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Bad Parenting Moments: September 2012

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"How To Control Your Children."

I recently received an e-mail from a reputable, online mom network with the title: "How To Control Your Children." and I thought, GREAT, they are finally working on those Hello Kitty handcuffs I've been asking about. I know better than to take the well articulated bait, but, I just had to read what were sure to be magical techniques.  Who are these parents and how did they discover the key to control?  The intangible, mystical control that has so successfully eluded me since I first became a parent. Control, a skill which, even now, with years of parenting under my belt, I have still miserably failed at mastering. Scratch that, I have not even skimmed the surface. When I opened the e-mail, doves did not fly out of my computer screen and a man with a cape and black top-hat did not ask me to pick a card. ANY card. It was then that I realized that this whole e-mail and idea were a sham. As ridiculous as the Prince who needed access to my accounts in order to transfer his father's millions to America. I thought what we had was special, sir! The e-mail was filled with tips from experts and parents about how to avoid meltdowns in grocery stores, at restaurants, at parties, movies, public restrooms, etc. Basically, how to avoid any child-like behavior in any setting. Ever. Helpful tips like: Consider packing an entire suitcase full of fantastic diversions! It may be easier if the suitcase has wheels or a separate case attendant. It's especially helpful if the case can be a complete surprise! Consider having hired case attendant wheel the bag through the grocery store at safe, unnoticeable distance and then, jump out of case holding a puppy at the moment precisely before meltdown. Consider learning a few, new jokes to share during your shopping trip. Incorporate props, juggling and a tightrope! Bears are always a plus.

Who are these people and how can I be sure I never run into them as my 2 and 4 year old push each other into the yogurt case?  How can I put this tactfully. Let's see...this idea of control through constant entertainment is as ridiculous a concept as that of total, stable control.

As soon as you become a parent, you lose control of your life, your body, your wallet, your bowels. You lose control of your emotions as equal parts love and fear take over every firing synapse in your being. You lose your ability to exist in the same way you walked the earth just moments before your child was born, and you lose control of time - your understanding of time, your ability to fill space and time the same way and, with the same productivity. Subsequently, you spend your days trying to cram the chaos, fear, joy, pain, love and sheer clustery-fuckery of parenthood into the 24 hours you are given. Oh, and maybe to sleep. Maybe. To dream the impossible dream.

Control amidst the perfect chaos of parenthood is a myth. The unicorn flying over the double rainbow with a four-leaf clover in its teeth.

I'm tired of receiving e-mails that say, "How to Avoid Meltdowns.", "How To Control Your Children.", "Do Your Children Love You? 10 Signs You Are Not Connecting Enough." and, the ever vigilant "How to Drop Those Last 15 Pregnancy Pounds!". The e-mails that are really saying, "You're failing! Let us illustrate how much and how deeply!" *DING* (AOL VOICE) "You've Got FAIL!"

When I am at the store, I guess I could entertain my children by dressing as a clown, hitting myself in the face with a "Bakery FRESH!" pie followed by wildly shaking and then spraying flavored seltzer in my face, OR, I could grab my items as quickly as possible knowing that even with the free cookie from the Bakery (P.S. I love you, Bakery!), I have a firm 15 minutes before it gets real up in here. I could constantly entertain them with high kicks, origami, funny faces and political satire, OR, I could just talk with them as we run through the aisles. I acknowledge and let them know I understand that this is something that they don't want to do, but, I am firm that it is something we need to do for our family.

It's not about control. It's about balance. Sometimes life is exciting. It's parks, beaches, friends and s'mores. Sometimes life is real. It's bathroom breaks, grocery stores and trips to the dentist. You will not always be entertained. Sometimes, you have to buy bread with a mom who is tired and doesn't know any jokes. Such is life, kids. Sometimes, kids throw a fit because they are tired of you, the grocery store, the fake steering wheel on the cart that doesn't honk or the laces on their shoes. Such is life, adults.

The only thing we can control is our reaction to a situation. Good, bad or indifferent. Control? Unless you are referring to the 1986 song by Janet Jackson, I'm sticking with chaos. Noisy, messy, lovely chaos.

Knock, Knock!
Who's There?
Control.
Control Who?
Exactly.







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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Parent Trap

I don't have a lot of time to think, but, when I do, I like to imagine that I make up for the lost moments by thinking big. I think about how laundry reproduces faster than the constantly pregnant barn cat down the road. I wonder why there are enough crumbs for 75 chicken nuggets at the bottom of a 25 nugget sack. I ask myself how I ended up with a futon as a couch and I pour over the mysteries of the cosmos - Why I am always out of wine? I like to solve the world's problems while the Earth spins on its axis and my delightful ass spins on a kitchenette barstool. "Let's get rid of the penny!", "Arriving at school on time limits your ability to improve on being timely!", "I'm taking recycling to a new level by using yesterday's coffee grounds!" and, then there was my Oprah moment this week, "Why are there so many acceptable styles of jeans yet so many "wrong" ways to parent?" If I'm rocking an acid washed, tapered leg, mega-high rise Mom-Jean, would someone walk up and say, "Pardon me, You are wearing pants incorrectly. Have you considered the mid-rise or, perhaps the dark rinse bootcut? Did you see my jeans and how perfectly perfect they are? You should, clearly, buy my jeans. You are doing it all wrong." Probably not, but, every parent has been on the receiving end of unsolicited parenting advice by mid-rise do-gooders with little thought given to the small detail that the skinny jean does not work on everyone. It's not one size fits all when it comes to how we parent. And, while you can try to lump parents into groups with venn diagram overlap, we are just as individual as we faithfully teach our children to be. To boldly be the very best version of you with little care for those who can't accept your uniqueness. Then, we reach adulthood and are told by peers, media and "experts" that our unique best is not good enough.

In these moments, I wish for some version of a relaxed fit, boot (up your ass) cut style of parenting. Whether you made cupcakes for the bake sale or picked up a bag of Fauxreos, you are doing the best you can with what you have. And, I salute you.

I salute you, Mom in PJs at school drop-off. It IS too early and no respectable person should have to wear pants before 8:00 a.m. I dig your skull and crossbones coffee mug and slippers. Don't you dare be ashamed. Your child is at school, on time, with matching shoes. I salute you.

I salute you, Dad and 9 year old daughter walking the wine aisle together. Your conversation about whether mom wants red or white brought a tear to my eye. I'm considering following you, at a safe distance that complies with the restraining order, just so I can join in on the world class awesome that must be your dinner conversation at your table made entirely out of parenting trophies. I salute you.

I salute you, cry-laughing Mother in the post office while screaming children pulled at your legs. You're right, parenting is hilarious. Chaos happens. You embrace it. I want to embrace you. I salute you.

I salute you, cloth diapering Mama. Bless you and the hemp, reusable, BPA-free horse you rode in on. You care about our collective carbon footprint and you work hard to counteract the metric ton of diapers I've guiltily tossed over the last 6 years. I salute you.

I salute you, PTA Parents. It's because of you handbooks are written, meetings are attended and, not attended by those who can not or choose not to. Thank you for letting us slow clap in the back row of the Open House and ride your meticulously prepared intro-speech coattails. I salute you.

I salute you, Parents with varying styles, perspectives, gifts, challenges and ideas. I salute those of you who take the time to embrace the beauty in our assorted views. Those who find the common ground, the love of our children, to experience our differences with kindness and acceptance. Those who graciously acknowledge our personal bests without eluding to their "better". Those who teach instead of preach. I salute you.







Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Playground Politics

School is back in session, the lines at the local, drive-thru caffeine hut are longer than ever and just in time for scarves, hats and other fashion accessories to hide behind, my social anxiety is back. I can always count on my best frenemy to knock on my brain door just as the back to school elated cartwheels, celebratory drinking and sheer joy rush wear off.  Hi, you old bastard. Back so soon?

Summer's insanity of having all of the children at home and our rough to non-existent scheduling dulls the white noise of this issue. I was simply too busy to really listen. Like a buzzing bee, easy to shoo away over the Popsicles, late bedtimes and sunny, backyard play. But, just like apples on the tree, it is there, growing and waiting for September when cooler weather makes it, and me, ripe for the picking.



I could conclude through thorough self diagnosis with entirely no expertise, that this is a product of being a child with a military upbringing. Move, new school, make new friends, pack, repeat. Up until our final move East, I continued to move every year of my adult life. Growing anxious and unsettled as books on shelves, patterns and I settled in. But, as parents do, the drive to provide a new and clean experience for our children insisted that we settle. In theory, this was an all consuming, background white-lit goal. In reality, I had no practice and, practice makes perfect.

We moved to my husband's hometown. A small town with all the makings of the ideal childhood. A pedestrian friendly downtown, a strong art community, an amazing parks and recreation program, a beautiful, well loved and often used library, great schools and a focus on living life in concert with Nature. Sign me up, right? So, I did. I signed right the hell up.

At the post office, the staff blow bubbles from behind the counter, Mr. Hand comes through the mail door to eat the envelopes out of my children's giggling hands and we've perfected the Teddy Bear turn around at the Children's Room story-time, but, after four full years in this idyllic setting, I have made very few friends. I don't mean, wave to each other in passing and make small talk friends. I mean, I had a shit day, I'm un-showered and hanging by a thread, please bring wine and pizza friends.

In a small town, friendships are developed over lifetimes. The amount of people who have known each other since birth is staggering to me, a gypsy. As a woman with only one lifelong friend, I'm unsure even how to forge this type of connection. Four years in, I am still the new kid. I struggle to make small talk at school pick-up. The words get jumbled from brain to mouth. Insecure in my ability to communicate like a boy fumbling with his first bra. It is often awkward, painful and unsuccessful.

If I meet a person I feel could be a good fit, I worry that I try to oversell. Do I come off as desperate? Did I mess up that play-date? Do I call? Do I wait for them to call? Are we dating? I forgot to get her a corsage!

Then there is the inevitable unfavorable interaction that will send me into a tailspin. Just like that, I am the 7th grader with the "wrong" shoes. I want to find a corner where I can regroup. Do I fake a trip to the bathroom? I repeat in my head: Stand tall. Walk away. Always smile.

Do the relationships I have feel forced, one sided or unsatisfying? Are you calling for a glass of wine or for childcare? I get anxious. I lose sight of what a friendship feels like.

Am I making enough of an effort? Is the anxiety viewed as "difficult to get to know"? Does my inability to form a coherent thought during conversation make me appear crazy? Disclaimer: I obviously am.

As all of this rages inside me, my desire to find a group and create fulfilling friendships is stronger than ever. Part of the successful child rearing experience is to remain connected. To remain open, engaged and to participate in community. I know that in order to be the best mother I can be, I need to find my peer group. I need to nourish new relationships with the care I tell my daughter to give her classmates every day. We are all building something new. Forging ahead in new waters. We are practicing and, practice makes perfect.

I imagine a day in the future surrounded by a handful of down to earth mamas that I click with, that get me and I get them; who maybe couldn't afford that last ballet class so we are pot-lucking on a Tuesday. Feeding our families, drinking wine and yelling at our kids to stop climbing up the slide, in unison, with no judgment. I'm looking for you.   I am ready to do the work to make our friendship authentic. Now, to find you. Meet me at the monkey bars after 3rd period. I'll be the one looking anxiously to the side and hiding behind an adorable baby.

I'm ready to try. Trying is practice and, practice makes perfect.





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Saturday, September 1, 2012

The First Rule of Fight Club...

My children are at war. 

With me. With each other. With crayons, chairs, pillows that don't puff properly and cereal bars with tendency to break. With dollhouse furniture, sheets that slide off of mattresses, tiny, plastic doll clothes and door jambs.  With themselves, bedtime routines, the color of their book bags and socks that don't sit properly on toes. With who climbs up the slide and who drew the best "whale on vacation". With who is eating the cotton candy versus the dulce de leche dum-dum. With who is sitting in who's booster and who gets to ride in the grocery cart with the steering wheel with NO horn. With what's for dinner and who got to the table first. With my decision to turn off TV and vehemently point at the play-structure. With the play-structure they pleaded for and now sometimes leave sitting, unused, for days. With whether or not their sandwich has more honey or less banana or whether I stirred the peanut butter enough. With getting out of the shower or insisting they do not need one. With hair clips and towels that are the wrong color and why can't we just go to ONE MORE PLACE after we've been overextended for hours. With life for being unfair and with summer sandals for being left in wet grass. With rain and dry and too much sun and having the foam sword with the handle that has the most bite marks. With the cats for being underfoot or for running away when they're wanted. With me for writing. "YOU DON'T NEED TO WRITE!" "WHY ARE YOU WRITING?". With writing because I love writing and, "I only need to love them." With days for being too short and nights for being too hot. With not having extra quarters to ride the elephant and so-and-so has gum and their mom says it's fine. With the baby for being squirmy or for eating their soggy Cheerios. With stickers that do not stay stuck and Happy Meal watches that do not tell time. With ice that melts too fast and yogurt that evades their spoons. With lip gloss and nail polish that is out of reach and healthy snacks within their reach that they do not want. With me. With each other. With themselves. With summer's end and weariness and my overused and under-cheerful, "Tomorrow will be better!"

*Deep Breath*

Tomorrow will be better.