Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Ye will not suffer your children that they go naked."

Dressing my three year-old has become a full-time job. Yet, in spite of the excessive amount of time I spend dressing him, he is always naked.  Searching the house and yard for discarded, size T3 clothing is another time-consuming new hobby of mine.

Part of the problem is that summer has finally arrived and nudity just makes sense to a three year-old suffering in hot weather.  Potty training is another issue.  My son believes he cannot use the potty without removing all of his clothing, and once he has shedded it, he sees no reason to put it back on.

A few weeks ago, he disappeared at the library.  I frantically searched for him until he reappeared, in the nude, at this extremely public venue.  He had gone to use the restroom by himself and left his clothing behind when he finished.  I cracked the door open and loudly announced that I was coming in before searching the men's restroom for my son's clothes.

Long ago, when I was a naive 21 year-old missionary in the extremely hot and humid island nation of the Dominican Republic, I once suggested to a new convert that she should start dressing her sons, who ranged in age from 1 to 8 and rarely wore clothes.  Later, I regretted my ethnocentric imposition of the modesty standards of my colder and wealthier homeland on this poor Dominican family.  Now my regret is even greater, as I realize how challenging keeping one's children dressed can be.

I'm sorry, people of the universe.  I don't care anymore if your kids are naked.  Mine is.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Favorite Books

I am always looking for a good book.  I ride public transit to work so I can have a wee bit of leisurely reading time on the way.  (It also makes me feel good about my eco-friendliness.) I love it when friends suggest good reading material to me.  In that spirit, I have added a "bookshelf" to my blog to share some of my favorite books with my friends. My all-time favorite book is Pride and Prejudice, which isn't very original of me.  Who doesn't like that book?  But I have also included some more obscure choices.  For example:

  • Autobiographies about people I admire, like A Child Called It and Two Little Girls
  • Fiction about exotic places I would like to visit, like The Bonesetter's Daughter and the Marriage Bureau for Rich People
  • References that I actually use regularly, like Dr. Sears Baby Book and the Western Garden Book
  • Nonfiction that is both fun and educational, like the Coming Plague and Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters
  • Favorites from childhood, like Ballet Shoes and the Ramona series  (We recently listened to the first two Ramona books on CD with our kids during a long car ride to Las Vegas.  They loved them.)
  • Satires that are hilarious to me, but not even remotely funny to my husband, like Dave Barry's Guide to Guys and Politically Correct Fairy Tales.
At present, my virtual shelf is pretty weak compared to my real bookshelf, but I will keep adding to it.  You can see it at:

I would love for you to suggest more books I should read and add to my shelf.

My Husband, the Nurturer

"Would it hurt the kids if I went to work full-time? Do they need me at home? Should I wait until they are older? Would I miss them too much if I went to work everyday?" I've heard these words so many times, but this time it sounded different because the voice was lower. This was my husband speaking.

Women fret over this issue all the time. Most men don't. My husband isn't most men.

When my oldest daughter was born, I stopped working full-time so I could raise her. My husband did, too. For six years we have shared breadwinning and childrearing duties.  The kids have their "Mommy days" (Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays) and their "Daddy Days" (Tuesdays and Thursdays).

The division hasn't been perfectly equal. He's better at breadwinning than I am, bringing in about two-thirds of our household income.  However, while his wages are better, it's my job that comes with the benefits.  I work at one of those extremely rare part-time benefitted positions.

That fact has made our lifestyle possible.  I think more families would like to try an arrangement like ours, but our healthcare system forces most families to depend on employer-sponsored insurance and most employers are unwilling to insure part-time employees.  I hope that as healthcare reform is implemented families will have more flexible options.

Another barrier to this lifestyle is the limited roles men have placed on them by our society.  Yes,  I said men.  As women's rights have progressed, there are still conservative factions fighting to keep women at home, but most of society is moving towards a greater acceptance of letting women be whomever they want to be.  Women might work full-time, part-time or devote all their time to their homes.  Not all, but many people will applaud their decision.  It seems that society at large still hasn't considered offering such options to men.   I struggle to think of male role models who have made any choice other than full-time employment in mainstream media, with the exception of movies like "Mr. Mom" which just make fun of men for their supposed incompetence at household duties.

I think that is sad, because our shared child-rearing experience has had many advantages. My children have tight bonds with both parents because we both have dedicated a large portion of our time to being with them.  They are also unusually flexible, adaptive and open to new experiences.  Maybe that's a natural personality trait, but I suspect that a lifetime (so far) of spending every other day with a person whose approach to daily activities is different than the person who was in charge the day before may be contributing to that.  My husband can truly empathize with me about the less rewarding aspects of staying at home with the children (cleaning, potty-training, searching for missing shoes, etc.) because he also devotes much of his time to these tasks.  Every other day, we both get the opportunity to leave housework aside and pursue our other interests.

As much as we have liked both working part-time, it may be coming to an end now.  Work has been getting busier for my husband, and his employer is considering changing his position to full-time.  My husband has been looking at other part-time options, but in this economy, these other options could be riskier than staying where he is.

Regardless of what happens with his career now, he will always be a wonderful dad.  I am grateful for his bravery in spending the last six years on a road less traveled (at least, less traveled by people of his own gender).  Even if he does go back to the traditional fatherly role of full-time work, I know he will never become one of those dads who doesn't know the name of his daughter's kindergarten teacher or where his wife keeps the cleanser.  Love you, honey.  Happy Father's Day.

Originally Posted At

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Picking the Flowers

The first season after I planted my perennial flower garden, my oldest child, who was three at the time, presented me with a bouquet of daffodils. She had picked every single flower from my infant garden. I thanked her anyway. After all, she had created a beautiful gift for me. Then I told her how much I love dandelion bouquets. She took the hint and spent the rest of the summer picking dandelions.

This season, history repeated itself when I found my daffodils in a vase courtesy of my second child, who is three years-old now. I tried the same tactic, but he seemed a bit more savvy about the desirability of various flower species. He boldly proclaimed his distaste for "lion flowers".

In many ways, my garden has been a labor of love. In others, it has just been labor. Lots of labor. When I began planting three years ago, my entire yard was dead. I have spent countless hours coaxing it to life. I thrill when I see my efforts rewarded with healthy, blooming plants and cringe when my flowers are sentenced to death by picking.

While I cringe, another part of me is gratified that someone else loves my garden as much as I do. My children squeal with delight when they find new flowers in bloom. They examine the shapes and colors. My baby lies down and puts his whole face into the plants, opening his mouth to breathe in the fragrance.
The curb appeal of my garden suffers from the incessant picking, but joggers who glance at my yard as they go past couldn't possibly appreciate my flowers as much as the children who keep picking them.

Even if my son had left them alone, the daffodils would have been dead by now anyway, replaced by irises and the newest bloomers to my garden, the poppies. I spotted my first poppy of the season a couple days ago, just a few moments before my son saw it too and plucked it. I found out later that it hadn't actually been the first poppy anyway. My son had already picked that one the day before.

Yesterday, when my son brought me a daisy, I put it in my hair and wore it. Then I let my daughter pick one for her hair, too. The flowers will come back again next season. My children will never be this young again.