30 December 2007

How to Make Friends

Our kids have really poor social skills. Like really bad. Their skills are so bad I'm no longer surprised by the immense difficulties they experience at school and in other social settings.

Bella is a bossy, know-it-all, control freak. Bubaloo is a belligerent, belittling and downright mean dude. While we, as their parents, know where these issues come from, other children do not and do not have the patience to stick it out.

We had an inkling about what they were experiencing at school and having seen them play with the neighbours over the past few days, I'm horrified at how bad they are. I'm not even sure after yesterday if the new neighbours will even play with them again. They are no longer friends with the handful of other kids who live on our street.

Our kids just can't seem to make friends or acquaintances, and without the ability to befriend other kids, how will they ever learn how to build a friendship?

We've put them in extracurricular activities. No click. We sent them to summer camp. No click. We've arranged play dates with other kids from LGBTQ families. No click. They go to school everyday. And still, no click. How do we help these munchkins?

We repeatedly re-visit what makes a good friend. Because often the kids they choose to hang around with don't inspire the best behaviours in our children. We see our kids being used for some troublesome purpose (like stealing chocolate bars out of a cupboard at school) or engage them in unbalanced friendships (like only being a friend when everyone else is mad at you) which negatively impact our kids.

Yeah, kids can be pretty cruel. But in turn, we know our kids dish it out back. Or, dish it out first.

Neither child has ever had a single good chum. And, we're at wits end to help them develop the skills they need to help them out. How do you help your kids negotiate the intricacies of friendship?

16 December 2007

Predicting the Future

Three nights ago a friend came for a visit. As we sat around the dining room table, Bella took an interest in her necklace. After commenting that it was pretty, I encouraged Bella to ask more questions about it.

Our friend revealed that the symbol on the necklace was a pentacle - a pagan symbol.

Bella's eyes lit up and she was so excited that she momentarily lost her words. When she found them again she blurted out, "But I'm a pagan, too!" And, um, part Moron to make that an interesting combination.

Bella's birth mom was a pagan; her grandparents Mormon. Which in her mind makes her religion 50/50, despite the inherent contradiction of the two belief systems and the fact that she's never practiced either.

Sharing a little bit of her pagan roots with our friend, Bella somehow got onto the topic of Tarot cards. Our friend let us know that she used to read them for money on the streets of Toronto. Eventually, the skill was laid to rest because it was tedious to constant predict one's career path or if one's true love was to be the person met casually the night before while downing drinks at a bar.

Bella raced up to her room and grabbed her deck of cards. These were cards that Wifey had given to her for her 12th birthday. Since the cards were gifted, they had been shuffled and gazed at, but never read. Bella didn't really take to reading the book that came with the deck to explain what the cards meant.

The Tarot cards came out and were divided into major and minor arcana. Bella was given instructions to pick up the major arcana pile, shuffle them and to ask a question. Bella asked her question in her head.

As three cards were flipped over to tell Bella her past, present and future in the context of her question, her eyes became increasingly wide. An abbreviated version of the dialogue would simply state that in the past it wasn't an option, in the present it was not so likely to happen and the future was open to possibility. The reading was punctuated with a detailed questioning of the symbols on each card.

Bella was thrilled at her reading. Bursting with excitement. She then offered to share her question with us.

I was sure her question was going to relate to adoption or to our future as a family.

Bella spoke. And, this is what she said. It was spoken in earnest seriousness. "I asked if I would ever have wings."

I looked at Bella and then looked at my friend. I was speechless and was momentarily incapacitated to deal with this unexpected curve ball. My friend, however, was not speechless and thank goodness thought on her feet.

After explaining that Tarot wasn't necessarily a literal interpretation or response to a question and that getting wings could mean one day she would be a pilot or find herself on a plane or perhaps be a genetic scientist who would engineer wings, Bella looked at us both as if we were stupid.

"I didn't mean wings as in a pilot. I meant wings, right here, on my back," as she pointed to the spot where the cards had predicted wings would grow.

She said it in a tone as if we didn't know what on earth we were talking about. She said it in that voice used by incredulous teenagers. And not willing to listen to anything further about the matter, she left the table with the whole air of how us adults know nothing and she'd show us the day she'd fly by our window with wings on her back.

06 December 2007

02 December 2007

The Swish in His Hips

Our little one is a wee bit swishy. In the best possible way.

It comes out when he dances or plays imaginary games with his sister. When we engaged all of the kids at a family wedding earlier this fall in a game of charades, he was the best supermodel of the bunch. He could work a runway better than a top ranked model, but less model and more queen.

At dinner parties, we like to speculate on the outcome of his sexual orientation. He has this dash of gay, but is oh-so-not-so-gay at the same time. We can't make him. And, so we wait and watch for him to make himself.

Keeping with the ambigousness of children's sexual orientations, we talk about all relationships in hypotheticals with him - "When you bring home a girlfriend or boyfriend..." or "What kind of things do you think makes a good girlfriend or boyfriend..." He sometimes talks about cute girls at school and other times he talks about his future with a girlfriend or boyfriend.

We've tried to make it clear for both kids that it doesn't matter to us whether or not they end up gay or straight. For a while there, Bella was feeling a tortured by the fact that she likes boys.

All of this came forth in a very interesting conversation on the drive home from a marathon candy shopping trip in preparation to the holiday building of a gingerbread village.

Piping up from the backseat in a most conflicted and endearing voice, Bubaloo asked me if I would promise not to ever embarrass him in front of a girlfriend. After clarifying whether he meant "intentionally embarrass" or "embarrass him by my mere existence and breathing in the same room," I discovered that he doesn't yet have a girlfriend but lots of prospects as there are a plethora of cute girls at his school.

As with all relationship conversations, we encourage our kids to explore what would make a good partner.

After reiterating his top priority, the cuteness of the girl in question of course, he shared his second need. He wants a girlfriend who won't make fun of him because he has two moms.

I nearly slammed on the brakes to turn around and face him to gauge the seriousness of the comment. Instead, I just looked in the rear view mirror and saw that he was dead serious.

Bubaloo has been experiencing some teasing in the past few weeks and is feeling incredibly self-conscious about his family. He loves his family in the comfort of his home, and shifts uncomfortably in the playground with his peers.

After affirming that respect is an important part of any relationship, I asked him what else would make a good girlfriend.

The next important value came someone who is nice, followed by someone who would do his homework. He was pulling my leg with this last one. I then asked him to think about how it might be important to have a girlfriend who would like similar things or like things that they could do together. In the end, he decided that this wasn't too important to him.

In recapping the list of the four important attributes of a girlfriend or boyfriend, Bubaloo stopped on number two again.

"I could have a girlfriend or boyfriend," he said deep in thought. "The good thing about a boyfriend is that he wouldn't care if I have two moms."

"Um, yes, that's right Sweetie," I said. "I don't think your boyfriend would be too concerned about you having two moms. But, it's also important that any girlfriend you have not care about you having two moms, either."