31 August 2009

What's appropriate about it?

We (the ubiquitous we) overuse phrases. Especially ones that surface in pop psychology. Especially those pop psychology terms that have to do with parenting.

Well, I take issue (shocking, i know) with one I've been hearing a lot.

Age Appropriate Behavior.
I'd like to change it to...

Age Expected Behavior.
(Wonder how i go about changing the national language surrounding certain issues? Call the New York Times?)

There are lots of behaviors that are, in fact, age appropriate. Like a five year old playing house with her dolls. Or a two year old crashing trains into each other. Or a twenty five year old having a glass of wine at the end of a long day of dealing with age-appropriate behaviors.

But then there are the others. These are the behaviors that are, in fact, not appropriate for any aged person to exhibit. Like a five year old slinging her watercolor water all over the kitchen table. Or a two year old throwing himself in the floor at Kroger because you won't buy the mnms. Or a twenty five year old having six vodka tonics at the end of a long day of dealing with various behaviors.

These behaviors are not appropriate. Appropriate is a normative term. It denotes value. The value that it describes is that something is 'okay' - something that is not to be corrected. The ol' Merriam Webster says it means 'especially suitable or compatible' and that the most appropriate synonym is 'fitting.'

My mother nods approval at appropriate dress.
My father edits sentences so that they use appropriate language.
My husband teaches appropriate finger position on a flute.
I (try to) serve meals with appropriate balance of food groups, spices, etc.

We celebrate the appropriate. We encourage it. We cultivate it.

I have been noticing this because people keep telling me that my son's behavior is 'age appropriate.'

I appreciate the desire to give him some leeway - and i appreciate the motivation behind telling me this - which is, i think and hope, wanting me not to worry that I have a child on my hands who will, in fact, be crying when his sister leaves him when he's 20. Or saying "no" to every question asked of him when he's mad on his 13th birthday. Or climbing to the tops of water towers at 16. (okay, so the latter is definitely possible).

I do hope he 'grows out of' many of these behaviors. But, after being around a lot of children most of the day every day for the past year, I am here to tell you that if a parent waits for a child to grow out of 'age-appropriate' behavior, he or she may wait a while.


Because as parents, we are supposed to grow our children.

Grow is both a transitive and an intransitive verb. Which means that, yes, a tomato plant grows. But a person also can grow a tomato plant. Grow can very well take a direct object. And when it does, says M-W, it means 'to promote the development of'.

When one looks at a weak, fruitless seedling tomato plant, one does not say to himself, "i hope that plant grows out of that." No, we say, "What can I do to grow that plant into a fruitbearing, strong, mature state?"

So, I'd like to change the phrase to Age Expected. Because we expect our two year old to throw tantrums, but we don't celebrate it, cultivate it, teach it. And we are not supposed to condone it.

We don't lose sleep, because, it is, in fact, expected that at this age, he'll misbehave in many different ways. We expect it. But we expect it to change. And, this is key, we expect to be instrumental in that change. Because if you don't water a tomato plant, it will not grow.

If you don't correct a child, he will not grow.

You cannot pray him out of it, hope him out of it, or stick your head in the sand and wait him out of it. You can try all those things, but unless you are incredibly lucky, they won't work.

You must grow him - lovingly, tenderly, and most of all, intentionally - out of these behaviors.

So, I'm glad for those friends, family and strangers in Kroger who keep telling me that it is "age appropriate" for my child to act a fool. Because I think what most of them mean is that what he is doing is expected at this point along the journey.

But as I look around, I cannot help but wonder if many of the behavior problems we see at all ages these days have something to do with this normative term creeping in. If you say something is appropriate, and you define appropriate with its most oft-used and correct definition, you might start to believe that throwing banana slices across your highchair tray to try to land them in the measuring-cup-drawer is something we should cheer, or at the very least just ignore and clean up, rather than something at which we should smile out of the corner of our mouths and then correct - perhaps by redirecting our children to throw pennies at a jar on the kitchen floor.

Or when he jumps up on the shelves-in-progress in your den wearing nothing but his newborn brother's hat, you'll laugh, take a picture, and then say "You are NOT allowed to climb on the furniture, even before its finished being built."

I want my children to be appropriate. I expect them to fail at many turns, just like I do every day. They are not a complete work, just as I am not.

I hope I am learning to say, "Sweetheart, that is not appropriate," knowing all the while that it's perfectly expected.


1 - I really like to blog - it's therapeutic. But the vast majority of the time I can sit at the computer, I only have one hand free (that whole infant thing gets in the way). And i just don't have the patience to type much one handed. A facebook status, yes. An entire blog post, not so much.

2 - My darling friend Calen says that when you change topics, you can just change paragraphs, but I'm fond of numbers. So, I'll go on in the face of non-necessity.

3 - Eason looked up at the sky last night and said "Look Mama, its a jelly bean moon" Immediately after, he blatantly disobeyed me. It is really hard to discipline a child right after he says something like that. But, alas, it must be done. We don't want him to grow up to be a poet who walks into the street without looking both ways.

4 - Paul and I went to see a performance of Elijah by Mendelssohn last night at First Pres Jackson. It was amazing, but not really my thing, if that makes sense. It did make me realize how important it is for us to take advantage of any cultural event that's available. And the soloists did an amazing job. Viola Dacus, who is married to Paul's old choir director, is a mezzo-soprano and has the most amazing voice.

5 - Yesterday, the f.f.o.f. (forster family of five - look for the abbreviation more often...) went to my dad's cabin north of canton. We fished. Paul Forster, my twenty-five year old husband, caught his first fish. Ada Brooks reeled in a five pound bass, but the line broke right before it got to shore. She was a bit thrown by this entire experience. But loved it.

6 - My bum hurts from sitting at my dinner table for four hours of delightful conversation last night. And my mouth hurts from smiling so much. What great pains to have.

I have so much to say and so little time. And a baby who is waking up. life goes on.

25 August 2009

the battle cry goes up

a dear friend of mine lost her grandmother this past week. She was 89 - she had two children, seven grand children and, so far, 10 great grandchildren. This is not supposed to be a sad time - my heavens - what a full and perfect life. But my sweet friend is so very sad.

It is because of a matriarchal phenomenon. Because when a woman has that much of a legacy, she is often the glue holding it all together. She is the rallying point. Losing her is like losing sight of the flag in battle.

Just the battle of life - nothing more pressing or dramatic - but really that battle is pressing and dramatic. It is a battle of raising your children correctly, of picking the right spouse and the right church, of conforming rightly to the right belief system. Of wearing the right dress. And wording the thank you notes correctly. And goodness knows of preparing the right meal.

It is a battle we women know well. Our men, well, they are usually fighting a different life battle - the battle of putting food on the table and all that entails. But the women - well - we are the ones making it livable. What's the point of bringing home the bacon if its microwaved for dinner?

Warning: Long Parenthetical

(My roommate my sophomore year in college, when i was pregnant with my daughter, was desperate to make sure i ate all i needed to eat. So she bought bacon. And eggs. And she microwaved them both. And all that did was make me so much more morning sick. But it was so sweet. i still cherish and get nauseated by those memories)

So this wonderful woman, Granny, died last week. By all accounts she lived an ideal life - a life worth living, as they say. a God-glorifying life. And while everyone is upholding the joy of a full life lived, they are all a bit unglued and directionless.

Is it bad of me to hope that one day i'll leave those I love unglued, if only temporarily? I think it speaks even better of Granny that they are unable to let go - to simply readjust - that they are unable to find a new flag so quickly. She is the rallying cry - how sad if she were to be so easily replaceable.

In a way, how wonderful that they are lost.

24 August 2009

and the heavens sing hallelujah

if you live in the jackson area and have not been outside this morning, stop, and move that way.
I tried to get Paul to sleep on the trampoline with me last night, but apparently 56 degrees, if heavenly, is not cold enough to kill mosquitoes. So, I would have been chanting the Eason chant: NoNoSquitoes.

October came early. Which is better than an early christmas or even an early happy hour.

It will leave again, I'm confident, but for now, the desks have been moved to the deck and we are schooling outside.

Collins was baptized yesterday. He was in a bad mood all day - and I wondered if maybe he was resenting us choosing this sacrament for him. But I'm pretty sure it was the hat and the dress and the too much attention.

I love a good baptism. I also love my children all dressed up looking innocent. They are so not innocent, but they are, in a way, and I love for them to look it on occasion.
(EVERYTIME I type the word 'occasion' I have to type it once with two 's'es and then sound it out - and it sounds like a french word - or some other perversion - and i back space and delete an s and move on - wonder if when i'm 30 i'll be able to get it right on the first try. I'll add that to my goals by thirty list...)

My life is full of long parentheticals. so full.

The children have started school without me. am i completely dispensable?

Paul started school this morning. I packed his lunch, kissed his forehead. okay, not his forehead. and sent him on is way. and noted all the irony. In some number of years, I'm sure, I'll be the one going off to school and he'll kiss me. hopefully not on the forehead.

14 August 2009

First week of homeschoolingended yesterday at 1045 am.

Some quotes: "I don't care what the book says, thats not how you make an A" - bee

"I don't care what the book says - that's not how you make a k" - me

"Why do I have to write my name on everything? First of all, I know how to write my name and second of all, won't you know these are my worksheets?" - bee

"i do school. where are my worksheets?" - eason

"quit teaching me things i already know" - bee

"where did she learn to be a smart ass?" - paul
"oh, i don't know... her two smartass parents" - me
"dammit" - paul

Things I like:
looking at my kids in cute wooden desks
grading worksheets....
being admired for the vast amount of knowledge i possess
knowing i'm doing whats best for my child
getting to laugh at all three of the kiddos

things i'm not so keen on:
juggling nursing and schooling
not knowing how much to push an already lazy yet overachieving child
seeing my own education-related flaws staring right back at me (especially the idea that since something is less than gripping is not worth any attention)

more on everything later.
how much do you love the school graphic above? much

on a sadder note, our dear friend Kelly Pates, who played all the music at mine and paul's wedding reception, died this week. he was only 55 and had a massive heart attack. it is so sad and so terrifying for someone to die so young - in his prime, really - still playing about four nights a week at private parties or various jackson establishments.

he will be missed, and for now, he has me carpe-ing diem.

09 August 2009

i start officially homeschooling ada brooks tomorrow.

i am terrified. which is ridiculous.

bee is pumped. which is ridiculous and awesome.

plan on many humorous anecdotes. at least hoping they're humorous. will stink if they're sad...

(just reread this post and realized that i used the wrong there/they're/their when i first posted it. which i do about once per lifetime. because it is my pet peeve. which makes me doubt my ability to officially homeschool anyone... heavenly days)

morbid? or a healthy view of injury?

about a week ago, ada brooks was sitting up on her kneesin her top bunk (was supposed to be sleeping). She leaned forward and tried to grab the (not on) fan blades to turn them (something she's been expressly forbidden to do).
And she fell.

Mercifully, she hit Eason's bed on the way down (its at a 90 degree angle to hers).

But she didn't hit the mattress part first - she hit the wooden frame. With her hip.

These are the consequences of misbehavior... (I can say that now that she's really okay) I do enjoy when the natural consequences of an action punish a child so I don't have to - it seems so much easier that way. And the world is backing me up, if you will. I feel vindicated. Not that I need vindication to make rules like "don't try to grab the fan" - or any rules for that matter - but its nice.

So she has a massive, lovely bruise on her hip.

She just walked in the den while dressing for church. (I'm in my three hours a day nursing at the computer position).

"Hey mama - wonder what color it will turn into next?" Pure fascination. A little too gleeful, but I kind of love it. Mainly because its something by which I would be fascinated.

07 August 2009

if you have a child in the 7-10 year old range, these books are perfect!

and, if you have a little girl ages 3 to 9, get a skirty! now!!!!!

06 August 2009


"eason - do you need to go potty?" - me

"nope" - eason

"say no mam eason. are you sure you don't need to go potty?"

"no mam. i'm sure"

"eason - you are full of bull butter - i'm watching you do the puddle dance" - ada brooks

cannot claim she's not my child.... =)

05 August 2009


I am in the throws of preparing to start official school on Monday with Ada Brooks. This is the date I decided worked best for us as far as getting everything finished I want to get through by Christmas. Other than that, its completely arbitrary - no one making us start school on Monday.

The reading program I chose is called "Phonics Museum" by Veritas Press, the leading Classical Education press. In keeping with classical education philosophy, they've incorporated history lessons into their phonics program - the readers, rather than content-less Dick and Jane type stories, are stories out of history in very basic format. And, rather than being tied to a cartoony version (see above right) of a noun that it starts, each letter is tied to a famous work of art containing a picture of something that starts with that letter.

There are cards with the letter and an image of the painting, and the kids get a coloring sheet based on the famous work of art (some art is easier to produce a coloring sheet out of.... impressionism... not so easy). On the back of each sheet is a short artist bio that the parent reads to the child.

While I was examining the curriculum to determine what all I needed to get prepared before we start next week, Eason crawled up in my lap. (He's been doing that a lot lately - marking the lap as HIS territory instead of the territory of the evil baby invader Collins...). "What's that, mama?"
Me: 'Letter cards, eas.'
So, we started going through the letter cards. You know - 'A says aaa. A says aaa. A says aaaaapple'
Eventually, we got to the L card. The work of art on it is a detail of a painting by Jean-Leon Gerome called The Christian Martyrs' Last Prayer.

See Above.

So I said L says llll. L says llll. What animal do you see in the painting?

Eason says.. "A dog"

I said, "goose! that is not a dog - that is a lion."

[side note - when ada brooks was little and she started saying or doing less than brilliant things - you know - like calling a clear picture of a lion a dog when she was well past the 'learning to identify animals' stage and so should know better - we would call her a goose - like a silly goose - instead of the less than optimal other options: 1) praising idiocy (what's wrong with most of america) or 2) calling her an idge (not good for a child's security if a parent starts calling him stupid at a fairly young age....)]

back to funny child-rearing anecdote:

eason says "It is not a lion. it is a dog. it looks just like deets"

Deets belongs to our good friend, and incidentally Eason's godfather, Jacob. Deets is an imposing german shepherd named after Joshua Deets from Lonesome Dove (played by danny glover). We haven't seen Deets in months - probably four months? maybe six? and we haven't talked about him in at least two months. This amazes me about the memory children have sometimes. Ada Brooks regularly remembers perfectly events I've long forgotten. And she can find most any lost thing in the house because she remembers seeing it. Eason is seeing in this picture a dog he hasn't seen since before he started making sentences.

me, laughing: "I guess Deets kind of looks like a lion - this is definitely a lion."

Eason: "mama - think Deets can roar?"

Eas proceeds to hop down and roar around the house.
I do love him.

03 August 2009

To continue with the 'framable favorites' series. Neither my father nor I usually wins the photogenic award. The chin area is not beautiful on either of us. But I love this Christmas Morning shot from 2005.

Daddy and I traditionally give each other a book for Christmas. Well, Daddy gives everyone books. And, other than really expensive camping/hiking gear, Daddy only wants books for Christmas. And we both love John Irving - During this Christmas, Irving had just released his latest novel - Until I Find You - a delightful read about a young man who is searching for his father - knowing only that he is an organist and a tattoo fiend. Yes, Irving is weird. But amazingly talented.
Daddy and I happened to open our presents at the exact same moment. I assume my mama took this picture - she loves and encourages pictures of reactions at opening presents. She actually sits, poised with camera, as we open the especially goofy presents from hre. it may be my favorite part of christmas.
I love the red cheeks and red pajamas and its hard to beat a Christmas robe.

Daddy didn't write in my book (as he should have if following Eason custom) because he suspected that we might give each other the same present. But I insisted that we keep both books - because, after all, we don't share the same family library. So, i have an unwritten in Until I Find You - i need to rectify that.

i also need to frame this picture for both of us.

i have so much i'd like to write about, but i have paul's theology group coming in thirty minutes... so - another time.