Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Thoughts on Community


On a much-needed run last week, I thought a lot about what I'm in need of right now.

I'm in the midst of reading Your Three-Year-Old:  Friend or Enemy by Louise Bates Ames.  The title is so apt.  I get so much sweetness and wonder with Bean, and then he pushes me away so hard and with such hurtfulness.  I'm hearing the typical "I don't love you," and also experiencing the funny draining impressive omg amazing irritating rollercoaster that is life with a smart, willful, passionate, and persistent child.

In starting the first chapter of Your Three-Year-Old, I actually bawled.  According to Bates Ames:
Three now enjoys other children, but most of all he enjoys his mother.  He loves to do things with her - go for a walk, go to the store, "help" with housework, and, above all, play.  He is happiest when his mother finds it possible to give up other activities and concentrate on him.  Almost anything the two of you do together brings him joy.  It is bliss to have Mother read to him, play games with him, talk to him, just be near him.
Um.  No.  This is how I would write it:
Three now enjoys other children, but most of all he enjoys anyone who is not his mother.  He loves to do things away from her - go for a walk after telling her not to join in, go to the store with Dad, create more housework, and, above all, go play with anyone who isn't his mother.  When his mother finds it possible to give up other activities and concentrate on him, he rebuffs her; when she does not find it possible to concentrate on him, he works hard so that she cannot concentrate on anything else, either.  Almost anything the two of you do together ends in tears.  There is little bliss, though you should snag what you can when reading to him, playing games with him, talking to him, and just being near him (when he will let you).
I calmed myself down and read on:
Three is a conforming age.  Three-and-a-half is just the opposite.  Refusing to obey is perhaps the key aspect of this turbulent, troubled period in the life of the young child.  It sometimes seems to his mother that his main concern is to strengthen his will, and he strengthens this will by going against whatever is demanded of him by that still most important person in his life, his mother.
Many a mother discovers that even the simplest event or occasion can elicit total rebellion.  Dressing, eating, going to the bathroom, getting up, going to bed - whatever the routine, it can be the scene and setting for an all-out, no-holds-barred fight.
Yeah!  That's what I'm experiencing over here.  All-out, no-holds-barred fights.  To the death.  (Or at least to the potential for head injury.)

Bates Ames goes on to repeat over and over that the mother of a three-and-a-half-year-old should find her child a babysitter and keep mother and child separated until the kid's fourth birthday.

I think I'm down for that.  I have already called my mother-in-law and said "PLEASE SAVE US FROM EACH OTHER!"  (Soon.  So soon.  The Beast and I will get our first night together away from Bean, with the help of my in-laws.  Yeah, I know.  Sad.  But with no family nearby, this is the first opportunity we've really had!)

I have desperately wished for a grandparent figure nearby.  I love my kids more than anything - and right now everyone needs a break.  The Beast and I need to regroup and reconnect.  Bean needs to spend some time with people he's not so willing to push.  Don't mis-hear me.  This is not a "bad" kid or a kid with any kind of behavior or attitude problem.  He is a joy to be around right now if you are not his mother.  He is empathetic.  He is social.  He is creative.  He is hilarious.  He is curious.  He is an awesome kid all around. 

Back to that run...

In thinking about what I need, and what our finances are like for all that childcare, I got to thinking how cool it would be if there were some kind of network for situations like this.  I was thinking of a multi-generational Big Brothers/Big Sisters of sorts, where I help out a young adult with some home-cooked meals or a quiet place away from the hubbub of campus, continue to help out my friends with childcare, postpartum meals, etc.  Or I could mentor a younger person - I do miss my flute students, so this is appealing! - and that teenager could help with childcare, and be away from their parents (yeah, I'm aware this 3.5-year-old thing is a preview).  Everyone could pitch in.  I don't know how it would be facilitated - A Craigslist or Freecycle sort of listing?  A Facebook or Twitter feed?  A mixer of interested folks, who can then connect on their own (or through an online community space?).  Perhaps an evening of quick meetings akin to speed dating!  ha!

My idealism (and the endorphins) completely took over and I was thinking about a utopia of a diverse group of people all paying it forward and helping each other out, knowing that they would have help when they needed it.  And everyone learning from each other.  Even where people might disagree, it might not matter because everyone is pitching in and agreeing to disagree.

Apparently what I need is a commune.

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