Actions speak louder

IMG_0301I say “I love you,” to my kids so often I’m sure they don’t hear it anymore. Well, to be honest, they don’t hear much of what I say these days. I can give a direction five times before anyone even acknowledges it.

But I persevere. I’m a doer, so I’m convinced that the little things I do will cut through the fog and instill themselves as some kind of ghost memory of my love in the minds of my kids.

Am I dreaming? Maybe. But if you think about all the annoying things you do just because you love your kids it gets to be a pretty long list.

No one who didn’t love you would do this:

  • Cut up a mango. It’s a giant pain.
  • Go to Chuck E. Cheese or one of its for-the-younger-set counterparts.
  • Change a diaper. Any diaper.
  • Use $10 in gas so you can go to a job that will pay you $40.
  • Invite a friend to be the 6th at dinner when I only made enough food for five.
  • Host a sleepover with more than two children at it.
  • Let you eat in the car.
  • And while we’re at it, prepare a homemade meal whose primary asset is that it was designed to be eaten in the car…
  • …but skip dinner myself to drive you to your activity.
  • Watch The Teletubbies while sober.
  • Drive you to school in my pajamas.
  • Pay your phone bill.
  • Volunteer at a school event that requires me to produce an attractive and educational display…
  • …or carve a map of Africa out of a pan of brownies.
  • Spend the afternoon in a wet bathing suit.
  • Play the same children’s CD in the car, every day, for a year.
  • Make a 5-hour round-trip for the sole purpose of adopting a stray cat.

I could probably stay at this list all day. But I need to go drive some people around.

What’s the most annoying thing you do for your kids?

Read some other perspectives on love or link up at The Wounded Dove.

 

#6: Gym class was never like this

desertUsually, in my installments of Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate I offer advice to visitors whose search terms hit my blog. But I’m not sure the originator of today’s topic, “Gym class was never like this” is seeking advice. I think he or she is just making a statement to the world.

But I’m intrigued. Is this someone who loved gym class and wishes that all life was like gym class? Or is this someone who huddled in a corner of the gym hoping no one would notice? In my experience, there is no in-between.

I’m picturing someone in a cube at the office, feeling either hateful or joyful, making a comparison to a past in the gym.

Here’s what I think might have been going through this person’s head if they hated gym class and love their job:

Gym class was never like this because…

  • …we didn’t get to eat during it.
  • …it made us sweat while right now I am basking in a frigid blast from the AC.
  • …I never get picked last here.
  • …at work we don’t have to swim and then go directly to a meeting.
  • …I can sit in the same chair all day if I want to.
  • …my boss is not a sadist.

But if this person loved gym class and hates their job, they might be thinking:

Gym class was never like this because…

  • …we don’t get to “accidentally” hit each other with field hockey sticks here.
  • …humiliation of others was tolerated, and sometimes openly encouraged.
  • …I was always picked first.
  • …those who violated the rules got a foul or better yet, got kicked out of class.
  • …now, I have to sit in the same chair all day.
  • …the gym teacher was not a sadist.

How about you? Did you hate gym class? Love it? How would you finish this sentence? I am dying to know.

Read the series:

Anxiety dreams involving my kids 

How do I talk to my surly teen? 

I have only one child but laundry and housework never end

Life is not a competition

How to relax and enjoy your children

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

#5: How to relax and enjoy your children

desertToday’s installment of Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate, where I offer advice to visitors whose search terms hit my blog, tackles the thorny topic: “How to relax and enjoy your children.

Is this a question or a personal development program? If the latter, I should probably sign up.

Because even I, who am able to dispense completely unqualified advice on many topics, cannot answer this one. I’ve never actually done both things at once. I am able to relax on occasion, even with the children present, but to say that I am enjoying them in those moments might be going a little too far.

Why, you ask? Well, if I could ignore the multitude of dangers that lurk around every corner, pretend I’m not putting off a huge list of inevitable tasks to spend time with them, and navigate their constant squabbles I guess I might be able to relax.

I’ve never professed to be a fun mom. I make no apologies. Fun is not my natural state. For me, life is not a garden of earthly delights. It’s more like an overgrown plot of intriguing weeds. (And for my children I’ll add, “Sorry, grow where you are planted.”)

So I think I’ve met my match here. This question requires a professional relaxation consultant.

Read the series:

Anxiety dreams involving my kids 

How do I talk to my surly teen? 

I have only one child but laundry and housework never end

Life is not a competition

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

#4: Life is not a competition

desertIt’s time for yet another installment of Search Terms of the Sad and Desperate, where I offer advice to visitors whose search terms hit my blog. Today’s topic: “Life is not a competition.

Au contraire. Everything is a competition.

I think most of us accept that humans have always competed at the most basic level for sustaining items like food, shelter, or mates. But when you become a parent, you realize that as a species, we are meant to compete for everything, and that sibling rivalry is a manifestation of survival of the fittest.

My children compete for all-important things like:

  • The chicken breast with the fewest grill marks.
  • The front passenger seat. (I have seen them nearly come to blows over this one.)
  • The best seat for viewing the TV.
  • Junk food, should there be any in the house. (They will even unabashedly steal this from each other and then deny it in the face of overwhelming evidence.)
  • Who had the best grades/at bat/season.
  • Who had the worst day/teacher/bout of strep.

And the list goes on. Feel free to add to it.

As a parent, my role seems to be to vindicate whichever party gets to me first and/or award privileges based on completely arbitrary criteria. The loser just has to take their lumps.

I figure it’s good preparation for their later life in the workplace.

Read the series:

Anxiety dreams involving my kids 

How do I talk to my surly teen? 

I have only one child but laundry and housework never end

 

A disclaimer: While it perhaps shouldn’t need saying, let me remind you that I have no credentials, training or certifications of any kind that would qualify me to mete out advice to anyone. This is a humor blog. If you don’t find it funny, well, that’s another issue.

What we learned in school this year

IMG_0664Now that we have a week of summer break under our belts, and the report cards have arrived with all their glorious news, I’ve taken some time to reflect on our school year and the valuable lessons we learned:

  • Physics: An object (such as a yogurt cup) when visited upon by a greater force (you sitting on it) will leak all over your backpack.
  • Band: It is generally advisable to bring your musical instrument home from school on the day of the band concert.
  • Shop: For best results, empty a pencil sharpener before you stow it in your backpack.
  • Health: Just because they use that language in the video, it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for the school cafeteria.
  • Chemistry: If you leave fruit in your water bottle for three days, you can create alcohol, and on a related note…
  • Biology: A lunchbox containing food, when left at school for a week, will generate penicillin.
  • Literature: The Handmaid’s Tale is not an uplifting read, but you can get away with using profanity in your book report.
  • Technology: If you don’t keep an eye on your Instagram settings, your mother will make you spend an entire Saturday morning blocking all your followers.

That’s all today, class.

Remedial parenting 3: The birds and the bees

IMG_0285Few topics raise the discomfort level like this one. I can feel you all starting to tug your collars right now. But you can’t avoid the subject forever, as hard as you might try.

My daughter raised the issue at a fairly young age. I’m not sure where she got her information, but as she brushed her hair one day, she casually mentioned, “I know how babies are made.” Then she turned to me, cheeks and eyes blazing, and said, “And you did it!”

Like many of the more odious parenting tasks, informing our kids about the miracles of life has fallen to me. There are several ways to approach this:

Method 1: Talk to your kids early and often using anatomically correct verbiage. Which they will then spout at dinner parties and other inappropriate locales as soon as they realize the power of their newly-learned words. I did not use this method, but I sure know which parents did.

Method 2: Wait until they ask, and then provide them with a brutally detailed response. This is the tactic I use. It makes my husband a little weak in the knees. He believes in a little mystery. (This led to much disagreement when we got the inevitable questions about the existence of Santa Claus. My husband wanted to perpetuate the myth, but I cannot lie to a child who has just said, “I want you to tell me the truth,” even if it might be in my best interests to do so.)

Method 3: Wait long enough, and your kid will hear it from someone else. Of course, what they hear is anyone’s guess. When my youngest child was about four, his older sister was scheduled to watch a movie called “The Miracle of Birth” in her third-grade class. I’m not sure what she thought she was going to see, but I can tell you it wasn’t a birth. Her brother came running across the yard to report to me that she “was going to watch a movie at school – a man and a woman with no clothes on, and their privates hooked together!”

Oh, the memories. Now I’m weak in the knees.

If you missed the previous Remedial Parenting posts, read:

Effective Discipline

Monitoring Electronics

Remedial parenting 2: Monitoring electronics

iPodFor years we’ve heard the guideline that kids should have no more than two hours of screen time per day. And frankly, to a parent that finds it challenging to carve out 15 minutes to take a shower, that sounds like a ton of time.

To a kid, two hours is one group chat.

Early on, I found the two-hour rule plenty easy to enforce. But that was just TV. As the kids grew, so did their interest in computer games. Handheld devices. Phones. They will go to great lengths to plug in to the mothership, and unless you want to stand over your children 24 hours a day, or confiscate (and lug around) all electronic devices wherever you go, it’s a pain to enforce.

We make the kids “check in” their devices at night. Teens seem to text all night long and my daughter, who was using her phone as a morning alarm, would wake up just long enough to reply and perpetuate the conversation. A few mornings with a sleep-deprived teen put a stop to that.

And then there’s what they’re texting in the first place. We used to read all text messages but Snapchat pretty much put an end to our monitoring ability. While my kids have some common sense, I learned from my years in management that you can never be too obvious (or repetitive) when stating your expectations. In particular, I have talked rather explicitly with my kids about not taking or transmitting pictures of any body part whatsoever. Since this is a G-rated blog, I’ll spare you the language I used.

And there’s still that darned TV. The biggest challenge now is making sure they watch age-appropriate programming. (I recently heard one of my boys, as a joke, tell his brother, “Let’s watch a G-rated movie while eating healthy snacks.”) When discovered, the kids just plead ignorance: “I thought it was PG-13!” Yeah, right.

In a fit of rebellion, a rage against the machine if you will, my husband recently password-protected the TVs so the kids have to ask permission to use them. Not only did they find a workaround in about 12 hours (the password didn’t keep them out of Netflix) but he fat-fingered the password on the TV that I occasionally watch so it is now a large, faceless piece of artwork and not a functioning device. Oh, the irony.

If you missed the previous post, read:

Remedial Parenting 1: Effective discipline

Remedial parenting 1: Effective discipline

If you’d like to know what we’ve learned about effective discipline in 15 years of parenting, it’s…well, it’s nothing. We’ve learned nothing.

When I made a decision last week to practice what I call Management by Walking Away, I neglected to inform my husband of my new stance. The natural result was that over the weekend, in response to the same behavior I was addressing, he decided to practice something I’ll call, for lack of a better term, Management by Arbitrary Pronouncement.

In other words, “I will mete out punishment for some unspecified behavior, without telling you how to correct it, and then leave town so your mother can enforce my strange, new rules.”

Do I sound a little disgruntled? I am. I’m guessing there is a significant amount of disgruntlement going around our castle.

My husband and I basically agree on the behavior we want, but we go about getting it in a completely different fashion. Because I’m the one who’s usually home my methods, effective or not, are at least familiar. His are like being deposited in a forest with only a book of matches and a tarp and being instructed to find your way home.

I can tell you how I react to this situation. I hack my way out. The kids sit down and fiddle with the tarp. And then ask me how to get home.

It’s going to make for a very long week. We can only hope that by the time our dear one returns from his trip, he will have forgotten what it was he was mad about. Based on past experience, I’m guessing that will occur about the time he arrives at the airport this morning.

My next career – professional chaperone?

My recent experience chaperoning 80 junior high band students on a trip to Chicago makes me think there might be a future in this sort of thing. The chaperone is an integral part of a school trip. Without them teacher turnover would be much higher. (Picture the last time you took your kids to the zoo on a busy day. Now multiply that by 30. See what I mean?)

So I’m thinking I might be able to hire myself out as a professional chaperone. I will see theIMG_1254 bus country, albeit bombarded by a dizzying chatter of trivial conversation, in a crowd where everyone is ignoring the sites in favor of taking selfies. I’ll bet there are those among you who’d pay me to go in your place.

But it doesn’t stop there. If your children participate in league sports, you are usually expected to work at the concession stand (or as my kids always called it, the confession stand), that shack full of sugared happiness that subsidizes your sport to an almost ridiculous degree. You can buy out your shift, but in our league that costs $150. Multiply that by a couple of kids and you’re into some coin. I figure I could charge a $100 to work your shift and you’d still come out ahead. I’m experienced, and I’m going to be at the ballpark anyway, so why not? I almost know how to work the popcorn machine so I might even be worth a premium.

So think about it – tired of those children’s museums full of sticky handprints and virus-covered surfaces? Seen the staged version of that classic children’s tale one too many times? Rather watch the game than sling lukewarm hot dogs? Terrified to climb aboard a bus with dozens of hormone-crazed teens?

This gun’s for hire – at an activity near you.

K is for Karate

work-at-homeAnd dance. And baseball. And all the other activities that make it seem impossible for me to hold a “regular” job. Since my husband travels for work, most of the transport for activities falls to me.

It started with one preschool dance class. I would dress my daughter in a tiny leotard and take her down the street to the studio where I would pretend to watch her from the parents’ waiting room while instead chasing two toddler boys up and down the hallway for 45 minutes. Aggravating, but manageable.

But karate started the scales tipping. Karate meant two (and for a brief while, three) kids in activities. It required a drive in rush hour traffic, and it took place during the dinner hour, which made is seem overwhelming at the time. Little did I know I would pine for the days when we had just dance and karate.

Now, my schedule requires the precision of launching the space shuttle – one blip and you have to scrub the whole mission. Here’s what the kids’ activities looked like this week:

  • Monday – two dances classes, and an orthodontist appointment
  • Tuesday – dance team practice, two lacrosse practices, and a dance class
  • Wednesday – two lacrosse games (away), and a dance class
  • Thursday – dance team practice, and one baseball practice
  • Friday – nothing, wow!
  • Saturday – baseball field clean-up, one baseball practice, dance team practice, two lacrosse practices, and an outing to a professional lacrosse game – makes up for Friday
  • Sunday – one lacrosse game, and a dance competition

And then it starts all over again. Once baseball season is in full swing, there are several nights we have a total of four activities on the calendar, all during the same timeframe. Obviously, we won’t make them all. I’ll be throwing a few darts.

This post is part of the April Blogging from A to Z Challenge. See who else is Blogging from A to Z

Read the series

Read the work-at-home personnel manual