Saturday, September 22, 2007

Letting go

About two minutes ago i let Jul cross the road by himself for the very first time. I stood outside the gate and watched as he walked to the road, checked both ways and walked proudly across the road. Jul made it safely then turned and gave me a 'thumbs-up', and ran to his friends house.

This is a big step for both of us. For Jul, it was him growing up. For me, its him growing up. I'm just not ready for him to grow up. I know i cant stop it, and really, i dont want to. But i love being so important to him. I love caring for him and ensuring that he is safe and having a good time. I love watching him read, and swim and whatever it is he is doing. Watching my first born need me less and less is wonderful and sad. I know he can do so many things without me... but i like watching. On the other hand i am so excited for him to be doing these things all on his own!

This morning Jul asked if he could start calling me Mom, instead of Mommy, "since I'm starting grade one". That was so heart-breaking to hear. Then he said it! "Mom!" I said that once he is at school, he can call me mom. Just as long as he promises to still call me mommy... Once in a while.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Learning Boys Play

I have been thinking so much lately about how boys activity levels differ from girls, and how that affects my daily life. I don't understand how boys play and i really don't understand what they find appealing about playing the way they do. So in order to better understand i have been reading a book who's author encourages parents to allow aggressive play (a little beyond what i feel comfortable with). But it has got me thinking, what is so fascinating about playing wrestling, or shooting or capturing games? There are a few things that i have discovered about this "aggressive play". Boys need to explore their desire to play hard in safe environments. They want to feel powerful and they like to discover the "darker" parts of their imagination.

I was a very girly little girl. I wore pink all the time and everything had to be pretty. I liked watching Peter Pan and imagining i was Wendy being rescued. I wanted to be Cinderella, sweet and hopeful, and to be someone so special that i was noticed across a room. These are fantasies i can share with Clover. But Jul needs more. Jul needs to imagine that he is so powerful that he can concur evil. When he plays these games, he doesn't want to hurt, he want to feel his body move with strength and influence others through his action. Whether it be sword fights to to turn evil into good, or to wrestle until the enemy learns virtue, his desire is to influence his imaginary foe. If he can submit the evil and cruel "Daddy Monster" in his play, he can do it in real life. I thought it was about Jul being violent, but what it is is so much more innocent: its not about being powerful, but about good winning over evil. And only good can win.

On the other hand, he loves being the dark side as well, and being taught that his evil ways are wrong! He will quite happily be the one who gets shot, or fall to the ground when the sword pierces him. Playing the bad guy gives Jul and outlet to try different ways to be bad in a safe way. He can be rude or mean in a way that he wouldn't normally be. Exploring appropriate and inappropriate behaviours knowing that he wouldn't be allowed to act like a 'bad guy' any other time. Showing that there is a difference in his mind how good people and bad people behave in his mind. I enjoy seeing the snarls that he gets when he is bad.

Another thing that i have had to adapt is my idea of "rough housing". In my mind wrestling is violent and they are fighting. Reality is very different for Jul though. He knows that hitting isn't ok, that throwing people to the ground is unacceptable behaviour. But when he is playing it is just that: playing. Only i cant tell. He isn't killing a person, he's using his imagination. I now ask (often) 'are you guys having fun?' just so i know if they are really playing or not. And sometimes i suggest ways to redirect the playing if i think it might become frustrating for either party. Other times i just sit and watch (from a distance) as they resolve problems that they are having because misunderstandings on who's good or evil can arise quickly. But they are just as fast to sort it out and resume the fight.

Imaginative play is so important for children not just because it's creative, but because they become the other person. I cannot imagine trying to convince a little girl that she isn't a princess. In her imagination she is and, one day when she grows up she will be a princess for real. How, then, is it different for little boys? How frustrated a little girl would be if she was constantly told that playing princess isn't appropriate. Or playing 'mommy and daddy'. Why, then, cant children who what to play war, play war? They know that they aren't killing anyone. But they believe that they are going to grow up to be heroes and warriors, changing the evil in the world to good. Who am i to burst their bubbles, if you want to be a princess, then you will be a princess. Likewise with a hero/warrior.

I thought for a long time that i was good at not being a 'helicopter' parent. But i learned that i hover when i am uncomfortable with things. My new friend taught me that because of her cultural differences. When our boys would get together to play, i would watch them and be tense, worrying that Jul might hurt his friend. She would tell me to relax and let them be boys, and when things would happen, she would tell them to work it out. (There hasn't been any blood yet.) This gives them an opportunity to discover boundaries and diplomacy. Jul's friend would come to me and say "Jul did (put whatever it is he is tattling about here)" and i would try to sort it out. Then i watched his mom, and she would say "its ok, you go play". It was so liberating! She could decipher the difference between a complaint and whining, and when to intervene and when she's interfering.

I can't claim to know how all boys play, but I can safely say that I am beginning to understand that i don't have to. I just have to allow my boys to be themselves. Whatever that may mean.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Forgive or not forgive...

I have been thinking a lot lately about forgiveness. About what it looks like and how it feels. Watching it in other people, especially children. It seems so amazing to me how quickly and easily and whole-heartily children forgive. They give all their love over quickly.

I have watched Jul be hurt, sobbing and then seconds later, up and running around like nothing happened. Sometimes with an apology, sometimes without. And there are certain people who hurt him and as soon as 'sorry' is spoken, it is all forgiven. Where as others, he is still (slightly) apprehensive. Jul still gets excited for his cousin to come and play, even though he has been thoroughly beaten by him. But he forgives. When does this end? The forgiveness given later on seems to be somewhat conditional. I see people do it all the time. I am no exception. The "i forgive, but i dont want to deal with it anymore". I have done that many times. I forgive someone, but i dont trust them not to do it again, so i avoid them. I no longer want to deal with the possibility of them hurting me again. Or anyone that i love. I have nightmares about this situation, being rejected at church because someone i dont want to expose my family to shows up.

Does that mean that i havent forgiven? What if they have changed? And then there are more questions like, are apologies always necessary to forgive? Or is forgiving something that is absent of acknowledgement? There are definitely time that i dont need an apology to forgive. However, i do feel that when things are going on, and on, and on, without change that i truly need to work things out and have my hurt acknowledged.

Then there is moving on. When do you move on in the relationship (either with changed boundaries or not) and when do you just move on? Many years ago i read about called "When to Forgive/When Not to Forgive". I found it wonderful to help me understand the difference between forgiving and forgetting. Jesus says to forgive seven times seventy. And sometimes it is really hard to forgive fully.

I try really hard to watch Jul and see the difference. And i find his example inspiring. To be more like a child.