Tag Archives: Parenting

Inherent Worth & Dignity

Unitarian Universalists promote seven principles.  The first principle is the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  This week I was reminded that my eight year old is a far superior Unitarian Universalist than I may ever be.  Because after she told me what happened to her on the school bus I was really struggling to see the inherent worth and dignity in one particular little girl.

She was crying when she came up to the front door so it took me a short while to get an answer.  “Did something happen at school, Em?”

“Mom, she said I am a bad person.  She said I can’t be a Girl Scout if I don’t believe in God. She said if I don’t have God in my heart than I have the devil in my heart.”

I wrapped my arms around her tightly while she caught her breath.  And the words, the words that came tumbling from her lips next made me more proud than I have perhaps ever been. “I told them that I am a Unitarian.  And that I do go to a church actually. And that my church says you can believe in whatever you want.  I am a good person.  I am.  How could that God want to punish me when I didn’t even say anything mean when they were telling me that I was a bad person?”

The part of me that wants to start talking and never stop when I don’t know what to say exactly worked hard to stay quiet.  The less I said the more she spoke and the more I realized I needed to say nothing.

“The Girl Scout pledge says God but so does the Pledge of Allegiance. You don’t have to believe in God to be an American so I don’t think you do to be a Girl Scout.”

I kept quiet.  I was waiting for the shame, for the doubt, for the “what if they are right, Mom?”

“There is only one thing that I wish was different about our church.  I wish it wasn’t in the woods.  It’s kind of hiding and if we were right next to the road more people would know about us and more people would come because I bet a lot of people actually think that it is okay to believe whatever you want and just be a good person.”

She knows.  She knows she is a good person.  And it doesn’t matter what the Girl Scouts think.  Or a kid on the bus.  Or God.  She just knows.

In the last year I have thought frequently about our first principle as it applies to others.  I think about it in the moments that I try to apply my reality to another person and I see them coming up short.  I remind myself that they are their own person, they live their own reality, they have their own inherent worth and dignity.  It never dawned on me that if you believe in your heart of hearts in your own worth, in your own dignity, if you do not have self-doubt – it is so much easier not to condemn others.

My sweet Emily June, you have taught me more in your eight years than I may ever teach you.  This can’t be your first rodeo, kid.

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Unsolicited Parenting Advice #1

I’m not a quiet girl.  If you’ve met me in person I will give you a minute to wipe that “no shit” look off of your face.

I have a new parenting technique and it doesn’t feel right to keep it to myself.

One of the hardest things about being home with the kids full-time is the noise.  It is constant.  It is relentless.  There is a never-ending hum of sound. I think that is how parents end up being yellers.  We just have to compete to get heard.

I really don’t want to be a yeller. But I have a two year old.

Solution:  Quiet Riot. Specifically “Cum on Feel the Noize.

Scenario:  I am cutting chicken.  Shit always hits the fan when I have raw chicken on my hands. I have said “Lucy please stop banging that lid on the oven door” several times at a reasonable volume level.   She has interpreted this to me “Start yelling along with the slamming.”

Here is where I employ my new technique.  Instead of screaming “For the love of all that is holy, STOP with the banging for one blessed second!  I can not pick you up so do not start crying like I have ruined your life, I have chicken on my hands, RAW CHICKEN.  Jeeezus, stop crying.  I didn’t do anything, I just asked you to stop with the banging, Go.  Bang.  Bang all the lids.  Do whatever you want.  Nobody listens to me!!!” n0t that I have ever had this sort of situation go down. I, personally, never, ever lose my cool.

Instead, at the moment that I feel the crazy start to make its way up my throat and tickle my yelling muscles I open my mouth and I shriek “CUM ON FEEL THE NOIZE!” and I smile.  You have to smile while you do it or it is just like screaming at your kid. Remember, you are singing. You are FunTime Mom.  You are the mom that loves it when your kid bangs lids on the oven door.

“Girls, Rock the boys!  We’ll get wild, wild wild!! Wild, wild wild!!”  Take a minute. Catch your breath. If you’re doing it right your kid has stopped dead in their tracks.  They are staring at you like they have no idea what is going to happen next.

So, you think I’ve got an evil mind… that is the next line.  That isn’t a question.

That’s it.  This is my new Toddler Parenting Technique.  Go ahead and yell.  But yell a song, shake your hips and smile, smile, smile and you can pretend you are dancing, singing Fun Mom.  It works. It is the latest and greatest in my Fake It Til You Make It life plan.

Try it.  I suggest 80s hair metal, but I suppose any tune will do. Twister Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It” is a hit in our house. Adam Ant’s “Goody Two Shoes” will work. But you have to start right in with “Don’t drink, don’t smoke, what do you do?” and you have to really put your hips into it.

Come back and tell me your favorite song to scream, I mean, sing at your kids.

This kid is nuts.

This kid is nuts.

Four

In February of 2010 Emily was little.  She was unabashed.  She danced in the driveway and she didn’t take long to get dressed.  She had bangs.  She liked zip-up hoodies and sunglasses and the more accessories, the better.  The Universe was all Emily’s.  She wasn’t selfish but the only life she had ever known was one that was all about her.  Today she went to a book fair at school and came home with several books for Lucy. “Because just because she is too little for school doesn’t mean she doesn’t get books, right?” 

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I don’t know exactly why I went digging through old pictures. Emily said something hilarious and followed it up with “Don’t put that on the Internet.” And I tried to remember when she became self aware.  Was it last year?  The year before? The year before that?  She has changed more in the years since Lucy was born than she did in her entire life prior.  She became something new.  She is a Big Sister now.

Maybe that is what is different.

I tell her she is still my little girl.  I tell her that she is lucky that she had me all to herself for so many years.  I tell her that I love her.  But sometimes I fear she will read through these posts someday and wonder where she is…. all this schmaltz about Lucy, what about me?

Emily June,

I am writing my story so I don’t forget.  And when you looked at me on New Year’s Eve after I took a perfectly hilarious video of you and said “Don’t put that on the Internet” it crushed me a little bit.  Not because I wanted to show the whole damn world how hilarious you are (well, maybe a little) but because I am afraid that as you get bigger and your story becomes yours to tell and I write less of it down… I will forget.  I will forget the moments, the details, perhaps, but I won’t forget the Big Stuff.  I promise.

You and I have butt heads this week. Big time.  We had the first of many screaming matches that ended with us both in tears and me saying “Listen, Em, I’m not your friend, I am your mother.  I know you are mad, and I am sorry.  If I knew a way to be your mother without making you mad I’d do it.  I am making this up as I go along, kid, and I don’t know much but I know I am supposed to be your mom first.  I can be your friend in between the cracks, but my first job is to be your mom.”  And you hugged me and you cried and you told me that it is so confusing.  You told me that you do respect me and you’re sorry that you get so mouthy but sometimes it just feels like you are with your friend when we are together.

I held you tight and I cried a little louder.  Because when you said I feel like your friend I felt like I was failing you as your mother.  But succeeding as a person.

I don’t know what I am doing exactly, Em.  You might as well know that. It is easy to teach Lucy the colors and the alphabet song. I have no idea how to teach you when it is hilarious to mock me openly and when it is disrespectful to even sort of roll your eyes.  It is confusing.  You’re right.   But I am doing the best I can.  And so far it has been good enough.

When you read all this some day and you wonder why I spilled my guts (and maybe a little of yours no matter how hard I try to protect your privacy) I hope you just ask me.  Maybe I will be able to give you an answer by then.  Because today?  Today I can’t explain why.  Writing it down makes things make more sense.  And sharing it makes it all less lonely.  Maybe you will understand that.  Weird that in this time of my life when I am never, ever, ever alone – well, it is the loneliest damn time.

I am watching you play with your sister right now.  You just looked up at me and said “Are you crying because of those old pictures? Don’t cry, Mom. I’m still little!” And you shook your tiny little butt and you smiled.

Yes.  You are.  For today.  But you are bigger than you were yesterday and you don’t show signs of slowing down.

Mom

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Oh, the future slipping past…

It is best not to try too hard.  But sometimes an opportunity presents itself and I just can’t help myself. Sitting on the couch on a cold and rainy night I am flipping through the recorded television options.

Austin City Limits.  Widespread Panic.  “You know this is the band your dad and I used to go and see all of the time.  I saw them when I was pregnant with you even.”

A million months pregnant with Emily, Panic in Portsmouth 2005

A million months pregnant with Emily, Panic in Portsmouth 2005. I had not yet blossomed in to the quiet, restrained woman that I am now.

Emily looked at me and with a sigh of resignation she leaned against me.  She was willing to go for this parental ride.  “Up all night, ohhh, been up all night…the best thing about New Years is the Christmas lights…” J.B. is singing and I am tickled. This was a seasonally appropriate moment!

I am pointing at Jimmy.  “That’s Jimmy Herring right there.  Oh!  And that is Sunny.  Watch him play drums, Em. It is unreal. That is Jojo and there’s Todd behind the drums.  That’s Schools.  We liked to stand Schools’ side.”

I am smiling. Nice little opportunity to share something with my big girl before she gets too big.  This was a Moment.

“So.  They’re a boy band?”

No.  No, they are not a boy band.  Moment over.

*Title taken from Saint Ex by WSP

And for your listenin’ pleasure, Widespread Panic on ACL

Existential Parenting

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Lucy looks like a happy kid.  Here we see her heading in to the gym to see her pals.  She enjoys coloring, playing with the large legos and chatting it up with the other small people.  On the way out of the gym she receives a dixie cup filled with animal crackers or goldfish, after she washes her hands, of course.  This is typically a highlight of our day.

By all accounts, life is pretty good.

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When not mingling with her kind she enjoys a little solitary time.  My girl likes to relax.  She kicks back and takes in the world. Life is simple.

But I fear that underneath Lucy’s happy exterior lurks something deeper.  I think she is struggling to do more than just exist.  She is finding her essence, perhaps this life of coloring and taking walks is just not enough.  What gives me this idea?

Take a look at Lucy’s bookshelf.  A good look.

No Exit

Right there between Eric Carle’s “With Us, on the Earth and Sea” and the mind numbing rhyming of “Hop on Pop” we have Jean-Paul Sartre’s “No Exit and Three Other Plays.”

This kid is going to be hell in her teenage years.

“Criminals together. We’re in hell, my little friend, and there’s never any mistake there. People are not damned for nothing.” – Jean-Paul Sartre, No Exit

Mama said there’d be days like this….

You know that old saying about how mothers don’t get sick days. It’s the truth. They don’t get sick nights, either. When Lucy slipped out of bed to come and stare at me in the bathroom at 2 am I had an inkling of what my day would look like today.

I don’t talk bathroom as much as my friend Karen. But I am not afraid of it. Truth is, I guess, is that the bathroom doesn’t play a big part in my life. I am chronically full of shit, I suppose. I just don’t spend an awful lot of time in there. So, when I was camped out in there most of last night, save for the twenty times I put Lucy back to bed, I kind of figured maybe I was just getting it all out of my system.

Wrong. This morning was no picnic, either.

Eventually I braved leaving the house. I figured I’d run a few errands and catch some zzzz’s in the afternoon when Lucy took her nap. Wrong, again. Instead we had the dreaded ten minute car nap.

I tried to put her back down. I did. I snuggled. I cajoled. I begged. I was firm. I pretended to be asleep.

Lucy cycled through several responses. None of them were sleep. She screamed at me “Nooooo! No nap! No!” She tried to distract me, efforts were made to convince me there was some kind of a tooth brushing emergency “Teeeeeth!” Eventually she calmly repeated “Mama. Out. Thank you.”

We are now reading books on the couch. I give up. Lucy wins. As noted in the video below she is “happy, happy.”

You can call me Mom, the Yes Man

Sometimes you want to be the parent that says yes.  So this morning when Em said “Can we go to Dunkin Donuts?” I just said “Sure” before I could change my mind.

Thirty minutes later we were eating donuts and hanging out at the swanky truck stop near our house when she said “Do you think I will ever get to play that game?” and pointed to the money robbing machine where you put a dollar in and try to grab a stuffed animal with the crane.  I said yes again.

It was a good morning.  Em was talking us up. Hopped up on donuts and orange juice she was even chattier than normal.

“Why do they make those machines so that you can never win? The man that owns that machine should just do something and get a job to make money instead of taking everyone’s dollars.  Do you think I should pack three or four outfits for while we are gone.  I think four.  Do you know why I always pack an extra outfit?”

“In case you pee your pants?” I said.

“No, because…”

And MQD interrupts to say “I once knew a DJ named MC Pee Pants”

And she burst in to tears.

“Why can’t I ever finish what I am saying without getting interrupted?  You guys are constantly acting crazy and saying crazy things and I am just being normal?!!”

And so it has begun.  We are no longer funny.  Poor kid.  It is going to get so much worse before it gets better.

From earlier this morning, when I was still funny.

From earlier this morning, when I was still funny.

I took a shower in my bathing suit and I feel dirty.

Sometimes you have to take a stand.  And today I decided that I am not an old, naked lady at the gym.  Well, not all of the time.

Sometimes I am.  But  today I had to make a split decision.

I am pro-naked.  I blame it on coming of age in a high school theatre dressing room but it really doesn’t matter where it started.  I am pro-body acceptance.  In my mind the more bodies that you see, real bodies, the less likely you are to hate on your own.  I work hard at not picking my body apart and ordinarily when I am given the opportunity to show someone else what an average middle aged woman’s body looks like I take it.

I am not yet one of the gals well beyond their middle years that stand in the locker room blowing their hair dry au naturale, chatting up my lady friends while they strap their aged bazooms in to their sensible nude brassieres.  But if I am honest with myself I know that I will be one of those ladies one day.

But not today.  Today I showered in my bathing suit.

“Hi!  Is Emily here?”  said the young girl in the shower across from mine.

I had just turned on the shower, still in my suit, as is customary.  I like to wash my hair and let the soap drip on my swimsuit, pull it off and rinse it out while I leave conditioner in my hair.  It’s an efficient system and one I recommend.  I digress.

Four words made me turn my back on my system. “Hi!  Is Emily here?”

“Nope, she isn’t here today, she’s at art camp this week.” I shampooed while we talked.  And before I knew it I was rinsing my hair and putting in the conditioner, still in my swim suit.

“Ok.  Maybe we will see you this afternoon.”

Umm…  you were about to see a whole lotta me, actually.  I’d already given them an eye full of an awful lot of tattoos they had previously not seen.  And I just wasn’t sure if I could in good conscience be “Emily’s Mom That We Saw Naked At The Gym” for the rest of the summer.

And now I am wrestling with that decision.  Did I miss my opportunity to let my freak flag fly in the form of a nudie shower in the community gym locker room?  Did I make the right choice?

“Mom, did you get totally naked in front of my friends?”

“Uh.  Yeah.  Because women shouldn’t be ashamed of their bodies.”

I didn’t want to have that conversation.  Not yet.

So, I showered in my bathing suit and now I feel dirty.

I am doing my part to rid my corner of the universe of body shame, I am.   I just can’t wrap my mind around chit chatting with my daughter’s  friends while I am stark naked.  Not yet.

But when I am 60 and they are 30? Game on.  Her gal pals will be leaving tennis club and they will roll their eyes as I head towards the showers “There goes Em’s mom. Grandma never wears clothes.”

“And she sings when she wears head phones.  She is ridiculous.”

For your viewing pleasure – these are some weird wall stickers in the yoga room at the gym.   So, what do you see?  Olives?  I used to see olives.

Wall stickers

But lately… all I see is boobs, everywhere I look.  Especially in the locker room.

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Thousands of Push-ups and This Is What I Have to Show for It

I should have been excited.

Lucy only has about a dozen words.  Four or five of them are new as of this week.  So many things get easier when your toddler can use words. You know what they want.  Water?  Sleep? Outside? Up?

I don’t know what I thought her first two word thought would be.  Love mama? More eat? Dog out?

She was sitting in my lap.  It was nearing her bedtime and I was trying to squeeze a few more minutes of chatter with an old friend  in to my evening.  She was scooping her hands in and out of my tanktop.  I knew what she was after but she was still happy. I kept talking.

She had her eyebrows squinched together like she does when something does not meet her approval.

“Boob.  Up!”

Sigh.  I hear you, little lady.  37 years old and two pregnancies –  this is as up as they get, girl.

Up

Watch & Learn

It was quiet.

I know better than to ignore the quiet.   Screaming.  Whining.  Yelling  Slamming.  Banging.  These are the sounds that say “Yep.  We’re all fine, Mom.” But quiet?

Quiet means you’d be smart to hightail into the room where your kids are playing and be prepared to freak out.

I was folding laundry in my bedroom.  Glamorous life, I know.  Lucy had been wandering back and forth between my bedroom and the living room making the “enh enh enh” sound that means “Pick me up and carry me around. There is nothing wrong with me but I am bored.” I had decided to tough it out.  I would just finish this last load, put it away and then I’d make up for not providing a challenging and age-appropriate activity for six minutes of the poor kid’s life.

But then it got quiet.

I made the foolish choice.  I folded like mad and decided to ride it out.  When I left my bedroom I had half a mind to just go straight to the kitchen for a Magic Eraser.  There was sure to be crayon on a wall.  I’d be grateful for crayon and not Sharpie.  Or maybe there would be a dumped over dog water bowl.

Much to my surprise my sweet girl was sitting quietly on the couch with the dog.  She pointed as soon as I saw her.

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Her point was not at me.  It was at the television (which had been muted, so I didn’t realize it was even on.) She pointed.  And she didn’t move.  She sat like a stone and watched.

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You recognize the start of those happy trees, don’t you?  My sweet girl that doesn’t watch television because she is shy of 16 months old and I am afraid I will turn her brain in to oatmeal or, even worse, create a kid that is incapable of amusing herself without a screen, was watching TV.

But not just any TV.  She was watching Bob Ross.

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And I hope I didn’t ruin her because I sat down right next to her and said “Check this out. First he covers the whole canvas with Liquid White.  Watch and learn, kiddo. Watch. And. Learn.”

She was mesmerized. I can’t blame her.