that everyone gets something they desire on the list.

I hope I’ll rise to the challenges today presented me with in ever more creative ways.

*I generally reccomend this book. I’ve had it for two days, and every time I open it at random and read a passage I come away with a nugget of wisdom or a good craft idea or the like. It’s a real gem.

I went to my first homeschooling meetup today, a playgroup for preschool age homeschoolers. There were about half a dozen families at this event, and they were all lovely. Rio had a blast with the kids, and the moms were very welcoming toward me.

Curiously, the dominant topic of conversation among the moms in this group was how to choose the best preschool for your child.

I was the only one there who was not looking for a preschool, and when I mentioned I was starting a preschool program in my home, two of them immediately asked if I had openings. Now that I think about it, the majority of homeschoolers I know have gone to preschool. But I somehow hadn’t thought about it, and I certainly had not realized how common it is.

There are plenty of good reasons to send your kids to preschool even if you plan to homeschool them through the elementary grades: preschools tend to be part-time, high on parent involvement and low on structure. Preschool age kids tend to be going through a period of differentiation from the mother where its best for all involved for them to spend some time apart. And they tend to be very interested in kids their own age, and not picky in choosing playmates. It’s a great time for lots of free play with a big group of peers and that’s just what many preschools offer.

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IMG_2892.JPG, originally uploaded by MzMuze.

see? cute.

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A little bird told me…

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