Uncomfortably Gray

Gray Gray Gray.  Never liked it.  I’ve always had a need for black and white.

I tortured myself with a gray relationship in my twenties. A guy I was involved with who called me at least eight times a day, wanted to share every meal with me, bought me gifts regularly, took me on multiple trips all over the United States and had sex with me spent the first year we were together insisting that we were just friends. The following three years together he went back and forth between “Yes I love you” and “Maybe you’re just not it.”

During that first year I kept trying to convince him that based on what we were doing together we were actually in an intimate relationship….ridiculously determined to receive that clearly defined label that would acknowledge my significance.  And he would frequently say to me, “Life isn’t always black and white the way you want it to be.”  Indeed. I clearly suffered from a seriously low self esteem at the time to sign up  for a relationship like this as long as I did, but I forgive myself.

Going down memory lane a bit farther as I remember why my self-esteem was so crippled to have chosen this particular boyfriend — it was because I was coming off of the painful loss of my first love. We dated all through high school and college and were engaged briefly right after graduating. Eight months after we broke up, he married someone else.  I spent the next year of my life drinking heavily, crying or singing in my whiskey or wine and occasionally writing poetry.

When contemplating my frustration with a parenting subject in my life right now that I feel uncomfortably gray about, I was reminded of one of my old poems and found it in a box of journals tonight.  I wrote this during my drunk year in between the above two relationships when I wore black all the time. I thought it was artsy, sophisticated, edgy….who knows.  It was also my way of mourning what felt like the death of my first boyfriend — but worse.

To Be

Not Hamlet, but me.

An oak leaf maybe

Fallen from a tree.

Weathered, restless, lonely

And floating free.

She’s not the same color

As she was before

No. No ma’am.

Not since he walked out the door.

Just Red today.

More Scarlett really

O hair that she

wants to shave off.


Just to look gay.

Gay for a day.

Maybe? No.

Angst ridden.

Powerful, Strong, Liberating too.

And most times

Dear Scarlett

Happens to be Blue

Despite a kaleidascope of emotion

She prefers Black above all.

Solid, unwavering, genuine


No question of shade

In this young woman’s heart

She is

who she is

who she is.

That’s right.

This is only her start.

Now here I am fifteen years later.  I’ve gained wisdom on so many fronts; I roll with so much more than I ever did in my twenties or early thirties; and my angst has rolled over from one chapter of life’s central interest to another’s — just like a 401K plan or something.  It went from the Single, Will-I-ever-find-true-love-again account to the Married Professional Mom, Am-I-doing-the-right-things-for-my-children.

Angst du jour? 

Montessori. I love so much about it.  I love how it fosters intrinsic motivation to learn, allowing young children to follow their natural desire for order and routine and understanding without pressure.  I love the multi-sensory, multi-modality approach to materials and instruction.  I love the highly organized, prepared environment that is set up for children to make personal choices around their interests.

Gray area for me?  The stance on fantasy.  Montessori encourages fantasy play:  but pretending to do real-life things.  They discourage presenting fantasy to children as if it is real because children at this age can’t discern the difference and are set up for a potentially painful break of trust later in their childhood when they learn the truth.  If you sign your kid up for an orthodox Montessori school and you mirror what they do at school at home to create philosophical consistency, you (in addition to creating a “prepared environment”):

  • Don’t read books with talking animals
  • Don’t watch any children’s animated films — or t.v. period actually
  • Don’t talk up the reality of Santa, Easter Bunny, Great Pumpkin, Tooth Fairy…..etc etc.

Alternatively, you focus on the magic of everything naturally around us in the world.

So on those points, I’ve let go of the first bullet.  At least half of our books have talking animals and I haven’t fretted too much about that.  Second bullet — as much as I’d like that late afternoon distraction that I know is a silver bullet, so far we are still 100% TV/Movie-free at our house for the kids.  When we go some place like “Cool Cuts for Kids” where they have little cars for the kids to sit in while they get their hair cut and they offer a video, I decline.  And part of me feels like a curmudgeon that is depriving them unfairly of fun. For now I feel like they can be solidly entertained with so many other things, that I’m not fretting too much here either.

My big angst?  Santa. Easter Bunny. Fairies…..

I’ve avoided getting into the fantasy and play around Santa and the rest over the last year and I’m still totally on the fence about it.  Part of me would really love to play it all up like I remember experiencing in my childhood. I recall it all being so fun and magical and exciting. And part of me frets about the idea that it’s dishonest and that the other kids at the Montessori school would quickly squash the fantasy for my girls.

Most recently, I’ve been pondering the “Sleeping Fairy” — a sweet suggestion from one of my friends in Austin.  Getting Sadie to sleep lately has been such a drain.  My friend suggested that I introduce the Sleeping Fairy as a way to make it fun for her to choose speeding up the process.  She uses a timer and tells her 4 year-old that if she can be in bed ready for sleep when the bell goes off that the Sleeping Fairy may pay a visit while she’s asleep.  On any given day she may wake up to a note, a nickel, a little gift….whatever.  And her daughter is fully on board with going to bed now of course!

What say you all?  Can I have my girls at the most orthodox Montessori school in Austin and not choose a central aspect of their philosophy?

This may sound dramatic — ( keep in mind I’m a Scorpio with Irish roots, drama is part of my DNA)– but seriously, I would not be inclined to go to Notre Dame if I wasn’t Catholic.  I wouldn’t go to BYU if I wasn’t Mormon.

It seems to me if you sign up for a school that is purist around its Montessori pedagogy, then you’re doing so because you buy into all of it too. And almost two years in — I just can’t seem to get clear on where I stand.

I look forward to exhaling on this subject soon!!

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6 Responses to “Uncomfortably Gray”

  1. Dawn says:

    I loved that girl in black singing in her whiskey. She gave me awesome memories. There were lots of reasons why she made an appearance.

    As for your fantasy dilemna… John has always been against it but we’ve gone all out with Santa and The Great Pumpkin. They have given us great moments of awe and I love it. I will never regret the deception when I remember the words first thing in the morning, “MOM! Santa came!” And the Great Pumpkin’s visit gives us a great way to get rid of (most of) the Halloween candy. It’s been beautiful. But I don’t look forward to the day reality is here. I am gray gray gray.

  2. Brooke says:

    My daughter (also Sadie!) is only a year old, but I’ve been thinking on these things for a long time. What my husband and I have decided is this: we will not promote things like Santa, the Easter Bunny, or even faeries as real. However, if Sadie decides on her own accord, that she would like to play along with these fantasies, we’re not going to discourage her doing so. This may totally backfire, I don’t know, but our goal is to be honest with her as close to always as possible. But I also don’t want to squash her own imagination.

    As for the Sleeping Fairy, is there a reason you couldn’t have the same set-up, only instead of the Sleeping Fairy, it’s Mom or Dad who pays the visit and leaves a little treat? Would it really be that much less exciting waking up to a note from a loved parent than from a made-up being? I imagine that Christmas morning will still be just as fun when Sadie opens presents from her dad and me instead of from “Santa.”

    I also think maybe it’s a good thing if our children get to make up their own minds about what they believe, even in the face of parents who believe differently.

  3. Elizabeth Suggs says:

    Hey Monica, I love reading your blog. I really enjoyed the Gray section. It loved hearing your thoughts on Montessori and the fantasy part. I’m mixed on a lot of things too but I try to remember…we all just want the best for our children and we will decide what is best for our own families. if you want to celebrate Santa…go ahead. my family did when I was growing up and I turned out ok too. I think the no-TV thing is great. It’s not just a Montessori thing. There have been lots of studies by Non-Montessori doctors, scientists, medical journals, etc that say TV can be harmful to a child’s development but again…we all do what we can! I guess I just want to say that…just because you have chosen a Montessori school for your child does not mean you have to agree with everything…not by a long shot. do what you feel is right for you and Sadie and keep the communication open for questions, concerns, etc. if you ever want to talk..I’d love it. get back mid-june. you’re awesome!!

  4. mon, i love your poem. i can just see you, weathered restless, floating free, holding a buzzer close to your head and looking in the mirror…. oh to have nipped a moment in time with you back then just to know you then as well, as you were. i would have egged you on!! and we’d have got drunk and sang whisky songs then.
    so proud to be your friend, sister!
    sweet songs to you tomorrow!!

    • Yay! Fun to have a comment from you here Dear Libbaroo! What a Sweet Mother’s Day we shared. And it would be fun to imagine us friends 15 years ago, wearing black with shaved heads together.
      The Sinead Sisters! 🙂

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