This is….Jeopardy!

Jeopardy_title_cardSo, what happens when you’re faced with some re-writes and you’ve got a sick kid at home? Surely you put your foot to the floor and work your bunions off, right?

Sure you do.

It’s amazing what you can find on the internet these days…

It’s more fun if you click the link to play, but I’ve included an image below as well.

I see a series in my blogging future….

Parenting Jeopardy! Jeopardy Template.

Parenting Jeopardy! Jeopardy Template

 

Parenting Jeopardy! Jeopardy Template2

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Sanctioned Spitting and Other Summer Fun

HKC-Vintage-4I suppose I should be thankful. There were seven whole days of summer break when it seemed like my kids were getting along, hanging out with their summer friends, swimming, chasing each other around the back yards with Nerf guns, generally being loud and obnoxious and boy like. Perfect.

Until yesterday.

Someone didn’t sleep enough, it was too hot, the Nerf bullets went missing, his bullets were better, he had more, someone accused someone else of shooting a third someone in the face. Whatever. It ended with one brother shoving the other to the ground, me screaming at one to get his ass back inside the house, a lot of stomping, some more yelling, and the door loudly slamming on a pretty good run.

You call it summer break. I call them the times that try Moms’ souls.

Eight weeks of unscheduled time in which my kids can perfect the art of annoying each other and me. Eight weeks of seeing how far they can push each other and me before one of us snaps. Apparently, the great outdoors is not great enough for the both of them.

It’s summer for goodness sake! No homework, no soggy sandwiches, later bedtimes. We’re in the US for goodness sake! Processed snack food and bags of potato chips the size of Rhode Island. There’s a WalMart down the road, a Target in the next town for anything we’ve forgotten. I bought them new Nerf guns and an extra bandolier of foam bullets for crying out loud.

You’ve got a backyard, a hose, and good weather. There’s a pool next door. You’ve got the use of two legs, a freezer stocked with popsicles and a basement full of junk to explore. At the risk of sounding like Tim Gunn, make it work.

38 weeks a year I tell you what to do. Over and over and over again. 38 weeks of school days I am there, reminding you to eat, brush, lace and grab. I am there at the other end reminding you to remember homework, water bottles, bike keys and lunch boxes. There was a day or two about two weeks before school ended when I thought you had it there, but, nope. That’s ok, I can deal with that. But summer?

Listen, if I wanted to be a camp counselor, I’d be sitting on a lake in New Hampshire somewhere swatting mosquitoes, sneaking cigarettes and kissing some summer crush out by the canoes. If I wanted to run around the backyard acting like a spastic dinosaur or arranging backyard games I’d be getting paid.

I don’t want to be Julie McCoy, your cruise director standing by with a clipboard of activities. Shuffleboard on the Lido deck, bingo in the backyard, jazzercise by the jacuzzi. I have neither the time nor the inclination to be so organized when the sun is shining and there’s a sprinkler to run through.

You see what I’m saying?

I don’t want to run Camp Mom. I don’t want to organize skits and schedule days and march you from one activity to another. I just want to be. I want to sit with my book and a bag of snack food that I can’t get overseas because it’s too laden with preservatives and feel the sun on my skin.

watermelon6cropped

Go outside. Lay down on the grass. Read a book, take a nap. Suck on an ice-cube until your brain freezes. Make ice pops, run through the sprinkler. Make a daisy chain, play Mommy had a baby and her head popped off with a field of dandelions. See how far you can spit watermelon seeds. Sanctioned spitting for goodness sake! Make up a skit without me. Make a treasure map. Go for a walk. Ride your bike. But for the love of all that is holy, stop crawling up each other’s behinds. Stop crawling up mine.

Because if I wanted to be a proctologist, I’d be driving a better car.

 

**At the exceedingly high risk of jinxing myself but in the spirit of full disclosure, I have to confess that after two days of scootchiness, my boys have gone back to happily shooting tin cans off a porch railing with Nerf projectiles for large swaths of the day. By far, the best $24 I’ve ever spent.

Eyes Wide Shut

86282397At a barbecue the other evening, a friend commented on how gentle and sweet my nine year-old was with her three year-old twins. I may have snorted. It’s possible I rolled my eyes. I may have even started to debate the point with her, because after all, the only younger person I see him interact with on a regular basis is his younger brother and let’s be honest, that interaction usually takes the form of in-your-face-screaming, torturous teasing, WWF wresting moves and generalized ass-like behavior. But before I could crack wise, before I could launch into a hundred stories of the way he makes his brother’s life the 8th circle of kindergarten hell, a funny thing happened. I took a step back and looked at my son through my friend’s eyes.

As parents, we often get the worst of our kids. The tired, hungry, cranky, frustrated, bored, pain in the ass bits. There are long stretches when it feels like all we get is the worst of our kids; when from sun up to sundown it is endless negotiation tactics, refereeing, moderating, cajoling, bribing, pleading, and counting down the minutes until bedtime. But as my friend’s casual statement showed, others see our children through a different lens, from a different perspective. Is the image our children present to us as parents more accurate? Or is the reflection they present to the rest of the world the one to be trusted?

They’re both valid of course, mirror images of the same object. While my eldest son is a typical older brother toward his sibling, pushing boundaries and learning how much he can poke and prod a six year-old before he is on the receiving end of a frustrated six-year-old wallop, he is gentle and kind with his twin cousins and the younger siblings of his friends. While he screams at me when things don’t go the way he wants, I hear constantly from his teachers that he has a role as peacemaker among his peers, soothing potentially volatile situations with his even handedness.  The same holds true for my younger son. I see him as a loather of mornings, hater of Lego tidying, someone who goes to great lengths to let you know how much he disdains being told what to do. His teachers see him as reflective and responsible, others see him as generous and compromising. What to me comes across as stubbornness is seen to others as independence and capability.

It’s easy to get stuck in a holding pattern with your children, to get sidetracked by the negative. It is easy to start to see the annoying, bratty, hair pulling, aggressive behavior as the norm and lose sight of the whole picture. We get so caught up in negative traits, the ones they unleash upon us as parents with such ferocity, that we sometimes forget that children are more than just a single trait. We fall into a habit of parenting with our eyes wide shut.

article-2104579-11D92A32000005DC-960_634x865It was nice to watch my son play with my friend’s twins, to see him through her eyes. It was nice to see him outside the framework of our own home and family. It was nice to be reminded that he is more than just the pain-in-the-ass big brother I get to see. It was good for me to open my eyes a little wider, to let my pupils expand and take in a bit more of what my son has to offer. It was a good reminder to keep my eyes wide open, because only when they are open will I be able to appreciate the kaleidoscope of images that he presents to both me and the world.

The View From the Bottom Bunk

Reed babyToday my second born, my baby boy, my fidgety ninja tornado of a son, turns six. Our whirlwind philosopher, our witty dervish, our baby who wasn’t supposed to be.

What was scheduled to be our final cycle of fertility treatment, the last hurrah, our last-ditch effort to expand our family, had been canceled for medical reasons. We called time on the whole thing, made our peace, and counted our blessings. We looked on the bright side and made big plans. The fickle universe had other ideas. The running family joke is that son number one is my fault, but son number two is all my husband’s doing; the spontaneous, surprise result of a bit of afternoon delight, skyrockets in flight, and all. We should have known a baby conceived on July 4th would be full of vim and vigor, full of spark and sizzle and pop. While I was pregnant, swollen with this life that would soon become irrevocably entwined with mine, I called him the Shark. Even in utero, he was always on the go, never-resting, always moving. My belly would rock and roll with his movements, elbows and knees shifting and kicking. Even then he was a ninja. At six, he still spins through life,.

My not so still life with boy.

A few weeks ago he lost his first tooth. For me, that little moment of maturity was far more symbolic than other milestones he has met along the way. When he lost that pearly little Chiclet, he shed more than just a baby tooth, he shed the last layer of  babyhood. Soon his marshmallow cheeks will thin out, his jaw will start to square. Soon he will surprise me when I catch sight of him from a certain angle, because I will be able to see the shadows of the young man who is still a long way off, but not as far as it used to be.

reedIt’s not easy being the second born. It’s not easy being the baby of the family. He is in a forever competition with his older brother, a battle to the death–or at least the adult. He is often angry at me, at his father, at the world that he was not born first. He is stubborn, oh is he stubborn, but he astounds me with his philosophy, the way he thinks, the way he sees the world. He is so different from his brother, so different from me, though he shares with his father a dislike of mornings and a sense of time smack dab in the middle of the man time continuum. Forget snails and pails and puppy dog tails. He is drama and mischief and Kant. Already he has flummoxed me with his reasoning, his unique ViewMaster take on life. When your five year-old snuggles up to you in bed, looks at you with his milk chocolate eyes and says: “today will be the only today there ever is. There will never be another today”, it can be humbling. When I say something like “People is glass houses shouldn’t” and his instant response, without missing a beat is “walk around naked,” it can be thought provoking. It won’t be long before he is outwitting, outsmarting and outplaying me, his father, and his brother. There is no doubt who will be the last one standing, the sole survivor. I only hope I have a few more years to train.

He has always marched to the beat of his own drum. I would say at times he has marched to the beat of a different instrument entirely, perhaps to an imaginary symphony in his head. This is the boy who instead of having a blanket or a favorite stuffed toy insisted upon sleeping with a variety of household objects, including a bottle of purple shower gel, a discarded electric toothbrush and an empty mouthwash bottle. For months he carried a frying pan with him wherever he went. He has always been, from day one, his own man.

Despite the depth of his personality, despite being one of the most capable five-now-six year olds I have ever met, he suffers from the insecurity of the second child. It’s no secret that second children get shafted in the attention game. Where they benefit is being born into an established family, a unit that has already had a chance to find its feet on shaky ground. Second children benefit from the trial and error parenting that defines child number one, not just in the beginning, but always. With the second child, there is less chasing around with a fork full of food and more enjoying them for who and what they are.

still life with boy

Not that long ago, I woke up in my little one’s bed. It had been one of those nights of musical mattresses, someone was ill, someone had a nightmare, someone had night sweats. Reed, my Mexican jumping bean boy, doesn’t stay still in sleep anymore than he does in the day; in fact, we call him ‘the Gas’ because he expands to fill whatever space he is in. On those rare occasions when I allow him into bed with us, it’s not uncommon for me to stumble my way to his room and finish out the night in the bottom bunk. As I woke that morning, it hit me that life is very different when viewed from his perch on the family tree, from not only his perspective as a child, but also the second child. It’s a different view there from the bottom bunk.

It is a refreshing way of looking at life. Innocence and imagination and a carpe diem-ness that we are lucky to grasp merely an echo of as an adult. It is that view which allows him the freedom to pretend that piece of old fishing line is really a spider thread, that a piece of broken beer bottle is an amber gem, that the digging club he founded at school may have found an ancient city at the excavation site under the sand pit.

ImageSix is still young, but on the way to the place when the wonder will start to yield to logic and reason. I want him to hang on to that sense of wonder for a while longer, hang on to the excitement of being a kid. Last night as I tucked him and said, “You are going to sleep five and you’ll wake up six!” He looked up at me with those milk chocolate eyes and said, “It’s like magic.”

I’m not sure who benefits from the magic most, him or us.

Dear jumping bean, dear ninja master, dear my ants in the pants boy.  Dear Reed. Don’t grow up too fast, our family needs your wit, your input, your perspective. You balance us. You challenge us every day to see the world from your eyes, from the eyes of the second child. From your view there on the bottom bunk.

Happy birthday.