for the kickoff of the 2011 farmer’s market season, we had a very good day of sales, and a perhaps slightly less than stellar day of parenting in the public eye. oh yeah, i remember now. this 5-hour window each saturday is the most time i ever spend doing my mama thing right out in the open for all to see.
for those who haven’t known me as long, i’ve been bringing my son to the newport farmer’s market as a vendor for the past 2 years, and this is the start of our third. each age and stage has had its joys and challenges with making this work. it’s hard enough to be a solo vendor, but to be a solo parent at the same time is often completely unmanageable. i was not born an aries for nothing, though, and i stubbornly keep trying. in general, it has been more rewarding than i can even say to be a part of the market community, and to have quinn experience a snippet of what it would be like to be raised in the proverbial “village”. some days i think people walk by and take notes on how well i juggle all of the competing balls in the air, and other days i see their looks of pity and would rather go crawl behind a rugosa rosebush and disappear.
apparently, pisces can be stubborn as well! word to the wise. before long, mama was threatening, quinn was threatening back, tantrums were had, cupcakes were deprived. it was not a pretty scene. for the past two summers’ worth of markets, i have relied on activities, books, and snacks to keep quinn occupied, though not in a coercive way, yet i somehow felt myself wanting to withhold the goods for what he was “putting me through”. activity-wise, whatever i was doing seemed to be the targeted thing he needed to do (or interfere with). nothing i brought was of interest until a friend came over and played in his tent with him for a brief time, before they came to blows. and now that he is an old pro and knows what snacks can be obtained at the market, he is angling for them this way and that. in between setting up and interacting with customers, i was trying to explain the intricacies of gratitude and manners to him, and entice him with a hard boiled egg or a piece of homemade pizza i had brought from home. my strategies and snacks need an upgrade.
i’m gentle with myself as i notice my conscious incompetence at mothering at this new juncture (i refer back to this mama-om post regularly and one of the plethora of useful nuggets held within it is the circle of competence she explains so well!) and that’s good and helps me know this is on its way to resolution. i am motivated to become more competent, more unconditional, in this stage/age/right now time. coercion and threats feel gross. i felt desperate, and that too felt yucky. my feelings and needs (desperately needing cooperation) made sense, just as quinn’s feelings and needs (powerlessness, a need for self identity, control, and autonomy) made total sense. i’m looking for the win-win. and i’m one of those mamas, yes i am, who doesn’t really believe anything is impossible. yep, i can do it all! and i have, and i do! (just sometimes without any grace whatsoever!)
some of my ideas, in no particular order, for making market a win-win situation for both of us (and here is where you come in: ideas for the next 25 weeks of saturdays would be much appreciated!):
1. bigger, better breakfast. one roll with peanut butter and jam was not enough- he could have used some scrambled eggs or oatmeal along with a glass of milk, in addition to the roll. that way he is protein-packed by the time he gets all starry eyed by the sweets our neighbor sells and can’t be bothered with healthy snacks. the rapidly approaching berry season should help as well, he can usually be enticed with a berry snack, which, while still loading him full of natural fructose, does not tend to mutilate his personality to quite the same extent. let’s also note that mama could have used a more nourishing breakfast too! market is a workout! (favorite protein-packed breakfast ideas?)
2. connection. connection. more connection. more than anything else as a parent, i want to connect! later on, i could easily identify what needs of his were not being met (as well as those of mine that weren’t being met) and i know in my heart that when i can validate and empathize in the moment, and take the time that it takes…. it gets us all to a better place much more efficiently.
3. grander projects… on the connection theme, i would like to bring along something that quinn can be doing that is awesomely exciting and engaging. he doesn’t want to color in a coloring book when all kinds of stuff is happening all around! while on one hand, preparing for this is yet another ball for me to juggle, i think this could be a good investment of my time, if it works out to make our saturdays smoother. i noticed that at the beginning, when he had a task he felt responsible for (attaching the weights to our canopy with bungee cords- he loves those things), he was super awesome and engaged, while if i was distracted and he wasn’t engaged with a task, he needed to be in my face, creating angst. i think he is interested in learning more about currency and trade and so i may try to work on that theme, and will also need other things to fill the 5 hours. (any ideas here appreciated.)
4. it takes a village. at the end of the day, our friend sarah reminded us that quinn is always welcome to come and visit her at her booth, she has a whole pack of toys and fruit ninja on her iphone that she generously shares with all the kids. mama can ask for help. (deep exhale. indeed, there was lots of village support surrounding me in the form of sympathetic looks and words to mama, helpful reinforcing of my requests of quinn-our neighbor with the sweets reminded quinn that she wants to hear him speaking kindly to his mama, etc. how nice to be known, embraced, upheld, when the going gets tough. (she even asked me afterwards if she had overstepped- so rare and appreciated!)
5. i’ve also asked, and dada has offered to trade some saturday morning time for some sunday evening time, some weeks. maybe it is a bit of an overload for quinn. as much as he adores market, i wonder if maybe the expectations of him (to cooperate, be respectful, stay put, be gentle, say excuse me, speak at a reasonable volume, etc.) are just simply too high for where he currently is developmentally. perhaps coming less often, or for only part of the morning would be a good balance. though i would love to work our way back to the mostly harmonious duo we have been for the past two summers. he’s my market sidekick.
i know that there are others of you out there who do all of this and furthermore look beautiful doing it, so i offer up my embarrassingly awful mother’s day eve calamity and ask for wisdom… because here in blogland, too, the village is everything.