Category Archives: parenting

Planning the Perfect Mother’s Day?

Hey Moms! What are YOU doing on Mother’s Day? Planning to wake up to hot coffee in bed at 9:00 a.m., sunshine streaming in, while the birds are chirping? To the sounds of children laughing- not fighting- as they carefully prepare your breakfast? The sound of the limo honking outside, filled with your best mom friends, whisking you away to the spa…only to return on Monday morning, AFTER the kids are dropped at school? You’ll call home in the evening to say goodnight to your family, since you had received exactly zero texts or phone calls, regaling the fights, complaints, or ‘where is the…’ inquiries, that you contend with each day, and hear your family say, “We love you, thank you for being a great mom, and don’t worry, everything here is fine!” You return home the next day, to find that yes, indeed everything IS fine… and clean. Your family comes home that evening to say that they needed help- hired a cleaning crew and ordered dinner- because honestly, they don’t know how you do this each day! Ah, can you imagine?

Well, hold onto your hats Ladies, because I have found the only thing that could possibly compare. Luckily, after spending my day at work, rushing to get the kids from school, mailing out my own mother’s Mother’s Day card, dropping the kids off at soccer, hustling over to the store, returning to get the kids, feeding them dinner, reminding them to get in the shower a dozen times, AND fighting with a 9 year old about a 15 minute bedtime extension, I finally checked my email sometime between taking off my bra and falling asleep to Criminal Minds. Unbeknownst to me, I had been in a lather about how I was REALLY going to spend Mother’s Day, when my family’s favorite pizza place sent me the ONLY true option for Mom:

CEC Email

What the Funk?

Listen, marketing people at Chuck E. Cheese: this is NOT how you thank mom. This is how WE bribe our kids to stop doing some frustrating thing they keep doing. You are at the very least, a reward system. We hate Chuck E. Cheese, but go because we can sit in a booth alone for a moment, we can eat decent pizza that hasn’t been left over and discarded, because the kids are too busy running around playing inexpensive games, with the hopes of winning one piece of crap that will generally keep them pretty subdued in the car ride home. We go to Chuck E. Cheese because it is raining. We go because our kids really love it. Please don’t confuse my love for them, however, with a desire to spend the only day all year that someone MAY ask me what I want, at Chuck E. Cheese.

But here’s the thing. My kids are still young and to them, Mother’s Day is about celebrating me and spending time with me. And for all my whining sometimes about being overworked, underpaid, and exhausted, I want that too. Sometimes I get caught up in what seems like constant arguing, the wrestling and the grossness of little boys, but I also really like my kids. They make me laugh. They are good guys and I smile more when I’m with them. I also know that my time is borrowed with these creatures I created, that in a few short years they will beg to do anything BUT hang out with me and then, I can go to a spa and eat a full meal in peace. In what seems like a blink of an eye, my kids will be off on their own and most days I won’t have the luxury problem of too much to do each day. So for now, I am content doing something that makes them happy because as you know, Moms, a day with happy kids makes a pretty damn good day. And if in the process, I get to do something that I enjoy as well, that’s even better. I like rollercoasters. I like kettle corn. We’re going to Knott’s Berry Farm.

F you, Chuck E. Cheese.

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Filed under Mom Rant, Motherhood, parenting, truth, What Really Happened

Are You There God? It’s Me, Monkey.

I hadn’t anticipated that I might need to have ‘the talk’ with my kid this Spring Break. I also didn’t realize that our new kitten would be the conduit to this conversation. The other night, our 7 month old kitten was howling. I had no idea what it was except that it was loud and strange and a lot of noise for a tiny cat. Turns out, Little Miss Monkey is in heat. She and her brother, Buster, were found in a parking lot and spent the majority of their lives in a split-level kitten condo at the vet. When we brought them home just over a month ago, Buster had been fixed, but the vet felt Monkey was still too small, so we needed to wait. Unfortunately, she was so overwhelmed by the palatial surroundings of our tiny duplex, that she sought refuge under the dishwasher, refusing to come out. We borrowed the condo from the vet and they both have slowly adjusted and have been feeling more social and ready to join our family. In the last week, she finally ventured out and was beginning to consider letting us pet her outside her cage. She was coming into her own, but then, just like that, my house became the cat version of a Judy Blume book.

This is a problem. My son is asking questions. At almost 10 years old, he still hasn’t asked me where babies come from or how they are made, and has no clue about how his mother’s body works. For goodness sake, this is the same child who once (not too long ago) asked me what I called my “lady penis”. For starters, never that. I thought by having two boys, I bought myself extra time. They have no idea about menstruation and that was peachy keen by me, but Monkey is messing it up for me. He wants to know what ‘heat’ is and why she is rolling around and moaning and trying to persuade her brother to rethink their sibling, and therefore, platonic relationship. He wants to know why I won’t let her meet the neighborhood boy cats who are coming by at night and doing their own version of “Say Anything” at our window. Oh what I wouldn’t give to hear a boombox and “In Your Eyes” blasting. But no, my ears are bleeding with the sounds coming from the Abyssinian down the block at my back door at 10 p.m. Don’t they know I need my sleep? I have a cold and my parents are coming to visit this weekend. I don’t have time for teenage romance right now, feline or otherwise. My son wants to know if she is looking to meet a boy cat and have a family. How will they make the baby and does being in heat hurt? So far, I’ve been able to dodge the question of how with distractions of extra TV time, but I also know I can’t run from it much longer.

Was it like this for my parents? I remember when I was about 10 or 11, my mom gave me a book and sent me to my room. “What’s Happening to Me” was this funny, accessible way to introduce me to what was going on with my body and where babies came from. It’s companion piece, “Where Did I Come From”, was something I had also read. I just looked at them again recently and wow, the 70s and 80s. Not exactly fit for the modern day, but it worked at the time. I also remember going to school one evening in fifth grade where we were separated by gender and left to watch sex education filmstrips. In fairness, I think it gave me the basics, but really, I don’t remember my parents sitting me down and explaining anything. I’m pretty sure I learned more from “Forever” (thank GOD for Judy Blume!) than anything else. Either I blocked out any talk with my parents,  or it just never happened. If it never happened, I hold no ill-will, I save my resentments for much more important things, like not getting my own room or having to beg for parachute pants. But this? No complaints from me. They dodged a bullet and I’d like to follow in their footsteps. I don’t want to explain this to my kids. It’s uncomfortable. It leads to other gateway topics like love and attraction and sex for the fun of it and why are his sheets sticky. Is it getting hot in here?

Like everything else I’ve done in parenthood, I’m sure I’ll have the conversation, and it will be fine. I’ll read 1000 blogs and articles, ask everyone I know, overthink it, and then just do whatever the hell I want. If I time it right, it’ll be on the day I notice he’s spending too much time in the shower and, please God, don’t let me have PMS.

 

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1979

I really want to apologize to my kids. I fucked up and completely miscalculated. Not a big surprise, knowing how much I suck at math and science. I totally meant to raise them in 1979, not 2015. When I thought about having kids, I thought about them growing up riding their bikes without a helmet, playing kickball or hide and seek, whenever and wherever, without fear of someone texting and driving or having an opinion about them not wearing a helmet and having a bottle of water within arm’s reach. I assumed they would play with their friends, not their friends and their parents who would micromanage every argument or move they made. I thought they would learn to fight their own battles among other children and learn how one minute they could be so pissed at their best friend and how unconditional love worked when they forgot all about it 15 minutes later. I planned on letting them spend their free time running off to the park or wherever they wanted to go, just knowing to be home by dinner. In my miscalculation, I now need to be the one to coordinate a scheduled ‘play date’ for a specified amount of time with proper supervision. My children don’t need to be concerned with such responsibilities as using a phone to call a friend and ask them to play, risk hearing “no”, or letting their creativity and natural sense of wonder drive the events of the day. It’s still important though, so in 2015, I have vetted and arranged time for them to ‘be creative’ and ‘curious’ every Tuesday afternoon in a class I found. I will drive them, pay for it, watch from the waiting gallery to supervise. I will ensure that they are doing it right and not being too curious, not making it uncomfortable for others or deviating too far from the assigned curriculum. We will then drive home and I will give them my assessment of their experience.

How in the hell did this happen? How did we advance in so many ways as a society in the last 36 years and yet, as a parent, I’ve completely retreated into control and fear in my attempt to raise them? You see, these young ones in 2015 are believed to be too immature to be trusted with such things as self-control, responsibility, having instincts, and natural consequences. I don’t know if there is any hard data to support this, but our collective fear has made this our new way of raising kids. Had I raised them in 1979, they would have had a chance to just learn these things, without my interference. In 1979, children were automatically ‘free-range’, but in 2015, I can get arrested for adopting this belief, so instead we are stuck together. I want them to have freedom and to grow and develop as they will, but I don’t know how to let go when I’m sitting right there. I watch them grow with eyes that have seen too much. In 1979, I wouldn’t have to supervise every step of their growth and development. Instead, I would ask about their day at dinner and I would listen to their experiences and you know what? I would be really interested and I would want to hear everything. But here in 2015, I am always right there experiencing it with them, so not only do they not have the freedom to figure it all out, but I don’t even have a chance to be curious about what they think or what they’ve experienced.

In 1979, I was 8. I went to day camp on a bus over the summer, I called friends to make plans, told (not asked) my mom that I would back later, played a little and then came home for a snack. I remember one time, in 1979, being in the park and doing flips off of the monkey bars. A wood chip landed in my knee and I was bleeding. It hurt a lot. After a little crying, I walked to the house across from the park, because I knew a girl from school lived there. I was smart enough at 8 years old to figure out a solution to my problem. In case you missed it, I was BY MYSELF in the park doing flips off the monkey bars. If you are a parent today, I ask you to stop and think about that. My son is going to be 9 next week and I know that most of us wouldn’t let our kids do that today. We have a million reasons- many are justified too- about why we can’t and won’t let them do that, but my point is that I was NO SMARTER than my son is. The difference? I had the opportunity to experience life and figure out how to handle 8 year old problems. I was able to do that because I had the chance to experience 5 year old problems. And 6 year old problems. And 7 year old problems. And that was how I grew up in 1979. So how do I let my kids figure out their 6 and 9 year old problems? Maybe I need to stop looking at their lives with my 40-something eyes which are getting close to needing help seeing things up close. Maybe I need to stop trying to see their lives up close, let them experience things and just be there when they need me. Let them ASK for things, call a friend, have a fight and learn that they are better at solving their problems than I ever thought. With all that free time I might just be able to refocus on things that are important to me. I love to cook. Maybe I can spend time making a great dinner so I can hear what my kids did today in 2015.

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Filed under fear, I was wrong., Mom Rant, parenting, Personal Growth, What Really Happened

An Inconvenient Celebration?

I love the holiday season. I love the festive lights, the feelings of goodwill and the stories of our various beliefs and how we all celebrate in our unique and special ways.

I live in a metropolitan city in the United States with the second largest Jewish population in the country. In my smaller  community of approximately 39,000 people, 10% are identified as Jewish, according to Census and city data. And yet, in the last 24 hours, I have had to remind people that my family cannot attend events because it was scheduled for the first night of Hanukkah. In fairness, Hanukkah is not a ‘holy’ day of strong religious observance. It is a festival and one of the holidays in Judaism that best defines family traditions and encourages people to celebrate together in their homes as a family. I was raised Jewish and have a strong sense of faith and traditions. My beliefs, rooted in Judaism have grown and evolved and I appreciate and recognize that we all get to celebrate our beliefs and traditions in any way we choose.

This year, my older child’s grade is learning to play the recorder and much to the chagrin of most parents and their ears, they perform in a concert to show what they’ve learned. While this sounds a little less like entertainment and more like parent obligation, my son has been talking about learning the recorder all year and as someone with some musical background, I love that he is being introduced to music in some small way. Admittedly, I was also really looking forward to the parenthood rite of passage and listening to “Hot Cross Buns” in the school cafeteria. The unfortunate thing is this- the concert has been scheduled for the first night of Hanukkah. In my son’s class alone, about 25% of the children come from a Jewish background and while I am not in any position to define how those families celebrate, I find it unfortunate that the school decided to put families in a position where they need to choose a school event or a religious holiday. The explanation I received when I brought it up was that they would like greater attendance at PTA meetings so they planned it on the same night which happens to be the same night as Hanukkah. They also said they had no idea that it was Hanukkah in the first place. Again, if I lived in a town where I was the ONLY family who observed certain holidays and traditions, I would accept the oversight, but I live in a city where there are an estimated 500,000 people who identify as Jewish. To not be aware of when a significant portion of your student population celebrates religious holidays is more than an oversight. And I get it, we have a tricky calendar. Our holidays change each and every year… been that way for oh, I don’t know, over 5,775 years now? I’m sure we could get someone a list or something at the beginning of the year, just ask.

I was also told that in years past, they had it during the day and many working parents were not able to attend. I sympathize with this but why are you then planning it when another group- in this case the children who are the reason we are gathering in the first place- may not be able to attend, not to mention Jewish parents who work. Neither group should be put against the other- there has to be another option.  I worry that if I choose to attend the concert and not celebrate Hanukkah at home, I am in some way minimizing the need to recognize my religious beliefs in the first place? I feel a responsibility to speak up and say that all beliefs should be accommodated.

After reading the response to me about the scheduling conflict, I received another email that my other child’s sports team will be having a parent meeting on guess what date? Next Tuesday, the first night of Hanukkah. We sent an email to the team manager, letting them know that our son would not be at practice and that we would not be attending the parent meeting because of Hanukkah and were told that she understood “that it was a busy holiday season and that everyone is busy.” Being busy is a conflict between a cookie exchange and sports practice. Being busy does not mean choosing whether to observe a family’s religious tradition or a team meeting where important information is shared. Being on a team means you respect each other and honestly, calling my beliefs and traditions a ‘conflict’ is anything but respectful.

I have heard some say that Christmas has been watered down because people have to be ‘politically correct’ and ‘inclusive’. I don’t agree. I want people to celebrate Christmas. I welcome the sentiment that comes with people wishing me a “Merry Christmas”, because I know that it means that they wish me well in this holiday season and into the new year. What I want, is to be included and acknowledged that my traditions are just as valid and important, without having to be a squeaky wheel every time someone forgets to look at the calendar. Having to speak up is hard, and I know that by doing so, I am sometimes making things uncomfortable and inconvenient.  I want to be included, not to have to choose, even if that means attending a concert where my ears might bleed.

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“Student of the Month” is Stupid

“I’m pretty much guaranteed to never be Student of the Month,” my oldest son tells me. He is in the third grade. This is a harsh thing for an 8 year-old to believe. I would love to tell him that even though in the three previous years at his school he has never received this “honor”, there is always hope. Unfortunately, I made a promise not to blatantly lie to my children.

I hate saying this, but he’s probably right. He has trouble sitting still. He asks a lot of questions. He can’t just do what he is told, he needs to understand why he is doing a task before he can proceed. He often lacks impulse control. He probably speaks out of turn a lot. He is strong-willed, curious and not always socially appropriate. I see room for improvement, for sure, but I also see a mostly normal 8 year-old boy who last time I checked was supposed to be learning and growing and not perfect.

Student of the Month is an antiquated ritual where the cooperative, quiet, ideal of a child is rewarded for being convenient to teachers. These children are generally introverted and shy, and sometimes they are kids who have learned how to play the game. Listen, I am not telling you that these kids don’t deserve recognition or praise, these are nice kids. But they are not the ONLY good kids at the school. I’ll be honest, I think it’s a cop out for the teachers to just go for the low hanging fruit. It’s easy to reward these kids. But here’s what my son has figured out: because he isn’t perfect out of the gate, he will never be good enough for his teachers. Last year, in second grade, he came home every month and said, “My teacher said I was really close this month. But someone else was better.” By the end of the year, he told me, that he gave up. This is the message my son has walked away with by age 8. He isn’t ever going to measure up.

I can tell him until I’m blue in the face that he is enough, show him the myriad of ways that he measures up, but there is something deeper. He craves the acknowledgment that his teachers see him. He wants to know that they recognize how hard he tries. He tells me that his teacher hates him, she only sees what he does wrong and not the good stuff. I worry that he is correct. My heart breaks. I want to send his teacher a list of the wonderful things that this child does on a daily basis- helping others, showing kindness, improvement and growth- but I don’t know that this is the right way to approach it. From what I’ve seen at our school, I don’t really know that they want to be different. So I work from the inside. I try and show him that what others think of you is less important than what you think of yourself. I try to believe this myself, because sadly, he also gets this from me. I am tempted to keep them out of school during the awards assembly, because each month, I see it wears my older son’s self-confidence down a little bit more. Then I think that maybe it’s okay for my kids to have this experience, to learn how to navigate feelings of disappointment.

Before I am criticized for being bitter, I will disclose that I have two children. My younger one will probably receive “Student of the Month” most years at the school. He is a different kid. He is generally cooperative, small for his age and has a lot of charm. He is a helper and knows how to be quiet (most of the time). He is smart, funny and the kind of person who easily fits in. It comes naturally to him, he doesn’t need to work on it at all and I would rather he didn’t receive an award for it. Recognize the child who has a really hard time sitting still or doing math or learning patience. This is where teachers have an opportunity to change a child’s life. And I know it sounds dramatic, but when you are small and your main job is to go to school and learn, to be recognized for something that you have worked so hard on, something that does not come naturally to you, will change everything. That child will learn that they can shine, that they can change and learn and grow. I can say with 100% confidence that if my older son was given that recognition, it would make a huge impact on his education and his self-esteem.

Now there will be educators that stand up and tell stories about giving it to a child who showed dramatic improvement and I applaud this. But let’s be honest, we all know that each year there will be 9-10 students in a class of 25 who are given this award and I bet if we took a look at the winners, we would find that they majority received it before and are the kids that are the quietest and most cooperative. What does this really teach our kids?

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And the Tree was Happy

“Let’s read this book, Mom,” he said, handing me The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

Now that the Big One is 7, he reads books to me.  This is new and something I cherish.  Hearing him sound out words and use the punctuations to properly set the tone, I can see his growth and development unfold in front of me.  In second grade, they are working on comprehension, whereas in first grade, they worked on reading the words.  His schoolwork focuses on being able to recall and explain what he’s read and when he reads with me, I try to ask him questions to see how much he understands and whether he is digesting the words he takes in.

As a parent, both his dad and I have reluctantly read this book to our children.  We can barely get to the part with the boy wanting a house without starting to tear up.  Little Guy went through a period, around age 3, when he wanted it read to him every night.  “My favorite book,” he’d say, “is ‘The Gibbing Twee’, by Silverware.”  How could you not read it to someone who calls it that?

Tonight, after his brother went to bed, Big One crawled into bed with me and started to read.  I wondered what type of questions I could ask him.  Maybe talk about empathy, being considerate of others, taking and giving…what I hadn’t anticipated was that he understood more deeply than I could have imagined.

“Do you have any money? The boy asked the tree.”

“That isn’t very nice. He shouldn’t just show up and ask for money.”

When he got to the part of the story where the boy said he wanted a house, his voice cracked a little.  He kept reading, but I could tell he was starting to cry.  I promise you, it was at the EXACT same spot both his dad and I start feeling emotional.  He put the book down, looked away and told me he needed to go to the bathroom.  Sneaking up to the bathroom door, I heard him crying (and peeing) and sniffling.  I rushed away and back into my bed before he could discover that I was listening and he came back.  I asked him if he was okay.  I asked him if he wanted to talk about how he felt.  He said he didn’t, because he didn’t know.  “Do you want to keep reading?” I asked.  He did.

When the boy wanted a boat and said he was sad, Big One stopped again and just bawled.  He cried and hugged me so tight and said, “Why am I crying?”  I held him and said, “Oh my love, just cry.”

At the end of the story, we talked.  It made him sad that the tree was always there and he didn’t think the boy appreciated it.  He said he thought the boy used the tree.  He said that he thought the boy was a jerk.  I really appreciated his point of view, and offered that while I saw where he was coming from, I looked at it differently.  I explained that I saw the tree as the parent who was always there and that the boy needed the tree in different ways as he grew and that was exactly as it should be.  This may have been too much for my little Big One, because he cried even more.  He told me that he would never leave me for so long and that he’d give me things since I give him things.  I don’t think I could have put into words how much he had already given me.  I mean, I could have pointed out that when I buy him ice cream and then he doesn’t do what I ask, he’s kinda being a boy wanting the tree’s apples, but that would have really been a jerk move.  I mean, this kid GOT IT.  He has empathy.  He really WANTS to do nice things for the people he loves.  But he’s also 7 and doesn’t fully have a grasp on his actions, nor should he.  As his mom, I understand and accept that he will take from me and I will give and give and love being there for him, knowing that his appreciation may be difficult to always see.   I put him to bed and after a few minutes, he came back into my room a few minutes.  He asked, “could we just cuddle a little more?”

And the boy loved the tree, very much, and the tree was happy.

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Let’s Try Not to Get Hepatitis Today, Ok?

Yesterday was one of those days where I found myself doing, saying and experiencing things I never imagined I would ever do, say or experience.  Things that when you imagine being a parent, you NEVER could possibly anticipate.  Things you NEVER thought you would NEED to say.  If you have kids, I expect that you will relate to at least one.  If you are considering having children, maybe just read these as cautionary tales, it’s certainly possible it’s just my precious little gems who are adorably insane.  If you don’t have kids and have no plans to do so in the future,  enjoy the laughs and your holiday weekend.  I remember sleeping in on a day off fondly.

So this happened today:

  • Dude, really?  You are seriously eating my soul.  I mean c’mon! Do you have to try and eat crap off of the ground- I mean crap that has already been- I can’t even finish this sentence without throwing up in my mouth.  I pray that you won’t be the gross kid when you get to middle school.
  • Both kids in the pool, having fun.  I settle into a book, when one of the boys sneaks up behind me and makes a hacking, blowing your nose kinda sound. I’m trying desperately to relax.
    “Mommy, was that funny?”
    “No”
    “Why not?”
    “Because I want to relax.”
    “Well, I want to eat.”
  • “Mom, lets play ‘does that hurt’, ok?”  Before I can even say no:
    Poke- “Does that hurt?”
    Poke- “Does that hurt?”
    Poke- “Does that hurt?”
  • This weekend, we rented a condo in a resort across from the beach.  When walking from the concierge:
    “Do you think living here is like living at Office Depot?” asked my child.
    “Why would it be like living at Office Depot?”
    “Because Office Depot has everything and so does this place- except a pool. Office Depot doesn’t have a pool. Or basketballs.”
  • I don’t know if this is just a boy thing, but do all kids end up turning every song into one about poop and farts?  And is it a boy-mom thing or just me to join in.

“The slippery fish, the slippery fish, FARTING in the water,
The slippery fish, the slippery first, PFFFT… PFFFT… PFFFT…
Oh no!  He’s pooping on… an octopus, an octopus…”

What I hadn’t expected, however, was the very end.  I had really had enough of the hamster-wheel of parenting and all I could think about was getting into my pajamas and into bed.  Instead, as I thought about the day, I remembered when my son and I were out on boogie boards (my first time) and I was enjoying riding the waves.  At some point, we both got a bit too far out and we needed to wait for a couple of big waves to bring us in.  He was crying- he was really scared.  I was shook up, too.  We went back up to sit on our blanket and catch our breath and I just held him as he calmed down.  Then, we talked about what happened, how we should handle the waves in the future and that while the ocean is a beautiful thing, it can be dangerous and needs to be respected.  Then we stopped and got quiet for a minute and my son looked at me and said, “It was pretty cool, though, right Mom?”  Very cool.  And since you didn’t eat that crap off the ground, I’m pretty sure you didn’t catch a communicable disease so hey, win-win.

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