It’s amazing how much better things look after a night of good sleep.
I was vague yesterday, as I often am when trying to work out stuff in my mind.
This summer has been full of challenges in a variety of realms, but both Gil and I have noticed an increase in symptoms in both of our children that unfortunately, look unsettlingly familiar.
— pushing boundaries
— outright defiance
— hyperactivity despite our efforts to provide adequate physical outlets
It’s exhausting. It doesn’t help that Gil’s workload increases during the summer months leaving me to navigate these challenges during the week and even on the weekends as he recoups from a non-stop work schedule.
When Gil IS home he’s in no mood to battle these strong wills. Plus, he admittedly feels guilty that he’s gone so much during the week and prefers to keep all interactions positive.
This often translates to him giving in on many things, creating a non-unified front with the two of us — NOT GOOD.
I do a lot of work on the weekends these days, so Mondays are often met with:
“Dad lets us do it. ”
“You’re no fun.”
And my favorite (NOTE SARCASM!!!) with increasing pre-teen smugness from Piers who’s not even nine yet:
“This sucks.” — I blame this phrase on neighborhood life. Still, I refuse to raise my children in a bubble. This comes with the territory and adds to the list of topics for discussion — you’re going to hear language that’s not appropriate and you can’t drop these phrases at school or elsewhere without consequences.
I’m admittedly strong-willed with the best of them and I have to literally bite my tongue and sit on my hands to control my reactions to such sullen, obnoxious behavior.
Parenting Piers can bring out the worst in me, as he and I are painfully similar in many ways. I have never been one to follow rules simply because they ARE rules. I have to understand the WHY behind what I’m being told to do.
My mom and I butted heads from, well, birth, but things got particularly challenging when I was around eight or nine (exactly the age Piers is now), and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that the harder I pushed and rebelled, the more she tightened the reigns.
Therefore as a parent, I do my best to give him an ample amount of control over his life, but dang if that doesn’t seem to get harder and harder as I have to increasingly let him navigate his world. Prepare for many more posts on this topic as I stumble through figuring it all out…
One way I’ve attempted to give Piers some control is by letting him dive deep into his own interests this summer. At this very moment he’s jamming out on his ukulele, hell-bent on mastering a song of his choosing. Thankfully, he’s pretty musically inclined, so this experience is not a painful one by any stretch.
Another interest is photography.
My friend, Maggie, and partner over at Live. Snap. Write. (our joint site that’s on summer hiatus as she and I both tend to our children and other work commitments), has an amazing eye for visual arts, not my strongest artistic medium by a long shot.
Maggie’s a photographer (one of many titles).
I often think back on a conversation she and I had early in our friendship about how we observe the world around us. The two of us can talk endlessly about this sort of thing.
She shared that photography forces her to ground into the moment. It makes her MORE present and increases her awareness. I encourage you to check out her blog, where she shares in more depth about this and other topics.
I related to parts of her description — as a writer (and even as a very amateur snap-shotter), I CAN become more in the moment when I know I’ll be translating what I’m observing into words or pictures FOR readers.
At the same time, my approach is pretty different as well. I actually find myself taking snapshots and then looking back at them as a way to viscerally return to a moment in time. I look at the snapshot to trigger a previous FEELING I had when I was very much already IN the moment. This assists me in finding better words to describe a moment I DID have but am no longer having — because I’m sitting at my desk typing.
I’m not sure that makes sense, but that’s as close as I can get right now as I’m limited on time.
The point of me sharing all this is that THAT conversation with Maggie gave me better insight into the reality that MY way isn’t THE way, and helped me examine elements of how I parent and made me tweak my approach.
Piers has always been interested in photography. He’s artistic, but he has a natural way with gadgets and is extremely hands-on. Just yesterday, we had a loaner car while the air in our car is being repaired (did I mention this summer is trying to kill me?) and I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the mother-loving navigational system on the vehicle. I spent an hour winding my way around Savannah’s GORGEOUS squares as I attempted to make my way to Gil’s office from the body shop — a new route and one with which I’m not at all familiar. I arrived on this planet without a touch of innate navigational prowess. Thankfully, I dig adventure…
Anyway, once we finally arrived and I dropped off a set of plans Gil had forgotten earlier that morning (so many subtleties in this post that reveal SO much about our little family…), I paused before pulling out of the parking lot to screw around with the built-in GPS. I punched buttons, looked for an owner’s guide (it’s computerized & built into the very system with which I was struggling…) and was about to conclude that perhaps the reason it was a loaner was because it wasn’t fully functional when Piers leaned up from the backseat and asked if he could take a look. I kid you not, the first button he pushed was the only one I hadn’t tried — I actually thought it had something to do with the thermostat instead of the navigational system. He figured out in seconds what I had spent a good five to ten minutes on to no avail.
This natural ease with gadgets comes from Gil and is the very reason I often become frustrated with photography. I don’t like all the technical parts that one must learn to improve. I guess you could say I’m a point-and-shoot girl. This frustration actually pulls me out of them moment. I lose track of what I’m trying to ground into because I’m screwing with my camera.
This got long. What I have found with Piers is what Maggie shared about her own experience and approach. Piers can seem bored or uninterested and I can put a camera in his hands and he settles. He becomes re-engaged and even excited about documenting what he sees. It’s amazing to see him come alive. *I don’t mean to suggest that Piers’ approach is exactly like Maggie’s (he’s young and a true photography novice at this stage) — only that having her share her experience and approach broadened my own perspective and through some trial and error helped me see a part of my own kid that I might not have otherwise.*
The only problem is that I’m uber protective of my stuff. I don’t have loads of money, and between blogging and freelancing, I have to preserve the tools I use to create.
I mentioned in my previous post that Wallace is visiting my mom this week. This is a huge parenting step for me. It also speaks volumes about the kind of summer we’re having, as in, it must be challenging for me to let him go. The only other time one of my kids stayed with my mom for such an extended period of time was several years ago when we all got the flu. Piers got it the week before the rest of us, so by the time Gil, Wallace, and I were stricken, he felt fabulous and none of us could keep up with him. I think he spent ten days at my mom’s and Wallace has been asking when it would be his turn ever since.
But…having one kid is SO different when I’m accustomed to wrangling chaos with two extremely active boys. I’ve actually been able to let Piers use my phone and computer and camera, and he’s been very attentive and careful. It’s evident spending time with just him that he is, in fact, more mature in terms of caring for delicate items than his younger by-a-year-and-a-half brother. Plus, I don’t have the two of them fighting to get their hands on whatever I’m attempting to explain in my first medium — language. BOTH boys are painfully hands-on and while that ultimately is a very good thing (I think?), it means that a lot gets destroyed in the process.
This is another example of stream-of-consciousness writing. I began with one topic in mind and this post evolved into something else entirely.
I was having a moment yesterday and breaking from another writing project while waiting on the body shop to call AND the pharmacy. We also finally got our other house on the market, so I’ve been back and forth with the real estate agent.
We have A LOT going on.
I let Piers have my phone and told him he could take some pictures. I needed to sit and breathe. He typically captures random objects, but yesterday’s subjects were more telling than I anticipated. They feel pretty reflective of our family life at the moment.
I’ll share a few of his shots in a following post — you can now view these here.