The Overscheduled Child

Gray Swimming

In a society of not enough, how do we decide when enough is enough for our children? I am experiencing this with my 3 year old. He is in swimming twice a week and horseback riding lessons once a week. Tee ball is about to start, he would love a gymnastics class and already thinks he’s a ninja, so karate would be great for him. I’d really like to get him started on an instrument, even if it’s banging randomly on some drums. I’m wondering though, how in the world do I offer these opportunities without over stimulating him and overstretching me?

There are articles all over the internet about the dangers of overscheduling your kids and not just letting them be kids. They talk about how our kids are no longer able to entertain themselves, don’t know what to do with themselves if their lives are not planned and scheduled with activities. Yeah, they do.

Kids’ default setting is destructo mode.

My 3 year old is an excellent swimmer and it’s something I hope he retains and chooses to compete in at some point. He loves riding horses and I find it gives me opportunities to teach him about leadership and assertiveness, not to mention caring for animals. Gymnastics would give him an outlet for all the ways he wants to express himself physically. If I can provide him that outlet it would teach him to be aware of his body in time and space (proprioception) and translate into athleticism later. Tee ball will teach him team skills as he does nothing that is team related at this point. I have to come up with activities that cover the most bases without overscheduling and over stimulating him. There has to be time to just go outside and play. He does love to go and throw rocks into mud puddles and find bugs. I think that activity is important as all the others. And, hey, it’s free!

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I got to do a little bit of everything as a kid. I played softball, took piano and guitar lessons, did gymnastics and karate, spent most of my spare time playing outside, seeing if I could break my record of how far I could jump out of the swing in the backyard. If I wasn’t playing I was reading.

I am the second of five girls, so I don’t know how my parents managed to make sure we had all these opportunities and time to accomplish them. I can remember my dad coming home (exhausted from working a twelve hour shift making tires in a tire plant) and playing softball with us in the front yard for hours, or coaching our softball teams. My mom was a stay at home mom with five little girls running around, a veritable Miss Hannigan. Cue the music: “Little girls, little girls, everywhere I look things are..little. I would ring little necks, if only I could get, an acquittal…”

I seriously don’t know how she escaped with her sanity. Oh, wait, she didn’t.

Do any of us come out of this parenting thing sane? If you answered yes, you’re not doing it right- I know that much. I apologize to my mom in my head at least five times a day while raising my two boys. (Mom: the Miss Hannigan reference is comparable in how I perceive raising five girls must have been like, not a comparison to how I experienced you). Before I had kids it wouldn’t have occurred to me to add that little caveat.

I think it boils down to just doing the best damn job you can do

I’m serious. If Gray nearly spins to death on the uneven parallel bars (100 points if you know what movie that’s from), because he’s so overwhelmed due to too many activities, at least he didn’t atrophy in front of an iPad screen. Don’t get me wrong, he watches the iPad, but hopefully I can offset any permanent damage with extracurricular activity.

That makes me wonder… what’s curricular in a preschooler’s life to make something extracurricular? I mean, his job is to try things out, to experiment- that is his curriculum. I’ve thought quite often as he nears the age to be in school all day, why can’t he learn from practical applications? Can’t he learn his ABC’s and 123’s without the mind numbing monotony of school? Can’t his extracurricular activities teach him these things? I’m getting into an entirely different post, aren’t I? Let’s regroup.

I’m not sure it’s such a bad thing to have lots of activities planned for your child. I mean, we all know a kid can entertain him or herself. Hopefully the exposure to multiple activities as a young kid will give them interests that will prevent them from being zombies as teenagers.

Raising Babies

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Some of you may know that I used to be a zoo keeper. The majority of my ten years as a keeper was as a primate keeper. I worked with various species of monkeys and apes during my time as a keeper and during that time I participated in hand raising several orphaned primate babies. These are thrilling experiences that my surrogacy as a non-human primate caregiver provided me with the experience I now refer to with my two human children.

It occurred to me the other day while caring for my baby, that I have more experience raising non-human primates than I do humans.

I have raised more monkeys and a chimp (chimps are apes, not monkeys), than I have kids. I have two kids, but have raised no fewer than ten primates. They are similar experiences, but just slightly different enough that I find I catch myself from innate behaviors I could use with the infant primates.   It makes sense then that my instincts tend toward my experiences hand rearing primate babies.

My most ingrained reaction is to give a crying and flailing human baby a stuffed animal upon which to cling. Yes, I am typically that reassuring thing to which to cling, but when I’ve set the baby down in his crib or bouncer, his little arms flail out and he screams.

When hand rearing infant primates (non-human primates) a surrogate upon which to cling must be provided. Yes, I as the caregiver, am a surrogate, but humans hold their babies and even put them down. Non-human primates are not removed from the clutches of their mother’s hair for many weeks.

The first non-human primate I ever raised was a capuchin monkey named Noah. I’ll never forget my first day of training as a tour guide at a small zoo in Oklahoma. We sat gathered around, meant to be listening and taking notes, but all attention was focused on a small monkey bouncing around a small cage. He was a few months old, but had the energy of a toddler overdosed on sugar. Occasionally, he would return to a stuffed animal and would attach himself to it for comfort.

Noah Pic by Nicole Sweetin

Noah
Pic by Nicole Sweetin

Seeing a lost cause, our trainer removed the monkey, attached to his “fuzzy” and introduced him as Noah. He had been rejected by his mother and was being hand raised by the zoo staff. I was entranced, as you would imagine, and though several people tried to touch him, I refrained. Don’t get me wrong, I was dying to. I had wanted to be a primate keeper since I was three years old and my aunt got me a stuffed monkey named Spunky the Monkey(I still have him). I don’t know what stopped me. As an animal person my entire life, instinct told me to wait, get to know him. We became fast friends and years after I left that little zoo, he would scream excitedly as soon as he saw me upon my return. He had grown to be aggressive to most of his keepers and they had trouble shifting him. If I was visiting I could get him to comply. Noah was my second primate love (Spunky was my first).

I assisted in hand raising several capuchin monkeys, but my dream was to work with chimpanzees and hopefully one day get to hand raise one. N0w, that was a conflicting wish, because I knew that to hand raise one would mean something had occurred to require the hand rearing, like the neglect of the baby, or death of the baby’s mother.

When I finally got on as a great ape keeper at the zoo I grew up visiting, I thought I had won the lottery, though I had worked very hard to get there. Wouldn’t you know it, the chimpanzee group’s alpha female was pregnant. I was of course hoping for a healthy pregnancy and delivery, there was no reason to believe that the female would not take care of her baby. Tragically, though, the mother died in child birth after extensive efforts to save her. So there I was at my dream job, part of the team hand raising a newborn chimpanzee.

When I was part of the team that hand raised the infant chimpanzee, we used a t-shirt covered in fleece strips, sewn all over the t-shirt. This provided the infant a way to learn to cling since the baby was to be introduced to a surrogate in the chimpanzee group as soon as was deemed it appropriate for the infant’s health, safety and well being.

We provided her round the clock care.  To watch her grow and progress through her developmental skills was my first experience with motherhood.  I remember her a scrawny newborn, so weak and vulnerable.  She was getting sick a lot, so we had to administer intramuscular shots in her tiny little leg muscles, take her temperature hourly and count her respirations.  To take her off of you to perform these necessary procedures was agonizing as she would scream to be reattached.  I would press her back to my chest as quickly as possible and she would snuggle into the felt strips in my chest.  I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for her to be a little less vulnerable.

It’s striking the similarities in the emotions and reactions when my sons were newborns.  It’s such a stressful time and so overwhelming.  Unlike raising a chimpanzee baby, there were no shifts to hand the baby off to the next keeper with my kids (unless you count my husband, which I rarely do for some reason, though he’s raised four children to adulthood). I find I celebrate their milestones the same I did for the baby chimp.

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I remember when she got her first tooth and acclimating to seeing her with teeth.  I remember working with her when she was army crawling.  I used the same exact technique in encouraging her to crawl as I later did  with my oldest son (number 2 isn’t army crawling just yet).  I would lie her about four feet from me and she would drag herself across the blanket, unsure and chirping, as she kept her eyes on me.  She would work hard, making her way back to me and I would scoop her up and hug her, telling her good job and vocalizing as closely as a could as to an encouraging chimpanzee vocalization.  My son, the same exact procedure, without the chimpanzee vocalizations, though, believe me, I was tempted.

As she got older, she would hang onto my thumbs and flip backwards, laughing that toothy, wide mouthed chimpanzee laugh.  Now my oldest son holds my hands and flips backwards, and the laugh is similar. 

I would celebrate her little accomplishments, each new milestone the same as I do with my boys.

I would cuddle her and stroke the hair on top of her sweaty head as she slept against me, same as I do with my boys.  But there are differences, of course.  I don’t have to give my sons back to their kind, not yet anyway.  I am their kind, but I do have to let him get progressively more independent, until he leaves the nest.

We had to introduce our little chimpanzee back to the group, to the chimpanzee surrogate who would be her mother and protector.  It was fascinating to watch that transition into the chimpanzee life she was meant to have.  She was more than a little spoiled, despite our best efforts.  The original female we believed would be a suitable surrogate did not work out.  She was interested in the baby, but only as a novelty, something of an aunt, if you will.

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The chimpanzee that took the baby as her own happened to be the baby’s deceased mother’s best friend.  Yes, that is the best way to describe them.  She was a bit cantankerous with her keepers and an alpha, after the baby’s mother died.  She was very stern with the baby, but never physically so.  The baby was used to getting away with biting and fussing at the people she didn’t want to hold her or touch her, or when she just plain didn’t want to do something.  This is a much more painful type of tantrum then with a human child.  At 6 months old she had the temperament of a human toddler and the strength of a teenage human.

Her surrogate wasn’t having it though.  She would walk behind the baby and just touch her, clip her back foot. The baby would turn around and scream at her, like to leave her alone, even bite at her, but the surrogate would continue and the baby would stop griping at her eventually.  Then her surrogate would walk away and give her space.  Then, she’d do it all over again.  Where we would have given her space, a little taken aback by the rejection, her surrogate, being an alpha, essentially told her, I’m the head chimp in charge, you don’t get to send me away.  She ended up being a fantastic surrogate mother, even biting off half the ear of a male who she thought got too close to the baby.  Poor guy was posing no threat or even aggression towards the baby, but the surrogate thought so, and she being as big as most of the males, let him have it.  She has since been surrogate to orphaned babies from all over the country.

I learned so much from raising primate babies and watching them be raised by their own species.  I apply the lessons I learned almost every day in my parenting and find myself playing with my babies as I did them.  I don’t know what kind of mom I would be if I hadn’t had these experiences.  How lucky I and my kids are.

 

 

 

Super Dog and G-Man

Today I am posting a children’s short story about a boy and his dog. You could call this the prologue, I suppose. I will write more stories that chronicle the adventures in detail, from the beginning. As a writer, I have several interests. This blog has really helped get my writing out there in a way that would be otherwise relegated to a few close friends and family. I am currently working on finishing a novel that has been in the works for nearly ten years. I will have a completed manuscript by the end of spring and ready to begin the rejection process, um… submission process, starting in the summer. I hope to have some excerpts from that book up very soon, though probably to lead to a separate blog since the content is not exactly relevant to The Tomboy Mommy. I hope you enjoy this prologue and look forward to bringing you more in The Adventures of Super Dog & G-Man.

Super Dog & G-Man

Super Dog sat languishing in boredom, feeling rather perplexed by the human affinity for idleness. She was aware that some breeds of domesticated canines possessed a similar sense, if not downright obsession, with doing positively nothing- outside of eating and relieving themselves on their person’s rug. Super Dog never really saw the appeal. She had always been a Super Dog in her own mind and spent the majority of her waking hours, which were many, convincing her One True Person of that very fact. Super Dog’s person had a partner that shared everything with her, and though her partner was good, he was not Super Dog’s OTP. She and her OTP went hiking together, running together, walking together and truly just enjoying their mutual respect of all things outside. They were inseparable.  But one day her person started to smell differently. She walked in and the smell almost knocked Super Dog over.

A few days went by and the smell intensified. Slowly, Super Dog began to see her OTP behave differently as well. She smelled happier, but in a way that Super Dog had never sensed before. Her other person smelled happier too, but he didn’t carry that thick odor that seemed to pour out of her OTP. And then the real changes came. Her one true person started smelling a lot like throw up, and the strange smell became even stronger and the happy smell was stronger than strong, though it did seem to ebb some as her OTP had her head in that thing that she usually sat on.

Most of all was the way her OTP began to swell. The swelling coincided with the intensification of the strange smell. Sometimes her OTP smelled a little scared but those were usually wafts rather than full on aromas. Months went by and she began to slow down a little. Where they used to go for runs, they now walked, and didn’t go on their adventures. Super Dog found herself as idle as she had ever remembered being. But this was a new adventure, just staying by her OTP’s side day and night. Something about her made it necessary that Super Dog protect and be there for her. The happy smell was beginning to strengthen into excitement now and Super Dog knew something was coming. And then it did.

The strange smell that had been intensifying over the months was gone and in its place was a smell that almost knocked Super Dog over. It was the smell of her OTP’s happiness so amplified, Super Dog thought she might actually wet the carpet for the first time since she was a puppy. Wrapped in that happiness was what she knew must be the source of the strange smell. The smell was no longer coming from inside her OTP. She now held it in her arms and instantly, Super Dog knew she would follow that smell anywhere and protect it at all costs.

G-Force, G-Man didn’t remember being born, nor did he remember coming home. Those first few weeks were a blur. He could smell his mother and recognized her voice somehow. His father had a distinctly different and less intense smell, but was just as reassuring. There was another smell that coincided with moistness to the face but he was unable to figure out what that one was. As his world matured, G-Man began to take for granted those sights and smells around him. He figured out that the other smell and subsequent moist face came from this person that was really hairy and she was always licking his face. There she was when he was in his bouncer. She was there, just outside his crib. She was there when he was doing tummy time. And she was there when he was learning to roll over. She was there when he began crawling and she was there in a particularly helpful way when he began pulling up. When he started walking she gave him a soft place to land. He learned her name was Super Dog and like most things that used to be his mom’s, was now his.

G-man sat under the ancient elm tree in his backyard, with his back resting against the enormous trunk. Three children could sit side by side with their backs against that tree and face one direction, but usually it was just his while Super Dog sat curled up next to him, her face resting on his legs. This was their spot to cool off after their adventures or just before to strategize. G-Man could never recall a time that Super Dog was not by his side. He had no brothers or sisters and other than Super Dog, he was an only child. She stole his toys, sat on his head and did an overall excellent job at being an older sibling. What G-Man did know about Super Dog is that she used to be his mom’s. His mom would tell him stories about their adventures and what an indispensable companion Super Dog was. Every so often G-Man would catch a glimpse of his mom watching him and Super Dog playing from the window. He thought she missed having Super Dog as her own, but G just couldn’t give her up. Besides, he didn’t think that Super Dog would leave him anyway. He wanted his own adventures with her, to go with the stories his mom had.

Super Dog sat with her head resting on G’s leg under her favorite shade tree. The act of resting one’s face in a human’s lap was the truest form of trust and affection. This, however, was not Super Dog’s only motivation. Shy of sitting on him, it was one of the few ways to momentarily keep G-Force, G-Man out of trouble. She should have expected such an offspring from her OTP. It never occurred to her that the strange smell those few years ago would develop into this. Whether he was covered in dirt or peanut butter, he smelled the same and she could always find him, not that she ever let him out of her sight. Though she missed her OTP, she could sense how happy it made her that she took such good care of G-Man. The hardest was when her OTP was scratching her ears, and Super Dog had to get up to follow G-Man out of the room. The smell of pride and disappointment was hard to take, but G-Man could not be trusted alone for more than a second.

Soon after G-Man learned to walk, Super Dog let him toddle into the kitchen alone. He found a sack of flour and covered not only himself but the entire kitchen in less than five minutes. Her OTP was mad and amused and took lots of pictures before washing him up and sending him into the den with her. Super Dog could never understand how humans could feel so many things at once. One emotion at a time was quite enough for her. Dogs were so much easier to understand in that way. When they were happy, they were happy. When they were mad they were mad. They had the good sense to never mix the two. She figured humans would fight a lot less if they had the decency to feel one thing at a time. That was one thing Super Dog loved about G-Man. He hadn’t developed that annoying trait unique to humans. Children cried when they were sad, laughed when they were happy and pooped when they felt like it; though Gray was currently trying to shake the latter. From the smell of things he had failed again.

Their adventures took a different shape from that with her OTP, but no less eventful. If there was one thing Super Dog loved more than anything it was playing catch with her ball. G could throw for hours and she was happy to retrieve it every time. One day he threw it and it rolled away where she could not see it. She sniffed around, tracing from where it hit the ground and began rolling. When she finally found it beneath some brush, and turned to take it back, G-Man was gone. Forgetting to even drop the ball from her mouth, Super Dog darted to the last place she saw him and began tracking him immediately. Since he rarely went anywhere in a straight line, this was harder than one might expect from a canine of Super Dog’s reputation. When still she could not discern a reliable sent, she ran to her OTP and barked furiously. They searched together for what seemed like hours in mommy and dog time, but what would equate to minutes in real time. They found him behind a tree digging a hole with a stick. Super Dog barked at him furiously which did not even remotely convey the distress she felt. Her OTP reeked of anger or fear, it was hard to tell the difference with humans. G-Man was clearly confused as to what all the fuss was about. Super Dog hated herself for getting distracted by that ball. She couldn’t smell it on her, but Super Dog couldn’t help but think she had disappointed her OTP. G didn’t even smell the least bit guilty.

Super Dog sat at G-Mans feet as he played a video game. She was glad he was sitting still a little more lately. Sure, he was still very active, but she couldn’t seem to keep up quite as well. Was he getting faster? His legs were certainly longer. He started smelling differently lately too. What was that smell? It was stronger, similar to her OTP’s partner, but not quite as intense yet. He only seemed to be aware of Super Dog as a companion when he absent mindedly rested his elbow on her back as he worked the controller of his game. Occasionally he would throw her ball, and since she was only game for a few chases, his attention span suited her just fine. She tagged along as he played football at the park and waited for him still when he got off the bus. The other day he ran out the door and let it close before she could follow him. She stood at the door, waiting for him to realize she didn’t make it out the door with him. Her OTP came up behind her and patted her head and Super Dog could smell the sympathy. She followed her OTP back into the living room and sat at her feet where she could still keep an eye on the door. She hated when he forgot her. It seemed to happen more and more frequently these days. Super Dog’s OTP got up and grabbed a leash from the hook by the door. At least she got to spend more time with her OTP when G forgot her. Their walks were all that remained of their adventures.

G-Man knew he was spending less time with Super Dog. She couldn’t really keep up anymore and it seemed to exhaust her to try. He took her running a couple of times but she was so lethargic after, that he couldn’t do it to her. There was something about knowing that she was there while he was on the computer or watching his shows. His girlfriend really liked her. Super Dog often kept in between them to the point he had to push Super Dog out of the way. The hardest part was keeping her out of his car. It was like she could smell when he was going to leave. He loved having her sitting in the seat next to him, her head hanging out the window. She always drew attention from girls, so there was that added bonus of taking her along.

Super Dog couldn’t keep up with G-Man at all anymore. She didn’t even try these days. She staid next to her OTP, followed her to the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedroom, but waited at the door while she went to get the mail. G would come and curl up next to her on the floor from time to time. She could smell the sadness on all of them and wondered why they were all so sad when they came around her. He would sometimes cry while he laid next to her. The only way she could console him was to turn her head and lick his face like she used to. His smells had become far too complex for her to read them all, but she knew sadness. It was all around her these days. She was too tired to do much. Occasionally she couldn’t even make it outside in time. She was so ashamed of herself, especially when she could smell the frustration coming from her OTP. It always subsided quickly back into sadness though.

Super Dog never went anywhere anymore. It was too hard to get up and impossible to get in the car unless someone lifted her in. Today was one of those days. The smell of sadness was almost too strong for Super Dog to endure, especially in the closed confines of the car. They got out at the place that she went sometimes where there were the smells of dogs and cats and fear and happiness and sickness. They had to help her in and she knew there was something different about this visit. They stood around her crying and hugging her, lying on top of her. She wanted to make them feel better, but she couldn’t even lift her head. Why was she so tired? Why did this smell like good-bye? They all squeezed her one more time and left the room except her OTP. It was just the two of them and the one that smelled of sick and something that smelled like sadness but not real sadness. That one left the room and it was just she and OTP. Super Dog definitely smelled good-bye and really, had to admit that she knew it was time. She couldn’t take care of them anymore, couldn’t go on anymore adventures. Super Dog laid her head in OTP’s lap and closed her eyes, smelling the love that exuded from her OTP until she was overcome by it. It smelled of, I love you. Good-bye. It smelled of a new adventure.

How I Came to be a Parent

I was always hell bent on never having children. That was certainly not a reflection of my affinity and compatibility with children, it was more a compulsion to remain childlike myself. I was an adult child, which is altogether less common than the famed syndrome would have us believe, and being only partially responsible enough for myself, could not imagine having a tiny human relying on me for all of their wants and needs.

I dressed up the excuse in whatever cause gave my choice the most credibility at the time; like the overpopulation of the planet and, oddly, my reasoning was the same as it is for pet overpopulation- there were plenty that needed good homes. At some point I reasoned that not having children was not detrimental to my ability to pass on my genes. I was content in the accumulation of genes through my nieces and nephews. At 25 percent per niece and nephew I had 1.75 children which, I believe, is the national average- and now that would be higher with the subsequent births of more nieces and nephews. So, all in all I was doing pretty well in my rationalization of not producing an heir to the Avengerdom.

My sisters did try to reason with me, if you consider blatant mockery of my self-imposed bareness to be reason. As the second born of five girls, reason was seldom ever considered as a viable approach to any situation. Mockery was more likely to be utilized in response to most of my actions and socially poignant behaviors. For example, during the entire eleven years I was a strict vegetarian my sister, Brooke, insisted I was letting my one allotted cow in life rot in waste. The reasoning: every American probably consumes approximately the equivalent of one cow in their lifetime. Since I did not become a vegetarian until I was 21, I consumed only part of my cow, leaving its life sacrificed in vain. It was at about the same time I became a vegetarian that I decided that I did not want children, which coincided with the same time I became agnostic and aside from my sisters threatening to tell our Granny that I didn’t believe in God, they were more aggrieved that I refused to reproduce.

At this point in time our oldest sister, Jennifer, was the only one with children, though Brooke had just announced she was pregnant. It was on our sisters trip that I casually mentioned that I was never having children and would like to have a hysterectomy, as this would somehow prove my dedication to ending the overpopulation of the planet. Their response was as rational as Brooke’s no cow left behind theory. I was told that I could not have a hysterectomy, not because I might regret it one day, but because they might need my uterus. If one of them could not have children they may need me as a surrogate. Knowing that I would do anything for one of them, including the letting out of my uterus, this was the most effective way to get me to keep my uterus intact until I could see I really did want children.

When that moment came that I realized I did indeed want a child, I wasn’t too concerned with the overpopulation of the earth. I had married an older guy, 28 years my senior, and realized I would not get to grow old with him. He had already grown old (well, older), and I wanted a kid that encapsulated the two of us, kinda like a human time capsule. We tried for a couple years but when we never got pregnant, we gave up trying. We resorted instead to not, not trying, which meant we just kept doing what we were doing but with the understanding that, we were probably not going to get to have children together. You can imagine our surprise when we ended up pregnant.

Now my husband is 64, I, 36, and here were are, yet again, stunned to be pregnant. In a few short weeks we’ll have another baby, my second and his sixth, and I’ll be having a permanent fix to preventing having anymore- though not as drastic as having my entire uterus removed, but with the exclusion of my baby sister who has not yet started having kids, all of my other sisters have proven they have perfectly viable uteruses and won’t be needing mine. I can now impede my reproductive system, chemical free, and feel only slight regret at the finality of never having another child. I’m done, I know I’m done, but I was granted two amazing surprises for which I had not otherwise planned. I always thought I would adopt and maybe I can still provide a home to a child that needs one.

Remembering How to Play: Children and Their Roles as Stewards of the Imagination

Watching a toddler play with toys in the manner in which they were designed to be played is entertaining, but taking ordinary objects that you and I as adults take for granted at their function and turning them into master pieces of the imagination, that is a miracle of childhood- a magic that dissipates casually and without our notice. It’s just, one day, we neglect to play and only have time to take the object at face value. All of the sudden we stop playing. We find other outlets for our creativity, maybe. Every so often we let down our guard and allow a hair brush to become a microphone. Here lies one of the miracles of having children. They remind you that a blanket can be a cape or a fort or can even make you invisible.

It’s amazing to me how, to a toddler, a chair is more than just a chair. My toddler has an ugly little garage sale rocking chair that looks like it was built circa 1960 for a grumpy old little person to sit in and chain smoke. For my toddler it is certainly a place to sit and watch his shows (minus the chain smoking), but it also serves as a terrific surfboard while standing in the seat and rocking. Flip it back onto its back and it becomes a little table to play with legos or put a plate for eating. Turn it upside down and throw a blanket over it and you have a great little fort. These are just a few of the configurations that my son has come up with. There are several more that amuse and impress me with their functionality. And because it is so ugly, I certainly couldn’t begrudge him adding his own artwork, turning an ugly canvas into his masterpiece

Your children remind you to not take yourself so seriously, especially when you open a notebook at work for a meeting that you have been stressing over and the margins are graffitied with your child’s scribbles. Children provide perspective. They remind you that you once lived simply and creatively. Creativity is a muscle that atrophies with age, if not exercised regularly. Our children grab our hands in their dimpled knuckles and pull us back to a time when it was perfectly logical, entirely necessary and effortlessly natural to speak to the voice on the other end of the imaginary phone. They are the stewards of imagination, curators of that most valuable of commodities in the human brain- that which says, look at this blank screen and imagine what it could say.

Skinned Knees and Skinny Jeans

I really think that I may well be a stuck up mom. I don’t mean in that annoying way that my children are better than everybody else’s, though of course they are, but in the manner that dictates my compulsive need to not be singularly identified as a mother.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that though I am a mother and my world revolves around my children’s wants and needs, as well as my ego being wrapped in their trials and tribulations, that’s not all I am.  I practice martial arts, ride a mountain bike recklessly over obstacles that would make most people consider their mortality, play rugby and rock climb. I’m more likely to be seen sporting a skinned knee than skinny jeans. I seriously doubt any of these other mothers do anything remotely close to the extracurricular activities which make me feel alive. 
 I’m not used to hanging out with moms and I fear that associating with other moms makes me less me; as if befriending other mothers makes me pedestrian.  I have to somehow figure out how to balance being a mom and my slightly irrational need for dangerous stimuli.  No, that’s denial at its most ridiculous.  I must figure out how to stop projecting my fears of losing myself completely in my children, because that would be easy to do, onto to what are most likely wonderfully fascinating women.  I am judging them exactly in the manner that I myself do not want to be judged- as just someone’s mother.