Sunday, June 05, 2011

Rock That Boat

My thoughts. They are nothing if not a study in contradictions. Yet another reason, I think, that I've been so quiet here lately.

I realize something about Sweetie's behavior and/or attitude and I want to write about it... But then I recall how I just wrote recently about my take on how she's been concerning this matter, but in an opposite way from my current outlook. Hmmm... how can I go back on my word now?

Or my own hang ups and ideals. You've heard a lot of them before, and some I've written about quite recently. So how can I now go ahead now and write a post that completely contradicts my own point of view?

I guess, in a way, I'm still working out how exactly it is I feel about some things - especially in raising a child and wanting to teach her how to be her best. So when I see, for instance, Sweetie repeatedly behaving one way, I think it's intolerable and maddening. But then, when I finally start to see the preferred behavior and/or attitude coming forth, I'm no longer so absolutely sure that that really is the ideal way to conduct oneself.

Duh, Mom! Life is not so black and white! Different situations call for different reactions, and all that. Yeah, yeah. I hear you. Thanks for the reminder.

What I'm currently trying to process is Sweetie's continuing shift from "girl-who-was-so-rigidly-stubborn-about-the-way-things-had-to-be" - a girl who created, it seemed, "rules" for herself and everyone else for different regular situations in her life (and woe be to he who wavered from the rules) - to a more mellow girl who more easily goes with the flow and adapts better to all that's going on around her.

I'm sure you're all thinking, right along with me, "Great! This is a wonderful thing!" Especially those among you who have seen me/us through these trying years of rigid, dramatic Sweetie. Who wouldn't want a kid who has - if not naturally been so - finally learned to deal with changes in a more socially acceptable manner and no longer freaks the heck out when things don't always go her way. Yay for us for getting the point - finally! - across!

Well, yeah. This really is a wonderful thing. Really! The drama has certainly lessened in our house and life seems to be moving along swimmingly, with nice, quiet play times and easy-going, spur-of-the-moment changes to our usual state of being. Hazzah, hazzah!

However... I do wonder if there isn't just a bit of a lean toward apathy happening here - something beyond the mere easy-going attitude.

Case in point #1 - School. Now, Sweetie used to love school. After the last day of kindergarten, she was very upset to learn she'd have to wait an entire summer before starting up in 1st grade. What?! she said. You mean I don't get to go to 1st grade on Monday?! Nope. Sorry, Sweetie. You have to enjoy several weeks off of vacation before you can move on. It's just the way it is.

And, yeah. I know. A kid gets older and the "fun" of school is slowly replaced with the "work" of school. What kid wants to do all that work when school used to be all about play time, rest time, snack time and show & tell? But still. It's a bit sad to see the excitement reduce.

Not that I'm saying she flat out doesn't like school anymore. She certainly does! But she just as equally enjoys her weekends and random days off as she does heading off to school each day. - But it's those random days off that are really worth getting excited about, if you ask me.

The girl was absolutely no fun at all during this past winter, what with our New England weather and the many terrible storms we had. I can't recall exactly, but I'd say there were at least 8 or so snow days this past winter season. In fact, after Christmas vacation, there was a good month and a half where there was not 1 full week of school due to either planned days off or - more typically - surprise snow days.

But Sweetie? Eh. She was completely and totally content to go to school, or to be told she had the day off because of snow. Even when I would warn her the night before that I was pretty sure there'd be no school tomorrow, because a storm was coming... but then it didn't hit quite so hard after all and school was, indeed, on. Okay. Cool. Whatever. School or no school. She was/is happy either way.

Heck! I was way more excited about her snow days than she was!

Still. Get a little excited, Sweetie! About something! Be super stoked for school, or be pumped that summer vacation is only days away. It doesn't matter. But React! Show some enthusiasm! Choose a side already!


Case in point #2 - Dan.* Dan is a boy Sweetie has regularly been playing with everyday after school at the Boys & Girls Club. He's one grade older than her at their school, and together they've been playing at Legos, and Transformers, and comic book creating, and whatever other fantastically fun activities they can find that binds them together in harmonious play. It's been at least 2 months now of consistent, everyday play together. Sometimes other kids come and go to the group. But, always, it's Sweetie and Dan playing together.

Now, I don't know Dan. I saw the back of his head once, that's it. But Sweetie talks about him quite a lot and so I've come to form an opinion of him that is favorable. He seems like a good kid and a great match for Sweetie. Who cares that he's a boy. Who cares that he's a year older. They seem to get along well and have fun. That's alright by me.

Every once in awhile, I'll ask Sweetie questions. Like, does Dan seem to like playing with you as much as you like playing with him? Is he ever mean to you? What's his last name? Does he mind that you're a girl in 2nd grade, and he's a boy in 3rd? Does he ever want to play with anyone else and not you?  - Things like that. I'm trying to get a sense of this kid and if he truly considers Sweetie a friend - or at least a great playmate! - or is he just appeasing her interest in hanging around with him.

All info from Sweetie says that, from what she can tell, they equally enjoy each other's company. Well, then. Would you like to see if we can arrange some play dates with him over the summer? Sure, she says (again, not a super excited response, but a positive one nonetheless.)

Then, I admit, I did some sleuthing and found contact info for his parents. I told Sweetie I would call his mom and see about the possibility of summer play together. But first, I said, why don't you ask Dan if he'd like to play with you once school is out.

That night, well after Sweetie was home, at dinner time, I again brought up the idea of summer playtime with Dan. I asked Sweetie if she had mentioned the idea to him at Club.

Yes, she had.


He said no.

What?! Well, how exactly did you ask? How did he say no? Were there other kids around that maybe he didn't want to hear him saying yes to you? You used the words "play date." Maybe, as a 3rd grader, he didn't like that because it sounds babyish. Maybe his parents work full time and he knows he'll always be coming to the Club still and won't have an opportunity to play with you. Maybe he knows he's going away all summer and won't be around to come over. Did he still play with you after you asked him? Did he sound mean when he said no? Were you upset?

Uh - I think Hubby and I were a wee bit more concerned about this turn of events than Sweetie was. That said, Sweetie didn't seem to have any real feelings about the situation at all. Maybe just a tiny bit quiet/questioning about it. But not upset. They kept playing together at Club after she asked. He didn't say no in a mean way. He just said no. End of story.

Hmph. Oh, if only I could have been a fly on the wall for that exchange. As it is, I'll never really understand how the conversation went down and why he said no.

But Sweetie - she's so... ambivalent about it all. He's become your friend! You have fun together! You both like Legos and making up stories and games! Don't you want to play with him as much as you can?! Aren't you upset that he told you he doesn't want to play with you?! Show some feelings already!!!

I think I'll still end up calling Dan's mom after all. I'll let these last few days of school pass by, allowing them to continue their "relationship" - whatever it is - undeterred by parental involvement. But once they're away from each other for a bit, then I'll talk to his mom and see what she thinks about Dan's interest in continuing their friendship through June, July and August.

But Sweetie. Sweet, kind, creative and - apathetic? - daughter o' mine. Ambivalence and apathy just are not words that I ever thought I'd attribute to you. Yes, it's been so great to be able to switch up our plans and change things that you are otherwise "used to" without big, dramatic fall outs like we've known you to display before. For this change in your behavior alone, I am grateful. But don't lose your passion, Sweetie. Don't lose your ability to form an opinion. Don't let - as I truly believe you have - your typical "Great!" response to how are you feeling slip from "Great!" to "great." Let your greatness mean something! Be great when you feel it, and feel it as often as possible. But allow yourself to feel "sad" and "angry" and "scared" and "mad" and "excited" and "thrilled" and just plain "fine" whenever you experience those natural changes of mood. No, it's not alright to dramatically lash out to a comparatively small annoyance or negative change. But it is completely alright to feel what you feel - whatever you feel - and express your thoughts appropriately and without fear of being wrong or bad.

This is your life, Sweetie. Live it to the fullest and show the world all the great levels of passion inside of you. Always be true to yourself, respectful of others, and - yes - even rock the boat every once in awhile when needed. We and the world won't mind. And you just may cause the needed ripple that starts the great movement of amazing change.


*not his real name.

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