~quinn’s thirty-ninth month~ melody, harmony, rhythm

~written november 2018~

(the first part of this month was written about in a proto-month-of-unschool manner in real time, so this post covers the other part of the month, written from the future.)

i came back to this time frame on a mission to orient myself about yet another time frame i plan to write more extensively about, because i knew there were clues from this time that would point to that time in meaningful ways. i found the clues i sought, and found many more i wasn’t anticipating. i imagine i don’t have to explain how this image i took from “the happy spot” during quinn’s 39th month points forward in time in a significant way.

a bellwether of a future thriving in peaceful married bliss, a hopeful sign on the winding path through desperately striving for healthy separation. many things i was internalizing then constituted necessary work towards the goal of being happily partnered on some future date i could not foresee, though i was already on my way, headed somewhere over the rainbow, where i’d find my rainbow love.

i was graduating from being a baby mama to a kid mama, the parenting philosophies i had latched onto like separate musical phrases were gathering themselves into a cohesive melody, becoming more mine and more studied, less derived and less reactive. i was digging into literature, both on parenting (hold onto your kids) and on my own self improvement (garden of fertility, trauma and recovery). i was gathering a village with whom i could harmonize to help me raise my child, and provide community context to our lives. i was providing my own celebration on a mother’s day (in the form of a big salad and pizza bagels), providing a container in which my son’s will could remain intact at an age when many parents actively seek to break and control a child; celebrating his decisive knowledge of his own agenda, admiring it and inching towards a place where i could have that for myself as well.

the rhythm of our days during this season of our lives involved me working 4 ten-hour shifts, separated by a mid-week mini-weekend. this built in lots of down time for recovering from being apart while i worked, and made room for lots of play dates with friends, trips to beaches, visits to the aquarium.

at the aquarium quinn would tell everyone, “that big sea lion is max. and he’s big! he’s eating the fish!” the aquarium tourists were of course duly impressed that quinn and max were on a first name basis.

recordings about our comings and goings cover miles of coastline and all of the beaches that are still our favorites. “south to cape perpetua in the morning, otter rock in the afternoon to catch the low tide,” was one double-header. “went to seal rock briefly (too windy to stay long),” ona beach, quail street, boiler bay. beaches for days, their sacred names like a resounding chant echoing across time.

quinn requested a bath one saturday. he sat in the tub for half an hour, quoting mokie and bik the whole time: “monkeying up, get out from underfoot! sploshing on ruby’s deck. yo ho!” i didn’t know how it was possible for him to have it memorized since we had only read it once in entirety. but i liked that he was learning the simple pleasures of a little down time in the bathtub with some literature.

quinn was experimenting with hyperbole. “i’m going to bring home this piece of wood [hunk of 2×4 drift wood] because it’s the nicest boat i ever saw in a long, long time. and if it floated away i’d be so sad that i’d cry forever and i’d never stop!” the layer of gleaned beach detritus lining the floorboards of my car was thick, but quinn’s feet still swung well above it from his car seat.

lazy wednesdays with quinn meant i could get up early to sew, then crawl back into bed at quinn’s stirring for another hour or so of sleep. we could stay in the bed snuggling and read a chapter of winnie the pooh, such as chapter ix in which piglet is entirely surrounded by water… and this is just what we did on the wednesday before mother’s day. after breakfast, we made mother’s day cards, then later in the morning made the post office/thrift store/co-op/community garden rounds. sometimes at the garden we would work for a while adding compost or watering, another time we planted exactly 3 seeds (fava beans) and then went to the playground. often we didn’t even have to water, since we had a balance of rainy nights with sunny warm days, perfect for our little seeds to sprout! our baby seeds weren’t really dazzling us there yet, except for our peas, which i noticed quinn planted in some interesting places. there was one patch of about twelve of them all in a bunch. this made me think of the community we were gathering around us, all the potential friendships we had been sowing and were now witnessing as they started to sprout and send out spiraling tendrils of connection, extending threads into the soil that would become roots.

we planted some popcorn in the garden at home, and re-potted some perennials (calendula, sweet william, forget me not, rose campion, yarrow). quinn said, “i really like how the baby plants have little rectangles of dirt”. to think, the week before i hadn’t been sure if he knew the difference between rectangle and square. he gave lots of input on the garden layout, deciding that two of the little rectangles needed to go in the corners of the broccoli bed. the next morning he went outside and said good morning to his rectangles.

on mother’s day, we cuddled in bed, then after a lazy bagel and granola breakfast we played a game of soccer-on-the-stairs, risking life and limb to toss the ball up and down, quinn at the top, me at the bottom. he would laugh hysterically every time the ball made it past him and hit the washing machine, making a gong sound. an audio recording of his laugh reverberates across the years that have elapsed, reminding me in one more sensory modality of just how much he has grown. his voice plays a deeper music now, and is on the very cusp of plummeting yet another octave, accompanied by the background refrain of time whooshing past.

it was quinn’s decision that we went to quail street beach on mother’s day. the night before he had thought, “maybe forest rumpus,” but in the morning he opted for a very definitive “beach rumpus.” when i asked if he knew which beach he wanted to go to: “quail street.” he was so decisive! he brought his pirate boat to float in the “puddles” (tidepools) some of which are accessible even at high tide. then we headed home for a nap and mama’s lunch and sewing time. he gave me a card with paper flowers in it, and he had written “mom” on the front. he told me “it has a big M, and a little m on it.”

“and what else?”

“a little o.”

we had reached the age where parenting forums were mainly concerned with shaping child behaviors, and discussions of whether consequences or rewards produced better results. i was starting to realize i wanted to step off of that continuum entirely and had a longer term vision of results in mind than the immediate compliance these discussions centered around. when coparent would bring up a perceived need for “consequences” when quinn would engage in an age-appropriate behavior such as running off to go back and look at that cool bridge on the trail over a stream, i found myself having to defend my actions of, say, picking him up. “i’m not rewarding him, i’m transporting him.” i had an understanding with quinn that my job was to keep him safe, including knowing when it was more than i should expect for him developmentally to control his impulses to ensure his own safety; in those instances, my job was to prevent scenarios where he could make a wrong choice. when i transported him across the parking lot at the grocery store, i removed the option for him to let go of my hand and run to see something by carrying him. this ensured his safety, and removed the need for “consequences,” whether contrived or “natural”. in less busy parking lots, we could work on negotiating the need for me to be heard when i asked him to stay by my side, and until we had a working relationship on safe practicing grounds, i would not attempt a higher-stakes parking lot crossing on foot.

speaking of the grocery store, it was the site of our first f-bomb in public. quinn was riding in one of the car shopping carts with a steering wheel, the most unwieldy beast you can imagine and all but impossible to maneuver through a crowded store. however, at a really off-peak time like sunday afternoon, it was doable and quinn delighted in the car carts. on that day, anytime i’d park it briefly to pick something up, quinn would mutter, “get the fucker started again!” at the cart. i told him that’s a word we can say when it’s just us, but that we don’t say it in public because some people don’t like that word. he test-drove it a few more times, and i finally suggested, “how about saying ‘i want this thing to get moving again, man!’” he soon adopted my suggested wording instead.

with our second farmer’s market season about to begin, we bought quinn his new tent! our plan was to set it up at the back of the booth for him to play (and maybe nap?) in. that night when we brought it home, we ate pasta in it in the living room.

the day of the first market, the weather was gorgeous, and it was nice to reflect on how different it felt from the year before, when we knew no one, and had no idea how to set up our booth. every time we turned around it was to hugs, friendly chit chat, free goodies and samples and, “oh hey do you use nettle leaf tea? try this out for me!” in short, the sense of community we were hoping for when we started. what a difference one year makes.

a crucial addition to our set up was quinn’s tent: “i have a tent, too!” he would pay attention to the details of how things got set up and liked to participate. we snuck out just before 9 am to get coffee beans, eggs, salad greens, and to do a quick lap to see who was there. it too early yet for berries, so we got cookies instead, and received a gift of free greens at the end of the day from “our gathering farm”. our csa veggie box would start in june and i couldn’t wait!

then we went home and crashed, barely managing to get the greens and eggs inside first. after a short nap, we went up to the barn to play music. we saw a frog and some newts in the pond, and quinn had so much fun with the music. he was learning how to control himself a bit in the music room; lots of microphone stands and equipment around which to practice self-control. he loved to dance in the middle of the circle, and would use his harmonica and his shakers, and try out singing into the microphone. terry would always sing mighty quinn with all of us joining in on the chorus. every time it would finish quinn would say, “i think we should sing quinn the eskimo again!”

quinn built a box drum with his dad. (it’s a wooden drum- not quite a marimba, but exploiting a similar concept, and an easy project that he could see and play right away.) he and i went and got the bouncy balls needed for the ends of the mallets. looking back on quinn’s early musical development is so exciting now that he is a mallet-wielding member of the middle school band.

i was becoming more intentional about how to implement my parenting ideals. since i was committed to prioritizing connection, i would try to be mindful about not becoming preoccupied with sewing, for example, when he wanted to play with me. there were plenty of times i rushed him around and transitioned him before he was ready. when i could, i would make a decision to be conscious of allowing space for him to determine how long to pursue an activity, and decide when he felt satiated. one evening he was using a pulley we had rigged up that allowed him to “lower up” cargo from the living room to the loft in his little crate. an hour or so into the game i was able to multi-task, but the conscious unbroken time of doing his chosen activity with him was precious. one by one, i worked to align my actions with my goals and principles, as though they were the objects being pulled up to the loft. a rhythm developed in the game of him in the loft, content to “haul up/holler up/lower up” the basket, pull out the cargo, and send the empty basket back down, hand over hand on the rope; down at the bottom, i would put the next piece of cargo in, and install snaps into diapers in between. he accumulated quite a pile up there! at one point i loaded in a my little pony, and started singing, if i had a boat, i’d go out on the ocean, and if i had a pony, i’d ride him on my boat, and from then on, when i loaded each new item, he’d instruct, “now sing a song, mama.”

i still ended up influencing the activity’s ending, rather than waiting for him to declare he was finished. it was 10:00 pm, and i finally asked some leading questions concerning specified numbers of “more times” he wished to do before we would go lie down. we did a few “one more time”s and then i asked, “is this the last one?”


then the next one… “is this the last one?”

“yes. and then we’ll go lie down and have milk.”

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