Tag Archives: parenthood

Update to “The Kindness Games”– Keeping Your Cool With Kids During Summer

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Momaste, y’all!

A few weeks back, I posted about something I was trying with my children to help us all get along during the beastly dog days of summer.

On our first day home together, after Jack finished his second grade year at school, the kids were at each other’s throats and I was at my wit’s end.  I just wanted everyone to get along and play nice in the sand box.  So, I invented a reward program to encourage them to be kinder to one another.

Everytime I “catch” them in the act of being kind/polite/generous/supportive to one another, they are rewarded with a point.  When they get 50 points I will take them to a bouncy place like Chuck e Cheese, or they can pick out a cake, or earn some other desired reinforcer.

It took off like gang busters.  My kids were bending over backwards to be nice to one another.  And in general, our days off together on Mondays, when it is just me home with them, are going really well.  We have been able to enjoy a series of fun outings that required cooperation and getting along.

They have earned about 35 “points”.  Not too shabby…

But our weekends have been hellacious.

For whatever reason, when both my husband and I are home with the kids on Saturday and Sunday, the children are “off”.  They bicker, scream, insult, and tantrum with one another.

It is a very weird dynamic that I can’t quite figure out.

The children both ADORE their father, so I wonder if they are doing some major attention seeking with him and if there is a sense of competition between them when he is around. . .

It may have to do with the fact I’ve been really scheduling almost every minute of our Mondays so that they know what to expect and when, but our weekends are a bit more free-flowing.

Transitions during the weekends have been particularly hard for Jack, which really sucks for everyone in the house because he totally flips the switch and the proverbial apple cart with his antics.  There have been a couple occasions where Em and I have just left the house to escape the tirades, leaving my spouse home with Jack until he cools off.

So, it is a work in progress and a mixed bag, but you can bet I will keep you “posted”!!

How is your summer going?  How are you keeping your cool with your cherubs this summer?  

Sometimes My Kids Make Me Brave

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 It’s no secret.  Motherhood changes a gal.

“What are we waiting for?” Emily squealed.  “Let’s go in!”

There was an expanse of seaweed between us and the ocean.  First it was crisp and stinky, buzzing with flies, up on the hot, dry part of the beach.  As we got closer to the water, it grew damp, then sodden and squelchy.

Emily didn’t seem to mind it as she dragged me down sand towards sea.

If there is one thing I have always hated it is seaweed.  It is so nasty and slimy and there could be a million things hiding in it that want to slither around or snap at my toes.

But I didn’t have long to muse on my loathing of slimy stuff, because my eye caught something clear and glistening in the sun.  “Oh my gosh!  Look, Emily, it’s a jelly fish!  Eeewww!”

If there is one thing I hate more than seaweed, it is jelly fish.  Disgusting!

“Can I touch it?” Emily immediately asked.

“No, Baby.  It might sting you.”

Truthfully, it was one of those “mostly” harmless jellies that wash up on the beach here, but I’ve heard they can cause some skin irritation, and my daughter does have very sensitive skin, so I preferred she not commune with the jelly.

We walked up the beach.

Well, I walked.  Cautiously.

Emily skipped with the exuberant glee of a puppy, straining on the leash of my arm.

I’ve always been a bit of a neurotic mess.  I’m scared of practically everything, and phobic about some things like snakes, clowns, and crowds, and crowds of snakes and clowns.

But like I said, motherhood changes you.  I’ve found myself shoving aside some of my -er- issues for the sake of my children.

Until I had my first child, Jack, I had a paralyzing fear of the dark.  I was so scared of the dark, that if I woke in the middle of the night with a full bladder, I would lie awake and in discomfort until day break because I was positive Hannibal Lector was lurking behind my shower curtain, just waiting for me to get up and pee so he could “have a friend” for a midnight snack.

See, I told you.  Neurotic as a Siamese cat.

It is like being pregnant and birthing a baby altered the molecular structure of my brain, because after bringing Jack home, there was no fear of the dark.  Not that walking around in the dark is my favorite thing, and not that I don’t still get jumpy, but when you have a little baby crying for you in the middle of the night, you can’t exactly stay frozen in bed for fear of fictional serial killers.

Last summer I also put my fear of slimy stuff aside to pet a shark and sting ray at a local aquarium.  Jack wanted to, but he was a little skittish.  Logically, I know there is nothing unsafe or threatening about these things, and it was in a supervised setting.  I didn’t want Jack to be afraid, or to be deprived of the experience.  So, I stuck a finger into the tank and pet the shark.

Oh my gosh, you guys, it felt awful!!  It was so cold and gross and I hated every second of it!  But I loved that my gesture gave Jack the courage to do the same.  He also found it icky, but at least he made his own informed decision.

Truth be told, Jack is cautious and a bit on the anxious side.  He is tentative about heights, new situations, and squelchy stuff.  Like me.

Emily is much more of a dare devil.  She has always been very physical and energetic, has loved climbing and jumping off of stuff, and has boldly gone forward in situations when Jack would have been slow to warm.  In short, she is rapidly turning all my hair grey and taking minutes a day off my life with her antics.

So, it was really no surprise this girl wanted to prance through the seaweed so she could wade into the water.

We walked down the beach until we found the least seaweedy spot.  Then we did it.  We waded in up to our knees.

I never would have done it if Emily hadn’t been there.

Something about her courage to boldly go, inspired me.

I didn’t love the experience of sticky seaweed swarming around my ankles, but I loved Emily’s delighted laugh, and how her entire body seemed to smile as the gentle surf splashed us.

We waded for a bit and then I went up and sat on our blanket for a few minutes as she ran between me and the water’s edge, throwing balls of muddy sand into the water’s edge.

Naked and Afraid– From a Parental Perspective

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I had every intention of posting yesterday, as I usually like to on Mondays.  But it was a busy day with the children, and a sudden spike in temperature left my brain logy and unmotivated.

So then I had every intention of posting last night after I got the kids to bed.  But there was champagne in the fridge (left over from Mother’s Day), and an episode of Naked and Afraid on the DVR.

You guys.  Have you SEEN THIS SHOW?!

If you haven’t, I’ll give you a brief rundown.  It is a reality show where they drop two strangers, one male and one female, off in a remote, poisonous spider and snake-infested locale without any food, water, shelter, toilet paper, fire, or yes, you guessed it, clothing.  The two “survivors” strip down to their birthday suits and then have to tromp off into the bush or desert or Himalayan foothills to live for 21 days.

They are allowed one item to take with them to assist in their survival in these inhospitable places.  They are almost always a machete, a pot for boiling water, a fire starter, or duct tape.

OmG.  I love this show.  I am not usually a fan of crappy reality TV, but this show does something for me.

Here’s how each episode usually goes:  The two survivors get dropped off all gung-ho about how they are going to conquer nature, find a place to build a “shelter,” and make much ado about collecting “cordage.”  They then pass out in the shelter and starve for the next 21 days until they hike through the jungle or swim through alligator filled waters to their extraction point.

Sometimes they are able to get a fire started and sometimes they kill and cook a snake.

Snakes.  Why did it have to be snakes?  Eeeewwwwwww!!

Occasionally the nature gets the better of them either physically or mentally.  There have been episodes where a person gets a tropical fever, food poisoning from rancid snake (I know, right?), or severe dehydration.  A medic will be called onto the scene and either give them the go ahead to continue their mission, or they will “tap out.”

So, on last night’s episode, the chick tapped out after about seven days in Guyana, leaving her partner to weather the next 14 days all alone.  It was pretty horrible for him, and he almost succumbed to “extreme loneliness.”  One scene shows him crouched in the dark of his crappy lean-to, begging god to help him.

It was awkward and hard to watch.

I loved it!

At this point, my husband said, “Clearly this guy doesn’t have children because if he did, he would know 14 days alone is such a short, short time.”

Maybe it was the champagne, but I chuckled at his little snipe.

Damn skippy, I thought.  It would be bliss to be able to take a poo without a wee face peeking around the door, and a squeaky voice saying, “I just wanna’ check on you.”  Because then I think, well lookie here, I’ve become a total cliche.  I’m THAT girl who “just wants to pee alone.”  

When I think of parenthood, the word RELENTLESS comes to mind.  Yes.  All in caps.  And bold.  Just like that.

And frustration.  And fear.  And exhaustion.

I could write myself into some conceit about how parenthood is as challenging and scary as being Naked and Afraid, but imma be honest with you, I’m really just too freaking tired to go there because my daughter had a bad dream and was sleeping with us last night and her little body was like a radiator and it was already 99 degrees so I got like no sleep.

Aside from the champagne, the best part of Mother’s Day for me was getting a couple hours to go for a long drive (not while under influence of said champagne).

By myself.

I listened to my music really loud in the car, and I took a hike by my favorite ocean spot.  You guys.  It was amazing.  I felt so good!  Because every once in a while I just need to be totally alone for a few hours.  It feeds my soul.  I wish I could tell you that every need I have is satisfied by being a mom and a wife, but we are being honest here.

There are times I fantasize about packing a bag and walking away.  Times when I am sad and distraught, exhausted and feeling like a fraudulent failure.  I don’t think I am alone in this fantasy.  But when I really break this fantasy down, I don’t even get the imaginative suitcase out of the figurative closet because I can’t.

I could never leave.

Not even for 21 days.

Because the other word that comes to mind when I think about parenthood is LOVE.  All in caps.  Bold and italic and underlined.  And at the end of the day, it is love that motivates us.  Some of us go test our mettle in nature.  Others of us launch babies into the world and learn a whole new meaning of the word bravery.

So I’m tired and sweaty, but my nude body is not being eaten alive by bugs in the middle of Africa, and my babies are sleeping and there is fun stuff to watch on the DVR.

Listlessly Listing– Mommy ADHD

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20140417-160527.jpgAs I put Emily to bed, I mentally made a check list of things to do before I went to bed myself.

  • Wash face.
  • Set up coffee (no I don’t grind my own beans).
  • Write a note in Jack’s agenda to his teacher about his homework not being done because he forgot his spelling binder at school, and what can we possibly do to “write” this wrong.  Haha, that’s a good one.  Spelling/grammar humor.
  • Lay out work clothes for myself for the week (don’t knock it until you try it, seriously, it is life-changing).
  • Take some allergy medication.
  • Look online for mermaid crafts.
  • Read a couple more chapters in that book you started.  It’s good, and OMG you’re reading a book!  Like a real book!  With pages and words and stuff!
  • Wash face. . .  oh wait, I already said that one.
  • Eat a slice of that chocolate chip banana bread you made with Emily this morning.
  • Write blog post about how you will forget this entire list and instead get a glass of wine and stream some Parenthood on Netflix.

Ugh.  Yes.  I seriously started watching Parenthood on Netflix.  I’m all caught up on the Blacklist (OMG James fricking Spader!) and needed a new show.

Everyone was raving about Parenthood because the series finale just happened or something.  So, I started mindlessly watching the Braverman saga, because apparently I don’t get enough of my real life in real life.  I have to watch other people live it on a sitcom.  Except they have way better hair at all times.  Even that sort of greasy, shiftless sibling is better coiffed than me.  And as a social worker, I’m not buying that those parents got that far with a kid that rough and didn’t have him tested for something before now. . .

. . .  but I digress.

Shockingly, I made it through my entire list without forgetting anything.  Maybe it was because I was chanting it like that old school Sesame Street girl, “a loaf of bread, a container of milk, and a stick of butter,” that I didn’t forget it.

Sadly, this is not the norm for me.

Anyone who knew me PTC (prior to children), knew me as super organized, efficient, and as on-time as a German railway.  But now, I’m pretty sure I have early onset dementia from sleep deprivation.

Sometimes there are just black holes where I was supposed to say or do something.  My brain races, like said German railway, but struggles to get to the right station at the right time.  Sometimes I get really frustrated by this organizational impairment.  Other times I have another glass of wine (after the kids are in bed, of course) and cue up another episode of something on Netflix.

Because, you know, I’m just tired.

I write shit down whenever possible, and that helps me stay on track.  Boy do I love my lists.  But there are times, like when I am rocking Emily before bed, that are not conducive to pen and paper.

I often wonder if this is what it is like to struggle with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  I also wonder if other moms experience this, and occasional speech dysphasia from sleep deprivation.  I mean, I’ve heard it’s a thing. . .  I’m not weird, right?

You know who are weird?  Those Bravermans.  I mean, a brother would NEVER (and I mean NEVER) ask his sister if she has faked orgasms.  But maybe I’ll get a hair straightener so I can start doing my hair a little nicer.

Either way, my memory lapses are an ironic reminder of how motherhood has changed me.

To The Pediatrician Who Cared For My Kids And Died

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Last week, I brought Emily in to your practice for a sick visit.  She had bloody diarrhea.  And I mean bloody as in the literal body fluid, not the cute British slang word.  She’s totally fine.  Long story short, it was an intestinal bug that triggered irritation and a little fissure in her bum.  A few days slathering her with butt paste has done wonders.  She’s totally fine.

But I’m avoiding the issue.

I saw your picture on the reception desk.  It said, “In Loving Memory,” with your dates.

It wasn’t the best picture.  I mean, you looked cute, resting your chin on your hand with a placid expression on your face, but the photo was a little dark and out of focus.  Maybe the poor photo quality was what caused my double take.  I asked the receptionist for clarification. She told me you did in fact “pass away” (an expression I’ve always hated, btw). My eyes burned with tears.

You were our favorite practitioner to see whenever our primary wasn’t available.  You cared for my kids on dozens of occasions over the past six years.

The receptionist handed me a tissue and I went to sit down with the baby to wait for our appointment.  In shock.  Wracking my brain to remember when was the last time I was in the office with my kids.  But it isn’t there.  There is no memory of the last time we saw you.

I think it was with Emily when she was in the throes of a stomach bug, and I remember our visit being brief.  We were supposed to see you for her 18 month physical in May, but you were out “on a medical leave,” and so that other doctor saw her.  I didn’t bother to question what your leave was all about or if you would be okay.  I’m so sorry, but I didn’t give your absence a further thought aside from the mild irritation that you weren’t there and we had to see a doctor with whom we were not familiar.

You  never looked sick.  Or maybe I was always so wrapped up in whatever was bringing me into the office, or annoyed by the wait time that I just never noticed.

We were never close, you and I.  I doubt you even knew my first name, but you knew my kids, and you cared for them with gentle patience.  You had a no-nonsense way about you, but always with a wry little smile on your face.  You were grounded.  I imagine you made every worried mom feel reassured just by walking into the room.  I can’t even count the times you checked my kids over and uttered the words, “It’s just a virus,” when I had already assumed the worst the way sleep-deprived and panicked moms often do.

But you didn’t have just a virus, did you?  That day, last week, I went home and I admit I googled your obituary.  It said that you died after a battle with cancer, leaving behind a loving husband of 29 years and two adult boys.  You were young, only 56.

I read the words once or twice, and I really wanted to cry, but I was also confused, because we were not close, not even friends, so I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling bereft.  In the end, I didn’t cry.  I sat and thought about the mark you left on the world.

Truthfully, there is no way for me to understand the footprint you left, because I didn’t know you.  There is no plausible way for me to make more of our relationship that what it was.  So, why did it rattle me to learn of your demise?  Why have I thought about it over the past week, wondered with confusion why I could see your face so clearly?

You were here, and now you are not.  I took you for granted, as I’m sure every exhausted mom must have.

I have not had many brushes with death during my own time on this planet, but it terrifies me.  Learning of your death was a call to wake up, live each day to the fullest, and be more mindful of the people around me who contribute to my existence and the well-being of my family.

You touched my life, and I wish you could know it.  There was one time in particular when you were so kind to me.  Jack was a newborn, and I was a new mom.  We were struggling with breastfeeding and his weight gain.  I can’t remember what you said or did, just that you were reassuring and compassionate.  I wish I could tell you thanks for that.

Thanks for being there.  Sincerely.

Sacred Audience

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Is berating your child in a public place, where strangers can see and judge you, any better or worse than berating them in the privacy of your own home?

This is a question I am asking myself this morning.

On more than one occasion, including this morning, I have seen a very angry and nasty looking father yelling at his young daughter on their way into my son’s school.  The tirade seems to continue all the way from their car to the door of the school.  This morning the father was scowling at her, shouting, “That’s really how you want to start the day, like THAT?  Really?!”  His child, who looks to be about five or six, was just standing there with a blank look, as though she is so used to it.

I paused and looked at the scene.  I almost said something.

But something about this guy told me that any intervention from a stranger would only make things worse for his child (“How dare you make me look bad in front of that lady?”), and might result in me getting punched.

The scene gave me a sick and sullen feeling in my gut.  Who does that guy think he is, I wondered, to be such an ass to his child, right out there on the street where everyone can see it? 

Driving away, I wondered about what that little girl could have possibly done to offend him so deeply on so many occasions.  Then, I realized I have had similar conversations in a similar tone of voice with my own son Jack, but have done so in the privacy of our own home.

Although Jack is more mature and manageable by the day, we had some really rough patches in the past 18 months since Emily was born.  He is a strong-willed and explosive child.  We had to learn to really keep our fucking cool around this kid no matter what he does.  For us, losing self-control in any way (i.e., raising our voices) only fuels his fire.  It took us the better part of five years to learn this fact and put it into practice.  There are still times when either my husband or myself lose our shit.  Although it does not happen often, it pains me to admit to yelling and threatening to take away Christmas.

There is nothing like parenthood to rob a person of their pride.

I’ve been known to say things to Jack like, Wow.  You really let me down. 

Ummm, he’s only five.  How can a kid that small impair my world that profoundly?

Well, he can’t unless I let him.  I am learning this and being more mindful of it every day.  Watching Angry Dad march down the sidewalk with his deflated daughter, I wondered if he and I are really all that different?

I initially thought that I was better than him since I at least filter my tirades to when I don’t have an audience.

But wait!  I DO have an audience.

Jack and Emily are my most important audience of all!

It might not matter what a stranger sees me do or say because I might not impact their life.  But my children learn from me!  My children need to know how to interact in the world with respect, dignity, and love.  It is so important that I model this for them, not only in our home, but in the world also.  My interactions with them, and the interactions that they watch me have with humanity, will influence how they behave.  Having an audience with my children is more important to me than having an audience with the Dalai Lama!

There is a certain degree of comfort and safety in the home.  We can let it all hang out and know that our family is not going to leave us because there is love and committment.  But maybe this safety shouldn’t be taken for granted quite so much.

I will reiterate that with my family there are way more good times than bad.  I would not label myself an “angry mom,” but I have my moments. I want to have less of those moments.

It is a subject on which I plan to meditate and be more mindful.

I guess I have Angry Dad to thank for this new awareness and mission.  Namaste, dude.