Thursday, December 8, 2016

Update 2016: ONE



So.
I have an iPhone now, which is making everything better and worse simultaneously.* It’s worse because I often spend time reading articles and checking Facebook when pre-iPhone I would have written blog posts in my head or pondered the meaning of life instead (I miss the writing and the pondering, but slightly less than I want to find out what’s happened in internet-land since I last found out). Also, staring at the small screen all of election day may have caused permanent damage to my eyeballs. And it’s better because I don’t feel quite so lost sometimes anymore (hurrah for access to maps and emails while I’m out!), and I like not having to print out tickets for events, and the always-there camera is amazing, and the storage blows my mind, and I now have Pokémon Go.

Those of you who know what Pokémon Go is can skip ahead to the next paragraph. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about (hello Nanna and Grandpa! I love you!), Pokémon Go is a game that I just spent a good 10 minutes trying to describe myself before realising someone had probably done it far better somewhere else on the internet (and I was right: read this). I downloaded it one afternoon before we picked up Hazel from preschool, and after the excitement of discovering PokéStops and catching our first Pokémon, Moses looked at me with such adoration and gratitude that any doubts I had about the decision were quickly dispelled. I don’t think he’s ever loved me as much as he did that afternoon. We’ve since been walking a lot together, as the further you walk the more eggs you hatch and the more candy you collect for your buddy (we also now have intense conversations about eggs, candy and buddies). We walked the 4 kilometres to Hurstville the other day, and Moses complained about his legs being tired precisely zero times (possibly because I piggy-backed him up the final hill). Sometimes he whinges about having to walk from the house to the car parked out the front, so this felt like an epic achievement.
Me piggy-backing Mo up said hill
While I can’t completely explain my increasing love for this game (apart from the incentive to exercise and the opportunity to invent new camel-case words starting with ‘Poké’), Mo’s makes more sense: he’s just moved into the Montessori equivalent of year one (year levels are based on age and readiness rather than the calendar year), and at least half his class (it seems) is PokéHooked. They trade cards at lunch time and draw PokéPictures and swap PokéTips about how to evolve particular Pokémon, all of which Moses enthusiastically shares with me on the drive home. Apart from the Pokémon-ing, he’s thoroughly enjoying being in a new class and having a new teacher, and it’s such a relief watching him run into the hall so happily every morning after a few terms of sad drop-offs. It’s been an exhausting year for Mo (and therefore the rest of us); he’s ready for a long holiday.
Mo's proud smile, after picking up a random book and reading it by himself
I was thinking the other day about boys’ voices breaking, and how it’s such an obvious transition between one stage and the next. I think Mo’s going through one of these transitions at the moment, except it’s his behaviour that breaks instead of his voice: one minute he’s Big Moses, able to think rationally and take himself off for time out when he needs to, and then, suddenly, he’ll snap into Little Moses, yelling “Aaaaaaarrrrrgggh!!” at the top of his voice because his brain is too overwhelmed to find words to express his feelings better in that moment. I love watching him grow and think about the world, as he tells us about his research at school or we discuss the questions in the Short and Curly podcast. He’s currently fascinated by “the ‘f’ word” (as he calls it), and has asked numerous times now whether we say it in our family and why/why not. The other night at bedtime, after a discussion along these lines, I told him he could say the actual word and he whispered it and we giggled together. I thought afterwards that the “Aaaaaaarrrrrgggh!!” moments are the price I pay for the privilege of witnessing the beautiful ones, like my child saying fuck for the first time.

(Earlier I was trying to make an analogy between parenting him and catching Pokémon – you might choose a better ball for capturing more difficult Pokémon, and give them a Razz Berry to pacify them first, for example – but then I noticed that Pokémon had taken up way more of this update than I’d originally intended and it was therefore probably time to dial it back a notch or two…)


Hazel’s also in a transition-y phase, although hugs still cure pretty much everything. (She’s also become excited about Pokémon Go, and hearing her saying “There’s a PokéStop!” is possibly the cutest thing in the world, but let’s move on.) She’s mostly easy-going, although this is probably because she decides to do whatever she likes when we’re not looking, so there’s usually no need to argue with us (although she does rather enjoy arguing with us, now that I think about it). She loves stories – telling them, flicking through books and imagining them, and/or being read to. “Did you have fun at the zoo this weekend, Moses?” asks her preschool teacher, Aisling, when we arrive to pick up Hazel, to which we reply, “We didn’t go to the zoo this weekend…?” and she says, “Oh!! Hazel told me you went with friends and she loved the giraffes and the monkeys the best!” (Another time Hazel told Aisling that Alan had broken his leg.  He had not.) She’s obsessed with books in a way Moses wasn’t at her age. In fact, she’s the opposite of Mo-at-three in so many ways: she’s independent, she says no when you ask her to do something (we’re learning to say, “Close the door, please!” rather than “Can you please close the door?”), she boldly dives into new things, and she flat-out refuses to eat things she has no interest in eating (“Just try a tiny bit, you may like it!” very rarely works on her).

Hazel’s girliness is expansive rather than stereotypical, so doesn’t freak me out so much anymore. She loves the idea of doing ballet and is currently fascinated by all things mermaid, but she also decided to go as a firefighter to preschool dress-up day, chose green for her fingernails when offered a choice of every polish colour known to humanity, and has, in recent times, pretended to be a builder, a princess, and a doctor (not all at once). She is completely comfortable in her skin (she takes off all of her clothes at every opportunity), which is a joy to behold.
As for the two of them together, Moses and Hazel are both the best of friends and the worst of enemies depending on what time of day it is, although they generally stick to the friendly end of the spectrum. They can be giggling their heads off one moment, scratching at each other the next, then giggling their heads off again a moment later. They’ve started playing and exploring together in the backyard and at parks, leaving me sitting and watching or reading and enjoying the space and the not-neededness. I like kids so much more than babies. I’m realising that now. 

It’s been a big year and I’ve forgotten how to blog, but I’ll return and write about me some time before the end of the year. Until then…
video

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* This is not my biggest news, it just tied in nicely to talking about Moses, and you all know how much I love a good segue.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

I feel sorry for you



from here

A few years ago, a friend said she felt sorry for me because I didn’t drink coffee. Last week, my aunty told me she felt sorry for me that I didn’t go to church. In both cases, I could see what each was saying: “I find this thing enjoyable/calming/whatever, and I want you to experience this same kind of joy/peace/whatever, because I love you.” But what struck me about both of those comments was that they weren’t preceded by me tearfully sharing my deep sadness over the lack of coffee or church in my life; had they asked or listened, they would have noticed that in fact I fell somewhere on the spectrum between neutral and completely happy about both my caffeinated-beverage and Sunday-morning decisions.

I’m not sure it’s ever okay to say “I feel sorry for you” (unless your aim is to insult somebody, in which case, go nuts*). Even if the person feels sorry for themselves, it seems to be a self-centred reaction: why start talking about your feelings when someone else has just shared theirs? Let them have their moment. This isn’t about you. But “I feel sorry for you” is especially inappropriate when the person you’re speaking to has given you no reason to believe they’re at all sorry about their circumstances/preferences/choices. It shows you’re listening to your thoughts and feelings rather than those of the person you’re speaking with, and it suggests that you believe the only way a person can live a truly fulfilled life is if they are exactly like you.

It’s totally fine to want other people to feel the same positive feelings as you – I, too, want good things for everyone I know, as well as many people I don’t! Here’s the difference, though: saying “I feel sorry for everyone who hasn’t heard this song” is not the same as saying “I want everyone in the world to feel the same kind of incredible joy that I felt while listening to this song.” The latter sees that fundamentally one’s desire is for the feeling to be shared, not necessarily the song. It acknowledges and accepts that the song you love may make someone else gag, while the song that brings them incredible joy is the one that makes you switch stations every time it comes on. People are different. Different is good.

So, if you’re about to blurt out, “I feel sorry for you!” you could stop and say instead, “I find it so interesting that you’re not upset about not drinking coffee, when I find so much pleasure in it!” Or, “Isn’t it strange that a service that brings comfort to one person can have the complete opposite effect on another person?” 

Rather than the message being, “If you were like me your life would be better,” it would be, “We’re different, and I love you anyway.”

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* This is a joke. Please be kind.

** There’s a cool study, described in the first few minutes of this talk, which found that sometime between 15 and 18 months old, babies figure out that not everyone likes the same things they do. The researcher made it clear she preferred broccoli over crackers and then asked the baby, “Can you give me some?” 18-month-old babies would offer the researcher broccoli, whereas the 15-month-olds would offer the crackers, because DUDE. It’s BROCOLLI. I’m not sure what I’m saying with this, but I couldn’t help thinking of it. (Possibly: We learned this lesson a reeeeally long time ago! We should know better!)