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Take Me Out to the Ball Game (But Leave Your Bad Attitude at Home)

19 Apr

Chip’s first experience playing a team sport was practically ideal.  One of his best pals was on the team.  That kid’s dad—an affable guy named David—was a truly talented and caring coach.  Plus the games took less than an hour, followed by snacks, and Chip’s Kindergarten teacher came to watch.  It doesn’t get much better for my 6-year-old.

I loved it, too.  Watching Chip interact with his teammates, take direction from his coach and grow as a player proved a constant source of delight.  The only thing preventing the experience from being an all-around winner was Madame BS as in Bad Sport.

Her son was one of the better players on the team—not the top talent but close.  She clearly knew the rules of the games; I could tell as she screamed from the sidelines practically non-stop.  To her credit, she only yelled at her kid.  (Only cheered for him, too, while the rest of us moms rooted for everyone on the team.)  But here’s the kicker: Whenever one of our players made a mistake, Madame BS would put her head in her hands and groan.

Shame on you, Madame BS.

A couple weeks back, one of our less gifted players was struggling as goalie.  (Coach David plays all of the kids in every position—it’s about learning and fun, he says.)  In the third period, this particular boy let four goals score.  He didn’t seem all that shaken up by this unfortunate turn of events—until, that is, he caught sight of Madame BS.  With her beet-red face, she looked like someone had socked her in the gut.  (A tempting idea, I admit.)

Who cares if a team of 5- and 6-year-olds win or lose?  Why send such a negative message?  What are you teaching your kid in the end?

We’ll play soccer again.  We’ll try to win, too.  And we’ll keep our chins up and eyes on the ball, not caring whether or not someone is making sour faces by the sidelines.

Get That Gun Away from My Daughter!

10 Apr

So here’s the scene: my 4-year-old daughter is sitting in a chair at the front of Claire’s boutique at the mall.  She’s about to get her ears pierced.  She’s terribly excited – she’s been asking to do this for ages and I’ve finally relented.

marking where the holes will be...

And now here comes the lady with the plastic gun.  It’s loaded with a cute, rainbow-colored daisy earring…

BAM!  The right ear is done.

My daughter starts to cry, either from the pain or the noise or the shock of it all.  I hold in all of my tears and grief and weird feelings and try not to make a scene.  My daughter, however, wants to make a scene.  A really big one.

She’s freaked out, and no amount of coaxing is going to convince her to sit still to have her other ear done.

My husband alternates between bribery and threats to get her to comply.  Dear daughter keeps saying she wants more time to think (in-between heaving sobs).  Every time hubby thinks he’s gotten her calmed down, she loses it all over again as soon as she sits in that chair.

Fifteen minutes go by.  Then thirty.  Then an hour.  By this point, I can hardly even swallow, I’m so stressed.

Soon a crowd of onlookers gathers, all of them women.  A kindly old grandmother advises us to just hold our daughter down and force her to get the other ear pierced.  A pair of tween girls show off their own earrings, and amidst lots of forced oohing and aahing, they tell her how pretty she will be if she can just summon the courage to do her other ear.

Right about this point is when I feel the bile rise in my throat and realize I can’t take it anymore…it all just feels wrong.

Is this well-meaning group of people actually telling my 4-year-old that she should suffer through her fear and pain just for the sake of beauty??!!  This is not a life-saving vaccine we’re talking about – it’s jewelry!

Once I got my stomach unclenched and found my voice again, I spoke up and got us out of there.  We ate lunch and I took my daughter back to Claire’s to have the first earring taken out.  She was a little heartbroken about it, but she got over it.  I told her she could make the decision about getting her ears pierced when she was a little older, which seemed to take a huge weight off her shoulders.  This was just too much for her.

A few weeks ago I saw a fabulous documentary called Miss Representation.  To quote from the website (www.missrepresentation.org), “the film explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence.”  The film was nauseating, and 100% right on the money.  Women are valued for their appearance, and chastised for not living up to certain standards – even when their jobs have nothing to do with their looks and everything to do with their intellectual capability.  (Remember all the media coverage of Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin a few years ago – Hillary the ball-busting troll and Sarah the hot mom?)  I highly recommend watching the movie.  It’s eye-opening for anyone who is – or knows – a woman.

I kept thinking about that movie while my daughter was sitting there, wanting to go ahead with the other ear but scared stiff and now knowing what to do.  I shouldn’t have been such a coward; I should have spoken up right away and said:

“Hey, baby girl, you know what?  This is not an important thing in your life, or in the life of any woman.  It’s just decoration – it doesn’t define who you are or what kind of person you will be.  You’re beautiful because you’re kind and loving, not because of anything on your body.”

cute as a button, even without earrings

My 6-year-old son was too upset to stick around and watch his sister go through the piercing drama.  I hardly even knew what to tell him.  What message are we sending to our little girls – and our little boys – about this?  I know it’s “just” ear piercing, but is something OK if it’s painful or scary, as long as it improves your appearance or keeps up with everyone else’s expectations?

I was 4 when I got my own ears pierced, but my daughter may be 14.  Or 44.  Or maybe she’ll never do it, I don’t know.  It’s up to her when she feels that it’s worth it.  In the meantime, I hope she realizes – no, believes – that it really doesn’t matter.

Quotes about Moms

9 Apr

For the life of me I can’t remember where I got these great quotes about mothers!  As soon as I recall the source I’ll let you know.  If you’re a mom, or have a mom, or have ever met a mom, you’ll love these!  My personal faves are the hilarious #10, 15, and 59, while number 20 made me choke back tears…

  1. There is no way to be a perfect mother, and a million ways to be a good one ~ Jill Churchill
  2. Mothers are all slightly insane. ~ J.D. Salinger
  3. My mother was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. All I am I owe to my mother. ~ George Washington
  4. Making the decision to have a child – it’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ~ Elizabeth Stone
  5. The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness. ~ Honoré de Balzac
  6. There was never a great man who had not a great mother. ~ Olive Schreiner
  7. In the man whose childhood has known caresses, there is always a fiber of memory that can be touched to gentle issues. ~ George Eliot
  8. Mothers have as powerful an influence over the welfare of future generations as all other earthly causes combined. ~ John S C Abbott
  9. There is no influence so powerful as that of the mother. ~ Sarah Josepha Hale Continue reading

Loser Gets Mom

30 Mar

The following is an actual conversation that recently took place in my car.  Names have NOT been changed to protect the guilty:

Me to Son:

So if you want, you can take soccer on Saturday mornings while your sister is at dance class.  I can take one of you and Dad can take the other.

Son:

I want Dad to take me!

Daughter:

I want Dad to take me!

Continue reading

My Lesson in Judgment

19 Oct

Something I struggle with consistently is judgment.  I don’t want to be a judgmental person, but it happens.  I have been working consistently, especially in the past two years, to make a personal commitment not to judge people.  Across the board.  For anything.

I had an experience this week that really brought this lesson full circle.  I can laugh about it now, and even in the moment, I did, but was still feeling humiliated.

My mom called me this week, as my oldest daughter was out of school on break.  My mom’s co-worker has this dummy mummy that they dress up from time to time.  My oldest daughter “follows” the dummy mummy (his name is Renfro) and she sends my daughter pictures for every holiday theme for which Renfro is appropriately dressed.

My mom called and asked if I would like to take my kids to the Dollar Store so they could pick out some Halloween decorations, come to her office, and dress Renfro up.  Sure, it was a homeschool day for my younger daughter, but we had already been to the library and completed most of our work for the day.  It would be fun!

So, I go into the Dollar Store (completely unprepared: we’d had a make up gymnastics class that morning, then went straight to the store, so I hadn’t packed snacks or anything, because I was not expecting to be gone for that long).  The kids are whining about being hungry, so I let them pick out snacks in addition to all of their paraphernalia to make Renfro look more appropriate for Halloween.

Side note: I don’t usually allow my kids to eat a lot of junk food.  In fact, we don’t even keep most junk foods in the house.  My husband gets migraines from MSG, so we never eat things like Cheetos, Doritos, etc.  So, that’s what my kids want.  That morning, I was feeling especially giving and high on life, so I say, “Sure, get whatever you want!”

They load up.  We get to the register to check out.  Our total: $7 and some change.  My kids are hovering around the register grabbing for the snacks and the checkout lady asks if she can give the snacks to the kids.  I respond, “Sure!”  “Will you open this, mommy?” they ask.  “Of course!”  So I open both bags of chips and the kids go to eating them like they haven’t eaten in days.  It was ridiculous.

That wasn’t the only thing that was ridiculous that day.  My credit card gets declined.  “What? That’s impossible!” I say.  The checkout lady asks me if it’s a debit card.  I say no.  She says, “We only take debit cards or cash.”  Well, I don’t have any cash.  I recently swapped my huge wallet I kept leaving places for a smaller one that only holds what I need, a credit card, id, and library card.  I don’t have my debit card.

I’m starting to turn three shades of red and am completely mortified.  I start apologizing profusely and tell the kids, we’ll have to go home and get a snack; we have to give these ones back, because I didn’t bring the right money.

My oldest daughter starts wailing.  She is crying actual tears, saying loudly, “But, I’m starving!”  I’m completely dumbfounded.  The woman in line behind me is staring.  The checkout woman doesn’t say a word.  She doesn’t know what to say.  I know both women are making judgments about me.  “How could she not know she needed cash or a debit card?”  “I can’t believe she just let her kids eat the snacks in the store!”  “Her kids are starving and she buys them Cheetos and Doritos?”  “Nice parenting!”  I started to laugh a little as I wrestle the chips from the oldest daughter and the lady behind me, after what seems like an eternity, says, “I’ll buy their snacks!”

She was an angel that morning, and I truly appreciated the generous offering of a dollar so that my children could have their junky snacks, but the looks on her face as well as the checkout lady had already registered.  I just wanted to scream, “I’m not a bad parent!  I do have money to feed my kids!  They almost never eat junk food!”

I got to thinking about it later and I realized that the shoe is on the other foot.  So many times, I’ve sat back and judged others because of actions I saw in the moment, but never considered what might really be going on.  The truth is that’s the point.  It does not even matter what’s going on.  Judgment is wrong.  It makes people feel bad and is a product of fear, and not love.  I strive to lead my life focused on love, not fear, and as a result, need not judge.  I’m so grateful for opportunities like this that I can learn from, even when they feel humiliating at the time.  I’m grateful for the awareness to see things as they really are.  The life lessons are everywhere!  Are you taking the time to discover them and make change where change is needed?

Rant of the Week: I Want to Resign as Family Manicurist!

18 Oct

Like most mothers, I wear many hats:  cook, stylist, chauffeur, coach, nurse practitioner, psychologist, cheerleader, maid, pharmacist…you get the picture.

The one I hate hands down (pun intended!) is manicurist and its evil twin, pedicurist.  My children whine, fight, scowl, complain, and verge on tears.  Me?  I assure you I’m attempting nothing fancy.  No perfectly shaped “squovals”; nothing to do with cuticles.  I’m talking plain old trim so they’re nails aren’t sharp as one of those Japanese ceramic blades!  I don’t fancy the idea of either kids’ fingers doubling as weapons!

I quit.

Of course I can’t quit.  Sheesh!  What I can do is ask your advice?  How do you do it??

Help!

How I Potty Trained My Kids Early

7 Sep

The scene has been similar with each child: harried mom with disheveled hair and clothes, running around the house, chasing a toddler who has no clothes on (at least on the bottom half), has emptied the entire roll of toilet paper onto the floor, and is running away, fast!  Welcome to toilet training!

Over the years and with the help and support of my mom, I’ve discovered a few things about toilet training.  A few close friends have joked that I should write a book, because I managed to train both of my girls (completely) by the time they were 18 months.  I did it at the encouragement of my mom, who had trained me, my sister, and my brother around the same age.

My mom is a very wise woman and I’m grateful for her advice and encouragement.  A lot of people thought I was completely crazy for training my girls that early.  Then, there were other moms, who scoffed, “Well, just wait until you have a boy!” like somehow training a boy is tenfold more difficult.  And maybe for some it is.  I know every child is different.  They each have individualized traits, idiosyncrasies, temperaments, etc.  The thing is, if you start early enough, you can train them while they are still in the “eager to please” phase and before they reach the “I’m going to do it all by myself” phase!

The following are a list of tips based on nothing other than my own experience with training my three children:

Phase I:

  • Start early, once the child is walking, mimicking your behavior, and has a good grasp on expressive & receptive communication skills (They do not have to be able to speak.  Sign language can be easily taught and learned.)  *Based on my experience and in talking with other mothers, there seems to be a window of opportunity with kids, between the ages of about 14 months and 18 months when they are ready/able/willing to toilet train relatively easily.  It seems once they are about 18 months, their sense of autonomy develops rapidly and it becomes increasingly difficult for you to get them to do what you want.  At that point, they want to do what they want, and based on what my friends report, that does not include going potty on a toilet!  Once they have hit this phase, it seems like potty training comes to a complete stand still until about age 2 ½ for girls and 3 for boys.
  • Once your child is walking, mimicking you, and communicating, you can start by putting a training potty on the bathroom floor where you use the bathroom the most.
  • Take your child with you every time you use the potty so he/she can see how you’re doing it.
  • Initially, your child may explore the potty; want to sit on it with their clothes on, etc.  That’s great.  That’s showing “interest”.
  • Make the potty appealing by putting a basket of books nearby that are only to be read if the child is sitting on the potty.  (Lift the flaps, touchy feely, and search and find books are great examples my kids get excited about reading with me.)
  • Once the potty has been sufficiently explored, have your child sit (unclothed) on his/her potty whenever you go.  If he/she goes great!  If not, don’t sweat it.  At this point, you’re still simply trying to help your child understand the idea of going potty.  Make sure you talk about going potty.  When you go, show your child the inside of the potty.  When you flush, you can both wave bye-bye.
  • When your child finally does go in the potty, make a BIG deal about it!  We chant and do a dance.  The lyrics are simple, “You’re a big boy now, not a baby anymore.” We have the kids give a high five.  We tell everyone about it in front of them.  (Conversely, if they don’t go, we don’t make a big deal out of it all.  We just say, “We’ll try again later!”)
  • Once your child gets the concept of using the potty and has done it a few times and you can see that they “get” it, you’re ready for Phase II!

Phase II:

  • Plan to be home for a few days, maybe even a week.
  • Put your child in underpants.  Give them salty crackers (like Saltines, Goldfish, etc.) and fluid to drink.
  • Set a timer.  Initially, it will literally be every 5 minutes.  Gradually increase the timing by 5 minutes as needed.
  • Be prepared for accidents.  They are going to happen.  Each time you take your child to the potty, make a big deal out of it.  Use your sign or word for potty.  Read to your child or do finger plays to keep them entertained.  If they do not want to stay on the potty, let them get off.  Try again a few minutes later.
  • If the child has older siblings, get them involved!  By the time my second and third children came around, we only used the “baby” potty in the back of the car for on the go emergencies.  Once the younger two saw the older using the “big” potty, that’s where they wanted to go.  (Another tip: Home Depot and Lowe’s sell actually toilet seats you can install on your grown up toilets that have a smaller kid friendly seat built inside of the adult seat, so you can pull that down for your child, and put it up when you have company.)
  • When your child has an accident, talk about how it feels to be wet.  I usually say something like “Oh no!  Uh oh, pee pee in your pants doesn’t feel good.  It’s wet! Yuck!” and I help them change into new clean underwear.  Then I’d say something like, “Nice and clean, and dry!  That feels better!”  If they poop in their underwear, I’d say something like, “Oh no!  Uh oh, poop goes in the potty!  Yucky!  Now your pants are dirty.”  I’d then take the underwear off the child and transfer the poop into the potty, so they can see you putting the poop where it belongs.  They can then help you flush it and wave goodbye.
  • When they have a “pee” accident, I would also encourage them to help me clean it up.  At this age, again they are eager to help, and it shows them how to be responsible.  I’d get a towel for them, and have them help me clean it up.  If they refuse, you just take their hand, hold the towel, and do it with them.
  • During Phase II I would utilize Pull Ups only during nap and nighttime.
  • Phase II can be especially challenging.  I recommend having a support person you can call.  There were several times I had to call my mom, begging her to tell me I wasn’t crazy, that my child really was ready, and why I shouldn’t just give up right then and there.  If you have a supportive spouse, it’s a nice idea to get him/her involved near the end of the day, to give you a break.
  • Stick to the timer schedule.  After a few weeks, you can transition to taking your child potty every 20-30 minutes or so and they should start having fewer accidents.
  • Other tips for the phase including using a towel or something to cover the car seat.  Always have at least one change of clothes for your child and fresh clean underwear.  Even when you do decide you’re ready to leave the home, bring a portable potty for the car and/or a portable toilet seat cover.  I know the iPhone has a toilet training app one of my friends used and it was great.  It had a timer and the child clicks whether he went in the potty or just tried.  When they “go” they get to pick out a virtual sticker and put it on their “wall”

I realize this method may not work for everyone; it’s just what worked for me!

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