Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Once Upon A Time

My daughter, at the ripe old age of almost nine-years-old, has hit the eye-rolling stage. This is about two years earlier than either of her older brothers hit the same stage, but, she potty-trained earlier than they did, so I guess there are some trade-offs.

She is very much like I was at the same age: she does not care to "share" a lot of information regarding her daily life, and she believes that when something "unfair" happens to her that the whole world is going to end. DRAMA!

During one of her very rare moments of sharing a story about a disagreement between her and her school friends, I attempted to use my own similar story from my third-grade days. About one-fourth of the way into my story, I realized her eyes had glazed over and she was not paying attention to a word I was saying. After all, that was, like, a hundred years ago and I have no idea of how unjustly she was being treated. So, in a brief moment of inspiration, I switched gears completely. I began with....

"Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Beth. She lived in a nice house with her parents and her little brothers and sisters. When Beth was small, she sometimes got frustrated with her family, and would run into her bedroom and slam the door REALLY HARD. Other times, she would be upset that all her clothes 'felt funny", and would throw them all around the room and kick her stuffed animals. As Beth got older, she did those things less and less because she was learning that, usually, things got better if you gave them some time: brothers stopped bothering you if you ignored them, clothes started to feel more comfortable once you wore them a few times.
Beth went to a really nice school and she had lots of friends. One of her favorite things to do was to organize games at recess. She loved to play Red Rover, Red Rover and kickball with her friends and classmates and they usually had a great time. But, some days people did not get along with each other so well, and arguments would get louder and louder. People would stomp away angry, saying, 'I'm not playing with you, Beth!'. This hurt Beth's feelings.... a LOT. She never let them see her cry, though. She preferred to yell something equally hurtful right back at those mean people. But, it never made her feel better.
What DID make her feel better were the days when she figured out a way for everybody to play the game they wanted to play, and to make jokes about the little things that were upsetting people. Actually, those days seemed better to everybody else, too.
So, Beth grew older and older and pretty soon, she went to middle school. It was a new school with new friends and she was nervous and excited about meeting new kids and teachers. What Beth could not have known, and what no middle-schooler ever knows, is that every single kid in middle school is a nervous wreck who is worried about being embarrassed all the time. Unfortunately, this makes some kids behave in strange and hurtful ways. These kids think that if they embarrass other kids, then no one will notice the embarrassing mistakes these kids are making themselves! Wow! Beth was not one of these kids, but she met a lot of them in middle school and some days were very difficult for her. When you are hurting, it it sometimes hard to see that a lot of people around you are hurting, as well, and Beth spent a lot of time hurting, stuck in her own head.
Luckily, most kids start to grow out of these nervous behaviors by the time high school begins, and Beth had a very enjoyable four years of high school! Instead of organizing games, she was now organizing dances and parties and group outings with all of her friends. Sometimes, people would still disagree, but, by now, a very interesting thing had happened: a phenomenon called maturity. People could usually resolve their differences by talking with each other and coming up with solutions that worked for everybody. It was not always easy, but it was so much better than it had been in grade school and middle school.
By the time Beth was ready to graduate from high school and go off to college, another wonderful thing had happened to her: she had met the boy who she would someday marry and, with whom she would have children! They spent a few years getting to know each other and learning really interesting things at college, then they got married!
During all of those years from the time Beth was born until she had her first baby, she did SO many interesting and cool things: travel, act in plays, learn to cook and bake, vote for presidents, learn more and more about God, drive a car, wear makeup, grocery shop for herself, have lots of fun jobs, and much more!
If you had asked 8-year-old Beth if she thought she would have done all those things by the time she was a grown-up, she would have giggled at your silliness and said, 'I don't know! I'm only 8!'. But, there it was. Those were the facts. Beth had been a real kid with real feelings and real problems and real adventures all before she became a mom.
The secret that Beth-the-Mom liked to think about was this: her kids had no idea that she had been Beth the Kid, Beth the Teenager, Beth the Worker, Beth the Girlfriend, and Beth the Wife all BEFORE they had ever been born! It made Beth the Mom smile to herself sometimes."

At this point, my very aware daughter asked, "Mom, is this story about you? Are you 'Beth'?"

I could not resist, I had to give her a dose of her own medicine and just shrug my shoulders and say, "I don't know.". But, my story had piqued her interest and she said, "Well, I'm asking Dad when he comes home!".

Beth the Mom just smiled to herself.....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Kid's a Genius!

Yes, he must be a genius! What else could he be?

My second-born son just turned 11 years old this week, and every day he lets us know exactly how much more he knows than anyone else in the world.

Obscure facts about any member of the animal kingdom? He knows all of them. I'm sorry, did you just try to correct him? Don't bother, because he is always right. Always.

The best way to fix a broken appliance? I am so relieved that I do not have to call a repairman, because our son can just talk my husband through the job. Are you questioning his knowledge of electrical systems? Please refrain from doing that as he is always right. Always.

One of his younger brothers is not pulling his fair share of cleaning up their bedroom? After my second-born reads his brother the riot act, he then proceeds to let me know how I am screwing up in my discipline methods. Did I correct him? You betcha! He got to stew in his self-righteousness and in the bathroom for 3o minutes. But, he's still always right. Always.

My sweet boy has always had very good self-esteem and self-confidence. I wish I could pat myself on the back for that, but I think it was an inherited trait (I am looking every which way but the mirror...). Up until lately, his self-proclaimed infallibility has been an annoyance to his siblings and a reason for my husband and I to chuckle behind his back. But, I am becoming more and more aware that we need to nip this attitude in the bud... well, maybe it's already bloomed a bit.

After some brainstorming, my husband and I have come up with several ideas (please keep in mind that we took the "Malcolm in the Middle" parenting class)...

Idea #1: The basic "writing lines" discipline. "I will not put myself above my parents. I will not put myself above my parents". The problem with this is it's inherent non-creativeness and ultimate ineffectiveness.

Idea #2: For every "fact" he produces, he must also produce four pages of proof, double-spaced, complete with a bibliography. The problem with this is very apparent... I have no desire to correct homework.

Idea #3: So, he likes thinking he always knows the best method of doing something? That is wonderful news, because I have a good-sized bag of dirty cloth diapers just waiting to be rinsed and laundered. I think we're getting closer to a solution.

Idea #4: That dear boy is fairly certain that we, his parents, do not really have a handle on this parenting-thing (thank goodness, they have ONE perfect child!). But, in order to be certain, we should really run our methods by the "resident expert", don't you think? So, every time he lets us know that another sibling is misbehaving, his father and I will give him the consequence his sibling deserves. After all, we should not waste our time giving a child an ineffective consequence, and our second-born can let us know if we are "making the right choices".

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner, folks! Just wait until that kid gives me another "lesson"!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thinking "Summer"....

It has been one of the longest winters in my memory. I know that the calendar indicates that it is Spring, but here in the Midwest we have been mired in cold, miserable, rainy/snowy/icy, cloudy, and dreary weather since November. It is truly a mark of how awful it has been when people visibly perk up after hearing a forecast of "Sunny and 45 degrees".

So, I have been trying to fool myself into thinking that Spring has sprung with a few different "tricks":
- when the sun does make an appearance, I sit in the sunniest place in the house and absorb
as much vitamin D as I can.
- buy potted Spring flowering plants which are highly aromatic (i.e. hyacinths, Easter lilies)
- wear shorts and capris around the house.
- grill Spring/Summer-type foods, such as shish-kekabs, as much as possible.
- plan my vegetable garden
- try to relish the earlier sunrises and later sunsets
- welcome the sounds of early birds chirping at ungodly hours
- buy the kids' swimsuits

Has it worked? Is my brain moved over into "warm weather mode"?
Um, partially....

I am pretty excited about my summer veggie garden and even have plans for canning and preserving all the produce I will grow. And, the house sure does smell fresh and pretty with all the spring flowers I have purchased.

However, the days of sun have been few and far between, so it's been hard to convince my brain to produce more serotonin, thereby improving my mood. And, while I enjoy eating dinner while it is still daylight, I am not a morning person, so the earlier sunrises are really lost on me.

For the last three years, Spring has become a very difficult time of year for me. Early Spring of 2006 is when our baby girl passed away, so instead of the sights and smells heralding new life, they are fraught with sorrow. This latest Spring has been the worst, and it took me completely by surprise. Maybe it was because my youngest (the baby that was born after we lost our daughter) is a big toddler now, and I don't have a little baby to absorb some of my attention. Maybe it's because I'm not pregnant, and I don't have that event to look forward to in the near future. Both of these things were very much present the last two anniversaries of our daughter's death. But, I think the continuing dreary weather is playing a huge role in my almost-constant battle with the blues this Spring.

In fact, in the last few days the sun has been more visible and I already feel more positive; more like my old self. (Of course, my old self would have never have admitted to feeling depressed!) It has really caused me to think about how the weather affects us emotionally. Most of us have heard of people who have been diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and how they fare much worse in colder, darker climates; depression, anger, and, even suicide are the hallmarks of this disorder. Forms of light-therapy seem to improve the symptoms associated with SAD, and I am beginning to understand (on a much smaller scale) how people with the disorder must feel. They are literally prisoners of the weather!

Weather and climate affect us all physically and emotionally, and there is nothing we can do to change the weather. Oh sure, maybe some of us can move to better climates or try different forms of therapy to combat the effects of weather. But, overall, weather is everywhere, it's inescapable.

For now, I'm trying to roll with the punches and enjoy each day as it comes. Prayer is a constant companion for me, and my husband has been beyond supportive and understanding during this Spring. I am also trying to force myself to smile more, because I have noticed that even a forced smile soon becomes a real smile, and my mood improves! My kids also provide endless opportunities for me to experience laughter and gratefulness; I knew there was a reason I kept those kids around!

As for the weather, well, it's bound to improve at some point. Of course, when that first 90 degree temperature hits, I am sure to complain about that kind of weather, too!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My son, the Tyrannosaurus Rex!

If you have ever seen the movie "Jurassic Park" (or read the book that it was based on), then you will surely remember the T-Rex. The animal was described as not-too-bright, extremely aggressive, very fast, and could only see what moved. So, if a character stood perfectly still right in front of the dinosaur, he stood a better chance of surviving than if he ran away, screaming.

My almost-21-month-old son is very similar to that dino. While he differs in some ways (extremely intelligent and very cuddly!), he is lightening-fast and does not seem to notice my existence if I hide myself in a small corner. If I move, even to stretch my cramped legs, it's as if alarms and flares go off and he is on me like a fly on honey. Also, he won't let go.... at all.

Just like his dinosaur counterpart, he will eagerly follow me into the bathroom; although, the comparison stops at the part where the dino eats his prey.

I have spent many a road trip turned sideways in the front passenger seat, pressed tightly against the door, in an effort to make my toddler forget my existence. I can't tell you the relief my back and neck feel when he finally falls asleep in his car-seat!

"Prey"....hmmmmm.... That is a very appropriate word to describe how I feel on some days. I am being hunted by small, sticky, loud, demanding "hunters". If I can quietly sneak off to another room (the laundry room or the bathroom in the basement are 2 prime choices), without my hunters detecting me, I am safe for 5 to 10 minutes. Once they root me out with their stellar tracking abilities, the hunt is on! I have only recently decided that this game must be fun for them. Otherwise, why would they have honed their abilities so sharply?

And, I decided even more recently, that "the hunt" can be fun for me, too! I like trying to outwit my hunters. And, the "punishment" for being rooted out is a really big smile and a loud "Mommy!", followed by a huge hug. And, really, all I need is a couple of 10-minute breaks every day; I'm not looking to escape any of my kids forever.

So, the next time you want to watch a good documentary on a-day-in-the-life-of-a-toddler, try watching "Jurassic Park". Keep a notebook handy so you can jot down any comparisons between your child and the dinosaurs in the movie --- and, so you can take a few notes on how to expertly evade these darling predators.