Friday, January 21, 2011
We had an 18-month stint in a tiny apartment in Rochester. 700 very oddly shaped square feet, with a gigantic bathroom and a monster of a refrigerator. We had to rearrange if we wanted to have more than two people sitting at the table. Looking back, we did a crap job of tiny apartment management at that place. For one thing, getting a dog - even a small dog, maybe especially a small dog, because they tend to be more energetic - definitely breaks some small apartment and life rules. Then we moved to the Gigantor of apartments just a block away. Pardon me while I swoon in remembrance. *Sigh* 1500 square feet. Gloriously weathered wooden floors. 14-foot ceilings. Two storage lofts. We bought big furniture, got a table that went to 90" long, and the Husband constructed some "rustic" bookshelves to go along one wall. Last year we had a 13-foot Yule tree. My swooning, unfortunately, is interrupted by the memories of paper-thin walls and jackass neighbors who ignored the no-smoking policy in many ways, the domestic disturbances, having to hear Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea being sung along to time after time, having to hear far more intimate activity than I wanted to... so many irritants.
And then. Wham! The Williamses move to Georgetown. If you are unfamiliar with the Georgetown neighborhood of our nation's capital (in our case Georgetown/Burleith, but that's splitting hairs), it is charming, walkable, full of luxury SUV-driving twits, renting yuppies (that's us) and students (also us), but most of all, old, with rowhouses galore. We live in a Georgetown special feature, the English basement. What it is: most rowhouses here have 3 stories. The first is half-below street level, the second half-above, and the third, of course, just on top of the second. Our front door is down half a flight of normal stairs, has a full-sized window and door out front (a bit of a rarity), and then the back (our bedroom) opens directly onto a nice fenced-in patio/garden area that is about as long as the apartment itself. Other English basements have itty-bitty corkscrew steps going down; I don't know how people even move their stuff in. The insides are largely the same, although, again, I think our two bedrooms and 1.5 (more like 1.25) bath may be somewhat rare.
But oh, how tiny it is. I remember reading a comment (joking) about standing in a living room of a Georgetown house and being able to touch both sides of the front room at the same time. It's not far off. I would say the place is, at most, 1000 square feet. Maybe less, and the ceilings are pretty short. That's a living room, 2 bedrooms, a kitchen, a dining nook, and 1.5 bathrooms in 1000 square feet. I can plug the vacuum into an outlet in the front room and go all the way back to our bedroom at the other end. And... it's okay.
So that's where we live - next up is how we live. We've gotten pretty creative in order to make our existence in this wee place more of a joy than a chore.
Ha! Was I ever off on the square footage... turns out it was just over 600.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
But I feel it would be dishonest to not acknowledge that I am something of a mess right now. Work has been rotten for the past month (that's right, from before the holidays and straight through until now). The Bee is at a stage where she wants to tell us things but can't talk, and no amount of signing is going to completely relieve that. There is also the fact that sometimes when we do know exactly what she wants, we have to tell her no. No, we can't stand in the windowsill for half an hour. No, we can't do nothing but watch videos of you. No, you can't stand up on top of the changing table. I try as much as possible to create an environment where I get to say "yes" more than "no," but unfortunately the world is full of things a toddler wants to do and can't, whether due to safety or ability reasons. For the past few days there has been a lot of whining, and some crying, which is extremely stressful. She has also been taking one nap a day because of what an ordeal helping her to sleep for two naps a day can be. Plus, she will sometimes wake up possibly in a mood more foul than when she went to sleep. We're adjusting to that, and between 3:00PM and 5:00PM she isn't the most pleasant of companions.
It's getting better, though. The big audit by a certain pseudo-Federal mortgage agency will be over today - and hey, what's the worst that happens, I get fired and collect unemployment? (I'm not saying I've done anything to deserve being fired. I actually do my job pretty well, but I know that sometimes someone has to be blamed.) The Bee has actually played by herself for decent stretches yesterday and today. ("By herself" means on the other side of the gate while I work at the computer.) She slept wonderfully last night, from about 7:30 until I went to bed at 11:00 (she only woke up then because I got into bed and dislodged her from her diagonal sprawl). Little by little I am getting back to normal.
The real problem is that I need to find another job, where the stress level is a little bit more appropriate to the pay scale (currently, the stress level is much higher than is warranted by my meager earnings). I am looking. I do not, will not, leave the Bee (except with her father). We have no family here and I cannot imagine leaving her with a stranger at this point. I have long-term plans that are satisfying - going to get my MLS (Master's Degree in Library Science, unsure of the concentration), being crafty, having more kids - but this part right now is tough.
I need to sit down and work on achievable, short- and long-term action points that will Make It Better. For now, though - I've got a clean apartment and a play date tomorrow, a sleeping baby who ran around naked before bath time much to the amusement of The Husband and myself, some chilled sake and a waiting Kindle, and that makes me happy.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Welcome to the January Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning from children
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared the many lessons their children have taught them. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
I'll say it: I have spent most of my life with a less than fully developed sense of empathy. This has resulted in me being - at my worst - morally inflexible, unforgiving, and prone to write off others' problems as being their own fault. Things that didn't affect me - well, they really didn't affect me.
The Bee has changed that. She has taught me empathy. I think it's wonderful and terrible at the same time. The first time she cried, my brain started racing all by itself: is she hungry-cold-hot-wet-poopy-lonely-gassy? Without much conscious decision, I would pick her up and try to ascertain the source of her unhappiness. Sometimes holding her was enough, sometimes it was another culprit or it was just her being a crier. Regardless, those wails made me physically feel her pain. There is a chemical component to this (which can be affected by method of delivery). It's hard-wired empathy that doesn't activate until you have a baby. Now? I still try my darnedest to make her stop crying, and I really can't stand hearing other babies cry either. I want to fix it. Whatever it may be.
At some point, I realized that this empathetic response was spreading into other areas and relationships in my life. I was constantly playing devil's advocate by examining what factors could have caused a person to do what they had done. I was responding better and more genuinely to other people's grief (and their joy!). Sometimes it still takes some effort, but more often than not it's nearly as automatic as my feeling for the Bee.
Why is this important? Why do I feel like this could be a world-changing phenomenon? Why does this study about babying and bullying make so much sense? Because you can't be cruel to someone if you feel their pain. I think our general lack of empathy can be contributed in no small part to the unnatural way in which we've segregated ourselves into groups based on age and whether or not we have children. We have decided that children should be neither seen nor heard, and it is no surprise that bullying has skyrocketed. It's easy to push someone around when you can view them as a non-person without feelings. It's also harder to do something simple like pat someone's arm or give them a hug after a hard day when you can't quite imagine how they are feeling.
It's not just school-scale bullying that results from a lack of empathy. It's racism. Homophobia. Being frightened of someone with AIDS and telling yourself they probably got it from drugs or promiscuity. Dismissing someone with a different - or no - faith. All because they are a non-entity, pure other. Once you acknowledge that everyone, no matter what, deserves your full consideration, life gets so much more complicated, but ultimately much better.
So, thank you, Bee. I hope I can teach you empathy half as well as you have taught it to me.
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be live and updated by afternoon January 11 with all the carnival links.)
- Affection — Alicia at I Found My Feet has finally become a hugger and kisser, now she has someone sweet and small to snuggle with. (@aliciafagan)
- Learning from Daniel — Amy at Anktangle hopes that she and her husband will always be open to learning from their son. (@anktangle)
- Kids Cultivate Awareness of Universal Truths — From forgiveness to joy, Amy Phoenix at Innate Wholeness has become aware of deep truths that come naturally to children. (@InnateWholeness)
- What the Apple Teaches the Tree — Becky at Future Legacy has learned about imagination, forgiveness, and strength.
- A Lesson in Slowing Time — Bethy at Bounce Me To the Moon revels in the chance to just be with her baby.
- Learning From My Children: I Am So Honored — WAHM Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey is learning to choose tea parties over work. (@MyMotheringPath)
- P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E — Now that she's a mother, Danielle at born.in.japan is finally learning about a personality trait she lacked. (@borninjp)
- Top 5 Homeschool Lessons My Children Taught Me — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares what she learned from homeschooling her (now grown) children. (@DebChitwood)
- Learning to Live in the Present By Looking to the Future — Dionna at Code Name: Mama finds the patience to be a gentle parent, because she knows how fleeting childhood really is. (@CodeNameMama)
- The watchful Buddha boy — At Dreaming Aloud, they are learning to cherish their thoughtful, sensitive child in a action-driven, noisy world. (@DreamingAloudNt)
- What My Children Taught Me — Dulce de Leche's children have taught her to value herself for the wonderful person and mother she is.
- Lessons from the First Year — Having a child made Emily at Crunchy(ish) Mama realize that her decisions affect more than just herself. (@CrunchyishMama)
- Lessons from Loss — Erica at ChildOrganics learned so much from the love — and loss — of her sweet Bella, five years ago. (@ChildOrganics)
- The Socratic Baby — Erin at Multiple Musings has so-called "identical" twins to serve as a daily lesson in nature vs. nurture. (@ErinLittle)
- Learning to be a Mother — Farmer's Daughter learned the type of patience that enabled her to calmly eat one-handed for months and change clothes seven times a day, before noon. (@FarmDaughter)
- A Few Things Being a Mom Has Taught Me — Heather at Musing Mommy shares the curious, hilarious, and sometimes Murphy's Law-like tidbits we learn from our children. (@xakana)
- I Feel You — Motherhood has taught Jamey from At the Bee Hive empathy, and it extends beyond just her child. (@JameyBly)
- Lessons From My Child… — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy shares the inspiring ways she's learned to expect the unexpected — and have a camera ready! (@imaftmummy)
- My child is my mirror — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama has seen herself in her children – and it's not bad. (@crunchychewy)
- There is enough to go around… — Kellie at Our Mindful Life learned that love doesn't diminish when it's shared.
- Learning From Our Children, Every Day — Kimberly at Homeschooling in Nova Scotia, Canada is continually inspired by her children. (@UsborneBooksCB)
- Life Lessons From My Children — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood has learned that every slug is fascinating, doing the dishes is fun, and sharing a banana is a delight. (@crunchymamato2)
- Things I've Learned From My Children — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings uses pictures to share what she has learned from her children. (@sunfrog)
- Beyond the questions lies the answer — Lauren at Hobo Mama stopped wondering and started knowing — loving and liking our children comes naturally. (@Hobo_Mama)
- Learning from Children — Lily, aka Witch Mom, finds out just how enchanting balloons can be. (@LilyShahar)
- Lifelong Learning — Lindsay at Living in Harmony has learned that what works for one kid might not work for another. (@AttachedMama)
- Walking alongside my daughter — Lindsey at Mama Cum Laude is learning to give the clock less power over her family's life.
- Things my baby taught me about me — Luschka at Diary of a First Child is proud of how she has grown as a mother. (@lvano)
- From my children, I have learned — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip has a litany of beautiful lessons, from selflessness to sleeplessness.
- The Little Things in Life — In a simple and lovely prose poem, Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children shows how adults worry about the wrong things and forget the little, important ones: watching ladybugs, jumping in leaves, cherishing each moment as it comes.
- The Virtues of Motherhood — Melissa at The New Mommy Files has had opportunities to learn from children as both a teacher and a mother. (@NewMommyFiles)
- My Kids Have Taught Me That It's Time To Stop Blogging — Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! has learned that childhoods fly by too fast to blog. We'll miss your wonderful online presence, Melodie, and we wish you much peace and happiness. (@bfmom)
- Having Kids Has Taught me a Thing or Two — Michelle at The Parent Vortex learns all day long — from fun facts about hedgehogs to tying a complicated wrap with a screaming child and an audience. (@TheParentVortex)
- We Could All Learn from the Children — Momma Jorje takes time to get on the floor and play so that she can see the world through her child's eyes.
- Teaching Forgiveness — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog has a daughter who's taught her unconditional love — even when she feels like she does't deserve it. (@littlegreenblog)
- Parenting as a joint venture — Olivia at Write About Birth appreciates watching the astonishing way her children learn. (@writeaboutbirth)
- Beginner's Mind — Rachael at The Variegated Life learns from a child who builds bridges to nowhere, calls letter magnets his numbers, and insists dinnertime is truck time. (@RachaelNevins)
- A baby's present — RS at A Haircut and a Shave presents a short poem on the differences between a baby's mindfulness and ours.
- Self-Confidence Was Born With My Daughter — Sara at Halfway Crunchy learned to trust her instincts by responding to her child's needs — and saw her self-confidence bloom.
- The Importance of Being Less Earnest — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante has one list of earnest and one list of silly things she has learned as a parent. (@seonaid_lee)
- Lessons my children have taught me — Sheryl at Little Snowflakes learned that attachment parenting was the best way to meet the needs of her child and herself. (@Sheryljesin)
- Till the water is clear — Stacy at Mama-Om learns that being present is the best present. (@mama_om)
- I Hold It — Stefanie at Very, Very Fine has learned that the ability to communicate is much more important than the number of words a child knows.
- What My Children Taught Me About Letting Go — Summer at Finding Summer is learning from her kids to laugh in the face of heartache. (@summerminor)
- Finding My Tools — The Artsymama has applied some of what she's learned as a mama in the classroom, with great results!