Oh, Parenting

I talk a good parenting talk. It goes something like this …

I’ll not be a helicopter mom, bulldozer mom, snowplow mom, or tiger mom.  I’ll not look at my phone while my kids are talking to me or at least won’t talk to my kids while I’m messing around on my phone. I’ll walk that line of involved but not intrusive. I’ll be a fun-loving disciplinarian and practice structured flexibility. I’ll balance the roles of cheerleader, leader, stand-up comedian, mentor, counselor, tutor, confidant, and parental authority. I’ll teach my children about suffering and the need for compassion while sheltering them from some of the harsher realities of our world. I’ll live in the moment while planning for the future. I’ll nurture while challenging, protect while stepping back, and go to battle while letting them fight their own fights. I’ll keep my superhero cape pressed at all times and I will make homemade crackers, organic.

But, regardless of all these good intentions (or sometimes because of them), I’m instead the mom who sometimes forgets to sign the permission slip, who has to carefully select the picture for Facebook that doesn’t show the laundry basket of shame, and who sends the kid to school with clothes that didn’t have time to fully dry in the dryer. Fortunately, I do normally manage to compliment the wet clothes with mismatched socks.

I occasionally bulldoze and frequently text. I sometimes step forward when I need to stand back. I discipline out of anger and give in out of exhaustion. I am human – flawed, tired, and misguided.

But today, in this moment, I’m going to stop.

I’ll stop measuring myself and comparing everything to some elusive, imaginary standard. I’ll face the fear at the root of my expectations – the fear that I’ll leave my babies wanting, leave them less than whole, less than prepared. I’ll acknowledge my fear that I will fail them in ways so much more important than permission slips and laundry.

So, today I’m going to stop, take a deep breath and enjoy them. And tonight, when I fall asleep, I’m not going to evaluate and replay and second guess. I’m going to pray.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to love so powerfully in my life. Thank you for the moments to step outside of expectations and fears. Thank you for their growing minds and tender hearts. Thank you for making me, with all my flaws and fears and expectations, their mother. Thank you for making me enough. Thank you.”

The Day The Music Died

Kids are obnoxious.  It’s not their fault, obnoxious is a developmental stage. 

But there is nothing (NOTHING!) that raises their obnoxiousness to new levels like when my kids have a song stuck in their heads.  Repetition does not faze kids.  Things do not stop being funny.  They are relentless. 

 I respond with my parental repertoire of encouragement, redirection, bribes, threat, and (finally) either hysterical laughter or tears. 

Then, once they finally stop, I come face to face with the horrible truth that these songs are now stuck in my head … for forever.

So, in order to share the misery serve as a warning to all parents, I present you with the top two songs my kids have been torturing me with lately.

Peanut butter and jelly anyone?

How about a little circus afro?

The only solution is to fight fire with fire. 

Oh yeah kid?  I see your Circus Afro and I raise you a Mahna Mahna.

What songs have your kids been torturing you with lately? Parents of older kids, does it ever stop?

Rules Are Rules, Keith

Keith – please don’t read this post.  Or at least skip past the beginning part.  Thank you.

I don’t wear socks to bounce houses.  (Can you feel it coming?  That’s right I’m about to hit you with some advanced parenting wisdom.)

I don’t wear socks because you have to wear socks to go on the various bouncy things.  And if a child gets stuck on one of the aforementioned bouncy things then the parent with the socks ends up going to save the child.  On more than one occasion my sock-less self has sadly said:

“Sorry, Keith, I don’t have socks on.  It’s against the rules for me to climb up the 20-foot tall inflatable rock wall, low crawl through the inflatable tunnel filled with children, and plunge down the inflatable slide with our crying child.  Sorry.  Rules are rules.  **sigh** If only I’d worn socks.” 

Yep, it’s not my first rodeo. 

Despite my use of the sock-less technique, I was relieved when my normally fearless three-year-old decided not to climb up the giant tower.  (Sometimes Keith counters my “I have no socks!” technique with his “I’m 6’3!” technique.) Emily, however, plunged her 7-year-old self right into the daunting structure. 

This, my friends, is why you don't wear socks to a bounce house.

She soon realized that it wasn’t just the height of the tower that made it challenging.  There weren’t solid floors at each level – just interwoven belts that you push aside to climb through.  When other kids pushed the belt aside the whole “floor” would wiggle and you could fall through to the level below.  This realization paralyzed her around level two or three. 

As I prepared to show Keith my sock-less feet and he started to stand up as straight as possible to highlight his awkward-for-bounce-house height, a kind child helped Emily down.  (For shame, Keith.  For shame.)

Emily was a bit thrown off her game.  She’s not used to being the child who needs rescuing.  She went off to one of the other bouncy things and bounced reflectively for a couple of minutes.  Then her smile came back, she walked up to me and said:

“Mom, I know what I did wrong.  I looked down and I worried about the wigglers (wigglers = interwoven belts).  This time I’m looking up and I’m going to think about me going down the big slide at the end!”

She marched up to that tower and did exactly that, wiggly floors and all.

That’s my girl.

May the metaphorical wiggly floors of your week end in amazing, metaphorical slides.  May your feet be sock-less and your partner short.  May you find wisdom in unexpected places!

Grandmoms Gone Wild

Kids come up with cute names for their grandparents all the time.  My kids apparently never received the memo that the nicknames should be cute because they lovingly call my mom “Gring-grom.” (We’re not sure how to spell it.  I’m fairly certain it’s Klingon.) 

It’s possibly not their fault because the cute nickname gene does not run strong in my family.  My siblings and I gave our grandmom the nickname “Grandmom in Texas.”  We were nothing if not geographically aware. 

(That’s a joke, by the way.  My sister once went from Chicago to Kansas City via Indiana.  But that’s another story for another time …)

I’ve been thinking about Grandmom In Texas quite a bit lately because she is single-handedly making sure that my children are entertained.  She sends unique gifts.  Her gifts are the type that engage the imagination and encourage creativity.  (Engage the imagination and encourage creativity = code speak for incites loud outbursts of giggles and glitter.)

My kitchen after the arrival of the most recent package from Grandmom In Texas.

Sometimes I fail to thank Grandmom in Texas for all her wonderful gifts.  (Because I can’t keep up with them all!) So this would be a wonderful opportunity to thank her publicly for her awesomeness. 

However, that’s not what I’m going to do – I have a complaint to lodge.

First, some background: Grandmom in Texas is a walking Encyclopedia of knowledge about everything.  She can talk about the gardens of queens, sing any song from any musical, describe in detail the chronology of any historical event that ever happened, casually bring up major advances in science, and entertain children with lesser known facts about dinosaurs and ninjas.  David, my nine-year old, finds her fascinating.  They literally spent hours discussing the Aztecs, volcanoes, and Greek mythology.  David kept coming back to her with increasingly random questions and she always knew the answers.  The flow of their conversation was impossible to follow for anyone other than Grandmom In Texas and David.  David had a look of relief the entire time as if he was thinking, “Finally, an adult who knows things around here!” 

Grandmom in Texas is very involved in her church and community.  She is an Assistance Leaguer, an Episcopalian, and a member of Army Daughters.  She is obviously an Army daughter, an Air Force wife, and the mother and grandmother to Air Force officers (okay, okay, some of her children and grandchildren went Army – we can’t all make good decisions all the time.)

She is a lot of wonderful things so, frankly, I was a bit surprised by a recent gift. 

My Grandmom in Texas bought my nine-year-old son flatulent putty.  It’s called Flarp.

It’s putty.  That makes fart sounds.

"Noise Putty" is a nice way of putting it.

Just in case I haven’t described it clearly enough: It’s a can of putty that can be manipulated to sound like someone needs an emergency run to the drug store for some Gas Ex.  The person in possession of the offensive can is my NINE-YEAR-OLD SON. 

And the person responsible is my lovely, eloquent, wise, tea-party-throwing Grandmom In Texas.

I know she loves David but I feel I should remind her that I was her first grandchild.  And I’m fairly certain I’ve always been her favorite.  (Right, Grandmom?)

On a side note:  Grandmom, we’re really hoping to visit you sometime this summer.  We’ll be packing the Flarp.

Valentine’s Day Top 5: Car Crashes and Vaseline

5.  I survived a second-grade Valentine’s party.  (Note to self: A game involving 21 second-graders, Vaseline, and cotton balls?  Really???)  Classroom parties always serve as a POWERFUL reaffirmation of my respect admiration complete and total awe of teachers. 

4.  I skillfully drove Keith’s new car directly into our babysitter’s parked car.  Our babysitter still plans on coming back.  And Keith seems to be breathing normally again.  Forgiveness is sweet, especially when you’re the one needing forgiving.

3.  This evening, Molly (3) said to me, “You’re a good mom today.  You let me eat two times!”  (Best quote ever.)

2.  As we were leaving the school party David (9) said to me, “So mom, turns out I’m pretty popular with the ladies.” (Ha!)

1.  Valentine’s 2012 kicked my butt had some challenging moments.  But at the end of the day chocolate covered strawberries were made.  Chocolate covered strawberries.  ‘Nuff said.  (The makers of those strawberries were pretty cute too.)  Life is sweet.

I hope your day was filled with sweetness and smooth sailing.  Everyone survive? 

Valentine’s Day, Santa, and Man Boobs: A Day in the Life of Me

I make plans. Lots of plans. They tend to go a bit like this:

0500 I will start the day early so I can get in a morning workout, quiet prayer/meditation time, and then get ready for the day while the kids independently eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth, and fix hair.

I just entered the deepest level of sleep at precisely the same time the alarm clock buzzed. I can’t leap out of bed straight from deep, deep sleep. I’ll get the bends and die. Also, I’m exhausted. Snooze … snooze … snooze …

“WHAT TIME IS IT!?! KEITH!! DO YOU KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS?”

Wake up kids.  Feed kids.  Remind kids several times of the eatbreakfastgetdressedbrushteethbrushhairpreparetoleave routine that we follow EVERY SINGLE WEEKDAY MORNING. Shower. Remind them again.

Use the American Girl doll brush to comb my hair. (Don’t worry. I sprayed the girls’ detangler spray on first … which is good because we were out of conditioner … and now my hair smells like cherry berry happiness).

0700 I’ll wait in our driveway for the school bus with the kids and use that time together to discuss the day and send them off to school happy and in good spirits.

Throw open the garage door and throw air kisses while running back into the house to find my phone, yell towards the garage “HAVE A GREAT DAY AT SCHOOL!!” find socks, “DAVID, APOLOGIZE TO YOUR SISTER!!”, locate Molly’s most special of all Dora toys, “LOVE YOU KIDS!!”, let the dogs out, “DO NOT STEP ONE FOOT OUT OF THAT GARAGE!!”, let the dogs in, “EMILY HE DID APOLOGIZE. I HEARD HIM!!”, attempt to clean the coffee spilled on shirt with a baby wipe, “WHAT PERMISSION SLIP? DUE TODAY!?!”, find pen, sign slip, “LOVE YOU, MISS YOU, BE GOOD!!”, run to room to get a replacement shirt, sprint back to garage to give the final wave good-bye as they climb on the bus, breathe sigh of relief that my shirt managed to be on at the end of my sprint into the garage (apparently it’s bad bus stop etiquette to flash the school bus).

0720 Molly and I will leave for her preschool on time so we can do a non-rushed drop off.

0720 Molly, please get your coat on it’s time to leave.

0725 Molly you love your cat shirt. Please don’t take off your shirt.

0730 Molly, I don’t know where your special stick is but we can find another stick later.

0735 Molly, they’re on the wrong feet. Because I know they are. Molly, do you want to change them or do you want mommy to? Molly, I need you to answer with words not in a song. Mommy doesn’t have time for a song.

0740 Potty? Now!?! Molly, you can go potty at school in 10 minutes? An emergency … let’s go …

0745 Drive Molly to preschool

0800 I will show up at work ready to leap into the day’s work. Fight the fight. Counsel the people. Coordinate. Advocate. Facilitate.

Run to the bathroom at work to confirm that makeup was applied to both eyes. Remove Molly’s most special Dora toy from my pocket. (Dora toys hanging out of pockets do not inspire professional confidence.) Attempt to switch gears. Hide Dora toy in purse. Spend the workday trying to get the Dora, Dora, Dora song out of my head.

1630 I’ll go home to connect with the kids. Savor. Teach. Love.

Go home. Locate the most special pink leotard out of the drawers filled with pink leotards, sing the praises of cursive and multiplication, chase the dogs around the yard, do a load of laundry, drive to dance, discuss the real life applications of multiplication and the dying art of cursive on the way, drive back home, clean something, inspire the whining third grader with motivational words. (“Fine. I get it. You don’t like multiplication. And cursive is stupid. But you will do it because I say so. You will do it quietly. With a smile. See, I’m smiling.”) Smile.

1730 I’ll prepare a home-cooked, whole-food meal – nourishing to body and soul.

Make a recipe in the easy, quick, or “meals for the working mom” section of life. Include broccoli. Broccoli is healthy. Good moms steam broccoli.

1815 We will sit down as a family to eat. Share our day. Encourage conversation.

Me: “So did anything cool happen today?”

Emily: “Do boys have boobs?”

Me: “Emily, what?”

Emily: “Dad was watching that alligator show(Swamp People) and one of the people in the show didn’t wear his shirt and he had man boobs.”

Me: “Emily, we can talk about that later but I don’t think it’s appropriate for the dinner table.”

Emily: “So there are man boobs but they’re inappropriate?”

Me: “Stop. Saying. Man. Boobs.”

David: “What about man breasts?”

Keith: “No more talking.”

 1900 Bodies fed and dishes cleaned, spend an hour for family time – read together, take a walk, or play a game. Enjoy each other.

Referee a heated discussion regarding Santa’s role in Valentine’s Day.

 2030 Put the kids to bed

Try to encourage Molly to stop saying (repeatedly), “You have to be good. Valentine’s Day is coming and Santa is watching.” We don’t need to go down that path again with her brother and sister, who have made it a personal mission to clear up her holiday confusion. (Secretly whisper to Molly that she needs to stay in bed because “Santa’s watching her.” Debate if that was bad parenting. Decide I have to use what I have and that invoking the power of Santa is fair game. Even at Valentine’s Day.)

2130 I’ll spend an hour in the evening doing things I never have enough time for: write, sew, plan a garden, connect with friends, read, learn yoga, weave a basket, write a letter, contemplate deep things.

Collapse in chair. Check Facebook. Google time management. Write something (on Facebook).

2230 Go to bed

Go. To. Bed.

Amen

Everyone has their turn as we go around the dinner table.  It’s pretty brief and predictable. 

Thank you, God, for our food.

 Thank you for our family. 

Thank you for our home and our health. 

Thank you for no homework tonight.

 Thank you that Keith is going to do the dishes.  (You can probably guess the source of that one.)

Then it’s my three-year-old, Molly’s turn.  She starts by looking up at all of us to make sure we’re ready.  Then, she closes her eyes and sings out her heart-felt and sincere prayer.  It goes a little something like this:

“ABCDEFG HIJK  ELEMENOP QRSTUV WX YandZ …Now I sang my ABC’s, next time won’t you sing with me.  Amen.”

Somewhere around E or F we all join in. 

Molly’s prayer isn’t because she’s confused about what she’s doing.  In fact her prayer is, at times, the most genuine and honest prayer at the table.  (Listen to me, God.  I know this! I can do it! Isn’t it wonderful?!?)

Sometimes, when it’s my turn, I just say the same old words because my befuddled adult brain is going through the motions.  I’m saying grace because that’s what we do and it’s good to teach the kids gratitude and because it’s right to thank God for our food.  If I think about it too much it becomes too big.  The same God who made the deepest depths of the ocean, is the one I’m thanking for my green beans!?!  It’s easier to stick to the script. 

But not Molly.  She’s sharing her life.  She’s sharing the same thing she’s asked to perform for important people like great-grandparents, teachers, and grown-up friends.  Every 2-3 year old knows that if you want to impress a grown-up, you give them the alphabet.

Sometimes, at the end of Molly’s prayer, I throw in a, “Thank you, God, for the alphabet.” I do it mostly to stifle the giggles from the 7-and-9-year old, know-it-all siblings at the table.  But I also do it to make her prayer fit in and make sense.

God does not need me to do that. 

In fact, instead of making it “correct,” I need to learn from the little girl sitting across the table with her precious curls, and self-cut bangs singing her heart out.  The alphabet is amazing.  It makes the people in her world smile and clap.  It’s something to be shared and celebrated with the people who matter … and, most importantly, with God.  That is prayer.

Thank you God for her.

Thank you for making those deepest oceans but still caring about a child’s delight in a song.  Thank you for the silly and ridiculous in life.  Thank you for the moments that take my breath away unexpectedly.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To Molly, there is no huge distinction between how we should communicate with each other and how we should communicate with God.  She is fantastically unbefuddled.  She is wonderfully childish.

Something about her prayer always makes me think about praying without ceasing.  True confession: The idea of praying without ceasing has always felt overwhelming and confusing to me.  I’m always up for multi-tasking but without ceasing? The only things I do without ceasing are things I can’t control or things I can do without thinking about… like my heartbeat or the air going in and out of my lungs.

Like my heartbeat.

 God loves Molly.  She loves God.  Not for a moment does Molly doubt these things.  Not for a moment does she question this love or diminish it by her thoughts or actions.  She breathes in.  God loves her.  She breathes out.  God is listening.

That’s prayer without ceasing, I guess.  It’s so simple, too simple for us adults to always understand. Amen.