I Sorry. TV. Butt.

Bubba likes butts.  Today he spent much of the morning pushing butts…both literally and figuratively.

And by butts, I mean buttons, of course.

His favorite “butt” to push is the TV power button because of the extreme reaction he gets out of Chica.  Every. Single. Time.  Today his fascination with the butt gave me lots of chances to practice disciplining with peace.  I had begun to draft in my head a how-to post about timeout for toddlers when my strategy all of the sudden became obsolete:

He can now open doors.  Ugh.  A facebook friend wrote recently that this was her “least favorite milestone.”  Agreed.

But since I fear that my mom may stop speaking to me if I don’t hurry up and write something new, and my only other idea for a post is concerning my family’s recent fascination with bow ties, I guess I’ll just carry on with my toddler time out how-to.

Except I probably will have to call it something more like, “How to Discipline Your Toddler During the Four Days After They Learn To Converse But Before They Learn To Escape Closed Doors.”  I’m still not sure what makes me think I have the authority to post on this subject, but here goes anyway…

I’ve decided that disciplining Bubba started with him seeing Chica face consequences.  For about the past month, whenever she was punished, he took notice.  “Sister crying,” or  “Chica bed.”  As if to say, “Ohhhh….she’s not happy.  She got sent to her room.”  Something about his reaction made me realize that he was connecting, in a very small way, her behavior to her consequences, and then her reaction.  His observations made me realize that maybe the same might work for him.  And for about four days, it did.  Today it went like this…

Chica:  Moooooooooom!  Bubba turned the TV off again.
Me:  Ok, coming.
Bubba:  (Hops back into the chair to make himself look a little less guilty.)
Me:  Bubba, Chica doesn’t like it when you turn the TV off.  It makes her sad.  If you push the button again, you will have to go to your room.  Bubba doesn’t want that to happen.
Bubba:  Yeah.

Five minutes later…
Chica:  Moooooooooooooooooooom!  Bubba turned the TV off AGAIN!
Me:  Ok.  Coming.
Bubba:  (Rushes to the chair again.)
Me:  (Carrying Bubba upstairs.) Bubba, you made a bad choice.  It makes Chica sad when you push the button and turn the TV off.  You have to have time out in your room because you didn’t obey Mommy.
Bubba:  Bed.  Bubba, Bed.
Me:  Yes.  Bubba bed.
Bubba:  (He didn’t stay on the bed, but he did stay in the room with the door shut and miraculously didn’t cry.)
Me:  (Rushes around to get lots of jobs done.)

Five-ish minutes later…
Me:  Bubba, sit down on the floor, and look at me.  Tell Mommy why you had to be on your bed for timeout.
Bubba:  Butt.  TV.  On.
Me:  Yes.  Bubba pushed the button on the TV and it turned it off.  This makes Chica sad because she can’t watch her movie.
Bubba:  Chica sad.
Me:  You need to tell Mommy what you are sorry for.
Bubba:  I sorry.  TV.  Butt.
Me:  I forgive you Bubba.  I love you.
Bubba:  (Kisses me once on the lips and once on the shoulder.  Not sure what the shoulder is about these days??)
Me:  Bubba, go tell Sister you are sorry.
Bubba:  Ok.

Downstairs:
Bubba:  I sorry.  TV.  Butt.
Chica:  I forgive you Bubba.

We went through this exact same script at least once or twice more until he was all of a sudden tall enough to open the door for the first time.  You should have seen his thrilled, aren’t-I-so-smart grin when he greeted me in the kitchen.  He just couldn’t grasp why Mommy wasn’t quite so thrilled.

I’m not sure timeout has the same effect when he can let himself out but lacks the self-control to keep himself in.  Or maybe the self-control is the next step that we are ready to work on now.  Nevertheless, here’s what I tried to follow and what seemed to work for those four short days…

1.  Give a clear warning.  “If you do ___________ again, then I will put you in your room in timeout.”
2.  Follow through with the consequence right away.
3.  As you are moving to the timeout spot, explain why they are going there.  “You have to sit on your bed because you did not obey.  You _____________ when Mommy told you not to.”
4.  Leave the room.
5.  After a few minutes, come back and ask why they are in timeout.
6.  Explain, in simple language, why the choice was a bad choice.  “When you did _________, it made _______ feel ______________.”  Or, “____________ was dangerous because ____________.”
7.  Ask them to apologize.  “I’m sorry for _____________.”
8.  Forgive them.  Hug and kiss.
9.  If someone else was affected, make them apologize to that person too.

I pretty much follow this same pattern still with Chica, only adding the question, “What better choices do you plan to make next time in this situation?”  Today I had to go through this with her when she called Bubba a, “Little rat,” and then lied about what she really said.

She’s usually pretty good at getting along with Bubba, but I guess today he had just pushed her butt one too many times.  Can’t say I blame her.

Image:  Power Button (178/365) © Jim Murphy  | Flickr Creative Commons

TGIF

It’s Friday night, and the moon is right.  Gonna have some fun, show you how it’s done, TGIF!*

So I can’t see the moon from my spot at the dining room table, but I do know that it’s finally Friday and “fun” for me is writing, so here I am.  I’ve gone round and round trying to think of any one thing I have to say, some way to wrap up this mishmash of unrelated thoughts.  It seems to be too late for that, so just watch out…a whole bunch of random comin’ at ya…

This week Bubba discovered that his nose has two holes.  And they are both approximately the same diameter as his pointer finger.  What a fantastic discovery.

I made a discovery of my own concerning Bubba this week too.  On top of the broken (read: decoy) printer sits the real printer.  Its shiny green power button attracts Bubba like a mosquito to one of those summertime zapper thingies.  He can’t help himself.  Well after several stern warnings and my best evil eye, he still didn’t get my message to stay away from it.  I warned him one final time that if he touched it, I would put him in the bed (a.k.a. prison).   Of course he touched it, so I carted him off to the crib, shut the door, and left him screaming.  Well guess what?!  Tonight when he tried for the 538th time to crawl under the baby gate and down the steps, all I had to say was the word bed and he stopped.  He fretted and pointed and STOPPED.  I’m sure there’s some sort of Parenting 101 rule that says not to use their bed as a punishment, just like a teacher’s not supposed to use silent reading as a consequence.  But it worked, so heck with the rules.

I broke another parenting rule today.  The one that says don’t send your kid off with someone you’ve never met.  Maybe it counts that my neighbor knew her, but probably not.  Chica went on a walk with a family from the next street over, and ended up at their house having hot chocolate.  When I asked Jay if he thought it was a bad idea that I let her go, his response was, “Ah…it’s ok, we’ve got another kid.”  Right.

I’m trying something new with my students called Flipping the Classroom.  Seriously…like I needed one more new thing in my life.  It’s been a huge adjustment, but I’ve had a moment or two where I look around and think, “This is IT!”  I’m just hoping for maybe three or four of those moments next week.

Oh…next week….I’m becoming a queen.  I get my crown on Monday.

Today Chica got in trouble for hitting another little girl in class.  Apparently she just made matters worse by trying to quote Paul.  “What I want to do, I do not do.  What I do not want to do, my hand just did anyway,” or something like that.  Then at dinner she quoted her teacher who says that all kids are just supposed to worry about themselves.  She was stuck on the fact that the little girl who told on her for hitting wasn’t just worrying about herself.  Oh Chica.  (That’s YOUR kid, Jay!)

So, I’m sure there was more I had to say, but I just realized I had dozed off while trying to think of what it was.  Friday night….gonna show you how it’s done, all right….in bed before 10:00.  Oh yeah.

*P.S.  If you recognized that little jingle, you might like this.  We laughed out loud over here.

Planks, Specks, Teeth, and Bathroom Floors

Have you had any good plank and speck moments lately?  You know, the kind of moment where you work so hard at correcting the faults in others, only to realize you have the exact same problem.

This happened recently to my good friend, Ruth, as she was teaching her class of sixth graders about these guys. She literally stopped in the middle of her lesson and said to her room full of unexpecting eleven and twelve year olds, “Woah….I’m being convicted right now guys,” when she caught a glimpse of her own plank.  (I won’t tell her whole story, though, because I hope to one day talk her into blogging about it here.  Stay tuned.)

Well, I had my most recent moment like this in the shower yesterday.  (All great thinking happens in the shower, right?)  Here I am carrying on a quite lively rant with myself about my parents’ bathroom floor.  You see, they have some water damage in their upstairs bathroom.  The area under the toilet is feeling quite spongy, but they keep putting off getting it fixed.  There are probably many reasons why they haven’t fixed it yet….time, money, denial that it’s a big problem, or maybe even embarrassment that it got that way in the first place.  As I’m thinking of all this, I’m saying to myself, “They need to get it fixed now.  This small spongy spot would be one thing to fix, but if they let it turn into a real hole, it will become a huge project.”

And then it hit me.  I have the exact same problem happening in my own head.  Literally.

You see a few months ago I was enjoying a hot turkey sandwich, so expertly cooked by Jay on his Panini grill, when I bit down on something crunchy hard.  My mind immediately knew it was a tooth, but I tried to convince myself that it was instead a seed or nut from the super hearty bread Jay had chosen.  Of course my first guess was right, and I now had a pretty gaping hole on the side of a lower, right tooth.  I admit I shed a few tears at the impending pain I knew this would cause both my mouth and my wallet, and I vowed to call the dentist in the morning.

Except I never did.  I blamed it on the fact that I forgot or that I was too busy during any school day (when the dentist is open) to make the call.  But that is so not true.  I just, plain and simple, avoided it.  Time, money, denial, embarassment…all the exact same reasons why I’m sure my parents are avoiding their needed repairs.

So right there in the shower my plank came into full view.  Why hadn’t I made that connection before?

So I’m done avoiding it.  Tomorrow I’m going to suck up all of my fears and just call the blasted dentist.  And if he happens to be closed because of the holiday, I’m going to call every day until I get him.  No more excuses…especially now that I have you holding me to it.

Plank removal is hard work.  Ugh.

Got any planks you’ve been working on lately?

Advice from a House (Un)Keeper

You know how some people are binge dieters?   I’ve decided that I’m a binge house cleaner.

I don’t clean with any regularity.  Actually, to be totally honest, I don’t even pick our junk up with any regularity.  I just let it collect and pile and swarm until I can’t take it anymore, and only then do I clean it up.  But since the piles and the swarms have such a long time to collect between my attacks on them, I have to wait until I have lots of free time to  make it happen.

So consequently I am spending this day, the first day of Christmas break, not decorating my tree or making hot chocolate or wrapping presents.  No, I’m spending it cleaning.  I sent Bubba to school and I’ve told a flabbergasted Chica she can watch movies all day if she wants.  I think she thinks some other mother has taken over my body for that comment.  We’re on the fourth showing of Over the Hedge, and it’s only 10 a.m.

So as I flitted around my house this morning getting started, I started thinking about the best practices of a binge cleaner.  I haven’t looked, but I’m sure there are a gazillion plans for binge diets out there on the Internet.  I’m just guessing that there’s not as much useful information about binge cleaning, so maybe the world could benefit from my expertise in this area.  So here you are…

  1. Get everyone else out of the way.   There’s already enough stuff on the floor (and the tables, and the counters, and the shelves).  You don’t need extra people around getting in the way and making more mess.  Nor do you need them huffing and puffing at you for letting it get this bad or questioning your cleaning tactics.  So make them leave, or banish them to one room.  I honestly believe this revelation I discovered in year one has saved my marriage on many occasions.
  2. Use the Five Minute Rule.  Make a list of every room you have to clean, and then set a timer for five minutes.  Go to the first one and work like a mad woman until the timer goes off.  Don’t think about it too hard.  Just pick up the first thing that your eyes land on that doesn’t give you mental anguish to figure out where it should live in your home.  When the timer goes off, drop whatever you are doing and walk back to your list.  Cross that room off, congratulate yourself, and move on to the next.  When you’ve visited all of your rooms, repeat.
  3. Stick to the plan.  Don’t let yourself get distracted from the your assigned room during the five minutes.  As you carry the bathroom scale from your kid’s bed back down to its actual home, you’ll be tempted to notice the golf-ball sized dust bunnies on your stairs that are hopping around and actually beginning to talk.  Ignore them.  Their time will come.
  4. Set a goal.  Plan to reward yourself after you’ve done your five minutes in all eight rooms.    But when that ends up seeming like an eternity, and you have to stop for a short break after just six, don’t beat yourself up too much.  You’re making progress.
  5. Don’t feel guilty about throwing away your kids’ artwork from school.  There will be more, I promise.  And it only gets cuter as time passes.  Just please, please be sure to burry it in the trashcan well below other non-kid created items.  This will save you lots of explaining later.
  6. If you get really desperate, pretend you are some sort of cleaning expert while you work and invent all sorts of great ideas for advice.  Spend your reward break blogging about it.

Ok….that was waaaay too much stalling.  Back at at.  Round two:  Ding!

 

Nothing and Something

I wonder if something really is better than nothing.  Lately all I’ve had is nothing.

In the past two weeks I’ve started a few posts and then decided that each was too boring or too whiny or too rambling before posting anything.  So here I am again, hoping that something will come of nothing.

I’ve hit that point in the school year where it starts to feel a bit hamster wheel-ish.  Here’s how it goes…

5:00 alarm.  Snooze.   5:09.  Snooze.  5:18.  5:27.  Ok….just one more….I promise.  Oh shoot.  Bubba’s awake.  Snoozing over.

We’re out the door by 7:30, mental list running of all the things I still have to do at school.   After lots of, “Hurry ups,” and, “I’m too busy to answer so many questions today,” it’s time to drop Chica off in the cafeteria.  I rush around trying to finish 27 things in the nine minutes I have left to myself.  Noticing either my panic or my exhaustion, three people stop me and ask me if everything is going okay.  Nothing’s really different from yesterday and the 20 days before, so, yep….just fine.  I’m making it.

There are occasional moments of brilliance at school, both on my part and theirs.  And most days I have at least one moment (or three or four) where I remind myself what a truly fantastic group of kids I have.  But then there are lots of moments in between where it’s hard or uninspired or disorganized or just not as good as it can be.   In those moments I make all kinds of promises myself to fix it tomorrow.  I’m still waiting for tomorrow to come, I guess.

At home it’s dinner, bath, and then bedtime.  I hit autopilot, and those hours…the ones that should be the best….just fly by.  I spend them thinking about all of the school work and house work I will accomplish when everyone is in bed, but then I get there and just can’t.  I’m too tired.  I tell myself I’ll work in the morning, but we know how that goes, right?  Snooze, snooze, snooze, Bubba…..too late.  Back in that hamster wheel.  Just keep moving.

******

So I’m still feeling like I’ve got a wholelotta nothing.  I’ve sat here for a long time figuring out if there’s a bigger point to this post.  It can’t be just that life is routine and blah and tiresome.  Actually, I even slept on it, hoping for a renewed perspective.  Here’s the best I’ve got…

Writing a blog is fun.  You get to pick out the funny or dramatic or pathetic moments you live and embellish them until they are worth reading about.  But then there are all the other moments in between.  If all you read (or write) about are the way ups or the way downs, the picture starts to get a little skewed.  So here I am saying that sometimes life is just normal, and you have to keep moving waiting for that next highlight.  And I’m learning to be okay with that.

Ok.  Bubba’s up.  Back on the wheel…

Memembery Book

When Chica wants to memember something these days, she puts it in her Memembery Book.  She explained to Jay one day that it sits on a shelf in her brain, and she writes things down in it that she doesn’t want to forget.  Periodically she refers to the mememberies there and wants to know if we memember too.  My memembery book often loses pages spontaneously, so I decided it was time to jot down a few memorable moments from this week in a more dependable place.  Here we are, in no particular order….

  1.  It’s been a rough week.  The kind of week where you lose track of the last time you bathed your children and you buy school lunch three days in a row because you just can’t motivate yourself to do one more thing in the morning.  Oh wait.  That’s lots of weeks.  This one was that plus more.  But I’m on the other side of it now.  Thank you God.
  2. Last night was Pirate Night at our school.  I went planning to help as a teacher, and I instead got to just be Mom.  What an incredible gift that was to my tired soul.  As we traipsed around the Old City Cemetery looking for treasure, I breathed a whole lot deeper.  I think an eye patch and a couple dozen good pirate ARRRRRs can fix a lot of the world’s problems.

  3. One day this week I posted this status:

This morning I asked Chica if she wanted me to give her pigtails for school. She said that she wanted small braids and beads like her school friends. I explained that we don’t have those kinds of beads….and I don’t really know how to do this. I then said, “Well, you could at least brush your hair.” Her answer was, “Mom…that’s not stylish hair!” Oh man.

I shared this story with one of her previous teachers at preschool who went on to tell me exactly how to add the beads.  Since I had the know-how and the supplies after all, I decided to try it.  Two out of the three braids have made it all week, much to my surprise.  (I’m sure the lack of baths only helped this…ha!)

4. The threat, “Do you want me to count?” seems to have run its course, and it has been replaced by the Nice Voice.  A while back Chica started to become really sensitive about the volume and tone of voice we used when correcting her.  After one particularly harsh correction and the meltdown to follow, we decided to come up with a solution together of how we would avoid the Mean Voice.  The first time I ask her to do something I use my regular voice.  If she does not follow directions, I ask her again using the Nice Voice.  If she still hasn’t done it, THEN I get to use my mean voice.  Surprisingly, it is working, but this is how it really goes:

Me:  Chica, go put your shoes on.

Chica:  (No answer.  Distracted by her beads or refrigerator magnets or…well…anything really.)

Me:  Chica, this is me using my Really Nice Voice to ask you to go put your shoes on…please.  (This is delivered in my sickingly sweet voice, dripping with undetected sarcasm, eyelashes batting.)

Chica:  Oh….ok….sure Mom. (Equally sweet, minus the sarcasm.)

5.  I’m hoping we get at least as much play out of this strategy as the counting! 5. I think I could find at least one Cheerio in every room in my house.  Bubba really loves me for making snacking so convenient for him.

6.  I’ve been contemplating some kind of post about the imminent end of nursing for Bubba and me.  Instead all I have is a mishmash of feelings…relief, worry, guilt, and pride to name a few.  Maybe there will be more on this later.

Looking forward to making more mememberies tomorrow while watching the Ten Miler together.  Good luck to all of our friends running!

Baby Steps

So do you have that one friend that lives a million miles away but still does life with you at the same time?  That friend who you can go one month or six months without talking to and then not even skip a beat?  And when you do finally catch her on the phone, neither of you can barely take a breath in order to say everything you need to say before one of your collective four children has a meltdown.

Yeah.  I have that friend.  We had a glorious nine or so minute conversation while I was driving sans Chica today.  Nine times out of ten, she doesn’t answer her phone.  Today I’m not even sure it rang once before her loud and peppy, “Hey!” came through the other side. She admitted she answered because it gave her permission to put off the cleaning a little longer.  A girl after my own heart.

We rushed to talk about all of the important things like doing the dishes, and East Coast visits, and listening to God, and spending time with our kids.  While she was pouring her heart out about wanting to make big changes in her life and being in that waiting place where the change isn’t fully happening, I interrupted her and said, “Sorry…gotta go….I’m here, except I don’t really know where here is…..so I better pay attention.”  She’s that kind of friend that’s just fine with nine hurried minutes and no more.

So tonight when after the crazies were in bed (and I, myself, was needing to do a bit of my own stalling), I wrote her a quick e-mail of what I would have said if I had had two more minutes.  Maybe you could use the same reminder today.  Maybe I just need to hear it one more time….

Dear Friend,

I so enjoyed our conversation today. Sorry I had to end it so abruptly! I found my friend’s house, and her baby was just perfect. So fun.
I had one thing I wanted to say when I talked to you….just slipped my mind while I was listening. I’ve been thinking about how I have an all or nothing personality. I don’t know if you call this perfectionist or not, but I see this kind of thing in myself all the time. I am tempted to think that if I don’t have enough time to clean the whole house, why even bother? There’s no way I can get all of my papers graded tonight, so I’ll just go to bed instead. If I don’t have time to write a perfect blog post (or perfect e-mail!), I just won’t even get started.
I’ve realized all of this about myself, and I’ve been trying really hard to work against it. Like just grading for one hour and then quitting. Or cleaning one room instead of trying to get them all. When I force myself to do this, however much I hate getting started, I always feel better afterwards….no matter how much got accomplished.
So here’s my point. I’m right there with you…..I want to spend more time with my kids, I want to keep a cleaner house, and I want to be more obedient when I hear the instructions meant just for me. But since I can’t make all of that happen right at once, I’m going to take tiny baby steps. I just wanted to remind you that big giant leaps don’t often happen like we want them to. Start little.
Missing you more than usual!
TJP

Operation Get Back The Weekend

So apparently I’m not the only one who regularly ends up spending weekends in a way other than they were intended.  Operation Get Back the Weekend won the most votes in my poll, so here we are.

Chica has a slight obsession with the days of the weeks.  She always asks what day it is and then proceeds to tell you the special event that occurs on that day.  Today is Wednesday, so she happily exclaimed this morning, “It’s choir day!”  Many months back we started referring to Saturday as Family Day, trying to explain to her the reason that we didn’t go to school.  The interesting thing is that Saturday has seemed to morph into Sit And Watch Movies All Day Day because Mommy has so much school work to do.

I’m over that.  Really over it.

So I decided for about the 59th time in my career as a teacher that I was going to try to tackle my grading a little at a time each night instead of saving it all for the weekend.  I realized this weekend that my new assignment as a math and science teacher makes this much more doable than my gig last year as a reading and social studies teacher.  The grading is considerably faster, and there are less project-ish types of assignments that take all week to complete.  Also, it’s super helpful to find on Monday that a kid is having a problem with a specific math skill instead of waiting until Saturday or Sunday to discover they’ve practiced it wrong all week.

So I’m three nights in.

Monday:  No problem.  There was no homework to check through, so I think I was done in 30 minutes or so.  I plopped down on the couch after I was all finished just oh-so-proud of myself.  I think I probably bragged to Jay three or four times in the ten minutes before I fell asleep, “Oh man….I’m so excited.  I got all my papers graded.   Oh man.  This was such a great idea.”  He’s a good sport.

Tuesday:  I did it, but it wasn’t pretty.  There was an assignment that we had been taking an eternity to finish. I decided that I would grade it as-is and then give it back to them to finish and correct….and I told them that.  So, I had to follow through with grading those plus the regular stuff.  I decided at about 10:30 when I was falling asleep with the checking pen in hand that it was time to call it a night.  I did finish them today in a few spare moments at school.  Two days in a row with all papers graded.  That is totally some kind of record.  I’m not even kidding.

Wednesday:  I haven’t started.  But I so want this to work, and I so want to spend my weekend with my family instead of my grade book, so I’m headed to the dining room table next, pep talking myself the whole way there.

This self discipline thing is funny.  I was thinking today that if I was a researcher, I would try to prove that there is an inverse relationship between the amount of creativity and the amount of self discipline that people have.  I just think that creativity gets in the way of self discipline AND self discipline can get in the way of creativity.  (Woah…that was deep for 10:02…and I hadn’t even planned that one ahead of time.)

I am really good at coming up with ideas of how to make something work better in my life.  And more times than not, that better solution involves me doing work regularly instead of all at once when it’s way too late.   But I almost never stick to my fantastic plan, and I end up right back where I started, plus just a little more frustrated with myself.  Here’s to hoping that papers every night….or even most nights….might become part of my routine and not just a wish.  I keep coming back to dishes and bath time.  I’m only slightly embarrassed to admit it, but a year ago dishes and a bath for Chica were not part of our nightly routine.  They happened when they happened….which usually was every two or three nights.  When Bubba came along, though, Jay and I decided together that this “whenever” plan wasn’t really going to work.  We did it.  We came up with a new plan, and we actually stuck to it.  Now the dishwasher runs every school night.  Every. Single. Night.  I realize that’s truly no big deal for most families.  Fine.  But that was big stuff for us.   And it gives me hope that my newest plan could actually go somewhere.

So I promised in my last post a few tips on how to appreciate your child’s teacher.  It’s related.  Stick with me.

Last weekend when I was actually managing to enjoy a little family time before the grading marathon began, I ran into one of my students and his family.  His mom, who works at another school in the city, thanked me for the effort that I put into giving feedback on their papers.  Be still my heart.  (Sheesh…am I actually tearing up recalling this moment?)  Sometimes I feel guilty for spending so much time on school work away from my family, and at the same time I manage to feel guilty for not doing enough as a teacher.  Ridiculous.  Her comment pushed all those feelings aside.  Instead I felt relief and appreciated.

So if your kid has a teacher that is doing something right…anything…will you tell her?  If you don’t get a chance to see her, maybe you could jot it in a note.  This week I got a, “I have to leave early to go to the dentist” note from a dad that started with a super eloquent sentence of thanks.  Just awesome.  If you don’t have time for that, how about one just okay sentence on the back of an old receipt?  Anything…anything…I tell you is worth it to a teacher.

Ok…I’m off my soap box now.  On to the papers.

Little Bit of Weeble

We were that family today.  You know, the one with the kid throwing the major tantrum in the children’s museum when it was time to go.  A face to the floor, fists pounding the carpet, whining like a fire truck tantrum.  Yep….that family.

And for a minute, I did nothing.

I’ve been thinking lately about the decisions that we make as parents.  I had an important decision to make when that tantrum happened, but they aren’t all that hard.  I think most of the decisions we have to make in a day boil down to one of these types:

1.  Duh Decisions.  These are the cut and dry decisions where any novice would know what to do.  Like earlier this week when I was doing laundry and letting Bubba crawl around in the bathroom.  (It’s either that or try to fold one handed…don’t judge.)  He figured out how to open the drawers and promptly comes up with the refill pack for Jay’s razors.  What to do?  Well…duh….drop the laundry and sprint, take it from him, check the drawer for any other life-threatening objects, and carry on.  Easy.

2.  It Doesn’t Matter (AKA Choose Your Battles) Decisions.  These decisions are just a step harder than the Duh kind.  There’s a little more ambivalence involved, but usually not great consequences either way.   In our house a whole lot of these decisions seem to revolve around fashion choices lately.  This week Grandma bought a ridiculously poufy pink tutu dress for Chica, and it has been next to impossible to pry it off of her.  Chica wanted to know if she could wear it to the rehab center to visit her great grandmother.  I was worried that we may get a few, “What was that mom thinking?” stares, but in the end I decided the meltdown we would have had over removing it would have been much worse.  With Jay’s help, I chose not to fight that battle, and I think we chose wisely this time.  Mema’s next door neighbor, a (somewhat creepy) old man, sure got a kick out of her!

3.  I Know What to Do But I’m Going to Do the Wrong Thing Anyway Decisions (The Bad Kind).  It seems like all day long I’m living this:  “What I want to do, I do not do, but what I hate, I do.”  What I want is to do is give plenty of time for Chica to become a self-sufficient four year old who can, for example, dress herself, tie her shoes, clean up after herself, and buckle herself in the car.  But I don’t do that.  Instead I snap, “Hurry up!” 127 times a day, even when there is nowhere to rush to.  This rushed attitude isn’t much help for creating self-sufficiency.  I know the right thing to do, but I just make the wrong decisions over and over.

4.  I Know What to Do But I’m Going to Do the Wrong Thing Anyway Decisions (The Good Kind).  You know, there are sometimes when the wrong thing turns out to be right.  My favorite example?  Frozen yogurt for dinner.   It’s 5:00.  I’m out with two cranky kids, and I pass that beautiful pink and green palace that is Sweet Frog.  The right thing to do is to go home and fix a balanced meal for us, but yet another meal of veggie burgers and canned baked beans this week just isn’t doing it for me.  So I surprise everyone, and we eat yogurt topped with gummy bears and gummy worms for dinner instead.  Kids, both my own and my students, get a kick out of adults breaking the rules every once in a while.  That’s the kind of stuff memories are made of.

5.  Heck If I Know.  So we’re back to the four year old laying prostrate in the basement of the museum.  I’m holding Bubba who is now asleep in that perfect drunk-on-milk way, and there are families all around.  My choices are 1) Yell at her.  The fire truck noise she is making is pretty loud, so it’s unlikely she’ll hear me anyway.  2) Ignore it.  Then all of the moms around will talk about me over dinner, and she’ll think that’s okay to do again next time.  3)  Snatch her up and whisper very threatening things in her ear.  Then I risk waking Bubba, and I’d have two screaming children on my hands.  4) Something else I haven’t thought of yet.  Wait for it, and hope it comes.

So in that moment, I just sat there frozen because I honestly didn’t know what the right way to respond was.   I’ve been having these moments more and more lately as Chica gets older.  I’m sure I’m not the first one to discover this, but it hit me today that there is a direct relationship between a child’s age and the difficulty in parenting decisions involved.  Like how to help her with mean girls, and what to do when I see her being the mean girl right back. (She’s four…sheesh….too soon!)   Or just what to do when she can articulate, “Mom, I know how to keep myself safe,” but I think there’s more risk involved than what she really sees.   These decisions paralyze me and confuse me and wish she came with a manual.

In the end, I just waited through a very long, uncomfortable moment.  When she caught my eye, I stuck out my five fingers and began counting down.  Thankfully she’s still scared of whatever she thinks might happen if I do make it to zero, and she reluctantly got up.  I saved my lecture for the car.  She apologized.  I forgave her.

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So I’ve sat here for too long now trying to think of some wise way to end today’s rambling thoughts.  I’ve decided I’m too much in the middle of it to have anything truly wise to say.   When I had to make today’s “Heck If I Know” decision, things turned out alright…about as good as I could have hoped.  But I know there are times that I’m going to choose incorrectly in those frozen moments, and I just have to trust that our kids are created with a little bit of weeble in them.  They’ll bounce back.

Summer Day #32: Mist, Barbie Princess, and Planks

I have come to accept this sad fact:  I just can’t compete with the Barbie princess movie.

This was to be a perfect day.  Thanks to Jay, I got to sleep in until 8 a.m.  Highs were finally dipping into the frigid 80s so we could play outside.  The only must-do item on my to-do list was catching up on four days of Bible Study… that I’ve had two weeks to complete.  The topic was becoming more disciplined.  Hmm.  Almost as good last time when I fell asleep reading the chapter about being worn out.  Anyway, I planned to fill the rest of my day with lots of fun projects with Chica.

My first idea seemed to rate about a 7 out of 10 on the fun scale for her.  She painted with colored ice cubes and used a squirt bottle to melt three big ice blocks.  Her biggest “aha” moment was learning the word mist and finding out that we can change the way the water flows out of the bottle.  We misted each other, rubbed our feet against the ice blocks, and spied on an inch worm until Bubba had had enough.  I left Chica outside playing while Bubba and I came inside to work on a nap.

Let’s just say my cool-mom points for the day ended right there.  No matter what I suggested after that, she just wasn’t interested.  Project?  No.  Craft?  No.  Game?  No.  Puzzle?  No.  “I just wanna watch a mooooovieeeee.”  Not just any movie….the Barbie princess movie.  Blech.

I should have just gone with it.  A few hours (or a day) to veg never hurt anybody.  It would have bought me some more time to either clean the house or play with Bubba.  But instead I got an attitude.  A major ‘tude.  I kept my pout on way longer than necessary today.

I’ve been trying to figure out what that was all about.  My latest conclusion is that the very things that make me crazy about Chica are things that I dislike the most in myself too.  I get cranky when all she wants to do is watch movies, but I also hate that I waste so much time in front of the computer screen.  I wish she’d eat more healthfully, but I’ve sat here munching on junk food the whole time I’ve been writing.  I cringe when I watch her get all pouty and moody when her neighbor friend doesn’t want to play the same game as her, yet I did the exact same thing today.  Sounds like a case of the plank and the speck to me.

So tonight during our Bible study about discipline, one wise woman reminded us that God’s mercies are made new every morning.  What a relief.  I made a mess of this day, but thankfully I get another go at it tomorrow.

Now if we could only accidentally lose Barbie princess….