10 July 2007

My little tomato

So we've been using some parenting techniques lately that have made our lives much happier and when I say "our," I mean mine, Dennis', Annalivia's, and, I'm assuming, Daniel's. I learned of these techniques from some evangelical blog friends of mine. Have I mentioned before how gosh-dern grateful I am that the blogosphere can bring together so many voices from so many different places and experiences? It's truly miraculous, I think.

Anyhoo, prompted by the kind of relationship I saw developing in the lives of these families, we've begun doing some things differently. All of our changes derive from an attempt to be much more proactively attentive to Annalivia and head off a behavior problem in its infancy. Basically, I try to be plugged in to her most of the day and "tomato-stake" her. That term derives from the gardener's observation that a tomato that has been improperly supported may grow huge, but will not bear fruit consistently. In contrast, a tomato that has been properly staked can grow to its full potential and bear good fruit. In case you missed the analogy -- Annalivia: tomato / Mama: stake.

It's been a huge learning process for me. My instinct is to be pretty inattentive as a parent and therefore, be pretty reactionary. Which is just not helpful for any of us. In reactionary mode, Annalivia doesn't hear from Mama except when corrected. She also doesn't know of expectations before she encounters a situation.
The advantage to this tomato staking is that it first and foremost draws on the relationship between parent and child. If I'm celebrating her victories and interacting with her positively throughout the morning, it's easier to encourage good behaviors and she receives correction with much more grace. And lest I infer that it involves direction and intrusion into her play, it doesn't, really. Mostly, Daniel and I watch Annalivia and interact with her. When I need to do something like make lunch, I have her come with me and help.
I guess most of this is just common sense to some parents. For me, I have been resistant to this sort of attentiveness because it seemed as though it would be just exhausting. I finally did it just because I felt like God was giving me a kick in the rear about the whole thing; THIS is the work to which I've been called through the gift of my children right now. There's nothing more important. So, I am having to save church work and computer time and phone calling for nap time and bedtime.
The beautiful gift has been that it is NOT exhausting at all. In fact, it has been exhilarating in some ways. Being proactively involved with my daughter throughout the day requires so much less energy than reacting to her.
So. That's what we've been up to here and that's why posts have been on the slow side until they occur all at once. Parenting is the important stuff -- the meat and potatoes of my life right now. The rest is mostly frosting. :)


Anonymous said...

Hi April, amalee here ( I just couldn't be bothered to click into gastropunk's blog to cut n paste my webpage details from his saved autoreply comment form, then paste it here on yrs... I know this is deleriously longwinded, but even so!)
hang on, I've forgotten what I was going to say......

amalee issa said...

and the follow-up post was time expired.. so just to say (again) that I'm so glad you figured out the bit about child-centredness so early on - I didn't work that out until my chicks were nearing secondary school! and that it's so cool that you're the first commentator on my blog. your influence goes further than you might imagine, april! keep blogging.