Natural consequences

AS I WAITED FOR MY GARAGE DOOR TO OPEN yesterday afternoon, I was met by Eli, who was fixing to leave on his bike with his basketball. He’s been enjoying that we live close to basketball courts, but it’s been too cold to play outside. He has discovered that sometimes, his school is open after hours and if one of the two gyms is not in use, he can shoot around inside.

The problem was, he was wearing crew socks and a pair of athletic slides. And a hoodie. And it was 20 degrees outside.

I tried to explain frostbite and hypothermia, but all he heard was BLAH BLAH COLD BLAH BLAH BLAH and off he went.

When he returned 15 minutes later, his feet were really cold. (No!) As he sat with them next to the fireplace, we had another discussion about how 20 degrees is a kind of cold one should not trifle with. This is the kind of cold that would freeze the canned sodas we used to leave on the shelf in our carport. It’s the kind of cold that helps you identify every broken seal on every window and door in your house. It’s the kind of cold that makes furnaces sputter and quit.

You would think the experience of self-inflicted cold feet would have left an impression. You would think he’d have been grateful that I dug out two winter coats so he could choose one to wear on his walk to school. You would think those things, but you are probably an adult with a fully-developed frontal lobe. The boy rolled his eyes and groaned when I insisted he wear a coat. Or, he groaned because it was the first day back after winter break. Probably some of both. Either way, he was running late this morning and asked me to drive him to school. (Only the second time this school year!)

He got into the car wearing just a hoodie. Coat’s in my backpack, he said in response to my side-eye. Do you have a hat? I asked. I have a hood. Gloves? One. But I have pockets.

At least he was wearing sneakers instead of slides.

WebMD illustrates natural consequences using the coat / cold example. They go on to say, “Learning through experiencing consequences is much more powerful than through a lecture or punishment. Using consequences for misbehavior is an effective teaching method for dealing with behavior problems in children and teens.”

Oh, WebMD! That’s precious! I thought it would be effective too, but I am a female adult. And I have learned from parenting two boys through their teen years that cause and effect is not the deterrent you’d expect it to be, at least when it comes to weather-appropriate dress. Eli’s brothers insisted upon leaving coats behind, lest they be forced to actually use their school lockers. And with Eli, I’ve had to establish a threshold of 32 degrees Fahrenheit, below which he will only reluctantly wear long pants to school, much to the chagrin of school administrators.

Despite it all, I do tend to agree that a “natural consequences” approach to parenting is probably the best way in most cases. Within reasonable limits, of course. But I’ll be counting the days until he demonstrates that he can decide on his own, based on weather reports and experience, whether or not it’s a good day to wear a coat.

I take comfort in knowing that my kids’ behavior places them in the fat part of the bell curve. A quick Google search of “shorts in snow” yields many images of bare legs on a white background, including in this feature story from the Coeur D’Alene (Idaho) Press that articulates adults’ perennial concern for children’s cold legs.

I have found my people.

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Area Boy wears summer attire in winter. School administrators remain exasperated.

 

In the genes

YESTERDAY, I began the process of genetic testing to assess my risk of several kinds of cancer. Thanks to medical research, it is possible to have your blood analyzed to determine whether or not you carry a gene that predisposes you to developing cancer. Knowledge is power, and if there’s anything I can do to prevent cancer, I want to know.

Diseases aren’t the only things that can be passed down through genes. I think there are other traits, too, that can be inherited.

Last night, I was talking to my mom and mentioned the testing. Then, the subject of French onion soup came up (as one would expect). I had made some for my mom last time she visited, and she talked again about how good it was. I replied, well, it could have been better, because the cheese didn’t melt the whole way through.

I set a high standard for myself, and if the things I make don’t turn out exactly as I want them to, I’m critical. To a fault, I’ve been told. But I come by it naturally: My Grandma Losch was the same way. As Mom tells it, she’d make a pie that was so delicious it brought tears to your eyes, but she’d usually offer it up with a disclaimer, such as, the meringue is a little weepy. As if that mattered.

I do it too. Perhaps it’s genetic.

And if being a self-critical cook is a genetic trait, so might be the inclination to get crafty. I learned crewel embroidery, needlepoint, and counted cross stitch from my mom. My Grandma Sara always had a needlepoint project in process. And if I’m not remembering Grandma Losch in her kitchen, where she spent a lot of time, I’m picturing her rocking in her rocking chair, her hands busily crocheting something.

So naturally, when I found myself in Michael’s on Sunday, I gravitated towards the yarn, and when I saw a bulky, fluffy skein, variegated in the exact colors of my living room rug, I knew I needed to transform that yarn into a throw blanket. I purchased four skeins and started crocheting last night.

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Sometimes, the idea of a craft project ends up being more exciting than the reality. (Which partly explains the popularity of Pinterest.) Alas, I have not been a consistent finisher of projects. I get super-excited to start, but I don’t always have the self-discipline to complete. When I moved earlier this year, I tossed more than a few incomplete projects, not only admitting defeat to myself but also freeing myself to begin anew.

Could “failure to complete” also be a genetic trait? I believe so, and as proof, I submit a discovery made when going through Grandma Sara’s house after she died. I opened a dresser drawer that contained several incomplete needlepoint projects! I had an AHA! moment right there: I come by it naturally! My own grandma had trouble finishing! This explains so much about me!

I don’t know if Grandma Losch ever failed to complete a project she started. I am, however, determined to finish my blanket project. Crocheting in front of the TV makes me feel less like I’m wasting time than if I sat idly on the sofa. Plus, there’s a certain cool factor when you tuck in for a nap with a blanket you made.

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If you compliment me on my completed blanket (and in writing that, I’m making myself accountable here), I’m almost guaranteed to point out its flaws. Please know, it is in my genes to do so. But do feel free to politely tell me to knock it off and just accept the compliment.

Even more than the genes they handed down, I’m feeling grateful for having had parents and grandparents who took the time to share things with me that, all these years later, still reside in my soul. These are truly priceless gifts.

 

 

Pescecide

You already know the ending to the story, so I’ll dispense with suspense and tell it first:

… about an hour after it arrived home from the County Fair, the fish died.

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This is NOT Gerald.

The back story? Bubta’s friend Sam was at the Fair and remembered that he never got him a birthday present back in April.  Hew saw something he was sure Bubta would love and called him up, and Bubta called me at work:

Mom, Sam wants to buy me a rabbit for my birthday. Can I? Please?

I quickly put the kibosh on that little scheme.  Two minutes later he called me again.

How about a fish instead?

I articulated all the usual conditions: YOU have to remember to feed him and change his water (which I have heard is a chore that’s beyond gross) and how are you going to remember all that when you can’t remember to take your daily medicine and you have to spend your own money to buy supplies and we already have two pets why do you need something else to take care of and…

Well, OK. FINE.

Now, I have never owned a pet fish and as such know nothing about keeping them alive caring for them.  I think that fish are more appropriately caught and cleaned by Trained Professionals, then cooked thoroughly and served with a spritz of fresh lemon juice, a nice arugula salad, a side of creamy risotto and a crisp Pinot Grigio. Oh sure, I enjoy staring at a giant emergency room doctor’s office fish tank from time to time, or the occasional visit to a large aquarium facility (even if is teeming with more children than fish).

But Bubta, being 13, felt he knew aaaall there was to know. 

Even though he has never owned a pet fish.

I recall hearing that Fair Fish are not reknowned for their long life spans.

Bubta marched into the house, grinning like a damn fool, toting a small plastic box filled with water and pretty colored stones and a cool little fish, whose name, he informed us, was “Gerald.”  Then he marched back to the bathroom while announcing that iwas time to change Gerald’s water.

(I just learned this minute [Thanks, Google!] that the temperature of the water matters, AND, it’s supposed to be dechlorinated tap water.  Who knew?! I blame the sloppy water change as the primary cause of death, but determination of final cause is pending the autopsy.)

(KIDDING!)

Anyway, we went next door to feed our vacationing neighbors’ pets and water our other vacationing neighbors’ plants, and by the time we got home poor Gerald had passed on to the Great Plastic Fishtank in the Sky. God rest his fishy little soul.

Now, of course, Bubta wants to go to the Pet Store and do it up right. We assigned homework, though – he has to research fish care and come up with a list of care pointers and spend his own money. He’s pretty pumped about it, too.

Hey – at least it’s not a rabbit!