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17 February 2005

I've fallen in love

I have fallen in love with Miss Dashwood or, more precisely, with Gwendolyn!  Miss Dashwood is an adorable, new hat pattern at Knitty.com -- but, oh, what a beautiful child!  Now I need a baby to snuggle!  The soonest opportunity is a ways off yet -- my sister is at the half-way mark in her pregnancy and her bump is quite apparent... and I can't wait to smooch soft cheeks!  Speaking of said sister, I saw her late last week and gave her the Tanguy hat, which she loved, along with her birthday presents!

There was a lot accomplished yesterday, including the pinning out of the back of St. Brigid!  In the comments, Cindy said that she uses the same kind of cardboard thing that I do for blocking, but to circumvent any possible problems with moisture, she's covered hers with clear Contact paper.  That goes into the "Duh, why didn't I think of that?" category, with sincere thanks that people more clever than I (that would be you, Cindy!) are willing to share their ideas!  In other knitting news, I finished one saddle last night and got a start on the other.  Both sleeves ought to be completed tonight and they'll block while I knit the collar.  No, Elizabeth, no St. Brigid modelled today, but you certainly do humor me with your optimism!!

There was vacuumming, dusting, laundry, banking and grocery shopping yesterday, too, and I limited my blog-reading and emailing -- it's so easy to let that suck a few hours from the day!  Alas, nothing in the realm of taxes, except that the thought is really starting to linger and press down on my brain and I'm going to have to get it over with soon.

That's the knitting update.  The rest is pretty much a ramble.  In fact, it's the longest, most time-consuming post I've written!

I read a thoughtful post on motherhood yesterday which was prompted by Newsweek's cover story, "The Myth of the Perfect Mother."  It's no secret, I guess, that I enjoy my role as mother to our three girls; I never intended to blog about them as much as I do, but I find them so interesting right now.  Sometimes I think that I'm being rewarded for not completely losing it when they were toddlers.  It was not all sunshine and happiness -- there were some very hard times during those years.  It's not all sunshine and happiness now, either.  I have done the best that I could and, thank you, I'll take credit for doing a pretty good/good enough job.  That doesn't mean that I don't beat myself up every once in a while, thinking that maybe I should have, could have, wish I would have _________ [fill in the blank].  I think I'm a glass half-full person, though, because I never let myself beat myself to a pulp over stuff like that.  In the words of Doris Day, "Que Sera, Sera."

"Just Be."  No doubt, my kids were the most unscheduled on the block.  The priority was that they be free to use their imaginations and to create and to play.  Our porches and playroom (who am I kidding, the whole damn house) was always strewn from end to end with kids, crayons, markers, reams of paper, Legos, Barbies, Beanie Babies, velcro monkeys, Brio trains, beads, etc.

Mindless stuff, too, like when Katie & Ali were 6 and 4, my stepmother taught them to crochet.  They only knew how to make a chain and, supplied with the requested ball of yarn and hook, they worked together to crochet a chain that went from our house to their friends' -- three doors down and across the street -- and back.  "Mom, look what we made!"  As they got older, their play reflected a growing awareness of the world.  They'd videotape "news shows" and interviews; play detective, design sets and make movies starring Barbie and Ken, sew clothes for their dolls, do "experiments" in the kitchen, organize a neighborhood game of color tag, or "go exploring."

I'd help them when needed, but mostly I did my own thing, too.  I guess I was pretty unscheduled; most people would say "laid-back."  I have my moments...  There were a few birthday parties, and the time I got it together and made a bunny-shaped birthday cake for Ali's birthday which fell on Easter, and then modified the recipe and made a monkey-shaped cake for Katie's six days later.  There was the fabulous cooking-themed, sleep-over, combo party for them both (five guests each) -- that their friends still talk about 10 years later.  Most of the time it was, "Oh crap" and invite the neighbor kids for an impromptu "party."  (And there will be a party for Maddy this year!!)

"Benign neglect" is how my husband describes his childrearing philosophy; it is how his mother raised him, though not as deliberately.  I subscribed fairly early in our go at parenting.  "You never make your kids do anything!"  Those words were screamed into my face two summers ago by the above-mentioned sister.  And you know, she's right!  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  I think, for the most part, that it's a good thing; obviously, my sister thinks differently.  We're all entitled to our opinions -- and to raise our children however we like, as long as they're loved and safe.

I have encouraged my kids, but I mostly let them guide me.  Why would I put them -- and me -- through the wringer, making them do things that they don't want to do, just to keep them busy and occupied?  Is that what they call "building character"?  I think my kids have plenty of character -- more than most, if you want to know the truth.  We've done piano lessons, violin, summer school, library reading programs, softball, camp, etc.  The only rule is that if they start something, they pretty much have to finish; if they don't want to do it again, okey-doke.

Loved and safe.  There are as many opinions on the definitions of those things as there are stars in the sky.  I knew I'd have no problems with our school system when, on practically the first day of kindergarten, the grrs came home to tell me that they were "lovable and capable."  They also talked that year about "needs and wants," something that Stephanie* reminded us of recently.  And the first word on the first spelling test in first grade was the word, "responsibility" -- it was not a bonus word, either.  These things, really, combined with an awareness of others -- "The Golden Rule," if you will -- will take a person a long way.

I've been scared out of my wits a few times in the area of safety.  A person can only do so much.  The world is full of danger and much of it is out of my control.  Have I wanted to handcuff my kids to my wrists or lock them in their rooms 'til they're 30?  Yes.  Is that in their best interest?  No.

This is how it goes at our house.  Last night Ali came home and we talked about her weekend plans.  She scrunched her nose and said, "Well, I'm supposed to work Friday night, but I think I'm gonna ask off because I want to do something else.  And besides, I'm getting a new job."  (She has an interview for a new job on Monday; there's no guaranteed new job.)  (Oh, and here's where my mother would have hit the roof and I'll let you figure out/remember the ending.)  She went on about this-n-that, that-n-this, and I pointed out that it all requires money and she might want to think about it some more.  This morning, she told me that she will be working on Friday night.  There would have been stern words if her decision had been anything else.  I could have hit the roof right off the bat, but isn't it better this way?  Given the opportunity, I think most kids would do the right thing.  I don't think she's ever forgotten how to spell "responsibility."

*I have to tell you that I recently received my own MSF tote bag, notepad, and bumper sticker.  These were definitely wants, but the purchase helps someone else with a need, so I think I'm okay in the needs/wants department.  They're available at Cafepress, though I don't know exactly where (if anyone can help with that link, please let me know!).

Comments

I love this post (and Annie's too). I so enjoy it when you talk about your kids and the way that you're raising them. I am wary of overscheduling my kids and not giving them enough time to just be kids and explore and think and play. I hope that I can give them the freedom to be themselves the way you've done with your girls.

I may be biased, but I think you're doing a damn good job. You're my favorite mom. ;) Love you!

Thanks. Thanks a lot. Like I didn't cry enough today. ;-) You're my favorite mom. Sheesh!

Great post Vicki, (and Annie). I love to hear what your girls have been doing and all their interests, it seems like you are doing a fantastic job.

awh...Katie's comment, it also helps that we have such great kids also.
That hat is sooo cute! I never saw it before :( You are very lucky you have your sister's baby to look forward to. The next babies in my family will be from my children Yikes!

Loved and safe, which in my house has aways included boundries...and I've got to say, we have had our challenges and every kind of teenage situation you can imagine, because we, as human beings always challange the boundaries, don't we? I look at my kids today, and realize...they are not only okay...they are awesome adults who had to make their own mistakes in order to become the incredible people they are today. I am amazed that such a mom as my oldest daughter came from my upbringing! And she is an amazing mom to two incredibly grounded little boys. The fact is, what makes great adults is that they were loved and safe at home as kids. Great post, Vicki.

The great thing about knitting for babies is that they can't complain when we knit them wacky hats! That Tanguy is adorable.

Thank you for the link to Annie's and the article. I live beside a very affluent neighbourhood and have seen every example of micro-managing, overscheduling, parented homework, and buying your way out 'perfect' parenting imaginable. I usually just shake my head but sometimes I get angry. The latest incident was when it was discussed at a parent council meeting that "...since it's such a small school, shouldn't every child make the team?" Roll that one up and smoke it! And I agree, that adorable baby,and hat, makes my head pop!

Ok, now that I've read this three times, I think I can comment...it is wonderful to read posts such as yours, Annie's, and Liz's that reaffirm what I already know -it's ok to just let them run around! I don't have to feel guilty about getting a few rowns in while they play! NO, they DO NOT have to play soccer if they don't want to! I may be the only one in my nieghborhood who lives this way, but at least I know I'm not alone! :)
ps - adoption?? I did not know that!

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