Love finds the right currency

The post I wrote for BlogHer yesterday about writing unsavory things about your children was a hard one for me. The subject of my post has, in my mind, crossed the line. Hell, she can’t even SEE the line anymore. It seems pretty black and white, to me.

But I write about my kids. Many writers I admire write about their kids. I think it can be done respectfully, and I cringe when I hear the baby-with-the-bathwater arguments for parents to never say a single word that’s less than glowing about their offspring. It’s dangerous territory, but I refuse to believe a few people making poor choices should mean that everyone else has to just shut up.

So this has been on my mind. And I’ve been taking stock of what I say and what I don’t. I don’t think I always get it right (though I hope I do most of the time, of course), but it’s part of what I deal with when it comes to sharing, here.

If you think I’ve written less, here, this past month, it’s because I have. It’s because we’re struggling with some things and while it was easy enough for me to decide “this is not my story to tell right now,” it was harder to remove all of that from my brain and find something else that felt worth discussing, instead.

Sometimes one of my kids is rotten and I come here and write about it and say, “Good lord, MY KID IS ROTTEN,” and I trust that 99.9% of you understand that while I am human and frustrated, I am also the person you’d need to go through to so much as look cross-eyed at said child, and chances are excellent that I would claw your eyes out before you got the chance.

Sometimes one of my kids is struggling and I come here and write about it and say, “This is hard and I am worried,” and I trust that 99.9% of you get what it’s like and understand that I’ve done my best to balance my need (for processing, for community, whatever) against my child’s needs (for privacy, for example).

Other times it’s too hard and too overwhelming and I say nothing, for a long time. And I begin to realize that I’m not just saying nothing HERE, I’m saying nothing to my friends. Nothing to my family. Nothing to anyone. I’m retreating and it starts to become a problem, not only because I’m not necessarily getting the support I need, but because in my desire to shield my child, I’ve actually done a disservice by not allowing others to understand what’s going on.

Yesterday I realized I’d fallen prey to this right here in our own house; Chickadee teased her brother about something and he completely fell apart, much to her surprise. And I realized that she’s getting to an age where she can understand more, and be expected to do more. I wasn’t doing either of them any favors by not discussing it.

So we sat her down and told her the truth: Monkey is struggling right now. Really struggling. And it’s our job as a family to make sure that home is where he knows he is safe and loved. I know that siblings bicker; I know that sometimes he gets on her nerves. But right now, I told her, I need you to be the big sister. He needs you to be the best big sister anyone ever had. It’s important, I told her. He needs you.

We talked some more. I saw understanding dawn on her face, followed by concern. “He’s fine, sweetie,” I reassured her. “At least, he will be. This too shall pass. Some of this other stuff will be ancient history soon enough, I think. But you’re his sister forever. And how you treat him when the rest of the world feels wrong is something he will always remember.”

“I know how to make it better, Mom,” she said, and she ran upstairs. She came down a few minutes later and reported that she was letting Monkey borrow her iPod and listen to his favorite song. Her dad just gave her that iPod; this was a grand gesture, and we all knew it. I hugged her and thanked her. She smiled and went back upstairs.

It turns out, that was only the beginning. Chickadee decided to create a little system here at home loosely based on the reward structure they use at her school; good behaviors earn fake dollars, which can later be redeemed for items. By bedtime, a complete list of prizes and their associated costs had been posted outside Monkey’s bedroom door, and he’d already been “rewarded” with three dollars for working on a jigsaw puzzle with his sister. (That was somewhat hilarious as Monkey was already so over-the-moon delighted that Chickie wanted to work the puzzle with him, he probably would’ve happily paid her three REAL dollars for the privilege.)

Last night was the happiest I’ve seen my son in a long time.

Funny, but last night was the happiest I’ve seen my daughter in a while, too. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Will the harmony last? I can’t say. It might. It might not. Most likely it, too, will fall prey to the ebb and flow of the typical sibling relationship. But this morning Chickadee came careening down to the stairs to bid Monkey goodbye before he left. She gave him a hug and told him to have a good day at school, and he walked out the door positively giddy. “Mama!” he told me, just before he left. “I have enough Chickie dollars to get a mechanical pencil! She’s going to get it for me from the school store today.”

“Wow, I said, “that’s really nice of her. You have a pretty excellent sister.”

“Yes,” he agreed. “She is EXTRA excellent!”

Now, I could tell you this story without the background of the hard time and the bit of meanness that preceded it. I could just come here and say, “Life is sunshine and rainbows and happiness and by the way, my kids are being so sweet to each other!” But to my mind, that would not only be untrue, it’d be really boring. Because it’s not JUST that they’re being sweet to each other, it’s that Monkey appreciates it more because he really needs it right now, and that Chickadee is becoming a young adult who can see beyond herself and come up with innovative ways to use her powers for good.

And it’s that sometimes grace pops up in ways you didn’t expect, giving you enough faith to keep going down even a very hard road. Those are the kinds of stories that demand to be shared. Because we all need to hear them sometimes.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Here’s to whatever currency makes your day a little better, and loved ones who shine so brightly, you can’t help but share them.

59 Responses to “Love finds the right currency”

  1. 1
    susan September 3, 2009 at 11:05 am #

    Mir,that was such an excellent post- the story, the reasons behind it and the way you write. It will stick with me all day, I know. Happy Love Thursday to you too!

  2. 2
    Lisa September 3, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    Thank you. Thank you for sharing. Thank you for reminding me that when my sons bicker and argue and seem to be out for each other’s blood that they DO love each other, that they CAn be “EXTRA excellent.” Thank you for a much needed Love Thursday.

  3. 3
    Aimee September 3, 2009 at 11:15 am #

    Wow, what a beautiful post for a Love Thursday. I think your kids are both extra excellent, frankly.

  4. 4
    daysgoby September 3, 2009 at 11:18 am #

    Yes. Yes to all of it.

  5. 5
    Megan September 3, 2009 at 11:20 am #

    That was superb and yes, it meant far more because of the very real, very human context it came in. Just telling the sweet would have also sold Chickie short as the real bit, the bit where she saw what she was doing, recognized the problem and then was so beautifully thoughtful and mature, that would have been lost.

    So I, for one, am really, really glad that you write about your kids.

  6. 6
    Julie September 3, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

  7. 7
    Randi September 3, 2009 at 11:26 am #

    Aww, that’s so sweet! Children aren’t black and white – they’re thousands of different shades of gray. Sometimes they’re in the dark gray area and are cloudy and moody, but other times they edge more towards that white and, as you’ve said, use their powers for good.

    I personally have no problem with people writing about their children, as long as it is done with a loving tone. Even if I’m crazy frustrated with my children, the “ARRRGGHH” is loving, not condescending or hateful. We all know that you love your children beyond compare, Mir, there’s no doubt about that.

    I hope that Monkey’s situation gets better, and I’m sure that with loving parents and a sister like Chickie, it will.

  8. 8
    diane September 3, 2009 at 11:31 am #

    Mir, your “unconditional, wild adoration and love” for your children comes through in every single word you write, even when sharing how the kids have been less than perfect. It’s a priviledge for us to share in the parenthood journey with you – the selected frustrations you share with us make the victories all the sweeter.

    Big, big props to Chickadee and her new-found understanding and compassion.

  9. 9
    Jen September 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm #

    good for you. Good for all of you. That’s a heck of a family you’ve got.

  10. 10
    Justin September 3, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    I think anytime you write about children without the struggle it could only sound real to someone who was never a child. I don’t know any of those people. It’s pretty obvious that you love your children, and that you are very careful of both their feelings and privacy.
    They’re also very funny, very human and very real, which is why I keep checking in to see what you’re all up to.

  11. 11
    Laura September 3, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    I think one of the great things about your blog is your obvious love for your children even during the most difficult times. You had a ‘gold star’ moment when you shared with Chickadee how she could make a real difference in her brother’s life. Isn’t that what we are all hoping for, in the midst of the craziness that is family, to work together to make a place where we are all safe and loved? Take care!

  12. 12
    Sarah September 3, 2009 at 12:43 pm #

    I especially appreciate this today. Someone I love is going through something hard, and I, too, am feeling inarticulate and withdrawn. Thanks for posting about grace and hope.

  13. 13
    MomCat September 3, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    We know you’re venting and we know you love your kids more than life itself. I come by every day to see if there’s a new chapter; uplifting, saddening, sweet or funny. I know it’s your unique viewpoint, and if that’s sanitized, then we all run things through a cleansing process before sharing. Or we should. No one really wants the unadulterated “truth.” That’s what “reality” TV is for, right? ;)

  14. 14
    kath September 3, 2009 at 12:57 pm #

    Beautiful. And I can tell you being one-half of an excellent “grown up” sibling duo – there is nothing better than a sister …
    be very proud Mir, be very proud.

    Happy Love Thursday

  15. 15
    Cindy September 3, 2009 at 1:17 pm #

    Bad + good = real! Not just with regards to sibling rivalry (been there, done that; and am now dealing with my just deserts as mom of 7+, but also with any writing. You do an excellent job of balancing truth and privacy. Your love for your family shines through clearly. Keep up the good work!

  16. 16
    Sara September 3, 2009 at 1:20 pm #

    Bravo.

  17. 17
    RuthWells September 3, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    You are doing such a great job with those kids. Never forget that.

  18. 18
    My Kids Mom September 3, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    Sometimes they know more than we do. My 5yo has been having a tough time adjusting to the kindergarten schedule and is exhausted and behaving exhausted. He asked if we could put up our paper chain for good behavior again. Separately, my 8yo suggested it. I’d answered them both no, because I want to get started painting the kitchen where it was hung. But that was so beside the point and I didn’t see it. I can put it somewhere else. The point is that little brother knows he needs it and big brother thought of something that would help little brother. (hits own head with palm)

  19. 19
    Diahn Ott September 3, 2009 at 1:41 pm #

    Holy smokes, you just made me cry a little. What a perfect example of what happens when we let our children grow up and take responsibility for their actions. You’re my hero, Mir.

  20. 20
    Susie September 3, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    For what it’s worth, I think you do an enviable job of sharing just the right amount of your family. Everyone seems real – perfectly imperfect.

  21. 21
    Heather September 3, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    Aw :) You do a great job with those two, Mir…and I think that you handle the writing about them very well. From my perspective they seem like wonderful kids – flawed, human, sweet, caring, exhausting, incredible kids :)

  22. 22
    Headless Mom September 3, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    *tears*

    Always tears on Thursday, damn you.

    Cheers to the Most Excellent of Siblings!

  23. 23
    dad September 3, 2009 at 1:56 pm #

    Unadulterated love trumps…..nearly everything.

  24. 24
    Jane September 3, 2009 at 2:01 pm #

    That was an EXTRA excellent post! It’s amazing what children will do once with arm them with information, compassion and understanding. Keep doing what you’re doing! You’re a great mom!

  25. 25
    Anna Marie September 3, 2009 at 2:03 pm #

    That was wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

  26. 26
    ben September 3, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    Wow. Awesome post. Thanks. Maybe I should cancel my ebay listing for “Three Rotten Kids, plus a cat.”

  27. 27
    Mary September 3, 2009 at 2:37 pm #

    Hope Monkey’s issues resolve soon and “Yay!” for his big sister.

    I’d say more but I can’t see the keyboard through the tears.

    Happy Love Thursday!

  28. 28
    Laura September 3, 2009 at 2:40 pm #

    I think this is one of the best posts you have written. I too have a little one who is struggling and it helps me TREMENDOUSLY to read that others are going through the same things I am going through. Thank you.

  29. 29
    Karen September 3, 2009 at 2:50 pm #

    There are times that no matter what your mom or dad does or how many times she/he tells you it will be ok, you really do need a sibling (or a peer) to be supportive.

    I think you have 2 extra excellent children.

  30. 30
    mamabird September 3, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

    This was beautiful. It brought a few tears. When reading your blog, I come away with how your family is human and at the core of everything is love. A love that respects one another and helps each other to be better people. Thank you. I only hope I can do the same with my little girl and the sibling I hope to have for her one day.

  31. 31
    Tracy September 3, 2009 at 4:16 pm #

    What a great story. One that EVERYONE can relate too. Thank you for sharing not only yourself but your family. It makes my days alot brighter and gives me things to ponder over with my kids and grandkids. Thanks a “buck”! (although, you are worth more)

  32. 32
    Amelia September 3, 2009 at 4:31 pm #

    ack. i am crying. right here at work. and that’s ok. because it was worth it.

    hugs to you, hugs to chickie, hugs to monkey. (and since you don’t know me, perhaps it’d be best for you to just offer them to each other :))

  33. 33
    Lisa September 3, 2009 at 5:21 pm #

    When you write these posts, you must realize (you do, don’t you?) what a freakin’ amazing mother you are to raise these kids to be so kind and loving. Sure, they may struggle and have difficult times or mess up, but you know you are instilling some serious character and morals. You rock.

  34. 34
    MamaChristy September 3, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    I’m verklempt. Good job, mama.

  35. 35
    Lucinda September 3, 2009 at 6:00 pm #

    As someone mentioned above, every post you write about your kids shows how crazy in love you are with your kids. Your willingness to share reminds me how crazy in love with my kids I am and even with that, how hard it all can be. Your writing is a gift to each of your readers. I hope someday, when your family is ready, your kids will not only see what you have written about them but what a gift you have given readers by sharing them with us. Thank you for that.

    Beautiful post!

  36. 36
    Jen B September 3, 2009 at 6:03 pm #

    <3

    happy love thursday

    you made me cry :P

  37. 37
    pharmgirl September 3, 2009 at 7:49 pm #

    “it’s our job as a family to make sure that home is where he knows he is safe and loved.” There is no way to improve on that. It should come embroidered on the little hat they wear home from the hospital.

    How can we NOT write or speak of our children? They are the very best & very worst of ourselves – reflections reflecting light. But they are children. And they look to us as protectors when they are threatened and advocates when they are challenged. Anyone who abdicates that trust or holds a child up for ridicule should take an honest look at themselves. I suspect that there is a pretty deep wound that needs attention.

  38. 38
    Grizzly Kitteh September 3, 2009 at 8:07 pm #

    That’s amazing… You could have just made the difference between siblings who love each other and ones who constantly bicker. You could have just changed the course of history o.0

  39. 39
    Chaya September 3, 2009 at 8:25 pm #

    Chickadees kindness has me speechless. And in tears. And praying that I can figure out how to raise my kids to relate to each other in that way. That was absolutely beautiful. Thank you.

  40. 40
    Ingrid September 3, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    Beautiful.

  41. 41
    ChristieNY September 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm #

    Beautiful, amazing, and touching. Keep on doing what you’re doing, Mir. You have a quite excellent family and you’ve taught each other to be the glue that binds, leading by example. Not an easy thing to do, that. Happy love Thursday, indeed! =)

  42. 42
    Jane September 3, 2009 at 9:33 pm #

    sniff**sniff, that is one awesome Chickadee you have there. My kids are older sister/younger brother, I only hope I can do as well as you, with helping to create a loving sibling relationship. He sure does look up to his sister – yours and mine. thanks for sharing.

  43. 43
    Sheila September 3, 2009 at 10:13 pm #

    I am going to have to respectfully ask you to KNOCK IT OFF with the Love Thursday posts that incite tears, as my keyboard cannot take any more snot leaked down upon it and I’m feeling a little fragile over here…

  44. 44
    wilma ham September 3, 2009 at 11:22 pm #

    Mir, that was wonderful. I think us adults could do with some of those dollars as well. It is great to be able to see at that age the impact behavior can have on others, positive and negative.

  45. 45
    mama speak September 4, 2009 at 12:20 am #

    I know you’ve heard it a million (well 44, it’s close, right?) times already, but wow! tears.

    I am always amazed at how well you convey the positive and negative about your family. If nothing else, you provide a public service when you post things like this; using a rough time as a teachable moment. Allowing Chickie to understand and do the right thing. In the process, she amazes all of us w/her understanding and empathy. She’s young enough to know how he’s feeling, but old enough to do something about it that matters. (In fact, perhaps matters more than most things adults could do.) How awesome you are for recognizing and giving her that opportunity. I hope to do half as well as my girls get older.

    You’re amazing! Go have some chocolate, wine & bacon! You deserve it. (So does Chickie, but grape juice for her. ;))

  46. 46
    Nicki September 4, 2009 at 6:12 am #

    Okay, I’m not going to say that I’m crying right now…I must just have something in my eye. **sniffle**

    I’m beginning to need your Love Thursday posts like I need air. Sooooo good.

    Thank you for the inspiration.

  47. 47
    Elza September 4, 2009 at 7:15 am #

    i love that Chicadee.

  48. 48
    Half Assed Kitchen September 4, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    What a great thing to tell Chickadee. And she really rose to the occasion, didn’t she.

    Hoping that Monkey passes through this difficulty soon. It’s so hard to see your children suffer. :(

  49. 49
    anne September 4, 2009 at 10:10 am #

    I VERY rarely comment on blog posts, but I had to come back this morning and tell you how much this post touched me. Monkey is one lucky boy to have such an awesome big sister… both are blessed to have you as their mother. It’s so obvious you are doing a fabulous job with them. I hope that Monkey moves on through this rough patch quickly and I know he will treasure the memories of this time with his sister.

  50. 50
    Emily September 4, 2009 at 11:00 am #

    Your love for your family is so clear, so evident, so strong…and I feel honored that through your descriptions, I can adore them from afar, root them on, and hope that Chickadee’s efforts and support will help to strengthen Monkey during this trying time.

  51. 51
    mamalang September 4, 2009 at 12:18 pm #

    First, your post at Blogher was awesome. Well done.

    And this was one of the best posts I’ve ever written. Thank you.

  52. 52
    schmutzie September 4, 2009 at 1:34 pm #

    This weblog is being featured on Five Star Friday!
    http://www.fivestarfriday.com/2009/09/five-star-fridays-edition-69.html

  53. 53
    Jackie Hall September 4, 2009 at 1:43 pm #

    Oh Mir,

    I’m so sorry Monkey is going through such a difficult time. I’m sorry the family is hurting as a result. I’m so proud of Chickadee for taking to heart the things you spoke to her about. She sure is growing up to be a wonderful young lady. I’m sure Monkey will get throught these hard times and be a much stronger young man in the end. My thoughts and prayers are with all of you.

    Hang in there,
    Jackie

  54. 54
    annette September 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm #

    I miss when you don’t write. I enjoy hearing about your struggles, and you generally are able to shed light that I need as I experience those struggles. I am envious that I don’t have the writing skills, discipline, whatever to chronicle my kids lives as you do. I think the most important consideration is the purity of intention. I see yours, I appreciate yours, and I know it is good.

    And, if we were more than internet friends, I would absolutely be calling you up right now and setting up a time for margaritas to hash out the issues or just laugh our butts off about nothing. Laughter for me is better than a good cry. I laugh a lot:)

  55. 55
    Nancy R September 4, 2009 at 3:40 pm #

    Lovely.

  56. 56
    Cher September 4, 2009 at 4:07 pm #

    Can I tell you HOW MUCH this will pay off in 10, 15 years? My son is 3 years younger than my daughter, they are 28 and 25 now, but my daughter moved to Indonesia almost 3 years ago and my son??? OMG, we had a heart to heart that started with how much he missed his sister and ended with him crying his eyes out about JUST HOW MUCH he missed her and HOW HE WISHED he could be there to “take care of her” (she has me, her husband, his family, but yet…) They alternately loved and fought at your kids ages, but that closeness will ALWAYS follow them…I say it’s a credit to your parenting and the talking and being open with them – you’re doing such a good job! And, the troubles now, will most definitely pass (and then you’ll be my age and they’ll be grown and you’ll long for these days! ) Happy Friday, be safe over the holiday! Thank you for the posts and updates !

  57. 57
    TC September 4, 2009 at 5:00 pm #

    Clearly, Chickadee rocks. That goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway.

    Also, you rock. For recognizing that Chickadee’s old enough to deal with this, and giving her the enormous gift of being able to help and to make a difference in Monkey’s life. It’s something we’ve tried to do with Em as well, and while she sometimes can’t quite manage to keep her annoyance with her brother under wraps no matter HOW badly he’s feeling, she knows what’s underneath it all. And sometimes she’s his biggest supporter, and my heart just about bursts…just like it did reading this.

    And of course, know that I’m one of probably several thousand shoulders out here if you ever need it.

  58. 58
    Ruth September 8, 2009 at 10:10 pm #

    Just beautiful. I just told someone else how amazing it is when we let the kids work things out for themselves, maybe with a little talking to take the edge off of things, but usually they make the right and heart-felt decisions. How proud you must be and how fulfilled they must feel!

  59. 59
    Kelly September 10, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    Just wonderful – tears over here now. I appreciate how you write about your kids – its real and honest and that is one of the reasons I relate to you & your blog.

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