Oh Drat – this is really all up to me?!?

At a late dinner tonight, I turned to my sister and asked, “So, did you sign up for any school lunches yet?”  She said that’s one of her biggest disappointments so far in the new school the older boys will attend in two weeks – a lack of a real cafeteria to make hot lunches. I mentioned I really hated making school lunches as Micah has such a limited array in his diet (hmm, strawberry or grape in his jelly sandwich?). She agreed that it was good when the school provided lunches because it gave the boys exposure to foods they normally wouldn’t eat at all.

And then it hit me….

The absolutely incredible responsibility I have for how these boys turn out on so many different levels!  (Well, this isn’t the first time it did, but it’s another time it did.)  From the miniscule of what foods I offer to the boys….to the grandiose of what places we visit on vacation. From the school that they enter….to the music that they listen to. What I provide shapes so much of their life. Playing sports, appreciating art, learning an instrument.  I mean, why would they ever eat a mushroom?  I never serve any.

And part of what I do in shaping their scale of choices is such a function of my own experiences and likes. And I’m particularly conscious of the fact that although my boys are biracial (equally Caucasian and African American)….they are growing up “White” for that is what I know. So when a man passing us on the beach today remarks about Noah, “what a great tan he has,” I just smile and say “wouldn’t his skin be great?” …knowing that his beautiful coloring is more natural him than the sun’s effects.

I know that the boys have true rhythm within them, but I don’t dance. I know that I say Micah should play basketball rather than football when he grows up, and yet we all watch the Steelers together and rarely turn on a basketball game.  My boys wear the clothes they wear because my sense of style fills their drawers. They eat what I generally eat (sometimes) because I put it on the table.  They are learning my comfort level.

We are at the beach this week. It gives me a small bit of time to wane philosophic in the midst of stressing to make sure the head pops back up after the wave passes, balls remain an “outside toy” rather than fly through the “adult-focused” beach condo, and keeping a close eye out for any rocks or other hidden obstacles that might attempt to knock Seth’s other front tooth out!

My mothering bucket list:

  • Travel into and/or through as many states as possible
  • Visit the National Parksnational park
  • Make sure they learn piano no matter how much they hate it and how expensive the bribes become
  • Model more reading for pleasure
  • Camp in a tent for at least two nights in a row (sleeping in a friend’s backyard and sneaking into the house in the middle of the night doesn’t count, does it?!?)

Help me….what else needs to be on my bucket list?

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!