• 100_0948

    God:Me::Me:The drama troupe I gave birth to

    I can’t begin to imagine where they got it from – probably their father’s side – but I have some rather dramatic children. We still laugh about the time we told 5 year old Noah to put a book away and he contorted his face into a picture of agony, lifted the book above his head and bellowed, “noooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!” like a super-hero villian whose plans had been thwarted again.

    Just last week, one of my daughters was telling me all about how she wasn’t going to do what I said, she’s going to do what she wants to do and there’s nothing I can do to stop her, humph. Whilst I was escorting her to her room, she tried grabbing the bannister and corners and anything she could grasp to try and stop me. So I gave her a swat on the behind. Now, I’m not much good at spanking. I am completely certain that if I hit a housefly the way I occasionally swat a child’s behind, the fly would be OK. It might be dazed for a second or two, but it would fly away unharmed by the encounter. However, my daughter, not having the tough constitution of a housefly, began shrieking “Help – I need immediate medical attention”. She’s a delicate soul.

    Her slightly less dramatic sister went through a phase where she came to me crying because she was afraid that I might die. I get that sort of sensitive imagination – I am hoping to use all the crying I’ve done while imagining my mom dying as credits towards the actual event. Sort of an emotional pre-payment plan I made up in my own head. Later this daughter came and told me, “remember how I was really scared that you were going to die? I realized that if you died I would be able to do whatever I want. So I’m not worried about you dying anymore.” Continue reading

  • prison-540

    Top 4 Things I Learned in Juvi – Part 3 The Myth of the Spoiled Child

    I bet you didn’t know that I’m psychic. For example, I predict that my 2 year old will hit someone and my 6 year old with start screaming at her sister before I finish writing this blog post. Further, I predict that if you go to a big media story about that school bus monitor who was bullied by a group of 7th grade boys, the comments sections will be filled with people claiming that what these kids need to turn them around is a good ass-wupping. Further, I am so psychic that I already know that at some point in the last couple of years there were a flurry of “I spank my kids so they don’t wind up in jail” messages on your facebook feed. And if you can stand one last display of my amazing psychic prowess, I predict that not a single one of those people talking about keeping their kids out of jail or how kids causing trouble just need a good ass-wuppin’ have actually spent time working with children in juvi. Not. A. Single. One. Of. Them.

    Now, just let me say that I’m not some anti-spanking purist. I wish I could say that I’ve never so much as swatted my children on the heinie (although the rare swat is the extent of my version of spanking). In a more ideal world I would never hit one of my kids. But my children just aren’t that good (ha!). Continue reading

  • white-and-black-preschool-girls1

    Do You Think I Should Send This?

    Dear Bertha*,

    I am writing to let you know that my daughter mentioned to me today that on several occasions now your daughter Suzi-Q has made derogatory comments to her regarding her half-black heritage. The poor thing even tried claiming that you had told her that you didn’t like black people too. I knew you would want to know about this right away so you can talk to Suzi-Q about not repeating every ridiculous thing she hears some ill-bred child on the playground saying. And of course, we wouldn’t want other, more credulous people to catch wind of her claim that you don’t like black people. I’m sure that she’ll never repeat such nonsense again once she understands that people will assume she is being raised by repugnant trailer-park trash who doesn’t deserve to breathe the air that the Good Lord provides us. I mean, obviously I’ve known perfectly fine people who live in trailer parks and it’s completely possible for scummy filth to reside in a lovely home like your own. But you know how people can be with their ridiculous stereo-typing and absurd assumptions based on the shallowest of pretenses. We’ll just have to hope Suzi-Q’s unfortunate statements haven’t gotten back to anyone else and harmed your family’s good standing in the community. Continue reading

  • Wasn't Noah Cute?

    Children: What’s the return on investment?

    Wasn't Noah Cute?

    I clipped this essay out of the local paper 10 years ago and don’t know who the original author is, but wanted to share:

    For all parents and grandparents . . .

    The government recently calculated the cost of raising a child from birth to 18 and came up with $160,140. This does not touch college tuition.

    For those with kids, that figure leads to wild fantasies about all the money we could have banked if not for (insert child’s name here). For others, that number might confirm the decision to remain childless.

    But $160,140 isn’t so bad if you break it down. It translates into $8,896.66 a year, $741.38 a month, or $171.08 a week. That’s a mere $24.44 a day – just over $1 an hour.

    Still, you might think the best financial advice says don’t have children if you want to be “rich”. It is just the opposite.

    What do you get for your $160,140?

    Naming rights. First, middle and last.

    Glimpses of God every day.

    Giggles under the covers every night.

    More love than your heart can hold.

    Butterfly kisses and velcro hugs.

    Endless wonder over rocks, ants, clouds and warm cookies.

    A hand to hold, usually covered with jam.

    A partner for blowing bubbles, flying kits, building sandcastles and skipping down the sidewalk in the pouring rain.

    Someone to laugh yourself silly with no matter what the boss said or how your stocks performed that day.

    For $160,140 you never have to grow up. You get to finger-pain, carve pumpkins, play hide-and-seek, catch lightning bugs, and never stop believing in Santa Claus.

    You have an excuse to keep reading the Adventures of Piglet and Pooh, watching Saturday morning cartoons, going to Disney movies and wishing on stars.

    You get to frame rainbows, hearts and flowers under refrigerator magnets and collect spray painted noodle wreaths for Christmas, handprints set in clay for Mother’s Day and cards with backward letters for Father’s Day.

    For $160, 140 there is no greater bang for your buck. You get to be a hero just for retrieving a Frisbee off the garage roof, taking the training wheels off the bike, removing a splinter, filling the wading pool, coaxing a wad of gum out of bangs, and coaching a baseball team that never wins but always gets treated to ice cream regardless.

    You get a front row seat to history to witness the first step, first word, first bra, first date, and first time behind the wheel.

    You get to be immortal. You get another branch on your family tree, and if you’re lucky, a long list of limbs in your obituary called grandchildren.

    You get an education in psychology, nursing, criminal justice, communications and human sexuality that no college can match.

    In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there with God.

    You have all the power to heal a boo boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.

  • Rolling your eyes is a good parenting technique

    Collin is learning to be a really funny, crabby 45 year old man. Unfortunately he’s stuck being 12 at the moment.

    Want to do something amazing for your relationship with your kids?  Engage in this thought exercise:

    Think of a good friend; someone you genuinely like and care about.  (Don’t use your spouse – too many in-law issues!)  What sort of parent would you want for that friend? If you were somehow able to go back and parent your friend yourself, how would you do it?

    I have found that by looking at a friend, who I don’t really have a vested interest in trying to change, I can envision what it would look like for me to parent with more patience, wisdom and acceptance.  It’s helped me come to see my kids for what they are.  They are their own persons who have both the right and the responsibility to figure out who they  are and what sort of life they want to live. What they are not are extensions of me or proof of the worth of my life or even my skills as a parent.

    This is so clear to us when dealing with any human being other than a child – particularly your own.  Then we are prone to respond to their imperfections, independence and petty rebellions by going into whatever our version of full-blown panicked-tyranny mode is to cow them into pleasing us.  And that’s hard on both parent and child.  Even as a kid it always seemed to me that both my father and my grandfather would have liked to be more gentle and empathetic than they were with their children.  But they were convinced that if they didn’t make sure we stayed not just on the straight and narrow but on the painted line right in the middle of the road, all hell would break loose.  I just don’t have the fortitude or the compliant kids necessary to get away with that style of parenting, so I’ve been letting my kids wander all over the countryside surrounding the road for a while now and my father himself has commented positively on the results.  (Not that he doesn’t have some reservations, but then again, so do I!)  And it turns out that I was right about my dad too – seeing him hold one of his grandkids is a beautiful thing.

    Now, don’t get me wrong – I have no problem pulling rank and forcing my kids to behave or comply if need be. But my preferred method is always to convince them to go along by choice. One of my proudest parenting moments was when Continue reading

  • Do Your Kids Know Their Own Story?

    Trotter children are immediately identifiable by their curly hair

    Each of my children has a story we tell them about some way in which their lives have mattered.  I believe that it’s one thing to tell a kid they are important and that they matter, but it’s something of a gift to them to be able to tell them how they have mattered.  Then they’re not just a lowly child floating out in the world with no real base or purpose to start with.  It grounds the message that they have value in their real world.  It’s concrete evidence for them that just because they exist, the world is a different, better place.

    My oldest Noah was born when his father and I were not married.  If it wasn’t for him, we would not have formed a family and his siblings wouldn’t be here.  And his birth also changed me.  Before having him, if you had walked up to me at any given moment and said, “I’m sorry, only real humans are allowed here.  Penguins such as yourself belong elsewhere” and I would have shrugged at being caught and thanked you for telling me I was a penguin – I had been wondering about that.  I had a bad case of imposter’s syndrome.  Practically from the start, parenting Noah was something I just knew how to do and I felt completely comfortable doing it.  It was almost like working out of an area of spiritual blessing and was an important step on the way to me knowing (hopefully) more and more of who God created me to be. 

    Collin, who is now 12 was born while his dad was very sick.  His medical care was awful but we were young and hadn’t yet realized that the system works differently once your illness has no identifiable cause or treatment.  They eventually told us that he was crazy – really, they did.  They even gave us a black binder with a report saying so.  Continue reading

  • Angels in my Bedroom?

    After a longer string of good days that I’ve had in I don’t know how long, I woke up pretty out of sorts this morning.  Which is bound to happen.  Especially, you know, every four weeks or so.  So, rather than ruining my whole day by pushing myself until I’m too overwhelmed and drained to function, I grabbed my still groggy, crabby 2 year old and went back to bed to cry like a baby myself until it passed. 

    After a couple of minutes, Olivia looked up at the corner above the bed and began pointing towards the ceiling.  She does this fairly often.  I always say, “do you see an angel?” although I never see anything in the corner she’s pointing to.   Continue reading

  • “Shut Up, Mommy,” Saith the toddler

    Tonight, I was telling Olivia, my sweet just about 2 year old, to keep her grubby mitts off the food that was waiting to go into the oven.  She got frustrated with me, grabbed a piece of paper and pretending to read it, said, “shut up, mommy” and handed it to me with a humph.  Oh goodness.  I just laughed at her and moved her away from the food.  Nice try, little one.

    I have always been pretty lax about rude, disrespectful kids.  Yet no one who spends time with my kids would ever describe them as rude or disrespectful.  Just the opposite.  (Don’t worry – they have plenty of other questionable traits!)  Being rude and disrespectful may not get you in trouble around here, but it will get you laughed at and scooted aside.  Great powers do not need to respond to petty beligerance. 

    The day will come when Olivia can be taught the value of kind words.  She’ll learn soon enough; you don’t have to agree with me and you don’t have to like it.  You just have to do what I say.

  • What sort of garden do you grow?

    The best parenting analogy I have heard compared having a child to being given a plant.  Some plants are more demanding to grow than others.  Some are more sensitive to change.  Some must be nurtured for many seasons before they will show their flowers and bear their fruit.  Others are easy and sunny and thrive on neglect.  We create a lot of trouble when we try to force the artichoke plant that shows up to grow the way an oak tree grows.  After all, who wouldn’t want to be an oak tree?  Well, an artichoke plant, for one.  Or it could just accept that he’s supposed to be an oak tree and be one unhappy, messed-up artichoke plant.

    That is what is at stake as we parent: will we send a healthy, thriving plant out into the world?  Or will we be sending out an artichoke that knows all about how to be an oak tree and nothing about why he should want to be an artichoke.  It’s not easy.  We sometimes don’t know what sort of plant we’ve been given until something goes wrong.  Sometimes we were the ones sent out into the world with no concept of how to be who we are.  And gardening is frustrating.  You can nurture a plant to perfection only to have a rogue deer show up and eat the buds off.   Some plants are just ridiculously difficult to grow.

    For me, I think of it this way: My job is to help my child learn to be the person they are made to be while living in this world.

  • Michaela with her lovely first grade teacher

    What Michaela is Teaching Me

    Michaela with her lovely first grade teacher

    Michaela is my oldest daughter.  After having 2 boys, I really wanted a daughter and somehow, I wound of with 3 of them (yes I do know how it works!) but Michaela started it all.  And although this might sound like a strange thing to say about a not-quite-7-year-old, I admire Michaela a lot.  She really is the most naturally positive, determined person I know.  When she was very young and trying to do something new like use a hula hoop or throw a ball, you would hear her say to herself, “try, try again.  That’s what dad always says.”  What kid actually says that sort of thing to themselves at 3 and 4?  Michaela.

    Michaela keeps track of the compliments she receives.  She has a list of accomplishments that she’s proud of and willing to share.  When she’s struggling with something, she will calmly put it down and take a break before she gets frustrated and upset.  She finds reasons to ignore negative things people say to her.  If she realizes she’s wrong, she’s more likely to laugh at herself than anything else.  She’s a person of action and her judgement is such that if she offers a suggestion, I stop to think seriously about it.  Her ideas are usually good ones.  She just seems to naturally be the sort of person that I have struggled my whole life to be more like.

    Not that she’s impervious to being hurt.  Recently she came home from school in quite the foul mood.  She insisted she was fine but I got an inkling of the problem when I heard her yell at her brother, “stop it!  You’re hurting my feelings.  People have been hurting my feelings all day.”

    I pulled her aside and sure enough, a group of people she normally plays with at school had shunned her during recess that day.  She cried and we talked about it.  Once she was feeling better and I was starting to talk with her about what to do should this continue to be a problem she told me, “at first I went off to the side of the playground and was really sad.  But then I realized that Max and Adella and Paige were playing tag.  So I just went and played with them.  I’m really good at tag.”  That’s my girl!

    I want to be like Michaela when I grow up! :)