Bouncing balls

I sat on the couch the other day….taking in the perspective of the house….watching the boys bounce around in an active game of football. (Super Tall Guy throws it to Flipper 1315168797_Bouncing_Ballswho tries to make it around the inside track of the house one or two times before his flags are ripped off. The “less-essential” members of the team pretty much just run and jump and pick up a toy and play with it for a few minutes then rejoin the team – pretty much, they are less than essential to the scoring capabilities of the team.)  The image of little rubber bouncing balls came to my mind – that’s what my household is almost continuously – a set of bouncing balls.

Naturally a set of balls bouncing about in a finite space lends towards occasional collisions. When you have a particularly large ball like Super Tall Guy who also thinks it’s fun to bounce into and off other balls….it’s quite a bit less fun. And when he’s in one of his pesty moods, like he was last Monday before school, it’s really not fun at all.

After he careened into multiple children and finally sent a shooting ball into my mother’s abdomen, I had had enough and chased him at top speed upstairs. He knew he was in trouble. I knew I was in trouble as I wondered how to wrestle him to the ground and wait for my anger to subside so that I wouldn’t actually harm the poor kid. Practically sitting on him, I looked him in the eye and informed him that he was grounded from all fun this week – including the parent-child last practice soccer game, the Halloween party at the gym, and the party with his favorite friends just outside of Cleveland. That got his attention.

Now I had a good week. Having him in the position of not getting his fun activities, we came up with a star system to earn them back. Then, if he wouldn’t listen to me this week, I could threaten to take away a virtual star that existed mostly in my head, but sometimes on the dry erase board hanging on the refrigerator. Of course, he worked hard to get 5 stars to go to the soccer game….and it got rained out. And then worked for another 10 stars to get the day of activities and parties on Saturday.

Now I had to do that oft-recommended parenting technique = catch them at doing something good. You can imagine the challenge of singly out a bouncing ball and informing it that it’s on the right track and doing well. So, a star for brushing your teeth in the morning when you hate doing that. A star for getting dressed without me reminding you. One day, I realized I was pretty desperate when before the bath, I said, “Wow, Super Tall Guy, you actually wore underwear today – you get a star for that!”

I’m liking this system….so then I realized I need another big carrot to dangle. Fortunately, my sister bought tickets to the circus – of dragons! – now, that’s a great item to have in the back pocket!

Give me back my body!

“Give me back my body”….went through my mind in an instant. I realized I was exhausted…from the pure reason of not having total and complete control over my own body. Instead, it sometimes functions as a punching bag, sometimes a pillow, sometimes a warming blanket, sometimes a stepping stool, sometimes a mode of transportation. Rarely is it free from the powerful suction cups of the writhing tentacles of 3 small bodies.

(As an aside, I’m glad that my “original” body has not been changed by carrying and birthing said three boys, when I say “Give me back my body.” I’m pretty happy with how I am – and used to enjoy when my patients at the office would ask, “you have kids?” I’d reply, “I have a 4-month-old” and they would look shocked at my slenderness. I’d quip, “I make sure to run 3-4 times a week. See, I keep telling you exercise is important!”)

My desire to have my body back all became absolutely clear a couple days ago. Mr. Ornery and The Little Guy were underfoot as usual while I was puttering around in the kitchen – well, trying to actually accomplish something along the lines of a meal – not just puttering. They are like little puppies – you’re constantly tripping over them….or pushing them out of the way to avoid tripping over them. And I stood near the oven working at the countertop with the two of them jostling each other around my knees. Suddenly, Mr. Ornery decided he needed to go retrieve something (who knows what? The Lego man for the spaceship I had skillfully crafted for him?) and he said “save my spot” before running off.

And I paused. What?!?!? “Save your spot?!?!?!” Your spot of bumping into Mommy’s legs? Your spot of trying to knock The Little Guy away? Your spot of being totally and completely in my way?  Oh yes….I’ll save your spot!

The point is – this was clearly acceptable to him. As if he somehow had permission to be glued to my knees and though he had to temporarily step out of his role as a pest, he would be right back to irritate me some more! Oh yes, Little Guy, let’s you and me save his spot for him!

Where do these children develop this assumption that Mommy’s body is their property? An extension of themselves? Hmmm, I can’t reach that cup of water over there….oh Farm-10-20-13wait….Mommy will get up off the couch and reach it.  Hmmm, my legs are getting a bit tired from all this hiking up the hill on the farm – whew, I’ll just climb on the back of this 5’ 6” walking being and catch a ride. Gosh, I’m feeling a tad chilly, I’ll just shimmy over next to this living breathing heater and wrap that arm around my shoulders. Perfect.

It certainly is no help at all to have 3 of these beings with equally forceful opinions of their claim to my physical body. Nothing like the ol’ fight of who gets to sit beside Mommy on the couch and which side and who’s on the lap or climbing around on the back…..

I used to have this bubble around me – at least 2-3 feet from every aspect of my body. Though invisible, it was clearly seen and respected by most other human beings. And then the boys came. They don’t seem to be able to see this bubble. It’s odd, but I’m a little worried they have some sensory differentiation deficit.

You see,

I have been spat on, peed on, pooped on.
I have been punched, kicked, scratched, pinched and bit.
I have had soccer cleats smash my toes, and footballs hit my nose.
And I have had random kisses on my knees, tight squeezes, tender pats and giggly tickles.


So, if you ever hear me mumble, “give me back my body” …. just smile and nod. I’ll get over it. I’ll move on. Some day, way too soon, these guys will be uber-cool teens who won’t touch their Mom, much less let me touch them, and I’m sure I’ll miss these days. Nah – I’m going to thoroughly enjoy torturing them by touching and hugging and kissing them as much as possible when they’re 6’ 2” towering teens!!

“How high is the sky? Bigger than 12 feet?”

I don’t like to lie….but I’m okay with making things up.  Especially when it comes to answering the rapid-fire questions of 4-year-old Mr. Ornery (he’ll correct me here – he’s technically 4 AND A HALF!).  This interrogation is most frequent in the car where I cannot possibly get away. His current favorite question is “how high is the sky?” “Is it IMG_3276higher than 12 feet?” (all size is now measured in comparison to the depth of the swimming pool where he would jump off the diving board into 12 feet of water. For example, “Is the big rubber ducky in the water bigger than 12 feet?”)

Back to the sky though….after numerous “I don’t know answers” I finally said “10,000 feet” and I’ve stuck to that pretty faithfully. And now, after a few weeks of lying to my innocent child, I finally decided to look it up. Technically, the “sky” going all the way to the edge of space is 250 miles (the distance between D.C. and NYC – now that’s fascinating!) which would be 1.3 million feet. So….I’m off by a few (ahem) decimal places. And since I prefer to feel “right” – we’ll go with the definition of “sky” between the ground and where the weather occurs (clouds, etc) which is 3 miles and about 15,000 feet (making me much closer to right than the first definition – and this is important in whose book??!?!). At least tomorrow I’ll have a better answer for Mr. Curiosity!

This weekend the question stream shifted a little to the power of God: “Is God bigger than 12 feet?” – yes.  “Can God pick up the Hulk?” – yes. As well as a string of queries about what God eats: “Can God eat a tree?” – yes. “Can God eat the ocean?” – yes. “Can God eat the whole earth?” – yes. And on….and on…. “Wait a minute….I don’t think God really eats anything….come to think of it.”

And I realize that one of the things Mr. Ornery is doing is processing his place in the world. How big is he? How old is he? How strong is he? If he puts on his Batman batmancostume, is he now stronger and more powerful than he was before? Is he bigger than 12 feet? Where does he fit into the pecking order of all these boys? It’s a challenge being the middle guy.

And it’s a challenge for me to remember to pay attention to him and his social and emotional needs (and not just his incredibly soft curly hair and impishly sweet smile). I have to remember not to snap at him to stop crying because the noise is bothering me while I try to address the offender (typically older brother, sometimes Little Guy). Not to shut down his line of questioning because I’m tired of making up answers. Not to forget to read bedtime stories since I’ve already done two sets in putting the other two to bed.

I have to remember that he really is only 4 years old (despite the fact that he usually runs with the 7 year-olds and seems quite mature). That 4-year-olds are not always in control and sometimes melt into tears, or throw toys in anger, or wet themselves (despite repetitive prompts to “go pee” based on tell-tale signals!). That 4-year-olds crave attention (“watch my cartwheel”) even if they can entertain themselves well for quite some time (while you sneak in evening treadmill runs). That 4-year-olds have figured out how to deflect consequences – “no, that’s not my candy wrapper”….”I didn’t do it, The Rascal did.” That 4-year-olds need to know they are loved even when they try to stand on their own two feet (and on the couch and the monkey bars).

Most of all, I have to remember to pause in the morning when the 4 (and a half)-year-old asks me to sit beside him for his morning cup of milk and put my arm around his shoulder (despite lunches to be made, homework to be done, diapers to be changed). I must remember that it is so important to take that time with him – for 4 is such a fragile age….. when you’re figuring out your place in the world.

So….I caved….it happens!

Okay, I confess….I caved….I gave in. I didn’t maintain “strong Mommy” status….I buckled….I weakened….all in the name of SLEEP! (It happens every once in a while….it just does….)

You see, somehow I had gotten the idea in my head that it was past time for the Little Guy to do away with his comfort item (binky) at night time (mean Mommy) and just rely on his blue stuffed “ABC doggie” to provide the tag for him to stroke soothingly betweenyellowduck1 his fingers. I’m not sure why this need hit me so suddenly (kind of like when I suddenly realize I need a haircut and then can think of little else but to get it scheduled!). So the poor Little Guy who was just recovering from an awful bout of croup last weekend (requiring a doctor visit for steroids on Saturday….then a doctor visit for antibiotics for the ear infection on Monday morning….and then tortured by a doctor visit for flu shot Monday evening….and now “no like doctor”…) is suddenly faced by a mother who thinks it’s time to prepare for college and wean off any childlike things (we’ll work on the diapers next).

Surprisingly, he seemed to cope just fine without the binky at night. He would lay beside me while I read to Super Tall Guy and then play happily on his bed until he fell asleep. It all seemed to be going well (at night) but I soon noted a terribly disagreeable pattern in the mornings. I’d hear Little Guy rustle around at 4:15….then call my name repetitively at 4:34….then come to my room at 4:49….then stand at the foot of my bed at 5:15….then climb into my bed at 5:22…. And any time I would snap “get back to bed” or guide him back to his room and bed, a torrential of tears would ensue surrounding the words “Mommy, mommy, mommy.”  While seemingly heartbreaking for him, it would also prove to be quite disruptive to the sleep habits of Super Tall Guy flipping around in my bed and Mr. Ornery sleeping on the floor of the “boys’ room.” I believe I’ve mentioned before that I become an irrational beast when awoken before 6 am.

And then, this morning at 5:08, it dawned on me! I took Little Guy back to his bed and said “wait here…and I’ll get your binky.”  Magic words. He waited. He stayed in his bed. He reached up eagerly for the monkey and ducky Wubbanub and fingered the tabs at the tail end and drifted back to sleep. I eagerly returned to some unanswered dreams until 6:30 when he rejoined me….and we lay in bed until 7. Wow.  That was worth caving in!

I think this caving falls into the parenting rubric of “pick your battles.” And this is not only trying to choose which battles are important to your kid….but which ones maintain any semblance of your own personal sanity.  For example, the boys do eat in my car (which is now growing the next generation of penicillin to help solve the problem of antibiotic resistance). In addition, I have given in to the fact that chicken nuggets can be a protein source, and that ketchup is a daily antioxidant and natural vegetable (though we all know tomatoes are fruits). And, I have given up the saying of “no jumping on the couch” – instead it has become “no jumping on other people’s couches!!”  And, I also cave a bit more than I’d like in using a very large flat screen as a “distractant” while accomplishing other miscellaneous tasks around the house. Yes… parenting has changed from what I might have imagined it would be. And yet, it is working (sometimes) for the needs of myself and my boys – and surviving the day (and finding glimpses of joy) is what counts!!

Guess what’s in the Little Guy’s mouth tonight?

Parenting Haikus….which I repeat….and repeat….

My sister and I often wonder why we actually have to tell these boys certain things. Aren’t they supposed to be born with some basic survival instinct? Some basic fear of heights? Some understanding of the physics of dropped or propelled objects? Did they miss some lesson prenatally or are they just little boys?

I’m often wondering if they come with a built-in audio-processing center or if their only way to learn is kinesthetic and/or experiential. And if they do in fact have two auditory processing units protruding from the sides of their heads, do these devices only transmit information once it hits a critical threshold of a certain number of repetitions? Or can increasing the volume of the auditory stimulation help convey the message better?IMG_5941

These are some pretty intense scientific questions which I’ve been researching for the past 7 years, 4 months, and 12 days. I’ve even increased the number of randomized subjects to see if there’s consistency in my research findings.

But the only true consistency that I have discovered is that the following phrases flow from my mouth at least once every….single……..of …….life!!

Seriously, boy
You did what with that apple?
Bottom step, time out!

No balls in the house
Stop throwing at the mantel
You break it, you’re done. (especially if you hit the little fish tank!)

Don’t suck the exhaust
Get away from that tail pipe
That stuff will kill you.

Get in and buckle
There’s no climbing in the car
One, two, three clicks now!   (every single time we get in the car….ahhhh!)

No blowing bubbles
Make the mess, you clean the mess
Get the paper towels. (thanks, Godmother, for sending those straw cereal bowls)

Sit at the table
Or your dinner will be gone
Boy, I said sit down! (I know you act better at the table at day care)

We don’t splash in tubs.
You get water on this floor
And you’re outta there.

Time to get three books
Okay, now you’ve lost one book
Hurry up, or no books!

Pee, wash hands, brush teeth
And I mean in that order
Pee, wash hands, brush teeth.  (repeat x 10)

Stop talking to me
I’m not listening anymore
I’m an introvert!!!

I love you, my boy.
Forever, and for always,
And no matter what.  (goodnight kiss)