Monday, September 23, 2013

Choose Your Own Adventure Parenting

Wouldn't it be nice if parenting approaches could occasionally be chosen like choose-your-own adventure novels:

If you are going to "drop the hammer" and issue a consequence, turn to page 8.

If you are going to overlook this mistake and use humor to diffuse the situation, turn to page 12.

Just like I did with choose-your-own adventure books, I'd want to read up on each outcome before committing, to see which one I liked better.

Page 8 might say, "Bravo! Your child learned the seriousness of the situation and was spared greater harm later." But if it said, "Nice going, control freak!  Your heavy-handed approach alienated your child and constructed walls that your little hammer is no match for now." I would go straight to page 12 that says, "While surprised and grateful you didn't "lose" it, your kid knows you mean business and won't be going that way again. Win-win. Well done."

But in parenting, we're not reading the story.  We're writing it.

That's not even right.  It's more like we are dictating it stream-of-consciousness into a mini recorder for someone (a therapist in twenty years?) to have to sort out.

If I submitted our parenting narrative to an editor they would have to wonder, "What were you trying to do with the mom character here?"

Here she's laughing about his random use of the word poopie butt, and over here she's doling out consequences for his refusal to leave potty talk in the bathroom.

In this chapter she lets him leave her home with pants on backwards, in a too-small shirt and sandals with black socks blithely saying, "Pick your battles," but over in this chapter she's making her whole family late for church by insisting that he change into something nicer.

In this part she seems perfectly content to let him pour his own breakfast milk and cereal, but several pages on seems to find it intolerable that ice would fall all over the floor when he attempts to use the external fridge dispenser to put ice in a water bottle.

Here is the letter I would receive after they read a manuscript that covers even a month of my parenting story:

Dear Ms. Brown,

Thank you for submitting your novel, Where's the Mom? for consideration.  We are unable to publish it because we feel that the mom character is not believable enough.  She seems more like an amalgamation of many moms you may have known, instead of one person with a consistent outlook and predictable response pattern.  How will your readers learn to love her if they can't ever be certain which direction her character is going?

How, indeed?

Back to why I think my parenting narrative would only work for a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel.  And even then, a lot of the outcomes may be less than satisfying.

I guess the word I'm going to hang my hat on is "Adventure" and enjoy it for what it is: a real, true, messy, beautiful, mixed-up, wonderful life.  That I get to choose.  My own parenting adventure that I'm making up as I go along.

If you agree, turn to page nine.

Just kidding.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The First Scoop is Nothing

"Begin writing about nothing," she said, "and see where it goes.  Don't wait until you have something very specific to write about."

Sage advice for the girl whose blog is called "Along this Beautiful Path," don't you think?  I mean, don't paths meander?  Aren't the rambly ones with unexpected twists and turns the most fun to explore?

And just the freedom to not be profound is like opening the bulk bin at a whole foods store and being told to scoop away with no heed to the fact that the item is $18.97 a pound.  Go for it.  Who cares if you scoop up dry little mullety seeds that you'd only want to serve to the birds?  Just scoop away!

So write about nothing.  And if you get a bunch of random words that don't stick together into something cohesive....well, maybe they can be scattered along the path like seeds to help me find my way back to more meaningful trails.

And so I look in my raw materials bin tonight....and it's a crazy trail mix of things I could write about:

Do I dare scoop up the story of how my nipple was squeezed by a near stranger today to find out if I was nursing?

My latest Kindle read is begging to be given some good press.

And speaking of Kindles, am I convert?  A seeker?  A fence-straddling pragmatist?  Kindle has changed my life and I really didn't see that coming. I'd so love to hear from others on that topic!

Then my newest theory of housework has been percolating and I think if I tried to defend it, I'd be able to see if it is valid: it is actually harder to keep a home if you are a stay-at-home mom, not (as I originally imagined) easier.  And when I say "keep" I mean keep clean, keep organized, maintained, and even at times, happy.  My perceptions and reality have had a head-on collision since I came home fulltime with my second born, and we're all still filing our grievances before we settle up.

And what about the beauty of a friendship that can pick up effortlessly after being timezones apart for eight years?  (I do so love you, Shawna!)  How does one even stay properly grateful for treasure like that?

And what about the beauty of a friendship that will never fade no matter how far apart for how long we are? (I do so love you, Beth!)

And what about the beauty of one that gave me a never-to-be forgotten experience that only could happen because you said yes to something that asked you to be bigger, braver and more flexible than most of us want to be? (I do so love you, Ali!)

And who gave me permission to scoop into my empty head in the first place to sift around and find gratitude there?  (I do so love you, Laurel!)

It may be next to nothing to anyone else.  But to me, I'm pretty happy to be snacking on gratitude and good memories.