Cruel Summer

I love these little handfuls

I know I’ve been sporadic at best in updating my blog this summer. Honestly, it’s been challenging enough just keeping up with my regular writing duties over at The Stir. Just talk to my editors … I feel like I’m always just a little behind schedule.

Sorry, ladies!

It’s fair to say that this summer has been a bit rough. Being home with the kids most of the time has taken its toll on my sanity. I told you I couldn’t hack it as a stay-at-home-mom. It’s nothing really in particular; just the day-to-day inconsistencies wrought from the lack of any real schedule. There were a few day camps, a couple work trips for me, and days here and there with the sitter, but for the most part, the kids and I were forced to cope with each other for the majority of the time.

I really hope it made all of us stronger, because it sure as heck almost killed us.

Let me remind you all that I friggin love my kids, and I’d walk across fire for them, or worse, stay home all summer with them. I kiss their booboos, love on them, comfort them, feed them, take them fun places and give them treats, and I discipline them when necessary. It is hard, and it is not my forte.

Everyone always says every kid is different, and before you have more than one, you kinda sorta know that’s true in the back of your mind, but there’s no way you can really fathom how incredibly different two people from the exact same gene pool can be.

The only thing my girls have in common is their blond hair, their daddy’s eyes, and their stubbornness. Which I’m pretty sure they also get from their father. Just saying.

When I was about eight months pregnant with Thing 1, I reached that weird state of pregnancy where my belly started to have angles, as baby’s rapidly growing knees and elbows practiced flexing. There was this one area under my ribs that she would stick her foot out, and you could see the bump on my belly. Since it was our first baby and we had invented pregnancy (because all first-time parents think this, of course), we’d watch the bump on my tummy as I pushed it in, then slowly it would go right back in the exact same spot.  Nothing would deter that girl from her way. “My foot goes here, thank you very much,” she told us in vitro.

Fast-forward a few years to about the same stage of my pregnancy with Thing 2. Oh hey! I remember that little foot! Let’s push it in and see what happens … oh that was interesting … there was no slow creep back out this time. Instead, it was a very sudden kick back out to a place near the original spot, but not quite. Thing 2 was saying, “My foot goes out, end of discussion, fine I will play by your rules, but you never said my foot couldn’t go there.”

My now fourth grader and pre-kindergartener have retained those same personalities to this day. Thing 1 is quietly stubborn – patient and relentless in pursuit of something she wants. Thing 2 has been nicknamed The Destroyer. Just because I never said you couldn’t jump off the barstools doesn’t mean that you should try it, sweetheart.

Between these two, the keeping up with my regular job, and other various matters I won’t bother to get into in order to protect the innocent, I’ve been spread a little thin.

But I’m pretty sure I’ve kept BevMo in business.

Cheers to the end of summer, and Happy School Year to moms everywhere.

Kids Need to Learn to Tie Their Shoes Before They Take On the World

I was clicking through links the other day at The Stir when a headline grabbed my attention: My Kid Has More Important Things to Do Than Learn to Tie His Shoes. The author makes the case excuse that it’s totally fine that her eight-year-old can’t tie his own shoes because, like, Velcro and lace locks.

That’s just about as nonsensical as saying kids don’t need to learn basic arithmetic anymore because everyone has a calculator in their cell phones, or that teaching penmanship is unnecessary because most documents, letters, and other forms of communication are typed these days.

There is an entire generation of children that are not being raised to be self-sufficient, independent individuals. The mom of the second grader that can’t tie his shoes says, “I’d rather lace him up with double knots myself then send him out to work on his skills at shortstop than sit on the sidelines trying to get him to perfect the perfect knot.”

Come on, people, you’ve got to walk before you can run. How does a kid with the dexterity necessary to play shortstop not know how to tie his own shoes? Of course he has the ability, but has never been encouraged to master a routine, boring task with efficiency and grace so that he can move onto bigger, better things. Tying shoes, making your bed, clearing your dinner plate … these are all mundane things that keeps the wheels of our lives turning.

No wonder we have the Occupy Wall Street children, who instead of hitting the books at the library, volunteering to help others, or apprenticing themselves to learn new skills, just whine and moan that life isn’t fair. Who said life was fair?

Parenting is hard. Teaching life skills to little ingrates wears on my patience. Yes, it is easier to tie my kids’ shoes for them, clean up after them, bathe them, or even do their homework for them than to tell them 18 million times to do it themselves. Yes, I inwardly cringe when the job isn’t done as well as I would’ve done it. That’s not the point. The point is to teach my children to be self-reliant, to help them understand the feeling of accomplishment over something so small as learning to tie their own shoes or floss their own teeth or put away their own toys.

It isn’t about shoe tying. It’s about teaching the values of discipline, practice, patience, overcoming frustration, determination, and eventually affirmation.

God has entrusted me with these little people to raise and send off into the world, and I want them to go into it and make it a more beautiful and wonderful place. And before they step out that door, they’re going to have to tie their own shoes.

My Brother’s Deathday & a Thank You to My Parents

Circa 1983 with my two big brothers. Jeff is the one holding me. Greg is wearing a Return of the Jedi shirt. My younger brother Steve hasn't been born yet.

My brother Jeff died 26 years ago today. Six days before Christmas. Nineteen days before I turned three. I remember him a little bit, but they’re probably memories of memories at this point, clung to and worn into soft fuzziness over the years.

I sat on his teenage shoulders to pick oranges, and then I stood on a chair in the kitchen while he let me ‘help’ him squeeze them into juice.

He let me pluck the strings on his guitar.

I stood at the baby gate during naptime and cried for him. I didn’t need no stinkin’ nap.

A car hit him. It was a random accident that caused a head injury that took his life. I remember this part; it’s been cauterized into my brain, made even more poignant now that I have my own children. I didn’t witness it, but I heard my mother screaming.

If you’ve never heard a mother screaming as she’s realized tragedy has struck her child, I don’t recommend it. The movies got nothin’ on real life, man.

I don’t know how my parents bore the loss of their eldest child. Growing up, having a dead sibling in the family was ‘normal’ to me, because I barely knew any different. But my parents knew. And they survived.

They put on genuine happy faces the days each of their other three children turned fifteen, the age Jeff never reached. They gave us great Christmases every year full of friends and family, even though this season marks the anniversary of his death. We went on vacations booked for five instead of six.

I never fully appreciated it until I became a mama myself. I know my kids drive me bonkers sometimes, but I don’t know how I could go on living if something were to happen to one of them. My parents didn’t just live. They thrived.

Mom and Dad, thanks for being such rockin’ parents in the face of tragedy. You guys could’ve shut down, you could’ve split, you could’ve become lost, but you never did. You taught me how to be a parent, and how to take a deep breath when life gets rough, because no matter how bad things may seem, my children didn’t die today. How can I not pull myself together over spilt milk, when you did it over death?

I love you guys. I’ll go hug your grandbabies now, and tell them funny stories about their Uncle Jeff.

He will always be missed.

Advice Columnist John Rosemond Does Not Advocate Abuse Against Women

I have long been a fan of John Rosemond’s parenting advice. As a matter of fact, his book on toddlers got me through some rough spots with both of my children with a shred of my sanity intact. His advice to parents from across the spectrum (biological, adoptive, step, etc.) is that “all children should be raised according to common principles, foremost of which is that parents should balance love and discipline in training children toward becoming productive, responsible members of society.”

In short, Dr. Rosemond provides a no-nonsense approach to parenting that puts parents and their children in their proper roles. Parents are to be parents (not friends) to their children, while lovingly disciplining them to become responsible adults.

I was perusing The Stir when I came across a headline reading: Advice Columnist Tells Mom Her Teen NEEDS Her Abuser. I was shocked! What kind of advice columnist would say such a thing? I was compelled to click and read more. I was absolutely floored when I read the article and found out that the ‘advice columnist’ was none other than my go-to parenting expert John Rosemond.

The article was written in response to this column, in which a mom of a 19-year-old woman asks for advice on how to handle her daughter’s boyfriend. The young man (also 19), according to the mother, is likable, not a partier, doesn’t smoke or drink, is serious about his education, and has a rational career plan mapped out. In addition, her daughter is “a responsible, level-headed girl.”

Read the rest at The Stir

Tiger Mothers, Helicopter Parents, and Raising Responsible Adults

You’ve heard of Mama Grizzlies, now make way for Mama Tigers. Amy Chua is a Chinese-American mom who parents her two daughters with what she calls the Chinese way. It does not involve coddling. Or a self-esteem training course.

Mama Tigers have complete faith in their children to be extraordinary, and gosh darn it, extraordinary they will be! Criticism is harsh and approval is doled out sparingly, saved for the times when the child actually excels at something.

It’s a jarring juxtaposition to the hovering helicopter parent that many moms have become these days. But wait! Isn’t a tiger mother a helicopter parent, continually constructing their children’s’ world for them to ‘save’ them from outside influences or dangers?

Not exactly. A helicopter parent strives to make life as easy as possible for their children. They cut their food, resolve their playground disputes, and practically do their homework for them. A tiger mother says, “You will sit at that table until you cut your meat and eat it because it’s time for you to grow up a little bit.”

The helicopter mom says, “I’ll do it for you because I don’t believe you can do it.” The tiger mom says, “Don’t be ridiculous. Of course you can do it. I believe in you.” Which one screams love in your mind?

Perhaps our generation would be better off if more moms parented the Chinese way. Instead of perpetual children that stay on our parents’ health insurance until the age of 26, we’d have some functioning members of society. Even better, these kids of voting age might actually vote in some candidates that do more than promise them lollipops that they’ll never be able to deliver anyway.

Parents, you are not doing your children a favor by infantilizing them. Teach them the value of hard work and the sweet reward of triumph. Don’t pretend that good enough is the same as the best you can do.

Perhaps the tiger mother is too harsh for your tastes. That’s ok. There is no Parenting Rule Book, and there’s no exactly correct way to raise a child. That’s the beauty of America – we can pick and choose what we like and create our own lives outside of government oppression. If being poor and lazy seems like a better life than working your hiney off to improve your socioeconomic status, then by all means, please, live in your mom’s basement for the rest of your life. We all make choices, and all decisions have consequences.

Especially parenting decisions.

What about the poor, burdened kids raised in such strict, go-get-em homes? Are they scarred for life? It turns out they’re doing just fine, thank you very much.

Motherhood is political. Love your children, but teach them to be self-sufficient. They’ll thank you someday for it. By the way, Mom, if you’re reading this … Thank you.

Cross posted in the fabulous, newly-designed Smart Girl Nation.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse & Betrayal

My mom, ever the doting grandmother, showered Thing 2 with gifts on her second birthday a couple of months ago. As Thing 2 was (and still is) completely obsessed with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Gramma gave her a few DVDs of the show, including The Great Clubhouse Hunt. It has since become an almost daily must-watch in our house.

But it seriously annoys me.

Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is actually not that annoying in general, as far as preschooler shows go. I count myself lucky indeed that she’s not obsessed with Dora the Explorer, as Thing 1 was she was her age. I’ve had enough Dora to last at least seven lifetimes, and that is not an exaggeration. Anyone that’s ever sat through an episode of Dora knows exactly what I mean.

Anyway, this one particular episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse grates on my nerves.

This episode consists of Mickey deciding to throw an Easter party. Pete, being upset at not being invited, tries to crash the party and take over the clubhouse. In his attempt, he says the wrong magic words, and the clubhouse floats away. The rest of the episode follows the adventures of the other characters attempting to retrieve the lost pieces and put them back together.

That is all fine. What bugs me so much is that throughout the episode, Mickey and friends could really use Pete’s help, but Pete is busy hiding in shame. Mickey says over and over, “Pete must think I’m upset with him, but I’m really not.”

What. The. Heck.

I’d be totally ticked off if someone made my house float away. There’s nothing wrong with forgiveness, why doesn’t Disney teach that lesson? Why can’t Mickey say, “Of course I’m mad at Pete, but I’ve decided to be a bigger person and forgive him, and by the way, I wish he would come out so I could tell him that and he could help get the clubhouse back together.”

To teach children that they shouldn’t be bothered or upset when friends betray them is just wrong, in my very humble opinion. I think it is better to teach them that everyone makes mistakes, but when you forgive people, it’s possible to move beyond a superficial relationship into something real. By teaching children that they should not feel betrayed at betrayal, you’re hardly teaching them the skills they’ll need to deal with real life.

People will always let other people down, at some point or another. Why not give children real life skills, instead of teaching them to brush hurt feelings under the carpet? Along the same line, this episode seems to teach that if you betray a friend, the friend won’t care, so why is it a big deal? I think it would be better to say that betrayal is wrong and hurtful, but can be overcome in real relationships.

But maybe that’s just me.

PS- It turns out that Pete hadn’t been snubbed, but his invitation to the Easter party had merely been misplaced. It may or may not be relevant, but I thought it worthy of mentioning.

PPS- Thanks mom, for giving us this DVD, because we’ve had a lot of great conversations with our kids about it. :-)

6th Grader Arrested in Jewelry Heist

As I was perusing the news sites this morning, one headline in particular caught my attention: 6th-grade boy arrested for taking mom’s jewelry, giving it to female classmate… What?? Why the heck aren’t parents parenting their kids anymore? I would’ve been spanked six ways to Sunday, grounded for 3 years, and probably not allowed to date until I was 32 if I had pulled some shenanigans like that.

This story obviously warranted more attention. *click*

Here’s the whole story:

CALLAWAY — Police arrested a sixth-grade student Monday at the request of the boy’s parents, after he said he stole and then gave away more than $7,000 worth of his mother’s jewelry.

The boy told police he gave a classmate at Everett Middle School a white gold ring and a diamond ring, which he had taken from his mother’s jewelry box the previous week. When he asked the girl to return the jewelry, she gave back the white gold ring but said she “had lost” the diamond ring, according to a Bay County Sheriff’s Office report.

The boy gave a sapphire ring to another friend who, when asked, said he had given it to a female classmate, according to the report. Another boy told his friend that he could have his mother’s emerald and sapphire ring back if he gave him a reward.

The boy’s stepfather was adamant about filing charges, police reported, so the deputy “placed (him) into handcufffs (double locked) and placed him in my patrol vehicle.”

Police booked the student into the Bay County Jail on grand theft charges, and then took him to the Department of Juvenile Justice. (emphasis mine)

Sweet! I love hearing stories about good parents, and it’s even better when it’s good stepparents. I hope that kid got scared straight and never forgets the lesson of treating other people and their property with respect. I wish Congress felt the same way about me and my income.