Thursday, May 23, 2013
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
from Manners Can Be Fun, by Munro Leaf
So Rebecca has had her first taste of real meanness in school. An erstwhile "good" friend -- let's call her Joy (because yes, her real name is equally incongruous) -- decided one day to just snub her and completely cut her off without explanation. Considering they had parted on perfectly amicable terms the last time they were together, this sudden change of heart was both unexpected and bewildering (Rebecca was absent for a day before this happened, however, during which time Joy apparently hooked up with some other child, and underwent her metamorphosis).
When Rebecca arrived at school and greeted her, for instance, Joy pointedly turned and walked away. When Rebecca attempted to approach her, she became inordinately fascinated with her books and table. And, perhaps most hurtful of all, when Rebecca tried to find out what the matter was, she made a face and started talking to another girl, acting as if Rebecca was completely invisible, and letting her walk off alone.
Naturally, Rebecca was greatly taken aback by all this, and was glad to be comforted by another good friend, who happens to also attend church with her. When Rebecca came home and told me about Joy, I couldn't help feeling hurt on her behalf (as well as annoyed, when I remembered the treats I had previously given the child). I compared Joy's behaviour with that of Rebecca's church friend, and wondered what it was that made one child kind and compassionate, and another child mean and hateful.
Joy successfully snubbed Rebecca the entire day, and is still continuing to do so, as if they'd never shared any of the usual marks of friendship -- and as if she had never experienced any of Rebecca's kindness, generosity or caring. I add this last not as some commendation of Rebecca's exemplary sweetness, but to highlight the fact that I really think it takes a certain hardness of character to completely switch off and apparently forget whatever good a friend has brought into one's life.
I know of course that many grown-ups will say things like, "Well, kids will be kids", as if that somehow excuses that sort of mean-spirited behaviour. However, I was never like that as a child; most of my friends weren't; and I certainly never want to hear of my own kids behaving that way. I remember reading once that many people will show their true colours when they no longer need you, and -- innocent and lovely as we like to think young children are -- I think that applies to kids' friendships as well.
I did ask Rebecca to analyse her own behaviour as I believe it is important to address any weaknesses or shortcomings, but, as expected, she couldn't think of anything since, as I'd said, the girls had parted on perfectly amiable terms the last time they were together. Of course, as an adult, it's easy to see that some kid you've only known for a year or so in grade school does not make them your loyal, lifelong confidante, but again, that does not mean that unkind, faithless behaviour is acceptable.
I don't think anyone should rebuff or slight another without cause or the benefit of an explanation; no one should deliberately shame or cause another distress; no one should purposefully make another feel rejected and small. Young as they are, children do bring their behaviours and attitudes into adulthood, and I believe parents have a great responsibility in making sure they're the right ones -- our world is in desperate need of people who are kind, gracious and sensitive.
There are all sorts of reasons why one child is nicer than another I suppose, but at the fundamental level, I do believe that niceness -- what one might call "good manners" -- should be instilled in all children by all responsible parents. As Dr Sears writes, "Understanding the basis of good manners will help you help your child acquire them. Good manners, after all, are necessary for people to live together in this world. Gracious manners reflect a loving and considerate personality.
"The root of good manners is respect for another person; and the root of respect is sensitivity. Sensitivity is one of the most valuable qualities you can instill into your child -- and it begins in infancy. The sensitive infant will naturally become the respectful child who, because he cares for another's feelings, will naturally become a well-mannered person. His politeness will be more creative and more heartfelt than anything he could have learned from a book of etiquette".
I actually remember something fairly similar happening to me when I myself was in grade school -- a previously good friend decided one day to just have absolutely nothing to do with me. There was neither reason nor explanation given for this; she simply decided to cut me off (I think she was at least partially influenced by Pauline, the cool girl; I was decidedly "uncool").
The snub hurt of course, and I think I told my mother about it, because somehow or other it got back to my friend's mom, whom we knew. I've never forgotten what she made my friend do -- she called me up and apologised for her rudeness, then wrote a letter apologising further, then promptly stuck to me for the next three years (we're still friends now). I learnt later that her mother had given her a lengthy talking-to; it was not only that she felt that that was no way to treat someone who had been a friend through the thicks and thins of grade school -- she simply did not think that such behaviour was decent or acceptable.
Rabbi and author Shmuley Boteach writes, "Children are born neither good nor bad, but neutral. Children will emulate our behavior. If we scream at home, they will scream at school. If we show a sense of woundedness toward the world, they will become victims. If we show love and model generosity, they will have large hearts. We must be conscious of the fact that our children are always listening and watching".
Well, I know that Joy spends a large part of her time without parental supervision -- she goes to daycare every day after school. I do not pretend to know what manners or values she is taught at daycare, but ultimately, I do not think that that is their primary responsibility. Daycare is daycare -- parents need to parent. Daycare addresses a child's basic needs -- it isn't daycare's responsibility to ensure one's child is thoughtful, affectionate or good-hearted. Children learn such things through consistent, daily interaction with guardians who truly love them and care.
The good ol Dummies series of books has a great one entitled Parenting For Dummies, by Sandra Hardin and Dan Gookin . Among other guidelines parents can use at home, they suggest:
- Stress the importance of treating others the same way they'd like to be treated, especially when you see them doing something that you know they themselves don't like.
- Help your children understand the harm they can cause by doing or saying thoughtless and unkind things. Ask them, "How would you feel if someone pointed at you, and started to laugh?" In the beginning, you may simply be doing damage control, but eventually you'll be helping them to avoid harmful words or actions.
- When you want your child to show good manners and respect, you must also practice good manners and respect. Say please and thank you, admit your mistakes, apologize, and treat people, in general, with kindness and respect. The reward of this behavior is that your children will grow up having many friends and a family that loves being around her.
- Practice family politeness. Everyone in the family must practice "please" and "thank-you" policy in which, for example, no request is considered unless the person asking says "please." When one of your children forgets, just give him or her a look that says, "I'm waiting." They soon catch on.
In an excellent article entitled Mean Kids, relationships and parenting instructor Slovie Jungreis-Wolff writes, "It is time for us to teach our children that cruelty and unkindness will not be tolerated. Even if a child is not your friend, or 'not your type', and 'no one else is inviting her/him, anyway,' YOU must be kind. We are one people. There is no room for meanness in our lives.
"It is vital for parents to pay attention to our children’s character traits and ask ourselves these questions:
- How does my child play and interact with other kids?
- Does my child use hurtful words and sarcastic put downs easily?
- Does my child know how to apologize if (s)he hurt others?
- Does my child react compassionately if someone is hurt?
- Is my child often involved in bickering and conflicts?
"Recognizing our children’s character flaws is the first step toward creating compassionate children. If we are able to pinpoint the areas of weakness, we can then work on strengthening and building...
"We have come to measure our children through their success on and off the field, their popularity, and their grades. If they do well then we believe that we are raising successful children. We are wrong. Children who are mean and unkind are not being raised successfully no matter how popular they are; or how incredible their straight A report card seems" (read the article in its entirety here).
Oddly enough, Rebecca wrote this poem over the weekend, while still unaware of Joy's about-face. She'd intended to make collages with it for her neighbourhood friends, and had asked the hubs to print out several copies for her. We thought it weirdly coincidental when we subsequently heard what had happened in school, but I'm glad that Rebecca at least has some friendship basics down.
True friends are always there with you
There are bad times and others good
Yet true friends will be there through and through.
They keep you company and hold your hand
On a holiday at the beach,
They lie next to you on the sand.
Smile, giggle, dance or frown,
True friends will cheer you up when you're feeling down
Clap for you, sing for you, and play with you --
All you need are true friends right beside you.
True Friends, a poem by Rebecca
Monday, May 20, 2013
from The Large and Growly Bear, by Gertrude Crampton
Well, as anyone who's ever had nasal congestion knows, an often accompanying feature is nasal whistling -- that @#%ing lovely high-pitched squeak that goes with every inhalation or exhalation, or both. I realised early on that this was going to irritate the @#%ing ... Sylvanians... out of me because I can't stand occasional nasal whistling even under regular circumstances, and now I was going to have to deal with it every day for at least nine months (as well as that other lesser-known joy of pregnancy -- ear congestion -- you know, where your ears suddenly block up and the only thing you can hear is yourself amplified to unbelievably annoying proportions).
Well, whenever that stupid whistling sound would start, I'd immediately grab some tissue and launch into this major nasal picking (sorry, I know, TMI). Sometimes the whistling would persist despite all the prodding, and that would aggravate me further, as if I felt my nose was somehow defying me. And so, weirdo that you know I am, I Googled "Is it normal to hate the sound of your own nose whistling?".
As it turned out, a large number of people did find their whistling noses extremely irritating, so I didn't feel too crazy, but in the process of this profound academic research, I stumbled upon something called misophonia -- literally "sensitivity to noise". According to Wiki, misophonia is a form of "decreased sound tolerance, believed to be a neurological disorder characterized by negative experiences resulting only from specific sounds, whether loud or soft.
"People who have misophonia are most commonly annoyed, or even enraged, by such ordinary sounds as other people clipping their nails, brushing teeth, eating, breathing, sniffing, talking, sneezing, yawning, walking, chewing gum, laughing, snoring, whistling or coughing; certain consonants; or repetitive sounds. Some are also affected by visual stimuli, such as repetitive foot or body movements, fidgeting or any movement they might observe out of the corner of their eyes".
Fascinated, I next found this New York Times article entitled, When a Chomp or a Slurp Is a Trigger for Outrage. "Many people can be driven to distraction by certain small sounds that do not seem to bother others — gum chewing, footsteps, humming. But sufferers of misophonia, a newly recognized condition that remains little studied and poorly understood, take the problem to a higher level...
"They also follow a strikingly consistent pattern, experts say. The condition almost always begins in late childhood or early adolescence and worsens over time, often expanding to include more trigger sounds, usually those of eating and breathing...
"Taylor Benson, a 19-year-old sophomore at Creighton University in Omaha, says many mouth noises, along with sniffling and gum chewing, make her chest tighten and her heart pound. She finds herself clenching her fists and glaring at the person making the sound...The sounds [misophonia patients] object to are soft, hardly audible sounds. One patient is driven crazy by her beloved dog licking its paws. Another can’t bear the pop of the plosive "p" in ordinary conversation" (read the article in its entirety here).
Wow, who knew? I actually find the sound of people talking loudly in public spaces like trains, restaurants or cinemas exceedingly annoying, but I think that stems from an intolerance of another human condition -- plain inconsideration. I'm always reminded of this scene in a book of my grandmother's by Ruby M Ayres (yep, I read her avidly as a teenager). I no longer remember the title, but this scene just stuck in my head -- there's a couple trying to have a quiet conversation in a restaurant and two women at a nearby table are loudly gossiping away.
One woman goes, "What happened next?", and the man sarcastically says to his companion, "Yes, please! Tell us what happened next!". When she tells him to hush, because the women might hear him and be offended, he replies that they shouldn't be -- since they're talking that loudly, they must want other people to overhear them and even to get involved. To this day, that scene would replay in my mind whenever I hear people talking loudly without any consideration for where they are or whom they might be disturbing. I might almost say I have misophoniacal feelings toward them lol!
What noises drive you crazy?
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea;
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish,
Never afeared are we!"
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
(from Wynken, Blynken, and Nod, by Eugene W. Field)
Monday, May 13, 2013
Mama's Boy, by Jaros Designs, crafter of deliciously gorgeous gemstone jewelry. The entire list is here.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
Thursday, May 9, 2013
The name porcupine apparently means ‘one who rises up in anger’.
Now don't get me wrong -- she's a very nice lady and we have a great relationship, which I know is a wonderful blessing, especially considering some of the things I hear about in-laws from hell. So this really isn't about her, or the fact that I appreciate being kept informed (which, however, I do, mister!).
The thing is, when I suddenly heard her voice right outside my room and asked the hubs about it, he answered, "Well, she was supposed to call first if she was coming so that I'd go pick her up; I guess she was free, so she just came over herself". To which of course I said, "What if we weren't in? Or what if I'd we'd planned to go out and do some family thing?". And he replied, "Well, then she'd just leave. She wouldn't mind at all -- she doesn't have all kinds of hangups and sensitivities".
Well of course that got me thinking; I was crafting, which is a perfect time to think philosophically about things. I couldn't help chuckling a little as I acknowledged the accuracy of the hubs' remark; it was true -- she is insensitive -- not in the hardened, callous sense, but rather, laid-back, sanguine and slow to take offence -- in other words, she is not hypersensitive.
Being moderately sensitive is generally considered a good thing, of course -- it is desirable that people are understanding, responsive, thoughtful, caring and empathic. And of course, we all know some clown at the other end of the spectrum -- my girlfriend's husband, for instance, who pretty much never takes her needs or feelings into consideration, and perish the thought that he'd buy her flowers, bring her out for a nice dinner, or fix things around the house without being begged on bended knee.
But more and more, I've come to realise that there is such a thing as being too sensitive -- when being responsive translates to being touchy, irritable and easily offended; when being empathic means reading a million non-existent things between the lines; when supposed caring actually makes one behave like a martyr -- and that it affects not only you yourself, but the people around you, and future generations as well.
I remember listening to a sermon by lay preacher Joel Osteen -- can't remember the title now -- where he described such people as "high maintenance", which is exactly right (I remember too, his point that continually subjecting oneself to such people -- catering to their needs, bowing to their demands, accepting their high-strung behaviour -- was "feeding their dysfunction", which is also exactly right).
Growing up, I had a guardian who was on the high -- read "extreme, uttermost, ultimate" -- end of sensitivity; you couldn't have the corner of your mouth off of a millimetre without having your evil motives exposed. The tone of one's voice, the expression in one's eyes -- it made life a daily walk on eggshells. If I did something wrong -- and strangely enough, kids seem highly prone to that -- the response would be as theatrical as possible: punishments designed to hurt and shame; withdrawals of affection; dramatic remarks like, "After EVERYTHING I've done for you" and "I am NEVER going to do nice things for you again".
Now as an older adult, I can look back on those times with some degree of indifference, compassion, and even humour. And they weren't altogether useless -- they taught me how to behave with my own children. I remember the dramatic remarks, and I avoid using them. I remember the silent treatments, and I am quick to forgive. I especially remember the touchy sensitivity, and I make a point not to over-react, to give my kids the benefit of the doubt; I make the effort to patiently listen them out, and if I do have to scold, choose my words as carefully as possible.
I think deliberately hurting one's child to "get back" at them for offending one is both cruel and childish, and doing so repeatedly can do nothing good for anyone involved. Positive reinforcement; maintaining a loving, stable relationship; and ensuring that "if you’re going to talk the talk, you’ve got to walk the walk" -- these are just some of the key things that I think go a long way toward being a wise parent and raising emotionally healthy, adequately sensitive, children.
Remember Mrs Fidget? As C.S. Lewis so eloquently put it, "anything will 'wound' a Mrs Fidget -- [enable] her to feel ill-used, therefore, to have a continual grievance, to enjoy the pleasures of resentment". But what creates a Mrs Fidget to begin with? On consideration, it seems to me that the Mrs Fidgets of the world have in fact an extraordinarily high level of what's called "emotional intelligence", or "the ability to monitor one's own and others' feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one's thinking and actions" (Salovey and Mayer, 1990).
Some time ago I'd read an excellent article by counsellor Steve Hein; entitled The Dark Side of Emotional Intelligence, the article was an analysis of the depressed, suicidal teens he worked with. "I have long suspected that a person's innate emotional intelligence could be warped by an abusive environment," he wrote. "Among these teens, I am finding that those I would consider to be the most emotionally intelligent are also fast learners and have good memory and recall. Because they are so emotionally hurt and starved, they are learning, remembering, developing and using unhealthy, destructive, hurtful or dangerous survival mechanisms".
He discovered, among other things, that these teens:
- learn to use their tone of voice, their words, their silence to manipulate.
- learn how to threaten with what will hurt or frighten others the most.
- become nearly constantly defensive and therefore lose their childhood ability to empathize.
- become bitter, cynical and sarcastic.
- learn how to verbally attack; they learn hurtful phrases and quickly recall and apply them.
- learn how to lay guilt trips.
"What is most sad to me is that all these teens I work with feel alone, unloved and unwanted," writes Hein. "They are desperate to feel connected, cared about, understood, loved and wanted. They often hate themselves, so they look for love in relationships. But they don't have the necessary ingredients to make a relationship work. They don't have the needed self-love or even self-acceptance. They don't have the relationship skills or communication skills. These things are not taught in schools and all they see are dysfunctional models at home.
"It is a vicious cycle. Their high level of innate EI has given them an ability to both feel emotional pain and to hurt others emotionally.... Because emotionally intelligent people are sensitive, they are easily hurt. They are also insecure from years of feeling disapproved of, disappointing, threatened, afraid, unworthy, inadequate, guilty, etc. Because of this insecurity, they take everything personally and are easily put on the defensive. Or they may go on the attack.
"I believe emotionally intelligent people from emotionally abusive and neglectful homes can become some of the most hurtful, manipulative, greedy, controlling, arrogant people in society... This is what I would call the dark side of emotional intelligence. It is something that could be prevented if parents, first, and teachers, second, were more emotionally competent.
"I make a distinction here between emotionally intelligent and emotionally competent. A parent does not have to be especially emotionally intelligent to stop invalidating their children and teens. A parent does not have to be an emotional genius to develop some basic listening skills" (read the article in its entirety here).
I've observed that people who routinely jump through the hoops of these sensitive souls become themselves edgy, irascible and neurotic; it can easily become a vicious cycle -- if you let it. I think if you have been caught in such a cycle, you can, indeed must, consciously, actively end it with you -- not let it infect your kids, and poison another generation.
I'd written a somewhat related post almost a year ago, based on a wonderful sermon series by Pastor Andy Stanley. It was about the importance of mutual submission in a family, something I don't think is possible if one is continually subjugating others to one's high-strung sensitivities and emotional needs. "Do you know what makes for great family?" he said, "Really happy family? It's families who have said, 'I'm willing to leverage all of me, for an us'. The only reason you don't is because you're selfish. Which means, you're not willing to loan yourself fully to the equation. Which means you will never be happy with your family, ever.
"Because your whole approach to family will be, 'If I can just get everybody to do what I want them to do, I'll be happy'. No, you won't be happy. You'll be large and in-charge; you will never, ever be happy or satisfied.
"Men, some of your wives can't get you to lean in. They're afraid to ask you anything. And they have no choice but to live their lives orbiting around your big ol' self... because you're more 'important'. And so they lean in and lean in until they fall over... And your kids lean in and lean in... because everybody's got to make Dad happy, and guess what -- everybody does everything they can to make you happy, and I know you -- you're still not happy!
"Because you don't get happy by controlling the people around you... The more power you have, the better servant you should be" (extracted from parts 1 and 2 of Future Family, by Pastor Andy Stanley).
So, going back to my mother-in-law -- while one certainly wouldn't describe her as being high on the EI front, I think there certainly is real merit to being her brand of insensitive (not the idiot clown type, mind!) -- her sanguinity has meant that she leads a largely peaceful, cheerful life, being on amicable, almost carefree, terms with just about everyone. Of course, there are times when that sort of "insensitivity" makes for some pretty silly, foolish, even thoughtless, words or behaviour, but they are surely more bearable than the intolerant, demanding, acrimonious spirit of the other.
In my walk with God, all this has come to mean even more to me than before. Most of us know the "love chapter" in the Bible -- it is surely one of the apostle Paul's more inspired pieces of writing. How true it is that love "does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong]... Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening] (1 Cor 5-7).
Where are you on the sensitivity spectrum?
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Monday, May 6, 2013
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Beach Walk, by Sidereal, maker of exquisite hand-embroidered home decor and jewelry. The entire list is here.
* Psst -- don't miss out on this giveaway, ending in just a few hours!
Friday, May 3, 2013
Wasn't she a beauty? They sure don't make 'em like they used to. Remember the song Bette Davis Eyes? It was actually written in 1974 by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon (DeShannon co-wrote other hits like Put a Little Love in Your Heart), but became a hit when Kim Carnes recorded her version of it in 1981. Apparently "Bette Davis admitted to being a fan of the song and approached Carnes and the songwriters to thank them for making her 'a part of modern times'" (sourced from Wiki).
Bette Davis was a source of some memorable quotes, including "It's better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you're not. It's a sign of your worth sometimes, if you're hated by the right people"; and "Basically, I believe the world is a jungle, and if it's not a bit of a jungle in the home, a child cannot possibly be fit to enter the outside world"; and of course, "When a man gives his opinion, he's a man. When a woman gives her opinion, she's a bitch".
* Psst -- don't miss out on this giveaway, ending May 5th!
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
It's such a treat -- and certainly not a common one -- to win a giveaway, so you can imagine how delighted I was when I actually won Chelsea's Gratitude Giveaway! As Chelsea put it, she was having the giveaway "because I am in Gratitude for being here, right where I am now.
"I want to celebrate all the support, encouragement and community I feel in social media. I have made many friends online, many people have stopped by my blog (108,632 pageviews) to date, left comments, commissioned paintings, handmade cards and jewellery. Many have attended my exhibitions and artist open house events. For all of this and more I am in deep Gratitude. So I wanted to express my gratitude by doing a giveaway". How awesome is that?
Well, I won the gorgeous handpainted pendant above, which I just received yesterday, but there was more! Chelsea actually made and sent along two lovely sets of goodies for the kiddos as well! Just have a look at these:
Adorable handmade hair slides -- which my girls love to wear -- plus candy (it goes without saying they love that)!
Aren't these pretty? So festive, and Great Gatsby-ish. I'm going to let the girls fight over who gets what when they get back from school.
It's so, so wonderful to receive gifts that reflect such care, thoughtfulness and attention to detail -- thank you so much Chelsea! Pop by Chelsea's artistic blog here :)
Monday, April 29, 2013
Lovely rain the past few days.
B's favourite shoes.
Wiggle all grown up.
Sophie under the table.
Fridge humour. Happy Tuesday everyone!
Sunday, April 28, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Guess who had a birthday?
Satisfied customers! See more here :)
So I cut out what I could. And mounted them on thick reclaimed board.
I embellished them with shiny stars, and made them into pins.
And since I'd gotten started, I made some more.
These ones got bought as party favours.