Monday, October 29, 2012
Monday, October 22, 2012
Monday, October 15, 2012
Last month I sat around a table with 1/2 a dozen sticky faced toddlers. Each one clutching a mangled dixie cup of cheerios in their hot little hands. Upon reaching the bottom of the cup they lift hopeful eyes in my direction. The more assertive personalities hold up their cup beseechingly.
“What do you say?”
Each one, in turn, squeaks out an adorable “pa-wease.” Even S rubs his tummy to sign the word.
After that, it’s smiles all around, flush with the success of snack acquisition and the effusive praise that comes with having “SUCH good manners.”
This is what we do. We teach our children what to say.
Say “Hi” to Grandma. Wave “Bye-bye.” Tell your brother “No thank you! I don’t like it when you throw sand in my eye/take my toy/hug me until I fall to the ground/bite me on the shoulder.”
We give our children words to foster relationships, stand up for themselves and express their feelings. We teach them how to treat others, and ourselves, with respect. Words are the sticks and stones of relationship development.
At the end of a meal our big kids are expected to clear their plate and say to whomever prepared the meal, “Excuse me, thank you for my dinner.” It’s a pretty habit we admired in the respectful, well-behaved children of other families we know. We do the same in the hopes that one day our children will morph into something similar.
I’m not so deluded as to believe it is always the honest expression of heartfelt gratitude. Some nights is sounds more like “excusemethankyouformydinner, it’s MY turn with the iPad, put it DOWN, it’s NOT FAIR, where’s MY ice cream, DON’T touch me, MOOOOOOO-OOOOOOM.”
Other nights we get the sullen, slumped shoulders version which sounds like the exact opposite of gratitude “Ex-cuuuuse me. Thanks for my ‘dinner.’” And we launch immediately into a lively post-dinner discussion about attitude and tone of voice, which is always fun. “What do you mean? That’s my normal voice. I always talk like that.” This actually does have a ring of truth, since sullen-pre-teen-cool is becoming our new normal. Sigh.
But we plug away. Every time they say the words, they go through the motions of Grateful. If nothing else, it is a reminder that meals do not magically appear on the table; they are a gift of time and effort, and hopefully (most nights) some small amount of skill.
Manners are a big deal in our house. I went toe to toe with the speech therapist who insisted that the sign for “want” was the strong verb B needed to use most in her communication. I insist on “please” when she needs something. It may seem like a small thing, but when words are few, they should be the right ones.
And hopefully attitude will follow action.
The easy part is writing all of this about my children; yet another parenting technique we subscribe to. The hard part is applying it to myself.
Glen and I had one of those rare lingering disagreements this weekend (we usually have heated/hurt feelings/cry/make up/I-can’t-really-remember-what-the-big-deal-was-anyway/quick fights). We are tired and overwhelmed and in this life stage, with head colds all around, it’s probably inevitable. But the lingering is worrisome. And unhealthy. And I haven’t been ready to let it go.
I won’t go into the details (mostly because they are pretty stupid and petty), but we both felt disrespected and devalued. Me, by his actions and he, by my words.
I’ve been absolutely certain that actions trumped words. Wasn’t that the point? Not what we said or how we said it, but what we DID. Sure, I had been a little bit wrong, but he was wrong-er.
Then this morning I dusted off this blog post that I had started weeks ago: pontificating about the importance of words. Gah. I suck.
I thank the doctor for his time. I say ‘please’ to the waiter who brings me a drink. I excuse myself from a meeting rather than abruptly walking out. I would never demand or yell or belittle someone I had just met. Doesn’t my family, and especially my husband, DESERVE respectful words even more than the strangers and acquaintances I practice my manners on all day long?
I know they do. And when I am feeling entitled and ungrateful and irritated, I can only hope that saying the right words will help adjust MY attitude too.
So here’s me, thanking my husband for all he does. He speaks to me with respect and that means a lot. I’m sorry.
Monday, October 8, 2012
The LIES I tell myself:
Sleep is for the weak.
I’ll just have ONE bite.
This is the best I can do.
I don’t know how this happened.
It’s not like she’s going to wear diapers forever.
That’ll wash right out.
I’m sure it’s just a phase.
There’s probably some nutritional value in it.
These pants must have shrunk in the wash. Again.
I’m just resting my eyes.
It’s not my fault.
And the TRUTHS that make all the difference:
Sex burns calories and releases positive endorphins.
I am responsible for myself.
I AM doing the best I can.
We’re in this together.
They’re worth it.
God made me special and He loves me very much.
So here’s me, preaching the gospel according to Bob and Larry. I think Preschool Theology is highly underrated.
Note: I do realize that “doing the best I can” made both sides of the list. I shuffled it back and forth several times. Figuring out if it is a lie to let myself off the hook OR a truth to accept about myself is the real trick right now. Well, that and naps. I’m pretty sure a nap will help too
Monday, October 1, 2012
There are 2 kinds of parents in the world. Those who take their children to McDonalds. And those who don’t.
Sadly, we fall into the first category. I say “sadly” not because I’m wracked with guilt about the fat content, insane amounts of sodium and lack of real food value. Much.
I say “sadly” because our trip to “Old McDonalds” (as B calls it) usually dovetails with some of our less-than-stellar parenting times.
Times when we are overly busy. Rush, rush, rush, who has time to make something (from scratch) and put it on the table, then stand over the offspring like prison guards to ensure that they actually eat.
Times when we are feeling lazy. There is only so much of a person to go around. As we slice piece after piece off for housework, carpooling, changing diapers, earning money to pay for diapers… talking to family on the phone, talking to the neighbours, talking to the teachers, talking to the speech therapist, talking to that very friendly checkout lady (I’m an introvert, I like the talking, really, but it exhausts me)… reading emails, checking Facebook, watching Sliders reruns on Netflix… showering, bathing the littles, insisting that the big girls shower (and YES you have to wash your hair this time)… Pretty soon, we’re paper-thin and eager to settle for fast, relatively cheap and, above all, easy.
Times when we eat our emotions. We celebrate with food: got a bonus at work, a perfect mark on your science report, a birthday… We medicate with food: not invited to the party, playing single parent for the weekend, realized the your 8-year-old is NEVER, NEVER, NEVER going to be potty trained… Whoever named it a “Happy Meal” must have felt the same. It’s not a habit that has served ME well over the years. Yet, here I am passing it on to my children.
Times when I am feeling rebellious. I wasn’t raised like this. My Mom fed me nuts and twigs and all manner of healthy crap. We rarely ate out and NEVER had white bread or processed foods or anything with “whiz” or “a-roni” tacked on the end. She once told me that hot dogs were made with pencil shavings, sawdust and whatever else they could sweep off the floor at the end of the day. She was probably right. But I eat them anyway. Not all the time, but occasionally. Because I can. And no one can stop me.
We’re not the only ones. That indoor playground at our local Mickey Ds is often filled to capacity. And beyond. Shell shocked dads, doting grandparents, exhausted nannies, and guilty moms practice McParenting in all its many forms:
The McSanitizer: It’s true that the play structures are a giant, plastic petri dish full of germs and disease. To fight it off these twitchy parents scrub each surface with antibacterial wipes, line them with napkins, pull out extra pairs of socks et voila – instant McHazmat suit. A vigorous rub down in hand sanitizer is a necessary final step for decontamination.
The McWeary: This parent has surrendered. “Just eat something, anything…” I saw one dad pushing fries through the play centre netting into his sons mouth each time he crawled by. I can relate. “Mom, B just ate something she found at the top of the slide.” Try NOT to think about it. It was probably edible. “Can I borrow some hand sanitizer?”
The McThug: See no evil. Hear no evil. Or just chuckle about it and shrug your shoulders, like, “hey, whatcha-gonna-do? Sure my preteen just dropkicked your toddler across the room, but gee, isn’t he cute?” See how cute it is when I push YOU to the ground and step on YOUR face.
The McRockwellian: “No playing until you eat ALL your fries. I mean it young man, that milk…er…dairy-related-substance-shake isn’t going to drink itself. Let’s enjoy some meaningful family time.” Who are we kidding? Unless we recently installed a climbing apparatus in the dining room and invited every preschooler we’ve ever met over to give it a spin, this is NOT the family table.
It is what it is. Not that clean, not that healthy, not that safe and not all that family friendly. BUT the world isn’t either. Not even with bean sprouts and quinoa on the menu.
We all have to live in this dirty, imperfect, not-always-good-for-us world. So, if that same world OCCASIONALLY brings some reasonably priced, convenient, keeps-the-kids-out-of-my-hair-for-a-few-minutes food my way, I’m not going to feel guilty. Much.
Moderation in all things.
So here’s me, and maybe it makes me a total McCop-Out, but I think our family can handle a once a month McSplurge.