Sunday, December 28, 2008

A discovery

W, at almost seven, announced a few months ago that he likes Lego. We parents were unprepared for this, because E, who is three years older, was the unorthodox little boy: no building toys, no cars, no trains, no crafts or art projects, no typical boy stuff. Ever. He liked books, maps, doing addition and subtraction with negative numbers (no kidding), and counting in five languages. Actually, this suited us as parents, because neither of us was much into the little fiddly toys with multiple easy-to-lose parts, nor did we much like painting, clay or other messy stuff.

So when W decided to pursue the Lego thing, we kind of ignored it for a while. But he persisted. And then, today, his uncle's Hanukkah present arrived: a huge Lego kit with three separate projects in it. The parents shuddered, envisioning hours of sitting on the floor supervising the snapping together of tiny plastic bars.

And then a miracle happened.

W, not yet seven years old, spent the entire day - and I do mean the entire day, from right after breakfast until just before dinner - sitting on the floor, building his own Lego project. He needed the occasional help finding the right piece or tying a tiny knot on the tiny pulley that hangs from the bottom of the big helicopter, but mostly he did the whole thing himself.

Never have I put to bed a happier boy. Singing, self-satisfied, overjoyed with a job well done. And planning to get up tomorrow morning and go straight to the third part of the kit.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Two weeks at home for the holidays with very few plans: It had the potential to be awful. E and W have not, historically, been great with unscheduled time. It has led in the past to whining, too much screen time, and general levels of uncooperativeness.

Maybe they're growing up.

So far (and it's only been a week, but still), they are getting along terrifically. Playing together quite a lot. Very engrossed in various Pokemon games and strategies and characters. Treating each other with respect. Not fighting. Really being good friends.

I am a little shocked, and very proud. It's making this holiday season so much easier for us parents. And it's also making it really nice to spend quiet family time at home. They're happy, we're happy.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Smells like tween censorship

E, at almost 10, has just figured out that:
  1. I am writing blogs.
  2. He can read them.
  3. He can comment on them, both verbally and online.
  4. I'm probably not going to change what I'm writing much because of his comments.
This appears to be somewhat frustrating to him.

For example, he has a problem with curse words, both spoken and in print. I, however, am a grownup, and I will curse if I feel it is appropriate, both orally and in writing. He is having a problem dealing with this.

Now, given that most of the time I am writing about issues involving E and W, is it appropriate for me to ignore his input? Listen patiently and write anyway? Maintain some level of anonymity by not using their names? (Given that many of you reading this know me, that may not help much.)

I've explained that in general writers write about what they know, and a writer who's writing about parenting issues is going to write about her kids, period. I'm not sure how much this will help him over time. We'll see.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Child labor

Have I mentioned that E, at almost 10, has a job?

He works as a mother's helper for a family down the street. They have a five-year-old girl and a three-year-old boy. The mom or nanny is always home when E goes over there, but he keeps the kids entertained for hours at a time, I'm told. The boy is a superhero nut, a stage E never went through, but somewhere along the line my guy has developed the patience to let a three-year-old push him down and chase him around for long periods of time.

Mind you, E never really exhibited said patience with his younger brother. I guess a dollar an hour is motivation enough for him.

I was a little worried that this holiday break was going to be too quiet, not enough going on. Looks like E will be saving up a small fortune. He says he's packing it away for a trip to the baseball card store. I love the idea that he's earning his own money and taking responsbility for being on time, planning his schedule, etc. He feels extremely grown up. And I guess he's getting there.

Friday, December 19, 2008

To TV or not to TV

Winter break starts today. Two weeks of not much planned. On purpose, because travel seemed unappealing at first and out of the question as of late. Other families seem to be staying home too, thus playdates, multi-family dinners, etc.

Here's the issue. How much screen time will it take to keep E and W occupied and satisfied without turning them into zombie monsters?

Our normal non-school-day limit is 90 minutes. I'm thinking that's a little thin for two weeks of non-school-days. Maybe we'll start with two hours and see how it goes. Add a little family movie time on a few afternoons. Let them have at the Wii (at least that's pseudo-exercise) at their whim. And see if we can buy ourselves some tranquility.

On the other hand, if the zombie monsters emerge, we can always cut 'em off cold. Oh yeah, that would make for a GREAT two weeks.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Sick mommy

I've had some health issues over the past month. Not my fault, on the mend, doing everything I can, great support from husband and family and friends, etc.

But of course I worry about the effect it's having on my kids. Mom in the hospital for a week: How does a 10-year-old deal with that? What about a seven-year-old? Will they spend the rest of their lives thinking of me as Sick Mommy? Will they remember me as the mom who couldn't, rather than the mom who always did?

E, at almost 10, and probably the most empathetic and sensitive kid his age I've ever met, came to see me in the hospital, wanted nothing but to sit next to me and rub my arm and tell me how much he loves me and missed me. Once I got home and was recovering in bed, he'd come in every day to talk, read, kiss me goodnight. Was on an even keel once I was home.

W, at almost seven, pretty much ignored the whole thing, preferred to play at his friends' houses, had a two-night sleepover, barely said hi when he got home and I was back from the hospital. Was extremely happy until one afternoon this week when, mysteriously, he came home from school, got into bed, and cried all afternoon. Said his "nerves" were making him cry, that nothing bad had happened at school, that he didn't know what was upsetting him. And this was on a day when I was markedly better: out of bed, making dinner. We tried to help him but ended up letting him cry it out for lack of any better ideas. He was okay by bedtime and fine the next day. We figure PTSD -- he'd been holding it together all that time and finally was able to relax a little, and when he did it all spilled out. Wish I could help him verbalize this stuff a bit more, like his brother. Maybe it will come with age. Maybe he's just a guy's guy.