Saturday, September 26, 2015

You Actually Can Teach An Old Dog New Tricks... it turns out.

Did I ever tell you guys about my fantasy career as a food stylist/researcher for television shows?  The genesis of this idea came about 2-3 years ago, when the Dotytron and I started our brief (too much Claire Danes ugly crying and CRAZYEYES) dalliance with Homeland.  There was an episode in the first season when she goes to her sister's house where Danes' dad (who also deals with mental illness) is staying after a recent trip to a psychiatric institution.  He offers to make her a turkey sandwich, and at that point, my suspension of disbelief was severed.  I went on a long rant about how NO ONE EVER EATS A TURKEY SANDWICH, and how implausible it was (he basically just slapped some sliced deli turkey between two slices of bread and called it a day) and how shows needed someone like ME to consult on how PEOPLE ACTUALLY ATE.  Other subsequent shows have triggered a similar response.  I haven't eaten a ham or turkey cold cut sandwich since I was in grade 5.

Cut to me, last week, at my friend K's house.  We had tried to get takeout but nothing was open so she graciously served me a a turkey sandwich, on whole wheat, with lettuce, tomato, mayo and sliced havarti, and GOD DAMN IF IT WASN'T THE BEST THING I'VE EATEN IN FOREVER.  I'm literally thinking of ways that I can add a sliced turkey sandwich into my weeknight meal plan, and the Dotytron has given me mad side eye because I don't think he can quite believe the turnaround.

People are capable of change.  It's a beautiful thing.

Last week I had the opportunity to visit the mock reactor at Darlington which was hella cool.  A bunch of us from work went and it was the best work field trip of all time.  Hands down.  My job is so cool.  I didn't have to pretend to be interested once!  Haha.  As it turns out, I also fundamentally misunderstood nuclear energy.  I thought the fission generated heat that was captured.  I didn't realize there was the intermediary step of the heat being necessary to generate steam which in turn gets the turbines moving.  I always thought the water needs were to cool the reactor, but not also as a component of the energy generation process.  This lead me down a rabbit hole of reading up on Fukushima and Chernobyl, and remembering the stories during Fukushima of the Japanese government asking single, old people to volunteer to help clean up the reactor and how that was so moving at the time, but now that I had something tangible to hang my feelings on, was even more poignant in retrospect.

One half of a scale recreation of a reactor

The other day I was walking somewhere with the Big Yam and we stopped to smell some flowers (literally), and he said, "These flowers smell damn good."  I was like, "'re not allowed to say that."  I think we can chalk that down to reverberations from letting him watch Jurassic World on repeat.  The other night at dinner he asked us if we knew what "capiche" meant.  His kindergarten teacher says it to him.  It's quite cute seeing an almost-five-year-old say "capiche," let me tell you.

Otherwise, we've had a bit of a busy week (aren't they all?), and this is even BEFORE our programming starts in a couple of week.  One of the neighbour ladies was asking about art classes for her daughter, who is also five, and then I started remembering how most of the kids I know are in organized (not city parks and recreation offered) sports and I started spiraling about how reasonable people are supposed to manage all this programming?  We have the Big Yam in Chinese school on weekends, followed by a math class (because we are monsters), and then we're putting him in swimming and gymnastics, because the Dotytron believes it's important for kids to learn basic coordination and how to tumble and stuff.  We also have him doing piano lessons, at our house, thankfully.  I'm willing to pay a premium for someone to do piano lessons in my own home.  This is him killing the more pensive theme from Jurassic World:


Anyway, just thinking about that series of activities for just ONE of my three children and thinking about what would happen when we have all three in something made me blow a gasket and I had to have Dr. Rei talk me down from the ledge.  I have peeps asking me about what soccer club I prefer and I know people who have their kid in a different organized sport (or 2!) a season and I was freaking out because, as with all things parenting, you're wondering if you're IRREVOCABLY DAMAGING YOUR CHILD by not having them do what a million other whack-a-moles are doing.  Like, I have people asking which art studio they should send their five year old to!  Then Dr. Rei reminded me that kids get good at art by sitting their butts down and drawing and I flashed back to my own experience being a creative, artsy kid, and I was like, oh yeah.  I made pop up books out of printer paper and toilet paper tubes.  I was fine.  It's all gonna be okay.

I do have a tendency to get whipped into a froth when it comes to parenting stuff and then regain perspective.  The twins are in this mode where they cry themselves to sleep. EVERY NIGHT.  It basically started after we came back from camping.  Something about us all being in the tent together finally triggered the need to experience the awesomeness that is sleeping in your parents bed and it's been a bitter pill for them to swallow that they can't do that every night.  No matter how quiet it is, now matter how drowsy they are, no matter how many times I kiss their hands and their feet (somewhere along the way, I got into this routine where they proffer me a papal-like palm and I kiss it and then I kiss the soles of their feet - also papal - and now part of the bedtime routine is me scrabbling from toddler bed to crib, kissing alternating proffered palms/soles), there is an inevitable chorus of wailing that starts up as soon as I click the door shut.  I don't know what it is, but I know it won't (can't) last.

It sucks because it mars what is otherwise a very sweet time of the day.  There is something that I hope I'm imprinting on these unformed little nuggets,  I want that hazy feeling of their little bodies giving way to sleep, the feel of my hand smoothing their hair to the side, the rhythm of their eyes falling just a little heavier shut with each pass, attempting to cling to consciousness so that they might hear my whispered affirmations of love but feeling so secure and enveloped by the coziness to be okay with giving up to slumber - I want all of that deeply embedded in their subconscious.  I want them to be able to remember that feeling of security.  Mostly so that when I am old and infirm, they will do the same for me, and not begrudge me a single minute.

Just when you get your kids under control, you end up having to look after your doddering parents and they are so out of touch and out of it that it really does feel like a thankless task.  Dr. Rei and I have marveled at this before.  You love your parents, but not nearly as much as you love your kids, and the grand tragedy is that THEY WILL NEVER KNOW AND WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND the depth and breadth of your love for them.  It's tragic.  It's why looking after your parents who can't figure out simple technology is so frustrating (but seriously.  YOU USE A COMPUTER EVERY DAY AT WORK, DO YOU NOT?!?).  That moment where you felt you could sleep because you were safe and secure in the cradle of your parents' love is inaccessible to you as an adult.


I checked The Brief Thief out of the library for the Big Yam.  I tend to do that to test out stories before making a permanent investment in our distended collection of children's books.  I didn't know anything about this, other than the fact that it has been generating "buzz" and has been circulating on the lists.  Ultimately, this is a story about a chameleon, who uses a pair underpants he finds conveniently hanging on a tree to wipe his butt after a poo, and then is bullied by his conscience into doing the right thing (washing them thoroughly and returning them).  There's a funny surprise ending and because it comes right out and uses the word "poo" is obviously a HUGE hit with the under-65 set.  I would recommend this.  It is also a good starting point for launching a conversation about a person's conscience.  Although, if your kid is anything like the Big Yam, the conversation will go something like this:

Me: "Blah blah blah, describe a conscience, blah blah.  Do YOU have a conscience?"
Big Yam: "No."
Me: "Are you sure?  You know when you do something wrong and then you feel sorry, or you know that what you did wasn't the right thing?  That's your conscience."
Big Yam: "Oh yeah!  I do!"
Me: *gratified*
Big Yam: "YOU'RE my conscience!"
Me: *smh*

LOL!  This conversation came at a very opportune time.  Our caregiver randomly spilled the beans the other day that the Big Yam has been teeing up his brothers and hitting her and acting up like crazy (spitting, kicking) when he doesn't get his way with her.  So we had to have a big sit down with her and figure out a game plan and give her some tools to cope and discipline because she's not very adept with that kind of stuff.  I was mortified because he's apparently been doing this at school and I can't imagine what the other parents think of us.  

Anyway, we set up a chart and laid out some ground rules.  If he doesn't hit/kick/act violent or misbehave in a noticeable way (like, these have to be indictable offenses), then he gets a smiley face and accruing 4 consecutive smiley faces means he gets to watch something that he wants that's a bit more sophisticated than our usual fare (which lately has consisted of Wonder Twin-appropriate programming like, nature documentaries, Cinderella, and the Halloween episode of Yo Gabba Gabba).

When you implement a system of reward-based discipline like this, it's important to do a few things:

1) make the increments easily attainable.  Don't set this impossibly high bar/time frame: "You have to do X, Y, Z for a whole month or else!"  Kids' sense time on a whole different level and if it's too stretched out, you lose the immediacy of the reward.
2) don't turn the reward system into a catch-all for any and all bad behaviour.  It has to be tied to one discrete thing you're trying to correct.  Like, if it's about not hitting, keep it to that.  If you start throwing everything under the sun under the umbrella (talking back, having to be asked more than once to do something, showing their frustration in a different, but equally annoying way), then a) they're never going to get their reward, and b) you're not adhering to the rules of the system you've established, which is demoralizing for the kid and they lose the drive
3) you've heard this a million times before, but it's a lot easier (and more fun) to reward and praise good behaviour, than to come down on them for the bad stuff.  They're just trying to make it in this workaday world, just like we are.  It's employee engagement,  man.  I am way more motivated when I'm not being micromanaged and when my boss shows they value my effort and work, even if I might have mangled the final product - same goes for your kids.

This post has been a week and a half in the making, so I'll end this here.  

Stay tuned for: What I've eaten! Quilts!  How I am fed up with casual racism!  How I'm over white women (related to the previous)!  How I loathe the lack of original content on Facebook!  My thoughts on problematic hyper-masculinity in Straight Outta Compton and Narcos!  How I accepted a new job!  What I'm reading!  Big Yam school drama!  And more more more!


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