Unsolicited Parenting Advice To That Poor Woman In The Library

First of all, it should be known that I have never: received a Mother of the Year Award, been nominated for such an award or ever felt worthy of applying for said award.

Mother of the Year, I am not.

Not now.

Not before.

Nor never will be.

But……… (and that’s a big but) ………. I have the trial and error experiences of 2 foster children and 3 they’re-all-mine-can’t-send-’em-back children. And over the past 21 years, I’ve learned a few things.

Every mother’s nightmare is a child acting up in a very public place. The grocery store. The mall. The vet (one of my worse nightmares happened here.) A restaurant. Or, better yet, at a very quiet place, like church.

Or the library.

My sons and I were trying to read, doing the “first page test” as we call it, to narrow our library book choices. (We read the first page of a book and if we get so lost in the book that we don’t notice that we’ve turned the page? The book is a keeper. Very scientific, I know.) Two of us were distracted.

“Mommmmmmmy! But I don’t want to go home. I want to stay here! Mommmmmmmy! Noooooooo!”

A mother and her 3 year old were having a battle of the wills.

Now, let me begin this parenting critique with a full-blown pass for the mom in question. She was probably: sleep-deprived, coming down with a cold, distracted by marital problems/financial despair/the washing machine just broke after fixing the air-conditioning (twice) and the lawn mower died and the brakes of her car were replaced, all  in the past 30 days. (That last pass was actually me this month but that’s for another post.) 

Let’s just say, she was already at her wits end and we are going to give her a huge get-out-of-parenting-hell free card. We will simply observe the behavior at hand and discuss why the tactics never seem to work. Remembering, too, that the not-really-an-expert (me) has never received parenting awards, her own book deal or a guest spot as a consultant on Dr. Phil.

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The scene as it unfolded….

#1 – “Stop screaming right now!”

Said, over and over, while looking at the reserve shelf. Never giving her child the attention she was begging for. Never looking at her. Never acknowledging her.

And said seven times.

Seven.

Yes, I counted.

Because by the second time, I started to think, as loudly as I could, ‘This isn’t working. You need to change tactics.’ Needless to say, she didn’t pick up on my telepathic encouragement.

Remember the phrase: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result?” She was driving us all insane with her insanity.

Time for her to move on to….

#2 – “You are being very bad. You are a very bad girl!”

I think I gasped. I remember an article, a long time ago, suggesting that you never tell a child they are “bad.” You can point out the bad behavior. But your child isn’t inherently “bad.” (Now, they also say, you shouldn’t tell your child is “good” either. And I’ve broken that rule many times. — yet, another reason I’ve lost the Mother-of-the-Year award — But I like to think I’m encouraging them to fulfill that prophecy. And that’s a good thing, right?)

And when that didn’t work she resorted to….

#3 – “You are making Mommy very angry!”

Now, I know we’re splitting hairs here but I am a firm believer that no one can “make you” be or feel anything. YOU make yourself angry by allowing your child to high-jack your feelings. And I’m not saying my emotions have never been high-jacked by a willful 3 year old with super-human-whining-and-crying-powers. I’ve just never blamed them outright and given them that power. You can choose how to react to a situation. You can choose to be irritated or amused or indifferent. Or you can choose to be the bigger person, because you are the bigger person, and understand that this is a tantrum, a miscommunication of a bigger picture and this tantrum will eventually go away – with or without intervention.

So when tactics #1, #2 and #3 didn’t work she pulled the…..

#4 – “If you don’t stop screaming we are never coming back to the library ever again!” card.

My son’s eyes about popped out of his head and he had to stifle a giggle.

First of all, never say never.

Second, don’t make promises you never intend to keep. (I know. I said ‘never.’ But in this case, it’s true.) 

Seriously. I can use “never” here because if she’s taking her 3 year old to the library now, I’m pretty darn sure she’ll be taking her to the library at least once more before she’s……4.

Because, really? You’re going to deny your 10 year old a trip to the library because of what she did when she was 3?

I don’t think so.

And then the stratagem that all of us, if we haven’t tried, have thought seriously of doing……

#5 – The mom walked right out of the library and left her child standing there near the check out desk.

It was deliberate. It was mean. And, according to my son coming back from the restroom who saw it all, it was fast. Meaning, the mom was walking with deliberate speed that a 3-year-old could never catch up. Already down the steps and to the curb fast.

And that’s when the child let out a blood-curdling scream that brought me to my feet and caused everyone in the library to take notice. (As if they hadn’t already.) 

My first thought was that the precious child’s fingers were caught in the automatic doors. Or her mother had just smacked her and seriously injured her. But my son, seeing the fear in my eyes, shook his head and said, “She’s okay. She’s just scared.”

Just scared.

When he described what had happened, I was angry. Abandonment is a very real fear for children. I’ve dealt with it in my own children on many different (foster/adoption/daily life) levels. That little girl couldn’t catch up to her mom if she tried. And she knew it. Those tiny little legs have a hard enough time keeping up on a good day, let alone on a day when she was far from home and had no idea how to get back there. Mom was racing away without her and as much as she wanted to stay at the library, she didn’t want to stay there forever.

Now, I know Mom knew she was coming back or would at least slow down so that her little girl could catch up with her. But her sweet cherub didn’t know that. She was being abandoned. Plan and simple. And that’s a fear you should never, ever, ever put into a child’s head. Ever.

I have to admit. Walking away from my child, to encourage them to keep up with me, is a method I’ve used myself. I’m not proud of it. And I remember the one time I did it, the fear in my foster daughter’s eyes brought me to my knees. It was a bad-mommy moment for me, for sure.

So, after this lengthy critique, what is the solution to a whiny, screaming, war-of-the-wills tantrum from a 3 year old?

I don’t know.

I DO know what worked for me.

Whenever my kids were annoying or whiny or pitching a fit in a public place (or anyplace, for that matter) I resorted to holding them. No matter how annoyed or angry or crabby I was, I held them. Close. In my arms, until the tantrum subsided. And if it didn’t subside quickly enough, I’d whisper. I’d whisper, Shhhh. I’d whisper, I love you. I’d whisper little mini-soliloquies until they quieted down. And then, I’d tell them what I knew.

I knew they wanted to stay/go/have that candy bar/etc. But today we have to make dinner/finish grocery shopping/eat some fruit because we just had ice cream/etc. And next week, when we come back I will make sure we have plenty of time for story hour/run in for just the items on my list/skip dessert at lunch so you can have that candy bar/etc.

I’d make sure they felt heard. I’d explain my position. And I’d assure them, that next time, I will take their needs and desires into consideration — as much as I can, that is.

Because the bottom line is: they just want to be heard. And understood.

That is the bigger picture in any tantrum.

The end result, not getting their way, becomes irrelevant.

What matters most is that you listened to them and you understood.

 

 

 

 

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Mom Cries Foul At 8th Grade Awards Night Or How Our Awards Happy Society Has Jane’s Panties In A Twist

There is a story, complete with proud-parent-and-child picture, riding the internet waves. Specifically, on Facebook. (Where I seem to get all of my news, sadly.)

This mom is pleading for us to like/share/comment on her son’s pathetic tale. Apparently, at 8th grade awards night, her son received his award for great grades in 8th grade but his name was inadvertently left off the list when awarding students for great grades for their entire middle school academic career. Her son was so shaken, and so was Mom, that she is pleading for us to like/share/comment so she can give her son the recognition he deserves.

winning-trophy

Huh?

I read the plea to my recent college grad daughter and she rolled her eyes and said, “I’ll bet he’s as embarrassed as hell. I’d KILL you if you ever did that to me.”

And then, wisely, she said, “There are so many disappointments in life. So many good things that he’ll do that may not go unnoticed but WILL go unrecognized. Isn’t that the bigger lesson there?” (Ahhh, now I’M the proud mom.)

Exactly.

If he is so bright. So determined. So driven. He is going to go on to achieve many great things in life. Some will go unnoticed. Some will go unrecognized. But in his heart, he will know he achieved “greatness.” Those close to him will know. And isn’t that what’s important?

We have become a society that applauds and awards the smallest of achievements. We give recognition when, sometimes, it shouldn’t be “due.” And we are doing this with such regularity that we want our children to be recognized for every little thing. And when they aren’t recognized? For the big and the small? We are livid.

A few times, during my son’s baseball career, I’ve cringed at the end of the game awards ceremonies. Every kid is guaranteed a medal, at least once in the short 6 game season, for “greatness.” Well, I hate to put this out there, but my kid ain’t great. He’s mediocre. He loves the game. He has a blast. He makes great strides for him. But most kids would have hit that ball. Caught that pop fly. Or made it all the way to 2nd base on an overthrow to first. So when the coach would sometimes have to search for something to praise my kid about I wanted to say, “It’s okay to give it to the boy who hit the home run with 2 RBI’s or the outfielder who made the over-the-fence out.”

But I don’t. And my kid is bursting while he wears his medal after the game. And my cruel heart softens, as I see him bursting with pride. And that’s okay, too.

Because sometimes, he’s going to get awards for things that are disgustingly easy for someone else. And he’s going to watch, someday, as someone gets the award that maybe he should have received. There’s a lesson there, too.

There are so many lessons of unfairness for each of us to learn. And sometimes, we have to learn them in 8th grade so that when it happens in 12th grade and in college and umpteen times in our adult careers we don’t want to curl up and die because no one noticed our greatness.

We aren’t always going to have mommies, cheering on the sidelines, making sure every single one of our achievements is noticed. And we shouldn’t.

The true value of an achievement is what we learn from it.

What we take from it.

And how we apply it to further greatness.

 

 

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My Summer Vacation Just Got Even More Exciting

Summer Vacation Bucket List

 

Day 1: Bring out the Monopoly board after “I’m bored” chants reach epic proportions. Check. (Fears of enduring a long summer surface.)

 

But then…..

 

Day 2: Download malicious computer virus (complete with flashing screen and wayward mouse pointer thingy) that takes control of the brand new (12 days “old”) laptop purchased for the boys. Check.

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(This summer is proving to be more exciting than I bargained for.)

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So Sue ME. I Bought Baby Einstein Videos For My Kids.

How is it that I am late to this party?

Not a polite 5 minutes late.

Not a day late (and a few dollars short.)

But six years late.

Apparently, in 2009, Disney offered refunds to parents for the Baby Einstein videos because they didn’t turn your darling little angels into …..well, Einsteins.

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The consumer group, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, took the children’s video giant to court crying “foul” to their claims that Baby Einstein videos are “educational.” In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that video watching by the under 2 set is actually damaging to their tiny little brains. So Disney removed the verbiage from the packaging. But that wasn’t enough. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood demanded that parents be fairly compensated for the trauma they had been put through, as their expectations fell, realizing that little Johnny and little Jane were (gasp!) still just average.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a Disney nut who tends to defend Disney at all cost. Claiming that these videos were “educational” based on anecdotal evidence and the fact that they played classical music in the background is wrong. And, I’ll admit it (only to you) that I, too, fell prey to purchasing not one, not two but about 5 of these little beauties.

But ultimately, who is at fault here?

Me.

In 2004, I bought the videos. Even though my pediatrician gave me the developmental handout telling me not to sit my baby in front of the television. Even though I knew that real life stimuli trumps passive TV watching every time. Even though, in my heart, I knew I should be the one entertaining my baby.

But I bought the videos anyway. And I plopped my then one-year-old in front of the TV so that I could nurse his little brother, age 2 months, in relative peace. Or both of them, so I could start dinner. Or fold laundry. Or pee.

I played the role of educated consumer and I traded the opinion of the experts for a few moments of sanity.

So sue ME.

If you completed at least a middle school education, you should know by now that there is “truth” in advertising but most times, it’s a twisted truth. My husband always cracks up when “health food” claims what they are selling is “all-natural.”

“Arsenic is all-natural,” he’ll scoff.

We, the parents, bought the $15 dollar DVDs. We, the parents, decided that they were acceptable entertainment. And we, the parents, are ultimately responsible for nurturing our child’s intellect in a way that will help it to reach its full potential.

Not television.

And certainly not Disney.

 

 

 

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My Son’s Adoption Story And Who Should Know It

The cast of characters:

Jane = me

Sam = well-meaning friend

John = my husband

Joe= our son

—–

We were watching our sons play in our neighborhood park. Polite, easy conversation about school, spring and the upcoming Boy Scout camping trip.

Sam turns to me and says, “So what is Joe’s adoption story?”

My mind goes blank. It’s been years since anyone has asked me that question. It’s been so long I’m not quite sure what is being asked. I have no idea what to say.

To fill the now awkward silence Sam says, “Well, John told me I should ask Joe.”

Ask Joe? What would he say? He was only 6 months old. He couldn’t possibly remember the day he entered our family.

And then it hits me.

Ohhhhh. THAT adoption story.

sonstory

Sam, still trying to fill my awkward silence, begins talking about his service in Korea and what little he knows about adoption there.

Finally understanding what he is asking, I offer a laundry list of reasons why biological parents choose adoption for their children. Poverty. Teen pregnancy. Single parenthood. And some reasons we’ll never know or understand.

And then, I’m proud of my husband. My husband has an issue with boundaries. More specifically, my boundaries. He shares things about me with other people, as a way to connect, that I’d rather decide to share. Or not. It’s not malicious. He doesn’t mean to annoy me. But it does. He calls me “a private person.” And I am. So, knowing that he has a tendency to cross the line but that he honored our son’s privacy has touched me. Deeply.

Because our son’s adoption story isn’t pretty. It isn’t tidy. His biological parents wrestled, like all other biological parents out there, with their decision to choose adoption.

And it is our son’s story to tell.

Or not.

Because the circumstances that brought him to us do not define him.

Some people travel by car. Some by train. Some by boat. Some by plane. But they all get to the destination. Eventually.

And our son made it into our family, at 6 months old, by plane. This cute, chubby cheeked, giggling little bundle. The last baby off the plane. Me, afraid they had missed the flight but had forgotten to tell us. The escort, in her broken English, placing him in my arms and telling me of the dream she had, of the wonderful family he was coming home to and how he would be so happy there. His sweet, chubby face. His grin. Captivating us. Clutching each of our index fingers as he slept between us on that first night in our family.

Oh, that first night.

Our baby on Korea time. Us, exhausted, excited and weary. Searching through his bag, desperately wanting to know whether to give him soy or dairy based formula. That’s all we wanted to know. How do we feed our child? We took the formula from his bag. The instructions were in Korean. The interpreter at the airline desk said it was soy based. Great, we thought. We brought both. Soy it is!

Our baby boy gobbled down that first bottle and part of the next and promptly fell fast asleep. We patted ourselves on the back. Such great parents already. We know how to feed him. We know how to get him to sleep. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.

An hour later, at the hotel, he wakes up crying. Screaming. We change him. We offer him another bottle. We play with him. Nothing is working. He is exhausted, we tell ourselves. He’s in a strange country with strange sounds, strange smells. As much as we love him already, we are still strange to him. My husband holds him, gently bouncing him as I run back to the car and get another arsenal of toys to distract him.

As I walk back into the hotel room my husband is holding our son. With out-stretched arms. Our son is laughing. He is grinning ear to ear. My husband is stunned. His face frozen. Mortified.

“I don’t know what to do,” he stammers.

He is covered, from chest to thighs.

In poop.

Our son exploded. And poop is everywhere. All over my husband. All over our son.

And our sweet, grinning boy is happy again.

I get a garbage bag from the front desk. I gently peel the clothes off my husband and my son. They bathe, together, son laughing and husband still speechless. And now, I’m giggling. The mess. The expressions of glee and horror in one moment. The laughter. Delicious, delightful laughter.

That sweet peal of tinkling joy from our precious, amazing son.

That is our son’s adoption story. The late flight. The other babies, coming off the plane one by one. Us, searching for our son and finally seeing him for the first time. The escort placing him in my arms. The smile. Those cheeks. The formula that we were told was soy but was really dairy. Feeding him the wrong formula and the poop we waded in after. And then, after the poop and the bath. After he wouldn’t sleep in the pack ‘n play. When he snuggled between us and clutched my husband’s finger and then mine and promptly fell asleep. Cuddled between us both.

That is our son’s adoption story.

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Jane Cries A River For The Impoverished Music Industry

I watched an awards show. Finally. In it’s entirety.

The 2015 Grammy Awards.

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Don’t get me wrong. I used to be an awards show junkie. I never missed. Even the shows announcing the nominees. I loved the entertainment industry. As a music major in college, I thought I would be a part of it one day.

But then, life happened. And kids. I discovered a whole new vocation I never thought in a million years I would enjoy so much. Motherhood. It’s been a blast. And the reason entertainment is my weakest category in Trivia Crack.

All in all, I felt it was a bit lack luster. Madonna tried to be shocking. Yawn. A legend crooned with a much, much, much younger up and comer. Creepy. Rock bands that should have retired long ago tried to show they still had it. Uh-uh.

Then, the Grammy’s put domestic violence and human trafficking into the forefront. Brooke Axtell, a survivor, spoke out against abuse against women. She gave a moving speech and Katy Perry followed up with a beautiful rendition of “By The Grace Of God.”

I thought, good for them. They should pick a cause every year to support.

And then, (you knew there was going to be an “and then” didn’t you?) ……..

And then………

Recording Academy president, Neil Portnow, used his time on stage to promote Creators Alliance, a new lobby group to represent those poor, under-appreciated and under-compensated music artists in Washington.

Wha………?

Oh, you mean like Steven Tyler, Alicia Keys, Adam Levine and Jennifer Hudson?

Yep. Those artists.

And I couldn’t help but remember when Metallica made (pardon my language but there really is no other word) asses of themselves in 2000, crying about Napster.

Don’t get me wrong. I am a poster child for plagiarism. I’m a rule follower from way back. I had a neighbor tease me once because I still use iTunes to buy my music. So sue me. I think stealing is wrong. Whether it’s milk, money or music. But when it comes to musicians, raking in millions from their craft, and they want to cry about the other thousands they may have lost? I have one thing to say. Take care of it privately. Quietly. Get your lawyers on it. Use your considerable wealth and position and power without telling me all about it.

Neil Portnow wanted to use his platform to gain support and inform the fans. Inform the fans? Seriously? He wanted to wag his bejeweled finger and remind Johnny that downloading songs for free is wrong and robs artists of fair compensation? Johnny doesn’t already know that? And fair compensation? Nobody is downloading some no-name artists music for free. And if they are, I can tell you the “no-name artist” is thrilled that someone is even listening to them.

I sat there. Trying to judge the reaction of the audience. The cameras panned the crowd and showed a few bobbing heads of agreement but there wasn’t some wild outpouring of support (Thank God.) I honestly don’t know how the audience felt. But if they agreed, it seems they had the common sense to keep their (greedy) feelings private.

I agree that people should be rewarded for their work. I agree that sharing music online without compensating the artist (and producers and writers and etc.) is stealing. I wouldn’t have stolen an album from a record store back in the day. I shouldn’t steal a song of the internet waves now. But talking to me, sweet little Jane, sitting in her living room on the weathered coach she can’t afford to replace, telling me that if this rampant internet stealing continues we’re going to have a world without music because artists won’t be able to make a living in the music industry anymore? Bullshit. (Oops. Excuse me again. But this topic pisses me off.)

Cry me a river. You want to talk about professions that aren’t fairly compensated for their craft? The ones who truly struggle to make a living? How about teachers? Police officers and firemen? Or social workers? Create a lobby group for them.

The Verge headline this morning said it best: Grammy Millionaires Unite To Lobby Washington For Better Pay.

Earlier in the evening, I mused how wonderful art would be if artists pursued their craft for the pure joy of creating it. Not for money. Not for glory. Not for fame. Real, true artists sharing their gifts.

Find me a gifted, talented, true artist that is also poverty-stricken and suffering and I’ll be happy to get behind your cause. But until then, Mr. Portnow, keep your wagging finger and your millions to yourselves.

 

 

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Lovely Spam, Wonderful Spam!

I am not perfect. By any stretch of the imagination. I love run-on sentences. I love incomplete sentences. I rely on spell-check. Heavily. Not because I can’t spell but because I’m horribly lazy.

And speaking of lazy, I don’t edit my posts very well. Or sometimes at all. I know. I’m a terrible blogger. But I own it. And I have my excuses. (And they truly are excuses.)

I’m not like many of you out there. I’m not waiting to be discovered. I’m not jonesing for a book deal. I’m just a gal, full of ideas bouncing around in her head that need to be unleashed once in a while. So, I write a post. I scan it for any glaring errors and then I hit “Publish” and walk away. Well, click away.

Imagine my amusement when I received this comment regarding my blog:

(Identifying factors have been deleted to protect the well-meaning spammer.)

“certainly like your web site however you need to test the spelling on quite a
few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling
issues and I in findingg it vedry troublesome to tell the truth however I’ll definitely come again again”

"Spam, spam, spam, spam. Lovely spam, wonderful spam." - Monty Python

“Spam, spam, spam, spam. Lovely spam, wonderful spam.” – Monty Python

Ahhh, the irony of spam comments.

I love spam.

Spamm all ways amuzes me.

 

 

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