Summertime Fun in Texas

texas_spanish_missions

Summertime in Texas is, quite honestly, too nasty and hot to do much of anything outdoors.

Oh, we’ve tried. Horseback riding, swimming, going to the park, going to the zoo, taking trips down to the Gulf Coast, even a memorably hot trip to San Antonio in August, where we did a whirlwind tour of the beautiful historic missions, as well as trolling through the Riverwalk and the Witte Museum of Natural History (which is a great museum, by the way, and free on Tuesdays.)

But, man, it’s just impossible. Especially this week, where a high pressure system has decided to sit right on the central United States, turning even the early morning hours into intense misery.

That hasn’t stopped me from trying to do things– I got a new garden bed dug, installed the bricks, and filled it with plants, transplanted all the new seedlings for the late summer garden, and planted more flowers out front. But I basically came back into the house on the verge of heat exhaustion every time.

The kids, of course, are overdosing on media of all sorts– one of them is addicted to “Breath of the Wild,” one of them is hooked on YouTube how-to tutorials about weird things like making cotton candy, the baby has a series of bizarre demands for Netflix shows that no one can quite decipher (“the one with the baby bus who talks and not the one with songs and not the one with trains” is an example,) and the other one is in an “Overwatch” coma. And then Miss Autism steals the WiiU as often as she can to play Super Mario 64. She’s old school.

Me, I’m keeping myself as busy as possible. Sewing projects are eating up a huge portion of my time, and writing projects are devouring the rest. It keeps me from obsessing over the sales reports on my book, anyway (which is not making me a millionaire, let’s just say.) I am currently fighting a pitched battle against the combined forces of Microsoft Word and Adobe Acrobat, both of whom want to take a simple scan-to-text conversion and make it as improbable as possible.

But, I have Big Plans for the next couple of weeks. I like having big plans. I just don’t necessarily like having to drop big money on said big plans. But this is very big money for one of my Summer Obsessions, and the other people in the house are trembling with fear and anticipation. What will I make them do next? What extremes of physical toil will I expect from them? And, most importantly, is this going to cut into their internet time?

Ah well. I should sleep. Not that I’m looking forward to it– last night, I had a dream that a snake had bitten deeply into my ring finger, only to wake up with my finger in excruciating pain. Half-asleep, I yanked my wedding ring off and just left it under my pillow. Thankfully, no one ate it, dropped it in the trash, or washed it down a drain, because I didn’t remember the dream (and realize my ring was missing) until around 3pm in the afternoon. Oops. Yeah, I need more sleep.

Score at the bookstore

I just KNEW that they couldn’t possibly be out of copies of “Catch-22” at our local used book store. And, being that the novel was originally printed in 1955, and the author is dead, I didn’t feel compelled to pay for a brand-new copy of it, either.

But, after a grueling search for the Heller section, I finally found it . . . stuffed in with the general fiction, which put him somewhere between “Never Let Me Go” and anything by Nicholas Sparks. Which was odd, but whatever. I’d have figured it for the “classics” section, myself.

I also scored on a bunch of guilty pleasure books from the 5 cent table. Sometimes, you just can’t face the next classic piece of literature and have to escape the quest to discover the Great American Novel (hint: it doesn’t exist). So I have a Barbara Hambly novel that I somehow missed, one of the Superintendent Dalziel books, and, yes, a Betty Neels romance novel, just because.

Oh, yes, and I also bought the Theban plays by Sophocles, “Hunger” by Knut Hamsun, one of St John of the Cross’s books, and a bunch of books about boys and horses for the homeschooling shelves.

It socked me for a bunch of my store credit, but I am content. I’m running out of those Top 100 novels fast, so I will be forced to finish the two remaining James Joyce novels before long. I will need every simple piece of storytelling that I can find just to keep my grip on sanity. Or, at least, on my temper. I may have developed a fondness for Henry James that I would never have suspected I’d have, but Joyce? Nah, I am never going to love his work.

Oh, and another hint about literature: when a reviewer uses the term “pyrotechnics” to describe someone’s writing style, they are 100% full of nonsense. Beware!! 🙂

My Novel is now available for Pre-Order!

My first novel, Dragon Venom, is now available for pre-order on the Amazon website! If you’ve got a taste for adventurous fantasy novels, and a Kindle app, pre-order it today! 🙂

 

DragonHeadd

Dragon Venom is a fantasy novel, filled with seafaring battles, steamy dragon-haunted jungles, and warrior monks fighting for their faith and for their lives. It’s the story of Raban, a young craftsman monk, who is forced to become something more on a quest to reclaim the lost treasures of a vanished empire. Under the leadership of their Knight Vigilant, Alarin, Raban and the rest of his order will test the bonds of brotherhood, faith, and humanity in their search for Paisadal, and their dangerous hunt for the forbidden lore of dragons.

 

Pre-order it now on Amazon!

Overwhelmed

Life, as i have stated many times, has a lot of periods of time where you just have to suck it up and live through it.  Sometimes those awful periods of suffering can have inspiring grace notes, and sometimes they’re unrelieved by anything nice. This past month has had a few good moments, I won’t lie, but it’s mostly been a tedious trudge through Everything Going Completely Wrong most of the time.

Case in point, we bought a new clothes dryer last week, to replace the dryer that we’d repaired and babied along for many years. It wasn’t an expensive model, but it was new, and the other one hadn’t actually been working to dry clothes in months. Annnnd . . . the new dryer wouldn’t dry clothes, either. My husband made sure the vent system was all cleaned out, put a new 90 degree elbow on the vent to make sure the air flowed well and . . . nope, it still wouldn’t dry clothes. So it went back to Lowes today (thankfully they have a MUCH better return policy than Home Depot) and we now have another new dryer in its place. Let’s just hope this one WORKS.

When even the good things in life, like new appliances, refuse to work out, you know it’s a bad month.

The worst part was our long-anticipated, long-planned-for, much-needed vacation to Walt Disney World. It contained epic levels of dreadfulness. When we left for the vacation, WDW was warning us that Florida was in a terrible drought and they’d banned all campfires and charcoal grills to ensure that no one set the forest on fire at their campground. On our first day at the parks, it began to pour. POUR. And it poured the entire week. Our entire vacation was an Odyssey of soggy socks, waterlogged skin, and misery. My husband broke out in an attack of shingles to the head and face. Our travel trailer blew 3 tires. Our Suburban started suddenly dying mid-traffic, with some narrow escapes from serious accidents included. There was vomiting, sunburns, injuries galore, bruises by the score, and much suffering. The wet laundry grew mold and turned into a toxic fume fest. It was SO SO BAD.

Things haven’t exactly looked up since we got home, alas. The other truck decided to suddenly shed several wheel bearings mid-journey. Everyone caught a dreadful cold that is still lingering in nasty coughs and raw noses.  Summertime mood changes are in full swing in the “polarity challenged” people in the family. One of the darn mice is MIA somewhere in the nursery. We won’t even discuss the dog, who I have now renamed Hellhound. She deserves nothing less than her true name.

I am going through a lot of that “enduring” stuff, along with my poor family. BUT . . ..

We WILL get through this. Somehow. It just takes time. (and copious amounts of money that are sometimes hard to come by.) Shingles takes weeks to months to recuperate from. Just simple coughs from colds can take two weeks or more to go away. Vehicles break down– luckily my husband was an auto mechanic in another life and still does all our repairs.

Sometimes, all you can do is shake your head and say “Man, I’m just glad that I’m still alive.”

Those Top 100 novels, again

Slowly, slowly, slowly, I have carved my way through the Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels list. After working on this project for 9 years, I am only 14 titles away from finishing the list.

Granted, some of those “titles” are actually comprised of a series of books– Studs Lonigan is 3 books, as is de Passos’s U.S.A. series. A Dance to the Music of Time is, I think, 7 books. Eeep. But, as I just finished reading War and Peace and it only counts as one book, I suppose I can make allowances and just pretend that they’re really one novel.

I’m 86% finished, anyway. And, what’s more important, I am only missing a few books that I need to complete the whole list. I still need a copy of A Clockwork Orange, Catch-22, A Bend in the River, Book 1 of the aforementioned U.S.A. trilogy, and I don’t own a single one of those 7 books in that long series. Not a one. Sigh. Amazon wants a fortune for them, so I think I need to start trolling the other used book websites. I’m reading the James Joyce novels on Kindle, because I’d probably burn paper copies in a fit of frustration whenever that infamous glory-hound plays too cute (which is pretty much every chapter of each of his books, as far as I can tell.)

I am also just going to read Main Street on the Kindle app– it’s out of copyright, so why not? I never got the impression that it was a particularly difficult work (or even one that I’d choose to read if it wasn’t on the list.

I took a break over the past two weeks from the Top 100 books, simply because I felt sick after reading Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. Just something about the guy’s writing made me very disheartened and nauseated. Like that instant antipathy you sometimes feel when you meet someone, that uneasy feeling that there’s something wrong about them, that’s the lingering impression that novel left on me. Something was wrong with that dude. I’m sure it’s an important book and influenced a lot of people, but I wouldn’t pass it on to someone unless they asked.

Anyway, I took a break and read War and Peace. That took about 10 days to finish. Loved it, except for the historical commentary at the end. That part mostly confirmed what I suspected of Tolstoy– the guy took himself just a bit too seriously, and so did everyone else.

I also read Pride and Prejudice over the course of a lazy Sunday.  Oh my, why haven’t I read Jane Austen’s work before this? Well, obviously, because every woman reader I ran into always raved about her stuff. There’s nothing like universal acclaim to make me suspicious of a book’s merits. Quite often, the work just doesn’t live up to the hype. But that one was a lovely surprise, being a page-turner and a delight.

It also knocks a book off the next Reading Challenge that I’ve set for myself, reading the Library of World Literature’s 100 Best Books in World History list. I’ve slowly been collecting those books as I find them in the used book stores, using the credit I’ve accrued from trading in old books that I didn’t love anymore. Sometimes, even though a book may be out of copyright (and therefore available free online), I have just been buying a paper copy anyway. Reading on the computer or on my phone is a bit of a pain, and I just prefer the real paper copy in my hands. It’s hard to justify it for novels that I think I’m going to dislike anyway (such as anything by Joyce, comic as he may be), but for books that I suspect that I may love, I’d rather have the paper any day.

I have Anna Karenina to read, but I am going to hold off on it and give the previous Tolstoy some time to digest before I dip into his “other” masterwork. In the meantime, I still have those 14 books waiting for me. If I can find copies of those books that I’m missing, I think I can finish that darn list this year. Finally. I’m only, oh, 3 1/2 years off the pace that I set for myself.

I also have two Dostoyevsky books waiting for me. I’m saving those. My daughter says that I am basically just a Dostoyevsky fangirl. Which, yeah, pretty much sums it up.

Troll Parenting Books

Let’s be open and honest and forthright, my friends:

Most of the parenting books and articles that get printed these days are clickbait. Yes, even the paper ones.

The last “big” example of this was the horrible Tiger Mom debacle. That book, with its questionable-yet-endlessly-debatable parenting ‘technique,’ spawned an uncounted number of forum posts, fiery Facebook denunciations, and lots and lots of clicks to the websites of the newspapers and magazines that wrote about it. I’m not going to link to it because, frankly, we all have Google or Bing or whatever funky search engine you prefer.

The newest “controversial” parenting book is being touted in the Wall Street Journal, which has, over the years, abandoned any pretense of being an actual newspaper in search of advertising revenue. The “news” of this new book that’s being printed amounts to a very underwhelming advertisement for the book (I don’t think most of the people commenting on the article and video even realized that a book was being talked about) and probably a lovely boost to advertising revenue for the WSJ. The people were foaming at the mouth in indignation at the article, I’m sure the people at the newspaper were quite pleased. I doubt the author is pleased yet, as the Twitter account for the book only currently has 248 followers. If you really want to give them your click, just search for “parentspeak.”

“Parentspeak”– the word alone should tell you everything you need to know about this parenting book. It’s total nonsense, a complete troll. The author isn’t a renowned parenting expert, just yet another writer with a decade of parenting under her belt and a need to drive more cash into her pocket. And, of course, the “right” liberal qualifications–has written for NPR and HuffPo, wrote a memoir about sex, and had a failed pilot at ABC.Her husband is one of the original Geico cavemen (that this is the first of his acting gigs that he mentions pretty much sums up his career so far. I wish him more luck in the future.)

This new book basically says that all parent and child interactions are tainted by “control.” Parents are trying to control their children when they talk to them, and that’s BAD. She’s so bold as to attack the lauded term “good job!” Yes, even telling your child that they did a good job is insincere because we’re really subtly trying to control their behavior. The author somewhat confusingly follows this up with advising parents to use emotional guilt-tripping instead (I will paraphrase to avoid clicking the darn thing again, but this is VERY close to the original quote, I kid you not. “When you didn’t tell Sally ‘thank you’ for her gift, I was afraid you were making her feel bad.” Great. How about I go cut my wrists in the bathroom, Mom, since I am such a failure at emotional intelligence?)

Okay, you want to know the secret formula all these writers have? I am going to tell you, as long as you promise NEVER to use the formula yourself even if you do desperately want money and fame. It’s not worth it, trust me. Okay, here it is:

Go to scholar.google.com. Search for the general words in the topic you’re interested in, say “effects of emotional neglect on child development.” Click on one of the top two or three search results. They’re guaranteed to have some hoary old tropes from the 1930s to 1960s in there somewhere. Grab the most fantastical and ridiculous “scientific” study done in that time period, then start looking for data to back up that proposition. You don’t have to actually DO any research, trust me. If you have spawned a human being, you automatically get a pass on being a parenting writer. No one is going to come to your house and ask questions UNLESS you DO become famous, and then you can bully and bribe your kids into giving nice pat answers (ipads work well here, or vacations to Walt Disney World) and have someone stage your house for the photoshoot.  A quick trip to one of the thousands of makeup and hair experts in LA is called for as well, but she probably already covered that part.

There, you have it. Get someone to get you some coverage in one of the big media outlets like the WSJ or the Washington Post, maybe even The Atlantic if you’re lucky enough or have good enough friends. Set up a website and a Twitter account (no matter how neglected.) And sit back and hope and pray and cross your fingers really hard that the sparks fly, the comments are vituperative, and the AP picks up the story.

And that bloggers like me respond with outrage and talk about your “technique” and actually try to discuss its “merits.” Which . . . is a bit more than these books deserve. They all need to be firmly boxed up into their category: clickbait parenting trolling. That’s all they are, and they’ll disappear quickly, only to reappear in the media promotion of the author’s next book, wherein the writers will “revisit” the children and their novel parenting technique to see if they turned out to be porn starlets or heroin junkies or Washington DC interns, all of which may just be salacious enough to sell the new book.

Too bad I can’t make myself write one of the darn things. I don’t have the right pedigree, alas, and I don’t have 22 kids or something that would make a more conservative viewpoint salable from a publisher’s point of view. The question becomes “Are you really that shameless?” Sadly, the answer from a terrifically huge number of people is “Yes.” Which is why the next book is guaranteed to come out really soon after this book’s publicity push either withers on the vine or blossoms into a toxic jungle of comments, forum posts, and vicious arguments between people who otherwise are nice, ordinary, simple folks who would give you their spare change if you were a dollar short in the grocery checkout line.

Sigh.

Why?

So my 2 1/2 year old son is currently terrified of the appliances downstairs. This is just a development from being earlier terrified of robots. Machines are fascinating but also scary. Fine. These things happen. 

So I am sick in bed with a nasty cold and the baby is talking to me about the terrors of the dishwasher.

“The dishwasher isn’t going to eat you,” I tell him. “Dishwashers only wash dishes. They don’t do anything elee.”

“They wash dishes?”

“That’s all they do. They only do one thing. Dishwashers wash dishes. Clothes washers wash clothes. Dryers dry clothes. The stove and the microwave cook food. The tea kettle makes hot water for tea. The toaster makes toast.”

I stop and realize how ridiculous this must sound to anyone who isn’t acculturated to Western Civilization 2017. Seriously, we have an entire machine just to heat water up enough for tea? To mix our bread dough? To toast bread??

No wonder he doesn’t believe me that these machines don’t have some larger more sinister purpose.

In the annals of the strange and weird . . .

Have you ever heard the phrase “your mouth is writing checks your body can’t cash?”

Yeah, something like that happens to me when my brain is telling me what exercises and sports we should be doing. My brain, for reasons entirely unknown to me, seems to think that I should be an athlete. I can’t even SPELL athlete without spell check to remind me how it goes.

But here we are, in the post-Christmas just-turned-2017 haze, and my brain is trying to entice me back into athletic endeavors. I hesitate to use the term “New Year resolution” when I refer to this phenomenon, because I have a much more practical and important reason for getting more exercise this year than just the turning over of the secular calendar.

Because, of course, my thyroid lobe removal of November revealed a small area of cancerous cells hidden inside the stupid lumpy thing, and I am now officially a cancer patient. Which is faintly ridiculous, as this cancer is a hypochondriac’s dream: it will most likely allow me to die of a heart attack or a stroke or by getting run over by feral hogs long before it kills me, but in the meantime it will allow me to obsess legitimately over every swollen lymph node, wobble in my vocal cords, or other weird symptom that I can find.

So, this brings me back to the “checks I can’t cash” part: I’d like very much not to “cash in my chips,” so to speak, until the last possible moment, and definitely not until all my kids are grown. So I need to lose some weight, pronto, and, more importantly, I need to get myself in better cardiovascular shape.

Which leads my delusional brain to suggest all sorts of schemes for getting fit. It loves to linger over couch-to-5k running plans, although my knees are rivaling Kellogg’s Rice Krispies for snap, crackle, and pop these days. Then it reminds me that I do own a very nice bicycle, so why don’t we start road racing? Road racing? Leaving aside the fact that the mental images boggle the mind, I don’t own a road racing bike at all. I own mountain bikes or hybrids with big knobbly tires. Where are these ideas coming from?

Of course, this is the same mind that has dreamed up a million impossible schemes that I have actually been able to pull off. Maybe I shouldn’t dismiss it out of hand. I have always dreamed longingly of being able to bike for long distances– my favorite Outward Bound trip to dream of in high school was the one where they biked down the Pacific coast. I didn’t have a bicycle from the ages of 12-18, mind you, nor was I in any sort of shape to bike that far every day, but my brain was already displaying its amazing ability to ignore reality in pursuit of its goals.

So, here I am. With goals. My brain actually came up with a reasonable goal, when it wasn’t saying “Hey, let’s go on a bike trip from Amsterdam down to Provence despite the fact that I don’t have A) the money, or B) the fitness level, or even C) a passport.” My immediate goal is to lose 10% of my weight by the time summer vacation comes around. Which is a pretty reasonable goal, given the length of time between now and then and some fine-tuning of my thyroid hormone levels by my endocrinologist.

The rest, well, exercise is never my thing. It’s especially not my thing considering that I seem to feel all sorts of nerve pain that most people don’t feel, for reasons still not understood. You should see my dental visits, they’re a laugh. Why, yes, doc, I still feel that. But anyway, exertion brings on pain, which is something I try to avoid. BUT . . ..

I really do want to live to be an old grandmother with a horde of grandchildren whom I can spoil completely and teach bad habits like staying up all night playing video games and drinking too much Coca Cola. Okay, maybe just one Coca Cola and the rest as tea or something, but definitely I want to be able to be there for them. Everyone needs an eccentric grandmother who doesn’t give a fig for convention. So, it seems that a steady diet of pain and discomfort and exertion is in the cards for me.

Thanks a lot, brain. Maybe you could have actually gotten me to exercise BEFORE it was going to be such a huge pain in the . . . ear?

Some can not . . ..

There’s been a story all over the news today about an “autistic” girl singing Leonard Cohen’s song “Halleluiah.” Of course, any time I see the word “autistic” paired with a quote from the person in question, I cringe. Because autistic people, by and large, don’t say quotable things. At least, not the ones who are firmly on the autism side of this “spectrum” they lumped them all in. The people on the Asperger’s side, well, that’s an individual choice for them, as much as it would be for a neurotypical person. People with Asperger’s disorder do have some very real disabilities and problems, and they’re entitled to the help they need to deal with them, but many people with Asperger’s are indistinguishable from your ordinary geeky person with maybe not the greatest social skills. They can be just as funny, lovable, annoying, adorable, clever, talkative, or silent and strange as the next person.

I must admit that I get extremely annoyed now that people have lumped Asperger’s in with all other Autistic disorders. It allows the media to give people an entirely wrong idea about what people with classical autism and the more severe variants can actually do. Someone like my daughter, for instance, could never in her life actually give a quote to a reporter about how great it was that her YouTube video got a lot of hits. It may be difficult for someone with Asperger’s to do so– they often have a lot of social anxiety and difficulty in talking to people– but it’s not flat out impossible. For my daughter, she’s about as likely to fly to the moon as she is to hold a conversation with anyone.

So when I talk to people about my daughter’s impairments and limitations, they usually just don’t get it. Or, worse, they think I am just underestimating her. I understand why people wanted Asperger’s classified as an “autism spectrum disorder” (in short, for insurance and schooling purposes, also to have their problems taken seriously) but it’s had this effect that we parents of the severely afflicted had originally feared would happen– ordinary people completely not getting the things we have to live with and thereby underestimating the real needs of our severely disabled offspring. No, our kids will never get up on a stage and sing a song. No, our kids will never marry. No, our kids will never be able to hold a job or live on their own or drive a car or be in charge of their own lives. They will always be a danger to themselves, and sometimes to others.

My daughter is 21 years old, and the sibling that she has the most in common with is her 2 year old brother. Socially, they’re about on the same level. He’s actually outpacing her these days. It breaks my heart, every day of my life. Someone has to watch her, 24 hours a day, just to keep her healthy and alive and well. It’s not a matter of “giving her a chance” or “not knowing what she’s capable of.” She’ll run into traffic with absolutely no knowledge that being hit by a car will hurt her. She’ll pull a live electrical wire out of a socket with no awareness at all that she’ll be shocked. She’s drawn to water, but has no fear of drowning. She’s a beautiful innocent child in the body of an adult woman.

I don’t write this out of frustration with people on the autism spectrum, although there are a lot of people who seem to be suddenly “discovering” that they’re “autistic” at the age of 40 or something, after a life lived otherwise completely normally. What they seem to mean by it is that they have terrible social anxiety, or that they have thinking patterns that are slightly different than the norm, or that they have difficulty processing their emotions. Which are all real problems and can be a terrible thing to deal with at times. But it’s not “Autism.” You’re not sitting in a corner, flapping your fingers in front of your eyes, humming a tuneless droning noise for hours, and compulsively scratching holes in your skin until you’re covered in scars, now, are you?

That’s the autism that we’re dealing with here. The sort where we have listened to the same 6 second loop of her favorite song for several hours out of each day for months, until it changed to a different obsessive compulsion. The sort where we know every Disney and Don Bluth film by heart, because we’ve stayed up all hours of the night re-watching and re-watching them while she stays awake running in circles. We have the sort where we’ve run through every possible medication in the book just to allow our daughter to get a night’s sleep (so maybe we can sleep for one night. After 21 years of broken sleep, you get a little weird.) We live with the sort where we’ve had to put plywood over her walls, because she was systematically removing all the drywall, eating some of it, and trying to physically tear the house down.

Ah, I don’t know what difference it makes to talk about this. No one believes how hard it is, because there’s really no way to understand it except to experience it. And I wouldn’t wish such a terrible fate on any person or their family. The grief just becomes a part of who you are, it never goes away.

Some people can live with an autistic spectrum disorder and live a fairly normal life, with friends and hobbies and jobs and school and relationships.

And some can not.

 

 

 

Gently, gently 

My sister and I, mid 1980s.

So, like a bird on a wire, etc (RIP Leonard), I have tried, in my way, to be free of the painful legacy of abuse that’s been passed down, generation to generation, in my family. It hasn’t been easy and I haven’t been entirely successful, but I have managed to raise a few kids that aren’t afraid of me. 

Oh, sure, they might be afraid that the Xbox may actually get sold on Craigslist if they continue to let the dirty laundry moulder in their bedrooms, but not actually afraid that I am going to intentionally try to hurt them if they talk back or step out of line. When frustrated, I may make an idle threat to beat them with a belt, but they take it about as seriously as my threats to send them to the circus. Mom is obviously in need of caffeine and a couple Advil, you might want to avoid her.

For some families, that sort of fear-based discipline is their ideal and they are right now muttering darkly about disrespect and sparing the rod. For some families, they’re just horrified that anyone could ever hurt a child. For the rest of us, who knew good and well that failing to clean up your room or sassing your momma would mean a belt across your bottom at the least, it is a painful decision of another sort. Do you reject the way your own parents disciplined you? Do you inflict the same punishments on your own children, even knowing how much they hurt and how much damage they did to your relationship with your parents?

My children are not afraid of me, but that’s not the entire point of trying to raise them gently. They don’t flinch when I raise my hand, but they’re also not afraid to talk to me. And that, ultimately, has been the true reward for all the times when I wanted to just do the simple thing and smack them for any of the bazillion things they’ve done to annoy me. 

Because, let’s be honest, a lot of that “discipline” is just the parent venting their frustration. A child doesn’t deserve punishment for minor accidents like spilling milk, or for getting answers wrong to questions, or for being in the way when they’re not wanted around. To smack the child is to take the easy way out, to not actually deal with your own issues. And it breeds distrust and distance between parent and child. 

Not that my kids are some kind of paragons of virtue who made it easy on me, but the longer that I have tried to control my temper, the more it’s made me aware of all the other stuff going on in my children’s lives. When they’re not afraid of you, they can be honest. They can include you in their lives to a much lgreater extent. You never know all the secrets and all the stories, but you know a heck of a lot more than what my peers and I shared with our parents. 

There’s a downside, of course. When you do make up punishments, you have to be extra diligent about following through with them, otherwise you’ll seem ineffectual. But you also have to punish them less, anyway. If you can just be gentle with them and allow them the autonomy and respect that any human deserves, you’ll be surprised how very human, and humane, they are.  

It’s difficult to explain this when making up an IEP plan for your handicapped child, though. They always ask “what punishments do you use?” And I am always hard pressed to answer. If she makes a mess, she has to clean it up? If she is physically rough towards someone, she has to go to her room until she calms down. Really bad behavior might mean having her computer privileges taken away for an hour or two. I never know what they expect me to do– how do you punish someone who doesn’t understand your society, anyway? 

If you think about it, though, isn’t that the issue with all little humans? They just don’t understand our social rules yet. For some, like our autistic brethren, they may never quite “get” them. I never could see the point of whipping someone when what they need is compassion and instruction. It’s just anger being expressed, more than anything else. And there are usually better ways to get your point across. 

It’s difficult and I am not perfect. But I hope my grandchildren never have to fear a raised hand from their parents, and that they learn love and peace at home so they can spread it throughout the world.