Thursday, November 18, 2010

it takes a blogosphere to raise a child

H. Stephen Glenn, wrote as a foreword in Jane Nelsen's book, "Positive Discipline",

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"For thousands of years parents and teachers learned the art of raising children through grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and neighbors who lived together under relatively stable circumstances for generations.

When changes became necessary, the value of sharing wisdom and experiences was instinctively understood by the pilgrims and pioneers, who traveled together and settled communities with common values and community goals.

Suddenly, at the end of World War II there was a mass migration from small towns and farm communities in to urban and suburban environments. An entire culture was dislocated due to the combined effects of the Industrial Revolution, GI bill, reaction to the Depression, and technology. The wisdom and support of extended family and long-time friends was lost.

Soon after this dramatic shift to urban communities, nearly eleven million couples began giving birth to an average of 4.2 children each and became urban pioneers crossing a frontier of life-style and technology without networks and support systems to offer an accumulation of wisdom to guide them.

Not knowing they were pioneers, these couples forgot the basic strategy that had enabled other pioneers to successfully colonize a new continent. They forgot that pioneers got together with strangers around the campfire to compare notes on the journey so that everyone didn't have to perish learning the same lessons. Instead of following the wisdom of generations who relied on learning from each other, they became isolated.

Those who did not replace family and community support systems with networks of fellow travelers often covered feelings of inadequacy and lack of knowledge about what to do with a false sense of pride in "handling their own problems." They adopted the belief that people shouldn't discuss family business with strangers. It became important to them to hide their problems and handle them, often very ineffectively, behind closed doors. They traded in wisdom and principles acquired over centuries for books and theories untried and untested.

At the same time, a national fantasy grew up that the only thing between Americans and a generation of perfect, super children, was perfect, super parents. What a shock when many children did not turn out perfectly. The guilt, stress and denial tore people apart.

Parenting, which was once the cumulative work of generations, became a grim, part-time struggle for two or more relatives who did not have much experience in what they were trying to do.

Statistics show that the approximately 4.3 million children born in 1946 overpowered urban schools in 1951. They took the achievement tests in 1963 and reversed a three-hundred-year upward trend. In all areas of achievement, children had been improving up until this time. The children who were born after World War II started a downward trend in crime, teenage pregnancy, clinical depression and suicide. Clearly, our understanding of and resources for raising and education children was compromised by urbanization and technology."
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I've been reading this (fantastic) book because ... I have a confession to make.

This whole parenting thing?

I'm figuring it out as I go.

(Shhh. Please, don't tell anyone!!)

Sometimes, my motherly intuition is running strong and I have a good idea of the right thing to do. But as our children are growing, it is becoming a lot more convoluted.

My children were babies just ... well, it seems like just yesterday. And now they're forging friendships and have this whole budding independence thing going on and sometimes, I feel perplexed wondering, "How should I handle all of this?"

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By and large, when I'm conflicted with what to do, I'll write down my thoughts and see what I can sort out. Instead of "closing my door" and giving off the impression that I'm a Super Parent who has it all figured out, I'll pose my question to ABSOLUTE STRANGERS that are either forging this new ground with me, or are seasoned veterans having already traveled down the parenting path.

In regards to my last series of posts, it seems that with the comments coming in, something is being lost in translation and I want to circle the wagons.

What I'm writing, is intended to all surround the same issue which pertains to the socialization of my young children, while also, finding my comfort zone.

There are three core issues, as I see them.

1. I am uncomfortable sending ANY of my children to someone's house for a play date without either Charlie or I also in attendance. Why? Because I worry about perverts and guns and a whole lot of other stuff that, as a parent, I should worry about because for Pete's sake, these are my children and they are SIX YEARS OLD.

If we attended a play date at someone else's home, we're not going to hover, but we are going to get comfortable with the parents, with the family, with the environment. We'll be hosting play dates at OUR house, too. Since we feel more comfortable with our children in our space, that's how we've decided we're going to roll on this subject. For now. It may change. When it does, I'm sure I'll write ALL about it.

2. I am NOT opposed to ONE of my children having a friendship and participating in a play date without their siblings. Yes, this WAS a concern for me when Carolyn came skipping off the school bus two weeks ago, and Elizabeth cried the whole way home. But what I've since concluded is that when that time comes that Elizabeth goes to a play date without her sister, or vice versa, it would soften the blow, AT LEAST INITIALLY, to invite a friend over to our home for the other SISTER to play with.

This does not apply to William, nor Henry, because frankly, they don't care.

3. If a birthday party invitation came to William, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Elizabeth, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Carolyn, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Henry, fine. Wow, look at all the combinations here. But wait, there's more!!

If a birthday party invitation came to all three of the triplets but not Henry, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to William and Henry, fine. If a birthday party invitation came to Carolyn and Elizabeth, fine. HOWEVER, if a birthday party invitation came to William and one sister, but excluded the second sister, there is NO way I'd let the kids go. It is at that point, and that point only, OUR TRIPLETS ARE A PACKAGE DEAL.

Why? Because at this stage in their lives, that is cruel to intentionally single one out. If it's the two sisters going to a party, I can easily tell William, "It's a girl thing, there will be a lot of pink, we'll stay home and build dinosaurs out of Legos. Won't that be awesome?" And he'd happily agree.

BUT, if it's a sister and a brother going to a party and the second sister is left out? How do you explain that? If you disagree with my approach and you think it would be an excellent opportunity for my children to learn that sometimes, they might be left out and the world's not fair and they need to toughen their skin, that's COLD.

I'd NEVER drop William and one of his sisters off at a birthday party and tell the second sister, "Sorry Honey. Better luck next time. Maybe if you TRIED HARDER you'd have more friends!" That would CRUSH the spirit of my child and cause more harm than good.

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In conclusion:

Do I always take the advice that is offered to me? Absolutely not. But whenever I ask for advice, I am extremely grateful that I am provided with an abundance of things to think about. From there, I will sort through, process, try to hone my intuition, and figure out what sustainable solution will work best for my family.

It was not my intention to offend anyone.

I am definitely not angry.

I am definitely not feeling defensive.

I am definitely figuring this all out as I go.

I am very willing to throw these "important topics" over the fence for discussion.

I am extremely appreciative of the wisdom and suggestions from fellow pioneers.

It really helps when you get things "sorted out" and feel like you have a plan.

I am extremely comfortable in our "new" strategy.

I am hopeful that whomever is similarly navigating this particular phase of socialization with their child, will benefit from this "discussion."

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Now, go consume some fuel and gather your strength.

I'm working on another "topic" for discussion tomorrow.

We'll have a virtual campfire and compare notes.

28 comments:

  1. We still live like Pioneers way up here in the North. Well, most of us anyway.

    There's always reason to be skeptical about people up here, but for the most part, if you're an observant parent, you can trust most everyone who gets up to bring their kid to school!

    But then again, it was so cold up here that during WWII, the AK Territorial Guard had to stand watch with their Muzzle Shooters and Harpoons so the Russians wouldn't take over Sewards Icebox.

    And I'm proud to be the granddaughter of two of those people, who fought for a country they didn't totally belong to! :)

    (Off subject!)

    Anyway, there wasn't a huge rise in kids during that time, because Eskimo's generally have like 6-10 kids anyway. They just kept having more. :) hehe.

    You're always welcome to move up here with us! ;)

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  2. I agree with your idea about when they can do play dates individually and that one instance where you would say no. I think your first order of business is to quickly get to know other parents. Either accept a playdate offer and ask if you can bring them a Starbucks and stay for the first 30 mins to get the opportunity to get to know each other or have them over to your house. I'd do it quick before you have to turn down too many playdates for the kids. Unfortunately it is all about getting your kids in the right group of friends even at this age.

    I have twin boys but I live next door and across the street from 2 2nd grade girls and I get to hear all about the friend drama they have a school. Not fun to watch your daughters go through it I'm sure.

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  3. Ah - now there is a book to work with, athough I have only dipped into it so far, it has been valuable to us.

    I tried to leave a comment this morning and blogger wouldn't let me but, briefly, I said that in the K we tend to drop our childre off at school ourselves and pick them up, which gives us more opporunity to chat to parents in the playground and work out who we like etc. It sounds a bit more like the campfire you seek! So maybe you best bet is to host some parties and get to know your children's parents. Some you'll like and some .... best not go there!!!

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  4. Well said.

    Does Henry know he can't mow leaves, just asking lol.

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  5. Hey! New to your blog! I'm Ashley from NC. I have 2 girls. Not twins, 18.5 months apart. Addie will be 2 in a month, and Ava is just 4.5 months. Addie has not and will not any time soon stayed away from me. She was away for 1 night while I had Ava, and she stayed with my husband. I am in no way a hovering mom. I let her do whatever and play by herself. BUT, I do not trust strangers (or even family) with her. I have left her with my parents a couple times, but I'm worrying the whole time. She's OUR child and I feel more comfortable with her around us. So, I know where you're coming from and I certainly do not have triplets. I look forward to reading more :)

    -Ashley

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  6. I have been reading about your concerns over the socialization of your kiddos with interest. I was always very concerned about letting my kids out of my sight...and as it sounds like you have decided, I tried to have most of the activities at my house, which worked out well.

    By junior high, the girls were invited to slumber parties. I did not let them go without first talking to the parent, finding out what movies they were going to see and if the parent would be home at all times. I often kept them home because of the movie selection...and I was not popular with my girls for the time...but I stuck to my rules and know my kids did not suffer from my tight rules, but they thought they did at the time.

    I think all of your combinations of kid invites are "spot on". The one with one sister being excluded was totally wrong. I would have reacted exactly as you have.

    My suggestion is don't wait until you have replaced the orange carpet to start arranging play dates at your house. The kids won't care and they will have gobs of fun at your house, I'm thinking.

    To be honest, boys are easier with social things. Riding bikes, building forts, etc. keep them outdoors so much more than girlie activities. (altho with today's electronics, I am surprised how much more inside stuff the boys are doing)

    Keep up the diligence with these precious children. It will pay off.

    Pray a lot, also!!

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  7. LIking the virtual campfire thing. As the parent of a singleton (at least for now-who knows what the future will bring), I didn't feel like I really had anything to contribute to the previous posts. I can certainly say though, that I think you are doing the right thing by choosing what you think is best for your children at this time. After all, you and Charlie have known them the longest.

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  8. Can we discuss those trees man they are beautiful. I sure wish Texas could get a real fall.

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  9. Geesh! I had to read/skim the other post (and comments) in order to understand this one. I'm exhausted!!

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  10. I loved this post. This is exactly the trouble we have when we live isolated lives.

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  11. Good for you! I can understand the birthday party issue that you have settled on..makes total sense.

    As far as other things go, you will get more comfortable with things.

    Nice post!

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  12. Many years ago when someone who didn't know me well dropped her son off for a playdate, she simply asked me "do you have guns in the house?"

    I was not offended in the least, and she left feeling more comfortable.

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  13. Um. Are you ever going to make O'Henry bars again, or what? (lol)

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  14. I'm totally self absorbed I think. If the party is convenient for ME I go. If I like the parent or feel like I want to meet someone new or really need some non-work related adult conversation I go. As a working parent I don't worry about the whole playdate thing at 6. It's good you are thinking about this now, coming up with a plan... Once you start the whole playdate thing the kids become relentless in wanting more. In kindergarten the kids are pretty simple-minded and easily swayed.
    Take advantage of this! You let yourself get settled in the school first and meet some of the parents before you worry about sending your kids at their young age out... My daughter is in second grade and it's so much different/easier now that I've/she has been at the school for 3 years.

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  15. Jen:

    I have not read all the comments but I just want to say that I agree with you. First, if a parent thinks it is ok to invite 2 of 3 siblings in a class and leave another one out, I would question this parent's judgment and, quite honestly, would not want my kids over at their party. Allowing a child to do this -- invite 2 but not the 3rd is just cold and not something I would ever condone. In terms of not letting your kids over at someone's house you do not know or have not met seems a little like common sense to me. I did this once with a parent I was just getting to know and the entire time I did not feel right about it (and it was just 1 hour. Absolutely trust your gut. You are a wonderful mother.

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  16. From one triplet mom of GGB to another, I could not agree with you more about the Birthday party invite thing.
    Thanks for taking the time to post all of this. It has really given me some things to think about. I too have my GGB in Kindergarten and so far they have all been invited to the B-Day parties but I know the day is coming when the invite will come for just one of the girls. I too dread that day.
    Keep on writing! I love your blog!

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  17. For what it's worth, I agree with your strategy 100%. I grew up in a small town with maybe 9 girls in my class. Parties were generally an 'all-in' thing or only 2-3 friends, otherwise someone would definitely feel left out. I understand it won't be possible after this year (my daughter will have 15 girls in her class, plus two more classes in her age group that mingle during playtimes and some activities), but this year I am planning a party for all eight girls in her class. I hate to think of someone at the age of 5 feeling unmoved and left out...

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  18. for what it matters i would be exactly the same about an invite that excluded one girl triplet, beautiful pics

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  19. I've really been enjoying this latest topic and the comments that are left. Reading your posts is reliving everything I went through years ago when my oldest was the triplets' age. I have to admit, on certain things, I've become more relaxed with the younger ones, with other things, I'm as "uptight" as I ever was. Damn, it's so hard parenting and it does NOT get any easier!!

    The acceptable and unacceptable party invite "combinations"...well, even if I can't articulate why, it totally makes sense to me. I'd feel the same way you do.

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  20. When my oldest was about your kids age - I was worried about one of my son's friends -- not the friend - the friend's parents. I knew them and did not feel comfortable with my son in that home, although their son was always at our house. I talked to my brother and he said "he is your child - that's whats most important, not other people's feelings or opinions -- you need to do what you feel is best for your child" -- I think that's what you're doing - so keep it up - even if it's not the most popular opinion.

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  21. My son is the same age as Henry. His birthday is the 5 of July. He also walks around our yard with that exact same lawn mower for hours randomly stopping to lay in the dirt or leaves or wherever to look at somthing. I think they may have been seperated at birth!

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  22. For what it is worth, here are some ideas that distill what I have learned about the social lives of triplets that are now in fourth grade (along with their first grade brother):

    1. Your children's social lives ultimately belong to them. At your kid's age, obviously, you need to be involved in facilitating their social lives but recognize that you need to work toward letting them run it themselves (intervening, of course, in extreme situations).

    2. Following point 1 - if you children are expressing dissatisfaction with their social lives, help them figure out what they can do to fix it. If they are satisfied, be happy and focus on other stuff.

    3. If they are unhappy, you may need to do things that you are uncomfortable with to help fix it. Figure out how far outside your usual comfort zone you are willing to go to balance improving your child's social life versus making yourself batty with stress.

    3. Be aware that your reputation proceeds you at school. Within a few months of my kids starting kindergarten, I didn't even have to introduce myself at school functions - I was literally known as "the mom of triplets who works full time and even has a toddler at home." You can probably add "and just moved here from California" to your description. This works to your benefit because I was genuinely surprised at how the other parents took this information and, rather than standing in judgment, tried to find ways to help me out. However, since they are already talking about you, think about you react to certain situations will be seen and discussed (sorry this is so blunt). When my kids were in kindergarten, I mentioned in a conversation how my boys seemed to really enjoy just spending time with each other and recently found out that this was seen as my not wanting to have them go on separate playdates and added "and doesn't want her boys separated ever" to my reputation.

    4. Keep your eye on the ultimate goal - raising kids that in the end can operate independently in the world. This means not only independently of you, but independently of each other. In my experience, there are more forces in the world trying to push my kids into a group and compare them to each other in ways that can be detrimental. Think about ways you can counteract those forces and make sure each has an individual identity.

    At the end of the day, everyone's experience is different and every parent needs to make the decisions that are best for their family. What works for me may not work for anyone else. I often, however, find it helpful to listen to someone else's experience so I can at least get some ideas on what I should be considering (even if I ultimately decide that what is best for my family is not what someone else suggests). Good luck - school-aged triplets are a TON of fun, but the issues can be much murkier than deciding how to get infants on a sleep schedule. Good luck!

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  23. They are your children and you and Charlie get to decide what is best for them. You can take or leave other peoples opinions and change your own later if you decide to.

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  24. I've been following your last couple posts with great interest because my husband and I have a long-running disagreement about playdates for our 6 and 4 year old boys. I realize that I sometimes cross the line into obsessive, hovering, helicopter-parenting, but my boys will only be small for so long and will someday actively seek to avoid me. I cherish this time with them and don't ever feel bad about declining playdates and invitations. There is plenty of time for all that later. For now, I like keeping them close.

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  25. Jen:

    100% agreement with you Jen! You are so right, 1 kid = fine, 2 kids of the same gender = fine, all three trips = fine.... two girls + one boy - one girl = NOT FINE!!!!

    With regard to the playdate thing, my little guy is 5 and has been to TWO playdates without us. The first one we had a major hurricane, school was closed and I had to work and the church called my hubby to help a Senior Adult couple so little man went to OUR FRIENDS house. The second time I was in the hospital having OPEN HEART SURGERY so he went to OUR FRIENDS house. Both times the kids were 2 years older than him and the parents were OUR FRIENDS! We made sure it was couples WE were COMFORTABLE with him being alone with! We have a neighbor kid that our son is NOT allowed to play with anywhere except OUR HOUSE as we do NOT trust the parents! One of our jobs as parents is to GUARD our kids from evil, while we cannot control 100% of this as they grow up when they are Elementary Age and below we CAN control this 100%, and SO WE SHOULD!

    Angie

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  26. Gee, I think I'm kind of glad I missed that last post :) BUT! I read this one. AND this is the one I am going to comment on. Forgive me for not going back to see what your talking about. Sometimes it's best not knowing :) I told you I would come back.

    You may remember or not Matthew is 18 now through my parenting journey I have learned to follow my gut. These are the things I believe strongly in: I do NOT believe in spend the night ~ever~ and they don't ...my children are home schooled ~ I love it...most of the time~ and mostly I am friends with my kids friends parents. ~Yes, even the 18 year old.~ I have a learned: stay with your kids, know who they are with, know the parents your kids are with and of course love your children and celebrate their differences. I have learned even when you think you know the parents things are different when you are not around...especially when your children are young. All though I don't hang out with the older kids and their parents anymore I did! and DO with Mary Elizabeth.

    Most importantly: Parent from your GUT Jen and your Gut only! your gut wont steer you wrong. One of the many things my father would say to me when I questioned myself..."What was your first thought...your gut thought." "That's the one you need to go with...don't think about the rest."

    Looking back...It's been right.

    When you take these stands they are not easy. They are not popular. They are hard to defend. People call you overbearing, controlling and...the list goes on.

    Now that my kids are older and my daughter is 13 things are getting ugly...seems society thinks they know whats better for my daughter then I do. Things like she should spend the night. I don't care! I have lost friends over this...and again I don't care! I follow my gut and for now my kids are doing well and you know what else? They have NO strange twitches :)

    Don't explain your self so much...follow your gut and just do it!

    Love to you, Charlie, and children

    xoxo, Lisa

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  27. Rosemary (a different one)11/19/10, 9:33 PM

    Thanks for the explanation. It makes more sense to me now that I have figured that it is about the combinations involved as much as anything.

    It's been a great discussion, thank you.

    I also think that for your next topic you should talk about sex, politics, breastfeeding and CIO. It's not like anyone has opinions on those!

    You have such a beautiful yard. I can see why you love it.

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  28. I will say it again..YOU ARE RIGHT!
    You and Charlie know what is best, do be on guard always. Outside influences are just that outside. You two have a beautiful family, loving children, keep it that way, and follow you gut! Kids will get into enough trouble inside the family never mind someone else to blame. Eat more ice cream and make fudge that will keep them happy and at home.

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