We can attempt to teach the things that one might imagine the earth would teach us: silence, humility, holiness, connectedness, courtesy, beauty, celebration, giving, restoration, obligation and wildness. David Orr from "Earth in Mind"
I'm having to processing something I experienced the other night. We went to a Halloween party at a co-workers house last Saturday night. The first thing I noticed that Alder was the only child in a home-made costume. All the boys were Power Rangers, Star Wars characters or other "soldier" story characters (although there was one vampire) and all the girls were princesses (and on Pokemon). But the costumes we the supermarket sort and they all really looked the same, polyester one piece suits with a big gaping hole at the back and some indeterminate symbols on the front. I didn't think too much about it because I know not everyone sews or has the time to make a costume.
So we're there, all of us feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Everyone seems to know everyone else and we literally know one person. Not to mention the fact that I don't really like parties where everyone is crammed into a house and there is loud music. So I sort of hover in the kitchen talking with my friend and trying to help with setup. After a half hour I realize that Alder still hasn't left my side (A is usually searching out the other kids, even if it's to just watch them).
So I decide to walk him back to the kids room to show him where they are playing, and to give him a little space. I was not expecting what I would find in this sweet four year old's room. Guns, lots of toy guns, sixteen toy guns to be exact and an additional nine toy swords and knives of all varieties. I was speechless. The kids, even some younger than Alder, were collecting them in piles and shooting them at each other, in each others faces and sticking them in the faces of adults and pretending to threaten them. And no one seemed to care. Luckily Alder is my son and just the noise from the room was too much for him so he followed me back out to the living room.
Now I understand that I live in a bit of a "crunchy" public radio no TV bubble, but I was a public school teacher for five years and I can not remember ever this much focusing on guns. To be honest it really disturbed me. I know that it was a hyped on sugar get together but still it seemed so unchecked.
I should explain that it isn't as if I have a hate of guns, certainly not those used by hunters, in fact I spent many winters in Durango eating the elk, pheasant, venison and turkey that my friends would kill. I can even say one of my favorite toys as a child was a toy gun that my father and I made together that shot little pieces of cardboard. But in all these situations there was a great deal of understanding of what guns were for and the real effects that they can have.
The father of the boy whose room this was is a hunter, in fact he had just shot a bear that day. I thought that if anyone hunters are the ones who try to have their children understand guns and safety the best, because there are real guns around, but it seems as though it isn't always that way.
Besides the fact that they were guns I was also shocked by the quantity of them. Just the idea that a four year old had sixteen of anyone thing is sad to me. Especially when they are all disposable and pretty much interchangeable, why so many?
What does all of this means in relation to how I want to bring up Alder?
Violence is not okay, ever. Not for Alder while he is still young and forming his early sense of self. I know eventually weapons will make there way into his play, whether is pretending to be a medieval knight or a Greek soldier violence will enter the picture. But I would like for it to be introduced within the frame work of a story, one whose meaning goes beyond the fight. But these are not stories that he needs to hear for another four years, at least. Until then I am absolute in my feelings about violence and the associated play. If this means that I may shield my son from certain cartoons or other media (hey we already don't watch TV except fpr movies) I have absolutely no problem with that.
Of course no answer can ever be that simple. Alder already is growing up in house with weapons in it. Kevin practices martial arts and uses swords, staffs and kuan-daos as part of his practice. But Kevin frames it as an art form, sure he can protect himself as need be but he has never deliberately gotten into a fight. Alder may end up learning to use a sword in one of the sets that Kevin does which have more in common with ballet than with fighting (something he pointed out to me). To me this is a good thing, I think that if he learns about weapons first with respect he will be more apt to make better judgments later on.
Of course all of this means that Kevin and I have had to make some choices in our movie watching habits because we like to watch action movies. I can still recite Raiders of the Ark and James Bond (Sean Connery Roger Moore or Pierce Brosnan only please) is in regular rotation in my favorites list. But now they are left for later evening viewing.
When Alder is all grown up I'll be able to see whether any of this has an affect, but I'm not going to let it slide just because there isn't a lot of evidence one way or the other (according to one GAO study I read).
How do you approach things like this in your families?
And after a week of firsts we had a week of non-stop go.. and so my dear friends I will try to find a moment to come back to this space because I do have a lot to say but I haven't found a moment even to take pictures in the last week. I will add that the last week was also filled with me loosing things: keys, wallets, knitting, my way driving. None of these things were permament but still disconcerting and out of character.
(Coffee alone at Amy's after dropping Alder off for the first time)
We've been having a lot of firsts this past week, especially for Alder. Last Friday was his first day at Beyond Childcare, where he will be spending a very long Friday. His first day at "school "went well, he is such an easy kid. I am conflicted about sending him at all but we can't get around it with our schedules. At least Beyond is more a home than a school and it as if he just joins their family for the day.
Then yesterday we went to our first Kinder Circle at the Circle School. We spent four hours with a lot of kids and parents singing songs, going on a walk, eating delicious food, and playing. Alder was hesitant at first, although he knew a few of the children. But by the end of the morning he was piled in with all the other children. There were twelve children there and it was the most people his size he has ever been around. For myself it was wonderful, spending time with like minded parents felt so good. After a year of isolation, except for one other family, for people with similar ideas about bringing up children, and life in general it felt so warm and welcoming.
I am thinking a lot about education again, not changing my goals and beliefs but joining the conversation with other parents. I mentioned to one woman yesterday that our educational plans for Alder is part of an evolving conversation. In someways the education itself is a conversation that is also evolving. More on this later.
I stole hours today, no one noticed that they were gone but I took them. Alone at a table I wrote, the quite of the library. Among the laptops at the tables I was the lone notebook and I reveled in the ink and paper. I wrote until it was a rhythm, until I no longer had to think of the next word, until the pages blurred. I lost myself in blue ink and thoughts, I left behind the staid brown ink-the sepia that has glued me together for the past few months. Occasionally inspired by a thought I would search out a book, read a few lines, then return to writing. When I finally left the library a small cairn of them marked my seat.
Now typing I realize again why I love paper and ink. Typing takes me a step away from my words, from forming the curves and lines that make the letters. Here I am repeating the thoughts of my mind but on paper it is my mind leaking to the page.
This is my favorite time of year, the stretch between the middle of October until Thanksgiving. I love how each day I can see new changes in the landscape around me. The smells of leaves and the way it changes from sweet to hard. The loss of light steadies me, letting me know that it is time to dig in, create things, share with family, eat and cook lots. And so with that in mind Alder and I headed an hour south for a weekend with some of the women in my family for fair going and menu planning. There was also a stop with my godparents for a long talk about life on the porch.
I've noticed ever since I started using Blogger Reader I have gotten pretty lazy about leaving comments on other people's blogs. Also there is no longer the excitement of opening up a blog I like to find that there is in fact a new post to read. So with these things in mind I am going to return my "reading list" to the side of my blog so I can once again start going to the blogs themselves. I know this isn't very thrilling for you to read but I felt like sharing.
If your wondering the date last night was wonderful. Abi I took your advice ;)
The bright blue rental car is packed with three suitcases and they pulled out of the driveway about a half hour ago. Then Kevin left for work, the car protesting as he started it. Now the house is still I am alone with the autumn on a gray morning. From my desk I can see Morning Doves play on the wires across the street, dipping in and out of my view through the condensation. My hands are cold, making me think of the fingerless gloves I want to knit and through that to my friend who is pregnant across the pass. I wish I could be sitting with her talking about nothing like we did last summer. But the autumn is a time of selfish solitude for me, I love the transition from life to slumber I revel in the going darkness.
Tonight we will go on our first date since we moved from Colorado. Then we'll come home and tumble into bed, no one will join us in the middle of the night, no one will come in the morning and list all of our body parts and ask for kisses on his. But for one night and morning it is okay.
The other day Alder and I went for a hike in a near by state park. As we followed the short trail Alder and I made a game of finding the trail markers, every tree that had a dash of blue paint he would go up to and point out. We followed only the blue ones, leaving the gray ones when they were no longer on the same trees (the gray trail went off another direction). It was a fun game that lasted the entire mile of the short loop trail but it was much more than that too. Alder is learning an important skill in our lives. We go hiking a lot so knowing how to follow trail markers is important. Perhaps it the Jewish mother in me coming out but I do have nightmares (the awake variety) of loosing Alder in the woods.
But showing him how to find the trail is more than teaching him an important safety skill it is a way to include him in something that we do together as a family. Until now he had always either ridden in the backpack or just stomped through the woods finding pine cones and "nut-corns" (acorns) but the other day he was aware of the "nut-corns" as well as the painted markings. He would run from tree to tree, still stopping to explore the undergrowth but excited at each painted mark he found. Even today as we uploaded the pictures he pointed to this one as said paint.
At the time that I showed him the paint marks it was more of an after thought, something I did to quell my own imagination, but as we hiked on I realized that showing him the trail markers was a way of sharing something I loved with him, introducing him to my world, the same way that giving him small balls of yarn and some knitting needles to play with while I'm knitting includes him. He watches us and knows when we care about something, these are the things that he tries to join in. Some days I catch him standing in the same position Kevin does he standing meditation, quietly looking at the world around him.
But he isn't just a little mimic, there are so many activities I would have never thought of doing if it wasn't for him. I catch myself walking on the raised edges of sidewalks when I am walking to work alone, or counting motorcycles as I pass them in the car, these are his activities that I have now adopted. He has also taught me to slow down (a process that was begun by our cat five years ago) some day we don't leave the house. He can find hours of things to do in these five rooms. Or we may take an hour to walk six blocks, not because we are talking to others but because there is so much to explore, walls to walk on, slugs to follow as they make their way across the sidewalk, puddles to jump in until they no longer have any water left, and cats to watch as they stalk birds.
So while I am bringing him into my world he is doing same for me.
For the last few days I have been longing for snow. Usually I am excited for autumn and I am happy that it is here but something in me wants winter with it's long dark nights and white days. Mainly though I have been dreaming of the smell of snow how it smells like water but without the humid after tones. After a year filled with bright colors and shades of pink and orange I want the restfulness of whites and grays.... Or maybe it is the silence I crave, the year has been filled with noise and I am ready again to retreat into my head and empty out a little, spend more time making than planning. In winter I am less inclined to run all over the place and I need this pause.
There is a photo my father took years ago of cattails in the snow. The reeds are black against a white of late afternoon winter sun, that is what I want my world to look like. I want it to taste the way it tastes when I suck the water out of a fist full of snow and I want it to smell like fires and water and cold all at once.
Rather than being frustrated by my longing it invigorates me. It is the action verb winter not the noun.
Most mornings clouds hang low over town, weighed down with the humidity of the river, only barely above the three steeples. In the clouds a quiet permeates the streets far later than in another town. The sounds of trucks laboring up Main street are absorber, leaving blatant holes where their noise should be. Well past nine the town is quiet.
Eventually the mist floats the river and evaporates or is absorbed into the hill that couch the river. Then the town shrugs off its silence. Trains heading south full of lumber, or north with scrap metal punctuate the the day with their rhythm while cars pausing at intersections leak music from their windows; sometimes the heavy beats of hip-hop compete with enthusiastic mandolins.