mothering in public

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.

juggling and jigsaw puzzles. how much can YOU fit in a neon?

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.Β  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.

the asparagus fast is over! at last!

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!)

he made a few dollars off me later at home, selling me leek starts from under the drying-out canopy πŸ™‚

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.

17 comments to mothering in public

  • liz

    i'm sorry you two had a rough day πŸ™ Its hard to be four and even harder to be a momma that does it all. I think its a great idea for MQ to help out with the money! makes him feel important and gets a little unschooling in at the same time πŸ™‚ I had my friends daughter for a week and we had the same problems (plus moderate ADD on top of it) I taught her to knit that week to see if it would get her to sit and focus for a bit- worked wonders! Maybe quinn can get his garter stitch on πŸ™‚ when my sister and i were stuck in the car on long road trips and at each other's necks, my parents would make us play 'the license plate game'- we had a certain amount of time to locate as many different plates as possible. Maybe you could cook up a visual treasure hunt for quinn ( like someone wearing blue, someone in a baseball cap, yadda yadda)and have a fun prize- like said neighbor's sweets- at the end. I'm sure ya'll will find your groove again…or i'll just have to move out there and be your market-nanny πŸ˜€

    • marybethrew

      these are awesome ideas! this is exactly what i am needing- just something to jog my brain back to creative playful ideas, because stuck in that moment i would never have thought to have quinn look for someone wearing blue… but that would totally have been fun for him, for both of us. i have been thinking i should get him a finger knitting doohickey, he'd love to make his own rope. that said, any time you want to move out here, nanny, we're game. πŸ™‚

  • Ah, sweet mama. It's so hard to be all that we want to be behind closed doors, let alone in the public eye – and to have to do it alone is even harder. I can't even imagine taking Isaac to market with me (if I were a vendor). I'd be completely overwhelmed, stressed beyond belief and not a very good mama. It's hard enough when we are just shopping.

    I'm glad you are gentle with yourself. The negativy won't solve anything. My NVC teacher told me just today (when talking about parenting and the days I falter) – "I'd like to suggest that you have the most important NVC skills mastered, namely 1) the willingness to be less than perfect 2) the wilingness to try again, and most importantly 3) the willingness AND the ability to learn from your mistakes." I'd say you have the same.

    It's awesome to be able to reflect on the less than perfect days, to try and figure out what worked…what didn't…and how we might find a win-win situation. The fact that you even question these sorts of things speaks volumes of your parenting skills. You rock.

    If you ever need to compare notes on active and vibrant 4 year old little boys, let me know. πŸ™‚

    Love ya lots,


  • Yes, I definitely second that you are an awesome & insightful mama. Yep, you rock!

    So I say ~ Let Papa help!!

    Although if you're like me, you like your babe close, always, even if it turns into crazy time. Once they hit a certain age, you can just break it down to the little guy that if he wants to go, he has to be calm. Lay down the rules & expectations you have on your market helper. And if he goes, put him to work – in charge of handing out your business cards, give him a note pad to make checks for every person who wears the color red, or my favorite, let his entrepreneurial spirit soar & allow him to sell some of his crafty stuff or drawings or anything.

    My best craft show with my son was when he sold his "knit knots" ~ this abstractly knotted things he made from my scrap ropes & I think he sold them for a quarter ~ he was in bliss & very important here ~ BUSY. And they love it. Have him scavenge for pretty rocks all through the week and he can sell them at market…

    hope that helps πŸ™‚

    much mama love to you!!


    • marybethrew

      i totally thought about letting him try to sell something- he would probably really like this idea. i have to check with my market (yeah i know it seems like a no brainer but they're pretty finicky about the rules…) thanks for the kind support and great ideas- nice to hear of other mamas who do this type of insanity. πŸ™‚

  • Lb

    I have a finger knitter- consider it sent! p.s aforementioned trip to Newport might also be a job search πŸ™‚

    • marybethrew

      best auntie evah!!!! and hey, i have a nanny job all ready for you, what's this talk of job search! (but seriously: OMG OMG OMG squealing!!!!)

  • Kids in booths are a challenge! Mine are 9, and we had some testy afternoons at the Veneta market last summer. I let them do a bit of wandering around to visit other booths. I tried bringing books and fun things. I finally figured out I can just bring one of them at a time, and have them help and feel as responsible as possible. When they felt like they were doing a big important job, like taking the money from customers or filling the water bottles, etc, things went a little more smoothly. All that said, kids in booths are a challenge. You're one determined mama, and I have a feeling you'll come up with some good ways to make it work out well. Good luck and blessings on your market booth!
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  • liz

    p.s. fave protein packed breakfast: scrambled eggs with TONS of spinach and feta stuffed into a pita (sometimes yogurt on the side or apple and almond butter). my go-to for the days i'll be stuck in surgery all afternoon ;o)

    • marybethrew

      ok overachiever, you're already hired, but i do appreciate your amazing ideas. πŸ™‚ quinn loves pb and apple slices- the more pb i put out there, the more he consumes per slice. heheheh. good call. and the eggs were definitely my idea for our next attempt.

  • i wanted to comment when you first posted but couldn' are such an amazing mom and i honestly don't know how you do it!i was also going to suggest having q set up his own little table of wares to sell.hope they allow it at your market.back when we did markets it was SUCH a huge challenge.two little boys,had to get up at 4 am and leave by 5,drive an hour…oy!it was so much work. i remember quite a few horrid mothering experiences during that gentle with yourself…maybe if you put it out to the universe you could find a great mother's helper on market days?anyone have an older child who loves small kids that would happily entertain him during the day?much love!
    Stardove recently posted..Long Sleeve Deep Cowl Hoodie in Fir Green Organic Cotton Blend for Women

    • marybethrew

      oh mama, thank you. yeah with two boys, and up that early, and a drive, i'd be done for. πŸ™‚ i am so lucky we live so close to the market, in fact one time i forgot my tables (of all things) and we can just run back home real quickly… very helpful. i love the mother's helper idea, i will think on that a bit. really, any company for quinn is often helpful.

  • I wonder how my son would handle five hours in a booth? lol. All I know is he needs plenty of physical activity. I don't know what your options are for physical activity in a booth, though…

    Definitely feed him well beforehand. Maybe just bring a whole load of snacks. I know Michael isn't going to want what I bring half the time, so I try bring a variety. When he's hungry he just goes into my bag and gets what he wants. Maybe bring something extra yummy that he doesn't get all the time.

    I'd also be all for having him play with other kids under my own or someone else's supervision, as long as I felt it was safe. So if someone is willing to take him for a bit, go for it!

    I sure don't have many of my own ideas, though. πŸ™
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  • […] :: Mothering in public… need I say more? […]

  • It does take a village. And a realization that conscious competence is slowly emerging into unconscious competence. And the village will celebrate with you. I'm here with my village.

    I'm visiting at the prompt of Sweet Sky/ Mama Om.

    • marybethrew

      hi rebecca- thanks for your kind words. i was thinking of myself more at the cusp between conscious incompetence and conscious competence so i am taking this as a compliment. πŸ™‚ it's pretty awesome to have an online support village in addition to the in person village surrounding me. πŸ™‚

      thought i would update and say, the last 3 weeks of market have been better each time. the second week, dada had quinn for the first half, and the second half, while still rough, seemed more manageable just because it was short. then week 3, we started to hit our stride. dada hasn't been available for helping since that second week, but the better breakfasts, better attention to connection on my part, and i think just getting used to being there again, have all helped. it's going to be a good year after all. πŸ™‚

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