And he does appreciate me being ’round

I didn’t think we’d survive it. I didn’t think we’d survive it, but we did. What’s more, I thought no good could come of it, but I think that maybe some did.

Last week I had knee surgery, and my husband, Matt, stayed home to take care of the kids and me. I did not expect it to go well. For one thing, he had to work at home, and he hates doing that, unless there’s a “matinee” involved, and this time, that was out of the question. His computer runs slower with remote access and he’s constantly banging on it and yelling at it and saying, “Come ON, computer!” and, “I did not do that!” when we all know the computer is not capable of acting on its own volition and he damn well DID do that. Mostly his behavior just seeds a negative cloud over the whole house and makes being at home with him quite unpleasant.

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Recognizing Mr. or Mrs. Right

This Valentine’s Day, my heart goes out to everyone whose love went unrequited – once or many, many times, as it did for me. I wonder what would have happened if I’d gone out with the guys who liked me and not spent all my time liking guys who didn’t. I thought I was discriminating. Some people will go out with anyone. I once had a friend who would go out with any guy who asked her. She even dated her own roommate. While I wouldn’t have wanted to be like her, I think “discriminating” was really detrimental.

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An Ear for the Language

When I think about TV influencing my children, I think about Rose seeing objectified, emaciated, air-brushed women and thinking she should look like them. I do not think that, while watching “Suburgatory,” Rose will learn new vocabulary, but she does.

This week, when I went to pick Rose up from preschool, Rose’s teacher took me aside to say that Rose got a time-out for calling her friend a “biotch.” She assured me that the friend didn’t hear Rose correctly and thus didn’t get upset or worse, learn the word from Rose. I told her teacher that Rose learned the word from TV and we’ve been trying to stop her from using it. Her teacher told her that they don’t use that word in preschool. I said the same thing in the car, and added, “Your friend’s moms won’t want you to come over for playdates if you talk that way.” The next day in school, Rose said “biotch” again for another time-out.

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Bad! Bad Mommy!

I took Christian to his preschool class this week. It’s held at a local college and part of the class is “parent education.” So while the kids play, the moms (and one dad) sit in a circle listening to the “parent educator” – I don’t know why they don’t just call her “teacher” or “professor.” This week’s topic was reading, but then we were encouraged to discuss any issues we’ve been having with our kids.

As the class went on, I began to feel worse and worse. First the educator talked about reading to our kids. She said it’s never too early or too often. Big fail on our part. We read to Rose from the womb and she loved it, but Christian won’t sit still for a book. We can hold his attention a little longer with a “touch and feel” book, but still, he squirms and complains. He’s 15 months old and he just started sitting down to read with us. We feel bad, but it’s the best we can do. We also feel bad because he’s not talking. He only says two words – “hi” and “bye.” By this age, his sister had been speaking for six months and already started to put phrases together. Must’ve been all that reading.

Even worse, one of the moms in the parenting group talked about smacking her kid’s hand when he reaches for something dangerous, like the stove or an electric socket. No one in the group thought anything of this but the parent educator warned that this kind of parenting will result in a combative kid. She said the kid will learn to solve problems with violence if his hand gets smacked.

During this discussion, I kept my mouth shut and focused on what horrible parents we are. Not only do we smack hands away from dangerous stuff, but sometimes — albeit very rarely — we spank Rose. That’s right, I said it. We don’t put her over our knee and beat her, just one swat on the butt when no other recourse gets her attention.

As the teacher went on and on about teaching violence, I had CSI-style flashbacks. Spanking Rose. Rose hitting Christian. Rose hitting her father. Rose hitting me. Oh my God, we’ve raised a pugilist! Just give her a few years and few more spankings and she’ll be the next featherweight champ!

As I was thinking about all of this, I heard the teacher talking about time-outs, and how they’re not to be used as punishment, they’re just a “break” for the kid to calm down. Yeah, sometimes, but what do you do when your kid has just picked her brother up by the neck, as Rose did the other night? Is that the point where you say, “Okay, Sweetie, seems you’ve been naughty. Take a few minutes to calm down in the time-out chair, okay?“

Let me tell you, we weren’t feeling “time-out” when Rose almost broke her brother’s neck. Matt screamed at her and sent her to her room while I comforted Christian and then I sat hugging myself, shocked and frightened at what had just happened. And I was angry too! At that point I wanted to take Rose over my knee and spank her. I wanted to ground her for the rest of her life and take away all of her toys. I wanted her to pay.

We didn’t do any of that, though. Matt just blew up at her and sent her to her room. She realized how serious the situation was by the tone and volume of her father’s voice, and she did not come out until he went back and talked to her, as I still sat there, frozen. I know Matt told her that she should never pick anyone up by the neck, because that could kill them. I don’t know if that approach works or just gives her ammunition when she decides that killing her brother is a good idea. And usually I hate when Matt yells at the kids, but this time, I felt it was warranted. Plus I couldn’t think of anything else to do.

As I sat in the parenting class, I kept thinking, I don’t need this class for Christian, I need it for Rose! The irony is that I attended the same class with Rose when she was her brother’s age. I think I was a much better parent to Rose then, just as I’m a better parent to Christian now. It’s Rose who throws me for a loop. I thought turning four was going to calm her down, at least a little bit. But it turns out four is just as bad as three. And I’m just as bad a mom at four as I was at three.

I need some parenting help. I need a whole overhaul of my parenting system. I need to find an effective way to discipline Rose and Christian, and to motivate Rose to comply when I tell her, for example, to put on her socks for preschool instead of dallying and making me mad. Matt and I need to find out how to control ourselves when she pushes our buttons. We need to know what to do when she does something truly egregious. We need to stop yelling.

We need to find someone to teach us all of these things. Maybe this parent education class is just what I need. Maybe I can sneak in questions about how to raise Rose in conjunction with her brother. If not, I’ll have to find another way. Got any ideas?


Snowbored

It’s almost over, and I don’t know if I’ll make it. Nine straight days with the kids in the house. It started last Friday. I took Christian to his new preschool program in the morning. I had waffled on signing him up because it meant no babysitting on Fridays, but in the end, I knew it would be good for him, so there we were. He had a blast and pooped out in the car on the way home. As he slept, I got to take a shower, then we picked Rose up. Since Christian napped earlier, he was up during Rose’s after-school nap. So basically all the alone time I got was in the shower.

I did go out later that day – took the kids to Costco – but we didn’t go out for our usual Friday dinner. Big mistake. Saturday, I wrote the blog and hung around the house. Matt took the kids to swim class. That was the day it started snowing. Matt and I had planned for a date night, for the first time in months, but by late afternoon, the roads were getting bad, so we cancelled. No date night for us, and I didn’t leave the house all day. The kids were ok. Lately they’ve started roughhousing on the floor and we had to break that up a few times, and Rose likes to scream while flitting around the house, but that’s normal.

Sunday came, with more snow, so we enjoyed the coziness of being snowed in. The kids were getting restless – plastering themselves to the windows and whining – so we took them outside. Christian didn’t like it, but he did like handling the snow shovel so we let him do that. Rose learned how to throw snowballs – very accurately — as she aimed for the back of my neck. When we went back in, Rose and I made cake pops. On Monday – Martin Luther King Day — the snow melted a bit, and, anticipating a big storm on Tuesday night, Matt and Rose, stir crazy by now, went out to get milk. I kept saying that we should all go out just for the heck of it because we’d be stuck in the house, but we didn’t. Big mistake.

Some of the schools pre-emptively cancelled classes Monday night, but Rose’s school was, thankfully, still open. I emailed the teacher to say we’d be there. I was ready to get the kids out of the house by then, especially knowing we’d have a huge (for here) snowstorm midweek. So we got ready for school Tuesday morning. And then it started snowing. Got an email from Rose’s preschool teacher – school was cancelled.

Rose was disappointed, and so was I, but we called our neighborhood babysitter and placated Rose with a movie. Rose was not liking being in the house, and she was also not liking the attention the babysitter was paying to her brother. From our temporary office lair downstairs, Matt and I heard her stomp off and slam the door to her room several times. She loooves this babysitter too, so we knew being in the house was getting to her. Tuesday wasn’t even “the big snow.” We were expecting eight inches of snow on Wednesday. So I knew school would be cancelled Wednesday and, more than likely, because they do not have snow management in the Seattle area, Thursday. I expected that I’d at least get some preschool on Friday.

So by this time, I’d had the kids all day, every day, since Saturday. I know I sound like a horrible parent, but I am just not used to having them more than three days in a row, unless we’re on vacation, and even then we make arrangements for alone time. I feel bad about it, but I am just not the stay-all-day-with-the-kids type. I need that time away from them to pursue my own work so I can be an effective parent when they’re around.

Having the kids in the house above you is not the same as having them out of the house. Rose kept coming downstairs; I had to come upstairs to make lunch; and I heard the constant stomping of little feet and screeching of little lungs, and booms followed by crying. I’m very thankful we had the babysitter but I am used to being alone in the house a few hours a day. And I am used to leaving the house every day, and I hadn’t done that since Friday.

It snowed all day Wednesday. The babysitter came again and took the kids out in the snow. Our neighbors were out with sleds and the kids went sledding down our road. We do that here. It’s a hill and it won’t get plowed, so that’s where everybody sleds. Matt and I worked downstairs. By this time we could not stand staying in the house, so we all went to play in the snow after naps. All of our neighbors were out – some we only see on snow days. We had fun chatting and sledding, until we heard a couple of transformers blow. I wanted to sled more – I only went down once – but I went in to make dinner, in case we lost power.

It snowed Thursday. Same routine. School closed. Babysitting in the morning. Out in the snow after naps. A hundred posts on Facebook, trying to connect with the outside world. The roads were still white.

Preschool was closed again Friday, because the roads weren’t clear yet, but we had hope, because it was supposed to warm up and start raining. It did, and I have never been so grateful for rain in my life. It cleared the roads and melted most of the snow, and we went out, me for the first time in a week, Friday night.

And here I am today, back in the house, writing the blog. What did all this snow teach me? It taught me a lot about how stir crazy I, and the kids, can get. It taught me that when I think I should get out of the house, I should do it. It also taught me that some things are out of my control, and that I should use every resource to deal with it the best I can. I’ll have to remember all that I’ve learned. We’re expecting another snowstorm next week.