Category : Parenting

Parenting
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They Wake Up Laughing

When do our memories really kick in? How is it that part of our childhood can determine so much about us but we usually don’t remember it all? I don’t have any answers, but I know it’s true.

I have vague, hazy memories of being an early-riser.

My mom opening one eye to growl a “What?” when I slipped into her bedroom in the pre-dawn hours.

Both parents yelling when I wormed my way between them in bed, unable to sleep in my own bed but equally unable to sleep in theirs.

Waking up at sunrise to read, mostly my mom’s romance novels that I’d been told I wasn’t allowed to read. I was eight.

Those moments are few and far between in my memory. What sticks out are the tween (what we used to call pre-teen) and teen years when nothing short of dynamite going off next to me could get me out of bed. Thankfully (or not), my father had one of those voices and demeanor’s that lent itself to explosions big enough to propel a sleepy kid out of bed.

There was the yelling, “Get your goddamn ass out of bed!”

The covers were frequently yanked off, forcing me to curl into a ball, seeking warmth.

The lights flickered.

Waking up was hell…for all of us.

Sure, my late nights didn’t help. Blame it on homework or a book, but more often than not needless worry and anxiety filling my brain kept me awake.

My father’s temper was infamously short. That certainly didn’t make the process easier.

But when I think back, I don’t laugh off those memories. I shudder.

I hated being woken up. (Don’t we all?)

For the first few years of Aidan’s school-going life, I rarely had to wake him up with more than a flick of the light switch. He’s always been an early-riser. Even now, at 11, on the cusp of puberty and the exhaustion that comes with it, he’s still up before eight in the morning on a Saturday. His brother isn’t far behind.

Around third grade something changed. Even with plenty of sleep (no really, in bed by eight and up sometime after six), he wouldn’t wake up. He didn’t want to go to school. He’d learned the love affair that you can have with a warm, cozy blanket. The lights were too bright. Please just let him sleep!

Without giving it a thought, I fell back on what I knew.

I yelled. I threatened. I rushed around, convinced we were all going to be late and the whole day would be ruined. By the time everyone was up, we were stressed out wrecks.

I began to dread mornings. I definitely wasn’t at my parenting best.

It suuuuuuucked.

I don’t know when it happened or even why but something clicked in my head. There had to be a better way. Why did mornings have to be so awful?

One day, with little thought to what I was doing, I tried something else.

I trilled out (okay, more like warbled in a scratchy, off-key voice), “Good morning!”

Not a moan or a grunt.

I turned on the lights.

Still nothing.

I sat on the bed (Aidan’s on the top bunk, Sean on the bottom). I yanked off covers and threw them on the floor.

A small frown.

And then the most deliciously evil thought came to me. It was perfect. It was glorious. Oh yes, it was evil.

I tickled the hell out of Sean. Wiggly fingers found armpits and backs of knees, sensitive necks and soft tummies.

Shrieks of laughter. Giggles. Gasps for air. Open eyes. Bright smiles.

We cuddled and hugged, and I sent him to the bathroom to get ready.

One down, another to go.

The top bunk is a pain in the ass. You can’t make the bed without pulling down the mattress. You can’t reach to the far end against the wall. As a parent, I’m practically helpless.

Thankfully, Aidan sleeps in the middle of the bed.

I poked him.

Nothing.

I pulled the covers off.

He hissed. The light was too bright for my vampire-child.

I tickled and tickled. Any soft spot I could find, I attacked.

Belly laughs. Rolling, shrieking, hysterical laughter.

Just like that, both boys were up and getting ready for the day. Lots of hugs, lots of laughter, little stress.

Oh, don’t for one minute think it’s always idyllic. Hell no. Some days no matter how much they laugh, they’re still pissed off as hell that they have to wake up. Sean has been known to laugh in the bed and cry on the floor while I sternly demand that he start getting ready.

Aidan, as he barrels closer and closer to puberty and the hell that will bring is increasingly harder to wake up. He gets tickled, if I can reach him. I also flick cold water on him, threatening to pour it on his head (I really need a water gun). Sometimes the sound of the water running is enough to launch him out of bed.

Either way, no matter what happens after they’re out of bed and dragging their feet. They may be the only members of Generation Z who know the words “dawdle, lollygag, or dilly-dally” because it’s a daily reminder they receive as in “Don’t dawdle, lollygag, or dilly-dally. We need to get out the door on time.”

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes we run late (because these people can’t find a shoe that’s three inches away from them). But they nearly always wake up laughing.

I have no clue how this will form their experiences and memories in the future. I have no idea if it will make a damn bit of difference in their lives.

But I do know that they begin their mornings with laughter. That’s gotta be worth something.

 

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Doing His Own Dance

The grumpiest, gloomiest face I’d ever seen greeted me at the end of the school day.

I hadn’t recognized the teacher who’d walked his group out. Another new one. Someone he didn’t know. And it was the one after school activity we’d both been nervous about, although for different reasons.

“So? How was it?”

In the middle of the parking lot, he hung his head and refused to talk to me.

As we walked to the car, I chattered, desperately searching for some topic that would pique his interest and get him to open up. I looked down. Tears were streaming down his grubby face.

“What’s wrong, Sean?”

“I hated dance club! It wasn’t fun at all!” His tone was accusatory, as though I’d twisted his arm and forced him to go.

I’ve learned over the past few years that the more I respond, the less he says. I squeezed in hand, a quiet condolence.

“She’s a kindergarten teacher! I had to follow kindergarten rules.”

His voice was thick with the injustice of a first-grader lowering himself to behave like a “little” kid.

“What kind of rules?”

Sniffle. Snuffle. “I had to sit criss-cross applesauce! My teacher doesn’t make me do that. Only babies have to sit that way!” he wailed.

“I’m…sorry.” Sometimes, you just don’t know the right words. “Did anything else happen?”

This is the part I should have been prepared for. I knew, better than he did, what he’d signed up for by joining the dance “club” at school. Sure, they were all between the ages of five and seven, but there were expectations. Apparently, big ones.

“Yes!” He spat the word out, the disgust emanating from his tall, thin body. “It was mostly girls.” I’d warned him that would happen. He hadn’t believed me.

I squeezed his hand again. It was all the encouragement he needed. “And I couldn’t do my own dance. I had to do the stupid dance everyone else was doing.”

There was the real injustice. My free-spirit child (who keeps it all tightly locked away) had hoped, beyond hope, for a moment to do his own thing, to let the music move him, to be as different and unique as he felt like being.

He had no opportunity to be silly and crazy or make everyone laugh. Nope, he had to color in the lines, follow the rules, and be like everyone else. He hates that.

I wish I could make him understand that being one of two boys in a group of girls in order to dance automatically means he’s coloring outside the lines. All he knows is that he’s facing criss-cross applesauce, a gaggle of girls, and being “just like everyone else” in the group for the rest of the school year. It was the worst day ever.

 

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Conversations With My Kids While in the Car: The P Words #sexpositive

Conversations with My Kids: The P Words

I’ve noticed a thing about parenting…

When you want something to happen with/for your kids, it will never happen when you think you’re ready, when you want it to, or when it’s the “best time.” Kids will do everything when it comes to their development on their own damn time.

Potty training.

Eating vegetables.

Feeling comfortable talking to their mom about anything. And by “anything” I mean “sex.”

Aidan is slowly starting to open up and ask questions. He’s still a little traumatized that I’m so open about things and don’t really speak in code. He prefers terms like “the s word” or “the p word.” At least, when he’s talking to me, he does. And if I happen to say “sex,” he responds with “Oh God.” Every. Time.

But he’s starting to come around. Most of our most serious conversations happen in the car on our way to or from school. It’s a good 20 to 30 minute drive, and I guess the hum of the tires and scenery zipping past gets him thinking.

The most recent conversation took a turn I didn’t foresee.

“Mom, I’ve been thinking about a word, and what it means.”

“Ok, lay it on me. I’m happy to help.”

I’m not looking at him, but I can feel him cringing. He really doesn’t want to say whatever it is.

“Come on, Aidan, you’re not going to get in trouble for using a word if you’re asking to understand it. You get in trouble for using words to hurt or in a harmful or inappropriate way.”

He looks down at his hands, and then up at me. “The ‘p’ word.”

Now I’m confused. We’ve talked about penises until all of us were blushing. What other ‘p’ word? I’m wracking my brains. Which one is it?

“Aidan, you’ll have to be more specific. Just say the word.”

“Pervert.” It came out as a strangled whisper more than anything else.

Oh my gawd. I have to explain ‘pervert’ to a 10 year old with his 6 year old brother in the car? Well, hell, here goes.

“It’s about porn, isn’t it?”

I did not see that one coming.

“My friend tried to look up “porn” on the computer at school and got in-school suspension.” I bet he did.

Big deep breath. You can do this.

“Well, first of all, porn is for grown ups. It’s not at all appropriate for kids your age. It involves [long pause, as a I prepare myself] sex.”

“Oh God.”

“Some people think watching porn makes you a pervert. I don’t. What you do about porn, how you treat other people, when you objectify them, when you do harmful things that other people don’t want done to them, then you’re a pervert. And if you watch porn and start to do those things, then porn becomes a bad thing.”

“O…kay.” Pretty sure he didn’t expect that answer.

“Porn isn’t necessarily bad by itself. It’s about sex…” “Oh God” “…and you’re way too young for that but when you’re an adult you can decide for yourself.”

Sean pipes up. “You know I can hear every word you’re saying, right?”

“I do.” Which is why I got into almost no specifics, not that I think Aidan really needed those, not yet.

After that we had to have the conversation about how its okay to ask me or John anything, that we’ll answer their questions and even giggle with them about it, but please don’t go to school and tell everyone your mom said “porn is okay” or try to explain what a “pervert” is.

“Not everyone feels the same way I do about talking to you guys about sex.”

“Oh God.”

“Some parents want it to be done in a certain way or at a specific time. So while home – and the car – are safe places to discuss this stuff, let’s not go to school and talk about it, okay?”

Because while I unashamedly will bring my boys up to be as sex positive as possible, I really don’t want to have the conversation with a teacher, parent, or principal about why my children are holding court with their peers and explaining “pervert” and “porn” at the lunch table.

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Maybe I’m Not the One to Ask for New Parenting Advice

Maybe I'm Not the One to Ask for New Parenting AdviceRecently someone I know told me his wife had just had a baby. He was apologizing for being “off” or not as on top of things as usual. After the obvious and enthusiastic “Congrats!” (as well as the relief that it’s someone else and not me) and all that, I couldn’t help myself:

“Screw the sleep when the baby sleeps. You’re not getting rest for at least a few years.”

Sometimes I forget that through email you can’t hear my tone. There’s no sarcasm font…yet. So I was left to wonder:

Uhh, too honest?

The advice I give to new parents – usually unsolicited and just part of a conversation where I let my sarcasm show – isn’t anything like what you’ll find in all the books you buy or websites you visit.

Buy lots of wine, beer, liquor, or your alcohol of choice. You’re going to need it. (No, I would never tell a breastfeeding woman that – but I will tell a new father to do it.) Sometimes, at the end of a long week or day…or morning, what you need is a drink of something that makes you feel like a grown-up – because the spaghetti-o’s you cleaned up off the floor sure don’t.

You don’t really think you’re going to sleep when the baby sleeps, do you? [Insert incredulous snort.] When Sean was first born, I can remember standing in the living room, rocking him back and forth (desperate to get him to stop crying and go the fuck back to sleep) as I dozed. Yep, I rocked, shushed (lovingly), and dozed while standing up.

You only need a few packs of onesies and some diapers. It’s okay if your half-naked most of the time. I swear to you, my kids only had on complete outfits when we needed to go somewhere. Until my oldest was about three, he lived in a diaper/pull-ups/Thomas the Tank Engine underpants.

You’re sure you want to make all your baby food from scratch? Call me when you’re crying because you can’t remember the last time you showered, then we’ll talk about that baby food thing. I think we all have amazing intentions when we know a baby is on the way, and when a pregnant woman goes into nesting mode, watch out. You’ll be spending a few hundred dollars on a blender – specifically for that homemade baby food.

Screw the playdates. Give your kid a box. You’ll all be happier. I’m the least social person I know. Getting together to watch two small children drool, ignore one another, and then fuss when they realized they weren’t alone – who is that other kid?? – in order to discuss all the “Mommy” things was never my style. And really, kids can entertain themselves with almost anything, including big empty boxes.

Yeah, so maybe I’m not the one who should give parenting advice. And really, if you’re looking for affirmations and guidance, I’m not the one. But if you need a margarita and a few laughs at your own expense, I’m probably your girl.

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Parenting
4

This Isn’t How I Envisioned the “Sex Talk”

When I was a kid, sex was a completely off-limits topic in my house. Most of my education came from the school’s health class and sneaking to read trashy romance novels (something I still love to do) – neither of which actually prepare you for sex. At least not in a healthy way.

Before the boys were born, I told myself I would do it differently. I wouldn’t let the school or their friends be the only source of information – especially since both will be a little bit (and sometimes a lot) wrong.

I consider myself a fairly open person. Who you love and who you have sex with is your business as long as everyone is a legally consenting adult. Want to get married and you’re both dudes? Cool! Love each other but hate the idea of marriage? No worries here. I don’t think you’re going to hell. Love is love. Sex is a normal functioning part of life. Women who have lots of sex aren’t sluts. Men who don’t aren’t freaks. And anything goes when both parties consent. (Yeah, even the freaky stuff.)

I figure talking about sex in an age-appropriate way with my boys and teaching them the importance of consent will help them be more open about sexuality when they’re older. That’s the hope, at least.

I also acknowledge that my boys are going to have sex much sooner in life than I think they should. And as much as I want grandchildren, I don’t want them before either boy is out of high school. Condoms will be available. The conversation about no meaning no will happen (hell, it happens now when Sean won’t get off his brother’s head when they’re “playing”). All the things I think they need to know will be shared with them – many times, because we all know kids don’t listen the first 10 times you tell them anything.

I’ve been mentally preparing for the days when we’ll need to have these discussions since I was pregnant with Aidan. Okay, maybe not that far back, but close. Call me weird (I am, it’s okay) but I’ve been a little excited about the idea of having such an open line of communication with the boys as they get older that they’ll come ask me anything. I see them confiding in me when they’re confused or lost or heartbroken. We’ll be the home that doesn’t shy away from the awkward topics surrounding sex, and they’ll grow up knowing they can ask anything.

Aidan is the oldest (so of course, he’s the experiment since I’m clueless), and he’s not cooperating with my vision.

I tell him he can ask me anything. He nods, blushes for a moment, and then starts talking about Minecraft.

I remind him that I’m always here for him, no matter what. He shrugs and goes back to his YouTube videos.

I test his knowledge to see where he might be at in terms of slang and body parts. He shakes his head at me and walks away.

This isn’t going as planned At. All.

The other day, I took the bull by the horns (so to speak). He said something that related to sex, and I pushed a little harder. I asked him straight up, “Do you know what sex is?” He shrugged. I asked if he wanted to know. He gave me a smaller shrug, then whispered that he wanted to know but he didn’t think we should talk about it in front of Sean.

Later, when he’d clearly forgotten the conversation (and Sean was out of the room), I pulled him to the side and asked if he was ready to know.

He nodded, blushed, and then covered his face with his hands and mumbled, “I don’t think I can do this.”

Him?! I’m the one that’s struggling to figure out what’s age appropriate while still being clinical and adult about this and watching out for Sean who wants to know everything his big brother knows. I’m the one who should be hiding under the table!

I told him anyway. Simple terms, using the correct names for body parts.

His eyes widened. His cheeks became redder than before (not sure how that’s possible). He shook his head and walked away.

Where were his questions? Where was our moment to bond a little? Why isn’t he curious?!

I know the reason. I haven’t completely lost it. Moms aren’t supposed to know about this stuff and we’re definitely not supposed to talk about it with our sons. Aidan really wishes I would follow the rules of being a Mom.

Now that the mechanics of sex are out of the bag, I’ve kept my ears open for any opportunity to further the discussion. The child isn’t an idiot. He’s playing it close to the vest in case I divulge other information no mother should ever tell her son. But sometimes, the boys hands me sex-talk gold.

Riding in the car on the way to school, Aidan and Sean joked about have multiple “nipples” that are really “pimples.” They couldn’t get enough of saying both words, over and over again, and over and over and over…Anyway, in an attempt to shock me, Aidan joked that his “pimples” were, “down there, Mom” with a nod to his groin.

For once, all my cylinders were firing and I went with it.

“Yeah, if that was true, you’d be in danger of it rotting off.”

“That can happen?!” His eyes took up his whole face.

“Not quite, but if you have sex without a condom, you can get a disease [I nodded towards his groin] down there and you’ll think it’s going to.”

Maybe that’s not the healthiest way to start the discussion about safe sex practices but at least I didn’t have to hear about fake pimples on little boy penises anymore. I’m gonna call that a win.

This sex talk, sex positivity, open line of communication with Aidan isn’t going how I envisioned it AT ALL – which means it’s just like every other part of parenting. I thought he’d have questions and bring them to me (because I’ve told him his whole life that he can) – and he doesn’t. He won’t. I’m his Mom, after all. What do I know? And if I do know anything, Aidan doesn’t want to know about it. “It’s too embarrassing, Mom.”

As with walking, talking, reading, and tying his shoes, I’m going to have to pull him along and make sure he gets the education he needs before he decides to go get the experience he wants. Damn it. This was so much easier in my head.

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4 Things I’m Good At and 4 Things I Can Do Better as a Mom

great parenting

Two kids, both still living, growing, and laughing at their own farts – ten years later, I’d like to think I’ve got some things figured out. But as anyone with even one child knows, you never have it completely figured out. There’s always something new to learn and to be completely awful at.

Ten years of hard-earned wisdom has given me confidence in what I’m getting right and the ability to see where I could do better. Let’s start with the good stuff…

Bedtime is sacrosanct. They will get their sleep, and John and I will get at least two hours of kid-free time a night. I don’t like cranky kids that scream at me – which means (most of the time) I don’t like tired kids. My kids are in bed by 8pm on school-nights and 9pm on the weekends. End of story.

I’m not doing their homework for them. I’m not very bright according to Common Core Math, and I already know those spelling words. So what good does it do for me to do their work for them? Not a damn bit, that’s what.

We’re not fighting over food. So this one is a hard-earned lesson and is intensely personal to each family. (I’d like to think we can all agree on the importance of bedtimes and homework.) Aidan is a picky eater. For a few years, he survived on chicken nuggets and PopTarts. Sean is the adventurous eater – he’ll try anything, as long as it’s on my plate, unless it looks “funny” or “weird.” I used to cook two or three meals at a time, let little children dictate the menu, and fight about who was eating what. I don’t do that anymore. The rule is you have to try something at least once. If you don’t like it, I won’t make you eat it. And if I know you’ll eat it once, you’re not getting out of eating it a second time. I’m looking at you, broccoli with ranch dressing. They know I mean business, so while I respect their food preferences, there’s also no arguing anymore.

Schedules make everyone happy. I’ll admit I don’t have a spontaneous bone in my body. Even the things that look spur-of-the-moment were thought about for at least a couple of hours first. So yes, I’m the kind of girl that loves a good routine and schedule. But as a parent, I think they’re important. My kids got the “worry” gene from me. They want to know what’s happening so they can start worrying about it before it begins. We call that “planning” around here. If we keep a similar schedule most days of the week, they relax and know what to expect. I like to keep them on their toes, so I’ll change things up from time to time but in our house, everyone’s happier when they know what’s coming next.

Now, I’m by no means a perfect parent, and sometimes I’m pretty sure I’m a shitty one. For everything I do well, there are plenty of other things I could do better.

I don’t hide my eye-rolling well. Kids say weird stuff. They just do. I’m sure I did when I was younger. Unfortunately, I have a condition that causes my eyes to roll back in my head the moment I hear something I think is ridiculous. Good for watching political debates, not so great for parenting. Poor Aidan actually apologizes before he tells me something he’s afraid I’ll think is “silly.” Uh oh.

The sarcasm just drips from my lips. On one hand, it’s a family trait and the boys have picked it up, too. On the other hand, sometimes I don’t stop myself or think about their feelings before I speak. It’s not often, but I feel like a total ass when it happens. Not a proud Mommy moment, for sure.

I don’t insist on outdoors or sports activities. As a kid, I detested going outside and getting me to play sports was never going to happen. I liked to read and had few problems being pasty and pale. Sweat was the enemy. It didn’t help that I have zero coordination or athletic skills. As a result, I haven’t pushed the boys to be more active. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but as an adult in her 30s, I know it’s damn difficult to force yourself to be active after a lifetime of sitting still. I really don’t want that for the boys. (Thankfully, Aidan taught himself to ride a bike – which he rides the 50 feet to a neighbor’s house before parking it and going inside to play video games. Uhhhh…)

We don’t do play dates, birthday parties, or other group things with friends and classmates. Sean has zero interest in going anywhere new – and I don’t discourage that. Aidan would love to go – he’s my social butterfly. I hate, abhor, detest that kind of thing. The few things Aidan has done have been the kind where it’s okay to drop him off. I love my children with every fiber of my being – I have zero interest in being around other people’s kids unless I really like their parents or the kids have already proven to have decent manners (our neighbor’s are a great example). This is one of those times where I pull out the, “I didn’t do that stuff when I was a kid, and I’m fine!” And by fine, I mean “hates to socialize with strangers, not a fan of parties.”

When people (online or in the real world) see one side of our parenting skills, they’ll peg us as a good or bad parent. But it’s never the whole story. Celebrate the things you do well. Acknowledge room for improvement. And then just do the best you can. No matter what we do, someone will always think we could do it better but all that matters is that our kids are happy, healthy, and (hopefully) becoming good human beings.

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My Kids Need Me To Be Who I Really Am

I’m not often afflicted with Mom Guilt™ – sometime between Aidan’s birth and Sean’s, I kind of got over it. Well, mostly. At least I’m not consumed by it anymore.

But I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that sometimes I think I can do better, and so I try to do better, only to make myself crazy and the boys crazier.

It’s better to own who you are and be the best possible version of it than to twist yourself into knots being what you think you’re supposed to be – according to the world and/or Facebook (which sometimes seems one and the same).

It was a realization I came to when I finally admitted that the whole work-at-home-mom (WAHM) thing wasn’t going quite like I expected it to.

I thought I wanted to be a WAHM to spend more time with the boys. I was going to stop watching their childhood zip right past me and be right in the middle of it.

Of course, as someone who can’t fathom the idea of volunteering at their school, baking 50 cookies for a bake sale, or whatever the hell else it is I thought was going to happen, I’m really not sure what I expected.

There were supposed to be more afternoons reading to them.

We were supposed to make stuff, do stuff, and go places.

I was supposed to actually see the different stages they go through, instead of hearing about it after they were in bed.

After more than a year of this, I figured a few things out…

I’m not the arts and crafts mom.

I’m not the bake cookies at 3pm, watch them ride bikes at 3:30 mom.

I’m still not the read to the class, volunteer at school, share lunch in a loud cafeteria mom.

What I am that I wasn’t before is present. I’m a presence in their lives, a meaningful one – instead of just a shadow which is how I felt most of the time.

I don’t just hear the funny things they say. I get to watch their developing personalities: Aidan wants to be liked by everyone and has big dreams of making a billion dollars with video games. Sean is a hardcore introvert, stubborn, and a prankster who really doesn’t give a shit what anyone thinks of him.

I might not be the one teaching Aidan how to ride his bike, but I’m the one that takes care of him when he falls. Hell, just being around to watch him pedal his heart out and become more fearless every day is pretty amazing.

I’m watching Sean learn to read and enjoy school, while remembering the lessons learned from the trial and error that were Aidan’s first years. I’m getting out of the way and stepping in only when he really needs help. He’s smart enough. He doesn’t need me to hover, only to be available.

The moment I realized that being who I am (not a joiner, not a coddler, not an overly maternal person) is exactly what they need, any feelings of guilt faded away.

I have, now, what I didn’t have before. I’m here when they need me, and I’m strong enough to shoo them out the door when I know they don’t. (At least for now, when they’re 10 and 6 and it’s easy. Who knows what will happen in a few years when shooing them out the door means they don’t come home at night anymore.)

For me, it’s more important to be present than it is to be in the middle of the action.

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Help a sister out, amiright?

I-see-all-these-Moms-who-can-do-everythingSince you’re already doing it anyway…is there a list I can get on?

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Parenting
2

How Bird Poop Traumatized My Children

To say that we’re not big fans of the great outdoors in my family isn’t completely accurate.

John loves to fish and kayak, and if his back would let him, he’d be out on a river or lake every weekend. The man used to make his own fishing lures, fishing pole holder-thingys (it’s a technical term), and own his own kayak. Back in the day, at least.

Aidan and Sean are a little bit like me. They’ll go outside, but only if their friends are out there, Easter eggs need to be found, or if they’re going door-to-door begging for candy trick-or-treating.

Me? I like nature – as seen through a glass window from the inside of a temperature-controlled home. Okay, not totally true. I enjoy walks through the neighborhood and sitting on the beach, under an umbrella. That counts, right?

A random Monday with no school – aka Teacher Workday – and I’d let John use my car. Home and carless. I was also jonesing for a sweet tea from Dunkin Donuts (my near-daily habit). I had a brilliant idea!

Let’s all three walk down the street – a 15 minute walk at most – get ourselves a little something yummy from Dunkin and walk back! The plan had everything – fresh air, movement, and sugary crap that would keep us all high as kites until the pre-dinner sugar crash. I was so proud of myself for thinking of it.

Out we went, striding down the sidewalk with purpose, passing little old ladies, dodging cars. It was great! It was an adventure!

And then…shit happened.

Something splatted against Sean’s hand – and mine, which was firmly holding his because the walk might be an adventure, but a 6 year old darting into oncoming traffic is not.

We both looked down. It was brown. It was white. It was slimy.

It was bird poop. Bird poop, y’all!!

And from the look of it, that bird ate something that didn’t agree with him.

Slime covered Sean’s wrist and forearm, and my fingers, thumb, and (hand to God, I’m not making this up), a spot on my shirt, right at nipple level. Fuck you, birds!

We were in the middle of the sidewalk, the Dunkin Donuts was in sight. We simply had to get there. I would not freak out over bird shit – not in the middle of a sidewalk with the sun steaming up the joint and boob sweat becoming a very real issue. Nor would I vomit all over the place, because I figured that was ten times worse than bird poop.

Sean held his hand up for me with a horrified expression on his face, silently telling me to Do Something. I’m a mom, right? We do the things that need doing, even if and especially when they’re gross.

I wiped his hand on my shirt. Oh yes, I did.

Now I had more than boobie bird poop on my shirt. Great. Just great.

We continued our walk where I promised we would wash our hands the moment we arrived. Sean refused to hold my hand anymore – fear of contamination, I suppose.

At Dunkin Donuts, we cleaned up, ordered our sugary crap that I was no longer enthusiastic about, and quickly made our way home. I was spending too much time too damn close to bird poop.

Aidan, who never felt the slimy touch of bird feces, made me check him everywhere. “Just in case, Mom.”

Aidan: “Oh my God, Mom, when I realized bird dookie was on you and Sean, I was so worried it got on me!” He shuddered in horror. “I just don’t think I could handle it!”

Sean: “Why did my birdie friends POOP on me, Mom? Why? That’s not very nice! I don’t think I can be their friends anymore. Why are we even walking? Walking outside isn’t a good idea.”

Aidan: “I have to agree. I don’t like walking outside, and if we hadn’t come on this walk, I wouldn’t be worried about having bird poop on me. And, ugh, now I’m sweating.”

Sean: “Sweat isn’t cool, Mom.”

Mental sigh. Faster pace. Time to get home. Now.

We arrived home, to everyone’s delight. I slammed my stuff down on the kitchen table and ran to my bedroom.

“I’ll be right back. I need to change my shirt!”

Aidan: “Why, Mom? It’s just bird poop.”

Sean: “Yeah, Mom. It’s fine. It’s just bird poop.”

And that is why we should never go outside again.

who do I crap on today

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The Mighty Fell Off His Bike – and Got Back Up Again

I was sure my children were going to grow up a bit like their mother – pasty white from lack of access to sunshine with a lack of physical skills like swimming, riding bikes, and anything that smacks of the slightest bit of athleticism. It’s not that I encouraged them to stay inside (well, other than during the hottest months of summer when it’s possible the sun might melt you). I also didn’t exactly encourage team sports. My thought was that if they obsessed over it enough, I would sign them up for whatever, get them involved, and do something to allow them the opportunity to get sweaty, run around like animals, and get all those broken bones I keep hearing that little boys get.

Basically, I left them alone to figure it out for themselves. I don’t offer that up as advice for other parents. It’s just what I did.

They were given bikes and skateboards, and up until recently, they weren’t that interested. Aidan is like me in that he doesn’t want to do anything physical if it doesn’t come easily. Sean wants to be like brother. I thought the bikes and such would become rusted out heaps, even as John and I made a plan to encourage them to go outside once the weather cooled down.

Uou have to understand that this is West Central Florida – we don’t get the cooler temperatures of the panhandle area and we’re not quite as uncomfortable as South Florida. But in the summer, when the humidity is at 1000 percent, it feels like you’re breathing through wet cotton. Moving around (more than what’s required to get from one air-conditioned location to the next) is unbearable.

In summer, we hibernate. Fall, winter, and early spring are the Floridian’s most active time of year. We’re ready to leave our natural habitat and explore. National Geographic could do a special about us, I’m sure.

John and I didn’t want to admit to ourselves that maybe, just maybe, the weather was finally changing. The let down if we were wrong would have been devastating. But the boys could smell it in the air, I guess. A couple of weeks ago, they began going outside – without prompting from an adult. It helps that they have friends who live a few doors down.

They began to pull their bikes out of the garage. Sean still finds pedaling difficult, but since he’s six, he just needs time. At age 10, Aidan should have been riding his bike already but since he wasn’t all that interested and it didn’t come easy, he’s behind the curve. But I think that worked in his favor. Within a week of getting on his bike every day, he was balancing just fine and the next day, he was pedaling. He was riding his bike, rather well from my non-bike-riding perspective.

“You can officially do something your old Mom can’t.” His eyes widened in surprise at my statement. His wide grin when I high-fived him was a beautiful sight. (I wasn’t going to point out to him that I can’t play Minecraft, work the XBox, or do a few things he can do…he’ll figure it out eventually.)

Now, you have to understand, Aidan is also in the I-know-everything-adults-are-idiots stage. Le sigh. Can I go back to the temper tantrums in Target stage? This know-it-all crap is for the birds.

But, in his all-knowing, all-seeing state, Aidan figured he was ready to speed around on his bike at top speed – the day after he figured out how to pedal.

How the mighty will fall.

I was working. The boys were outside playing. Then…a knock on the door.

Aidan’s friend said I needed to come now. He’d fallen off his bike and was hurt.

I didn’t even put shoes on. I figured they were where they always are – by our driveway, near the grass. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When I shut the door, I realized Aidan’s friend was carrying Aidan’s glasses. Huh? And I still didn’t panic. I was just glad they weren’t broken.

As I walked down the driveway, I could see him – lying in the middle of the road, surrounded by two other adults, 100 yards away. My instincts never kicked in to make me think he was seriously hurt. I was calm in an eery sort of way – almost as if everything was in slow motion. I knew deep down in some place I can’t explain that he was okay, but I was still alarmed to see him on the ground.

He’d wiped out when his front tire hit the back tire of his friend’s bike. (Ironic when I think of all the times he’s stepped on my heels or hit me in the heel with a shopping cart.) The handlebars spun all the way around but not before hitting him in the stomach, knocking the wind completely out of him. He had scrapes on his cheek, by his lips (down his chin), on his elbow, shoulder, and stomach. All in all, not the worst fall ever for a kid going to fast on his bike.

But it was his first fall and his first accident. Ever. Remember, my children aren’t the most active.

He wasn’t screaming and crying – which is what I would have expected from my usually melodramatic child. No, he’d actually gone into shock.

He was shaking, barely able to speak, with a glazed look in his eyes. That worried me more than his fall.

I thanked the adults who’d helped him – one is the mom of his friend, and sees much worse accidents than that from her youngest nearly every day, the other was a grandmother type who was very concerned and brought over cookies for the boys the next day. Then I followed him inside.

Some weird instinct told me he was fine, but I’m not so cocky to think I didn’t need to keep an eye on him.

The shock was very real. He couldn’t undress himself to take a shower. He couldn’t get warm. He didn’t want to eat. Ultimately, when I saw he wasn’t vomiting or acting strange, I let him sleep. He slept for 12 hours and woke up the next morning – just as perky as he always is in the morning.

John and I expected to have to force him back on his bike – and yes, we were going to give him a few days to recuperate first. On the way to school, he was still very stiff and unsure of himself. By the afternoon, he informed me he wanted to go for another ride.

“Will you go a little slower this time? Will you be more careful and watch yourself?” I was immensely impressed with his desire to get back on the bike, since I’m not sure I would want to if it was me. But I’m always a Mom first – and anxious about serious injuries.

“Yeah, Mom. I will.” There was my cautious child. I breathed a sigh of relief. “For now, anyway.” And there was the twinkle in his eye that I’m becoming used to. The fearless, dare-devil, adrenaline-junkie gleam that says, ‘I’ll be careful until going fast and taking sharp corners sounds more exciting.’

We may be a family of broken bones and trips to the emergency room yet. My late bloomer, know-it-all child has decided that he likes scaring the hell out of himself…and me, apparently.

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