3 Things you absolutely positively cannot control, so quit trying!

And the sooner you learn this, the better parent you will be.1. You cannot control your child’s sleep. This you learn pretty early on. You can help your baby fall asleep by rocking and soothing. You can try to make sure the room is a perfect temperature, dimly lit, comforting, and definitely not too noisy. You can put a sign on the door bell that asks people not to ring it during nap or evening time. You can even have a video monitor of your child’s crib to make sure all elements are under control. But the little being inside that crib doesn’t really care about your efforts at all.  If he’s tired, he’ll sleep (in your arms, in the crib, in the car seat, on the floor, on the back of a donkey – he doesn’t care – he’ll sleep!). If he’s not tired, he won’t – even if you’re tired, even if you’ve controlled every single possible aspect of the environment around him, even if you threaten him (or promise to reward him).  He doesn’t care. If he doesn’t want to sleep yet – he won’t.

So calm down, grab a book, sit on the floor outside the room and wait it out!

2. You cannot control your child’s “waste” systems – neither of them (well, not the third – the vomitus system – either!).  He will eventually learn to control it himself, when he wants to using whatever reward/consequence system that he wants to. You have no control over this. Come now – imagine going through two whole years of your life with some absorbent thick elasticky material between your legs to “catch” you know what. And the changing of said messy “diaper” was completely random and usually involved being laid down at times in which you definitely were involved in something else and not what you wanted to do. And sometimes you’d be subjected to this indignity when you were dry, sometimes when it was coming down your legs, and sometimes you just had to endure “the sniff.”

But…. then sometime around 2 to 3 years of age, you’re expected to suddenly stop messing up this diaper thing and instead there is whooping and hollering every time your urine and excrement land in a pool of water that whooshes petrifyingly in an ever-narrowing circle until a huge swallowing glug rings out. And this is thought to be “normal”….hmmmm…..

So let’s face it – you, the parent, have no control over when this child decides to transition from “yep, done” to “Mommy, mommy, I have to go pee!”

3. The third, and probably my most frustrating, is the realization that you also have no control over the child’s vocal activities! And, by golly, they figure this one out pretty young – screeching repetitively and annoyingly in the back seat of the car out of the reach of your sweeping hands.  Sharing “sensitive” information — “Mommy, that man has no hair” — in the middle of the silence of the congregations’ prayer. Or, “That man’s smoking, he’s going to die” as we walk past. Or the Little Guy who just stands in the middle of the kitchen floor screaming and screaming and screaming ….

Nothing can stop the determined disturber of the peace. Somehow, yelling at a yelling toddler to stop yelling just doesn’t seem to have the right effect. And shoving their mouths full of Kleenex would likely impair breathing and not be such a good thing. Even sending them to the time out stairs does not affect the chalk-on-board volume level emitting from their vocal cords.

It’s particularly frustrating when you have no idea why the illogical youngster is melting in a fit of whines, tears and screams. It happened to 4 out of 5 boys one morning this week, during the 15 minutes before getting all five shoed and shooed out the door. My strategy – pretend not to hear anything, pretend my frustration level is not skyrocketing and my blood pressure not soaring. Guide, cajole, demand, plead…anything….anything to get them in the car and deliver them to the substitute caregivers for the day. Then smile and say “good luck.”

Yes, once you figure out in the early years that you actually cannot control these little creatures, you’ll be quite ready for the teen years!

Ps….you also can’t control the number of stickers they choose to decorate with, the number of windows they break, or how much water they splash out of the tub!

Love is patient, love is kind. It…

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

8Love never fails.

The other day I was playing “catch” with Noah – which essentially means that I try my very best to throw a baseball directly into his half-open stiff baseball glove despite him occasionally jumping out of the way when he judges that the ball could possibly touch him. Throw after throw, I reminded myself that “this” is what it means to be patient…and suddenly the 1st  Corinthian’s verse (13:4-8) popped into my head. And I began to wonder why it is used in almost every wedding ceremony I know to describe the love of two adults….

…..when clearly it was written as encouragement for parents.

Love is patient – and that’s not just in playing catch, it’s in repeating 3 times “do not spill the water, Do not spill the water, DO NOT spill the water…..ahhhh! You spilled the water!”  Right. Big breath. Patience.

Love is kind – it is going out of your way to do things for your kids. For example, we’ll just say that maybe the chocolate flavoring was empty and the other night I ran to Target to get some chocolate for Noah’s morning cup of milk….just because I know how much he likes it. Wow – that was nice of me!  (boast)

It does not envy – okay, let’s be honest, sometimes it does envy the single friends who go home and sit on the couch, have a quiet dinner, watch some TV and sleep in late on a Saturday morning….

It does not boast. It is not proud. – I certainly don’t boast (too often) about my “love” for my boys – but I love to “boast” about my boys! There’s something so delightful in being proud of your children. Idlewild_coasterWhen they take their first step. Pedal on two wheels instead of four. Ride a roller coaster solo for the first time. Jump off the diving board. The heart flutters and the mouth wants to scream “that’s my boy” – and you know that usually the only one who understands the depth of this pride is another parent (or grandma!).

This though – this is a hard one. “It is not easily angered.” This one can be a struggle for me. We had a lovely day at Idlewild Park today – just perfect – and I knew we should probably have left around 4pm for the hour drive home. But we were doing “just one more ride” and letting Noah get on the roller coaster for the first time….and it was closer to 5 when we headed to the car. By that time, though, Micah had surpassed his coping threshold and sat on a bench refusing to walk to the car. Threats. Bribes. Cajoling. Tons of energy and finally he dragged along behind me as I pushed the stroller and kept Noah beside me.

When Micah picked up a handful of rocks, though, Noah began nervously looking over his shoulder – I knew he was wondering if Micah would throw them at him. We got to the car, I opened the doors to tuck Seth in….. Micah showered the rocks against the back of the van. I flipped….long streams of meaningless words….got him into the van, demanding that he get in his seat and buckle up. It took 15 minutes and two stops alongside the road “to rest” before his tears and my anger subsided.

It keeps no records of wrongs” – oh yes it does! Actually, the behavior (“that was really a bad decision, Micah” – substitute in the word “stupid” a couple times, though I keep trying not to) receives consequences (no TV for the next 3 weeks unless you earn some time back), but I have to be able to let it go. I have to work through the frustration of “you ruined a perfectly good day by having a fit at the end.” I have to think through how I could have helped that transition go more smoothly. I have to figure out how to not “flip out” the next time myself.

I sit here still this evening, saddened by the darkness that reared in ugly fury. Frustrated. A true dragon.

Yet, I cling to these words – for these are the words of a parents’ love:  “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” Read them again.

We hug. We snuggle into bed. Kiss goodnight.

Tomorrow we will do better.

Love will not fail.

The Little Guy

Sometimes I think it must stink to be “the Little Guy” in this household. At just barely cruising along the 3rd percentile line for height and weight, Seth is just starting (at age 2) to fit into 18-month size clothing, while Kenny (age 3) is rapidly overtaking Noah’s clothing (size 4) and Noah is trying to push Ryan out of his 5T size….while Micah just laughs at all of them from his 4 ½ foot, 76 pound frame. And then he flicks the wind in Seth’s direction….and Seth blows over.

And yet, Seth doesn’t take any crap from any of them. He’ll jump right onto Micah and goes for the throat – well, the face actually….and just as effective. He’ll push Kenny right back, while stumbling to the ground. He’ll screech at Noah when a toy is taken. And….hmmmm….he and Ryan pretty much ignore each other.

Tonight the “older” boys (Micah and Noah) spent the night at their grandparents. I ran a couple errands with Seth and found myself making silly faces and blowing bubbles on him and chatting away with him. He rarely (RARELY) gets that kind of attention that Micah got ALL the time when he was little and Noah got a ton of. Now in the car, the other two are so busy talking over each other (9.25 minutes post) that I can barely hear, much less talk to, Seth.

I tucked him into bed tonight and sat beside the crib/bed (one side has been removed due to climbing hazards) and sang him to sleep. I can’t remember the last time we had one-on-one at night  – probably sometime when he was a tiny baby….yep, like at 2:00am when I would feed him and we’d both fall asleep!  I stayed with him until his eyes closed, watching him breathe and thinking about how little time over the course of the day, if I were to actually measure it, he would have with me, with undivided attention.

Probably….regretfully….really miniscule. I spend a great deal of time managing and strategizing how to manage Micah’s behavior and emotional outbursts. I am constantly trying to outwit and outpsych the 4-year-old who is trying to push me over the edge. I often look at Seth and say “oh, hello, little guy.”

So, if your line of vision was someone’s knee caps….and the people whose bellies you had visual access of were constantly trying to flatten you to the floor….do you think you might develop an annoying screeching whine as an attention-getting mechanism? And if you feel constantly ignored and yet having to defend whatever object is in your possession from sudden attackers, what kind of adult would you grow up to be? Strong and Stubborn?

I’m wondering if I might need to be a bit more patient with Seth…..

And I know for sure that he could use some more one-on-one time….rather than my pure surprise that he’s made it through another day in the middle of the boy madness and is ready to be tucked into bed.

And if he would cool it with the 5:30am wake-up times, he and I could become best of buddies…I’m pretty sure!

How my 4-year-old Tries to Torture Me

“Give me rules

I will break them

Give me lines

I will cross them”

I paid attention to the words of the song “More like Falling in Love” by Jason Gray today.  This is my Noah:  “Oh, I’m sorry, Mom – did I just walk right over your line?”  “Did you really mean ‘no’ or was that just a little suggestion?” “You’re kidding? You’ve told me a 100 times not to touch your dental floss…that stuff that goes on and on forever?”

I was out of town last week for an overnight. I struggled with going away. I miss the boys. I know that I will miss the boys. I also know that it is delicious to have a night away – I slept until 7:20 – and could have gone back to sleep if I didn’t have a meeting to get to.

So Micah was on strict orders to “be good for Grandma” as he is the one who often gets off-kilter when the schedule changes up in any way. In fact, I told him that if he did behave, I would reward (read “bribe”) him with a Nerf gun to play with our good friends that we were going to visit for the 4th. As Nerf toys generally “disappear” in a household where we “don’t shoot people” (why is that such a hard concept for little boys to understand?!?!), this “reward” seemed quite enticing to him.

In fact, when I returned on Tuesday, Gammie reported that “Micah was an angel”….. “your Noah, on the other hand, was a terror.” Oh, so I had this confused. Apparently (I learned from my mother), Noah has decided that the fact that “everybody loves my curly hair” now gives him total and complete leeway to “break the rules and cross the lines.” He really is stinkin’ cute, but….

Now I hate to start invoking the “second child” phenomenon as I am one (and thereby close to perfect!)….but this little 4-year-old is certainly working on creativity.

Not only does he talk nonstop – as evidenced in last week’s “bonus post” (which makes up for this week’s late post?) – but he is the most frequently occurring name on the House Damage List, particularly in the broken glass domain.

He is the sneak who drops candy wrappers behind the couch.

He is the voice in Kenny’s ear telling him to “push that button,” “pull that string,” touch the forbidden fruit.

He is the whine of “Micah hit me, pushed me, pulled my hair, did something to me that I don’t even know but seems like a good way to get a bit of attention.”

He is also becoming nightmarish at bedtime:

Me: “Pee, wash hands, brush teeth” – my nightly mantra (trying to reinforce this proper order)
Read books, Say prayers, Tuck in
N: bounce up, jump out of bed, walk out the door
Me: Tuck in
N: jump out of bed
Me: Threaten time-out
N: jump out of bed
Me: Ignore
N: wake up Seth and Micah
Me: (face red) threaten anything that pops into my brain
N: follow me down the stairs
Me: close door to the upstairs and fume
N: pound on door

Repeat the cycle until I wise up and walk away. I usually just ignore bumps and bangs and groans, unless followed by blood-curdling noises. An hour or two later, I get up and go try to find him. I’m developing a nice photo album called “Noah Sleeps” – on the floor, on the stairs, on his bed, on Micah’s bed, on my bed, did I mention on the stairs?IMG_9066

Last night I heard him sobbing and I went up to find out what was wrong.  He stood naked at the top of the stairs (why?!?) and sobbed, “I fell down the stairs.”  Unfortunately, I was not really in a very sympathetic mood as we had just had 3 or 4 rounds of the above chorus, but he was clearly traumatized by an unknown number of tumbles and melted my heart when he said “I need a hug.”

For he is also the little guy who when I call to check in the night I’m out of town says, “Mommy, I still love you.” The one who plays with me back-and-forth a little game of who loves who more (but not in the creepy pathological way of Disney’s Tangled movie!). The one who tries really hard to get his fingers into the “I love you” sign position and then calls out, “look, Mommy.” The one who demands that I sit next to him every morning for his cup of milk and a good snuggle.

My incredibly sweet torturer. Wonder what tomorrow holds?

9.25 minutes

9:25 minutes

That’s how long it takes to get to my mom’s house from ours….give or take a few seconds depending on the sequence of the stop lights and whether we shoot through one of the back alleys or not.

This is the sound track in the Odyssey for a very very small portion of those 9+ minutes (to the very highest degree of accuracy that my memory might allow….which probably isn’t great):

N: Mom, when we get there are we going to eat dinner? I’m hungry.
M: I want chicken nuggets and….
N: I didn’t pee in my pants at naptime today.
Me: That’s great N….
M: I kept my pull-up dry last night
N: Is Auntie behind us?
Me: M, that was your second pull-up, we changed…
N: Why is Auntie not behind us?
N: Are they coming?
S: arrghgh
Me: Yes, Sam, that is a boat
N: Can we buy a boat, Mommy?
Me: I don’t have enough…
M: When we go to Tim & Ben’s tomorrow, will we see fireworks?
N: I’m going to stay up to midnight.
Me: We’ll see how your behavior is. You should probably nap…
N: Is Auntie behind us now?
M: Can we play in the pool at Gammie’s?
Me: Yes. We are going to have a birthday party for K.
N: Are they coming yet?
N: Oh look, there’s a black hic-cup truck!
S: Op-day to you, Op-day to you…
N: I want a big hic-up truck!
Me: That’s right Sammy…
N & M: Mom, can Is I Tim have bigger a than cupcake  me??
Me: Tim is older
N: Mom, can I?
M: You promised you were going to take me to the store.
N: Oh, I see the fireman
Me: I know, honey….
M: I’m almost bigger than you, Mom.
N: and the fire truck
M: Can we go the back way?
Me: Which way is the…
N: the men are sitting on the bench
S: blargh, grapth
N: I’m going to put on that big helmet at Tim & Ben’s.
N: Can we buy them a big fire truck?
M: We need a big dog
S: Doggy
N: Is Auntie going to beat us there?
M: My seat keeps falling over.
N: I was a good listener this day.
N: Is Auntie there yet?

I turned off the radio long ago…..and sometimes just drive along listening to the cacophony….wondering why I even bother to interject at all….

And sometimes I wonder – how can anyone expect me to have sustained attention at work anymore? After all, I am being constantly conditioned to listen to 3 different things and process none of it.

But I sure would like to know why 4-year-olds talk so much?!?

N: Mom, are we there yet?