Category Archives: Observations

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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Filed under Motherhood, Observations, parenting

Since When Is A “B” Not Enough?

And not just a “B” but an 88.5.

For a 10 year old.

Are you kidding me?

Don’t get me wrong. I love this college-prep elementary school. I’m glad they have high standards. I’m glad they’re pushing my son to reach his full potential.

But when is enough, enough?

Or, more specifically, since when is a “B” not enough?

My son is bright. And imaginative. And active. (You can see where this is going, can ‘t you?) Some teachers love his exuberance, his joie de vivre. And he thrives in their classrooms. Other teachers? Not so much. They just don’t get him.

Not to be redundant but,  did I tell you he is bright? This isn’t just a delusional mom. I have perfect standardized test scores to back me up. As a result, he gets bored. Easily. But emotionally, he is right there with his peers. So, in the 5th grade, he stays. I’ve put my foot down and no one will convince me otherwise.

I received an email today asking for a conference. “He isn’t in trouble, by any means, I just don’t think he’s working up to his full potential.”

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I scan the grade sheet. The detailed rubric of his progress in this one class. Writing Class. A 93. An 88. Another 88. And an 85. For an average of 88.5.

So what’s the problem?

I don’t want my kid to be lazy. I want him to always give 110%. But he hates (gasp) to write. He doesn’t like to write fiction. He doesn’t like to write non-fiction. He won’t even like to write his own autobiography. Apparently, I didn’t pass down the writing gene to him. And that’s okay with me. Because….

He loves math. And science. And engineering. And taking things apart. And putting them back together. And Greek mythology. And history. And reading. He loves, loves, loves to read.

So, the writing will come. Someday. For right now, an 88.5 in his least favorite class, and his lowest grade in all subjects, is fine with me. In fact, a high B in a class he doesn’t enjoy is pretty impressive in my book. And because he is bright, I know he will glean from writing class what he needs and apply it when he needs to apply it.

C’mon. He has an 88 in writing mechanics. At age 10.

I’m not worried.

 

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Filed under Observations, Soapbox

Hey! My Jeans Don’t Fit. All Over Again.

With all the yoga, herbal supplements, meditation and mostly gluten free eating I’ve been trying lately to manage this silly panic/anxiety affliction I’ve acquired, I have some good news.

I’ve lost some weight.

And not just some weight. I’ve lost about 17 pounds. So far. (I’m optimistically counting on more. Trust me. I could stand a few more.) 

Whoo-hoo! Go Me!

That’s the good news.

The bad news? My clothes don’t fit. Again.

“But this is one of my favorite pairs,” I cry. “I can’t get rid of these.”

“Fine,” my husband says, “Look like a homeboy hangin’ out in the prison yard.”

He has a point.

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You’d think losing a little weight would be a good thing, right? An excuse to go shopping. Update the old wardrobe. But no. It’s not.

First of all, I’m cheap. In a good way. But cheap, all the same. I’m on a roll, without eating the rolls.  I’m planning on going down at least another size. I can’t afford to re-do my entire wardrobe. But until then, I need some clothes that don’t slide down past my hips, revealing my Calvin Kleins. I enter the dressing room, armed with a half dozen pairs of jeans.

One pair is too tight.

One pair is too loose.

One pair is dragging on the ground or cutting me in the crotch or too loose around the thighs but fine everywhere else.

There is only one common denominator. Wait. Make that two common denominators.

1.) They are all the same size.

And…

2.) None of them are just right.

So I walked out of the store with nothing. Just my baggy ol’ pants that look like I borrowed them from my husband. Or my cellmate.

How could all the same size of the same style of clothing give such different results on the new, thinner me?

We are bombarded with print ads showing us how we should look. We compare ourselves to the other moms at the neighborhood pool. We criticize what we see in the mirror, no matter what size.

I was convinced if I went down a size (which I have) I’d be happier. I’d look so much better and I’d feel fantastic.

I am happy. I do look better. But I don’t feel fantastic.

I don’t know about you, but I need to feel good in my clothes. I want them to be comfortable and I’d like to think they are flattering. But those outfits are too far and few between. I may have lost the weight, but I haven’t lost my critical self. And it’s depressing to think that no matter what the size, I may never feel satisfied.

But all the criticizing in the world doesn’t make up for the fact that much of what is out there is just plain unpredictable and uncomfortable. I admit. I’m not much of a shopper. But is it too much to ask that a size X be a size X and fit like all the other size X’s out there?

Is it?

Apparently, it is.

Ah well. Just another excuse to go shopping again.

Anyone want to come with?

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Filed under How We Roll, Observations

From Point A to Point C to Point X, Y, Z and Finally To Point B. Or Not.

I have 17 drafts in my draft folder.

Seventeen posts that I started and never finished, dating back to October, 2009.

Considering that’s only 4 posts a year, on average, that I start and don’t finish? I’m feeling pretty good about myself. But that statistic doesn’t include all the other posts, the amazing, captivating, change your life posts that never make it to my computer screen. The ones that dance in my head for 2, maybe 5 minutes before another distraction sends them spiraling into the lost post abyss.

My life is a series of crooked lines. I’m sure many of you can relate. We sit down to begin a blog post. That brilliant idea that we had just moments ago, just itching to get down on the screen. We struggle with a title. Or not. A couple of my drafts are just brilliant titles that actually stayed in my head until the computer booted up.

And then, it happens.

The dryer buzzes and we get up to hang up those few things that dance the rotten-apple-wrinkle in two minutes flat. We dump the rest of the laundry on our bed, promising to get back to it and then throw another load in the washer. The dog is standing by the door, so we let him out. Someone left syrup on the breakfast bar so we wipe it down. We remember we forgot to take our herbs so we pour a glass of water and wash them down. We sit down at the computer only to have our son come downstairs, wanting a snack. We point him in the direction of the pantry but we realize he really just wants to connect with us, so we stand in the kitchen while he eats and talks about summer vacation plans and playing minecraft and how he misses his friends from his old school.

Then, we finally sit back down at the computer to write and that stellar title means nothing now or the brilliant blog post idea has lost its fire.

And by “we” and “our,” I mean “I” and “my”. Because all of that just happened, moments ago when I sat down to write a dazzling post about my ever growing draft folder.

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Ahhh, to go from point A to point B without any detours. Some nights, I just want to go to bed and not put the shoes and backpacks by the door and load the dishwasher and jot down the errand I will most surely forget by morning. I want to sit up and say, “I’m tired. I’m going to bed.” And do just that.

Or write a blog post without interruption. (No, it’s almost lunch time. You may not have another snack.) Or take a shower and get dressed with answering 20 questions from my husband. Or clean a room from top to bottom without starting another more pressing project in between, leaving both chores unfinished.

Or…

Wait.

What’s that?

Sigh.

The dog is barking to be let in.

I’ll be right back.

Or not.

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Filed under Blogging, Observations

One Hundred And Eighteen Shades of Grey

Do you own one of those handy dandy color wheels? You know, the ones decorators use?

We do.

Don’t ask me why. Neither my husband or I can claim any talent in the decorating department. Although, we do watch a lot of HGTV together.

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Have you ever noticed the crazy color names? Forceful Orange. Hyper Blue. Gusto Gold. Heartthrob. Lime Rickey. (Sure, set me up, barkeep!)

Well, after watching a lot of HGTV over the past year or so, my husband has decided to jump on the grey wagon. It seems everyone out there is painting their rooms shades of gray. And no, I don’t think it has anything to do with the popularity of that racy novel, although, I wonder if that racy novelist has been watching as much HGTV as we have.

We grabbed the color wheel and starting ticking through the colors.

Charcoal. Nope. Too dark.

Nuance. Too light.

Solitude. Too lonely.

There were the smart greys: Analytical Gray, Intuitive, Worldly Grey, Imagine, Balanced Gray. Even Intellectual Grey.

There were the dull grays: Mild Grey, Polite Gray, Reticence, Useful Grey, Proper Gray, Essential. And Modest Grey.

“What about Passive Gray?” my husband asked, holding the color swatch to the wall.

“Hmmmm. I don’t know. What do you think?” I replied.

“Aloof?”

“Eh,” I shrugged.

“What about Ponder?”

“I’ll have to think about that one,” I said.

“Agreeable Gray?”

“Of course!” I chimed.

Finally, he gets it and we’re in a fit of giggles.

After one hundred and eighteen shades of grey, which color did we finally go with?

Hinting Blue.

Guess we’re not as trendy as we thought we were.

(To accommodate my outside America readers, I’ve evenly distributed equal spellings of grey and gray. Interesting note: “In the U.K., grey appears about twenty times for every instance of gray. In the U.S. the ratio is reversed.” I have to admit. After writing this post, both spellings look wrong to me now.)

 

 

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Filed under funny, How We Roll, Marriage, Observations

We Can All Be Heroes Today

When senseless tragedy hits I have to find a way to cope. My own experience with this can be calculated by the before & after 9/11 timeline.

Before 9/11, I would cry, devour the news, curse the terrorists, curse God, cry some more and then, eventually, slowly, move forward.

After 9/11, I cry, scan the news, pity the terrorists, cry a little more and then relish in all of the Good Samaritan stories that begin to trickle through.

After reading a handful or more of these stories, I can move forward with gusto.

In my lifetime, I’ve noticed that with every tragedy caused by a handful of idiots, hundreds upon thousands of good, kind, compassionate, caring, amazing heroes emerge. It is a wonderful, beautiful, mathematical probability that can only be explained by love.

Man is inherently good. Evil, while it tends to grab the spotlight with a better stronghold, is rare. When faced with adversity, we DO rise to the occasion. We help. We care. We reach out.

And the amazing and far more beautiful part of the equation? Even if we are not directly hit by the tragedy, even if we live thousands of miles away and have no direct ties to the event, we empathize. We put ourselves in another’s shoes and we say to ourselves, what can I do to help? How can I make this better?

If it’s sending blankets or food. Or going to the blood bank. Or pulling out our checkbook. Or holding our children a little tighter. Or saying, “I love you” to those we care about a little more often. It all makes a difference. It all makes our world a better place.

1 idiot: thousands of Good Samaritans.

I’ll take those odds any day of the week.

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Thank you, all you heroes out there. Those who were on the scene. Those arriving to the scene. And those of us, miles away, who are living today more mindfully, kindly and lovingly.

We can all be heroes today. Every day.

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Filed under Deep Thoughts, In the News, Observations

And I’ve Got A Bridge In Brooklyn To Sell You

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6 Comments

April 12, 2013 · 5:48 am