What to do, what to do…

My son. Where do I begin. He is a charming, loving, intelligent, ball of fire… who happens to be manipulative, disobedient and slick. Oh, what a combination! Now I love my son to death, but I’m not one of those parents who thinks they have a perfect child. No, I’m the kind of parent who looks at the other parents who are forming judgements to themselves and agrees with them (audibly)… “yeah, he’s bad.” And I don’t say this because I’ve given up or I think it’s acceptable, I say this because I feel good in my skin when I am authentic. And I truly believe that my kid can be a bad kid sometimes. And other times he is sweet and he listens and he melts my heart. But typically I’m only around to see those moments. So anyways, I set the stage to get to my current dilemma – school.

Shocker, but the kid who does not listen at home also does not listen at school. And the kid who talks back at home also talks back at school. I get fun little notes home from his teacher, like the one last week informing me that when he was being reprimanded, he told his teacher she got on his nerves. Yes, that’s right. A couple of things go through my mind on this one… 1) Well that’s embarrassing (I think parents get desensitized to the things their kids tell them, but when they then do it to someone else, it is a hard pill to swallow) 2) Thinking back… do I say this?!?! 3) A mixed emotion of pride, that he can articulate his feelings so well, and a lot of head shaking because his execution was so inappropriate.

So as I’ve shared in a previous post we’ve been going with the “on the couch all night” method of punishment lately. I’d like to say it works because he absolutely hates it, but on the other hand, it does not curb the behavior at school so I’m just not sure. But nevertheless, in the name of consistency, if Brogan does not get a smiley face on his behavior chart each day, he gets to sit on the couch (with nothing) the whole evening. But here’s the thing. Brogan has learned that the consequence to his misbehavior is the couch. He gets warned daily of the punishment. He gets asked each afternoon how he was at school, and when he responds that he wasn’t a good listener, he says, “I have to sit on the couch all night, right mommy?” So he gets it. But he gets it only so far… because when he’s in the moment and he gets into one of his manic states where he cannot listen to save his life, there’s no stopping him and he just will not behave. So while I know the mommy gene is partly to play here, I ask myself (what I feel is a legitimate concern), is it fair for a kid, who should be outside playing and interacting with the family and getting tons of positive interactions, be punished every night for something that he shouldn’t be doing, but that I don’t think he can help? And he’s also starting to get a negative opinion of school. He started saying that he doesn’t want to go to school. And when I ask him why, he says it’s because he doesn’t like getting bad notes home.

And tonight, in the car ride home from the sitter’s, fearing another bad report, I asked, “Brogan, how was school?” Brogan responded, “I don’t want to talk about that.” And that would be because he didn’t listen (again), was playing in the bathroom (again) and this all resulted in a frowny face assessment.

What to do, what to do, what to do??? Any veteran moms out there have suggestions?

Brogan school photo 2013

And ironically, he appears so well-behaved in his school picture. Go figure. 

The things I didn’t know about myself… until I became a parent

Becoming a parent is an enlightening experience. You see life through a whole new lens – you gain an instant appreciation (and admiration) for your own parents; the screaming children on a plane or in a restaurant create empathy (for the parents) instead of anger; in the presence of your kids you develop critical eyes (and ears) for television and song lyrics and others’ conversations, constantly filtering for appropriateness. But the biggest change for me has been within… or a new vantage point to myself as I discover things about me that were unknown before kids.

  • I can handle a lot more than I ever thought.  Not that I ever considered myself weak or incapable, but I had no idea how much I could deal with – turns out it’s a lot.  I don’t always do it gracefully, but darn it, I can deal with two screaming kids, I can get dinner cooked, I can haul them upstairs kicking and shouting at the tops of their lungs, I can change the diaper of a kid who will not. stay. still. I can get us dressed and out the door (and on time occasionally); I can manage (and enjoy) a full time job. Yep, I can handle a lot.
  • I am a lazy person disguised as a motivated person.  So not all the revelations are positive. I’ve also discovered that I have some inner “lazy” in me.  Those who know me may find this surprising because I am a go-go-go kind of person, but becoming a parent has shown me that I have to battle lethargy more than before. Here’s the thing – pre-kids, being lazy wasn’t really being lazy. It was relaxing, it was allowed, I had time for it, it didn’t impact anyone else (most of the time). I am someone who gets inspired and motivated by things I want to do, so when you have no (parenting) responsibility, you can just do what you want. However, once you have a child, your world is, for the most part, no longer yours. The days of doing what you want when you want are gone. See ya later. And so for me, the laziness follows the lack of motivation around the mundane tasks that just have to get done. The laziness shows up when I’m not doing something I should be doing (discipline, consistency, quality time) because dang it, I’m tired.  So my friends, while I may seem like a very motivated person (and some days I am) that’s really only half the story.
  • I really like kids.  I’m sure anyone who is not a parent who has spent any length of time with someone else’s kids has questioned how much they really like kids. Some kids are charming and it’s easy, but then there are those other kinds of kids… People say that it will be different with your own, and it’s true.  Because while before I could only take kids in small doses because of all the slobber and snot and dirt and poop and the mess that follows them everywhere, with my own kids none of it fazes me. Sure, there have been some experiences that have necessitated a shower (immediately), and there have also been some gagging moments, but I really, really like my kids (understatement of the year).  And being on the parent side of this stuff has softened my feelings with other kids as well.  Turns out, I do really like kids.
  • I didn’t need all that sleep I used to get.  How incomprehensible it would have been to think I could function (reasonably well) on 6 or 7 hours of sleep.  And if I get 8 or 9, talk about a refresher. But in my pre-kid days, I thought I needed much more than that. Back then the thought of an 8am class was an impossibility; getting up at 6am on a weekend was just not going to happen.  But now here I am, sleeping less and living more and it is a really awesome thing.
  • I am quite the softy.  Cry at a TV commercial? Say what?? Used to be a pretty rare occurrence. But now, especially those darn Publix commercials (and this one) can get me every time.  And songs, oh yeah, Taylor Swift, you can get me.  And hearing stories about sick or injured kids, folks who have been married for 75 years and their spouse passes away, demonstrations of remarkable sportsmanship – all get the water works going. I think the “softy” was in me all along, just needed the pregnancy/post pregnancy hormone shake-up to bring it out. Okay, so I just watched all the videos I just linked and I’m a blubbering mess. Guess I should issue the mascara alert.
  • That I could get this pale.  Seriously y’all. It’s bad. When I go home and see all my tan and fabulous Florida friends, I get those stares that say you look good, but damn you are pale! So two things here – first, I didn’t know that my skin could actually get this white, and second, I would have never guess that I wouldn’t care. Sure, it helps to have a red-headed, fair skinned husband to compare myself to every day, but in all seriousness, I don’t have time to tan, and it is totally fine with me. One day, when I can actually take the kids to the pool and relax, maybe I’ll work on my tan. But until then, it just is what it is – I am pale and it’s okay.

The old meThe old me – tan and happy.

The new me
The new me – pale and even happier.

Wiped Out

I got to play stay-at-home mom today and boy, am I wiped out.  I’m not sure what was different about today than some weekends when I have the boys solo, but it was exhausting!  I think some days the kids decide they want to be amicable and sweet.  And then there are some days that they strategize about how to push every one of your buttons. Today would be the latter.

Sometimes kids can just wear you down and knock you off your game.  Today would be that day too.  Apparently I was a little loose with my language, because when Blake got home Brogan told him, “Look Daddy, I got all of your crap out of the shed!” Blake and I looked at each other and chuckled a bit.  But then it continued. “Look at all this crap!” [said in a really happy and excited tone] Blake and I started exchanging slightly more serious looks.  Blake thought on his feet and said, “Buddy, mommy made that word up, it’s all just stuff.”  That sufficed, and the word crap was not mentioned the rest of the night.  I’m sure he’s just saving it for school or the pediatrician’s office, though.

IMG_2189

No surprise here, but Beckett was a screamer today.  The kid loves his swing outside, but it is impossible to swing him constantly.  So if I wasn’t swinging him, or walking with him out to be swung, he was pissed.  I could sidetrack him occasionally with a broom or a random tool, but it always went back to the swing.  I even tried using the trampoline as a playpen, and that went over well!

IMG_2181

I swindled my neighbor into entertaining the screamer so I could finish dinner (she thought she was just returning a sewing machine!). Little did she know she was entering kiddy hell.  Being much more on top of things than I after the punishing day, she immediately noticed the boys were playing with a very sharp paddle bit.  Great, that would have gone real nicely I somebody’s neck. And it was rusty, even better! Thank you, Chantelle for the 15 minutes!

photo-1

And at 7:22pm, the hubs came home form work, hallelujah.  I think I’ve made previous remarks about my reverence for stay-at-home moms – reaffirmed.  You guys do have the hardest job in the world.  I will be going back to work tomorrow, to my quiet and peaceful office where I will get to interact with humans who are guided by logic, with whom you can have a reasonable conversation and who do not use screaming as a primary method of communication.  Yes, I will miss the sweet boys that my boys are on days other than today.  And I hope it is those sweet little boys who I am greeted by when I walk in at 4:40 tomorrow afternoon.  But for now, goodnight, I’m freaking exhausted.

When something goes wrong, I call you.

The other night, as I was trying to get Brogan to bed, he kept calling me for various requests.  As I tromped back up the stairs and into his room, aggravation all over my face, he said to me, “Mommy, when something goes wrong, I call you.” He gave me a hug and all of my frustration went away. I feel like I wrestle with the balance of wanting my boys to be independent, but also liking the fact that they need me.  As moms, we feed hungry bellies, bandage skinned knees, wipe runny noses, grab what’s out of their reach and try to fulfill every other random request.  We do so whether or not we are shown appreciation or thanks. But it’s nice every once in a while, especially when it comes surprisingly from my three-year-old, to be affirmed that they do in fact realize that moms get stuff done; we’re the fixers and the problem solvers.

So that was the sweet side of the equation.  Now let’s talk about the manipulation.

Knowing that moms come to the rescue, and sensing our weak spots, kids will exploit the you-know-what out of you.  My soft spot is hunger.  I never starved growing up, but for some reason the thought of my children being hungry is something that does not sit well with my soul.  This drives my husband crazy. He can see that sometimes (notice I just can’t give him all the time) Brogan takes advantage of this fact and tries to prolong naps and bedtime by telling me he’s hungry.  Here’s the thing, statistically speaking, I know there are times when he’s pulling one over on me and he’s not really hungry.  I do truly believe, however, that there are other times when he is, in fact, hungry.  The problem I have is that my overwhelming fear of starving my kids clouds my vision and I can’t tell when it’s real and when he’s faking it.  So what happen? 98% of the time I give that little slickster some food.  I really wish it ended with the food.  In the 20 minutes that I’ve been typing this post, in addition to the “I’m hungry” episode, I’ve been called on to turn off his fan because it was shaking. “Mommy, come quick, it’s an emergency! My fan won’t stop shaking!” And while I was up there, “Please turn off the bathroom light.” Oh, and, I need some medicine because my legs are hurting (eczema). And once I returned back downstairs to continue my writing, he declared that he wanted more milk.  On the simple fact that I don’t feel like cleaning up a wet bed in the morning, I said no.  But dammit, I said yes to the rest.  Oh, and I forgot to mention that while I was cuddling with him in bed, he asked me to read him a story. I explained that I had just (downstairs) read him three stories, and that was enough for the night.  He then reminded me that Daniel Tiger says, “It’s almost time to stop, so choose one more thing to do.” And then that, “so mommy, you said it’s time to stop and so I get one more thing, and that means one more story.” You know that feeling, when your three-year-old beats you at your own game (if you only knew how many times I’ve used Daniel Tiger to get him to do things), yeah that sucks.  So another book it was.

And I sit here knowing that I was worked over multiple times tonight.  And I wonder how and if I will react differently tomorrow when I’m faced with this recurring dilemma.  Honestly, I’m torn.  Logically I know that no should mean no and lines need to be drawn, but emotionally, being met with a “mommy, I love you” each time I oblige makes it really hard to refuse.  My husband, by the way, is going to love this post.  He rarely gets me to admit that I’m a softy (I really try to hide it). Well honey, you’re welcome, I’m a softy.  But the kids still aren’t going to bed hungry 🙂

DSC_1095

How to Be a Happy Parent

Parenting is hard and it’s easy to find yourself stuck in a rut with all the damn dailies.  But I believe that happiness is relative to your expectations.  We all have this romanticized idea of what parenting will be like before we have kids… and then we have them and realize some if it’s not so glamorous.  Managing your expectations and keeping perspective is key to finding all the joy that parenting has to offer. Juggling your children, your marriage, a job (perhaps), and the stresses from the outside world (strangers, other parents, the media, the “experts”) can be downright stressful.  Hey, no pressure, you’re only doing the most important job in the whole wide world and raising another human being!  Below are my 15 keys to being a happy parent:

1.)       Have realistic expectations – If you expect that parenting is going to be awesome every day, that your kids will always listen and that you’ll always know what to do, be ready for some serious disappointment.  Instead, modify those expectation, account for the hard days and when they happen they will be much easier to handle.

2.)       Focus on the end goal – Isn’t our goal in raising children to develop independent adults who are productive members of society?  So when some days all you can muster is the energy to clothe them, feed them and get them off to school, remember you are working toward your goal! And when they are stubborn and strong-willed and want to do it all themselves, think of it as a preview to the independence you one day want them to have.

3.)       You don’t have to be perfect at everything – Every parent has their “parenting gift”. Whether it’s keeping calm, discipline, dinner, homework, birthday parties, snacks, fun-filled activities or communicating with their children, all parents have some part of this job where they excel.  But no one, let me repeat, no one is perfect at it all.  Attempting to be is a futile effort.  So figure out which part you’re great at and be at peace with the fact that you won’t be perfecting all the others.

4.)       Don’t compare yourself to other parents – Just because other parents do it doesn’t mean you should too! Sound familiar?  What works for one family doesn’t necessarily work for another, so don’t even try to compare.  We’re all different parents and we all have different kids, so comparing your adequacies next to another parent just doesn’t make sense. Own your own parenting skills!

5.)       Do the best that you can – At the end of the day, this is really all we can do.  So if you can finish each day knowing that you did the best you can, then who cares what craziness took place? Who cares if you got dirty looks from the bystanders at the grocery store for your screaming kids? Be the best parent you can be and don’t worry about the rest.

6.)       Factor in some failures – If we can all go into this parenting job knowing that we’re going to fail miserably at times, it really just takes some pressure off.  I’m not suggesting we lower our standards, but let’s be real, it’s not like this is all within our control anyways.  Think of failures as learning opportunities for you and your kids, and try to make the best of them. They will happen, so it’s up to you how you react.

7.)       You won’t always make the right decisions – There is no crystal ball with kids. You can’t tell if the punishment you dole out is going crack their code or send them into a tailspin.  There are so many decisions in parenting – public, private or homeschool? How much screen time? Finish your plate or not? Stay at home or work? Their friends… their extracurricular activities… their bedtime… It is impossible to get all this right.  And even if you make the “right” decisions, it probably still isn’t “right” for all of your kids. So what to do?  Look back to #5 and pray.

8.)       This too shall pass – Every parent goes through a phase (or two, or three) with their kids that seems impossible to overcome. Not sleeping through the night, wetting the bed, separation anxiety, temper tantrums, etc., etc. To keep your sanity, just remember, this too shall pass.  These times are fleeting.  Not only will the not-so-desirable phases not last forever, but before we know it our kids will be grown and we’ll probably miss it.

9.)       Maintain your own identity – Don’t forget about you.  Make sure you have an outlet, something that makes you happy. Whether it’s a job or a hobby or an hour of solitude to just think (or sleep), just do it. Making time for you will make you a better and happier parent.

10.)   Don’t let the kids overrun your marriage – Make time for your spouse. Go on dates. Take trips.  Buy each other gifts.  Talk about something other than the kids. Make each other a priority. Don’t blame the kids for why you can’t be a good spouse (“I’m too tired…”).  Remember that one of the most important things you can do for your kids is to keep your marriage strong, so don’t let your marriage come second to your kids.

11.)   Don’t impose your dreams on your kids – It’s only natural to have dreams for your kids… just don’t be so caught up on those dreams that your kids not fulfilling them brings disappointment to you. Give them opportunities to pursue whatever dreams they have and take your expectations out if it.

12.)   It’s okay to be like your parents – One day you will probably find yourself acting just like your parents.  Don’t fight it.  You turned out awesome, right?

13.)   Find someone to clean your house – Now I know this isn’t an option for everyone, but if you can make sacrifices to make this happen, do it. However, be warned, once you start, it will be hard to ever stop. It is shocking how much stress is removed from your life when you don’t have to spend your weekends cleaning.  The extra time with your kids is simply priceless. This one will really, really keep a parent happy.

14.)   When all else fails, have a dance party – Everything going wrong? Kids in a crappy mood? Dinner was burned? It’s nothing that turning up some music and dancing like a fool with your children can’t solve.

15.)   Avoid taking your kids out in public – No, just kidding. I couldn’t resist. Although, it is tempting sometimes :).

Happy Momma

From the Mouth of My 3-year-old

DSC_1056

It is true, kids say the darndest things.  My 3-year-old continuously amazes me with his remarks. Especially when he says something which lets me know that he knows more than we give him credit for… or when he demonstrates a brazen act of talking back, but said with such innocence, that he has you questioning whether he was really just talking back.  The answer to that question is almost always  yes – he’s smart and he’s a charmer, so he’s already mastered the art of manipulation.  So here are a couple of his one-liners from the last couple of days.  I really need to keep a pen and paper more handy because this child gives me so much material!

Brogan:  Mommy, I’m thirsty.
Me:  Sorry buddy, you just had some water and you don’t need any more because you might wet the bed.
Brogan:  That’s okay. I’ll just get out of bed and get more when you go downstairs.

Well, at least he’s honest…

Brogan:  I want a marshmallow.
Me:  Buddy, you have to eat your dinner, and if you eat really good, you can have a marshmallow for dessert.
Brogan: Uh, no thanks, I’m good. I just want a marshmallow.

Well, at least he knows what he wants…

Me:  [in the bath] Brogan, stand up so I can wash you.
Brogan:  [stands up] See mommy, I know how to listen!
Me:  [no words; utter shock]

Me:  Beckett, no sir!  Stop hitting your brother!
Brogan:  That’s alright.  I will handle it.

Brogan:  [shouts something to me from another room]
Me:  What did you say?
Brogan:  Nevermind.
Me:  No, buddy, I couldn’t hear what you said.
Brogan:  NEVERMIND!

Oh, how much fun he will be as a teenager!

And my favorite from this weekend… more proof that my son is, in fact, a ladies man.  This was said to my sister-in-law’s pretty little 16-year-old friend.

Brogan: [upon seeing Savannah for the first time in a couple of months] Savannah, I’ve been missin’ you! [as he runs to her and gives her a big hug around the legs]
Brogan: [about 30 minutes after the first comment, obviously he needed some time to find the right words] So Savannah, do you like to go to the mall?

Really?? My 3-year-old has already figured out the ladies like when you talk about things they are interested in… Oh, Brogan, you are wise beyond your years, my son.  I only hope that you are able to charm the moms and dads as well as you charm the girls… in an effort to decrease all the parent calls, of course.  Oh, the joys.

Love These Guys

Do you ever have a night where your kids just exhaust you? Like, completely wipe you out?  They push every button, get on your last nerve… get you plotting a 30 minute earlier bedtime?  Yeah, that was tonight.  Blake has been working late every night this week, so I’ve been doing this thing solo.  While it has surprisingly been a really good week, I think my nerves were just shot tonight.  But funny thing about being a parent, as crazy as they can make you, they still bring you so much joy it’s unbelievable.  When I tell Beckett it’s time to go night-night, he instantly lays his head on my shoulder and wraps his little arm around my neck.  It just melts me.  And as I laid in Brogan’s bed cuddling with him for a few minutes, that time of hugging and snuggling and talking is absolutely priceless.  Clarification – by talking, I mean where I ask Brogan questions, and he responds, “I don’t know…”

Me: Brogan, did you have a good day?

Brogan: I don’t know.

Me: What did you do today?

Brogan: I don’t know.

Me: What did you eat for lunch?

Brogan: I don’t know. Mommy, can we stop talking?

OMG he is his father’s son.  I digress.

Those five minutes I lay with him each night are some of my favorite minutes in the day.  Although he can barely lie still, and although he doesn’t want to talk to me, I tell him how much I love him, we say our prayers and it is such a special moment.  So as crazy as they make me, I love my boys beyond words.  They redeem themselves (almost) each night with their sweetness.  Life is so good.

Me and Beckett

Me and Brogan