I almost snapped in CVS on Friday looking at a display of $4.99 St. Patrick’s Day trinkets (i.e., junk) and scouring the aisles for other household items I could use to create the realistic illusion that a tiny leprechaun had invaded our home and created a mess.
When did St. Patrick’s Day level up? When I was a kid I remember digging into my drawer to find a green shirt. That’s it. The end. There was no leprechaun, no mischief, no tchotkes and no elaborate Rube Goldberg traps.
Allison was almost vibrating with excitement for three days. It was a close second to Christmas morning. No exaggeration. Cecilia was a bit more even keeled. She was just hoping to find some actual gold so she could buy more putty and American Girl doll accessories.
I’ll take Christmas and Easter to 11, even deal with the Elf on the Shelf, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. It takes most of my mental and physical stamina each day for math facts, packing lunches, day care runs, homework, piano, bathing and reading time. I can’t end my night on my hands and knees creating leprechaun footprints in glitter.
This grumpy line of thinking may have caused some marital strife late last night as I attempted to get the toilet the right shade of leprechaun pee green. Someone may have been called a miserable old man. See what this “holiday” has done?
This week’s parenting challenge has been to try to figure out the borders between shyness, embarrassment and proper manners.
Michelle is not an introvert and has a hard time understanding Cecilia’s reactions and reticence to certain situations. For me, on the other hand, it provokes a sense of deja vu.
I was almost aggressively shy as a kid, especially with new people or unfamiliar situations. I still am. Cocktail parties are my worst nightmare. I still probably get many of the same feelings she has, I’ve just become much more adept at faking it than the average 8 year old.
So, while I feel her pain and anxiety, this also doesn’t excuse rude behavior. Putting your head down and not greeting someone or not making eye contact isn’t shy, it’s rude. I also don’t want to force her to be more socially outgoing than is comfortable for her. How do I help her?
Why do so many parenting decisions want to make you drink? I do know that a tumbler or whiskey isn’t the answer for her.
Two parenting milestones this week. First, I spent a solid 90 minutes waiting in two separate lines in a leaky gym to register Ally for kindergarten. Since her fifth birthday she appears to have hit that growth spurt where kid’s grow faster than Japanese knotweed and I definitely won’t miss the day care bills, but hard to believe that she is almost old enough for school.
Second, and obviously just as big, we took stock of our multicolored, plastic 36-piece IKEA kid’s dinnerware set clogging one kitchen cabinet and began to consider that maybe it was time to start at least considering replacing those with something age appropriate.
Picked up on a whim almost nine years ago, they might be our best IKEA purchase ever. Quick and easy to clean and virtually indestructible, they are perfect for meals or as art project accessories. I have eaten more meals than I care to admit off the purple plate.
I will be a little sad to see them go, but all good things must come to an end. And all little girls must eventually go to school.
It can be tempting as parents to focus too much on those areas that need improvement in our children and lose sight of the forest for the trees. God knows, they often don’t make it easy. I found a unexpected reminder of this in Cecilia’s after-school program mailbox this week. [Note, it was dated 12/4, but maybe this was fate holding it for me until I needed it most].
This is an excerpt from the program’s “report card” for Cecilia: “Cecilia is extremely goofy. She loves to laugh and have fun. She has a sense of humor. Cecilia is attentive during group time, choice time and any other times at MAP where listening to directions is important. Cecilia always does the right thing. She is respectful to rules and MAP staff.”
Who is this child? I’d like to meet them! The child at home is not always the same as the child away from it. Or maybe they are and we just sometimes can’t see it through the coats on the floor, the messy rooms and the continuous battle over piano practice. I’m going to stick this piece of paper in a drawer and break it out on those occasions that I need a gentle reminder.
Or maybe I should keep it in my pocket? It might get daily use.
Friday finally felt like the first normal day in almost week. Sandwiched between the mid-week, sugar-kissed high of Valentine’s Day, Ally got the flu and we had the awful Florida news which makes putting your kids on the bus each morning more stressful than it has a right to be.
We know Ally is genuinely sick when she either doesn’t fight taking a nap or refuses dessert. Saturday afternoon she did both and knew we were heading for trouble. Thankfully, we had all received the flu shot and I think that went a long way toward both keeping Ally’s symptoms relatively mild (if 105 temp is mild) and keeping the rest of us healthy. Getting the flu with Addison’s takes things to a whole new level that I wasn’t keen to experience. That’s why you get flu shots. It’s not necessarily for you, the healthy person, but for the kids, elderly and immunity-impaired.
By Friday, some of my anger, fear and frustration had receded about Florida, Ally was once again angling for extra cookies, and Michelle was opening the prosecco. Just about back to normal….
We spent a lot of time and effort this week on multiplication facts. It’s embarrassing that Michelle doesn’t know them by now, so we decided to … okay, it was Cecilia. Now, Cecilia knows the facts pretty well, but when you introduce the clock, it turns her into a bit of a puddle. So we’ve been practicing doing the facts with the time pressure.
She’s improving and she aced the 4’s test by the end of the week in school, but the improvement has not been exactly in a straight line and it’s led to some stressful mornings. Just like the first few days of a new piano piece week, any mistake throws her into a tailspin. Its all left me trying to figure out when good is good enough.
I’m certainly not perfect, not as a parent, husband or human, so demanding perfection from our kids doesn’t seem all that fair. Kids need to learn that people, and the world, in general, is a flawed and complicated place. Sometimes I will screw up. Sometimes my kids might not succeed as much as I wish. Sometimes they will miss a few math facts. Imperfection is the human condition. Accepting that seems like a healthier way to parent.
Saturday was the first dominoes night of 2018 and we were hosting, so we spent most of the day just straightening and prepping and making sure there was no undergarments lingering in odd places and that all the dried food scraps were scraped off the couch. It took most of the day. Exciting pictures ahead!
Having people over whether for pizza or dominoes always makes me remember how under-appreciated and overlooked these relationships often are in our lives, especially for someone around my age. Children and family are vital and joyous, but they take a lot of physical and mental energy.
As parents, you are their sole caretakers and the world quickly shrinks down to the boundaries of your offspring. You spend most of your time together: in the car, in the bathroom(!), in the kitchen. It would be weird if that close-knit warmth didn’t sometimes start to border on maddening. The happy turns to harried, the harried to the routine.
That is why it’s worth the effort of folding the two week old laundry pile, sweeping the floor, and shoving all the miscellaneous junk into drawers before your friends visit. It’s a sanity check. It’s opening up your world a little bit beyond the edges of your kid’s lunch box. They will commiserate, they will sympathize, they will console, they will make sure you’re not drinking alone. In short, they will make sure you don’t go crazy. A few household chores seems a small price to pay.