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Posts Tagged ‘kids’

There are really only three major things I’d like to instill in my kids. Three things that, if they manage to pick up, I will feel like I done good. These are:
1. Be kind. And really, I’ll settle for “be polite”, most of the time.
2. Be at ease in the wild.
3. Be a reader.

There are other important things of course. I would like them to be tolerant, empathetic, multilingual members of the Democratic party, focused in school, curious about the world yet suspicious of dudes handing them candy from solid-sided vans. But when I pare it all down, I’m left with the Big Three. Kindness, because kindness is more important than intelligence, ambition, success, or talent. Ease in the wild because the wild can give you both solace and adventure. And reading, because reading can teach you tolerance, empathy, curiosity, and the answers to your curiosity.
Whenever I think of anything else that I might want them to know, it turns out to fall under the umbrella of these three.

This past week, there were several moments when I got a bit of feedback on all three of these goals from the boys themselves.
1. The kindness goal: Malcolm got a book out of the library called “All About my Brother” written and illustrated by a young girl with an autistic sibling. Malcolm has asked for it repeatedly, and I often find him looking at it on his own. He likes the pictures, he says, because they’re drawn by a kid. And, he says, “I like to read about the boy with autism. I like his story.” Prep, I hope, for when he encounters this kind of non-verbal, severely autistic kid in the real world. If my boy can be someone who sticks up for such a kid, and not the jerk face who bullies him, I’ve done good.

2. The at ease in the wild goal: We work on this a lot. My kids are getting to be good hikers, they’re excellent swamp walkers, amateur entomologists, and adaptable to sleeping in a tent anywhere. Yesterday, Simon, playing in a sand hole at the beach in Maine, found several sea worms (small ones, not the big ones that can deliver a strong bite). He cupped them in his hands and said, “Mom, are these worms stunning?” My heart was already full to bursting. Then he looked out toward the ocean and said, “Mom! The waves are scurrying right toward me! It’s so beautiful!”

3. The reading goal: there’s been no question on this one; we read every day, sometimes all day. We read before bed, after lunch, in the car, under a tree, while camping, at the beach, and definitely at the kitchen table. While the boys breakfast on Kix and almond milk, they require me to stand tableside and read to them. The other day, I looked up from the book and saw that Malcolm had not touched his cereal and was gazing off with his spoon poised above the bowl. “Malcolm,” I said, “You need to eat your breakfast.” “Sorry Mom,” he said to me, “The story was just so interesting, I forgot to keep eating.”

I think I’m doing alright.

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Reality of a boys’ room.

Cleaned up reality, after strenuous exertions. Duration: 3 minutes.

One of my very most favorite design blogs is Style Carrot, written by Boston-based Marni Katz. Her curatorial eye and design sense make her posts invariably interesting. I especially like her oddly specific montages: 40 painted built-in bookshelves; 54 living rooms with gray sofas; 64 rooms with black and white art. One of the latest was 27 little boys’ bedrooms. As a design enthusiast and mother of little boys, how could I be but drawn in?

As with all good design, the best kids’ bedrooms should be aesthetically appealing, functional, and comfortable. The trouble is, to put it in business degree speak, who are the stakeholders? Most of the time, one designs for oneself or for other adults. Even if an adult client can’t figure out how to make a room look good, he or she can usually appreciate a beautiful room. Little boys cannot. Little boys have no taste whatsoever. They love gaudy plastic toys, and promotional pamphlet maps of Water Country, and polyester Iron Man bedding sets. They do not love muted old-timey camp blankets, or wooden toys with a light wash of vegetable dyes, or tidiness.

It’s not that, when designing a kid’s room, one must throw out all hope of a good aesthetic result, but expectations must be adjusted. We can design the shell, the scaffold, but they will people it. We can wallpaper, but they will tack up Marvel comics posters. We can layer a worn kilim over a jute rug, but they will leave Star Wars underwear and battery powered Cars 2 merchandise all over it and never pick it up.

This one’s pretty believable. Though very tidy.

The 27 boys’ rooms in Style Carrot’s post run the gamut from excellent to absurdly, laughably unrealistic. Some of the most unrealistic can still be viewed as aspirational, or as simple inspiration for something with real-world applicability. Something like watching a haute couture fashion show and then hitting T.J. Maxx. We all need inspiration. But let the boys have some too. It can be tough; I am a neat freak, organization fiend, and design geek. There are rooms in my home that I am doggedly determined will remain kid free. My bedroom and the living room, for instance. Then there are rooms given wholly over to the boys. A dark corner of the basement and their jointly held bedroom, for instance. The rest of the house is a constantly shifting battlefield or DMZ, depending on the day. They make incursions with lego men, catapults, and giant green Hulk hands. I fight back with mossy terraria, stacks of field guides and jars of ferns.

Unreality. While pleasing to the adult eye, this is a cold, gray cell to an actual little boy.

I don’t like to wallow in nostalgia, but I do recognize how short this span of their boyhood is. So I give them their room, and I let them revel in it. And secretly, as I pick my way over the Power Rangers, robots and talking puzzles in the dark to turn off their spinning Superman nightlight, I revel in it too.

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Red letter week for Malcolm

After PirateBash2012, the excitement never abated and it now appears that we will be devoting the entire week to Malcolm, whose actual birthdate is May 16th. Yesterday, we went in to kindergarten screening. As I waited in the lobby watching Simon demonstrate ninja moves for the janitor, Malcolm was apparently “playing legos and writing just my name with a green marker.”

Then today, he had a cupcake luncheon with his Pre-K class, and tomorrow, he has cajoled me into taking him and his brother to see some inane movie matinee in honor of the precise date of his birth.

Malcolm, understated as usual, commemorates the start of the “run.”

But Sunday’s Malcolm focused event was the best for me. He joined me on the last leg of my Sunday evening run to my parents’ house for supper. The route traverses a bit of woods along Lake Gardner in Amesbury, MA, and has been a favorite trail of mine since my youth. As we set out at a very irregular pace, Malcolm adopted a signature move. Much as elite marathoners grab a cup of water, gulp it down, and then toss it aside, Malcolm, mid-stride, grabbed dandelion tufts, blew the seeds off, and then cast the stem dramatically away. Kid’s got flair.

As we left the meadow, the pace slackened considerably, and eventually we stopped entirely. It was time, Malcolm said, for the first of a series of short films. This was followed by parts two and three. All are very informative.

Malcolm seems unaware that he didn’t really do much running, and reports that he thinks he “will grow up to be a countryside runner.” A mom can hope.

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