I want to trust what people say, in general, especially when they claim and appear to be serious and sincere. Especially Amy. And yet, sometimes, I am left wondering, is she — or is whoever — really, seriously, that obtuse? (I guess I’m thinking especially of claims to not understand something.) And when I feel that uncomfortable suspicion — do I trust my intuition? If I do and I’m wrong, I’ve falsely accused someone of lying, and quite possibly insulted them by claiming something they didn’t understand should have been obvious. On the other hand, I don’t want to be gullible or susceptible to manipulation.
I go in the music room to look for something. It’s after bedtime. Amy hears me and comes out of her room and says, “Mom?” as if she’s about to say or ask something. Somewhat irritatedly, I say, “What?” and after a pause she says “Actually, I don’t need to tell you anything.” She sounds a little hurt or taken aback. On my way out, I stop in the bathroom and say “I love you; after bedtime, I don’t want to have conversations.” She follows me and says, “Did we have a conversation?” I explain that I thought she sounded sad when I said ‘what’ and so I wanted to explain why I said what I said. She persists — “I don’t remember having a conversation” or “I don’t know what you mean.” Again I explain, first retelling the whole thing to make sure we’re on the same page… meanwhile I’m getting irritated and confused. Could she possibly really not know what I’m talking about? On the other hand, could she possibly really be that clever in manipulating a conversation?
Other examples include things like asking her why she was disciplined, what happened in the story we just heard, what she did in school, and so on. Sometimes it’s obvious that she’s trying to avoid responsibility… or that she just really wants ME to tell whatever it is… sometimes it’s not obvious.
So I observe a few minutes of Amy’s class once in a while, since I’m there in the building anyway (sewing and knitting). And I keep seeing things that make me feel hurt and judgmental. Mostly things about the restrictions of the classroom setting, which is amusing because Montessori has just about the most liberty of any kind of classroom setting I can imagine. But — there’s no dancing — not enough room. The girl who strung some wooden beads can’t swing them around in a circle, even slowly enough that they stay on or close to the floor, in no danger of hitting anyone. I worry about those boys who look like they just need an environment more friendly to bigger and more energetic physicality.
And then in the mornings getting ready for school, and again in the evenings getting ready for bed, I keep thinking, why does Amy do these things so slowly! Get distracted so easily! Keep playing about everything and not focusing?! I want to see more focused concentration, a clear understanding of the difference between time for playing and time for work.
Oh, and then there’s the hypocrisy of judging Amy for her lack of perseverance and frustration tolerance and impulse control and resourceful problem-solving, while getting all in a huff myself about stuff she does and says. I know what it’s like to be intense, willful, fiery — and yet I don’t always do so well helping her with it. At least I’m establishing a habit of apologizing and discussing; if you have to be a normal imperfect human being in a way that negatively affects other people, which does seem to be reality, at least apologizing and discussing ought to mitigate some of the bad effects.
3. Quality time
On the one hand, you get messages that it doesn’t matter how often you vacuum or how much bread you bake or what fancypants crafts or foods or outings or whatever you spend time or money on, what matters is spending time with your kids.
On the other hand, you get messages that kids need plenty of unstructured, barely supervised and even unsupervised, time to themselves — to play with truly versatile things like sticks and legos and water, to manage the universe with their imaginations, and even to do their own chores.
I don’t think I’m tempted to over-schedule or over-structure Amy’s day. And I don’t view my role as her entertainer. (And I only bake bread once a week.) But I do want our interactions to be warm, affectionate, open, available, involved, engaged, attentive, direct.
Except for the times when I want to be by myself, or I don’t want to play paper dolls again, or I don’t want to be the object on which she practices or works out her negative feelings, or I have chores or chosen things to work on.
I guess I think there should be a balance of face-to-face time — the direct and undivided attention kind, whether playing together, reading, talking, going for a walk, etc — and side-by-side time — when we’re near each other and can talk a bit but are mostly focused on our own things — as well as some separated time.
I often feel like I’m getting the balance wrong on one side or the other — or both, ha. So maybe I’m doing just fine most of the time.