just let her run free in fairy land

I go back and forth about preschool on a daily basis. Lately it’s been more back than forth, but this morning M’s little friends came running to greet her and enfold her in their little tribe, and I felt good about the community she has there. Of course, she asked me why she has to go school at all on the drive there. Also, the other day when I picked her up the teacher scolded her for opening the cafeteria door on her own when we left. Apparently there’s a weird school rule that the kids aren’t allowed to open doors because someone got their finger pinched. I prefer her to open and close her own doors, mostly because she can and also how else is she supposed to learn how to not pinch her or someone else’s fingers in the door?? Also, that whole rule about not feeding her at school, because she’s supposed to be independent and feed herself? So much for independence when it comes to the doors. No wonder she feels confused and irritated with school.

Last week I got a gift card for participating in a research study at work, so I took my sister and niece to the Renaissance Festival. I have always loved going, and this year M’s inner festie just came out in full force. She completely threw herself into the spirit of things, donning her fairy wings and watching performances, dancing to music, and interacting with the grown-up fairies, pirates, etc all day! I’m pretty sure she was convinced she’d found her people.

Hugging spiderman and listening to a spontaneous music jam that broke out on the path…

By the end of the day we were both feeling free and light. I loved watching her play with the fairy houses for hours (ok maybe a half hour would’ve been enough for me) and then start building her own fairy houses all over the place. I could see her expressing herself freely through music and dance and creativity and looking around and seeing so many other adults and children doing the same. She didn’t have to worry about getting dirty or holding still or being quiet. And I honestly just wish this was our life the majority of the time!

Obsessed with fairy houses and getting dusted with fairy dust nearby…

I wish I could afford a season pass and attend every weekend. I would love to dress us both up and make festival friends and have that be our “thing” every fall. Maybe in a few years? For now, I am taking the memories of us dancing with court ladies and fairies and pirates in the woods to the beat of the drums, covered in glitter and dirt, and as happy and free as sprites with us and let it guide me toward the way of life we are pursuing.

Dancing with court ladies and fairies in the grove, and running through the village at closing time…

my child is my equal

The statement “my child is my equal” would for real blow the mind of those around me. I’m sitting at work while my coworkers discuss child-rearing and allowing your child to modify their own body, specifically as teenagers, but also in general. The discussion was initially centered around transgendered children and at what age they should be allowed to physically change their body (puberty? age 18? age 21?). The conversation quickly deteriorated into, “When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to talk back” and “my mom/dad would say because I said so and that was the end of it!” People feel that that’s a good thing, I guess. Oh behold the good old days when children were seen and not heard, not allowed to reason or discuss anything with the adults who controlled every aspect of their daily lives, and on whom we could exert supreme authority!

I’m in the extreme minority, it would seem, but I’m looking at these co-workers of mine, people I generally get along with and like quite a bit, with disgusted amazement. Are they kidding me right now??? They think those were the good old days? Did they like being treated like that as a child? Or is it all they know so it’s the only way forward that feels comfortable for them? Is it “their turn” to be “in charge” since they once had to suffer through the indignity and humiliation of having no control over their own life choices?

My child is my equal. By equal, I don’t mean intellectual equal, or even my equal in the ability to make sound judgments. I mean it in the way I would say it about an elderly person who has declined a bit and now needs extra care or guidance in her or his daily life. My child has the right to protest, to argue, to explain, and to bargain. My child has the right to disagree. My child has the right to say and do things I don’t like. My child has the right to be someone who is other than who I’d expected or hoped. My child has the right to alter her body (cut her hair, pierce her ears, change her sex, wear all black). My child has the right to have a parent who is her guide, her mentor, her protector, and her friend. My child has the right to have a parent who is not her dictator, her boss, her emperor, or her god.

My child is an equal member of my family. She has a say in what we do, where we go, and what happens in her day-to-day life. The older she gets the more she’ll be able to express and exert her influence on the family. She won’t turn out to be a horrible, lawless, wild person because of this. To the contrary, she will learn the value of mutual respect, compassionate leadership, autonomy, and self-motivation!

back for a minute

We got back from the east coast the day before yesterday… I learned a lot on this adventure (get a portable charger, campgrounds are often more like trailer parks), got my Manhattan fix (actually I needed a lot more), and hit the beach. It was good to be with family, the kids even got along a lot of the time. Of course, it’s also stressful to be in someone else’s house and not have your own space!

You can look for my new blog posts at Across the Never Sky or follow the facebook page if you like your updates that way.

I came home to a to-do list a mile long: take cat to vet, fix paycheck error that resulted in not getting paid on time, go to various banks, M’s swim lesson, clean car, a million phone calls… I’m maybe halfway through it three days later.

Good news on the money saving front: I got my home and car insurance switched and that saved me $50 per month and got me better coverage. Switching my phone service saves me $100/month. So I’m making progress there. Unfortunately I had more set backs. My foot pain has returned with a vengeance so I had to invest in new Dansko shoes (I guess they wear out after a year and I’ve had mine nearly two). Last time I got new Dansko’s my foot pain completely disappeared… so I needed that. Also the portable charger, cause my phone dies all the time using camera and maps, the two things I need most when traveling. And the iPad charger pulled apart… so had to get a new one of those. The cat continues to need adjustments to her thyroid medication, and now her eye infection. Bah.

Also, M did NOT miss school. She didn’t ask about it once, even when her cousin playmate went off to his first day of school on Tuesday. This morning she asked where we were going, and when I told her she was going to school, she looked shocked: “I don’t wanna go to school, mom!” I felt icky about sending her. She will be fine there of course, and I had to work a short shift this afternoon so she did need to go, but it made me feel better about her not going after we leave this state. She honestly doesn’t love it. She doesn’t miss it. And she doesn’t need it to learn. She needs a safe place that provides lots of creative and learning opportunities when I work, though, rather than just staying home with a screen and grandma, so she still goes for now.

I enjoyed being with her every day, though. I actually hated being apart from her today while she went to school. It’s nice to know that the more I’m with her, the more I want to be with her, rather than the opposite!

school blues

I’m starting to feel better about M not going back to her school after winter break. She is not excited about going… in fact, this morning she told me several times that she didn’t want to go, she was too tired, it wasn’t fun, etc. When I picked her up and asked her several times what she did at school today, she quietly replied, “What the teachers told me to.”

Ouch. That statement just hits me right in the gut. It’s a new school year, and instead of the very family-like classroom of 14 students and two teachers they now have 22 kids and three teachers (one is for the ISD children). It’s chaotic and I imagine that instead of playing and exploring together like last year, they are mostly enforcing rules there right now. I went in to pick up M after lunch but the message I had given hadn’t been delivered to the lead teacher, and they’d taken her back to the class for quiet time. I went into the class and stood there for a few minutes… neither of the two teachers in there noticed me. I went to M’s cot across the room and sat by her, and told her we were going, and only then did another kid tell a teacher that a grown up had entered the room! No wonder she doesn’t want to go now… she’s just a number, an object on a conveyor belt, in that situation.

Maybe it seems like I’m being too harsh on the teachers, but the fact of the matter is that the lead teacher is wonderful and nurturing and yet completely stuck in a system that does not support that kind of environment. Too many children, not enough teachers, too little space. Children do not get to develop autonomy, nor do they benefit from close relationships and connections with the teachers. Instead of cooperating because they feel respected and connected, they behave poorly because they don’t feel seen or heard.

Instead of leaving M happy and excited to play with her friends and teachers, I walked away feeling guilty that I took her there at all. It’s not ok, for our family anyway, to institutionalize her like that if she doesn’t want it. So… I think her last day of school there may be less bittersweet than I thought.

good days

With all my whining and bitching about cleaning the house on my days off, I thought it might be good to record what was a great day for M and I yesterday. She went to school until noon while I ran errands. After school we went to the playground at one of our favorite parks, where poor M couldn’t get anyone her age to play with her. I’m constantly frustrated by the lack of extroverted kids wherever we go cause she really wants to play with someone who wants to play, too!

We then came home and had “quiet time” (I nap, she iPads), until she cheerfully announced it was time to get up. Out to the lake, where I took her on her first kayak ride. We paddled out to the sand bar and went swimming there, then had a heck of a time getting back into the boat as it flipped once and took on water that I just couldn’t really get out. We made it back ok, though. She told me, “Mom, that was a good trip!”

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Out to the garden where she caught a grasshopper, we harvested a pumpkin and several tomatoes, and I mowed the grass. Dinner time came and I made us toasted garlic bread and broccoli and chicken stir fry, then we watched a little bit of Neverending Story, except she started sobbing when Atrayu almost dies in the Swamps of Sadness so maybe it was a little too old for her, still.

So, a good day, my girl and I together. I was feeling happy and relaxed and settled. I know better than to glamorize stay-at-home mom life, but if it was like this every day, I’d glamorize it all day long.

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disturbed, yet again, by school

Many kids (and parents) are getting ready for back-to-school on social media, and some friends who have 4 and 5-year-olds entering kindergarten are crowd-sourcing answers to some of their parenting questions. Issues revolve around how to ‘ease the transition’, and basically get their kids to not be so terrified.

The whole idea is kind of, well, terrifying. I mean, we’re so indoctrinated as a society to think that school is as necessary as showering and brushing our teeth, that we totally accept the fact that the vast majority of young children do NOT want to go to school and have terrible adjustment problems (stomach aches, behavior changes, excessive tiredness, “blanking out” after coming home, etc). We’re told “oh that’s totally normal, it’ll get better when they get used to it.” No one ever even ponders the idea that if something is that upsetting to that many children, maybe it’s not in their best interest???

I know, I know. I sound like the crazy one. About 100 people comment on posts like these advising not to “coddle” your child, they need to learn how to deal with life’s challenges, this will force them to socialize and make friends, etc and so on. As someone who grew up with very real anxiety and panic attacks, I vehemently disagree. Being put into a foreign environment, a concocted and unnatural social milieu, with no support, no life experience, and a total lack of ability to cope with extreme stress (as children naturally do not), is just traumatizing. You don’t have to force kids to learn by putting them through that. They will learn just fine without feeling distressed. In fact, they will learn more easily, and they will learn to love learning!

Life is going to deal many challenges and hardships to your kids without shoving them into something they aren’t ready for, not to mention something in which they had no choice. In new jobs or social situations we, as adults, at least have the choice to be there or not, and the option to leave at any time. Children are essentially imprisoned within the school building for a large part of the day, without any input as to where they would like to be, how they would like to learn, and which types of people they feel comfortable around. They cannot leave if they get overwhelmed. They cannot step out and take a break, or threaten to take their business elsewhere. They can’t even pee without a fucking permission slip.

So yeah… I’m not impressed with the way most of my facebook acquaintances think of their children. I’m not surprised, but I’m also a little outraged. Why do we do this to the people we love the most?

And also, yes I send my daughter to “school” and no, she doesn’t have a choice. So am just the world’s biggest hypocrite? I guess because I have no choice (single working mom who needs child care) she also has no choice. I’m not saying children should not go to school under any circumstances… not at all. Some children like their school and would choose to go. Some would choose to go but only feel comfortable in certain “types” of schools (Montessori, democratic, learning community, Waldorf, etc). Some would choose not to go at all. Some parents would take their child’s beliefs and opinions into account and still make the decision to place them into school. And some have to go somewhere while their parents work, and as parents we put them in the care of a school or person we hope will be nurturing and understanding and fun.

I’m just advocating for more compassion, more awareness, and more willingness to take our child’s developmental needs, personal preferences, and individuality into account.

there will always be doubts

Leaving my employer of eight years is sort of like jumping off a cliff into an abyss. I don’t know what to expect, really. Will being a nurse in another hospital be really hard? Unpleasant? Miserable? Will I feel stupid, overwhelmed, scared? Will I still be a good nurse? Will other nurses help me?

Then there’s taking my daughter out of a really excellent Montessori program, where she has grown to love her teachers and classmates like family. Will she be super lonely and bored if she doesn’t go to school every day? Will she somehow be traumatized by her lack of friends? Will she have as much opportunity for learning as she gets now?

I think anytime we change our lives, even in pursuit of our dreams, it’s easy to let the doubt and fear paralyze you. You start to say, this isn’t so bad here. Or think, I can scrape by where I am. But that’s how dreams die a slow and ugly death, I think. You’re too afraid of change, so you just sit around for a lifetime until it truly is too late.

Plus, I already have the answers to all of the above questions. Yes, it will be hard and uncomfortable to work in another facility. Sometimes I will not have enough help, sometimes I will. Sometimes I’ll love the people I work with, often I won’t. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, or have a bad day, but I will use my skills and experience and resources to figure it out.

M will not be traumatized. Honestly she prefers to stay with me over going to school anyway. Also, she makes friends easily and will probably have friends at the playground she enjoys within days of arriving. Let’s be honest- she won’t remember preschool. Yes it’s a great program and I love the teachers, and I wish I could bring them with us, but if I can’t pay the bills, and I can’t afford to do anything fun ever, then a cranky unhappy mom will be way worse for her than missing her teachers. And the world is a wonderful learning environment. We will visit forests, mountains, oceans, children’s museums, botanical gardens, festivals, playgrounds, and pools. The opportunity to “learn” will be everywhere.

I’m going to be making a vision board to keep me focused on why I’m doing what I’m doing, whenever the fears creep up. The board will feature:

  1. Places I want to go, like San Francisco, New York City, beaches, redwoods, mountains, and desert.
  2. Places I want to go overseas once I’m debt-free and saving up lots of money and don’t have to work contracts back to back: Thailand beaches, Vietnam’s Ha Long Bay, Nepal’s Himalayas, Mexico’s cenotes…
  3. Things I want for my cottage that I’d never be able to save up enough for if I didn’t do this: new seawall, new siding, lovely stone work for patios, patio furniture, etc., a new pontoon, a little speed boat, paddle boat, etc.
  4. Investments, like after things are paid off how I’ll invest and hopefully be able to retire earlier… and M can go to college or a training program or whatever, but money for her to use in her life. Pics of her choosing a college or buying a car or moving for an internship, as well as pics of me relaxing by my beautifully renovated cottage in retirement, long before I would have been able to otherwise.

So those are my dreams, and I want to make them happen!

 

California trip blog posts are up!

For your reading pleasure:

Air travel: preschool edition: flying with a preschooler vs. flying with a toddler.

How we travel on the cheap: So if I’m so broke, how the hell do I afford to travel so often anyway? Am I just wracking up credit card debt, or is it actually cheaper to spend a week traveling than it is to stay at home? (Answer: often the same or cheaper to travel if you do these things!)

Back to San Fran!: Why San Francisco overtook NYC as my favorite US city.

East Bay Area: What to do We stayed with friends in San Ramon, and found several very interesting places to visit nearby!

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it’s all in the perspective

Greetings from California… our trip is going just fine with one small caveat: the children do not get along. Now, I know I’m biased but, I think the situation is actually more like this: my friend’s 2 1/2 year old is not nice. He is a hitter, as in… hits M constantly with his fists or any object he can get ahold of. If he’s not hitting he’s pushing. And if by some miracle he isn’t hitting or pushing, he is at least poking her obnoxiously. The very few times he’s not doing that he’s shouting “bang bang bang” and playing guns. And no, I’m not the least bit upset at M for “whining” whenever he gets near her, now. I would be whining, too. So my friend and I are a bit at odds about that, as well, as I don’t agree with scolding my child for whining when she’s being beaten half the time and harassed the other half. She doesn’t even hit him back and I totally wouldn’t blame her or mind at all if she did. In fact, I sometimes really wish she would.

Sound fun?

I’m trying to spin it in a positive light, the way I did last December. He makes M look good, at least. After a flight on which her behavior was rated at about an F-, I was feeling more than exasperated with my three-year-old. She even pulled some punches of her own (at me) while I battled with her about sitting down and being still on the 4-hour slog across the country. But after a few days of hanging out here, M now seems patient and kind, a child who is able to be polite, play nicely with others, follow directions, and concentrate with a truly decent attention span. She never hits or pushes, and expresses her feelings so well with words. Instead of fighting at all, she removes herself from the situation and is able to independently share and compromise.

M is a joy when it comes to staying busy all day. Sure she gets tired and upset and has her meltdowns, but they pass and she is easily pacified with something new to look forward to. She went on her first real hiking trail with me today and bravely climbed rocky paths and boulders, and then enjoyed a lovely view with me at the top. We just sat up there chatting with other hikers passing by and talking to one another.

She’s probably my best friend, even as I have to guide and parent her as well as play and hang out with her. Maybe that’s kind of sad… I have no one I feel connected enough to, no one friend I feel like I can text or call about random things, no one to vent to or chill with, except my mom. So it’s my mom, me, and my daughter: the three musketeers.

I still miss our fourth and original musketeer (my grandma) so much it’s hard to breathe. I feel like I’m the worst granddaughter not having called her yet on this trip… and then I feel the worst pain in my heart because she’s no longer there to call.

Back to the never-ending drama at hand though: it doesn’t look like staying here during travel nursing would be at all feasible from a stress-level perspective. Hopefully this is just a long phase for the little guy and he grows out of it.

 

time

We all like to wax poetic about time. Parents do this even more than non-parents. “Oh how the time flies.” “It seems like yesterday when she was two.” “Where is my baby going?” “The days are long but the years are short.”

What I’m learning this summer is that time is not only the one thing we do not have enough of, but it is also the biggest gift that we can give to ourselves. In the average North American life, we are rushing from the moment we wake up until the moment we finally fall asleep, especially with children. Hurry up, wake up, get ready for school, we’re going to be late! Hurry up, get in the car, we have to go run these errands. Mommy can’t play with you right now, I have to get ready for work or I’ll be late. Hurry up, get back in the car, it’s time to go home, I need to clean the house. Hurry up and get your pajamas on, it’s getting late and we have to get to sleep before it gets too late because we have to get up early tomorrow. Etc and on and on.

Summer has been different. The main difference is that on my days off M doesn’t go to school. She doesn’t have to be anywhere by 8:30am. I love her teachers and the community and friends she has there. I love the fun things they do there and all of the memorable experiences she has… but I’m not entirely convinced that it’s worth the hassle that trickles through to the rest of our lives. Even when I do work, she goes to the daycare room and doesn’t have to be there at any particular time. Usually she gets there around 9 or 9:30, according to my mom. She can sleep as long as her body needs to sleep, and therefore I don’t feel like we need to go to bed at a particular time. We go to sleep when we’re tired.

In summer the sky is bright until 10pm. This means that often at 9pm we are still swimming in the still-warm lake water. At 9:30pm we are often out in the grass catching fireflies. At 10pm we are reading books together or having a ticklefest to get out the last of our energy. We wake up when we wake up. We don’t have to rush to get dressed, and so there’s no pressure behind it. Most of the time I just throw a light summer dress or romper on her, and she’s off. We keep a pair of shoes in the car.

Sometimes we go swimming. Sometimes I make dinner and sometimes we just forage in the fridge. We watch the garden grow, we build bonfires, we take walks, and sometimes we sit in the air conditioning on tablets. It’s totally fine because there’s no set of rules or schedules dictating our time. It’s not like I have to say no to screen time because there is plenty of time to do everything, including screens.

Our only scheduled, must get-to activity is swimming lessons. M has a huge smile on her face the entire time she’s in the pool. You’ve never seen such a happy kid at a lesson. She’s now met the goal of her current swim level (swim 5 feet independently and go underwater frequently and comfortably). She dives under for rings and is working on flipping from front swimming to back floating in one move. She jumps in from the edge and swims back to the edge, and gets out without a ladder or step. She is awesome.

On Sunday we’re off on a camping trip with my sister. I’m looking forward to watching M and my niece run free and unencumbered through nature from my place at the bonfire. Summer is good. Life should always be this good.

I was afraid that the fun days of summer would make me less motivated to leave this all for a travel lifestyle. It’s been the opposite… why should we slog through the winter, the drudgery of school/work/house arrest, when we could live like this always?