Archive for June, 2012

anthropology of parenting

June 27, 2012

Ok, did anybody else see this article from the New Yorker? A friend from college posted it on FB and I was riveted. I love how anthropology helps me make sense of my life. I knew of the Machigenka growing up because we knew missionaries working with them. We lived in Quechua villages, where we similarly saw toddlers using machetes and 7-year-olds fishing for crayfish by themselves. Injuries and accidents were actually very rare.

I’m working very hard to try to shift the way I see my daughter, especially. I am so quick to jump in and help anytime she is frustrated but I need to realize that helping can be, in the long run, hurting her sense of confidence and autonomy.

A quote I heard last week really, really stuck with me: “children are hard-wired for struggle.” It astonished me, but it makes so much sense when I think about it. I dimly recall something about baby chicks – that if you help them break out of their eggs, you actually damage them. They have to struggle through that themselves in order to live and thrive.

I was also astonished last week to receive three – three! – compliments on my parenting. Out of the blue, people went out of their way to tell me they’d noticed how I interact with my children and communicate their approval. I know I’m way too dependent on external validation – but I have to say that it felt really, really good.



June 26, 2012

Welcome, home.

It feels so good to be back.

It was such a good trip.

My heart feels so full.

So many stories to tell.

Here is a snapshot: After supper in the dining hall, people slowly spilling out onto the grassy, sloping lawn in the evening slant of the sun. My girl, my intense and serious child, running in an arc around the boys playing with a soccer ball. Her thick bangs fly up off her forehead and her bare feet flash in the grass. The boy her age – exactly six days older – breaks away and runs after her. Near me, they crash into each other and fall onto the grass. My girl is laughing hysterically. The boy runs away and she sits up, still laughing with that helpless full-body laughter that is like birdsong. He runs back, full tilt, and she meets him, and again they crash into the earth. The girl almost her age, but tall and strong, comes running to them and piles on top, and the three of them roll around like puppies, laughing and laughing and laughing. And again. And again and again, until their hair is soaked with sweat and their faces are red and flushed because it’s a hot, humid, summer day.

So I go to the guest house where we’re staying, pull out a few pots and pans and plastic tubs and buckets, measuring cups, pitchers, and fill everything with cool water and place it by the tall ornamental grasses and ornamental sandstone that forms a visual oasis just outside. The kids climb into the pots and tubs, squeezing their skinny little bums in as best they can, flinging water at each other with kitchen utensils. The splash and pour for over an hour, as the sun sinks low and fireflies begin to appear, winking on and off in the dimming light. (I think it was the first time my boy has seen fireflies.)

My kids had such a good time.


It was so strange to be in the US and not see my friends and family from home. I’m having mental whiplash. Then we came back into the heat of full summer. Our apartment smelled strange when we walked in, from having the A/C running. We’ve been hyper and exhausted in turn from the jet lag. At 1 a.m. our bodies think it’s time to get up for the day. Oz wakes crying, sobbing “Go! Out! Go! Out!” Illyria frenziedly keeps herself awake as long as possible and then crashes. Gimli just doesn’t sleep at all. It will take a few days to feel normal again.


So, for those following along, we signed our contracts to begin our work in Colombia in November. I can’t wait. Gimli is still – STILL!!! – on the fence. We’ve been having fantastically good conversations about what we want out of life, about our relationship, our kids.

(For anyone new here, we were just at a 2-week orientation seminar with the  development/ relief aid organization we’ll be with.)

Speaking of the kids… it was good to see Illyria in a preschool-like context. The child care provided during the seminar was so much better than I had imagined. The facility itself was amazing. I mean, it was to me – maybe it’s the norm, in the US, but to me it was just so well-equipped, so well-organized, it was like a toddler/preschooler paradise. And I think having a coherent daily rhythm where she was with the same group of kids every day was really good for her. She blossomed, socially.

At the same time, it made my heart ache a little bit to see her around the other kids her age, to see thrown in stark relief the differences in her patterns of interaction from them. As it turned out, one of the women on the staff was a retired special-ed teacher. On the last day, I mentioned to her that I’m thinking of having Illyria tested when we go back in September, and she sort of squinted and nodded, and said “yeah, I noticed a few things… a few behaviors…” and mentioned a couple things that I’ve also noticed. Gimli and I are so used to her ways of doing things and communicating that I think we don’t always realized just how unique she is in some of the things she does.

It’s weird – while I’m glad I had that conversation with the retired teacher (because it validated my concerns and made me feel less like I’m being hyper-vigilant or a worry-wart), it makes me incredibly sad that I now see my daughter differently than I did before. From a certain angle, anyway.

So. My heart is full. My head is tired. My body is resting. It’s 2:30 p.m., local time, and I should see if I can wake Illyria up so she doesn’t sleep the day away and then not sleep tonight.

Thanks for listening. xo


June 7, 2012

As if anyone will notice, I post so sporadically these days… 🙂 We’re going to the US for 2 weeks, leaving this Saturday, it will be a work trip but we’re taking the kids so that will be interesting. Hopefully the horribleness of the trip (including a 10-hour flight from Rome to Newark) will be less horrible than being away from the kids for just over 2 weeks would be.