Sturm und Mom

The Storm & Stress (& Joy) of Motherhood

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5 Life Lessons for 2013 That My Kids Accidentally Taught Me

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Trust me — we’ve got it all figured out.

I know many will be shocked — nay floored — that I don’t yet know everything, but it’s true.  Luckily, my kids have also recognized that deficiency and have pitched in on project Improve Our Mom™.  Like when Big Boy points at those obnoxious weight loss clinic ads on the TV and screams “Yeah Mom!! You should do it, too!!  Look how happy that lady is!  And you get new clothes!!”

“Yeah,” adds Princess.  “I’ll come with you.”  (She’s 5.)

Or how my darling son pokes at the exposed small of my back as I scrub the tub.  “Time to get a Trendy Top, Mom!”

Of course, tells me that my first step must be to cancel the cable.  And stop cleaning the bathroom.  But beyond that, here is Liz’s Guide to Wisdom (Gleaned from People Not Yet That Wise):

 

You know I'm awesome

You know I’m awesome

Sarcasm from the under 18 set is always welcome

The best way to build a relationship and be taken seriously, is to totally roll your eyes when you talk, and add geezjust kidding to everything.  Trust me — this-is-suuch-a-good-idea <sigh>.

Many problems aren’t solved, not because you lack the solution, but because you just don’t want to do it

I have talked myself hoarse to tell kids the same thing over and over.  Everyone understands, everyone hugs, tomorrow’s a new day, yada yada yada.  The next day or week or month we’re right back at it.  I’ve now realized that the easiest way to deal with a problem, is to blow off steam by getting someone to brainstorm your solution, and then completely ignore it as you go back to acting the way that you always have.  It won’t actually fix the problem, but it makes you feel better for however long it takes for you to actually change your behaviour .

People are born thinking that, whatever they know, is the sum total of everything that there is to know

Yesterday, Dad tried to “scare” off Tall Girl with threats of a “Mercy Fight.”  This should have filled her with genuine terror, considering that her Dad is a veteran of both the High School wrestling team and Air Force Cadet Survival Camp, not to mention a really rough Junior High School.  Instead, she kept trying to grab his nose while squawking, “What?!  Bring it on!”   The concept that something really, really awful could exist outside the knowledge of her 11 year old mind, totally escaped her.  In other words, a junior version of “what could possibly go wrong?”

What really needs doing is the absolute last thing anyone wants to do

Be rich and famous, and drone endlessly on about your personal brand; tonnes of takers for that.  Repeatedly wipe down the powder room with Fantastik, plan menus on a budget, spend supper time conversation on why war happens, vacuum up Kleenex from under the bed; not too many line up for those duties.  Unfortunately, the first isn’t really needed, and the second is becoming more and more neglected, leading to a whole bunch of problems for everyone.  Which leads me to my last big lesson:

Real success often means looking like a failure

“Can’t you let your sister win?  She’s only a baby!”  And after some grumbling they do.  Later, they do it without being asked — let someone go first, bite their tongue, give the big piece away — it’s what makes a parent proudest. Yet, who really wants to do that?  Doesn’t it sound better to be one of those judges on a reality TV show, barking out insults and walking out to your limo?  No one ever calls someone a hero because they grabbed all the change off the table.  Unless it was to deliver it to the poor.

Now, thanks to my genetic contribution to the world, we can all become smarter, wiser people.  Maybe they still need the plots of iCarly explained to them, but they unintentionally do tell you a lot of what right and true.  Even if sometimes you need to hide in the mini-van from all that right and true, which of course is wrong and false, but nothing has burned down as of yet so no harm done. Right?

Have a Merry Christmas Season and a blessed 2013!

What are the egg and pineapple doing? Relaxing! (Silly question...)

What are the egg and pineapple doing? Relaxing! (Silly question…)

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Career Choice: Polar Bear!!

“What’s work? What do you do there?” Big Boy, who’s 3, asked me.

Casting my mind back over my Husband’s latest comments on “consumption testing”, “project deliverable spreadsheets” and “Go Live! dates”, I thought I should simplify.

“At Daddy’s work he types all day.”

Desperate to salvage the young man’s idea of labour, I asked, “What do you want to be when you grown up, Dude?”

He stopped. Scrunched up his eyes and then said, enunciating every syllable, “Polar Bear.”

“Polar Bear? How do you do that?”

“Weeelll…I’m going to borrow Dad’s tools and build, build, build, and then I’ll go inside it and be a Polar Bear. See? I’m done.”

I thought it was an another example of Why Children Should Not Have the Vote, but my Man was way more impressed.

“Military applications. Metal working skills. Carpentry skills. Tool and die making. Animatronics. He could rent himself out as a team mascot, or to parties sponsored by beer companies. Sure the hell beats the pants off the job prospects of my Poli Sci major.”

I am constantly running into people — in person and online — who in 2001 were dutifully stuffing RESP (education savings accounts) with everything they could find under the sofa cushions, and yet today are trying to get their kids to seriously consider other options. My moment of uttering the words I never thought I’d say came two Saturdays ago, when I told my uber-smart daughter, no less, that she didn’t have to go to University. Even she was shocked.

“If you do go, get some kind of practical degree like Nursing, or Engineering. Just stay away from Law and Education. And for God’s sake, if you enter Gender Studies we’re kidnapping you and hiring a deprogrammer!!”

When I met my fellow first-time Mommies in the park 11 years ago, all of would have included “got into University” as a one of our parenting benchmarks. But now it seems criminal to insist that your kids take out thousands in debt — when they don’t even have a job yet — just to satisfy some vague notion of success you had 18 years prior. Student loan debt is like the bad of an arranged marriage, without the good of a marriage. It’s going to take you years to get out of it, determine where you live, work and travel, and never, ever, make you breakfast in bed or be your date to your cousin’s wedding.

Plus, when’s the last time you read “History Degree Essential” in a help wanted ad? I’ve also increasingly run into lawyers and even doctors my age, living in houses smaller than the starter house we bought 14 years ago on our office worker salaries. Then there are the Ph.D. holders I know of who can only land part-time teaching gigs at community colleges.   (Oh, did I mention their degrees were in Physics?)  All the while the stay-at-home wives of tradesmen drop their kids of at Tae Kwon Do in an Escalade.

Yet, I still feel like a dirty heretic for even admitting this all.  Even this post took me over a day to write.  Why, in the era of pushing condoms on 16 year olds “because we shouldn’t judge their choices,” is declining to attend a degree granting institution seen as in some way shameful?  Shouldn’t purchasing something, which is what tuition is, be judged on its economic merits?  Am I the one in need of a deprogrammer?

University used to be an achievement worth the cost, but increasingly it’s becoming an expensive, four year social club pursued out of tradition and convention. Of course, we will support our girls in whatever they decide.  But, it’s is nice to have a boy who’s since decided to devote his workaday life to a career as Batman.  All he needs is a Class 5 Driver’s Licence for the Batmobile and some safety gloves for that huge spot light. No degree required.

Don’t Call Your Kids Rude Names, Even Though They Earned It

You have a problem with me, Mom?

“Be careful when you open that pop,” I warned Dear Husband.  “They kids were in the pantry shaking it up today.”

“You know that comedian you don’t approve of, who calls his kid a that name?”

“I just don’t think you should call your kids that.”

“You have to admit he has a point.  People who take your favourite drink, shake it for no reason so it loses all it’s fizz and  sprays all over you when you open it, and then puts it right back so you don’t know, well, let’s be honest. That person is an ass    .”

In response, I just looked at him and pursed my lips, which means, Yeah, maybe you’re right, but push it and you’ll find yourself in all kinds of wrong.  But he does have a point. If your children keep acting like children once they reach adulthood, they would correctly called all sorts of nasty names.

Like this kid:  She comes home and tells me that she won’t use the school bathroom stalls, because she is sure that the lock will fail and she will never get out.  This, of course, is crazy.  I try to role play asking for new pants from the Lost and Found, when she runs upstairs to use the — you guessed it — bathroom, knocking the humungous package of toilet paper off the stairs from which it was to be carried to the — guess again — upstairs bathroom, leaving it in the middle of the room.  She comes back 5 minutes later, interrupting me to shout, “WHERE’S THE TOILET PAPER?”   I pointed to the floor, and I went back to making supper.  Imagine my surprise when I found that package lying right where it fell, with just one roll clawed out of the package.  If you do that when you’re 35, there’s a name for you.

Oh, and remember sweet, little Princess?  After playing with her for nearly an hour, I tried to sit down and listen to an interesting audio clip posted on the Dumb Old Housewives blog.  She walks over, squeezes onto my lap, and asks all these questions about the stock photos that are playing, so I can’t hear.  Finally, “How looong is this?  It’s sooooo boring.”  Meaning:  You are welcome to entertain yourself, as long as it also entertains me.  Again, if you’re pulling this stunt anytime after the 3rd decade of your life, it’s not going win you a nice nickname.

But, they aren’t bad kids, just kids.  This is childish behaviour.  Immature.  Juvenile.  They aren’t doing this because they have decided the world should revolve around them.  It’s just that no one has taught them any better.   The teaching being my job, the job of a parent.

I would like to say I always treat my kids with respect because I am such a morally developed person.  But really, if I call them a jerk, they’d probably just look me in the eye and ask, “Oh?  It must be how I was raised.”  I have enough trouble with these kids without being shown up by the under 11 set.

Mom’s First Day Jitters and Reassuring Slime

I have a bone to pick with you Kindergarten Teachers:  Stop taking our children away!  I just let another one go.  Little, tiny, adorable Princess couldn’t wait to climb on board the bus for her First Day.  She didn’t even want to turn around and wave good-bye.  I had to shout at her!  She was all, “It’s a new day and change is good and I can’t wait to get going.”  The only other people who talk like have just lost their jobs, and even they don’t really mean it.  But apparently my five year old does.

AND THEN, she sits on the opposite side of the bus from our house, so she can’t stare out the window and watch me waving frantically.   Just go on and forgot all about your poor Mother, sitting at home, counting the minutes until she can come and pick you up.  It’s not like I have a heart to break, or anything.  <Sigh>

Big Boy understood.  As soon as Princess was gone, he tucked his chin into his chest, and said in a soft, low voice, “I miss her so, so much.”  No more wallowing for me, now I had to buck up and buck him up, too.  I couldn’t take him to McDonald’s for the traditional too-little-for-the-beginning-of-school treat, (he was still coughing up his lungs.)  Instead, we made slime.

Slime, in case you had any doubt in your mind, works best with boys, though girls dig it, too.  There is something about mixing Borax into blue goo with your hands that provides a necessary comfort and distraction.  Perfect activity for not missing someone.   Big Boy was smitten with his blue gunk.  It was slapped, stretched, punched, poked, ripped apart and then put back together.  I showed him how to hide small toys inside, and suddenly, a monster emerged on the kitchen table, eating an entire parking lots of Hot Wheels, before being subdued with a toy pistol.  He was giggling and wiggling, and I was wondering how I was going to survive doing this again when he goes off to school next year.  I have a little less than 12 months to say start to say good-bye.

I picked Princess up from school.  They tried to put her on the bus on the way home, but luckily, the School Board’s procedures caught the mistake.  I ran out front with her teacher to grab her, and she was standing with the Monitor, holding a big person’s hand.  She looked so small there, her blonde pigtails barely reaching the adult’s waist.  We walked back into the school atrium where the rest where waiting.  My entire brood was there, and they, too, looked so small squashed together by the couch, as then entire 10 grades flowed past out the door.  All the people I to miss when they leave.

Tall Girl kept making comments all day about what I should do when all the kids are grown and have left home.  “What brings this up?  You thinking about when you move out one day?”

“Well…I don’t really want to learn how to drive, so…No.  I think I’ll stay here.  Is that okay?”

Two weeks ago I would have launched into a lecture about responsibility and adulthood, and making your own path.  But that was before I had to kiss another soft, little cheek, and watch her walk up the steps of the bus.

“Of course it’s okay, Sweetheart.  You can stay as long with us as long as you like.”

Carnivals Make My Kids Scream and Cry

You call this fun?

Today, we had a fundraising carnival to fund the playground at our kids’ school.  They told them all about it during class on Friday.  “Bouncy castle!  Fire trucks!  Popcorn!  Fancy cars!  Fun fun fun!”

Of course, we went.  How awesome all these folks in our community took time out to put this on for the kids.  We’re so thankful to everyone.   However, when we say carnival around here we pronounce it:

Carni-Vale of Tears

When kids hear “carnival” they think Best Day of My Life with rides, life sized Hello Kitties handing our candy, a self-serve ice cream buffet, and a seven story bouncy tower with a water slide that magically dries you off by the bottom.  What they get is one bouncy house, hot dogs covered in barbecue sauce and some Tootsie Rolls.  Nice, but where’s Santa with the Piñata?

So the disappointed bawling begins.

The gigantic Penguin is SCARY!  And he didn’t give me a lollipop!  He’s never coming back!  But if he does, don’t let him get too close, because he’s too SCARY!  Why didn’t I get a tattoo?  Who has my Fireman Hat?  You touched my drink.  Yes, you did, and you drank it all.  Now, I’m  dying of thirst  AND IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT.  Can we buy this Playhouse?  What’s a raffle?  Well, can we buy all the tickets?  Just get more money at the bank.  WAIT WE FORGOT TO GO TO MCDONALD’S AND GET OUR FREE ICE CREAMS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We found a spot for to eat our burgers and dogs, that is, after we cleared up about six families’ worth trash left on the tables.  (Life tip, folks:  Just because you are at an event for children doesn’t mean you get to act like children.  That includes opening up the doors to the $80K custom car on display and letting your kids clamber in.)  Dear Dad, who forgot to eat breakfast, or lunch, or stop for a snack, is swooning in the mid-day heat and talking really low through his teeth.  “Dear God the next kid who….”

“Lowered Expectations!” I sing under my breath.  Because that’s 90% of parenting sometimes, managing your kids expectations of reality, and making sure they know your expectation of their behaviour.  Or lack thereof.

Some poor, lonely librarians managed to get the kids to sit down for a Robert Munsch story, but by the time they were on to a round of Shake the Sillies Out, the plot was lost beyond recognition.  I joined in and tried to drum out some excitement for “jumping my jollies out”, but Princess holding back tears.  She just stood there shaking her head, muttering “I will not wiggle my waggle anymore, no sir, no more waggle.”  Into the truck, and over the bridge, and we back to the house we went.

The take away was that the kids thought this was the best time ever.   They had zero memory of crying or screaming or dropping their sucker on the tarmac.  Total bad-time amnesia.  Now, Mom and Dad get their bad-time amnesia.  It’s called “Bedtime and White Wine.”  Cheers!

Does this Baby Picture Make You Sick?

How annoying is this?

I’m sure by now you’ve heard of the app that lets you replace the pictures of your Facebook friends’ kids with those of kittens, sunsets and bacon.  Unbaby.me‘s website promises to “delete…babies from your Newsfeed permantently — by replacing them with awesome stuff…Now you don’t have to look at all your friends’ annoying kids”.  Yeah, who would want to look at pictures of human beings, when you could amuse yourself with pics of stuff to own, watch or consume (and judging from some of the sample photos on the website, also lust and mock.)

I don’t think anyone who’s tried to take more than zero kids onto a Tim Horton’s Sunday around noon could be that surprised at this.  And I bet it’s not just Hipsters among the over 71,000 “Likes” — some of the dirty looks that little old ladies, (sorry, I think the term they prefer is “cougar”) shoot you when it appears that the generation that is going to be funding their twilight years of government pensions and nursing care, might disturb their weekly Maple Glazed Danish and Double-Double, could peel paint.  (By the way, this is precisely why I avoid eye contact in public places.)

I do find it bizarre that those of us who have chosen to sacrifice the present for the sake of providing everyone else with a collective future, get cast as selfish, annoying dweebs, who just want to talk on and on about our kids.  I totally agree that forgoing children for a higher purpose is a very noble and commendable sacrifice.  Getting really good at Call of Duty, or devoting more time to your dogs doesn’t even register, Folks.

This reminds me of a something from woman’s magazine I saw from the 1960’s.  It was the Shocking! Emotional! tale of a mother who was going to use birth control, despite whatever her Priest said.  “What about the children I already have?  If I have more, won’t it be unfair to them?”  This seems so quaint now, considering the massive experiment in family living that would follow in the divorce happy 1970’s and 1980’s, calling a younger brother and sister in an intact family “unfair.”

However if this is unfair, with 5 siblings my kids must be first in line in the Completely Shafted Department, just itching to get their own Android compatible device, so that they can purge all those annoying pictures of their sisters in diapers.  And yes, they surely can complain when things aren’t so smooth between them.  But when the two oldest, Tall Girl and Sweetie Pie, made it home from camp, they did something that even I didn’t expect. As they piled out of the van, they ran first to me for a hug.  Total reassurance that they were home and Mom was there.  But, then they immediately started for Baby.  They picked her up, and carried her around, and almost started to fight over who got to give her a hug.  Baby, of course, lapped it up and was her super, smiley, giggly, baby perfection, waving hi with her fat little hand.  Funny, their faces didn’t look put out or annoyed.  Joyful would be more like it.

I really don’t know why people hate kids.  Maybe they hate part of themselves.  But as I’ve said before, people are awesome.  Even the noisy, inconvenient, over-photographed little ones.

Are We All a Bunch of Braggarts?

Check out this awesome article at the Wall Street Journal about bragging and social media (like, maybe, the Blogosphere would be included?)  Are We All Braggarts Now? – WSJ.com.

As Elizabeth Bernstein writes,

Changes in parenting style also play a role. Nowadays, every moment—first day of school, exhausted nap in the back seat of the car—is documented. The problem is that these shared moments can easily come off as crowing about how great Mom and Dad are to have raised such an adorable kid.

We’ve become so accustomed to boasting that we don’t even realize what we’re doing. And it’s harmful to our relationships because it turns people off.

Read the rest here.  I remember 25 years ago, being told by an older co-worker to “never say anything negative.”

People don’t like downers, she said.  If you say something, make it positive.  If someone asks how your trip was, say it was great, even if you spent the entire time indoors eating Dorritos from the vending machine and making up dialogue with the TV turned down.

As for parenting, and as a parent blogger, you have to wonder how all this “look nice Luv, I want to put this picture on Facebook” is warping our kids minds and view of the world.  But is there a corollary of “suckitude bragging”?  You know, the folks that no matter how bad you’ve got it, they’ve got it one stroke worse?

Anyways.  I’ve got to fold laundry while standing on my un-vacuumed carpet while I gaze out the window at my no-longer-weeded garden.  I told the kids to get out their pj’s but they ignored me.

There.  I hope that made you feel better.

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