Saturday, May 14, 2011

parenting police and other random bits

We live on a "Local Access Only" street which people literally never come down - or need to come down - unless they live here or are visiting someone here. Because everyone (except us) has a backyard that is basically giant trees that back up in the environmentally protected wetland, the kids all ride their bikes and scooter and play soccer and baseball in the street in front of our houses. When we first moved here I was horrified by that. But as we've lived here longer I've seen that the older kids (or parents) have a system of yelling "Car!" if a car is coming (which is rare) and the kids scatter to the sidewalk. Plus, the other parents are actually smart, well-educated, responsible parents who I'd trust taking care of my child. So, when in Rome. Or when in the suburbs ...

Also, we might be "out in the sticks" as my brother calls it, but the majority of our neighbors are high tech workers with advanced degrees. The ones who aren't are either retired or own their own businesses. So, it's not what many of my city acquaintances told me the demographic would be like when we moved out here (ie: toothless, uneducated, drunk on moonshine all day or high on meth with an arsenal of guns and American flags on their Harleys)*. So, in general I'm comfortable with the dynamics here and feel safe when I have to work late and have our neighbor babysit my daughter. *(You don't have to go far though to find those neighbors ... they are in walking distance, just not on our street)

Which is why it was a big surprise to come home the other day and have my daughter tell me that the police came and gave everyone sticker badges and hung out for a bit. I asked KD who was babysitting and she said someone called the police to say that there were kids playing in the street. The police showed up and told the parents that it was a formality that he had to come because they got a call complaining about children playing in the street, then he asked the kids what they were playing and gave them sticker badges and watched them do tricks on their bikes and scooters and said the parents "They're having fun in their own neighborhood, don't worry about it. Carry on just the same as you were like I was never here!"

Of course the talk of the neighborhood the next day was who in the heck called the police? The new neighbors are us and the parents of another little girl who plays with all the kids and the rest of the people have lived here for years. So, it must have been someone visiting because literally no one else ever drives down our street. I had to explain to KD that there are people out there who feel like they need to get involved in the details of how other people raise their kids. I'm not talking about someone who will intervene when there's neglect or abuse, I'm talking about people who think they are perfect parents and need to intervene on other's parenting. Like my old neighbor in Seattle who told me I was a bad parent for not co-sleeping if I wanted to save my daughter I needed to change to doing that immediately. Or the mother who wouldn't let me tell her child no when he was at my house because I might "stifle his spirit" and because she believed in not having rules I was not allowed to enforce my house rules with him (needless to say I never let him come over again after that). I have run into that less out here which is nice. But apparently it does still happen.

Another thing that apparently does still happen is that our neighbor's car got broken into last week and they stole her GPS. That was disappointing because it seems so idealic and bucolic out here and we don't live a few blocks away from sketchy medical marijauna facilities or plasma centers that will buy plasma from junkies to use for medical research. But it turns out that apparently if you "go over there" a couple blocks there are problems with meth houses. Bummer. I thought we were too suburban for meth. I figured you had to get out to Sultan and Gold Bar for meth houses. Ok, so we didn't move to paradise but it still fits our lifestyle much better than where we were before in the city.

My daughter's riding lesson was yesterday and while she was out there I took Sinatra for a short walk and groomed him. There are two grooming rooms and he's gotten better at standing still in one of them so I thought we'd try the other one yesterday. Completely different experience! He was pulling on the cross ties and backing into the corner and trying to kick the walls - complete opposite of how he was acting in the other grooming room. So, we worked more on teaching him that it was ok to stand quietly in the cross ties in the middle of the room (as opposed to smashed in the corner) than we did actually grooming.

I'm by no means qualified to be a horse trainer but now that I'm in charge of a young horse it's trial by fire learning. I'm trying to remember everything I've been told and read. The biggest ones are "repetition is key", "you need endless patience and be prepared for small progress and things to go very slooooow" and "If you start to lose your temper you aren't effective any more". So, working with Sinatra I need to consciously go into "the zone" of stepping out of my normal, hyper self.

We did lots of me using rocking back and forth pressure on the cross tie saying, "Forward, forward" until Sinatra came out of the corner. Praise, and then firm half halts on the cross tie saying "Whoa" to ask him to stay there while I moved over to his side. Immediately, he'd back into the opposite corner as soon as I tried to move to his side. So, I'd do the same thing over again. We did this over and over and over again. I was wondering if Gemini's owner (a few stalls down) was getting sick of hearing "Forward, forward .... whoa ..." over and over again.

Finally, after doing this over and over again and even one time where I had to stop and take a deep breath and will myself to go back into "the zone" because I could feel myself getting frustrated, Sinatra moved into the center of the cross ties and stood completely still while I moved to his side and I even got to brush him without him moving away or backing up! He also let out a nice big sigh at that point! Success! I ended our little session on that happy note. I figured we'd both gone through enough on that side and didn't need to work on the opposite side. Then Gemini's owner came by and talked about how cute Sinatra is (and never mentioned being annoyed by listening to me say the same thing over and over again for god knows how long).

I suppose I could just groom him while he's backed into the corner, and I'm guessing that must be what they did at his last foster home, but I figure if he's going to be in my charge, he's going to learn to have excellent manners and part of that is standing quietly in the cross ties while he's being groomed. I'm spoiled by Girlfriend who has the best ground manners of any horse I've ever met, and I'm holding Sinatra to those high standards. Granted my horse is 27 years old and I've only known her since she was 24 years old, but that just means Sinatra has a lot of time to reach that goal.

He's improved A LOT with his mouthiness, at least with me. And that is something. He didn't try to nibble on me at all yesterday. He did try to get his halter in his mouth to chew on it when I put it on, but small steps. And he was much better with my personal space when I was in his stall with him. Girlfriend will move out of a person's way all on her own, but he's not very aware of humans and their personal space when he's in a small space with them. But yesterday we worked on me moving around his stall and keeping his attention so he'd move away from me so that I could walk all the way around the stall and he was not running over me or backing into me. I was even very proud of him that I kept the stall door cracked and he didn't rush it at all when I told him not to. He's getting used to his new home and starting to show his wanting-to-please and smart side!

I managed to not ride Girlfriend yesterday. I found myself when I woke up this morning doing the "surely we could just walk today ..." justification, but no, I can not ride her until the physical therapist says I can. I already probably did too much yesterday when I assembled an arbor that I'm putting up in front of my vegetable garden with a gate to keep the pitbull out. On one open side I have a big clematis vine that I'm going to train to grow over the arbor and that is supposed to deter the pitbull from going through that space. Unfortunately, yesterday she somehow got past it and then got "stuck" on the other side and was standing back there staring at me in horror, until she finally decided to jump through the vine and rip off all the bottom leaves and flowers. Sigh. Still, I'm feeling a little sorry for myself because I'm still in pain and still have to not do the things like gardening, riding and physical activity - the things that keep my spirits up. I didn't realize until this last week when I enforced the "stall rest" on myself again that physical exercise is so important to keeping my spirits up. I'll have to figure something else out for the next few weeks though I have no clue yet what that will be.

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