Over the past week, a vast realization has hit me like a ton of bricks...we aren't "normal." Now I know some of you are chuckling to yourselves, as I know you are quite aware of my new-found phenomenon--I knew we've never quite fit into one of society's pretty little boxes, but I wasn't aware that our "box" was more like a cloud made up of droplets of questions and hypotheses and wonders. A What If cloud, if you will. And I also wasn't aware that there are few others who appreciate the fact that we don't have a box.
Example #1: Last Wednesday
We went to the library. Brooklyn wanted to take her rope, as we were going to the park right after. No problem! The first woman approached me within minutes, "Excuse me, your daughter has some string or something trailing from her..." (I had asked Brooklyn to try and keep it wound up, alas), and I said, "Oh no, that's just her rope." Blank stare. After a moment I say, "It's wonderfully dangerous, isn't it?" "Yes." she said and turned and walked away.
As we left, the kids were playing just outside the front doors in a play area. Another little boy and girl and their mother came outside and were running and playing with Brook and Sam, exclaiming how neat Brook's rope was. "Get over here this instant!" their mother hissed. As they walked away, the boy asked, "Can I have a rope?" To which she responded with a very curt, "Absolutely not."
We went to the park with the rope and we left after a poor little girl's mother screamed every threat in the book at her...from the other side of the park....
Is a rope really that big of a deal???
Example #2: Last Thursday
I had an optometrist appointment, to which I decided to take the kids. Unfortunately, I went to the wrong office and ended up sitting and waiting for the optometrist to see me MUCH longer than I'd planned. I figured the kids would love to see an eye appointment, and I was right! They did! But of course, they got bored sitting in the waiting room for 45 minutes. They entertained themselves by using the waiting room chairs to make various shapes and letters (keep in mind, there was never another soul in the waiting room the entire time we were there). Eventually, they started pushing a chair up a little ramp that was in the office. They were making observations--which was was easier to push and pull, whether it was harder or easier with someone on top, etc. A receptionist came over and without even looking at me, walked right up to my kids and tell them that they needed to stop and get off the chair and put it away and not touch it. "You might get hurt." she added.
Darned wooden office chairs--so life threatening.
Example #3: Monday
The kids decided that they needed to spend the day turning a laundry basket, a belt, their bunk beds, and some pillows and blankets into a roller coaster. Yes, my heart was in my throat as Sam balanced precariously at the edge of the top bunk counting down "3, 2, 1..." as Brooklyn tipped him off the edge (with threats of me taking her rope away if her idea ends up with us in the emergency room...), but like any good supportive parent--I was there with the video camera to capture it all (will post soon).
Later on, the kids decided they needed to test their invention out at the park. They weren't sure whether it would go down the slide easier with or without a blanket, so we included that as well. We loaded it all up into the wagon and made our way. There was a "what in the world are those kids doing?" in a hushed voice from my right, and as Brook screamed the entire way down the slide and emerged with a giant smile on her face there was a, "Seriously?!" from my left.
Check--add laundry baskets to the "what kind of a parent are you?!" list.
Example #4: Yesterday
We went to a game day organized by our homeschool group at a library that I'd never been to. It was great--a little stressful for me, but it was amazing to be able to watch Brooklyn "do her thing" as she walked up to a group that included a 14, 13, and 10 year old and challenged them to a game of Crazy 8's...and nearly beat them.
When it was time to go, we went outside where they had a raised bed with trees and shrubs and a nice wide walkway going around. Of COURSE the kids asked to walk along it. Then they asked to go around the whole thing again. Sure! I call Russ to see when he'll be home and this large woman comes barreling out of the library, "GET OFF OF THERE! GET THEM OFF OF THERE!!!" I realize she's talking to me and she points out to me, "Don't you see that sign?! It's for leaning against ONLY!!! NO WALKING ON IT!" I tell Sam, "Okay buddy, time to get off." but off course he's concentrating on his balancing skills, but my temper went from zero to sixty in a split second as the woman turned to him and began yelling, "GET DOWN NOW! GET DOWN!! Helloooo, GET DOWN!!!!" "Excuse me, that is MY son." "He needs to get down, NOW, GET DOWN!!" I hung up on Russ and Momma Bear emerged as this librarian started moving towards him, yelling. "BACK OFF, LADY, he is MY son, you do NOT talk to him like that. MY SON." She kept yelling about liability, I kept yelling about the fact that it's 2 feet off of the ground, it was fun. Of course Sam had no clue what was going on, and as we get in the car Brooklyn said, "Well I'm glad that I listened." Ha!
Apparently raised beds are out as well.
Example #5: Today
Today was grocery day. MUCH needed grocery day. First stop, Costco. The kids were so good--they were each responsible for getting the items on their lists (which worked remarkably well, actually), and we were out in no time. On the way from the checkout lane to the man standing at the door waiting to check our receipt, Sam got the great idea to hang onto the bottom back of the cart...and get dragged along on his belly. Of course Brooklyn had to get in on it too. I wish I would have taken a photo--it was hil-AR-ious!! But my oh my, you should have seen the reactions!! Some people chuckled, a few rolled their eyes, and then there were the ones that guffawed and "what kind of mother"-ed.
Looks like grocery carts aren't allowed either.
This past week has been very frustrating for me, but very eye-opening as well. As I sit here at the park, the majority of the parents are telling their kids, "Don't you touch that sand pit. Get out of it or we leave." My kids? They are literally up to their armpits in it. The thing is that I never would have thought of ANY of these things that my kids did. Because of these things, so many unique and important things occurred...
-a rope allows my kids' imaginations to absolutely burst at the seams, plus it's a fantastic conversation starter and an instant friend-maker (for kids). Plus, I'm sure it probably lead to a new "no ropes" rule at the library. Ha! Make those librarians think outside of the box a bit.
-a chair provided a great lesson in gravity, friction, and angles...and also on the word "liability".
-a laundry basket also demonstrated gravity, friction, and angles, plus provided a lesson in creating inventions (and how to make them safe), and was yet another instant friend-maker (again, for kids...not parents).
-A raised bed allowed not only balance control, but it provided an opportunity for my kids to see that their mom has their back absolutely.
-A grocery cart provided yet another opportunity for invention-making and learning about mass, gravity, kinetic energy and friction.
-A sand pit provides the opportunity to freaking GET DIRTY.
I have learned a LOT in the past few months--the importance of patience, negotiation, listening, saying YES, watching and waiting...and let me tell you, yes it's been a struggle (often!), but it's been SO worth it. I'm proud that we don't fit into those lovely little boxes. Bring on the glares, the whispers, the eye rolls, the confrontations, because I truly wouldn't have it any other way.
P.S. Sorry for the lack of photos--I have them, but as you can see, we've been a bit busy and I needed to get this written out for my own sanity.