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Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Roly Poly

Patience is a scientist, no, strike that, a scientist extraordinaire. For example, she collects bugs for observation. However, it doesn't end there. In fact it doesn't even begin there.

Allow me to share the process:

Step 1: Observe interesting bug in back yard.
Step 2: Find Insect Guide and determine type of bug.
Step 3: Discover appropriate habitat for bug.
Step 4: Build bug habitat from personal design.
Step 5: Collect bug using tools from Insect Collection and Storage toolkit.
Step 6: Observe bug daily, multiple times, under varying conditions. Test light, heat, dark, and environmental responses. Take notes.
Step 7: Create chart of life cycle, daily routines, and reactions to tests, a la chinois (which means, begin writing bottom left, move right and up from that point---to appease mom write frontwards translation under backwards words).
Step 8: Cry while releasing bug back into wild. Console self with thought of bug returning to family. Console self further by writing and creating book about bug.

Here are some things I have learned in the last couple of days about Pillbugs (aka roly poly bug), courtesy of Patience:

1. They prefer wet environments.
2. They are a class of wood louse. (OMG ICK! ICK! ICK!!!!! Total louse phobia here. I gag at the thought that one is living upstairs right now. In my house. The house I pay dearly to exterminate.)
3. Any sense of movement provokes instant balling response.
4. They will immediately uncurl when placed under a lamp. Conclusion: like warmth and light.
5. They are not insects. They are isopods and are more closely related to shrimp.
6. They start from eggs.
7. They do not have bones like us. They do have exoskeletons.
8. They can cohabitate with earthworms.
9. Although they seem happy with dirt and leaves, they will gluttonously consume frog pellets.
10. I can participate in this entire process without gagging once. No comment on the sarcasm/irony I can't mask.

Our continual drive to learn and research new things has taught me a lot. In fact, having children teaches me a lot. I might roll over for me, but not ever for them. I will study things carefully and make informed decisions. I might not always do it best, right or as per the PSA du jour on the networks, but it is done with thought.

When Patience was a toddler, before Noggin changed over to the Moose (and...can I vote him off the show? Eeeks, that singing!) they used to have a song they sang at the beginning and end of their broadcast day. Those were usually the times we had tuned in (often just for the song) and we'd happily belt it out every time.

Seeing, smelling, hearing, telling
Something newwwwwww
New for me and for yoooouuuuuu

That's Patience's theme song---it encapsulates her approach and drive in life. The only element missing is touch. She never forgets touch.

She's hitting school age, now, though, and this is where the whole "who I am" morphs into "who I am with other people, who they are, what we all need to be like" thing.

My intrepid explorer, my half pint zoologist/entomologist has recently begin saying, "Ohhh EWWWWW," about bugs, sometimes---usually with or shortly after being with friends, all of whom seem to think, for some reason, that as girls they ought to squeal like stuck pigs when it comes to Gross Things like bugs. At home, sans friends, she says it to me to test my reaction. I play it low key, "Eww? Oh I'm not grossed out. Just a spider. I like them; they eat mosquitos."

But I think about it a lot. I don't want her to get too far away from this science and engineering that she loves so well, that is part of her. If I remind her, though, she rejects it, "Who are YOU to tell ME who I am?" I see the teen years will be fun.

I don't know why girls get this way. One of my top parenting goals was to foster enough esteem that my daughters wouldn't get sucked into the "go along with the friends." I don't want them to hide their light under a bush, secret parts of themselves, pretend to not be who they are while pretending to be someone they aren't. I don't want them to perfect the act so well they forget who they are, and get out of balance. I want them to feel empowered.

It took the teen and early adult years to utterly lose myself, and it's taking nearly as long to recover myself. This blog is a big step. It empowers me by forcing me to deal with myself as me, and deal with how others take me, as myself. I confront all the best and worst of myself right here. It's childhood, elementary, junior high, high school, college, work, community, and life all rolled up into one electronically delivered package.

When I think about it, Patience and I are at similar points of emotional development---the center point of self---but on opposite ends. I am recovering who I am, rediscovering long set aside dreams and interests, and becoming more sure of what I want and need. She---who has so definitively, her entire life, known who she is, what she enjoys, what she wants and needs---is beginning to test this against alternatives, outside reactions, and internal responses. She is moving away from her center point while I move towards mine.

I can see that this process has a degree of inevitability, and as much as right now feels like something that was somewhat detrimental to me, was in fact something essential. So I squelch my urge to fight it in her. I can see it is much more complicated than good esteem---which I have decided is simply the thing you need to make it through and recover afterwards, rather than a vaccination against falling into peer pressure---and solid parental support and guidance. I can understand and see so clearly the phase she is entering. I can sympathize with how difficult it is for her. I find it tough at my age...imagine how difficult at hers. I must step aside and become a little solid foundation, a little soft cushion, and a lot Mom with a dash of Friend, now. We're not quite past hugs and kisses making it all better, or quicksilver mood changes that let it go like it never happened. But almost. So I need to step up and bring my A-game now.

She doesn't blog, but she does journal, mainly with drawings. She depicts her thoughts---things she knows, problems she encounters, ideas that intrigue her, and things that worry or bother her---with detailed graphic illustrations. Her pictures are never just things; they are always long, elaborate stories.

I sit and blog, she sits and draws. Sometimes we do it side-by-side.

It's a good process. Doing it has carried me through many stages in life, and I believe it will do the same for her. Writing for me and drawing for her gives each of us a voice, reminds us of our strengths and abilities, helps us see who we are and who we are in relation to the rest of the world. It empowers.

I think as females we have a lot of challenges in this world, a lot of things that undermine our belief in self as powerful and strong. I think the shifting to and from the centerpoint is a process that is somewhat unique for women. Anything we do---blogging or drawing---balances out that challenge and shift because it provides an amazing platform for raising a voice, and feeling strong about it.

So I'll blog about roly poly bugs, Patience will draw out her scientific observations and we'll both learn a thing or two---about bugs and ourselves.

Note: This post inspired by HBM, the MBT, and a question about how blogging empowers. I may not find it a radical act, but it is an empowering one.

copyright 2007 Julie Pippert


Christine said…
Julie--this was wonderful. So beautifully written and insightful about yourself and Patience and the growth you are both experiencing.

It seems that your development as a woman and hers as a girl are at once side by side and intertwined. You are lucky to have each other to learn from.

Right now I see many girls in my daughter's class rejecting their male friends. Some children (and their mothers for that matter) cannot see the value in these friendships and push instead traditional "I'm a pink girlie girl and they are tough super hero boys." I worried so much that she would succumb to this early perr pressure to cast off her boy friends. But instead, she came home the other day and innocently asked if her little friend L could come and play so they could make a movie about trains together. I see this wonderful girl before me who truly loves her friends, gender aside. I only hope she can continue to be strong and not follow the crowd.

I hope Patience never forgets her bug-love, too!
Christine said…
PS--"L" is a boy. But you may have inferred that already.

And, i am not opposed to being a girlie girl. I just want a balance in her life, to value people more than an idea of what is "cool" or feminine.
S said…
Loved this, Julie. I like Patience, ornery as she can be. But fierce!

And that fierceness will help her navigate these social waters. This "eww" phase will not last, promise.

And, BTW, in our last house the lower level (partially underground) was overrun by pillbugs. We had serious water problems. I don't much like bugs, but these guys were rather sweet and harmless.
kaliroz said…
Patience sounds a lot like me, Julie. Me as a child, anyway. Unlike Patience, though, my scientific drive was squelched by outside forces. Once I left the talented and gifted program, of my own volition, that side of me was largely ignored.

My mother always said I had a sense of self she'd never seen in other kids. So, when you wrote this ... "She---who has so definitively, her entire life, known who she is, what she enjoys, what she wants and needs---is beginning to test this against alternatives, outside reactions, and internal responses." Really hit home for me.

Patience is lucky to have you there. To have you understand what she's going through. My mother, god love her, had four other kids to care for (all boys) and while she tried to be there for me, I don't think she quite GOT me. Not until I was almost done with college and finally came up from the rabbithole.

We'd always been close, even when I was being an awful, angry teen, but now that we see each other as what we are ... well, it's created this bond that I hadn't imagined possible.

I love reading your blog. It always makes me think about things differently. Look back on my own experiences through a lens other than my own. That's the beauty of blogs at their best, I think. They make you think and question and prob.
Lawyer Mama said…
Girls are so complicated and it sounds like Patience is even more so. She sounds like she has such a strong personality though, that I bet that she'll find her balance after trying on different roles. Someone so strong inside would be hard pressed to continue conforming to her friends' ideals for long.

Love this post, Julie. And Patience has taught me something too. I loved playing with rolly polly bugs when I was little, but I had no idea they were a type of louse. Can I just say, in typical girly fashion, EWWWWWW!
Unknown said…
I love the parallels you draw here, Julie. Very nicely done.

You know, if you ask my daughter if she likes boys, she would say they're gross, etc. But she always plays with one boy down the street and our close friends have sons who she plays with and loves. Somehow they pick up on that idea of what they are "supposed" to think about the opposite sex or bug or whatever, but it isn't always their reality. Somehow they manage to live in that contradiction.

Having the encouragement to journal, keep up the learning at home and a mom who understands will make a huge difference for Patience in the long run.
Kyla said…
Ooooh, this was good stuff Julie. Very true.

Doesn't raising children seem a bit like time travel? Watching a smaller version of yourself walking through life; wanting desperately to change things for the better, but knowing if you change one thing, it might change everything; knowing that these small partial versions of ourselves have to experience it on their own and it will help make them who they will become.
thailandchani said…
Very interesting! And it's interesting to hear your take on blogging and women also....

I'm relieved in so many ways that I didn't take on the raising of children. Honestly, I don't think I'd be up for it. LOL


Girlplustwo said…
Julie, YES! that's it! anything we do like this brings forth our power. I love this.

And ah, pillbugs. i had no idea they weren't insects. Viva Pillbugs!
Julie Pippert said…
You guys!

Seriously...what awesome replies. Thanks!

Roz, since you know I love and admire you, I hope you know how fuzzy warm it makes me feel to think, ohhh Patience could grow up like Roz!

Christine and SM, it is always good to hear that this is just a phase, and she will keep coming back to her "home."

LM, we can say ewwww in unison. I mean, a LOUSE, LOL. Yes, girls are complicated. I can't believe boys aren't but I have no basis of comparison LOL.

M-L, I think there is much talk, but the bark is worse than the bite. ;)

Kyla, absolutely, it really is. Sometimes the way we are more alike and more different amaze and concern me LOL.

Chani, on my best days I do wonder about that LOL. It's the bad days when I am sure I am not LOL.

Jen, I say so too.

Thanks for the lovely ocmpliments and great comments!
Anonymous said…
Roy and I are very mindful of the mistakes we made losing ourselves along the way out of fear of not fitting in and missing out on so much as a result. We try and tell our kids not to be too cool to be themselves.

Roly polys are part of the louse family? OK, ewwww. I liked them so much better before I knew that. My kids tend to be obsessed with Roly polys and lightning bugs.
Her Bad Mother said…
Side by side? That's just beautiful.

You GOTS to come to BlogHer, lady. You really do. Fingers crossed!

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