Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Connecting with our Unique Children

One of the most challenging things as a mother is making sure all of your kids have what they need from you, despite their differing personalities.  Piper is a very, very affectionate child, who wants to be cuddled and loved, lay quietly and whisper together; she is silly and goofy and makes us all laugh.  Allie, on the other hand, has never really liked being cuddled; as a toddler she would willfully refuse to even hold my hand in a parking lot; she is much more serious and quiet, preferring time alone in her room with a book or making a video or sewing or drawing to being cuddled or giggling together.

At night, when I kiss the girls goodnight, Allie is usually immersed in a book.  She won't even look up when I kiss her goodnight.  If she does look up, she tells me how good the book is, but if I press for more information, she gets irritated because she wants to get back to the story.  Then I realize her telling me it was good was a way of telling me to get my kiss in and get lost so she can get back to reading.  Piper, on the other hand, wants me to lay beside her and say prayers, she wants to make up kisses and snuggle against me and tell me how when she grows up she and her husband will live with me; she doesn't want me to leave her room and gets upset when I say I am tired and I have to go to bed.

How Netflix changed things...

Downton Abbey, My So Called Life, Family Ties...

Last spring I had been hearing so much about Downton Abbey and although I normally don't watch TV, I was intrigued.  When we cancelled cable last spring and subscribed to Netflix, we were thrilled that the first two seasons of Downton Abbey were on Netflix.  It's a Masterpiece Classics show from PBS, not an HBO or Showtime show, so when Allie asked if she could watch, we didn't see why not.  She was immediately as hooked as we were on the sweeping fashions, the beautiful sets, the way of life, the drama, the mystery, the emotions.... Piper was not at all interested, so it became Jason and my time alone with Allie.  For several weeks last spring, we would watch Downton and then cuddle together in Allie's bed and discuss it, this often lead to looking things up on her itouch and more conversations and discussions.  Of course, Piper started becoming jealous of my time with Allie---it's hard being a mom!

Once we had watched both seasons of Downton Abbey, Allie wanted to find something else we could watch together.  I may not like television, but I like everything Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick have done (very realistic dramas like thirtysomething and Once & Again), so when I saw that My So-Called Life was on Netflix, I suggested we try it.  There are definitely mature topics in My So-Called Life...underage drinking & drugs--but with consequences, cutting class, homosexuality, unrequited love, sex, etc. 
I have pretty strong feelings about how I want to raise my girls with regard to these things.  I want them to always know they can come to me.  I want to open the door to communication about these things.  Watching My So Called Life together encouraged Allie and I to talk about a lot of things.  Nothing shuts the door faster than telling kids "Don't Do It" because if they do do something they think their parents won't approve of, they will be afraid to go to their parents about it.  I won't condone or sanction certain behaviors, but I will talk about them, maybe my experiences, someone I know and I always end with some version of, "I hope you don't... I trust you to make good decisions.  You can always come to me or Daddy."  Allie often adds things she has read in books or her feelings or thoughts on things and it's become a good, open, honest dialogue which I hope paves the way for an open door as she gets older.  To be honest, there are times when she has known things that I had no idea she knew about and I was glad to know and that we could discuss it and I could make sure she had correct information.
It took us several months of an episode here and there to watch all of the episodes of My So Called Life and now we have been watching Family Ties, which is a lot lighter, but still rife with issues to be discussed.  There are also a lot of history lessons in Family Ties from the hippie movement to varying opinions on the Nixon Administration and the Vietnam War, etc.

Sharing Books

Jodi Picoult, James Patterson, Harlan Coben

Something awesome that is going on right now in popular fiction is that many popular authors are writing children's and Young Adult novels.  It's a great boon for the authors as they get a new generation interested in their writing, but it's an even better opportunity for parents to connect with their children.  Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors.When I saw that she had written a book with her daughter, Samantha Van Leer, I suggested Allie and I read it together.  I got two copies out of the library and we both read it on our own time and discussed it in the morning over breakfast.  Allie loved the writing style and is eager to read more of Jodi Picoult's books...I am trying to figure out which, if any, I think are appropriate for her.  But in the meantime, I picked up a Harlan Coben novel aimed at kids!