Thursday, February 10, 2011

Everything I learned I learned from my...

You've seen those cute little bumper stickers that say things like, "Everything I learned, I learned from my dog"?  Well, I'm not ashamed to say (boy do I owe my parents a huge apology on this one), but everything I learned (although it kills me to admit it) I learned from my parents. 

You see, like all smug kids, teens and young adults... I often giggled at what I considered my parent's idiosyncrasies and wondered why they did the things they did, said the things they said, etc.  Now I KNOW... they are parents.  It comes with the territory.  Try as you might, you WILL do and say those things you used to laugh at folks.  You just will.

I used to sigh when my mom fell asleep before even the opening credits to a movie or TV show were finished, wondering why the poor woman couldn't even stay awake long enough to watch a movie with us.  I rolled my eyes when she used phrases like, "what am I talking to?! A brick wall?!"  I was truly puzzled when my dad would begin a sentence, "Girls... I'm not going to tell you AGAIN..."  I was confused as to why my mother chose to vacuum at 10:30 at night.  I wondered why my father got up at THE CRACK OF DAWN even on vacations.  I wondered at my parent's impatience when I needed to ask one measily question while they were on the phone.  Now, I know... boy do I know.

Parenting, I'm discovering, is a crazy juggling act. And by crazy, I mean it's making me nuts. It's about balance and organization and timing and some luck.  I have two children now (and that is ALL I plan on having, thank you) nearly 2 and 4 1/2.  So I've got one in the time-to-potty-train, starting-to-say-"no"-to-everything, running-naked-from-mommy-when-we're-already-late-is-funny, I'd-rather-finger-paint-with-my-food stage.  And my lovely son is in the I'm-going-to-get-my-own-way, I-don't-want-to-share, everything-in-life-is-worthy-of-an-Oscar-caliber-meltdown, why-why-why-why, I'm-old-enough-to-do-this, playing-is-more-interesting-than-listening/eating/sleeping stage. 

Why did my mother fall asleep at 9:00pm?  Because she was EXHAUSTED people.  It is very tiring to get up with the sun if you want ANY chance of having enough time to yourself to shower, get ready enough to feel human and maybe even enjoy a cup of coffee and then go ALL day and into the night trying to keep up a house and kids (and in her case work too, as I did until Elizabeth was born).  I cannot stop moving during the day unless I want to fall asleep.  Putting William down for a nap has now become dangerous for me because if I lie down to read him a story, I'm likely to put myself to sleep first! I often drift off in his bed only to be told "wake up, you're snoring!" and I'm THANKFUL because then I can get on with my housework. You see, being the type-A freak that I am, I have a very structured plan of how to keep my kids busy AND my house clean AND have some time as a family on the weekend... so I can't nap while they're napping, I clean!  So now here I am at night asking my husband if he wants to watch TV with me and I'm greeted often with a skeptical look and I can tell Mike is calculating just how long I might actually last.  Can I make it through an hour show?  A half hour?  Is a movie even WORTH attempting?  Should he just play on the computer because I won't make it past the opening credits?  Yup, I am my mother.  Of course, sometimes I'm not even asking Mike this question until 10:00 because even though the kids' bedtime is 8:30, I have fallen asleep in William's bed for a "nap" for a while.  THEN he knows I can make it through at least one show.

Oh, and the brick wall comment?  Now, I get it.  This morning I believe my talking with William went something like this:
"Put on your clothes and come downstairs, it's a school day"
I turn to Elizabeth only to notice a couple minutes later he's playing with trains.
"WILLIAM.  Put on your clothes and head downstairs, it's a school day"
I've finished dressing Elizabeth.  He now has Star Wars action figures in his hand and is at least holding his shirt.
"WILLIAM!!!!! PUT ON YOUR CLOTHES, it's a school day!"
I brush Elizabeth's teeth, grab her socks and William is standing in a shirt & undies apparently contemplating the universe because he's frozen in the playroom.
He turns, "what? what are you talking about mommy?  why are you yelling?"
I'm now taking several deep breaths.
"Dude!  I'm yelling because apparently you didn't hear me the first few times.  I have ASKED you to put on your clothes so we can head downstairs, it's a school day.  Do you want to miss your Valentines Party?"
He looks totally confused, grabs the rest of his clothes and starts down the stairs, shrugging "I'll just get dressed down here mom, come on."
Oh my god, kill me now.

My dad used to get up with the sun even on vacation.  I thought this was a holdover from his Air Force days or that perhaps my father was nuts.  No, no, kids, no, no.  He's a dad and he learned quickly that preparation is a parent's only weapon.  If YOU are at least prepared before preparing your children, your chances of leaving SOMEWHERE CLOSE to the time you intended have improved greatly.  Why is this?  Well kids, children are TIME SUCKERS.  I'm not kidding.  Time will be sucked away from you in HUGE increments and you will swear only five minutes has passed.  When you're single or even married-but-childless, you have getting ready and leaving on time down to an art.  You know, for example, that at the very least, you could wake up 15 minutes before leaving and still be presentable.  Yeah, kiss that one goodbye when you have kids.  I remember I used to try to wake William up 30 minutes before leaving to go somewhere.  Then it became an hour.  Add Elizabeth-I-like-to-run-away-and-throw-drooling-tantrums in the mix and it has become an hour and a half.  If you are asking yourself "why" as you read this, then you are not a parent.  If your are laughing in relief that someone else is living in your hell... you clearly ARE a parent.

A friend during a playdate mentioned that she and her childless sister got into a fight the last visit because her sister asked her why she needed to make plans in advance, why couldn't she just "go with it".  I think my coffee nearly came out my nose.  Go with it?  Really?  People, when you need sanitorium-grade restraints just to get a child still enough to clothe, when you have a four year old with the attention span of a gnat and more easily distracted than a puppy, when you would like to have the kind of day that doesn't require 5 shots of whiskey to cure... you have to be prepared.  And with children the age of mine this requires "packing" for even the smallest outing.  This requires extra clothes, toys, "entertainment", juice cups, milk cups, snacks, diapers, wipes, hand sanitizer, jackets, etc.  I mean, if you would like to be the parent in the restaurant with the melting down child because they're starving and you didn't anticipate having to wait for a table... by all means "go with it."  If you want to be the parent forced to get up from the table and play "let's count the cars outside" because you didn't think to bring along table-friendly toys/entertainment, go for it.  And that's just the stuff you CAN anticipate.  Preparation still cannot top the last minute poop emergencies, spit ups, lost items that you had just two seconds ago before your toddler ran off with them, bodily fluid "surprises" that require a change of their AND YOUR clothes, etc.  Preparation is your weapon.  Use it.

"I'm not going to say this AGAIN" and "DUDE I'm on the PHONE!!!" are two things I think I must say daily now.  Seriously.  Daily.  Children will forget what you have told them in seconds.  It's amazing. I can tell William and Elizabeth no wrestling 1000 times a day.  Won't matter.  They'll still do it and one of them will end up hurt.  Every day. And yet, I still try, beginning my sentence with (yes, Mom and Dad I get it now), "I swear to God, I'm not going to say this AGAIN."  Although truly, I'm lying.  Because I will have to say it.  Again and again and again.  And OH MY GOD, the phone.  What the hell?  My children will be quiet, playing nicely and neatly UNTIL I GET ON THE PHONE.  Then it's time for 100 questions or it's time to dump all the legos, rip off Spider Man's legs, roll all the toilet paper off the roll, rip all the books off the shelf, try to kill each other and take out every dress-up/costume item they own.  And that's just during a 5 minute conversation.  I had to call the doctor's office the other day and I seriously prepared by closing the doors to their bedrooms, bathroom and putting up a baby gate in order to quarantine them to the playroom and THEN told them I was making a quick phone call and please be quiet.  Yeah... that worked.  (sarcasm)

It's a crazy life people.  A good life, but a crazy one.  You WILL be doing something insane like vacuuming or making tomorrow's breakfast at 10:30 at night because that's the only time you'll have.  You WILL be forced to give a simple direction at least 10 times before it's done.  You will find yourself saying things you never thought you would like, "Elizabeth, don't put your straw up your nose" or "William, your sister is not a tackling dummy" or "Now we have to sanitize that since you dropped it in the toilet".  You will find yourself out in public only to discover yogurt on your pants or a Cheerio stuck to your shirt.  And you WILL be tired constantly.  You won't get a moment to yourself unless it's early in the morning or when you're exhausted at night.  You will have to adjust your idea of normal every few months as phases begin and end.  It's parenthood.  And now, Mom and Dad, enjoy this...

"I AM SORRY"  and finally,

Great.. now I'll just have to wait 34 years and perhaps my kids will say the same.  Until then...laughter and preparation folks, laughter and preparation.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Childhood Ghosts and Adventures in Dizzyland

So recently I've discovered a not so fun part of parenthood - when the ghosts of childhood past revisit in the form of your children.  I'm discovering it is SO hard not to make my childhood issues an issue for mychildren, particularly when they stumble upon a problem that I had.

Case in Point: Last week William came home from preschool both days very sad because, in his words, "No one would play with me."  I always ask him every day on the ride home "What did you learn? Did you have fun? Who did you play with?  Were you good?" etc.  Well last week he said very tearfully when I asked who he played with - "no one."  I'm used to him listing a bunch of names when I ask, so I said, "what do you mean?"  And he replied, "No one would play with me after snack.  It really hurt my feelings.  I don't know what I did wrong."  My heart sunk.

You see kids, until 8th grade I HATED school.  I was painfully shy, very sensitive, small, socially awkward and horribly bullied.  I don't know what it was about me, but I was the constant target of bullies and the one ALWAYS left out when my "friends" suddenly decided they needed to thin their circle.  I have feared this pain for my own kids and I have to fight myself to just let them develop into who they are without letting my fears play on their choices.  So when William came home saying that, I just wanted to cry.  Here I am 37 years old and just devastated.  He was able to let it go and be totally chipper within an hour.  Me?  I couldn't sleep for two days.  Overreact much? you're saying.  Yes, I do.

So I gave him the best advice I could.  I tried to remember how painful it was and all the things I WISHED I had the courage to say and do.  I told him if someone picks on him, turn his back without a word and walk away.  I told him not to chase them or beg them because kids want to find someone to pick on or someone to leave out, so just don't even give them the chance.  Pick new friends or find his own thing to play and if they come around, then HE can choose if he wants to play with them.  I told him if they don't let him alone and they get in his face to knock down his stuff or take his toys, etc, to use his "angry voice" (I said, you know that loud voice mommy or daddy uses when we're done with your bad behavior?) and tell them strongly that they cannot treat him that way and he won't let them.  I said if it is just teasing or them saying, "Go away, we don't like you" to respond with "Whatever dude.  I don't need to play with someone so grumpy."

And then I prayed.  I prayed he would have a better week this week.  I prayed he would not have to go to school sad, miserable, scared and with knots in his stomach like I did.  Because I had to remember that HE IS NOT ME.  While he is facing a similar circumstance, he is NOT shy and he is not socially awkward.  He is small and sensitive like I was, but that doesn't mean he's me.  I had to realize that I can only help him so much and then he has to pave his own way, make his own friends and find out what works for him.

He must have figured something out.  Today he came out of school happy and said, "I followed your advice mom.  I won't let the mean kids be mean to me.  I'm so glad I went to school today."  I breathed a sigh of relief and had fun with him and some other moms and kids at the park.  And I'm working hard to stop thinking of the next time.  If I worry over every "what if" I'm just going to model being a worrier too.  One step at a time... one step at a time.  Ugh, sometimes I hate this.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
Ah yes, Dizzy (Elizabeth) continues to be a whole new adventure in parenting.  Lately, it's been those kind of moments you want to remember as a parent.  Those funny, silly, surprising moments that I just have to write down because I don't want to forget how amazing it is to watch a child grow.

I have forgotten just how funny pretending can be in a small child, but then there's Dizzy.  Lately, she is super-big on pretending.  The other day she said, "Mommy, I Iron Man!" and then made her version of the sound of him taking off in his rocket boots.  Then she shouted "I flying!!"  I about died.  A little later she's attempting to hop with both feet (she can't manage this yet, so she just looks like she's doing squats) and when I ask, "are you dancing?" she replies, "no. I frog!  ribbit ribbit".  This was even funnier because her word for frog sounds like a certain 4-letter swear word and I had to pause for a minute.  It wasn't until "ribbit ribbit" that I sighed with relief that my daughter wasn't already swearing at the age of 22 months.

Speaking of swearing... we are at that age with Elizabeth where there are certain words/phrases you just really hope she doesn't utter in public.  Not because she's saying anything bad... but because it SOUNDS like she is.  One of those is definitely "frog."  Thank god it's a rare moment that she sees anything resembling a frog in public... but boy do I wish I could say the same thing about a fork!  As you can imagine, the word "fork" also comes out sounding pretty foul right now.  The trouble is, whenever she drops her fork while eating she says "Oh! Fork".  Need I say more?  I keep trying to order things in public that can only be eaten with a spoon. 

The word "truck" also comes out sounding like either a 4-letter "F" word or, even better, a crude euphamism for a piece of the male anatomy (also a word for a rooster if you don't know which euphamism I'm speaking of).  Now, trucks are basically impossible to avoid in public.  They are EVERYWHERE.  Even better, it always seems that the age where they cannot pronounce the word is precisely the age where they are obsessed with them.  Elizabeth is obsessed with Fire Trucks, Garbage Trucks, Construction Trucks, you name it... and so does she!  Today at the park she could be heard shouting "c!@#, c!@3" with each passing vehicle.  Loudly and to many giggles.  At least most people understand and just laugh.  It's better when she at least puts the word "Fire" in front of it... NOOOOT so good when she just precedes it with the word, "big"... you get the idea.  I cannot wait until she can pronounce truck.

The other current Dizzy adventure I just don't want to forget is a little game I play now when stepping into my boots called "what will I find there?"  You would think I would learned my lesson, kids.  You would think that perhaps I would be smart enough to rememeber to turn my boots upside down before stepping into them.  No, I'm afraid not.  Always tired and always in a hurry (I'm a mom, give me a break), I'm  always stepping into them and then stifling a swear word.  It's always the very tender part of my arch that finds whatever item Dizzy has decided to place in there.  She thinks my boots are her own personal storage vessels and delights in dropping whatever is currently in her hands into them.  And not just one pair.  Always the fair one, she makes sure each boot gets its own little present.  To date I have found a Thor action figure, a Super-Why doll, numerous Star Wars blasters, a measuring spoon, one of my hair clips, one of her hair clips, a curler, Spider Man action figure, Night Crawler action figure, a Dinosaur Train action figure, a teething toy, a squishy ball (small moment of panic there as I feared a bodily fluid placed in my boot), a play fork, rubber bands, her socks, her brother's gloves and an Oregon Ducks noismaker in my boots.  In fact, I bet if I get up and go look in one right now, I'll find something.  It's like every day is a twisted little version of X-mas and I have a surprise in my stocking.  At least it's not food, right?  Or a present from the dog...