Tag Archives: echo center

Book Smart

The philosophy Myra-Jean’s school follows is based, roughly, on empathy. I don’t feel like going into all the finer details–nor am I qualified to–but suffice it to say you never shame a child; bribing is discouraged; physical punishment is forbidden. There’s lots of “seeing,” “honoring,” and “celebrating.” There are no time outs, no praise or rewards; the phrase “good job” is frowned upon. It’s all kind of wacky, and before I had a kid I would’ve thought much of it was ridiculous. But I’ve come around to most of it. Although I have promised Myra-Jean a bucket of jelly beans if she poops on the potty before she turns four. I’m not proud of it, but there you are. Some things trump principles, and frequent crappy diapers are one of them.

One of the most helpful tricks we’ve learned through this approach is “book” making. The idea is: when your kid is having feelings that are dramatic or overwhelming, you sit down with them, make a small book out of folded paper, and encourage them to describe in it what’s happening, their feelings about it, and anything else they want to add–all of this in the third person. The most important thing is that the words are all theirs–you just take narration. Then you or they illustrate, depending on their wishes.

It sounds simplistic, but let me tell you, in the last nine months we’ve made a dozen or so of these books, and each one has wound us out of a spectacularly gnarly emotional breakdown. They have titles like: “Myra-Jean Doesn’t Want to Brush Her Teeth Herself,” “Myra-Jean Didn’t Like It When Matthew Pulled Her Hair and Punched Her Neck” and “Myra-Jean Doesn’t Want To Go On Vacation.” Then there’s the one that kills me every time: “Myra-Jean Woke Up and Called Mama and Daddy and they Did Not Come.” Ugh. It’s true. It was one time, OK? And no, we weren’t passed out drunk. Just really tired.

Still. The remorse! I guess I should write a book about that.

One of the parents at MJ’s school jokes that, when his daughter is eighteen, he will hand her the giant stack of books she has made over the years and tell her to bring them with her when she heads for therapy. “She’ll have everything she needs!” he added cheerfully. Sort of.

Anyway. Myra-Jean has had a cold for the last couple of days. This morning she didn’t want to take the homeopathic (and probably useless) medication we bought to help with her runny nose. We got stubborn about it. So did she. It turned into a fight.

Finally she and her dad made a book.

Here it is, for your reading pleasure. Be forewarned: it ends a little darkly.

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(Yes, that last page says “we are lonely.” I told you it was dark.)

As for the medicine? I ended up sneaking it into her apple juice. Some times the old remedies still work the best.

To Done, Saturday 10/6

  • Up at 8:30
  • Made tea. Took toast — forgotten from yesterday — out of toaster. Put in new batch for myself.
  • Played “yoga class” with MJ and Mike. Wondered where she came up with move called the “humpback.” Did much videotaping. Realized the resultant footage would be interesting to 5-8 people on the entire planet.
  • Uploaded it anyway.
  • Realized I had forgotten my toast. Took it out, put jam on it, and commenced to eat it cold.
  • Lost toast to MJ.
  • Said goodbye to her and Mike, who left to go look at art.
  • Picked up every item on the floor in every room. This included yoga mat, a bra, my black heels, three corner protectors, 600 or so toys and parts of toys, miscellaneous ribbons, two magic markers, several Band Aid wrappers, two rubber stamps (aka foot killers), 18 stuffed animals, a Trader Joe’s receipt, a pantry’s worth of play food, and innumerable plastic dishes.
  • Vacuumed whole house, as well as couch, windowsills, and lint filter on dryer.
  • Mopped utility room and kitchen. Then the mop broke, causing me to fly into a minor rage at “cheaply made appliances.” Ruminated on whether or not a mop is an appliance. Decided not. Remained annoyed.
  • Threw away all trash in house. Including mop.
  • Watered tomato plants, which I’ve been doing just enough to keep them from dying, but not enough to make them produce more fruit. Realized I’ve put them in a floral coma. Wondered if this makes me tender, sadistic, or both.
  • Watered hibiscus. See above.
  • Threw away two broken paving stones from the large stack of them leaning in the corner of our driveway. Very heavy. Worried I would break the trash bin. Wondered if there was a weight limit for the same. Got distracted and confused. Moved on.
  • Emptied kiddie pool in front yard. Expressed under-my-breath revulsion at the natural detritus that manages to accumulate in it in “only a week.”
  • Cleaned half bathroom, which had gotten so dirty it was more like a science experiment than a habitable space.
  • Folded two loads of laundry.
  • Showered.
  • Sat down to eat leftover pasta and watch MJ videos.
  • Mike and MJ walked in. Pressed pause. Got up to make them lunch.
  • Finished eating.
  • Put MJ down for nap.
  • Watched rest of videos with Mike.
  • Drove to toy store to buy a present for a 3rd birthday party tomorrow. Simultaneously listened to a podcast about Genghis Khan. Nearly bought a fake sword and suit of armor for the little girl in question.
  • Drove home. Picked up Mike and MJ, left for parenting class.
  • Arrived. Dropped MJ in childcare. Went to class. Learned about empathy and “emotional flooding.”
  • Came home. Made MJ almond butter and jelly sandwich. Baby carrots on side.
  • Made Mike leftover pasta.
  • Washed MJ’s feet, face, and hands in lieu of a bath. Brushed teeth.
  • Felt wave of relief when she asked Mike, not me, to put her down. Empathized with her desire for “Daddy time.” Felt giddy. Empathized with my own giddiness. Felt flooded with giddy.
  • Checked e-mail.
  • Said goodbye to Mike, who was going out for the evening.
  • Put in a frozen pizza.
  • Spent the evening with Genghis.