Sunday, February 21, 2016

staggering along

Work is swamping me, and all my extra energy is absorbed in the great Eating Less* campaign and in trying to be a decent parent (this is not going terribly well; my kids are also very self-absorbed). I have nothing left for housework, blogging, or planning ahead.

See you when I get out of the swamp!

*Which is going well. It just takes a lot of time and energy.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My daughter, Marie Antoinette.

We're alive. Not much in the way of news. The roof sprang a leak (or rather, we became aware of a leak). Duchess continues to be insanely adolescent (and we have all learned not to talk to her at all until after she's eaten breakfast). Skipper, with all the hiragana characters under her belt, has begun learning katakana. Cook and I are both scrambling at work to get a handle on our workloads, but are remaining more or less above water. Both girls brought home rave review report cards. Skipper has, in the last few months, quit two extracurricular activities,* bringing her to a more sustainable activity level of after-school kung fu every weekday, and piano once a week.

Skipper's fairly dramatic quitting of gymnastics raised a question for me that keeps coming up in my parenting of Skipper. She has a very strong aversion to making choices - I believe it's because she is so afraid of making the wrong choice, or having to feel the responsibility of having made the choice. She much, much prefers for others to make choices for her so she can freely enjoy the benefits and hold others responsible for the negative outcomes, keeping her spirit totally unburdened. This goes for everything - choosing what clothes to wear, choosing what to eat, choosing what book to read, and choosing whether or not to go somewhere to do something. My instinctive feeling in parenting Skipper is that there is a line in there that we need to find - we need to help her practice making choices and working through her feelings about the consequences, so she can learn how to be a functioning human being, but I think we also need to assume the responsibility of making some of the bigger choices, because they're too big for her still.  I don't know if Cook and I came down on the right side of the line in this situation. Here's what happened. Skipper often says she doesn't want to go to gymnastics. We always tell her it's her choice, but that if she chooses not to go to class, it'll mean that she's deciding to quit gymnastics, and she always eventually decides to go, and she ALWAYS really enjoys the class. Last Saturday,when I told Skipper it was time to go to gymnastics, I reminded her that it was her last day in her current class, before a switch to a new class at a more convenient time slot, with an older group of kids. She got very upset, because she didn't want to switch (forgetting that she had previously grudgingly agreed to the switch), and said she didn't want to go. Over the course of the next half hour (in which she dressed for gymnastics and we all got in the car and drove to the gym), she raged back and forth, saying she didn't want to go, she did want to go, she didn't want to go, she did want to go, etc. She repeated many times "You're forcing me to go!" which was such a ridiculously obviously untrue statement that it was pretty clear she was saying "PLEASE force me to go so I don't have to negotiate my maelstrom of feelings about my fear of change and transition and my enjoyment of gymnastics, and make a decision!!!!"

We kept saying "You don't have to go, but if you don't go, that'll mean the end of gymnastics. It's your choice." We might as well have been saying "It's your torture chamber."

The back and forth continued way past the duration after which we expected it to stop, and way past when it's stopped before (even at the worst, it had never gone past the moment when we go out the door of the house), and then, AT THE GYM, four steps away from her teacher, she said "I don't want to go." and I said "Okay. You understand you're choosing to quit gymnastics." And she said "Yes." and we all left. (I will note that Cook and I were both pretty pissed off, though sympathetic.) And on the way home she said in a shaky voice, "I think I'm going to regret my choice." and I said "Yes."

As I work through the consequences of her choice, and the parenting choice that we made (because working through consequences is something functioning human beings have to do), I wonder if we should have lifted this choice, which was so painful for her, off her shoulders and "forced" her to go to an activity that she enjoys and that I think is valuable for her. I don't know the answer. I think regretting your choices is an important experience, and I think it's important to learn through experience that it's not usually that big of a deal when you screw up a decision, even if it's painful. But maybe the lesson wasn't worth the cost. I don't know.