ysabetwordsmith: Victor Frankenstein in his fancy clothes (Frankenstein)
[personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
This poem came out of the March 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] technoshaman. It has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles.

Warning: This poem contains minor angst that may not be to everyone's taste. The warnings contain spoilers; highlight to read. While Fruszina and Adam are playing, she accidentally pushes him too hard and he falls off the porch. Emotional tension, minor childhood injury, a little bit of messy medical detail, and some yelling happen before people settle down. No hard feelings in the end, though. Consider your interests before reading onward.


"The Red and the Yellow"


In December, everyone was bored
with the cold and the dark, so
they gathered in small groups
to talk about favorite topics.

Dénes started a discussion
about herbal tinctures --
he was showing an interest
in medicinal alcohols now --
soon joined by Jozefa the midwife
and her apprentice Katalin.

Victor and Igor added their experience,
somewhat hampered by their son Adam
scampering around the brewer's house
and demanding attention.

Dénes and Dorottya's daughter Fruszina
was about the same age, and
just as much trouble.

"We'd best find something for them to do,
or we'll get nothing else done," Dorottya said.
"I have some yogurt they could play about with."

Dorottya had a nanny goat who barely went dry
for a month in January before dropping the next kid,
and was the envy of the village on account of it.

"Toddlers like bright colors," Jozefa said.

"You could try spices, if you have any
that are going stale," Igor said.

"Hmm, the turmeric is turning flat,"
Dorottya said. "I've also got that big can
of Hungarian sweet paprika."

She spread an old sheet on the floor,
put small blobs of white yogurt onto
two cookie trays, and then asked,
"Which color do you want to start?"

"I want red," said Adam.

"I want yellow," said Fruszina.

Dorottya put the spices into jar lids
and set them down beside the trays.
Soon both toddlers were happily making
artistic swirls with the red and the yellow.

Meanwhile Dénes and Igor had gotten into
a debate about whether hot or cold infusion
was a better way to combine herbs and alcohol.

"You both have valid points," Victor said.
"Heat speeds up the process and extracts
things from tough ingredients such as bark,
but it can also destroy more delicate compounds."

"My teacher used to settle arguments like this
by making two batches," Jozefa said. "Then she
handed them around, and asked people which one
worked better. She got the idea from her husband,
who had been a university doctor before he retired."

"Oh, we should try that," Dénes said,
and Igor nodded agreement.

After about ten minutes, the toddlers
got tired of their fingerpainting and
started squabbling over possession
of a wooden spoon that Dorottya
had given them to draw with,
because they hadn't gotten
the hang of sharing yet.

"I'll clean them up and dress them
to go play outside," said Katalin.

Before long, she was ushering
Adam and Fruszina onto the porch,
holding their hands to keep
Adam from stumbling and
Fruszina from rushing ahead.

"Do you count sun tea as
a hot or a cold infusion?"
Jozefa asked.

"Well, it's not on the stove,
so it's cold," said Dénes.

"But it uses the sun's heat,"
Igor pointed out.

"There's no reason we can't make
three batches," Victor said.

Just then a howl went up from the porch,
spurring all the adults to rush outside.

Katalin was picking Adam off the ground.
There was red everywhere, blood on the snow
and pouring down the boy's face.

"What the hell happened?" Victor barked.

"They started roughhousing,
Fruszina pushed Adam, and
he fell off the porch," said Katalin.

"I didn't mean to," wailed Fruszina.

Dénes picked up his daughter
and comforted her as best he could.
The toddler snuffled into his sweater.

"You were supposed to be watching them,"
Victor said to Katalin.

"I was!" the young woman replied. "Fruszina
just hasn't learned to control her strength yet,
and Adam isn't all that steady on his feet."

"Now don't go blaming Adam for this,"
Igor grumbled from where he was
trying to wipe the blood off Adam's face
and the front of his yellow sweater
to see how bad the damage was.

"Everyone settle down," Jozefa directed.
"Katalin, give the boy to me. Victor, Igor,
quit flinging blame about. I know you're
upset because your son took a tumble,
but snapping at people does not help."

"Children get hurt," Dorottya said with
the voice of experience. "Accidents are
just part of growing up. You can't keep
Adam wrapped in cotton-wool his whole life --
think about what that would do to him."

Igor's parents had kept him indoors
a great deal, and he hadn't enjoyed it.
He gave an unhappy rumble,
shifting from one foot to the other.

"It's not too serious," Jozefa announced.
"Adam has a chipped tooth and a split lip."

"Just a nick or split all the way through?"
Victor asked, leaning away from Katalin.

"All the way through," Jozefa said.

"That's going to need stitches," Igor said,
exchanging a worried look
with his partner.

Plainly neither of them wanted to do it.

"Well I'm not the fine flesh-tailor that you are,
but I can throw a few stitches," Jozefa said.
"Sometimes women rip their bits giving birth."

"Yes, please," Victor said gratefully.

"You can use our kitchen, it's clean enough,"
Dorottya offered. "I can help."

Dénes ushered everyone back inside,
his little girl balanced on one hip.
"Let's sit down and settle ourselves."

"Easy for you to say," Igor muttered.

"I'm a wretched father," Victor said.
"I can't find a balance between
safety and security, and I hate that."

Dénes patted him gently on the back.
"You are doing fine," the brewer said.
"Both of you are. Parenting isn't easy,
but you do learn to handle it better as you
get used to your children giving you
a heart attack once or twice a day."

Igor choked on a laugh.
"How can you joke about this?"

"Because I've been a father for years,
and I'm used to it," Dénes said. "There was
the time Ágota broke her arm falling from a tree,
and Fruszina almost drowned in an inch of water
at the bottom of a wash-bucket once. You just
learn to be as careful as you can, and beyond that,
let their bumps and bruises do the teaching."

"Sore fingers teach best," Igor murmured.

"Exactly," said Dénes. "Surviving the worst
makes everyone stronger. This goes for
you too, Katalin. Don't let a little mishap
like this throw you off your stride. You
do a fine job tending the children."

She nodded, wan and quiet.

"I'm sorry I snapped at you,"
Victor said to her, and got another nod.

"Now here's your little man back,"
Dénes said as Jozefa and Dorottya
returned with Adam, his swollen lip
neatly tacked up with black thread.

Igor took Adam, who promptly
burrowed into his lap.

"Thank you," Victor said to Jozefa.
"We owe you for this."

"We can settle accounts later,"
the midwife said with a wave of her hand.
"Perhaps the next time you make a trip
into town, you can take my shopping list
along with yours and Igor's."

"I would be happy to," Victor said.

"Thank you all for a lovely conversation.
I think we'd better head home now,"
Igor said, and Victor stood to join him.

The ride back to the castle was slower
than usual, to avoid jostling Adam,
and they let him sleep between them
that night for everyone's comfort.

The next morning, Adam was back
to running and playing around the castle,
with no more to show for it than a red scab
surrounded by blue and yellow bruises.

His fathers hid their white knuckles
in their pockets, and let him roam.

* * *

Notes:

Winter blues and boredom are common. Know how to cope with them. Hanging out with friends is a great choice, because it cheers up lots of people at once.

The ideal for milk goats is not maximum peak, but a nice sustained flow; people have tricks for extending lactation. The typical range is 10 months milking and 2 months dry, but every once in a while you'll find one who can go longer. The Carpatina or Carpathian goat is a sturdy milk/meat breed with curling or spiral horns and shaggy hair in many colors.

At thirty months, Adam likes bright colors. He's starting to play together with other children but hasn't gotten the hang of sharing yet. Adam and Fruszina are milk-siblings and in many ways act like fraternal twins. They're very close, but both of them are strong for their age, without the control or forethought that come with age.

Young children need sensory play. Edible "paint" is a good choice for toddlers. Snow activities offer lots of exciting opportunities too.

Accidents are a normal part of childhood. Know how to handle them. Roughhousing helps children learn many things, but is a common cause of minor injuries. Take basic safety precautions, but don't hover to the point of undermining children's physical or social development. Understand how to stay calm, talk to children, and deal with other adults when someone gets hurt. It's natural to get upset when things go wrong, but not helpful.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-17 06:05 am (UTC)
thnidu: Bin There Dun That (Bin There Dun That)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
"I'm a wretched father," Victor said.
"I can't find a balance between
safety and security, and I hate that."


Oh yes, gods, do I know that feeling.

This is a very good lesson, for the participants and for the readers.

Edible paint

Date: 2015-03-17 08:59 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
The yogurt with colorful spices was brilliant (so to say).

"a heart attack once or twice a day"

Date: 2015-03-17 02:49 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
OH, yes. Coming from an upbringing which was VERY restricted, VERY over-protective in some ways and STILL getting bullied and beaten up on a regular basis, it creates a whole symphony of conflicting ideas about scrapes and tumbles. Learning to deal with that made me a better parent than I had, but there were still incidents that gave me nightmares for weeks. The three-year-old "teaching" the one-year-old to jump on the bed was a memorable one, which was actually funny relatively quickly.

One trick I'll pass on to EVERYONE, whether they have kids or not, is to keep a red wash cloth on hand. As soon as we assessed the scrape as minor, THAT was the one we used to clean the skin. The adult is watching the injury to clean it, not the wash cloth.

Re: "a heart attack once or twice a day"

Date: 2015-03-18 01:14 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Also, Fruszina gains more than uncles; she's now got VERY influential members of the community saying, "It's OKAY to be female, and physically strong. Okay to be direct rather than softening and deflecting everything under "ladylike" discussion and "well, maybe if we..." You know, the language girls are taught before they can actually REPLY, which in turn makes it hard to function at thirty in a world where if you don't use that same pattern you're accused of being "aggressive" (with more negative synonyms) and if you DO, you're labeled "indecisive".

Her family, especially, are the ones who will help her establish the difference between 'decisive' and 'bossy,' so I'm picturing her very, very like her mother in personality already. But the extra support will make a difference to her confidence levels.

This particular cohort is going to end up with a LOT of differences to even Nandru or his peers, most of whom are barely ten years older. The more Victor and Igor spur change, and Kalman not only doesn't go screaming, but actually points out Scriptural support of many of the elements, the more of a "generation gap" in some ways.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-17 02:58 pm (UTC)
mdlbear: (nike)
From: [personal profile] mdlbear
Oh, wow! Yeah; I remember.

I remember the time Kat fell off a chair -- she was less than a year old at the time -- and her grandmother, who was visiting, picked her up and cheerfully told us "nothing is injured but her dignity."

A couple of other times things she didn't get off so easily, but she seems to have turned out ok anyway.

Oh, yeah.

Date: 2015-03-17 05:26 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Or that moment where they get back up, whether sitting or crawling or whatever, and THEN decide to let out a big wail. That's a big clue that they want reassurance rather than make-the-owie-stop help. About a year after that, the 'must follow routine' kicks in.

I wonder what Victor and Igor's routine will be, and I look forward to seeing it later.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-17 10:38 pm (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Shades of real life, here. We recently had an incident with my niece, my brother's daughter. She fell while we were watching her, and her mother flipped out. She took her to the E.R., and had to have the doctor tell her that falling down is normal for kids.

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2015-03-18 01:08 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
I hope everyone will be okay.

Everyone is fine, now, but it was uncomfortable for a while. The baby was okay; if it was my child, I wouldn't even have taken her to the E.R.

The problem is my sister-in-law. This is her first child, and she doesn't have a lot of experience with babies. She's also one of those people who thinks she knows everything, and won't take anyone's advice. Unless it's from a 'professional' or 'expert'. Someone with formal training. 40+ years of child-rearing (in my mother and her mother's case) or 20+ (in mine) don't count, to her. Of course I'm counting baby-sitting and helping out, but it all adds up. Shit, my youngest child was born 8 weeks early, and came home with a breathing monitor and about 5 prescriptions. He's epileptic, and had all sorts of health problems.

*takes a deep breath, and stops ranting*

The point I'm trying to make, here, is that I know how to take care of a baby. Every adult in my house knows how to take care of a baby, and we're teaching the non-adults. Her distrust of us is hurtful.

I'm worried about my niece, because my sister-in-law is too protective, and she's going to have problems because of that when she grows up. Sis-in-law also refuses to take anyone's advice, except for doctors and 'child-care experts'. This is a problem, because they don't always have all of the answers. Home-grown expertise is important, too.

There was also an issue of the fact that my daughter was with the baby at the time.

Luckily, my brother will not stand for her separating us from the baby, so we'll do the best we can to mitigate any problems.

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2015-03-18 02:56 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
Further consider that these may not be primary problems, but may stem from something deeper that makes your sister-in-law defensive and resistant to connections. If she's not used to being around people who are actually reliable, she may not recognize that. Help-seeking is a learned skill; if the people around you suck, then you learn not to rely on them. If there's underlying damage, it may not be fixable at a peer level, but since she's favorably inclined toward professional input, might respond better to family counseling.

You are a genius. I just realized, thinking of what I know of her past, she's had to be self-reliant for most of her life. That might just be a viable option.

We do get to babysit, now. She listened to the doctor, and my brother talked to her. He trusts us, and is very protective of our mother's feelings. He won't let sis-in-law separate Mama from the child, because he knows it would hurt her too much. They also know that my niece loves being over here, she's very attached to us, especially my kids.

They're not litigious, but she is the type to try using verbal abuse. I will not let her near my daughter when she's in that mood. And the rest of the family will not let her near me.

All-in-all, it's a thorny situation we're all trying to navigate, and there's the children to think about.

It doesn't help that I just plain don't get along very well with my sis-in-law, we're too different in all the wrong ways.

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2015-03-18 03:32 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
She is getting better, but slowly. I don't want to change who she is, but some of her behavior is unacceptable, and that's what I want to change.

I do minimize direct contact, and others run interference.

Re: *hugs*

Date: 2015-03-18 03:51 am (UTC)
helgatwb: Drawing of Helga, holding her sword, looking upset. (Default)
From: [personal profile] helgatwb
The biggest problem, with her, is that she's going in fits and starts. She's resistant, and then, all of a sudden, she's improved. Out of nowhere, it seems. It's confusing as hell. And there has been some regression, but overall improvement. It's also random as a very random thing.

(no subject)

Date: 2015-04-01 11:10 am (UTC)
lynnoconnacht: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lynnoconnacht
<3 This was lovely. Not fun for anyone, but lovely. <3

(no subject)

Date: 2015-03-17 02:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] janetmiles.livejournal.com
My parents were big on letting my brother and me make our own mistakes and learn by getting hurt, as long as the probable hurt wasn't likely to be permanent damage. Sometimes I think this was a good idea; other times I wish they'd been a bit more protective of emotional hurts.

Well...

Date: 2015-03-17 06:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ysabetwordsmith.livejournal.com
I think there are multiple factors:

* It should be gauged to the age of the child(ren). Younger ones need far more support and protection than older ones, because they have not yet learned self-control or coping skills needed to prevent or correct problems. Adults need to do that for them until they start showing signs that they're ready to do more for themselves.

In this case, Fruszina wasn't able to modulate her strength or figure out "I'm sorry" for herself, but she was very upset that her milk-brother got hurt. So she's probably ready for the talk about being careful and saying sorry that her parents would've delivered after she calmed down.

* The nature and frequency of the conflict matters. A child who knocks over a friend or sibling accidentally has made a completely different mistake than one who does so deliberately. Similarly, a child who teases another once is doing something different than one who does it repeatedly. Fruszina is still at the stage where she bumbles people a lot, but she really doesn't mean it. She's not a bully, she's just a big strong toddler whose body is growing faster than her ability to control it. "You may only roughhouse while sitting down, not standing up" would be a good rule for her. That's very different from how to handle a bully, which might be, "If you hurt someone, you will have to do one of their chores."

* The level of the potential damage -- whether physical, intrapersonal, interpersonal, or something else -- needs to be considered. This has been thoroughly discussed in nonviolent parenting as natural vs. logical consequences. At lower levels of risk, natural consequences are appropriate; at higher levels, parents should intervene to avoid harm and substitute logical consequences.

* It has to account for special needs, both above and below average. Fruszina and Adam are stronger than average, but Adam just doesn't have good motor control yet. So both of them will have to be more careful not to break things or hurt people, compared to other kids their age; and everyone needs to make extra allowances for Adam's wobbliness.

* Social and physical skills both need to be learned. That takes time, and it works better if somebody models the right things to do. It also flourishes best in a moderate environment. Throwing kids in the deep end means that some of them will get hurt, perhaps badly, before they flounder their way into coping (if they do). Stifling kids mean they learn little or nothing of age-appropriate challenges, which they may or may not be able to rediscover later.

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