23 June 2010

Peace and Tolerance?

Apparently we have lost the right of free speech in America. I don't remember that particular portion of the Bill of Rights being repealed, but, given how it's being enforced, it seems that Freedom of Religion will be next to go:

Four Christians were arrested and jailed recently at Dearborn, Mich. for alleged “disorderly conduct” and “disruptive behavior” at an Arab festival, the Detroit Free Press said.

The Christians were David Wood of New York, Nabeel Qureshi of Virginia and two others affiliated with Acts 17 Apologetics.

They were distributing Christian flyers to Muslims at the Dearborn Arab International Festival, the Detroit Free Press said.

You can read the entire article here.

Now, I would just like to state right off the bat, that I have no problem whatsoever with Muslims, Hindus, Buddists, or anyone else having a festival pertinent to their religion, here, or anywhere else.  What I do object to, is the idea that one particular group should be allowed to practice their religion, but that another particular group must be silenced so as not to "offend".  Would Muslims have been arrested for standing outside a church handing out flyers on a Sunday morning?  They shouldn't be.  In this country, public property is an acceptable place to engage in free speech and the discussion of ideas.  At least, that was true under the Constitution I learned about in school.  Of course, politicians are playing pretty free and easy with the Constitution these days, so maybe this shouldn't surprise us.

21 June 2010

Nod and Smile

Well, first of all: Thorvald emerged from hiding only seven hours after my in-laws returned home. I was able to tell my children about the bad guys who broke into Grandma and Pappy's house without having to explain that said bad guys stole their beloved cat. So life is much better.

But on to the point of this post:

My daughter just informed me of this -

When I grow up, I'm going to be a Farmer! ("What kind of Farmer?" I asked.) Well, I'm going to be an animal farmer. ("Oh? What kind of animals will you farm?") I'm going to have sheep, cows, calves, goats, and ducks. I'm going to have FOUR ducks, and then if one gets aten by a fox I won't even mind, but when they grow up, they'll be able to fly back to the barn, because they'll know that I'm the Farmer! And there will be a Daddy goat, and the Daddy goat will be the pushy one, and if I don't get in quick he'll snitch! (I think she means "nip", but I'm not certain.)

Speaking of being a farmer, Monkey3's favourite story right now is his "totor Ted book." (That's "Tractor Ted" for the uninformed. It's a video series of a working farm from Great Britain, narrated by Tractor Ted. The book has nothing to do with the video, but also contains a cartoonish small green tractor.) The last sentence is "Wouldn't you like to be a Farmer and drive a tractor?" Monkey3 always answers "Yes, Mama, too!"

19 June 2010

Sucker Punch

Today was rough.  The kids woke up early, and no one else did.  So I spent two hours trying to keep them quiet so the rest of the house could sleep.  Yoga was rough; I was too tired to do much (last week I told the teacher I would just spend the whole class in Child's Pose.  I haven't yet, but it remains a possibility).  Coming home was rough.  Monkey3 was overtired, and wanted to nurse all afternoon.  I put him down for a nap and he woke up crabby.  Monkey2 was overtired and consequently spent a lot of time howling, whining, and fussing.

I finally got through to the Mad Scientist on Skype, and was detailing my woes when my mother brought me the phone.  It was my mother in-law.  Someone broke into their house today, and her parrot was stolen.  He was her baby, and she is heart-broken.  Also our cat, which they were watching for the summer, is missing.  We don't know if he was also stolen, or just ran away because he was frightened.  Either way, he's gone.

My children have been telling me for the last two weeks how much they're looking forward to snuggling with Thorvald again when they get home.  I don't know what to tell them.

Odds are against the cat having been stolen.   He was just your basic American Shorthair, not valuable to anyone but us.  I'm hoping and praying he turns up in the next day or two.  I know that, in the larger scheme of things, a cat isn't that big a deal.  But he's a big deal to us.  We got him before we started having babies, and all my children adore him.  They've grown up with him, and he has willingly tolerated everything three active babies could dish out.  He's wonderful, and we love him.   And this song is on my heart tonight:

 Oh great God
Be small enough
To hear me now
There were times when I was crying
From the dark of Daniel`s den
I had asked you once or twice
If you would part the sea again
Tonight I do not need a
Fiery pillar in the sky
Just want to know you`re gonna
Hold me if I start to cry

Oh great God
Be small enough to hear me now
Oh great God
Be close enough to feel you now
(Oh great god be close to me)
There have been moments when I could not face
Goliath on my own
And how could I forget we marched
Around our share of Jerichos
But I will not be setting out
A fleece for you tonight
Just wanna know that everything will be alright
Oh great god be close enough to feel me now

All praise and all the honor be
To the god of ancient mysteries
Whose every sign and wonder
Turn the pages of our history
But tonight my heart is heavy
And I cannot keep from whispering this prayer
Are you there?

And I know you could leave writing
On the wall that`s just for me
Or send wisdom while I`m sleeping
Like in Solomon`s sweet dreams
But I don`t need the strength of Sampson
Or a chariot in the end
Just wanna know that you still know how many
Hairs are on my head
Oh great God (Are you small enough)
Be small enough to hear
Me now

11 June 2010

I guess I've made my point

I think the one of the most difficult things about trying to combine two households (or, in our case, three) is getting everyone's schedules and preferences to work together.  One area where this difficulty is especially apparent, is food.

When we're at home, we drink milk, and water.  I never buy juice, except very occasionally as a special treat.  I consider it to be an expensive way to consume a lot of calories at once, with minimal health benefits.  We use it when people are sick and struggling to stay hydrated, and that's about it.  So the monkeys have been delighted to have easier access to this since we got to Bestemor and Grandpa's house.

Other things they haven't been so delighted with, and I keep explaining that we don't ask for food, and then not eat it.  This morning, everyone asked for applejuice with their breakfast, so it was with mixed feelings that I heard Monkey1 very hesitantly begin this speech:

"Mama, I really hate to say this, but, well, I don't want apple juice to drink.  What I want to drink is water."

03 June 2010

Is bribery a parenting strategy?

I am not a salesman.  I have never been good at presenting things in a ways that makes people want them. largely because I could never get over my guilt at trying to talk them into spending money.  (You can see why that would present problems).  I'm at peace with my inability (and have largely given up a misguided attempt at a career in cosmetic sales), but I wonder sometimes how broadly applicable the principles of salesmanship are in the rest of life.

My brother is just beginning a career in sales, and we all expect him to do very well.  He has a product he believes in, and a natural ability.  He also studies the company's training material (which I probably could have done a bit more of) to learn as much as possible and improve his technique.  He taught me something last night, which I thought I would share:

Never tell a consumer that they're doing you a favour.  Never leave them with the impression that you need them to buy what you're selling.  Always look for how it will benefit them, and make that your presentation.

How does this apply to parenting?  Well, just suppose that a particular uncle wanted a good-night hug from his niece, who has a history of being somewhat ornery.  If she decides, on this particular night, that she isn't giving good-night hugs, the uncle has two choices.

A) He can beg and plead and tell her he loves her and act very sad that the hug is not forthcoming.  Because it won't be.  The "Oh, you're making me so sad" argument doesn't pull much weight with kids.

B)  He can say "Well, I only give one hug per night, and you haven't gotten yours yet.  So you can still come get one if you want, but this is your last chance."

It worked like a charm.  And now I'm realizing how much of parenting is really just salesmanship.  For example:

"Well, of course you don't have to eat your vegetables.  But we're having watermelon for dessert, and you can't have dessert if you don't finish your dinner"  (Surely a tried and true parenting strategy, but did you ever think about why it works?)

"Yes, you really do need to do this (go to sleep, take a bath, finish your homework, play outside), because if you do, this desirable thing will happen (you'll grow big and strong, you'll get to play outside, you'll make lots of vitamin D so you can be healthy)."

I think the biggest problem the parent/salesman encounters is finding a result that is strong enough motivation.  Because frankly, vitamin D production doesn't really motivate my kids to get fresh air.  Something more tangible and immediate than "growing big and strong" is sometimes required.  And then, of course, you get into the whole controversy about bribing children to do things they ought to do anyway.

There's lots of opinions about the appropriateness of that.  I say, in real life, people do things because there is some benefit to them.  Even if the benefit is that they feel good for doing the responsible mature thing, without any tangible reward, grown-ups are motivated by positive reinforcement just as much as children.  (Haven't you ever been told "Keep reading your Bible if you're discouraged!"?  That's to remind yourself what the rewards are for your behaviour.)

But children aren't able to look ahead to the distant future in the way that grown-ups can.  So offering them a tangible reward now, teaches them that there are, in fact, good reasons for doing the right thing.  That a reward is forthcoming at some point.  The key to using this strategy effectively, it seems to me, is to gradually stretch out the time between the behaviour and the reward, so that by the time you have an adult, the adult knows how to do something that's right, looking forward to a future reward.