Thursday, October 8, 2015

The father figure and I have a date tonight. We don’t do date nights all that often. That tends to happen when you have soccer seven nights a week. And, we don’t like to “waste” money like that. Movies are too expensive. Concerts are too expensive. Dinner out is too expensive. There are better things to waste our money on. Things like Disney’s Frozen on Ice.  Which is absurdly expensive but the father figure is bound and determined to take Cinco to. Possibly X-Man as well. But most certainly Cinco. As he has already taken his other two girls to some sort of Disney spectacle on ice. I dodged that bullet by being nine months pregnant with Mac. So I stayed home and painted a bathroom and watched football. I might not be that lucky this time. And so I get to sit down with the father figure and decide how much money we’re willing to spend in order to listen to “Let It Go” one more time.  I sold my kidney to pay for soccer. So it’s his turn.

Between soccer practices, I had to run to Target. Because of my love affair with Target, I keep forgetting they’re up to their eyeballs in Star Wars paraphernalia. Including gummy Star Wars shaped snacks. X-Man requests these snacks every time to cross the threshold. And so, again today I found the desired Darth Vader artificially flavored, gelatin squishy X-Wing fighter things. And X-Man was happy.

Cinco, seeing X-Man’s joy, wanted to partake. And so, I let her look at the snacks. All became very wrong in X-Man’s world. And he proclaimed so fiercely and loudly. In the middle of Target. I stopped in my tracks and firmly instructed X-Man to stop yelling. He did not. I repeated myself. He continued on his path of vocal defiance.

Well, I have been indulgent of X-Man’s tantrums in the past. I recognized that most of his outbursts stemmed from frustration at being unable to communicate his thoughts. But, in my efforts to be understanding and compassionate, I’ve also failed to come down on him as much as I probably should have. So says the father figure anyway.  I put X-Man in time out, which, when one is sitting in a shopping cart involves mom holding your hands and covering your mouth. It also involves you yelling “NO” every time mom asks “Are you done yelling?

So there I was, standing in the middle of the central aisle, bending over a cart—painfully aware of my muffin top announcing its existence to the entire county, because, let’s be honest, there was no way anyone in the store was unaware of our presence—calmly informing X-Man that if he didn’t get his act together “THIS INSTANT” that there would be no Star Wars snacks. Again. Ever. In the history of snacks.

I also got to observe a lady move slowly by the cart. I figured she was speed dialing CPS, trying to document my cruelty because clearly no child would ever protest this adamantly and persistently unless abused. I briefly considered moving my hand upwards to cover his nose as well. Passing out from oxygen deprivation was certainly a tempting option. But my animosity abated, at least towards the lady, when I saw that she was on crutches. Maybe her moving slowly had absolutely nothing to do with me.

Long, loud story short.  Target’s supply of Star Wars gummy snacks remained unchanged.  X-Man’s wailing continued.  Baby and Mac rolled their eyes. They had already explained to me that they were “STARVING!” Because “I didn’t like any of the food we had for lunch” and “I didn’t feel like eating meat.” And so there might have been some cookies in the cart as well. Cinco turned her attention towards the pastries. X-Man was lunging towards the snacks I had placed on a random shelf. He couldn’t reach them, so he settled for throwing a jar of wrinkle cream into cart instead, cutting me to the quick.

The cashier looked at me sympathetically and said “good luck” as we headed to the door. A convertible waited to let us cross the lot and then pulled up next to me. It was the slow moving lady from the store. She called out “Good job sticking to your guns mom!” and moved along.

So there was that. And, I made my limitedly verbal son say “I am sorry for yelling in the store” before he got a cookie. If that’s not winning……..well it’s surviving. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Cinco do you want to go with Mom or do you want to stay with Nana?

ummm….” (head cocked to the side, eyes rolled skyward) “I think I’ll go with Nana.

No. Mama’s going. Nana’s staying to work with Baby. What do you want to do?

Ummmm….” (head still cocked to the side, now eyes slightly downward, hands expressively at shoulder level) “I think I’ll watch Barbie Dreamhouse.”

yeah, no. That’s not an option. You’re coming with me.

Kay.” Looks askance at the shoes held in my hand “I want to wear the kitty shoes.

Fine. We need to go.”                                                         

Enroute “MOOOM. You need to go fast.

We will go fast when it is not a red light.

You are not going fast.

It’s still a red light. Kicking the back of my chair will accomplish nothing but irritating me.” 

“Mom go fast and fix my hair.” Attempts to hand me the clips she has less than skillfully removed from her hair.

At the destination. “Unbuckle me now!
No, just Baba is going in. We’re going to sit here during her voice lesson.” 

Well, I think I am going in.” 

No. You’re not.” Head now cocked to the side, arms akimbo “I think that Baba wants me to go with her. “ 

No she doesn’t.

 “K. I have to go potty.

After barely using the facilities “I want to go to Starbucks.” 

So does mom.” 

You should go and get me a water with ice and a cookie.” 

No, you make too big a mess with cookies and I just cleaned out the car. And no ice. You eat it and make a mess.” 

Eyes roll upward “Yeah, but I like ice. And cookies.”

I have to wonder if X-Man doesn’t talk because Cinco doesn’t ever stop.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

It’s good that time travel isn’t a real thing. Otherwise I’d worry that he’d go back in time and construct a pre-nup solely to limit my trips to Target. But when there is one day that Halloween costumes are 40% off and your wife is spectacularly negative crafty……well Target wins!

I’d like to take this time to thank the brain trust at Fox Sports. They decided that Fight Song should be the anthem for the Women’s World Cup which inevitably led to every little girl on her way to a soccer tournament this summer blasting it in her car. This, in the case of this family, inevitably led to a toddler tyrant demanding Fight Song on a repeated loop until all other family members are irritated to homicidal levels.

I shouldn’t complain. At least it’s not Shake it Off. That is SO last season. But Cinco is less cute than she was last season. Or at least, she’s more insistent than she has been. For the sake of all others in the car, I announced that we would no longer listen to infinity Fight Song and allow each person in the car to choose a song. And by choose a song, apparently I meant “torture Cinco with the cruelest mean ever in the history of all the things.” Judging by her reaction.

Cinco tried to out wail the song that Baba selected. That was SUPER fun. For Baby’s selection, Cinco bellowed “No” repeatedly. She does not tire easily. When I asked Mac what he would like to listen to, Cinco just announced firmly “No only Cinco’s songs. Only Cinco!” That didn’t convince the rest of us. Which left her completely flummoxed.

How could we not drop everything and carter to her every desire? This is a continuing question in Cinco’s world. She has not handled X-Man’s enrollment in school well. She is convinced that we are taking him to the super-secret land of awesome. This led to X-Man lying on the stairs weeping because it was a school day, not a pool day, and Cinco weeping because it was a school day. So for the hours that X-Man is away, and I am trying to teach some very reticent learners, Cinco is busy putting on the “LOOK AT ME” show. It involves dancing on the coffee table, threatening to dump coffee on her head and sprawling across my lap as I try to teach Baba algebra. I am not a fan.

And me not being a fan is a surefire guarantee that Cinco will continue. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

I’m not dead. I’m actually functioning fairly well. But there is plenty on my plate. I have 100 students this year. And I went ahead and fully enrolled my three kids in their school. This, while they are still at home, means that they all have multiple assignments to turn into other teachers over the course of the school year. Yay accountability!

X-Man is attending preschool. He is terrified of School Buses. He gleefully heads into the classroom with his teacher and classmates and hyperventilates when it’s time to go. Until he sees me and remembers that no one is shuttling him up on the yellow bus of horror and death. Or whatever it is he thinks occurs on those buses. Gotta wonder about after school specials these days.

Happily, I suppose, school has not put a crimp in X-Man’s sensory experiences. We were sitting on the sidelines on a soccer game when a little boy wandered up. He looked like he emptied his water bottle on his head. He asked X-Man is he could play with his toys. See X-Man’s mom had it together enough to actually bring toys to this one game. Write it down on a calendar, because it might be the last time.

Anyway, the wet little boy asked to play with X-Man. X-Man looked at him skeptically, very very skeptically. He said “you need a towel.” The boy responded “That’s because I am wet.” Boys….their conversations don’t tend to get too deep. The little boy began to play with X-Man. X-Man continued on, but still skeptical. A few minutes later, X-Man leaned in slowly and very carefully and took a gentle bite of the boy’s shirt. Just his shirt. He leaned back and muttered to himself “Still wet.” The other boy said sternly “Don’t do that again” and X-Man nodded soberly. And did not do it again.

While he was playing, X-Man happened to look up and excitedly began to shout “BABA! It’s BABA! Mom look BABA playing soccer.” And apparently, for the first time, put it together as to why we run all over two states every weekend. The following day he made a similar realization while at Baby’s game.

Once the connection was made, X-Man put his newly acquired vocabulary skill to good use. Bellowing “Go Baba!!! Kick da ball! Go fast! AW MAN!!!!!!” There is nothing the boy does without enthusiasm.

Including wearing clean underpants. I finished up with students this morning and walked out of the office and into a wall of wailing. Constructed by the most indignant X-Man. The father figure explained that he put clean underpants on X-Man while getting him dressed for the morning. This was not actually the first time that X-Man introduced to the concept of fresh underpants every morning. It was, however, the first time he strenuously objected.

The father figure and I have differing parenting approaches, which is why we are complementary in our efforts. X-Man grabbed my hand to lead me upstairs. I assumed that the father figure had misunderstood what X-Man was trying to say and that I would solve everything. Being the competent mother I am, having remembered to bring toys to a soccer game once or twice. Clearly I would resolve this issue.

My hopes diminished when he led me into the bathroom. They disappeared completely when he actually fished out the dirty underwear handed them to me and tearily begged me to put them on him.

I’m really grateful that I have five children. Because it took to child number four to experience gnawing on stranger’s shirts while wearing yesterday’s underpants. And who would want to miss out on that?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I had to give a talk yesterday. It was entitled “Ordering Your Life.” I did not choose the title. My co-presenter did. We had never officially met, which explains why he thought this would be an acceptable topic.

While preparing my talk, about ordering life, I discovered every necklace I had was broken. They all hung under a mirror in my bedroom. They looked lovely there. And apparently they sang the song of Cinco’s people, because although they were all still hanging, each one had been carefully dissected. 
Or used as slingshots for small, stuffed animals.   

So there I was, observing that my outfit really required a necklace. And I did not have one. But Cinco solved my problem; she came up and grabbed a hold of me. With her yogurt covered hands.

I chose a clean shirt that was better accented with a scarf.

I left various children with various grandparents, because it being a day that ended in “y” there were activities to get to. I managed to find the location without being late and gave my talk. College grades indicate that I perform best with an off the cuff winging it approach and last night was no different.

The problem with doing things in tandem is that there’s always a second act. And you should pay attention to the second act. Which I would have, if the father figure hadn’t texted me. The father figure, who knew I was giving a presentation, texted me “call me as soon as you can.”  Clearly one or more children were in the emergency room.

Or, the refrigerator was threatening to go on strike.

This is totally something I could handle while in a different state. Quite literally. At least the different state part.

So there I was, clearly ignoring my co-speaker, reading the various messages from the father figure. He has the kids empty out the fridge into the outside one. And…..well that’s all you can do when your fridge is throwing a fit at 9pm at night. That and text your wife and stress her already genetically defective heart.  

Next talk I give will be entitled "Entropy in Your Life......How to Roll with It."

Monday, August 31, 2015

Summer is over. It’s funny, I always think summer will be restful and fun and relaxing. It isn’t. It never is. It just keeps getting worse and worse. I mean, I ended up in a mommy and me swimming class. Twelve years I managed to avoid that, but X-Man is good at maneuvering me into situations that are brand spanking new.

If I ran the world, I would not have preschool open houses two weeks before school actually begins. Of course, those who run the preschool  don’t have preschool aged children and so are unfamiliar with the wailing protestations that come from being told “No school hasn’t started yet.” X-Man is camped out in from of the front door, with his backpack, demanding that I take him to school or summon a bus to take him. He is certain that in my desire to be the world’s cruelest parent I am withholding school from him. Mac and Baby are certain that in my desire to be the world’s cruelest parent, I could withhold school from them, but am not. No one’s happy with my educational choices.

X-Man is my only summer birthday. In full keeping with X-Man’s approach to life, he chose to usurp my birthday. Which, as it was an early thirties birthday, I was fine to stop tracking. So X-Man turned four. He was exztremely pleased to have made it to this age. Partly as he has lived with me and occainsionally doubted that he would make that far.  I love the birthdays for little kids, who are just old enough to appreciate what is happening. X-Man was able to be very generous and understanding that he was receiving all the marvelous gifts and Cinco was not pleased with the situation. He gallantly tried to share his loot, but drew the line at Cinco grabbing them while yelling “MINE” and trying to hide them under her bed. Cinco was convinced that X-Man having a birthday while she did not, and no she did not accept the explanation that her birthday had already passed, determined that I was determined to be the world’s cruelest parent.  The fact that I removed her from the counter she had climbed on in an attempt to scrap frosting off of X-Man’s birthday cake only reinforced this notion.  

X-Man basked in the glory of his birth. His Nana gave him a birthday card that he was completely enamored with. He refused any attempts to read it to him. Rather he held it tightly and announced “Happy Birfday! FOUR!” So far he was right. He flipped open the card an proceeded to read it “letters letters letters letters” slammed it shut and proceeded to shred the paper off his gift.  He ended the day sleeping in his bed, on piles of duplos and legos.

Cinco emerged from her bedroom the next morning and bellowed “Happy birfday!!!! Mine birfday.” 

Monday, August 17, 2015

There was a study that made the news recently. It purported to show that having children saps your happiness.  A year after having children, mothers particularly, found themselves less happy than those who had divorced or even suffered the death of a close one. Basically, having children makes you miserable. This misery is considered to be partly behind the declining birth rate in European countries. Because children……who wants that kind of buzz kill?

Of course there were those who decried the study. They found it manipulative and subjective, flawed science based upon self-reporting.  It seemed to be pushing an agenda, distorting reality to advance a cause.

I found the study to be plausible. And I didn’t find it alarming or even disheartening. It actually made sense, after a few minutes of pondering. It’s not that being a parent is awful. It’s not that sleep deprivation makes us miserable, that the screaming, the pooping the vomiting ruins our lives.  It’s that we have grown, grown past ourselves. We are no longer content with successes in our own lives, no longer satisfied seeing ourselves grow and flourish. We want more, so much more. Not for ourselves, oh no, for people who are so much more important. People we want so much more for. People we love so much, we accept the poop, the vomit, the exhaustion.  Children don’t make parents miserable. But they do deepen the canal.

While listening to the report on the study, an image of a brook came to mind. Brooks are beautiful, clear and peaceful. They are a source of life, nurturing and enabling life to flourish. But if a brook flows into a river bed, it’s small and shallow and insufficient.  What was more than enough in its own circumstances is lacking in a different scenario.

It’s that way with our hearts as well.
What brought us joy before those tiny little monsters that run ruck shod over our lives, still does. But it’s not the same. Because we are yearning for a different joy, different success…..theirs. We aren’t satisfied in our own accomplishments, we want so much more. We want the world. Not for ourselves, but for our babies.  And, which a source of frustration, we aren’t in control of that which brings them happiness.

And so our life is filled with happiness, but also worries and stress. More happiness, but more worry. And the stakes are so much higher. Not just for their future, but also for us. We see so much more that we can do, that we can give, so much harder that we want to push ourselves. Parenthood challenges us to be better, to give more, to love as we didn’t know we could. It is exhilarating, but it is a heavy burden.

What filled us up, what satiated us, what enough before is no longer enough. We want more from ourselves, we want so much more for our children. Our heart, our lives have deepened. It’s not that we aren’t as happy or now sadder. It’s that we have turned the corner, seen how much more we can give, how much more we can be.

Do children make parents miserable? No. Not full time anyway. It’s not that children ruin lives simply by being born; it’s that they upend the world they are born into. Perspectives change. Priorities change. Everything changes. When your parameters shift so entirely, the standards by which you measured life don’t hold anymore. It’s part of the responsibility that we take on with parenthood.

Welcoming little people into our lives and into our hearts is no small matter.  Life isn’t easy raising children. It’s filled with worry and doubt and frustration. And the measure isn’t our own happiness, but rather the persons we raise our children to be. And those children bring with them something much more than happiness. Something deeper, life altering. They bring joy .

And that’s worth sacrificing for.