Since I’m dishing out So-Called Mom real life lessons like candy, I’d like some advice myself. I mean, I don’t pretend to be an expert on….well, anything. Heck, I’m just a So-Called Mom. I realize since we are creating a network of sorts, I may as well tap into your expertise.
One of my kids is not like the others. I know….all moms say that, but it doesn’t make it any the less true. Or challenging. She’s just…different. For example, she’s so detail oriented, it gets the better of her. It means she often misses deadlines for schoolwork, because she’s fixated on also turning in the extra credit work – leaving the entire assignment too late and useless to turn in. Other times, she can be so spacey, she forgets some key fundamentals. It means more days than I’d like to admit where she has been left behind (at home, at the movies, at the mall). Or evenings when she’s meandered downstairs asking when dinner is going to happen, as I’m loading the dishwasher. Sweetie, dinner was three hours ago. It’s not like I don’t shout Dinnertime! And it’s not like we have it at ever shifting hours every day. If someone doesn’t come, I assume they aren’t hungry.
And here’s the other lesson: I can’t go around the house yanking everyone’s earbuds out making sure they’ve heard me. It’s like, you have a clock on that phone in your hand and a stomach. Those two things should signal when it’s time to eat! But I digress.
She also can go from zero to ninety over inconsequential moments like someone taking her mechanical pencil or laughing because her shoes are on the wrong feet. And I wish I could say all of this was hormonal (she is 12 after all), but she has always been like this. Or maybe she’s more like me than I realize.
We all say that she could be anything she puts her mind to: neurosurgeon, supermodel, musician. But there’s the rub: she doesn’t put her mind to anything long enough to catch and become her thing. She is out there, floating in space, but with no gravitational pull—at least nothing I have seen. She wants to do it all, and certainly could—but there is nothing that fuels her—that makes it so she eats, drinks and breathes gymnastics, or tennis, or animation or, or, or…And did I mention she is her own roadblock? Unlike with Leopold, where it seemed it was me who had to get out of the way, if MJ could get out of her own way – and stop meditating on everything, she’d soar.
Anyhow, I’m hoping you can help me out here. Should I be worried? Should I let her find her way, essentially leaving her be/letting her fail/letting her discover who she is? Or should I intervene? I think my biggest fear is that she will feel unsupported – already I’ve got 6 other kids and a husband to juggle. She often feels like the neglected one. Which I think is every mother’s fear. I feel like our girls learn to be strong women from us. They ultimately learn how to be treated in the workplace, and by their spouses and their own children from us too. We teach self respect, integrity and grace by demonstrating it well and um, just as important, also not demonstrating it well at all.
This likely bugs me, because she reminds me of myself. I always call her mini-me: darling, yes but also defensive and stubborn as hell. And she’s a perfectionist…to the point of inaction. Should I be steering her clear of the bumpy road that I’ve lived? Or should I accept it and invite her along for the ride? Should I challenge her, I mean really push her? What do you think she is craving so she can get her butt in gear and realize her true potential? How do I discover what rocks her world she she can make something happen and start to build some real confidence and passion?
So what do you say, Moms? Anyone have a clue what to do?
Making friends is supposed to be easy when you’re a kid, right? Aren’t they hot-wired to just hang out and play, and then boom! You’re friends!
I hate to say it, but my youngest son, Leopold, has become a savage monster.
What happened to my baby who loved dinosaurs and Legos, and puzzles and wooden toys and even dressing up dolls on occasion? Slowly but steadily, he’s moved from an innocent obsession with bombs and boogers to full throttle violence with a capital V.
Leopold used to sit happily while his nails were painted a delicious rainbow of sparkles by four giggling older sisters. But today, he wants no part of it, unless maybe the color is blood red. Everything lately has become guts and gore. If he does play with Legos, it’s to fashion a knife that he uses while pretending to be a hired hitman. He then artfully executes me while I’m working unsuspectingly at my laptop. Or, he snaps those colorful blocks together to make some kind of dismemberment machine for the tiny lego men, which leaves their little lego heads strewn all over the house.
I don’t remember the older boys being this brutal.
I’m not usually one to consult child development books or parenting how-to’s – I’m the So-Called Mom, remember? – but this raised enough of a concern that I fled to my library for some of my own extra-curricular. I chose the obvious: It’s a Boy: Understanding Your Son’s Development from Birth to Age 18. At first glance, this book describes how parents often overreact to boy aggression at ages five to seven, but apparently this is how they develop “leadership skills” and become “socially resilient.” (I have put these in quotes because apparently these are our culture’s measure of “success”.) In essence, the book instructed me to trust Leopold’s violent play, and that he will eventually self regulate through friends.
Now that’s what the usual mom might do. But I’m not so usual. I don’t just accept the so-called truth. I think there’s other culprits at play here beyond the usual “age appropriate behavior.”
I think it’s screens.
I think screens have changed the rules in ways we are only recently starting to examine. As screens have taken precedence over almost every single activity and norm (research, family photography and filming, social interactions, of course all kinds of games), it seems naive to accept childhood violence as being strictly developmentally appropriate.
For instance, Leopold has learned about torture devices from his older brothers’ video games and watching YouTube at unmonitored moments—and not from watching Fox News or Bob the Builder. He not only has learned all about weapons and killing, but he has a clear understanding that they are for heroes and that the bad guys need to die. And is Leopold just embellishing with his own active imagination? I think it’s more insidious.
I think Leopold takes it to uncomfortable heights – or at least a level that I am uncomfortable with. He frequently jumps the shark when he Lego-bombs his sisters or attacks me with hand stripped twig-shanks. This isn’t in alignment with the material in that book which suggests that Leopold’s friends will guide him with age-appropriate behavior. That together, they make the rules and hold each other to them. So I’m just now learning (on kid 7) about the importance of friends–that no one can get by on family alone, no matter how many siblings you have to play with.
I think this is the cultural impact of the internet and screens.
To add to this, Leopold is an unbelievably muscular kid, who at five, doesn’t yet know his own strength. What he has already realized is he can use it to intimidate and destroy things. He breaks apart tree branches so they become varying weapons of mass destruction. He bears his chest with zero embarrassment and hulks his way around the house, slamming doors, throwing toys, unwary of anything in his path.
So yeah, I”m pulling the plug on him, just as I did with Milla. And it’s a safe bet that he’s going to like it even less. But I’m observing his innocence and inventiveness being ruined by this disturbing new kind of play, and at five, I can still influence most of what he does. I’m also ramping up in other ways to engage him, like enrolling him in some activities so he can socially engage with kids his own age. He will start a gymnastics course to help him redirect some of this boundless energy. Hopefully he’ll start focussing on walking on the balance beam rather than the pirate’s plank.
Desperately seeking friends,
So called mom