October 2015

Those Crazy, Hazy Holidays

The holidays are upon us. Goblins, turkeys and a jolly old man are waiting to launch their annual extravaganzas. Although the weather remains blazing hot, Summer has come to a screeching halt. Kids of all ages, from preschool to college, have resumed their studies. Time for phase two.

Happy Halloween. Or, maybe I should just go ahead and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Because, let’s face it, as soon as it’s Halloween it’s already basically the big Daddy of all holidays. The holidays all seem to happen at lightning speed. By the time Christmas is over, I’m out of breath, fanning myself with a Christmas card wondering what just hit me.

Halloween kicks off the mayhem, innocently enough. Pumpkins are carved into jack-o-lanterns, skeletons with glow in the dark eyes are propped up on our porches, eerie grey tomb stones stand tall, speared into our front lawns. Children play dress up for a night with all their neighborhood pals. They morph into witches, goblins, ninjas, princesses and every other disguise imaginable.image image image

As they consume ridiculous amounts of, normally outlawed, sweets that sky rocket their blood sugar and drop kick their sanity — we plummet deeper into the excess. Before we can say “Boo!” all the Halloween decorations are yanked down and packed away in bulging plastic bins for next year. One more minor obstacle on the road to Yuletide euphoria — time to gobble ’til we wobble.

My favorite decorations are that of Thanksgiving. The thankful theme is one that I truly enjoy partaking in with family. We started the thankful tree tradition. Last year I purchased that over priced little thankful tree from Pottery Barn Kids, the store with whom I have a love/hate relationship. Love to shop there; hate the prices. On Thanksgiving everyone writes something for which they’re thankful on a paper leaf, hangs it on the tree and we read about each other’s thankfulness over turkey and cranberries during dinner.imageimageimage

Thanksgiving colors are relaxing and peaceful, like a Hawaiian sunset. Tangerine oranges with blazing crimsons. Beiges, browns and burlap galore with hints of gold. I’d happily leave all things Thanksgiving strategically placed throughout my home, all year long. That is, if it weren’t for you know what.

Whatever happened to Christmas being about the big JC, anyway? It’s turned into a colossal spectacle of greed, materialism and overconsumption. There are so many December hoops required to jump through in order to reach the grand prize. Ho, ho…HELP!image
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Creating that December to remember is nothing short of self inflicted torture. It’s truly insane the amount of things we attempt to pack into one magical month. Besides the shopping, baking, caroling, churching and dragging the wee ones to sit on mall Santa’s lap, there’s the daunting decorating. The tree. Real or fake? No matter, it all requires lots of work. The set up, the tear down. December 26 is the day, and not one day later, we pull the plug on Christmas in our home. By that time, if I see another pine needle or sparkly bit of tinsel on the floor, I’ll simply explode.

On that note, Happy Holidays, to you and yours.

Helping Kids Cope Without Being a Cop

Bedtime prayers had been prayed. We’d asked God to help us with patience, kindness and politeness. A polite, kind hearted boy is like a diamond in the dirt, I told my young sons. You be that diamond. We’d thanked Him for all that we have — a safe, warm home with plenty of food and a family who loves them. I kissed them both goodnight in the darkness, each in his own twin bed parallel to the other.

We were almost finished wrapping up the day, when one son said in a hesitant, sad voice,

“Mommy?”
“Yes, honey?”
“…nobody wanted to play with me at recess today…even though I had the biggest ball”.

Those are words that no mother ever wants to hear from the lips of her child.

I stared at him through the darkness from across the room, in his brother’s narrow bed, my head propped up on a fluffy Pillow Pet. How do I reply? What can I possibly say to fix it?

“I’m sorry, honey”, I replied. And I was. The empathy I feel when one of my kids is hurting is off the charts.

I found it hard to believe that this child, this outgoing, mostly confident boy, was having trouble integrating socially at school. He is one of my most social kids, generally having no problems making friends. My heart filled with melancholy sadness for my sweet little boy.

I told him that I remembered days when I was a little girl and had nobody to play with at recess. There were days when my very best friend was absent in elementary school. I recall feeling like I had nobody to play with. It was a terribly isolating feeling, a bit scary too. Suddenly all of the other kids on the playground seemed so exclusive.

I’m the Mommy. My job is to kiss it and make it all better. Life isn’t always like that though. One of the most difficult things to learn as a parent has been that I cannot and should not always rescue my children. It’s natural and healthy to step back and allow our children to work it out on their own. Coping skills are skills they need to carry with them throughout their entire lives.

We live on a cul-de-sac with 65 children. It’s a family friendly, idyllic place to call home — as long as everyone’s getting along. It’s a microcosm of the “real world” that’s lurking just beyond the hedges of our street. On our street, kid’s ages mostly go unnoticed. Older kids play with the younger kids and everyone is all mixed together like a giant fruit salad. Once in awhile, there are sour grapes.

It’s tough to hear about the drama via my kids. Although, I’m quite sure they play parts in the street stress too. Nasty name calling, picking favorites and excluding are a few norms of the neighborhood. It’s sometimes tougher to have to step back and let them figure it out in their own. They do though. Our kids are developing razor sharp problem solving skills by working issues out on their own.

Shortly after we were all home, getting settled after school this afternoon, my daughter realized she’d forgotten her math book. Again. ThisĀ has beenĀ becoming a pattern. The first several times I escorted her back to school and helped her hunt down the janitor to retrieve her book. Last time she forgot it, I made her pedal her bicycle back to school for the book. This time I wasn’t willing to bail her out either. She chose not to bike back to school for it. Despite her tears and pleading I wouldn’t budge. She needs to face the consequences for her forgetfulness at school.

On her own accord, she decided to be resourceful. After borrowing a neighbor’s math book, she was able to bust out the homework. She figured it out on her own. If I constantly rescued my kids they would likely grow up to be needy and codependent adults. Eww.

My initial instinct was to email my son’s teacher about the recess situation. And maybe I eventually will, just to get her take on the situation. But, really, he needs to learn to be proactive on the playground. We’ve talked about how he needs to first be a friend, in order to have a friend.

Kids don’t come with instruction manuals. Parenting is like free falling and figuring out all the answers before you hit the ground. Or, as comedian Jim Gaffigan says, “Parenting is like an internship. No pay, a certain level of befuddlement, and lots of dirty work.”

We’re giving this parenting gig our best shot and hoping that’s good enough. It has to be.