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parenting (64 posts)
Watching your kid's first steps is an emotional, exciting, nothing-like-it experience. But imagine you're a marine, and have been deployed in Afghanistan for seven months. And imagine further, if you will, that your son has cerebral palsy and you have been told he would never walk. This video of a marine's reunion with his son is beyond moving. The grinning kid's determined walk, the big bear hug, the happy little clump of kids as the whole family swarms around Daddy. Hello, hanky.
I find myself chewing over the story between the lines here, thinking about Michael's mother. According to the Jacksonville Daily News, she and her FOUR OTHER CHILDREN all helped Michael learn to walk, and kept it a secret until their father's homecoming. Talk about unsung heroes: This family seems to be full of them.
Women in the Armed Forces
A Military Mom Never Forgets
I don't know how the rumor got started that children are sweet and innocent, but it was probably by someone who had very little contact with actual children. Kids are raw. Kids are wild. And kids know that the world is scary, they just don't know how exactly. Maurice Sendak, who died on May 8th at the age of 83, knew this. As he told The Atlantic last September, kids "are immensely courageous. And they sacrifice a lot. And they try to play mute and dumb because--well, it's kind of the expectation of their parents." This sense of respecting children and their capacity for the mysteries of life are why his books, from Where The Wild Things Are to In the Night Kitchen to his last, Bumble-Ardy, had such energy and darkness in them. And it's why kids love them.
The great children's literature blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast has a lovely tribute to Sendak: an image of one his more moving pages. The blog also quotes Sendak, talking about death: “you come on a wisp of air and you go on a wisp of air.” Spoken like someone who has come to terms with the scariness of life.
So, yes, for terrifying our children, for acknowledging the wildness in them, and for giving grownups a way to tell our little wild things, "I have to try to civilize you, because that's my job, but don't worry, I get it" -- Maurice Sendak, you grouchy, irascible soul, we thank you.
Great Books for Kids of All Ages
Encourage Kids to Love Reading
Already a mother of two, Campbell breezily writes about how these babies are an antidote to her periodical bouts of baby fever, during which she forgets about the sleepless nights and endless diapers and starts thinking up names. And she writes about how she loves those babies, while she has them, with all the love she has to give. "Every child deserves to be someone's priority. Being a foster parent is being the one person in the world who puts this child first...I don't love them part time, I love them all the time. Even at 3am, when I would much rather be sleeping. And I don't know how anyone could feel any differently."
It's brain-bustingly sad that there are babies whose parents are truly unable to take care of them, but just knowing that there is such a person as this loving, nurturing foster mother, that we live in a world where strangers will help your child if you cannot -- it makes the world seem a benevolent place, after all.
Get Involved With Foster Kids
So I was very relieved to learn that as an adult in possession of a calculator and tax accountant, as long as I'm not too picky about things like grocery bills, math actually can be largely avoided. Hooray! Then I read this post on Dim Sum Thinking on the beauty of math and the facile question "When Will I Use This?" It seems this whole time I've been asking the wrong question.
The post argues that looking at math's practical applications is not the best way to get students interested in the horrible torture beautiful elegance that numbers have to offer: "The hard part is that math is so darned useful. There is math everywhere. It’s easy for us to think about learning the math we need to do science or economics." But to this math teacher, math is every bit as enjoyable for its sake as the more beloved activities of playing band and football, disciplines kids enjoy without asking how they use the skills they hone later in life.
There is something so important about having someone who takes you seriously, especially when you're a kid and most of the people in your life respond to your Big Ideas with a "Mm-hm, that's nice, dear." I think this is what I love most about this video which has been all over the Internet the past few days: Caine's Arcade.
The short film features one of the most creative kids you've ever seen, a 9-year-old boy named Caine, who spent a summer hanging out in his father's auto-parts shop in East L.A., building an elaborate cardboard arcade. Watch it for Caine's boundless creativity and the intricate arcade games he creates out of boxes, old toys, hooks, and tape. But also, look out for Nirvan, Caine's first (and for a while, only) customer, who ended up making this film:
There are many wonderful moments in this -- when Caine first sees the flash mob Nirvan invited to the arcade is a heart-buster -- but I think my favorite is when Nirvan pronounces Caine's "arcade fun pass," "a really good deal." He's not being facetious in the least. He means it. He thinks Caine's games are awesome, and he thinks 500 plays for $2 is a really good deal, and he's right. And because he takes Caine's awesomeness seriously, others do too, and they come to play at the arcade not to be nice or to indulge a kid or do anyone any favors -- it's because the games are fun to play, thanks to Caine's careful planning and attention to details (the tickets!).
Sometimes that's the greatest gift you can give someone -- a child, an adult, anyone: yout full attention and support. After all, when someone takes your creation seriously it starts to become, well, a real arcade.
You know how sometimes you just don't know what to say? It's bad enough on an awkward blind date or nerve-wracking job interview, but what about when you really need to say just exactly the right thing and somehow...really...can't? To wit, my friend's toddler was recently diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Whenever I am around them I find myself avoiding the subject with cheery ferocity or else saying things like, "Wow, that sucks." Or, equally idiotically, "How are things going? What can I do?" I mean, it does suck. And I do wish there were something I could do. But really what they want is for their kid to not have cancer, and although I am quite powerful in many, largely imaginary ways, I can't seem to do anything about that.
Then I happened upon the site Jokes 4 Miles, and it occurred to me that perhaps there is a tiny thing I can do, a small way I can offer a touch of light into the terrible darkness of this illness. Here goes...Knock, knock. That's right, according to this guy, (aka Miles' dad, aka the father of a boy battling brain cancer), telling a joke--or singing a song or sharing a trick--is something we can all do to help out.
I love Miles' dad's retro TV host sensibilities, but what really gets me here is when Miles himself speaks up. Seeing this good-natured teenager tangled up in IV wires and hospital bed business, makes the whole thing very, well, real. While most of us can't imagine what this family is going through, or what we could say or do to help, everyone can record a joke. It just might help Miles to smile on a down day, and it definitely reminds all of us how to deal with adversity—with humor, song, and stupid puppy tricks.
Visit Jokes4Miles for more information, and to see some of the jokes people have sent in already.
Selling Girl Scout Cookies is no joke: As the St Paul Pioneer Press reports, the top cookie sellers are going out door to door every night of cookie-selling season, determined to sell as many Do-Si-Dos as they can. Selling the most cookies earns a Girl Scout a special "Cookie Diva" badge and rewards like an iPad or even a trip to Ireland, but for Kyla Gronau, the #1 seller of The Girl Scouts of the Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys council (she's sold over 12,000 boxes of cookies in her day), it's about much more.
Kyla has cerebral palsy, which has always affected the way people see her. As she told the Pioneer Press, "I want to be looked up to. All my life, I've been down here. All my life, I've wanted to be up here (pointing up). I feel people have looked down on me because of who I am. Now, girls want their pictures taken with me." Here's a girl with some grit--and if there's not a badge for determination and stick-to-it-iveness, well, maybe there should be. (via MSNBC Photoblog)
A New Girl Scouts Badge Celebrates Happiness
The World's Oldest Brownie Earns a Badge
Girl Scout Cookie Lip Balm. Mmmm.
After all, as Lisa Chase writes in this great essay for Elle, "Mothers become the no-sayers in the house, the keepers of the schedules, the tight ones, while the fathers get to swoop in after dinner and break the rules." In Chase's experience, her mother was forced to fill this role in extremis, as her father was a wild one—creative, fun, thrilling, "because of the brew of wild and blue inside him (which, in hindsight, was almost certainly a manic-depressive disorder)."
Why she went into the beauty business: We needed to buy a new engine for our van. I'd been making soap for our family and friends, so I decided to make some extra and sell it to raise money.
When she realized they'd be able to pay for the engine...and then some: We had so many orders that we were regularly eating dinner on the kitchen floor because the table was piled high with soap. Within several months, I told my husband either I'd have to scale back the business or he'd have to quit his job to help full-time. We decided to take the leap.