Smart phones

Hi blog world!

It’s been awhile.

If you’re on any kind of social media, I bet you’ve been privy lately to the post(s) about moms being on their smart phones too much.  Don’t know what I’m talking about?  Read this (I’ll wait):

http://4littlefergusons.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/dear-mom-on-the-iphone/

Apparently it was written in 2012, but it has made it’s way into the “news” recently.

Well, I read it.  I’m a mom who is often on my iphone.  And I got pissed.  Mostly for what this response says (please read it or you won’t really understand the rest of this blog):

http://www.remakingjunecleaver.com/dear-mom-telling-me-to-get-off-my-phone/

I mostly agree with the author directly above.  Why “mostly?”  Well, first of all, I think her version of their day before and after the park is probably inflated.  I am a SAHM and have been for almost five years and I love my children so much, but our days are not sunshine and moonbeams.  I do a lot of wonderful things with them everyday, but I am certainly not “on” for the entire day, all day, minus the time we’re at the playground as the blog above is suggesting.

And I am definitely on all sorts of technology way more than I should be throughout the day, but that’s more because of my desire to stay connected to the outside world and to have adult conversations and interactions.  I’ll be completely honest with you (as I don’t think the second author above is doing)…I don’t *like* doing “kid stuff” that much.  I don’t think playing with dolls or figurines is super fun.  I don’t like making forts.  I don’t like pretending to be characters.  I don’t even really like play dough (although I tolerate it more than I do some other things).  I don’t think this makes me a bad person, and I don’t think it makes me a bad mother either.  I read to my children – A LOT – because I enjoy books and I really like reading.  We dance because that’s another thing that I like to do.  But, most of the time when I’m home with the kids, they are either playing by themselves/together or I “set them up” in an activity (get out the art supplies, give them the play dough and accessories, fill up the water table and make sure all the pieces are clean, etc) and then I go and do one of the one million things that needs to get done (cooking, cleaning, laundry, making shopping lists, organizing clothes/changing out clothes for the new season, writing Mother’s Day cards to the grandmas, etc).

My to-do list is so long that I often can’t even think about all the things I need to be doing.  If you count all of our house projects, the daily and weekly maintenance chores that have to happen inside and out of the house, the tasks that school sends home (this week was teacher appreciation week and we had a list of things to do for that), navigating the parks and rec offerings and signing the kids up for that, calling back the multitude of doctors we all have, figuring out why that weird charge was on the credit card, calling the insurance company AGAIN to try and sort stuff out with them, filing the mounds of papers we let go because of everything else in life….I mean I have only scratched the surface.  I could – quite literally – go on and on.  But that would get depressing for me and boring for you.

When I’m wasting my time on Facebook or NPR or looking at all the emails I haven’t taken care of yet, I mostly don’t feel bad for my children who are blissfully playing and enjoying life, I feel bad for me because I’m ignoring the endless sea of things I have to do because sometimes it’s almost easier to ignore it than it is to try and conquer it.  Right now, at this very moment, there are so many things I could be doing (and my kids have been in bed for quite some time), but I’m choosing to write this blog instead.  See what I mean?

Awhile ago, I posted this on my FB page:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bunmi-laditan/im-done-making-my-kids-childhood-magical_b_5062838.html

I am nearly 100% with the author of that one.  I don’t have a single memory of any adult actively playing with me from my childhood.  We played by ourselves (my sisters and I) or with friends.  I think I turned out alright.

My point is that not only do you not know what the rest of the day has been like for the “mom on the iphone” at the park, but her day may NOT have been all about her kids (as the second author suggests).  And so what?  She’s still allowed to be on her phone, and you’re still not allowed to judge her.  If she’s anything like me, she’s trying to get shit done while her kids are having a blast at the playground.  Just like I’m trying to get shit done while they’re squealing with glee while at the water table or when they both climb into the crib and play “house” for a half an hour.  So, if I’m wasting my time on social media, I don’t feel bad for my kids who lead a life where they get to play pretty much all day, everyday, I feel bad for me because I’m not getting the shit done that needs to get done.

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Conspiracy Theories

Kids push your buttons.  They do this on purpose.  I don’t know why.  Perhaps its normal limit testing.  Perhaps it’s a part of emotional growth.  Perhaps the little bastards just enjoy watching their parents get all worked up.  I’m going with the latter.  For some reason Little Miss Junior has my number.  She’s a devilish little girl by nature, but she’s got a knack for driving me crazy while Red just chuckles. 

This may seem irrational (because it is), but she knows when it’s my morning to wake up.  She does.  She knows…. and she gets up an extra hour early.  Just for me.  All the time.  For some reason LMJ has a sixth sense for when Red is taking the morning shift and she’s rarely up before 7am on those days.  In the last week She’s been up at 5:15, 6:15, and 6:20am for me.  That’s right, 5:15am.  I woke up to go to the bathroom that morning and LMJ was happily playing in her crib talking to herself, waiting for DaDa.  As I write this on Saturday night, she woke up at 7:30am for Red this morning.  She slept in today, for some reason. 

LMJ also exhibits certain behaviors that just drive me nuts.  Every morning without fail, during breakfast, she’s munching away on her cereal, or oatmeal, or whatever, and she puts her feet up on the kitchen table.  This interaction then transpires:

Me: “Honey, take your feet off the table, that’s yucky.”
LMJ smiles at me from her booster seat, takes her feet off the table, and then slowly puts one heel back where it was, next to her cereal bowl.
Me: “LMJ, no.  Take your feet off the table”
LMJ: “No dada” while shaking her head seriously and leaving her foot right where it is.
I remove her foot from the table and repeat “no feet on the table LMJ, it’s yucky.”

As if choreographed, she smiles at me with angelic eyes, and actually leans forward and puts her head on my arm in a very ‘aww isn’t that cute’ moment…. then she puts both feet back on the table and looks at me in delight. The first time she did this I laughed out loud.  The last time she did this I got completely perturbed.  Yes, I have found myself getting easily flustered by an 18 month old. 

What’s peculiar is that our oldest daughter, Little Miss, has the same effect on Red.  LM can push Red’s buttons like it’s her job.  The same behaviors that bring out the worst in Red, often roll off my back, and vice versa with LMJ.  It’s hard to explain, but for some reason I have far more patience for LM’s button pushing, while her little sister can quickly drive me up a wall.  LMJ doesn’t even bother with the whole ‘feet on the table’ antic for her mom.  She saves that one for me.  Even if she did, Red would just ignore it, and the behavior would stop… while I let my blood pressure boil and start correcting the behavior and falling right into that trap laid by a chuckling 18 month old. 

This is all too scripted to be coincidental.  I think they plan this stuff.  I think the kids gather when we’re not around and swap notes about how to drive us crazy.  Little Miss sharpens her emotional daggers for Red, while LMJ practices her knowing glances in my direction while teetering off the top of some piece of furniture, as if to say, “I could fall dada, I could fall… are you watching? heheh…” I know LMJ can’t talk much yet, but she’s got those big devilish eyes.  Don’t be fooled.  She knows what she’s doing.  I should probably get to bed.  I’ve got morning duty tomorrow, so obviously LMJ will be up before daylight.

Flying Solo

So I’ve been absent from the blogosphere for a little while… my volume of work travel has been pretty crazy over the last two months.  It’s been trains, planes, and automobiles for quite a while.  I’ve been to LA, Chicago, Dallas and many trips to NYC.  Every time I leave Red with the kids all to herself.  Two weeks ago Red boarded a plane on Thursday morning and flew off to Chicago for a much deserved getaway weekend with girlfriends.  For some reason she didn’t take the kids with her.  No wait, that was planned.  Up until that weekend, I had never taken on the task of parenting both girls by myself for such an extended period of time.  Sure I’d done the random day here and there, and I’m a very involved father, but this would be my first solo flight from noon on Thursday till late Sunday afternoon.  I was nervous.

Red is a wonderful mother – she sets proper boundaries, she feeds the children well, and she invests in their activities and growth.  So I can’t sit them in front of the TV and order pizza for four days.  Damn.  My basic plan was to load up on activities… keep those kiddies running until they pass out.  I took Thursday off work, Friday I had nanny coverage during the day, and Saturday/Sunday were all mine. 

The weather wasn’t great, but it did warm up enough for us to get several play ground visits, one friend play date, and a trip to a local animal farm in during that short span.  Have I ever mentioned that Little Miss Junior is obsessed with birds?  The farm had cows, goats, horses, pigs, your usual assortment of livestock… but she goes gaga over birds.  The chicken house was her own personal nirvana.  She stomped around and pointed at those chickens in delight.  She could’ve spent the whole morning there, just looking at them and smiling.  She doesn’t talk much yet, but she’d point at those birds and look back at me and her older sister as if to say, “Are you guys seeing these chickens?  Aren’t they awesome?!?” Yes LMJ, we see the chickens.  We had play sessions at home, including Little Miss’s first Easter Egg coloring.  There were a bunch of group dog walking sessions as well.  Walking the dog becomes extremely difficult when you can’t leave the children at home alone… so it’s a full on jacket, socks, shoes expedition with the wee ones just so our pooch can do her thing.  

Long story short, I survived the weekend, and the girls survived as well.  No major meltdowns, nobody bleeding profusely… no need for child protective services.  Both girls were entertained, fed, and bathed at the end of the day.  The flip side of this coin – WOW was I tired.  Like bone tired.  Like melt into the sofa for 15 minutes once they were both asleep.  This was old man, “I’m just gonna sit here for a while” tired.  I needed a porch and a rocking chair.  A tip of the cap to all you primary care-givers out there who handle kids by yourselves all the time.  I think I doubled the volume of grey in my beard with just three days of solo flight.  Thank God for Red.

Why?

Why is it that on the weekend (the only two nights that Hubby is “on call” for middle-of-the-night wake up calls) that we don’t hear a peep from my daughter for over twelve hours, but on my nights she always comes knocking on our door when I’m fast asleep?

Why is it so hard to get my daughter to be still for the 2 minutes it takes me to brush her teeth?

Why haven’t I learned yet that if I want my daughter to wear something specific that the last thing I should do is say, “I think you should wear this today”?

Why is my 4 year-old daughter is already so good at using our parenting strategies against us (“Ok Mommy, here’s the deal:  I’ll put on my shoes if you go get my fairy wand from upstairs”)?

Why is it that if I tell my daughter she can’t watch a particular movie or play a particular game, that that becomes the only thing in the world she wants to do?

Why does my daughter not seem to be able to hear me when I’m directly asking her to do something, but when Hubby and I are trying to slyly discuss something while she’s distracted, she hears every word?

Why does my daughter insist on doing most things herself  (like insisting on buckling herself into the car while I’m standing in the cold rain waiting for her to it) but the girl can’t seem to use the toilet without my company?

 

 

Reading

Should my 4 and a half year-old daughter be reading by now?  At least a little?  Cause she’s not.

My husband is a voracious reader and his mother has always touted the fact that he was reading by the time he was 4.  So I’ve always had that age in my head as a marker for my daughter.  I wasn’t expecting too much before her fourth birthday (what exactly does my mother-in-law mean when she said he was “reading” at age 4 anyways?) but I did expect that she’d be moving in that direction this year.

Kiki’s friend Mary was over the other day and she picked up a book and confidently read a couple of sentences out loud.  It was impressive.  I wasn’t really too surprised by Mary’s reading ability.  This is a girl who would come over to our house when she was 2 and bring her mother book after book after book to read.  She had little interest in toys.  She only wanted to read.  Mary is one month younger than Kiki and, even though I know I shouldn’t, I couldn’t help but automatically compare my daughter’s abilities to her friend’s.

Kiki knows all of her letters and the sounds they make.  She recognizes (and can write) her name and a bunch of family members’ names.  She knows how to spell and identify a handful of words (dog, cat, stop, go, etc).  But that’s about it.

I think I’m doing what I need to – I read to her every day.  We read tons of books and she loves them.  I pick out certain words in books and try to get her to sound them out.  But this is where we struggle.  She’ll do it, but it takes a lot of walking her through it.  What letter is that?  Yep.  An S.  Now what sound does an S make?  This whole “sounding out” thing hasn’t seemed to click for her yet.  And she gets sick of the task quickly.

I’ll get her to do a few words and then she inevitably sighs and says, “can you just read the story Mom?”  And so I do.  I don’t want to discourage her.  And I’m afraid of making reading a chore.  I want my daughter to continue to love to read.

When my daughter was 3 I had a conversation with a friend of mine who had a kindergartener.  Her daughter read very well and I asked her what kind of things she had done with her daughter to help her get to that point.  She told me a couple of things but then said, “honestly I wouldn’t worry about the reading.  That seems to be pretty much all they do in kindergarten.  They work on reading skills.  So my daughter is bored a lot of times in class.”

I hope this is true.  I want to give my daughter the tools she needs to be successful in school.  But she’s only 4 and I want to keep my expectations and pressures in check.  So I will continue to read to her and gently encourage her to test the waters of her own reading ability.  But I will not push.

 
Sigh.  I hope this doesn’t affect her chances of getting into Harvard.

Forced Apologies

Last week I backed myself into a corner with my daughter and I totally regretted it.  Have you been there before?  My daughter’s friend Amy was wearing Kiki’s bookbag and Kiki decided that she wanted it back.  Amy starting running off and my daughter basically tackled Amy onto the sidewalk to get her bookbag back.  She hadn’t intended to knock her friend down – she was just trying to grab her bag – but she did knock her over and Amy scratched her arm on the sidewalk and started crying.  Here’s the conversation that followed…

Me:  Kiki, why did you do that?

Kiki:  Amy took my bookbag and I wanted it back.

Me:  Did you ask her for it back?

Kiki:  Well she was running away and I didn’t want her to take it.  It’s mine.

Me:  I know it’s yours, but you can’t just grab things like that.  You knocked Amy over and hurt her.

Kiki:  But I wanted my bookbag back.

Me:  You hurt Amy.  Even if you didn’t mean to hurt her, you still did.  I think you need to apologize.

Kiki:  I don’t want to apologize.

Me:  But you hurt her, so you need to say you’re sorry.

I had taken a stand and said that she needed to apologize. But she dug in her heels, pouted, and refused.  My stubborn daughter was not going to do it.   And I was stuck.  I didn’t really have anything I could use to motivate her.  We were on our way to dinner and I wasn’t about to tell her she couldn’t eat until she apologized.  So Kiki just stood there to the side of the table pouting until she finally came over to eat.  I gave her space, but would occasionally ask her if she was ready to apologize yet (not with any consequence added to it, just a strong “you need to apologize” statement).  Every time I would do this, Kiki would get pouty again and would sulk off to the side by herself.  I had actually managed to make the situation worse.  Kiki wasn’t apologizing and Amy was in tears because Kiki wouldn’t talk to her (she didn’t care about the apology, she just wanted Kiki to talk to her).  And there I was wishing I had just told her that I thought she should apologize and crossed my fingers that she did the right thing.

This situation had me thinking, “should I try to force my child to apologize?”  I’ve read a few articles (like this one) about this topic and they all seem to say, no.  Apparently you should not force your kid to apologize because you humiliate them and the best thing you end up with is an insincere apology.

While I do see the point they are making, I also think that Kiki needs to learn that there are times that you just need to say you’re sorry.  It’s a social expectation.  It’s like saying “please” and “thank you”.  In certain situations, it’s just common courtesy to apologize.


What do you think?  Should you make your child apologize?

Dream Vacation

Last week we took a dream family vacation with some friends of ours to this place….

Six days at a beautiful all-inclusive resort.  Getting a tan on beautiful sunshine-filled days.  Hubby and I sitting by the pool, sipping cocktails with two of our best friends while our daughter spends the day having a ball in Kids’ Club with one of her best friends.  Bellying up to an all-you-can-eat buffet for every meal and then just walking away from the table when we’re done without having to worry about the dishes.  Letting Kiki stay up late so we can all go see the entertaining show in the theater after dinner.  Then returning to our room to turned down beds with chocolates on our pillows.  Then everyone sleeping in til 9:30 every morning and starting the cycle over again.

That was the dream.

Here was the reality.

I started with a little cough the day before we left for our trip that quickly turned into the worst cough I’ve ever had in my entire life.  I spent the first two days of our vacation coughing so hard that I felt like I was literally tearing the inside of my throat out.  I couldn’t talk to Hubby or my friends because every single ounce of effort had to be put into concentrating on breathing in and out of my nose or I would start hacking again.  At night I didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time because I was either coughing or having to pee from all the water I was drinking.  On our second night at the resort I left from dinner with our friends at 8 o’clock to go back to our room because I was having sweats and chills. After I took my temperature and discovered that I had a fever of 101, I called my mom and cried like a baby because I was feeling so bad.

On day 3 of our vacation I made a breakthrough.  My cough magically let up and I just felt crappy instead of feeling like death.  Ah yes!  We still had over half of our vacation left, so all was not lost.

Then on night 3, Hubby woke me up from a zombie-like sleep at 10:30 and said, “do you hear Kiki?”  I sat up and heard the familiar barking cough followed by scary gasping for air.  She had croup.   Kiki, unfortunately, has a bad history of croup.  She got it probably 5 times in the first two years of her life with her worst case resulting in her being hospitalized for 4 days, 2 of which were spent in the Pediatric ICU of a major New England hospital with talk of intubating her because she was struggling to breathe so much.  It was a truly awful experience.  But since then she’s done quite well.  She got croup a couple more times, but each time we took her immediately to the doctor as soon as we heard that first sealy-sounding bark and they started her on a regimen of steroids and the croup passed rather easily.  And it’s actually been probably a year since she’s had croup (they said most kids outgrow it by about age 3 and she’s 4 now).  So I was quite surprised that the seal had returned with such a vengeance.

As Hubby held Kiki and I listened to her bark and cry and wheeze and gasp, I was right back in that ICU again.  We realized that she was burning up and took her temperature to find that it was 103.8.  Yikes!  Luckily it was a chilly night, so we were able to help her breathe by bundling her up in blankets and sitting outside on the patio with her – cold air does wonders for croup.  Also fortunately, her fever responded very quickly to ibuprofen.  Once her breathing regulated (and Hubby and I had looked online to find the closest ER) my two days of insomnia caught up with me, so I went to bed.  Hubby, the good man that he is, sat in the lounge chair on the patio reading his Kindle with Kiki sleeping and coughing (but breathing well) in his lap until 4:30 in the morning.

After such a scary night and with the fact that her fever was back up above 103 in the morning, I called her pediatrician as soon as they opened in the morning.  I was hoping they could call in a prescription for the steroids she needs for croup to the pharmacy a few miles away from the resort.  But no luck.  They said that with her fever as high as it was and with her history, we really needed to find a pediatric doctor to see as soon as possible.  So while some people at our resort were taking airboat excursions to see the local wildlife, we took a taxi excursion to see the local pediatrician.

The pediatrician gave Kiki a big dose of steroids and a diagnosis of a bad virus.  We left with instructions to stop by the pharmacy for more steroids and assurances that her fever should go away within a day or so.

Kiki improved over the next day or so, but none of us got much sleep because she was still coughing all night.  And she couldn’t go to Kids’ Club since she was sick.

This was our vacation – illness, doctors, and sleeplessness.  And just as a cherry on top, it was a bit chilly or rainy for most of our trip.

So it wasn’t a “dream” vacation.  But it was still a vacation.  I didn’t have to cook or clean anything for a whole week.  It was warm enough to wear shorts.  Kiki got to go swimming and the resort was beautiful.  🙂  And on the last day Kiki, who was feeling much better, came running up to me with excitement in her eyes and said, “Mom, did you know they let 4 year-olds do the high trapeze?  I’m gonna do it!”

photo

And seriously, how can you beat that?