Best, better, good

20200611_164720After much begging on her part, I cut Anya’s hair short. I watched an hour’s worth of tutorials before I did so, but she is squirmy and has so much hair, so it didn’t come off exactly as I planned. It’s cute, and I’m quite proud of it, but I’m not quitting my day job. And I’m tipping the kids’ hairdressers double next time we go in to the salon.

She loves it. “I have the shortest hair in school!” she cried. Which I doubt. We live in the land of crew cuts and pickup trucks.

Any time my daughter identifies with something, she has to be the mostest bestest. I’m not sure if this is an Anya thing or an eight thing.

“I have the longest tongue in the world!” So I showed her pictures of Gene Simmons. She has questions. Questions I cannot answer.

“I’m the weirdest person in the world!” Oh, honey. Not even a little bit close there. Look at Gene Simmons.

While digging in the pantry, she dropped everything she touched. “I’m the clumsiest person in this family,” she told me.

“I’m afraid not,” I replied. “That title belongs to me. Right, Daddy?”

“Yep,” he told her.

Just call me Queen Fumble Bee. Which makes the fact that the haircuts came out halfway decent all the more miraculous.

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Haircuts, plural. Kai, not wanting to be left out, asked for a trim after I finished with Anya. I am getting better with his hair — probably because he has less of it. Cutting around his ears was nerve-wracking, but it’s so cute on him. And the too-short pieces at least blend in reasonably well with the rest. Then R came home and I gave him a trim and cleaned up the curly hair at the nape of his neck, since I already had the scissors out. (I also trimmed my own hair and touched up my roots later that evening, because why should everyone else get fancy hair and not me?)

As you can tell from the pics, I did their haircuts outside for easy cleanup. The resulting hair pile was not inconsiderable. If I’d just swept it into the grass, or tried to transfer it to the trash can, the kids would be tracking strands throughout the house for months. So we put the hair trimmings down the hill. While I was down there, I noticed Anya’s tombstone for the dead bird. Wait — did I tell you about the dead bird? Let me back up.

A few days ago, the kids found a dead bird in the yard. It’s hard to say what killed it; maybe it flew too hard into the window, or the storm killed it (we’ve had some big ones in the wake of Cristobal), or…well, I don’t know what kills birds. But it was dead, and covered in flies, and that is not my area. Unfortunately, it was also trash day, and the trash had already run, so putting the body in the can was not an option even if I could have brought myself to scoop it up and dump it in the bin. (I would not make a great Walking Dead survivor. I won’t even clean the fish tank.) So I told the kids to play inside for a bit and we’d ask Daddy deal with the bird when he got home.

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I missed the burial. (This was not an accident.) So it was only as I was disposing of the hair pile that I learned that a) Anya had made a headstone for the bird, and b) it was fancy.

I am not really surprised that she went to so much trouble for a random dead bird. That’s my girl. If she were in The Walking Dead, she’d be Eastman — killing the walkers to give them peace, and burying them to honor their lives.

She’s a better person than I am. I talk a good game, but she lives it.

I am not unteachable, though. So, just as I studied up on haircuts before attempting to give my daughter a new ‘do, I am studying up on how to be a kindergarten teacher. I do better teaching Anya because she wants me to; she sees that I am struggling and she wants to help me succeed. Kai is resisting my efforts with the steel fist of five: No! No no no! I don’t want to! You can’t tell me nothing! (I think of him every time I hear that line in Old Town Road.) I can’t teach him when he gets like that, so I am experimenting with different approaches to the day. Different approaches to lessons. Shorter sessions. More variety. More games. More flexibility. More empathy.

He’s currently grounded from his tablet for two weeks because he dug his heels in (about, as luck would have it, giving me his tablet so I could charge it because he was at 5%) and I blew up. We argued until “no tablet for the rest of the day” turned into two weeks. This is punishment for me, not him. He begs and pleads with me for at least an hour every day to let him have it back. Then stomps his little foot and starts the now now nows. Then pleads some more. Then cries.

Every. single. day.

I feel if I give the tablet back sooner, I am encouraging the behavior I am trying to eliminate (more screen time = more sass with this boy), but I don’t think withholding it is teaching him anything other than Mommy is mean. I don’t want to teach him Mommy is mean. I don’t want to teach him blind obedience. I want to teach him to listen. So many of our battles could be avoided if he would simply listen, instead of shutting down on me. Our biggest blowups happen when he ignores my words and jumps to the worst conclusion.

“How do I get you to listen?” I asked him, days later. In a quiet moment, in a safe place, cradling him in my arms as we rocked in my office chair.

“Not loud,” he said.

“Like this?” I said, softly.

“Less loud,” he replied.

“Like this?” I repeated, almost whispering.

“Yes,” he said.

“And maybe if we stepped away for a moment? Moved to a different place and took a moment to calm down?” I asked, as softly as I could. Still rocking. Stroking his hair.

“That’d be good,” he sighed, snuggling up.

So now I am formulating a plan to install a Quiet Corner in the study, which is what I’m now calling the room formerly known as our dining room. Some day — when I feel safe sending the kids to school, or having people over for dinner again — it will be our dining room once more. For the time being, though, it’s the study, and I’m trying to make it a kid-friendly, inviting place to learn.

For me as well as them. That’d be good.

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