The One in Which My Son Attempts Origami Jujitsu and I Learn a Lesson

I spend a lot of time reminding my children to do things. Shut doors. Flush toilets. Turn socks the right way out before they go in the laundry. Brush teeth. Make good choices. Be kind.

Kindness costs nothing, I say.
To treat others with kindness, I say.
Be kind, I say.

And on an on.

The other day I was sitting with the ten year-old, he of the high anxiety and high self-expectation. He was attempting some ridiculously complicated advanced origami witchcraft. And, as usual, he was being incredibly hard on himself. There he was, frustrated to the point of near tears over this ridiculously stupidly complicated origami voodoo contraption that he couldn’t master on the first go–because you know, it wasn’t good enough to start with the origami equivalent of “is this your card?”.  No, it had to be some jujitsu paper engineering feat with moving parts. Whatever.

It suddenly became painfully clear I’d neglected something crucial in my kindness reminders.

I’ve forgotten to remind my son to be kind to himself.

Be kind. We teach it. We preach it. We speech it. We cross-stitch it on sweet needlepoint circle things. We put it on posters with cute otters. We repeat it, endlessly. Be kind.

But how often do we remember to teach the necessity of including yourself in the group you’re being kind to?

Be kind to the new kid, the awkward kid, the one who sits alone at lunch.
Be kind to the asshat who is not so kind to you, to the teacher, to old people crossing the street, to dogs, to frogs, to the environment.
Be kind, be kind, be kind.

We keep forgetting be kind to yourself.

Would you be so hard on someone else who couldn’t do this folding wizardry on the first go, I asked him? If a friend was trying to do something, even something easy, let alone an origami self-perpetuating motion machine, would you make fun of them? Would you tell them they were crap? Would you make them feel bad about themselves?

So why would you do that to yourself? I asked him. You need to be kind, not just to others, I told him, but to yourself too.

Cut yourself some slack, boy. Give yourself a break, son. Understand you’re not going to be a Jedi origami master when you’re still a paper padawan.

Did Luke give up and go home to Tattooine when Yoda was riding his ass? No.
Did Rey leave the rock in the middle of nowhere when she didn’t master the force right away? No.
Was there any real reason to bring Star Wars into this?
Correct answer: there is always room for Star Wars references.

I’ve spent so much time teaching and preaching kindness, but I forgot to teach him to be kind to himself.

There was no ice cream this time. But together we mastered the origami force. Or really he did while I sat next to him and reminded him to go easy on himself. And the ridiculously complicated paper engineering feat with moving parts worked. And he celebrated by making sixteen more and now my house is filled with them.

Be kind. Absolutely.

But don’t forget to be kind to you while you’re bending over backward to be nice to everyone else.

I may not be an origami Jedi, or even a paper padawan. But I’m getting pretty dang good at learning what this ten year old is teaching me.



Mom Bullies

largeIf my son came home and told me he made fun of someone because their jeans weren’t the right brand or because they were good at something he wasn’t, I’d (metaphorically) knock him into next week. If he came home and announced he and his friends had a jolly old laugh about another kid on the football squad who supported a different team or how they all got together and picked on the best player, I’d have serious words with him. At least a few thousand. Repeatedly.

So, why do we think it’s ok to do that to other women…particularly other mothers?

Today I came across an article about a professional trainer who shared her postpartum workout online. She has since been roundly and soundly body-slammed by people telling her how irresponsible she is for working out so soon after giving birth, others shaming her for shaming other women who don’t bounce back so quickly or easily.

For the love of God, who cares? This woman’s work out schedule has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on you, your children, how your children are going to turn out, or whether or not they’ll need therapy at some point. (Fine, and most probably.)42-49397442

I don’t have the time, energy or inclination to care if one mom is creating Disney-worthy coloring scenes on her kid’s lunch bag, or if another is making Olaf the snowman out of hard-boiled eggs. I don’t care if someone else has four out of her six-pack back in under a month after pushing out twins.

Why is it as mothers we only praise the mothers who confess and admit, the ones who stand up and say, “Hey! This parenting shit is tough!”

We are all guilty of judging other people, especially other mothers. But I think we’re even more guilty of judging other mothers who seem to have it together or gasp, seem to enjoy certain aspects of parenting.

It’s mom bullying.

You are a mom bully if you:

Make another mother feel bad about any of her parenting choices;

Mock another mother for finding something easy;

Shame another mother for finding something hard;

Criticize someone else’s stance on topics;

Question the legitimacy of another mother’s values;

Shame another mother into thinking there is only one right way to do something;

Force statistics that support your beliefs down someone’s throat;

Belittle another mother for what she wears, doesn’t wear, how large her ass is, how small her ass is;

Make assumptions about another mother based on the name of her children or the snacks she packs;

Feel sanctimonious about your own parenting choices by comparing them to others.

I wish more mothers would feel confident without putting others, members of their own tribe, down.

Listen, there are women out there who happen to be mothers who are….well, let’s not mince words…they’re assholes. It’s likely they would be assholes even if they weren’t mothers, but the fact that they are mothers may bring us into daily contact with them, either in real life or virtually.

I’m talking about your run of the mill, average mother. Those of us who are chopping carrot sticks and trying to find a ride to a birthday party or trying to figure out how to get our kids to remember to put their clothes in the hamper and not leave them scrunched in a ball on the floor. The ones who every now and again pat ourselves on the back and think, “Damn if I didn’t handle that well.”

tumblr_inline_ml3t79Pb6G1qz4rgpIt’s tough to have confidence as a parent. Do you know why? Because there is no one right way or one wrong way to do it. Every kid is different. Every parent is different. Every situation is different. Every friggin’ parenting book is different. There is no magic one-size-fits-all answer. It’s eighteen plus years of fighting the good fight and praying that your kids don’t hate you enough to ignore the dribble on your chin when you’re old and dotty.

If you have to get that confidence by trolling or shaming or mocking another mother? You’re doing exactly what (I hope) you’re teaching your kids not to do.



Time Off for Good Behavior

01kgrhqrhye1fhtyejibngwbyiznw0_3As a mother, I’m daily frustrated by my kids’ trickle down behavior-you know, using up all the good stuff with other people and saving the not so good for the home front. And I get it, because I do the same thing, and I bet you do too.

Just like we were all spectacular parents before we had kids, we’re all better parents when other people are around. We’re on our best parenting behavior. On a plane, in a restaurant, with other parents. Oh, if only we were always the parents others see–the mum with the patience to endlessly pick up the toy their toddler keeps throwing on the floor without hurling it across the room; the cool, calm collected mother who is able to repeatedly tell her toddler to stop kicking the plane seat without losing her shit. The smiling Saturday morning Dad in the park who gently encourages without asking how it is statistically possible to drop a ball 100% of the time. Those parents on the bus who calmly use logic and redirection and positive reinforcement, even though it’s the 67th tantrum of the day and they really want to get off and leave their kid on the bus.

What a relief then when you get home and you can let your gut hang out and tell your kids what you really think. Because man, it’s hard to be on your best parenting behavior for long periods of time. It takes a lot of work not to yell at your kids. It uses up a lot of energy to refrain from rolling your eyes. It takes a steady hand to avoid sarcastic. It’s exhausting.tumblr_mqi8elgIz51sn9lzco2_1280

We recently had friends come to stay with us. It was nice to catch up and to reminisce, to hang out, but it was nice too when we said goodbye and I could finally yell at my kids in peace.

None of use are perfect parents. We all lose patience, threaten to strip privileges, say things we really don’t mean. Just as our children can be whiny and teary and cranky after a day at school on their best behavior, after long periods of time spent with other people pretending to be more patient than I really am, I get cranky and whiny too.

The truth is: I yell at my kids. Not all the time, but I do. From time to time I say things that are not helpful or kind. Some probably even border on mean. I’ve called them not-so-nice names and have been known to question their intelligence levels. I’ve cursed, I’ve stomped, I’ve thrown things, (not at them, but still…). I’ve ignored them, pretended I didn’t realize the allotted hour of iPad time was up, given them hot dogs for dinner without any vegetables two nights in a row. I’ve taken money from one kid’s piggy bank to use at tooth fairy money and never replaced it. None of those things are going to prompt anyone to call child protective services on me (I hope), but they’re all the things I try really hard not to do when I’m around other people. You know, when I’m on my best parenting behavior.

bj-werner-1967-mugshot-fashion-ladySometimes you find a group of like-minded friends and you can let your hair down a little. Confess that why yes, just this morning you called you child an idiot and that no, you really don’t feel bad about it because he was being an idiot. That’s when you know you’ve found your parenting tribe. Stick with them. You need a group of friends you can parenting fart in front of. Because everybody farts. I mean yells, everybody yells…

If only you got time off for good behavior.

How to Alienate Yourself From Other Mothers in 10 Easy Steps

7c669686e02f34a87ab955c1e7c35ef6We moms are a tough crowd. Questionable working conditions will do that to a gal. Despite the long hours, the limited vacation time, and the ungrateful bosses, most of us wake up each day determined to do our best. We work while we are sick, we work while we are on vacation, many work while they work. Most of us have had days when we’re happy we’ve made it to bedtime without using profanity and others when we’ve gone to bed thinking, “Hey! Maybe my kids are going to be ok after all.”

It doesn’t matter if you are a stay at home mom or a working mom, a young one or an older one (during my second pregnancy I almost passed out when I saw geriatric pregnancy on my file). It doesn’t matter if you breast-fed or bottle fed, if you had a natural birth or a c-section. However we got to where we are, we’re all mothers, and no one understands what it’s like to be a mother more than a mother. So chances are you’re going to find your social circle expanding to include mothers or reducing to include only mothers. You’re going to encounter them at school, in the work place, in the supermarket.  They’ll smile at your kids when they are being cute and hopefully smile in sympathy when you are carrying them bodily out of Toys R Us. If you’re smart, you’ll take advantage of the been-there-done-that advice of the ones who are a few years ahead of you. But if you’re determined to go it alone, there are a few easy ways to make sure you achieve the status of “Cootie Mom”.

Here are 10 easy ways to make sure you alienate yourself from the one group of people who know what you’re talking about, sometimes before you even know you’re thinking it.

1. Use another mother’s child as an example of how not to behave. Never. Not even at home. Why? Because it’s rude for one thing. For another, all kids misbehave at some point, and because it will always, always, always get back to the person whose parenting skills you are badmouthing, one way or another. Your mother was right. If you don’t have anything good to say…..

2. Use the word never in conjunction with your own child’s behavior, as in “My son would never throw sand at another child” or “My daughter would never be mean to another child.” Why? Because parenting fate has a funny way of stepping in just when we’re getting too cocky and giving us a good, swift kick up the ass to make sure we stay on our toes.

3. Proclaim that you would never allow something or that you only do something. See: Famous Last Words. Smart mothers know that you always leave room for improvisation, that never is a long time, and that moderation and balance is the key to sanity. That and wine.


4. Give unsolicited advice regarding nutrition or behavior modification to another mother, particularly one who seems stressed out or at the end  of her rope. Why? Because we’ve all been at the end of our rope. And you know what we want to hear? We want to hear “Hey, I’ve been there, it’s ok, it gets better,” not “Have you tried a reward chart?” or “Perhaps Johnny has too much sugar in his diet.” There’s a time and a place for advice. If you offer it at a time of crisis, you could end up with a sugar-coated reward chart shoved someplace uncomfortable.

5. Comment on the number of offspring a mother has to that mother. One mother of five I know told me that she routinely had another mother tell her that it was irresponsible to have more than two children because it was impossible to give them the attention and love they deserved. Go ahead. Spout comments like that and see how many people hang around you at the sandbox.

6. Assume that all boys are X and all girls are Y. I’m never quite sure what to make of it when people say to me, “Oh, I don’t know what I would do if I had a boy.” Err…raise him? It is true I only have boys and I have friends that have only girls. But it is dangerous in the extreme to make assumptions about either sex based solely on their sex. If you want to alienate the mothers of one half of the population, go ahead and start bad-mouthing one or the other.

7. Talk about how your labor wasn’t painful, how your baby slept through the night by one week, or being back in your size 4 jeans when you left the hospital. Why? It doesn’t matter if those things are true or not. No one wants to hear them.

8. Don’t judge a toddler by its cover. Never compare the behavior of a baby to a toddler or a toddler to a pre-schooler or a pre-schooler to a kindergartener, and so on and so on and so on. I never thought my sweet baby boy would pick up a stick and beat the ground with it.  Then he turned three.  All those giant four year olds running around like wild things on the playground? You’re going to have one of them someday too. The same way that soon enough I’ll probably have a sullen middle schooler. Parenting is relative. We only know what we’ve been through, where we’ve been. Assume you know nothing about any age that is more than three months older than your oldest child and keep your mouth shut.

strict-1950s9. Always talk down about your own kid. We all complain about our kids from time to time. In fact, I don’t trust women who don’t complain about their kids sometimes. But when you never say anything good about your kids, it’s draining, and heart breaking, and you will eventually find yourself an island in the Sea of Motherhood; the one place where you don’t want to be an island.

10. Always one-up the person you’re talking to. Their child didn’t sleep through the night until a year? Yours didn’t sleep for two. Their kid doesn’t like fruit? Yours doesn’t like fruit, vegetables, bread products or meat. Why? Commiserating is fine, but when you have to one-up someone at every turn, it makes their own struggles or complaints null and void.

Parenting is tough. Even the easy parts are tough sometimes. While you may be in a good spot, a sweet spot, if you’ve been a mother long enough you know they don’t always last and it doesn’t do you any good to go around mouthing off about it.

So there you go. If the thought of alienating yourself from the one group of people who truly get you doesn’t make you stop and think, I’ll leave you with one more word.