Sunday, March 17, 2019

"Add Water." – The Light-hearted Element of Parenting





  Many years ago my husband was trying to solve a computer problem at work and arrived at a screen that said, “Add water.”  Obviously, someone had programmed a measure of levity in an otherwise frustratingly-technical endeavor.  When something seems insurmountable to me now, I sometimes think of  the advice, “Add water.”   

  The hazards of parenting are a point in case.  The New York Times published an article this week about “snowshovel” parenting.  The article and the comments described children and teenagers who were raised without facing much risk, failure, or challenges. Their parents shoveled aside all difficulties.  Examples included parents doing a child’s homework, serving only food that their child would eat (all food without sauces), and sending their kid off to college or life without the basic skills of cooking or doing laundry.  They would have served their child better by “Adding water.”

  I think of this parenting element on two levels.  One is literal.  My young daughter got to help water plants with hoses or buckets.  She had her own capped pitcher located in the refrigerator door, so as a three-year old she could get a glass of water and pour it herself.  My grandson is being raised in the same manner.  At age six he asked me to measure two cups of water yesterday and he poured them into a pan to make his noodles.  Earlier he helped shovel snow off a gravel pile and pushed a wheelbarrow through slush to fill potholes in my road.  Water is fascinating to children in all its forms and provides early opportunities to foster independence and a good work ethic.  The little boy playing in a fountain in the photo above was at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  He experimented over and over with stopping the spiggot of water.  His attention was long and focused.  His pants were soaking wet.  He and his parents were unconcerned.  When he was done playing, they dried him with a towel and changed his pants.  Water is an excellent teaching prop.    

  The second reason to “add water” to one’s parenting skills is that of attitude, of using humor.  Parenting is difficult.  It is like playing a game of chess and trying to think ahead for hazards two or three moves in the future.  Indulge a child once and they might expect the same treatment constantly.  (But you allowed me to play video games all afternoon only yesterday.)  A child or teenager whining, dithering, or procrastinating can frustrate any parent.  The trick is sometimes to “Add water.”            

  The great chess player succeeds partly by playing often and partly by studying.  Parenting certainly gives one the frequency of practice and the initiative to find solutions.  But sometimes, you need the levity of “Add water.”  I am not thinking of the darker kinds of humor – sarcasm or put-downs.  Kids just need the gift of humor.  A light joke to allow them the grace to return to their work or do what you are asking with a better attitude.  Or you, as the adult, needs humor to prevent yourself from taking on the feelings of your child.  They get to experience the disappointment of their own mistakes and learn to make adjustments.  You can certainly commiserate, but they get the opportunity to practice self-calming and acquire the determination to begin again after feeling discouraged.

  “Add water.”  Good light-hearted parenting advice.          

Sunday, February 17, 2019

A Cartoon Winter




I grew up with comic books.  The proper position for reading them was to lay on one’s stomach head-to-head with a friend.  The storylines might have been simplistic, but they were rife with humor appreciated by children and teenagers.  We came to know the facial expressions of our favorite characters and absorbed the lessons of life through the thoughts of dogs, the adventures of ducks, the antics of teens, and the heroics of heroes. 


If any kid wished to emulate the comic book artists, there were books showing one how to draw in the style with either pencil or ink.  Although I was attracted to those how-to drawing books, I never seemed to have the patience to complete many pictures.  The detail of the tree in the photo above would have been much too trying for me.

Hence, my delight upon noticing an editing option in my newest phone for turning photos into a cartoon format. 



I’ve not found much of a humorous nature in the winter landscape.  One of my better offers is the above scene that I shall title “Winter Classroom.”  In the last many years, outdoor schools for children have started up in the most unlikely of climates.  Rainy Seattle hosts a number of them.  In my neighborhood, children would get to sit in a soft but wet seat and write in snow.  Silly, right?



The humor in this photo of an icicle and its drip is how many snapshots I took before catching the perfect drip.  My dog was by my side and kept insisting that we were done and ready to go inside.  I said to her, “This is the last batch.”  Then I would laugh and say, “One more batch.”  Laugh.  “And, one more batch.” 



I do love this new phone option.  The photos are beautiful.  This one is of the lane outside of my house.



I might just have managed to draw this last photo.  The cat of the yellow paws on the top of the print is Chives.  The humor is that not once in her nineteen years did she ever successfully catch a bird.  She is exactly like Charlie Brown – never getting the red-haired girl.