Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Desensitization Procedure, Part I

So we watched Captain America – The First Avenger with The Girls this weekend. I can’t say that it went over all that great.  Well, not with R at least.  Coco was pretty good with it except for the kissing, and when a bunch of soldiers were getting ZAPPED into oblivion by the Cosmic Cube-powered guns. It was more the kissing though (“tell me when it’s over). 

R, on the other hand was in serious distress. Serious. Distress. Head covered by blanket, hands over ears, trembling body. I am not exaggerating at all.  She was terrified.

GQ and I were kind of expecting this; although steps had been taken to head off this reaction. We had already seen the movie and agreed that it didn’t cross any lines we were concerned about with scary monsters, sex or violence.  Our plan was to use Captain America as a tool to start desensitizing her to some of the stuff she’s scared of.  The list of these things is really too numerous to mention here. GQ and I talk about this fairly often b/c R regularly freaks herself out.

GQ talked to her about the movie earlier in the day. She showed her pics of The Red Skull and talked about some of the things she’d see; hoping to prepare her a little before the actual viewing of the movie. Yeah, that didn’t work.

She got herself worked up about it before it even started. By the time Johann Schmidt pulls his face off to reveal the Red Skull beneath, she was well past the I’m-Freaking-Out-Here stage. This did not play out the way we hoped. 

See, the idea of talking to her before the movie was supposed to prevent us from having to talk to her about all the stuff after the movie.  We have experienced this countless times after countless movies. “I just can’t get (any character, scene, sound, thought from a movie) out of my head.”  I had already had my Parenting Fail of 2009 when R was in 2nd grade and I agreed, against my better judgment, to allow her to watch an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer at a sleepover. The sleepover didn’t happen; I was summoned to get her around 10:30. 4th grade should be better, right? We almost didn’t make it through Captain America at all.  She had worked herself up into such a state that we had to pause several times and talk her down off her ledge. She was so upset once it was over that she couldn’t even form the words to tell us what had upset her the most.

How did we get here? Have we sheltered her too much? Should we have been exposing her to more frightening things at an earlier age? I can’t say that we should have been exposing her to more, but maybe we, or really I, should have not encouraged her fantasy world as much as I typically do.  Then again, [full disclosure ahead – get your judging hat on] perhaps the episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS Again!!!) or Angel she saw between the ages of 0 – 3 warped her a little…

It wasn’t until early in 3rd grade that R realized that cartoons weren’t reality-based. I admit I enjoyed her thinking these thoughts. Maybe it was delaying her growing up.  I really don’t, but now I’m second guessing my decisions.

See, working in a school I get to see some kids who are growing up really fast; kids who are jaded before they’re 10 years old.  That makes me sad. All kinds of sad because being a kid should be great. I know there are horrible things that a lot of kids have to deal with on a daily basis. I do know this. I’m not a Pollyanna that thinks everything is happy and carefree, but for the most part being a kid should be a time filled with joy and wonder, and from my vantage point when you take that away from kids, or maybe when you don’t protect them from losing that at an early age you’re letting part of them go that won’t ever come back. That’s terribly sad to me.  All the junk that kids are going to have to face when they get out of elementary school is staggering as it is. So I guess I am sheltering my Girls. 

What’s the solution then? Do we keep exposing her to things, but in a controlled setting? Do we let her explore on her own under a watchful eye?  I guess it’s what we started the other night with Captain America. I know that we can’t let her go blindly into it all. It’s irresponsible and honestly, R would probably not explore too much on her own.  She’s quite happy to just watch Fat Albert and old Lassie episodes on the PBJ channel.  We will continue to gradually introduce her to more books and movies, talking to her about these, helping her understand that they’re not all real, and talking to her more when they are based on reality. And the reality of the situation is that there are so many real things that are equally, or even more terrifying.  These things we can’t just close the book, turn off, or wake her up from a nightmare.  If she can’t handle imaginary things I am worried about how she’ll respond to real travesties.

It turns out what freaked her out so badly was the actual war scenes.  She is terrified of war.  That’s better than it could be. That’s a rational fear.  She’s reacting to it irrationally, but again, she comes by that naturally. We’re already crafting the letter to excuse her from Social Studies for the rest of her academic career.  So, before sending her and Coco off to bed with visions of explosions and destruction, we watched the trailer for The Lorax and the soon to be released Ice Age sequel – “Holy CRAB!!”  Of course we did try to watch The Avengers trailer with them also. Luckily, it was just a little 10 second teaser.

Do you hear that sound?  You know what it is? It’s me blowing my Parent of the Year horn. You might want to cover your ears.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

You Tube Comments...

So, seriously...what the hell is wrong the majority of people that leave comments on You Tube?

I mean, I guess I know there's the whole Troll thing that goes on all over the Internet, but  I mean really.  REALLY.  What goes on in these people's heads?

I don't know that I've ever come across a video on You Tube and not been assaulted by the racist, misogynistic, hateful comments that are completely irrelevant to the video post.

Why do you keep looking at the comments, you moron?

I hear you.  I do.  Sometimes the first comment is something related to the video, and foolishly I hope for a continued thread of discussion.  I don't think this has ever happened for more than 3 comments in a row.

You know what?  Maybe I'm just jealous b/c I rarely have any comments, and I just want to pretend that people are going to comment on one of my writings. 

Gah.  Now I've got to go look at some fuzzy cute animal pictures to clear my mind of that hateful crap.

Oooo...this is pretty good - (you'll thank me for it, or mercilessly mock me for it.  Regardless, chances are pretty much in my favor that you won't do it on this site)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dear Daylight Savings Time,

I know you think you're doing everybody a big favor by giving us more daylight, and it's true. Yes, it's true.  Thank you.  Please, don't misinterpret my meaning here.  You know there's a big "but" coming here (and I'm not talking about the kind Sir Mix-a-Lot digs).

But here's the thing DST.  You come on a Saturday night at, what? 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning? So people that have been out late having a good time have to struggle to get up to go to church (if they do that), maybe get up to go to they gym, or go get a bagel or crossiandwich.  

Whatever you do when you get up, most people  have a hard time getting up and going the next day.  And you know what?  The day after is even worse.  

Seriously.  A  Monday the day after we lose an hour of sleep?   Come on, DST. You can't honestly sit there and tell me that you wonder why some people get hostile about you.   Why some people won't even recognize your existence. Aloha, Hawaii.

"Spring Forward!" my arse.  You know what happens when you spring someone forward, DST?  Do you?  Typically they fall right on their face.  Fall back, and it's more likely that someone will catch you.

So, here's what I propose.   Let's keep this thing going.  I like the idea of having more daylight.  I do.  I like for it to be light in the summer so the Girls can stay and play later.  I like getting home from work after 6:00 and it's still not dark. Please, don't get the wrong idea. I like you.  You're okay in my book.  You've just got to plan your entrance a little better.

Instead of Saturday night, why don't you try coming Friday night?  

I hear you.  Nobody likes early arrivers, you say.  Not true.  It's not. Listen to people talk.  

I wish Friday would get here sooner.
I wish it was Summer already.
I wish my birthday was today.

Lots of people like things to arrive early. Lots.

What's to lose? You show up early, people are a little grumpy Saturday morning.  By Sunday almost everyone has their clocks set right, and they're running late giving whoever it is that's waiting on them the Grin & Shrug - "Daylight Savings Time messed me up".  They're not taking the blame themselves.  They're throwing you under the bus.

So what do you say?  Why not give it a try?  Try it out, walk around in it for a couple of years, and if it doesn't work out, well, we'll see about switching back then.

Don't give me an answer right now.  Think on it. You've practically got a whole year to think about it.  But I can tell you like the idea.  I can tell.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Best. Drawing. EVER!!!

Coco may be experiencing her first Manic burst tonight.  She got a new haircut that she was pretty freaked out about at first, but apparently had some kind of crack-infused hair tonic or something.

After dinner she told me her teacher told her to draw a flying mustache.  I told her that sounded like an awesome idea.  A few minutes later she came downstairs to ask me to draw, "a half sun, some clouds and a flying mustache."


"Aren't you supposed to draw the flying mustache?" I ask.
"Well, I'm not very good at drawing them," she told me.

So, after figuring out that "a half sun" is a sun that is not all the way on the page, but is kind of taking up one corner of the page, I drew said sun, two fluffy clouds, "oooh, you're good at that!", and a handlebar mustache floating in the air.

As she was leaving I told her, "You know, mustaches aren't just shapes like that.  They're a whole bunch of hairs all going in one direction that make up a shape of a mustache."  Then I showed her a little example, and beyond all of my expectation, she came up with a good looking flying mustache.  Along with some other items you may have noticed.

  • The Pigeon (from the Mo Willems series)
  • An ice cream truck with a little kid getting his ice cream from the Ice Cream Man
  • a can of Coca Cola, and I don't know if you can tell, but there's a picture of a guy holding a coke can on the can, and on that can is a picture of a guy holding a coke can... (we had that conversation.  I may have prompted it, but she took it and RAN)
  • A dog on top of the coke can.  It's dancing.
  • An alien baby.
  • A baby elephant alien (me - where are its ears? Coco - those lines on its head are the ears. me - oh, right.
  • A rocket ship. I must admit that was my idea when she asked, what else should I draw? me - a plane? Coco - ... me - a rocket ship? Coco - AWESOME!!!
  • A flying bird
  • A multi-colored, polka dotted Panda Bear (R may have come up with that one, actually.  She may have even drawn it, but if so it's an uncredited appearance.)
Right, so this drawing, along with the house she created for her new neighbor, Fred, the albino rubber ducky, ("he's going to live right next to me!!!") seems to have all come from the same source of creative energy that is still surging through the house right now. Here's Fred - 

A little bit about Fred's house, if you'll indulge me.  It's an old gift box that's probably leftover from when GQ and I had our Yellow Dog Folk Art gift store (that's another story from a long time ago).  She's decorated it and came to me to ask me to cut the door so Fred could go inside. We had to make some adjustments b/c Fred is actually bigger than you'd think.  So, after door cutting her final request was for a mail slot ("so I can leave him messages!" there are a lot of exclamation marks being thrown around the Benefield House tonight). Mail slot cut ("it can also be a window!!!")

So, this drawing.  "The Best I've EVER Drawn!!!" will hopefully make it's way to the Morning News at our beloved school.  Our school has a live daily news broadcast where a drawing is showcased during Opening Music, The Moment of Silence, and Closing Music.  Good stuff.

My fear of course is the crash that comes after a Manic burst.  We'll see.  Tomorrow will be here before I know it.

DW has a new title.

From this point forward, my dear wife (DW) will now be known as the Glitter Queen (GQ). That is all.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hike Inn, Sun Rise, Falling & Mean Girls

The Hike Inn
This weekend the Family went hiking with R’s Girl Scout Troop.  We went to the Len Foote Hike Inn on the Appalachian Trail (AT) -  - for an overnight stay.  Surprisingly, we were the only full family on this trip. DW made sure to point this out to me, to make sure I knew that it was an anomaly, and that her presence was not completely necessary.

There is a “moderate 5 mile hike” to get to the Inn, which if you’re a hiker or regular exerciser is true.  However, to a 7 year old it was a bit more.  The challenge of the hike was exasperated by Coco's insistence that she carried both her back pack and her fanny pack and intermittently used a walking stick.  She was a trooper the whole time. Keeping up with DW and me, staying ahead of the rear of the line, and keeping her complaints to a minimum. 

Throughout the 3 hour hike the group would stop to let everyone catch up with the Trail Blazers, get a snack, look at the scenery, and catch a little rest.  The problem with this is that by the time the rear of the line catches up, the front of the line is ready to go again.

“Can we leave yet?”
“We’ve been waiting 20 minutes!”

Luckily, the excitement and novelty of being on the AT held their complaints at bay for the most part.  This was also helped by the ample amount of food that was brought along by various parents.  Bananas, trail mix, and Cuties (those not-quite-as-good-Clementines-tangerines).  I, of course, had packed a variety of candy and other processed snacks because I know my family:  Now and Laters, Gummi Worms (regular and sour), caramel squares, Rice Krispies Treats and cheese crackers.  I did not let this be widely known as I did not want the entire troop to take my stash. 

After 3 hours we arrived.  The Inn is quite impressive.  Three buildings with bare bones electricity.  Bare bones everything, really.  Bedrooms are about the size of a small walk-in closet with a set of bunk-beds and a small stool. So, barebones except for the food. Oh my goodness The Food.  These people COOK!  Being on the AT works up a serious appetite. The Inn provides a dinner and a breakfast for their guests.  Our dinner was generous helpings  of roast beast, mashed potatoes, fresh green beans, a spinach salad with BACON and some deliciously sweet citrusy dressing, wheat rolls and for dessert homemade almond pound cake with chocolate icing.  All of this was homemade.  Homemade! 

I’d say we did some fun Girl Scouty stuff after dinner, but that would be a lie.  Our troop doesn’t roll that way.  The girls hung out.  The parents hung out.  The siblings hung out.  A good time was had by all.

Sun Rise
Morning arrived early to the sound of a wooden drum announcing a beautiful sunrise was about to happen.  We had been told this would happen, but you’re not really prepared for the beating, however gently, of a wooden drum at 6:50.  Slowly we emerged, putting clothes on over pajamas and made our way down for some coffee or hot chocolate for a really spectacular view.

The sunrise is something that a lot of us probably take for granted.  I try to notice it whenever I can on the way to work when I’m not angry about something one of The Girls has done to delay our morning commute.  A nice pink sunrise over the pines on Lawrenceville Highway is nice, but Sunrise over the North Georgia Mountains is a completely different site to behold.  Nothing like a good breakfast after a spectacular sunrise.

Scrambled eggs, bacon, oatmeal, some kind of peach cobblery thing and a selection of cold cereal.  Again, all homemade.  They want to fill you up with protein and carbs before you head back onto the AT.  I guess if you hiked 5 miles every day then eating like that wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Unfortunately “a good time was had by all” didn’t last the whole trip.  There were different reasons for this.  Falling down is the first.  Falling down is funny to watch most of the time.  If you’re the one falling down, it sucks.  It sucks more if the person falling down is your family.  Two of three fallers were, sadly, my family.  R bit it first.  Going too fast, trying to keep up with the Trail Blazers would have been my first guess as to why.  It turns out that was only partially true.  More on that in a minute.  My poor DW was the other family member, and she got it worst of all the fallers. 

I’m still not exactly sure what happened, but she had just saved Coco from impaling herself on a broken stick jutting out the side of the trail.  So she was still freaked out from that and I don’t know if Coco was just tired or what, but she kept bumbling along, partially tripping holding DW’s hand.  Well, the last time it caused DW to fall and because she was holding Coco’s hand she wasn’t able to stop herself and she crashed down onto a gnarled root. 

I was at the back of the line talking with a mother about school stuff when I saw someone down.  Then I saw it was DW and ran up there to see her face bloodied; nose bleeding, cuts across the bridge of her nose, under her eyes, in between her eyebrows. Ugh.  Turns out the sunglasses she was wearing hit the root cutting her face everywhere there was skin contact.  As bad as that sounds, it would have been so much worse. I am eternally grateful for the sunglasses making the Ultimate Sacrifice to save DW.

So, she’s swollen, cut, bruised, but basically okay.  She, of course, is claiming that this incident is proof that she has no business going on Girl Scout outings.  Can’t say I blame her.  Here is the family's reaction to this: R ran away to get in the trouble you're about to read, Coco laughed at her when I put the Band-Aid across the bridge of her nose, and I let her know, "There go your looks". Pretty typical Benefield stuff.

Mean Girls.
This may not surprise some of you, but it caught me off guard.  Girl Scouts can be Mean Girls, too. Turns out the reason R was going so fast is that some of the girls were trying to leave behind one of the other girls.  These girls have been a troop since Kindergarten. They have been together in some form or another since pre-K. I know it’s not unusual for friends to get tired of certain friends, but the girls involved in this really did surprise me.  Both the ones being mean and the one getting left behind.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until it was all over that this came to light.  DW discovered it, almost by chance when we had to address some of R’s pre-pubescent behavior. We thought R was trying to stay away from Coco. That was just part of the truth.  I tell you what; I would not have wanted to be on the receiving end of the smack down she got from DW and me.  I even did the pull-off-on-the-side-of-the-road so we could address it with the appropriate attention. There were lots of tears, and I’m pretty sure she was just a step away from hyper-ventilating.  Coco was laying low and trying to stay unnoticed.

DW had some really horrible Mean Girl experiences when she was growing up.  Really. Horrible. They very much shaped who she has become, and she very firmly believes that had some adult taken notice and put a stop to what was going on her childhood would have been very different.  So, to say that she has no tolerance for anything Mean Girl related is a huge understatement.

End result – R and Coco both now know that not only is it unacceptable to be mean, but that it is their job to let people know that they are not allowed to be mean, and that they are also charged with going to be with the one getting picked on to be their friend.  It’s a big responsibility, but we think that it’s what’s right.  Easy?  No, not at all, but doing what’s right often isn’t, and the earlier they learn this, the better off they, and ultimately, others will be.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some ointment to put on DW's face.