Call Me When You Have Good News

Friday, Day 21 of the blogging challenge: the topic is “what makes me sad?” Lots of things make me sad. Abuse, poverty, injustice, hate, ignorance…I could go on. Unfortunately, all I can think about that is making me sad right at this current moment is that this blog challenge still isn’t over. *screams* Me and my first world problems. :p

I try not to focus on things that make me sad because it’s easy to become overwhelmed and depressed as a result. That’s the reason I don’t watch the news or watch a lot of movies & television which contain tragic events; it just sticks with me and makes me a basket case. Sad people have the same effect on me as well. I could attend the funeral of someone I have never met in my life, but seeing their loved ones cry, feeling their pain, is all it takes to get me in the same state.

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Funeral Attendant: “Oh hey Beth, I didn’t know you knew Mr. Hinkerton Houserbottom. How did you two know each other?”

Me: *sobbing* “I…I…I didn’t.” *nasty snotty nose noises* “I came in here looking for my grave-digging b-brother-in-law; didn’t want to interrupt the service so I st-stood in the b-back…bu-but it’s s-so saaaad!”

Funeral Attendant: *Rolls eyes, offers kleenex* *Pats my head like he’s comforting a golden retriever*

See, there are many things to be sad about, but since I feel like I should narrow this down I did think of one thing that has been plaguing me recently & tends to come & go at a pretty regular rate. Sadness over my kids. Not that my kids make me sad; on the contrary, they make me very happy. It’s my own inadequacies as a parent that make me sad. I have those days where I feel like I’m kicking this parenting thing in the face (*happy dance*) and then I have the ones where I feel like I can’t do enough or I can’t do anything right.

I see all the moms nodding because you know the feeling right?

Currently the big struggle is with my youngest & school. She has struggled so much in school since 1st grade & I can’t help but go down the long list of could have, should have & what ifs. Those are completely pointless thoughts, but that doesn’t stop us from having them does it? It doesn’t make it any better when the teachers (however well-meaning) make you feel attacked, or like they are accusing you of not doing enough. I don’t know about you, but that’s how I always feel going into any sort of parent-teacher conference. I feel anxious & unfairly judged.

*Here we go again…another half hour where I sit and listen to all the ways I’m failing my kids, so much fun!!*

*Oh yay, here’s my favorite part! The Condescension! “Your child is just SO SWEET….but…[followed by all the ways in which she’s lacking. That list is always much longer than the cursory compliment which is meant to soften the blow, but somehow only serves make it feel worse]*

Of course the teachers rarely (if ever) mean it to feel that way, but those are just my own irrational feelings. Remember, feelings aren’t right or wrong, okay?

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*Therapist voice* This is a safe space.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted to ask other moms if they too experience this inescapable feeling of dread when conference time comes around, or when you get any sort of communication from a teacher. The crushing anxiety. The pep-talk you have to give yourself before walking into the building or picking up the phone. (Because it’s never good news when I hear from a teacher.)

*Do not cry. Whatever happens, do. not. cry. You are a strong, loving parent. This is to help your kids. Be strong. Do. Not. Cry.*

I want to be the mom that just instinctively knows what her kids need in every area of life, but when it comes to school I can’t reconcile between they need to work harder and they need a break. School in America is ridiculous in the first place with their lofty standards, sped-up curriculum, standardizing everything…but that’s a different blog post. How do you balance between their down time when they’re home and the demands of the classroom?

If they have homework or classwork to finish, it has to be done. If they have projects, they have to be done. Even if all of that is taking away from their down time, their chores aren’t getting done, instruments aren’t being practiced, extra curricular activities are completely neglected, dwindling your family time…sucking the life out of everyone in your family from 3:30 – 9pm. (Can you feel my eyes rolling?)  I want to set a good example for my kids regarding work ethic & earning things, but the demands from schools do seem excessive to me. I want to be able to tell the teacher this at the conference without making it sound like I’m blaming her, and I want to be able to come up with a solution that works for the classroom and at home. One that keeps my child accountable, but also doesn’t make me want to pull my hair out & use it to strangle myself or someone else.

teacher-meme-14-parent-teacher
Memes like this don’t help. 

There never seems to be a good compromise though. I sit there listening to teachers give me all this advice about my kid (who they don’t even really know by the way) trying not to cry & feel helpless, & I can feel them making judgements about me, making judgements about her because of me. Am I the only one who feels this way?

When you look something like this up on Google all you get is a list of articles about The 10 Types of Parents Teachers Hate and Things You Should Never Say To Your Child’s Teacher or forums where teachers complain about the parents of the children they teach and make assumptions about what is or isn’t happening in their home. (Don’t ask me how I know this…) Where is the support for parents who are doing their best, but feeling overwhelmed, insignificant, and even attacked? The weight of that potential judgement from teachers and faculty stresses me out. You could say it makes me sad.

The fact that most of the time I feel like I’m not doing enough for my child while simultaneously feeling like I’m doing everything I can without having a nervous breakdown…makes me sad. The fact that I don’t have the patience & the organizational skills required to homeschool makes me sad. The fact that I can’t afford private school…nah, that doesn’t make me sad. I don’t really want to pay thousands of dollars to have people judge me when I can get that judgement at a more affordable rate elsewhere.

The point of my post is not to berate teachers so I hope that my teacher friends will not take offense. I am only sharing my general feelings which, while they may not be an accurate representation of the reality of a situation, they are the feelings & fears that go with me into every encounter with a teacher, counselor, principal, etc.. I respect and value teachers & I know that most of them respect the parents of the children they teach, but to search the internet or Facebook you wouldn’t think that. The internet is chock full of teachers complaining about one aspect of their job or another (which I understand) and parents is what they complain about most; not necessarily with my teacher friends, but generally speaking.

If I had one big blanket suggestion for all schools (who am I kidding, I have tons, but for the purposes of this post I picked this one), it would be to make sure that your staff is contacting parents with good news often, definitely more often than you’re contacting them with bad news if you can manage it. Every time someone from my kids’ school calls me, I have a 3 step process:

1 second of panic, 3 seconds of doubt where I don’t want to answer the phone, and then the part of my brain that does all the adulting kicks in and makes me answer it.

I never get good news from a school faculty member without it being followed up with a “but.” If the military can have stress cards and colleges can coddle 20 year olds over the results of an election, then schools can help their more anxious parents out with a few nice phone calls or emails per year…just to let us know we’re doing something right. That would make me very, very happy.

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If You Want To Change The World…

Dear Kids,

You are growing up in a crazy world. Sometimes it’s crazy beautiful and sometimes it’s just plain crazy. The difference is really all in your perspective. You will grow up hearing words  & phrases like “feminism,” “women’s rights,” “human rights,” “climate change,” “back the blue,” “black lives matter,” “all lives matter,” & proclamations of “let’s make America great again!” These things will mean something different to each person who says them. I won’t dive into all of that today, but there are a few things I want you to know about a few of these words which will permeate this part of your life & profoundly affect the way you experience & perceive the world around you.

ct-womens-march-national-pg-20170121Recently, there have been a series of marches and protests happening around the country, all for one cause or another, some peaceful and some not. You may have heard about it. Your kids – should you choose to have them –  may learn about it in school one day; this is your history in the making. For the rest of this post I’m just going to assume you’ll one day have a family of your own. If you decide not to, that’s okay, but to drive home my point, I’m totally going to use my future grandchildren. 😉 (If the word “children” doesn’t apply to you, maybe substitute nieces and nephews? I know how literal you 3 can be. *sigh*)

One day you will be faced with the responsibility that every generation before you has faced; the responsibility to enact positive change for the next generation. It might sound irrelevant to you when you consider how fortunate you already are and how much you already have. It might sound like a pretty big deal. It may sound almost unachievable for one person. So, how do you do it?

Do you make signs and march? Protest? Riot, rally in anger, preach in righteousness, fight…? Maybe you’ll feel like your voice is best heard in a group because how can just one person – or even two people – make a positive impact on any part of the world?

images-3I just want you to know you can & I’m going to tell you how. I don’t personally believe that real, effective change is brought about in crowds yelling, inciting anger, violence, fear, & hate. Or yet in silent, peaceful crowds carrying signs about love. It makes a statement, sure…but what kind of statement? Some people are just really good at making speeches or signs and can make you buy what they’re selling regardless of your own convictions. If you don’t do anything else I ever tell you, at least do this: know that you are only responsible for yourself. Learn what you can from history & verify it for yourself rather than taking other people at their word just because they can make it sound good. Evaluate the words and actions of others for yourself. Study. Watch. Listen. Get your own facts, your own references. Just as you take responsibility for yourself, let the ones around you take responsibility for themselves. Do not ever let another person dictate your beliefs for you. Make choices you can be proud of.

You can’t make anyone do anything. You cannot make 100% of the people happy 100% of the time so you need to be able to live with the choices you make. You probably won’t cause huge cooperations or groups of people to change their beliefs, or their approach no matter how many people you rally, especially if their main concern is the money they’re making. This is because real change is a personal responsibility rather than a global one. It starts small & ripples out slowly over time, affecting one person at a time beginning with yourself.

Change starts with you. It has a ripple effect in regard to what you teach your children; if you want to change the world, start with your world.

change-starts-with-you

Feminism is simply a belief in equality, yet our society has bastardized it and given it some incredibly negative connotations. What are women really saying when they walk around with their shirts off yelling about being ‘nasty women?’ How does this help? Are they really ‘taking back the power?’ Really think about that. What does that even mean? How does excluding certain women send the message ‘we are all equal.’ That, in my opinion, certainly doesn’t communicate anything reminiscent of equality. It is a contradiction to everything they claim to stand for. Your time would be better spent at home teaching your children the value of kindness, chivalry, self-respect; teaching them to set standards & boundaries for themselves so that they can make positive choices in their own lives, thus eventually rippling into the hearts and minds of others.

“Black Lives Matter.” Of course they do. “All Lives Matter.” Unequivocally. I find it abhorrent that after everything we’ve been through in this country, after everything generations before us have fought for, we still live in a time where this distinction is necessary. How can you change this? Not by blaming or segregating, but by teaching your children to choose their friends based on the content of their character and nothing else.

Climate Change. I believe it’s a thing; some do not. Your beliefs regarding its validity make little to no difference when you consider that there are things we could be doing to help preserve and protect our environment whether you believe in the effects of climate change or not. If we all recycled, used less energy or more solar energy, turned the water off while brushing our teeth, unplugged appliances we aren’t actively using, turned off the lights and the TV when we left the house (your dog doesn’t care about The View, I promise), put our trash in the trash can or a recycling bin instead of tossing it on the ground, etc. not only would you see a decrease in your bills, but you’d be helping to ensure the future of our planet. These small choices we make daily have the biggest impact. Teach your children to respect and care for their environment and your beliefs about climate change become irrelevant; you’re doing your part for the world you want your kids to inherit & you’re teaching them to do theirs. That’s all there is.

So, let me say it again:

Change starts with you. It has a ripple effect in regard to what you teach your children; if you want to change the world, start with your world.

16194956_1240064922755969_8824124583631119672_nNo amount of sign-holding, marching, yelling, fear-mongering or hate-speech will ever effect the kind of positive change people talk about wanting to see in the world. Nor do I  personally believe that tolerating and accepting everything & everyone is the appropriate response. I don’t tolerate racism, rapists, abusers or manipulators. I don’t tolerate people who would treat me as less than simply because of the color of my skin or my gender. I don’t tolerate people who mistreat my family and friends. Does that mean I’m going to go blow up a prison, get a group together to beat up someone I don’t like, or put on a mask and become a vigilante? Of course not (I’m not nearly as good a shot as the Green Arrow anyway). I won’t be burning down buildings because I don’t believe in the politics or ethics of that business or group of people; I’ll simply stop buying their product. I’ll never walk around topless yelling about my lack of rights and if I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t do it in America where I HAVE RIGHTS (but that’s a different post). You’ll never find me disrupting traffic & stopping people from going to work just because I’m angry & want the people around me to feel angry, too.

you-teach-people-how-to-treat-you-quoteWhat I will do is make choices to ensure these types of people are as far removed from myself and my family as is within my power, & I will do my best to teach you – my children – what it means to be people of character & integrity.  I will teach you to walk away from people & situations which make you feel inferior. I will teach you to choose your friends wisely, to sit with the lonely kids at lunch, to offer help to those in need, to get outside your comfort zone & not to place ridiculous standards or restrictions on yourself. I will teach you about humility. I will teach you about respect, both for yourself and others. I will teach you to apologize when you should & how to recognize when there is nothing to apologize for. I will teach you to work hard, to earn rather than expect. I will teach you to lead by example, & even, sometimes, to follow. I will teach you to share, to give freely, to speak kindly, & love fiercely.

You are not sheeple & you do not have to flow with the status quo; you always have a choice. You have a miraculous gift, both common to all people & still uniquely individual: it’s called a brain. Use it.

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Not to sound like a cliche’ or anything, but…

Love,

Mom – xoxo

 

Sorry, I Got Nothin’

My challenge for today was to write about my ten favorite foods, but this is not a topic I care to write about, nor one I think people give a damn about. I’m feeling pretty cynical today. My girls brought home their report cards & well…the report wasn’t so good. It’s just got me down and honestly, feeling kinda throat-punchy. So for today, I have nothing to give you. No funnies, no sarcasm, no small chicken nuggets of death wisdom.

But in the (debatably) wise words of Dean Winchester…

Strike out GED, replace with High School Diploma, add something about pie and we’ll call this #ChallengeComplete.

It’s Okay To Be Emotional…Until It Isn’t

I’m going to be honest: I have no idea if Albert Einstein actually said that. I just thought it was appropriate for my blog today.


Surely you’ve heard people say, “it’s okay to cry” just as often as you’ve heard people – probably the same people – chastise their children for doing just that. So, when is it okay to display negative emotions? Because from where I’m standing, it seems as if it’s only okay to show them when you’re in a therapy session or at a funeral. Otherwise, suck it up, Buttercup! There’s nothing to be upset about.
 Actually…there’s nothing for you to be upset about. That person you’re talking to may feel entirely different, or maybe they’re experiencing some internal battle you know nothing about, which they can’t tell you about for fear of being judged, belittled, or embarrassed. It’s kind of an asshole move to tell someone when it’s okay for them to express how they feel or dictate how they should do so.

Someone asked me today why my youngest child is so emotional, and have I “gotten to the root cause of it?” The question threw me off a little. I actually said, “I’m not sure what you mean…” even though I did know exactly what she meant. It took me by surprise and I guess my brain just needed (more than) a moment to process, which I didn’t get and so I ended up giving a blundering, awkward response.

The more I think about it, the more I wish I had answered differently. I keep replaying my response (& the subsequent tears) over and over again in my head and the more I do, the more frustrated with myself I become. Why did I react that way and why did I give such a stupid reply?

 

It was an innocent question asked from a place of concern, but I felt oddly (& irrationally) attacked by it. I’ve never thought of The Cuteness as being “emotional” so much as she’s just intuitive and so very receptive to the world around her. She has such a pure, sweet, sensitive soul that I think even the smallest delights and cruelties in life affect her in the most profound – and sometimes puzzling – ways. I was told last year she had a high level of anxiety. Given our circumstances last year, I’m not surprised by that in the slightest, but then I thought about it a little more…

 

It wasn’t long before it struck me that my child is only 8 years old (and only 7 years old when I was told she rated very high for anxiety). Let that sink in a minute. She is only eight.
The Cuteness has the most vibrant, innocent, tender soul of anybody I’ve ever met. She expresses joy over the smallest things and it takes very little to make her happy. All she really needs is a lot of hugs, a puppy and some good music, and she’s the happiest girl you’ll ever meet. I call her my sunshine, because she really, really is. She radiates it like magic. 🙂 As generally happy as she is though, she’s the one that cries when she sees someone else crying, or a scene in a movie with someone hunting a deer, and especially when she sees a dead animal on the side of the road. She sheds quiet, melancholy tears every single time she hears the song “Burning House” on the radio…even as she’s singing along to it.

 

She has a mom who is overly-empathic & (I like to think) pretty intuitive myself, an authoritarian dad who is stern & rough (at least on the outside), and she lives in a world that forces children to grow up too quickly, to ‘know better’ too soon. She is a student in an educational system that is broken; too much is demanded of our kids (not to mention our teachers), much of which isn’t even developmentally appropriate. She tries so hard and she still struggles. On top of all that she’s supposed to somehow figure out how to appropriately navigate social situations, make friends, deal with bullies, which is another burden entirely when you consider that she’s being taught to defend herself at home & told not to at school. It would be overwhelming for anyone, but an 8 year old who already has a proclivity for being sensitive?

 

How could she NOT be emotional? How is an 8 year old equipped to handle all the millions of unique thoughts & incomprehensible feelings they have on a minute-to-minute basis? When you think of it this way, it sounds silly to even ask why one is ‘so emotional.’

 

I know there are tons of kids who come in and out of school, church, and everywhere else who have some much bigger issues they’re facing which cause a lot of baffling emotional and behavioral responses; what if they’re being neglected or abused? I get the need to ask questions, to find the root cause & I understand this is the sad reality of the world.

 

However, sometimes a kid – an adult, even – is just emotional because they’re designed that way & the world is often a brutal, unforgiving place…I don’t think it’s terribly strange to see a child react to that in a mournful sort of way. It’s tough to know “the right way” to respond in any given situation. Especially when you’re a ridiculously perceptive eight year old and you have a limited number of tools in your belt to deal with those perceptions. People have so many absurd expectations! Why does there have to be a cut & dry reason/answer for everything? Sometimes, it just is what it is.

 

Sorry, today was a ranty day I guess. If you read this, many thanks to you. 🙂 If you would like to chip in your two cents, I would be happy to hear it in the comments below. ❤

My Eight Year Old Has Yoda-Wisdom

Happy Almost Christmas everybody! I hope you’re all ready for the holidays, snuggled up with warm socks by warm fireplaces eating Christmas cookies or whatever it is you do for the holidays. For those of you who are missing loved ones or just stressing in general, my heart goes out to you. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but a pair of warm socks really improved my outlook on life this morning…I urge you to try it if you’re feeling less-than-cheerful. 🙂

Anyway, this post was inspired by Progressive (and maybe a tiny bit by all the Star Wars fans). For real. My girls and I were watching TV together this morning and that silly, misogynist Progressive commercial came on. If you don’t know which one, I’ve linked it below:

http://ispot.tv/a/AYG6

I was so proud of my girls because both of them just rolled their eyes at it & laughed. “Where’s her husband? She doesn’t have to have a husband. Crazy man.” My girls are often such silly little creatures, but they are also super, extra special! It made me think of a conversation with a friend the other day in which it was suggested that girls learn to become co-dependent from the womb. I’ve done a lot of thinking about this and decided it’s ultimately true.

In utero, we’re all dependent on our mother’s care to keep us alive. As babies, we depend on our parents for our every need. For boys, the older they get the more independent they’re taught to be. When they fall and scrape their knees they’re told to get up and walk it off. “Stop crying like a little girl.” (Which is another post entirely.)

It’s a little different for girls. We’re taught that we can be whatever we want to be, but somewhere along the way “whatever you want” turns into “someday you’ll meet a boy and you’ll want to get married and have a family…” and “someday when you’re married…” yada, yada, yada. We go from depending on our parents to depending on a man “to save us” from…I don’t know what…loneliness? Having to pay our own bills? I mean, really, I’m not sure why females automatically get handed the role of damsel in distress and boys must automatically assume the role of the provider. (Like that’s all either of us can be??) It’s pretty typical though. Little girls then spend their whole lives dreaming about their fairytale wedding day and then pitying themselves when it doesn’t happen in the timeframe they’ve allotted for themselves. Single at 30, anyone?

Because that’s what this whole life is about, right? Getting married. Having a family. We’re conditioned from a very young age to believe that our ultimate goals in life should consist of fairytale romances and a prince to whisk us off to his castle in the sky to make all the babies.

Some of These are great things and I’m not knocking them in any way. I myself enjoy my family and my marriage more than anything, and to be perfectly honest, I never wanted that when I was growing up. Getting married and having a family just wasn’t a goal for me. I thought it meant sacrificing everything else I wanted: college, a career, happiness in general. Now, I couldn’t picture anything better.

Having said that, I want to teach my girls that they can be anything they want to be and that includes single. Even at thirty. Being single doesn’t make you sad. It doesn’t make you pathetic and lonely. It doesn’t mean your life is wildly off track or that you’re destined to be a cat lady. By all means, if you want to be a cat lady, be a cat lady! I’m just saying that no matter what age and stage you may be at in your life, it can still be whatever you want it to be. You have the power to mold your life into whatever you want it to look like. Boys don’t have to be falling over themselves for your attention in order for you to feel validated and worthy. This goes for boys, too. Life is about much more than what the opposite sex thinks of you. Period.

e7accf4a634d77baaa166c418e376a24I want to encourage my kids to really stop and take inventory of their lives and their goals, to determine if what they have decided they want is really what they chose for themselves, or just an idea that someone else has established for them. If they don’t want to be married and have a ton of babies, awesome! If they really do want marriage, awesome! If they want to run away with the circus…well, I guess that has the potential to be awesome, too. As much as I want them all to be independent and free-thinking, I also want them to know that marriage doesn’t have to mean co-dependence either. It doesn’t mean that this other person is going to come in and create all your happiness for you, but it can be a joyful experience all the same. I asked The Cuteness (my 8 year old) where her happiness comes from and she said, “my heart.” I thought that was a pretty great answer.

We create our own happiness.

You might as well stop waiting for Prince Charming, let go of any expectations that other people have set for you and your life, and just start LIVING! Start enjoying your life for what it is, wherever you’re at in this moment. It’ll be hard at first if you’ve always operated under the impression that you can’t be alone, but the more you do it the more liberating and enjoyable it will be. Learn to be okay with yourself/your life and you’ll never need to worry about needing anyone else; they’ll just be a bonus. 🙂

Merry Christmas my lovelies!

Pink Potatoes & Hair Storage

Oh wait…did I get that wrong? Pink Hair & Potato Storage: that’s better.

I shared this post on my SpiffySnaps blog last year, but I recently rediscovered it and thought it appropriate to share here as well.

If you’ve ever struggled with discovering (or just being) who you are as opposed to who you’re expected to be, maybe this can be helpful to you. And if not, there’s a picture of me with some badass pink hair so (I think) that’s worth taking a millisecond look at. 😉

10278367_mOh, if you read the post & wondered what the potato storage email said (I had to look it up, too, because I completely forgot) here’s some info on that: http://www.everydaycheapskate.com/dear-mary/best-location-potato-storage/

Happy Monday!

Keep Calm &…Oh F*** It Part 3

In my blog post the other day I talked about changing your reaction to your kids, allowing them room to make mistakes, and just generally trying to sort out the reasoning behind things instead of just making harsh judgements based off your own assumptions. It brought to my attention to very reason why the suggestions people have given me in the past about how to deal with my ODD child will never work.

It’s because nearly every suggestion I’ve ever been given is based on the thinking that my child needs to change.

To a degree, that’s true. She has some behavioral issues that certainly need to be sorted out & some changes are going to need to be made on her part for that happen. However, there’s nothing I can do to force her to change. The decision has to be hers.

So what do you do in the meantime? You change yourself.

I know what some of you are thinking:

“So, you’re telling me that my child is the one with the problem, but I have to change?”

Yes. That is exactly what I’m telling you.

That’s where I messed up so frequently before & still do more often than I’d like. I dealt with her in ways that my other two children responded to rather than tailoring my response to what she needed or would be able to understand. I’ve had to make changes in the way I discipline her, talk to her, respond to her, and even in the ways that I love her.

Up until the past couple years or so I think my husband and I have used every method that we could think of to force her behavior and her attitude to change without changing anything about ourselves. My daughter and I didn’t understand each other or “speak each other’s language.” A person who is strong-willed is going to resist any change or action that they themselves didn’t come up with. It’s what they do…they resist, they challenge, they analyze, they go against the grain. That’s a really great thing if used correctly & I realize now that I don’t need to punish her for being such a strong, amazing, fearless person. She needs understanding and guidance more than she needs punishments & power-plays. Yes, there will be some negative consequences for both of us, but I’m finding the more I change my reaction to her, the more her behavior changes along with it. We don’t quite “get” each other yet, but we respect each other and that’s where understanding starts. 🙂

How do you respond when your kid is being particularly difficult? Do you blow up, stay calm, ground them, take things away, give them chores, give them some sort of multiple choice?? Let me know in the comments! 🙂

 

Yes Silly, Of Course The Tooth Fairy Has Email!

When you’re a crappy Tooth Fairy you have to get creative. I sent my daughter an email this morning. 
  
Dear {Princess Sassypants},
I am emailing you because I wanted you to get this as soon as possible and also because your parents have a reputation for firing Tooth-fairies and I don’t want to be next! 

I’m so sorry I was unable to collect your tooth on time. Please allow me to explain: Yesterday was a super busy day for the Tooth Fairy. There were LOTS of children who lost teeth and so many of them even go to your school! 
I collected all the teeth I could, but then my satchel got full and I couldn’t carry it anymore. I had to call the ToothCab (the Tooth Fairy Taxi Cab Service) to come pick me up because I couldn’t fly with all those teeth. 
It took the Taxi two hours to come pick me up (he says he ran into some elf or something on the way, but I’m not sure I believe him. He was probably just rolling around in pixie dust again) and when he finally got there it was nearly time for me to stop collecting anyway. I still had 13 teeth to collect! 
Anyway, I noticed that you got up earlier than usual this morning so I wasn’t able to come back and get your tooth yet. I’m sorry dear. 
I’ll come get yours (& all the other teeth I couldn’t fit in my satchel) tonight and there will be an extra special prize from me included under your pillow.
Can you take care of the tooth until then? 

Thank you for being so kind to me {Princess Sassypants}. I’m so proud to have the honor of collecting your teeth! Please ask your parents to give me another shot. They just want their kids to have the best Tooth Fairy, and I want to be that Fairy!

Love,

The Toothiest Tooth Fairy That Ever Fairied Teeth 

Care to share your Tooth Fairy fails & successes?

Keep Calm &…Oh F*** It: Part 2

Hello again!

It’s Monday morning and I am snuggled up on my couch underneath a thick, fuzzy blanket in an ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ sweatshirt and yoga pants, nursing a hot cup of coffee while my kids (who are out of school this week for Thanksgiving break) nestle behind the couch to watch movies on the iPad despite the fact that they have an entire room in the back of the house with all their toys, a couch, and cable TV. One day they’ll be telling their grandchildren all about the woes of being a child raised in the 21st century and one of their struggles will be something like, “when it was cold outside and our mom was babysitting, five of us had to scrunch up around a portable 9 inch screen to stream movies on Netflix and we had to take turns picking the movies!” *gasp* I can’t imagine the terrible scars this will leave upon their delicate souls. Years of therapy await them, I’m sure. Can you feel my eyes rolling? If not, let me help you envision it:

I don’t mind it though because I can hear everything that’s going on and it gives me the time and quiet I need to make this post. Yes, I’m letting the iPad temporarily babysit my kids and nieces. If you didn’t judge me after Part 1 of this series, please feel free to do so now.

Speaking of judging, we tend to do this a bit too harshly to each other don’t we? Often, judgment goes hand in hand with assumption and your kids are no exception to this. Maybe they made a mess, spilled something on the table, or neglected to put away the laundry after you asked. Often, we assume it’s just because they’re not listening, or simply because they chose not to obey. We think we have to open the Crazy Box to get things done.

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I feel like ^^ this ^^ from time to time. Okay…often. I feel like this often.

The trouble is that when we assume, we don’t take the time to get to know the real reasoning behind the things our children do and say. We don’t think, we just react. We presume to already know the answer and so we don’t need to discuss it, ask questions, or try to make sense of it; we just want our kids to do what they’re told, right?

But…why?

Do we always want to just do what we’re told without knowing the reason for it? Do we want our kids to blindly do what they’re told in every situation? We’re always telling them, “if so-and-so jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” They might if that’s what they’ve always been taught: to listen, obey and just “do as you’re told.” Sometimes that can be very dangerous; how can our kids differentiate if we don’t teach them? We want them to be their own people. We want them to be independent thinkers & not follow the crowd, to not be afraid to ask questions…until it’s inconvenient for us.

We want them to trust and obey us as their parents, their teachers, ‘the authority figure’…and somehow they’re still supposed to learn to be free thinkers, to inherently know what to do, what not to do, which friends are good influences, which are not, which adults are trustworthy and which ones are not, when to just obey & when to ask questions…all without us giving them the opportunity to learn these skills at home or at school? We have a tendency to give ourselves room for error and growth while expecting other people, even our kids, to already be perfect; to know better.

I’m not saying you should have to break down every little thing for your child. They should just do what you asked out of respect for you whether they understand it or not, but this is not an ideal world and what people should do and what they actually do are often two very different things.

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A relationship of trust has to be built before this can happen. I’m more likely to do something that is asked of me without question when it has been made clear to me that the person asking is someone I implicitly trust. The parent-child relationship is so special & unique because trust is an innate emotion between the two, but it is not automatically given in any other relationship. In every other relationship on the planet, you have to earn it. With your kids, you just have their trust automatically (isn’t that amazing?!) from the day they’re conceived…until you break it, (or until they break yours) and then it must be earned back. In the case of my kid, and many others, it’s not necessarily always an issue of trust…she just needs to know the why’s and how’s of something for it to make sense to her, and once it makes sense she’s more inclined to do what I’m asking her to do.

I have been guilty of this before, but I am not typically a “because I said so” kind of mom. I try to explain and to understand before I react. Sometimes I fall way short of this, but that’s because I’m human and I’m a work in progress. When that happens, I’m not above apologizing for it. I try to remember that the few extra seconds it takes to explain something to my child is so much better than arguing unnecessarily over it; things get done much faster and my household runs more smoothly when I take that little bit of extra time.

Additionally, some kids need problems to solve, not just chores to do.

{Example: I very recently learned that Princess Sassypants will wash dishes happily if I tell her, “I really need you to do this because we have somewhere to be in an hour and the dishes need to be done before we leave. You do such a good job at washing them; you’re so much more careful and thorough than your brother and your sister is still a little too young to handle knives.” This way she feels like she’s special because

A.) I’ve chosen her specifically because she does a better job than someone else and

B.) she’s being helpful to and protective of her sister who might get cut.

She feels proud of her accomplishment and she knows that I notice and value her efforts. Okay, so it’s a little manipulative, but it’s positive manipulation if that helps. 😉 }

Children need to feel like they’re needed and valued versus feeling like they’re just there for you to boss around and yell at. You like to feel needed and appreciated, right? What would give you the impression that your child doesn’t want or deserve the same?

Yes, it’s frustrating when I have to ask my kids to do things repeatedly, but that’s when I have to remind myself to take a deep breath, get their attention and calmly (but firmly) remind them. Then after they’ve done it, I ask them, “is there a reason you didn’t do that when I asked you to?” I don’t always succeed at this, but I try to steer clear of “why didn’t you do what I said?!” because that sounds accusatory and they won’t give me an answer. By wording it the other way they feel like I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, they’re not being accused of anything or blamed, and they’re more likely to answer me. “Because I had to use the bathroom and when I got back I started playing and I just forgot.” That isn’t an excuse I want to hear every single time I ask them to do something, but it does seem valid on occasion, especially when you consider the person I’m asking is an 8 year old girl with the attention span of a squirrel or a ten year old who is a bit forgetful and scatterbrained like her mother. She gets it honest. Yelling at them won’t make them feel anything good, and it likely won’t improve the strong-willed child’s behavior in the future either, AND – to put it bluntly – it’ll make you (& everyone who had to listen to it) feel like shit(take mushrooms). So what’s the point? It’s a pretty useless thing to do all the way around. That’s when you come up with a game plan (like “next time put the laundry away before you go to the bathroom” or something that works for your family), then let them know that this excuse isn’t going to be acceptable next time and just move on. It doesn’t have to be an argument and no “crazy boxes” need be opened or “Oh, F*** It” moments had. 🙂

Of course, everyone is going to open their crazy box every now and then. Even your kids have OFI moments. Allow them room for error. Give them room to behave like the beautifully flawed humans that they are, but teach them how to use that experience to prepare themselves to react better in the future. You don’t have to excuse their behavior, but do let them know that it’s okay to feel whatever they feel; it’s how they react, it’s how they use that emotion that matters. Teach them to use every mistake as a learning opportunity so they can continually grow. If it takes a little more understanding and explanation on your part, so be it.

More than anything, though, remember to model it for them. Apologize to them when you have an OFI moment and forgive yourself for not being perfect, let them see you not repeating the same mistakes in the future. Let them see you changing and even if they don’t change, your understanding of and respect for each other will, and that will cause your relationship to blossom. 🙂


 

Have you had any moments where you’ve simply reworded something to get a better result? Are there moments you can remember where a simple change of verbiage or attitude would have changed the outcome of a situation or prevented an argument? Do you have questions about how you can better manipulate your children use your words & attitude to get the result you want? I may be able to help you with your manipulation wording, which will in turn help me with mine. It’s really hard to remember to implement some of these things when you’re smack in the middle of a real-life, stressful, tear-your-hair-out, F***-it-all moment, but the more we think about and prepare ourselves for these things the more chances we have of remembering them when we find ourselves in a situation where we might need to use it. So, go ahead…*therapy voice* what’s on your mind?

 

Keep Calm &…Oh, F*** It! (Part 1)

cb669911103645a289950dade19167efWelcome to Part One of the series called “Keep Calm &…Oh, F*** It!” We’ve all been there: maxed out, at our limit, and completely unable to take anymore, so we just say “F*** it.”

We are in a day & age where “memes” are EVERYWHERE. Aside from cat memes, I think the memes I see most often are the ones that say “Keep Calm” followed by pretty much any random thing you want to say.

Keep Calm &…

• rub some bacon on it

• drink wine

• brew coffee

• do yoga

• watch Supernatural

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Google search “keep calm memes” and you’ll see they are endless.

When you’re a parent “keeping calm” can often be exceptionally challenging. That’s where the “Oh, F*** It” (hereto referred to as OFI moment) part comes into play. We all have an OFI story, but let me tell you about my worst one.

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This is my youngest daughter, The Cuteness, with Saber in 2012.
It started when our husky, Saber, got ran over and died. I know this sounds like a silly thing to set off the chain of events that I’m going to tell you about in future posts, but keep in mind that our animals are family to us & my children were pretty young and impressionable when this happened. Plus, it was their first real experience with death where we couldn’t protect them from it. He was a sweet, but very typical husky…as in, he was very independent and hard to control. He would randomly run off and would not come back no matter how much you called him. He came home when he wanted to. We built a high fence around the back yard to contain him & then we took him through obedience training. It was helping, but whenever he saw an opportunity (i.e. whenever I wasn’t right there watching him or holding him on a leash & someone opened a door…), he would still bolt out the front door and take off.

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Every member of my family had chased that dog down at one time or another. My mom even chased and TACKLED him one week after having had a hysterectomy. Talk about Wonder Woman. I worried incessantly that something would happen to him when he did this. Finally, something did.

It was a bad day all around. One thing after the other had gone completely wrong & I just felt like I wanted to go to sleep for five days straight. When the kids got home from school, we did homework (frustrating in itself) and then I sent them outside to play while I cooked supper. I had Saber beside me where he generally stayed because I was the one training him so he didn’t really listen to anyone else as well as he listened to me (& he only barely listened to me). My husband called and while we were on the phone having an ‘almost-argument’ (you know the kind where you’re both really annoyed – not necessarily at each other – but you take it out on each other anyway?), it only vaguely registered that Saber had wandered into the living room. I figured he was just going to his bed. I was wrong. His smart ass totally had an agenda.

One of the kids was holding the front door wide open for another kid to bring their bicycle inside. Don’t ask me why they felt like the bike needed to come inside; some questions just can’t be answered. I can’t even remember who was holding the door open and who was bringing the bike in. Anyway, the dog ran out…and he never came back. It felt like the millionth time he’d done this and we had talked to the kids (it felt like) hundreds of time about not opening doors around him until I was with him, had him leashed, crated, or in the back yard. It was one of those “how many times have I told you” episodes; that whole couple of months in my life just felt like the perfect storm leading up to everything that happened next. I exploded and unfortunately Princess Sassypants unfairly received the brunt of that explosion.

Womans-mind-feels-likeI was very emotionally stressed at the time. We had just bought the house, my husband was always working or sleeping, I was always the one cleaning and watching after the kids, making sure they got their homework done, etc.. Two of them were struggling in school (academically) and I was constantly back and forth talking to teachers and staff about their performance. Our marriage was strained, we were still acclimating to civilian life after my husband was retired from the Army,  and trying to deal with his PTSD which is a hard thing to try to navigate as an individual, let alone as a couple/family. To top it all off, I had a dog that wouldn’t listen. I’m sure there were some other contributing factors at the time, but I don’t really remember any of them now, they were so trivial. Anyway, none of that is an excuse for how I reacted. I actually made the statement, “if something happens to him, it’s going to be your fault.” Of course I didn’t mean it. Let the perfect parent cast the first stone, okay? I was just angry & emotionally frayed. But, she was only 7 or 8 years old at the time and she is the most sensitive of all my children; how could she have understood that? Something like that should never be said to a child, but I feel especially bad that I said it to her, given her sensitive nature.

If I had said those horrible words to her and he would have come home that night, I’m sure only minimal damage would have been done. As it was, something actually did happen to him. When we took the kids to school the morning after Saber ran off, we actually saw him lying in the middle of the highway before we got to the school. We couldn’t stop the kids from seeing it and there was no opportunity for any of us to prepare ourselves. No one reacted well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t seem to reign my anger in and “keep calm.” When we saw him laying in the road, I screamed, covered my mouth with my hand and looked directly at my daughter in the backseat with an expression that, I’m sure, held more contempt and blame in it than any I’ve ever given her in her life. That only served to make her feel even more guilty than I’d already made her feel the night before. I will never truly be able to forgive myself for that. It was the one time in our entire relationship so far that my husband has had to be the one to tell me to calm down in front of the kids instead of me telling him. All the kids went to school sobbing. We should have let them stay out that day and looking back at it, I’m not sure why we didn’t.

Any child’s first experience with death is not going to be pretty, nice, or comfortable, but it’s even more traumatic when you have someone outright blaming you for it…even if it is ‘just a dog.’ I know it wasn’t Princess Sassypants’ fault the dog got ran over and I’ve apologized to her more times than I can count for my reaction. We’ve talked about this repeatedly and she really seemed to accept my apologies. I can’t take back what I said though, and I know she will never forget it.

This is where the point of my post really comes in:

After Saber’s death is when everything that is happening with her now (ODD and all) started to surface. I really believe that everything that has happened with her since that day happened because she felt an overwhelming amount of guilt & probably some feelings of worthlessness. (Which, as you can imagine makes me feel like the effing mother of the year. :/) A child her age doesn’t know how to deal with feelings like that, so she started acting out. I feel like it’s my fault that she is the way she is. Whatever emotional problems she has now, I caused them so I don’t give myself the luxury of serious OFI moments anymore. I refuse to make my daughter feel that way ever again.

I’m not saying I don’t still feel insane half the time or that I never break down; I do. I just don’t do it quite like that and I don’t do it with or in front of my kids if I can help it. (My OFI moments now have more of a humorous ring to them these days.) I HAVE to stay calm with Princess Sassypants in particular, or risk doing more harm than good. I’m telling you this because if you have an ODD child or a particularly strong willed child, staying in control of your emotions when you’re dealing with them is going to be the key to handling them & not completely losing your sanity in the process. That’s the case with any child, but the typical child isn’t going to push your limits to get you to the point where you’re tempted to lose control as much a SWC will. In order to do anything with a strong willed child, you have to have a relationship with her or she won’t respect you enough to give a damn what you say to her. I damaged my relationship with my child at a time/age when most kids practically worship their parents. I had to backtrack to try to repair it & we all know I can’t just cram the words back into my mouth no matter how much I wish I could. Don’t do that. It’s not worth it.

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Lesson #1: Keep calm…for real. Whenever you feel like you can’t stay calm anymore, just walk away. Your relationship is more important than any temporary negative emotion you feel. Send the kid to his/her room or whatever you have to do to get the space you need. Tell them you love them, but you both need to calm down and you’ll revisit the subject later after you’ve had time to collect yourself & decide on an appropriate course of action. Don’t end up saying or doing something you’ll regret.

 

I’ll continue this story tomorrow, but for now if you have any thoughts feel free to leave them below. Have an OFI moment you want to share? I know mine was kinda heavy, but there are some funny ones, too and after this confessional little blog post I feel like I could use the laughs. 🙂 As you’re going about your day with your babies, just try to remember to stay calm (but firm) with them. It gets better!! Now, I’m going to go clean myself up…nobody likes tears in their biscuits!