11 December 2008

Unexpected lesson

Since I'm having no luck finding the words to start this entry, I'll use TJ's. At the moment she said this, it felt like her soul was speaking to my heart.

My worries wake up with me
and yawn
and eat breakfast with me.

In retrospect, I, too, could have said good morning to those worries over a bowl of cereal. They have been present in our lives for the last year and a half (except for that too brief hiatus over the summer). What makes it worse is that I know the names of the worries, and that I let them trick me into thinking they were friends.

I hesitate to name the source of the worries. The blame doesn't belong to the organization we were in, nor to the girls in the group we were part of, nor to their leaders (who truly did try to help my TJ fit in), nor to the parents. Friendship: you just can't force it.

TJ and I have had a number of discussions about friendship since her revelatory words on Friday night. The best analogy we came up with to help her understand the situation was that finding a friend is like finding a piece of a puzzle that fits with your piece. The girls we had been meeting with -- twice a month! since September 2007! -- their puzzle doesn't have a place for TJ's piece.

TJ has lots of true friends, but they don't all know each other. I thought that this activity would provide her with a community of friends based on common experiences (what we did during our meetings). The five other little girls in the group all attend school together, leaving my dear one the odd one out of virtually every conversation. "Mommy, why isn't anyone speaking to me?" Also to be read as, Mommy, can you get me out of this situation?

It is obvious ... now.

So, whose lesson is this, anyway? Required reading: Little Big Minds by Marietta McCarty, a book on sharing philosophy with kids. Chapter 2, Friendship.

One bright spark from this misery, TJ came up with the solution. She just had to come down to my level and speak in a way I could understand. I guess I have the topic for my next blog entry.

07 December 2008

Cranberry Thanksgiving

Who Owns the Sun was a timely choice for the election, kind of by accident. Cranberry Thanksgiving, by Wende and Harry Devlin, was our choice for the weeks around Thanksgiving by design. I am beginning to suspect that all of the books in this series are going to be morality tales. The lesson from this one was, in essence, not to judge people by appearances.

The girls enjoyed this book for the story and the language. They liked the phrase, "Too many whiskers and not enough soap!" that the grandmother used to describe the old tar that Maggie invites to their Thanksgiving dinner. Grandmother asks Mr. Horace, a lonely city slicker who smells of lavender, to join them. Guess who steals the recipe for Grandmother's famous cranberry bread?

The authors provided us with that recipe, no theft necessary, and it provided us with the chance to talk about halves and quarters. TJ gets the concept, but I have to phrase my questions just right. Asking one half plus one half doesn't work for her yet. "If I give you half a cookie, and then I give you the other half, how many cookies did you eat?" That one she knows. That one little PJ knows! To think that I never liked word problems.

We visited my parents one day during our Cranberry Thanksgiving experience. Without my prompting, the girls used the toys in my old Sesame Street Little People playhouse to act out the story. TJ used a lot of the dialog word for word from the story as she played. That was neat to see.

The cranberry bread recipe at the center of the story is a good one. It is a quick bread that verges on being a cake. I suppose I could post it here if there is interest. Grandmother won't mind, as long as I give her credit.