Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Making More Heroes: Banana Oat Mini Muffins

Today I got one of those calls that every parent dreads.

"Mrs. Half Baked?"


"This is Miss T., from I's school.  Do you have a minute?  I wanted to talk with you about I.'s behavior lately."

It turns out that I. has been using potty talk in the classroom, and today, no less than four times, called another child names, presumably using said potty language.  At my son's school, they work a lot on teaching respect for others, and though the teachers always try to find out what caused the child to behave inappropriately (treating each child with respect, as well), name-calling to this extent crosses the line.  I.'s teacher was particularly concerned because he's generally been a good kid.  I thanked her for calling, and promised her we'd talk with him.

I have to say a word about the bowl here, which
was made by my neighbor, who even makes
his own clay ... beautiful, no?
We had a long chat with I. about what happened from his perspective, why he has been acting this way (he claims that another child was saying mean things to him first), how he would feel if others treated him this way, and what he might be able to do differently if he finds himself in the same situation again.  It was one of those times when I've felt like I'm having an out-of-body experience, wondering whether I'm actually making any sense to a five year old, and wondering who in the world thought that I might be qualified enough to raise a human being.  It's a complex thing, helping your child learn how to strike a balance between speaking up and walking away from a situation that is just not acceptable, fighting back and deciding not to retaliate, being kind to all others and protecting themselves.  And it's particularly difficult when what you've got to teach the lesson is the five-year-old's version of what transpired.

The other day, after the Costa Concordia disaster, I read an article about heroism that described the general lack of human decency aboard the ship as people tried to evacuate, lauded the noble acts of a few people, and wondered whether it is possible to get more people to behave like the few heroes on that ship did.  One of the researchers mentioned that it's possible to give children the tools to make change and "build up social influence" long before disaster strikes, to help them to feel empowered.  But to me, that's not a recipe for altrusim.  This researcher also found that heroes tend to live in urban areas, be more educated, and volunteer.  Though it's unlikely that we're ever going to move to an urban area, we hope to give our children a good education, and model volunteerism for them so that they feel like it's an important part of their lives, too.

And as I'm having a discussion about name-calling and potty language, I'm thinking about the Costa Concordia, hoping I can instill in my son (and daughter, eventually) enough respect for himself, for his fellow human beings, and for all living things, that even if he doesn't leap in front of a subway to save a stranger (actually, I hope he doesn't do that), at least he won't fight over life jackets, push aside the elderly, or launch a life boat before it's full.  Because those seeds, I suspect, are planted very early.

We sent these muffins to I.'s school last week for snack for his classroom (each family takes a turn at providing snack for the week).  They're packed with all kinds of things that are good for you, and they're not overly sweet (you could even sub in apple juice concentrate for some of the sugar, if you reduce the amount of milk a bit).  Because the littlest heroes need the right kind of fuel to learn the important lessons of kindergarten--the ones that last a lifetime.

What do you think?  Can heroism be taught?  What would you have done aboard to Costa Concordia?  Do you think you'd risk your life to save a stranger?

Banana Oat Mini Muffins

3/4 c. all-purpose flour
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. rolled or quick oats
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 egg (or 1 T. flax meal w/ 3 T. water)
3/4 c. milk
1/3 c. applesauce (or canola or coconut oil)
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. mashed bananas (about 3)

Preheat oven to 400, and prepare two mini muffin pans: line cups with paper liners or spray lightly with oil.

Combine flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, soda, and salt. Beat egg lightly in a large bowl and then stir in milk, applesauce (or oil), and vanilla.  Add mashed bananas and combine thoroughly.  Stir flour mixture into the banana mixture until just combined, making sure not to overmix it.

Divide the batter among cups of mini muffin pan.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.
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  1. Hmmmmm. What an interesting idea. I never would have though to ponder what makes someone a hero, to study where and how they live. I guess I just assumed some people are born with whatever is required for them to act heroically - I never thought that it might be something you could teach someone. Huh. I guess it makes sense that you can.

    The reality is I believe I do a lot for others but I don't know how I would react in an emergency situation. I like to believe I would not only do the right thing but that I would put myself in harm's way to do the right thing, but I honestly don't feel like I can answer that having never been in a situation like that.

    As for teaching heroism, I'm not sure, but very curious. I definitely want to look into this more. Thanks for the very interesting topic.

    1. Esperanza, I'm not sure how I'd react, either ... I'd like to believe that I'd do the right thing, but I don't know how far I'd go to risk my life for a stranger.

  2. I'm sorry about the call. This parenting thing is a lot of responsibility.

    The making of a hero is a very interesting topic, indeed. I agree with Esperanza, it seems so difficult to predict how any of us would act in a crisis situation.

    I find that as a parent I do think a lot about how to teach civic responsibility. I am quite convinced that this is very dependent on where you live, perhaps because it is something that we learn by example. G and I talk often about moving back to Rome to be closer to our families but probably the biggest barrier in my mind is the near complete lack of civic responsibility, which creates an environment that I really don't want to raise children in. I am completely intimidated by the idea of trying to teach behaviors that hardly anybody is modeling.

    1. Slowmamma, interesting ... I've never heard about lack of civic responsibility in Italy. But I agree ... it takes a village!

  3. I remember being a child and having used some curse words in calling a boy over to me once outside my house. He ran and told my parents and I got into a LOT of trouble, but the only reason I had used the words was because other words had failed me. I couldn't remember his name and the first thing my brain reached for were words I had heard others (probably my parents in this case) use when referencing other people. I didn't understand why I got in trouble or why this kid ran to tell my parents, which is to say, I knew the words were bad but I hadn't meant them badly so I felt I hadn't done anything wrong. Kid brains are weird.

    1. Audrey, I know what you mean ... and I. tends to be a bit of a follower, so it wouldn't surprise me if there were others using these words. We don't use them in our house. BUT ... we've been reading Ramona Quimby Age 8, and there's some friendly name-calling in that book. We discussed how that's different than calling someone a name when they aren't in on the joke.

  4. The same thing happens with Matthew...who began those little issues when he was 5, and still occasionally acts out in school at 8. When asked, it was ALWAYS another kid who started it. Lol. The talking through it, and anticipating how to deal with it next time does help---he can now tell me what he should have done. It's the impulsive thing---acting before thinking---that gets him in trouble! Hopefully, practice makes improvement :-)
    I'm not sure what I would do if I had an opportunity to sacrifice myself to save someone else--I probably would. I hope none of us ever has to decide something like that!

  5. In kids' minds, it's always the other person who started it. Having taught little ones for several years, all it takes is one kid using inappropriate language, and it spreads. So your thought that I. is learning these words from other children in the class is absolutely possible!

    I'm fascinated by the discussion of what makes a hero. I don't know what I'd do. I like to think that I'd put myself in danger to save someone else's life, but maybe I think too highly of myself. I hope that I'm never tested!

  6. I found your blog on Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope. I am very sorry for your loss. I too lost my baby, Lily Katherine, who was stillborn at fullterm on March 16, 2010. Although I wish nobody else had to know this pain, it's good to know I'm not alone and there are people who "get it." I'd love to have you follow along on my blog as well: www.roseandherlily.blogspot.com

    Blessings, Hannah Rose

  7. Yes, I think we can teach heroism, lead by example or however that actually goes. Kids are such sponges and they watch and listen even when they're pretending not to. We're currently working on 'yelling' in our house as Babe has really taken a liking to it and as Boyfriend and I are non-yellers it's been a challenge. Daily practice and denial, that's what gets us through. ;D


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