Compassion and convictions; toddlers learning new things; food and communication

Last night’s thought: “Life is a dance in relationship between the comfort and clarity of adherence to one’s convictions, and the spiritual challenge in one’s surrender to compassion.”

Convictions and compassion are necessary partners. If you focus on convictions absent the lens of your heart, you can fall into the trap of becoming rigid to the point that being right is more important than being human. If you allow your compassion to slide into sympathy that then becomes an over-identification with someone else, you can lose your perspective and connection with boundaries and principles, and then you’re not helpful to yourself or to anyone else.


This afternoon, Emily started running back and forth between the living room and dining room. She began to happily yell, “Go, go, go!” as she did so, in enthusiastic self-exhortation. That was infectious, so Joanna joined her for a while. Joanna is clearly feeling better. She’s still a bit croaky and wheezy, and still coughs, but she has her energy and smiles back.

Joanna has started to add the “k” on the end of the word, “book”. She’s also expanding her word repertoire. I can’t think of examples right now, but she’s naming more things when we read books, and I just notice her verbalizing more.

This afternoon Emily did something new, too: she got the play orange hard hat out of the dress-up bins, carefully placed it on the floor, stepped up onto it, and then jumped off. She’s been able to jump up with both feet for a couple of weeks now, but this was the first time I’d seen her jump off of something. She then followed that up by stepping/jumping/falling down onto me from the back of the couch. I’m glad she’s not yet 30 pounds.


Food. We are learning. Slowly. I had the idea of having proteins around that Hazel likes so that if she doesn’t like the entrees we cook in any given week there are other options, either in the pantry, the fridge, or the freezer. So this week we’re going to cook an extra batch of the turkey pesto meatballs she loves and freeze them. We’ll get some pesto tilapia and freeze that too. We’ll get cans of tuna and salmon.

Of course, in the conversation I had with Hazel about it, I became irritated that she didn’t perceive or appreciate how we were working to meet her halfway, and instead greeted my suggestions with words like, “yucky”. And then I got started down the guilt-tripping path before I was able to pull back.

I am learning these ways of communication slowly, partly because I have internal resistance to making the changes I know are necessary, because my inner child just wants my kids to do what I say, dammit.

And this is where I need to be aware of adding compassion to my convictions, and continue to forgive myself for messing up. One step at a time…


Friends, bedtime, Grandpa’s visit, books, feminist mothering

This morning my friend R came over with her daughters. V is Hazel’s age. They cooperated in bringing masses of stuffies into the front room, ran around together, asked to go upstairs to play (denied, after the medicine-eating incident, from which I will recover eventually, but not yet), and generally had a good time. R and I sat around talking as the new baby slept on her mommy, did some snacking, and went back to sleep. It had been a while since we’ve seen each other, and it was great. The thing which often still strikes me, and probably will for some years to come, when hanging out with friends with kids, is how many more people there are in the space now other than just us two adults. There were a total of seven human beings in the room. And neither of us have had masses of children. It really is remarkable. I know, it’s been going on for millennia, but still, it’s impressive to me.

Toward the end I gave them all fruit – bananas, pears, and avocados – which was a tactical error, since no one wanted to eat lunch shortly thereafter. Nonetheless, Hazel did manage to eat her veggies in time to be driven off to school, from whence she visited the Aquarium on a field trip. Originally I was going to take the same tack we’ve been on lately, which is to say, “Ok, you don’t have to eat your X food. I am sure you can make it six more hours until dinner time.” But I felt it was unfair to unleash a hungry/cranky Hazel onto her teacher and class, so I told her she couldn’t go on the field trip if she didn’t eat first. She reluctantly complied with the addition of salt and ketchup on her veggies. I’ll take it, for now.

This afternoon, with the impetus of a family visit, I took some time to reorganize & clean up the toys. It’s not a job completely done, but it’s better. Organized toys are easier to find and therefore play with, and also easier to put away. I think it won’t take too long to finish.

My last student of the night cancelled due to illness, so I got home in time to see my father-in-law, and to participate in the kids’ bedtime routine. It took a while to get Emily down (Ted wound up going upstairs to calm her after we had come downstairs). It turned out she was clutching a Lego piggy, and every time she moved it poked her. But she didn’t want to give it up, and after Ted took it away she kept up a plaint of, “Moo! Moo!” for some time. That’s one of those moments in which frustration and amusement co-habitate in your heart, as the crying goes on and the funny does too.

Tonight before we went up to do bedtime, Ted and I made up his f-i-l’s bed. As soon as there were sheets on it Emily came over and started saying, “Bed, bed, bed!” Once I got the blanket on she added to her refrain, “Mine, mine, mine!” a word I hadn’t heard her say before. Each day I look forward to hearing more words. She’s acquiring them by leaps and bounds.

Grandpa G bought the kids some wonderful presents, including this ladybug scooter. There were also backpacks for each of the twins. Apparently Joanna wasn’t too keen on hers: as Ted pointed out, sometimes things with faces scare her a bit. They’ll be great in six months, though, when the twins head off to preschool.

There was a new book to read to Hazel, about a princess and a dragon who swap places. Each time we get a new book it takes me a while to process it, to figure out what I think of it, and how to approach it, given that I’ll be reading it a lot, at least for a while. This one starts out a bit too heavy on the good/bad dichotomy, but by the end it’s eased off and shows you that there are benefits to both characters. I think it’s relying on stereotypes, even though it flips them. I want to get my own copies of Mary de Morgan‘s fairy tales. She wrote a story called, “A Toy Princess”, in which a fairy godmother takes her god-daughter princess away from an emotionally repressed court to a simpler life in which she can be happy, leaving in her place a perfectly lifelike doll. The doll behaves just as the courtiers desire, saying only four things, one of which is, “Just so.” These fairy tales were written more than a hundred years ago, but they are more successful at challenging gender-based assumptions and expectations than some written much more recently. She was apparently a feminist: “Mary de Morgan was a member of women’s suffragist group the Women’s Franchise League.[10] These views are reflected in her fairy tales, which often have strong female protagonists (often outwitting or rescuing men), and, in the case of The Toy Princess, have been interpreted as mocking society’s expectations of women (though it should be noted that the fictitious kingdom of the story places the same expectations upon its men.)” [from the Wikipedia piece]

I have decided to stop shying away from princess tales, since Hazel loves to talk about princess, and delve into the literature to find examples other than the Disney stable. I will enjoy digging out my old fairy tale books, particularly those which, at the end of the 19th Century, were called “Modern Fairy Tales”.

It is a balancing act, trying to figure out what is the right way to interweave my feminism with my mothering, my daughter’s culturally-impacted desires with my intention to create a space in which she has both agency and boundaries. This is something that requires a lot of processing, feeling into, thoughtfulness. I will get it wrong a lot, I am sure. But I deeply loved fairy tales when I was a little kid, and I want to enter the conversation with Hazel about women and girls’ treatment in society with a sense of appreciation and openness, while I also give her some context she’ll need to understand as she grows.