Questionnaire on parent-child relationships

If there’s one thing that’s being made increasingly clear to me about mothering, it is that my frustrations are not unique to me. We’re not as alone as we think we are.

The other day I wrote a questionnaire for my kids, out of vexation with a few of our relational rough spots. I made it with my oldest in mind – he is turning twelve next week – but then the other children wanted in on things too. My kids have always loved filling out stuff like this; I guess because I do.

The bulk of it was written on a Likert scale: On a scale of one to five, how strongly do you agree with these statements?

As children grow, parents should allow them increasing choice, even when their decisions are not wise.

If parents ask unreasonable things of a child, obedience is not required.

All children should be treated equally.

One parent is often more sympathetic than another, and more likely to agree with you.

I added a few open-ended questions. If you could choose five words to describe the relationship you’d like to have with your parents during your teenage years, what would they be?

I wanted the document to become a launch point for discussion after they filled it out, and it sure enough was. Their answers were enlightening. (Okay, I also wanted to prove a few points to my oldest. I admit it.) We each saw briefly from the other’s perspective, and had fun doing it.

I made a simpler version for younger children, questions like

Daddy and Mommy usually agree.

Yes? No? Or sometimes?

I feel like my family listens to me.

I feel really stressed out when…

I don’t know, maybe it was silly. I don’t model my home on what my children think, I already told you that. But sometimes I want to invite them to say what they feel about “us” – who we are as a family, and what they wish could change. I really loved hearing what they thought, even though it stung in a few places.

I’m sharing the questionnaire forms here for you, in case you want to use them too. They were written quickly, and have a few problems which I am not in the mood to fix. For me, this was about reaching to learn and grow; if you think it’s a sign that my children are deeply heard and perfectly cared for – well, meet them. They will have a few things to say about that.

Questionnaire for Parent-Child Relationships in our Home

Questionnaire for Younger Children

To all mothers in the trenches – Grab a coffee, give a hug, start that laundry. You’re not alone. Thanks for reminding me that I’m not either.

The Mandela Effect and me

Confession: When I used the word chartreuse in a blog post and some of you said you had to look it up, I decided I ought to as well, to see if Google Images showed the color I had in mind.

It did.

(For something breathtaking, try googling chartreuse and gray.)

It also led me down a pleasantly unrelated path into the intricacies of the human brain, which remembers things that are not, and mistakes things that are.

I found that many, many people are confused about the word chartreuse, and “distinctly remember” it being previously a dark reddish-purple instead of a light yellow-green. How does that happen? they said. My mother was an artist, and I knew! It was on a Crayola crayon, and I knew!

This led me into briefly researching the Mandela Effect, of which I’d never heard (meanwhile my dishes were not getting washed). The Mandela Effect describes collective false memory, when a large group of people remembers something that apparently never happened – such as many people feeling sure that the Berenstain Bears were once spelled Berenstein. The “Mandela” piece comes from a large number of people “remembering” that Nelson Mandela died in prison in the 80’s, whereas he actually died in bed in 2013.

It tickles my brain. How can we remember what is not?

This leads some folks down the path toward conspiracy theory, paranormal explanations, and alternate realities. I don’t follow. I attribute it instead to confusion – substituting this for that. For example, someone pointed out that chartreuse is not a very different word from cerise, which IS a pinkish-reddish-purple Crayola color. And probably there was a famous black man who died in prison in the 80’s, and people saw his funeral on TV and got him confused with Mr. Mandela. Or they believed he was going to die until, in their minds, he did. Then too, many cited Mandela Effect cases involve discrepancies in spelling, such as for KitKat (not Kit-Kat with a hyphen) and Chick-fil-A (not Chik-fil-A or any variant). Easy to get goofed up about a thing like that – I found it rather amusing than not.

Then I went to a party and created a false memory of my own, which was not as funny.

I attended a Lilla Rose event at a friend’s house, and was pleased with the FlexiClip. I wondered how it kept from slipping apart, and so when I saw one up close, I distinctly noted the grooves for the catch, lined up in a row of three for three different size adjustments. They were deep and sharp, angled like a backslash to avoid the wire slipping out. I thought the consultant even called attention to this clever design. One of the women had trouble releasing the clasp once it was in her hair, and had to be told to push the clip farther together, to get the catch past its groove so it could release.

It was a lovely design, I thought.

Several weeks later, when my FlexiClip arrived, my first thought upon pulling it out of the package was “Oh no! The grooves are all wrong!” They were smooth, flat little half-moons, utterly unable to keep anything from sliding out unless the hair itself added strong outward pressure to hold it in place. I complained to my consultant (who compared with her stock and said it looked the same to her, but kindly offered to exchange for a smaller size if it was having trouble staying in my hair), and I looked online (where every image I found of the FlexiClip showed it identical in design to the one that I held in my hand).


I realize it’s not really the Mandela Effect, because I am the only one mistaken, although one friend initially agreed with me: “Your grooves should not be like that!” Later we concluded we must have the same kind of brain.

But – How could I have distinctly remembered something imaginary? How could I have come up with three separate memories to verify my impression? I had 1) a visual {clear mental image of what the clip looked like}, 2) a verbal {comment by the consultant on the nice design to avoid slipping}, and 3) a case in point {when another guest struggled to release the clasp}.

How could I have invented at first glance a better design than what was?

You tell me and Mr. Mandela – and maybe I can sleep again at night.

The book in question

Well, the book that quote came from was actually the Holy Bible… howbeit, from the slightly renovated version known as The Message (however large a disclaimer you feel that to be).

Here is the quote again:

Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.

And here is the King James:

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. (Romans 2:1)

Please don’t freak out. You didn’t say anything disrespectful of the Bible, though I admit I enjoyed grinning over your source suggestions, and your corrections of the text. Perhaps that was not quite fair of me. Some of them were quite astute though.

Anyway, you are right on this – that a Bible passage has a context, and when it is pulled out of that context and embraced to the exclusion of all other Bible passages, it can be extremely misleading. This particular verse was a piece I badly needed to hear; it’s not the whole picture. There are balancing Bible passages on speaking out in defense of the oppressed, making judgements that are right and just and impartial, and the urgent appropriateness of the church judging its own people who sin.

So now what? Are you annoyed with me? Your comments, as always, were entirely delightful. Thank you for speaking up.

The quote in question

Months ago I found this quote in a book, and ever since it has hung above my kitchen sink, the place where I find it easiest to brood and stew. It’s been a reminder I need.

Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors.

What do you think? Is it true?

If you were taking a guess at the kind of book it comes from, what would you say?

(No fair Googling!)

Perambulations inspired by a spider

Today begins a week’s worth of daily, pre-scheduled blog posts. This will clear my written but unpublished backlog and make a valiant attempt at ending the navel-gazing I’m fighting this spring. I’m sorry the posts don’t really ask much of you; that feels a little selfish but I can’t fix it right now. Thank you for your forbearance in this matter.

I was watching a spider crawl down my wall and thinking I ought to get up and squish him.

He was just a little spider, though, and I was waiting for my daughter to go to sleep, and I thought I wonder how he decides which of his eight legs to move next? He decides so fast. It’s hard to believe there is really a brain in that little blob at all. Is there? Do spiders have brains?

What is a brain?

If that is the smallest brain, what is the biggest?

Maybe – I was getting very tired, lying there and beginning to think in pictures, not in English – maybe the whole world is the brain of a creature so big and so Other we cannot imagine it. That’s why it’s so important to keep talking to each other – we send the electrical signals within a gigantic brain. Every conversation, every text, every shared smile, every successful connection lights up the whole, and when we stop signaling, something big dies.

I thought on these things sleepily, for some time, and all because of a spider.

After a while I got up and squished him.