Parenting 101

I was at the older boys’ basketball session the other day and sat near a man that I knew years ago.  We hadn’t seen each other for many years and now were reconnecting with our sons being in the same basketball league. He had brought one of his friends to come watch and I sat beside this man and “eavesdropped” on their conversation about parenting.

Naturally, I was not silent for long before I just “had” to share some of my favorite parenting books (for boys, it’s currently “Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys). This got the conversation going about what does it take to be a good parent.  After realizing that we were clearly depressing the man who was about to become the father of a newborn in a month (you will never get good sleep again, no book could possibly prepare you for this, there’s no guaranteed-to-work discipline technique, we did remember to throw in some of the “good” stuff.

There is a lot of good stuff. And there is a lot of joy in parenting. There’s also some real and natural struggles.  Some of my key points were:where-the-wild-things-are

– Remember to forgive yourself. You are doing your best….and new mercies for the day begin every morning.

– Parenting is an opportunity to see the world again. Things that we have forgotten or have forgotten to look at become brand new through the eyes of a child – the flower, the bee, the sunset, the water droplet…

– Parenting will help you identify all your “faults” and “issues” – just in case you want to work on them for “growth” and “maturation.”

– Baby wipes can clean anything.

– You will never get good sleep again – except for the times when you go away for the night – and it’s really important to do that regularly.

– Most importantly, surround yourself with other parents who are willing to be “real” and not just pretend that it’s the easiest, most wonderful thing they’ve ever done. There are parents who really do experience that….I salute them with one of those fake “good for you” smiles….but really, you need people who will vent and laugh and cry with you.  For you will laugh and cry often at the same time….especially if you have boys….as you try to figure out exactly why he felt the need to kick in the basement window?!?!?!

– Make sure that you laugh more than cry :).

Top Ten – Disney

Top Ten ways my two-year-old tried to drive me crazy at Disney World:

10.  Must touch every open garbage can and/or push the swinging lid of garbage cans which are within a ten-foot radius of one’s steps…or can be reached without Mom stopping me prior to touching.

9.  Must climb up, walk along as far as possible, and then jump off every wall that is, say, under four feet high.

8.  If Mom decides to bridle me with a lamb “backpack” (aka dog leash – I’m no fool!), must pull forward as quickly as possible into oncoming people….or stop suddenly and explore small particles on the ground…possibly needing to taste them to determine identity (again, only if this can be done without Mom yanking on said chain to stop the taste test).

7.  Must manage to outwit Mom at least once by disappearing for a sufficient quantity of time to make her heart thump and nerves explode, say by wandering off at the Dinoland playground area, cross over the bridge, and sit playing happily in the sand until she finds me (hey, don’t worry, it was an entirely closed in area….it’s not like I went out the exit part of the play ground and was truly lost!)

6.  Must attempt to splash in the water of “It’s a Small World”…or any other boat ride for that matter….”Jungle Cruise” can get the same reaction….prior to the harsh tone of “Noah!!”

5.  Must try to drag the “tail” of aforementioned leash into as much dirt and/or mud as possible, or step on it repeatedly, prior to Mom noticing this act and wrapping the tail over the head of poor “lamby” as I walk along.

4.  Important to always resist Mom’s attempt to have control of the said leash, though once she firmly establishes that she is the one who gets to hold that end, should drop the battle without a care in the world…and take off running.

3.  Must attempt to give every single Disney character in each and every parade a high-five, even if that means occasionally stepping off the curb (a definite Disney Parade no-no!) and enduring the reprimanding “N-o-a-h….”

2.  Must remain standing the entire bus ride to the airport, despite the repeated reminders to sit, blabberings about safety this or that, threats of losing life or limb, and/or attempts to knock me into a seated position by swiping my legs out from under me.

1.  And lastly, must without a doubt refuse to fall asleep on the plane ride home, jump over the back of the seats to play with grandpa, climb under seats to retrieve thrown toys, unclick seat belt 102 times (very fun), spill any drink within an 18 inch radius, and squeal as loudly and as often as possible.  This energy expenditure is worth falling asleep at 6 pm and sleeping in clothes and coat the rest of the night.  Thanks for the Disney trip, Mom.

Why the term “mini-van” is a misnomer – it should really be called a “mini-home”

It took me 6 months to deal with the fact that 3 car seats were not going to continue to fit snugly across the backseat of my SUV – 6 months and some splits in the door handle leather that kept getting squished each time I shoved the door closed.  Well, it only took about a month to realize that the 3-in-the-back situation never could work….because from the day we picked Seth up at the hospital, Micah and Noah were now within touching range of each other.  Every parent knows this is a deadly situation.

So, by the end of the year I said goodbye to my nice SUV (ahem…paid off….SUV), and stretched out into a luxurious new-to-me minivan.  And it happens to be on the upper end of luxury – but it was the only one on the lot the day I drove by and spotted it.  I think that was also the last day it was clean!

To me it really is more of a mini-mobile home (though a kitchen sure would be nice).  (It does have a potty – a plastic pop-up one which rests under one of the seats, but isn’t really ever used….because the kids are boys!)  The mobile home carries an odd assortment of items, not all of which are essential, but some are.

Here is my list of “must haves” for any transportation system (kids or not!):

  • Bottles of water – even though they warm up in the middle of summer and are not environmentally friendly, it’s at least once a week that one of the kids is dying of thirst and demanding a drink, even if home is 10 minutes away (and no, I won’t pull over to the side of the road to get one out of the back….every time).
  • A stroller – if you have a kid under 3, you better have at least an umbrella stroller in the back for the spur of the moment stops for fun, or you’ll regret it tomorrow.
  • Cell phone charger – this is most important on the weekends because I often hand my cell phone over to Micah when he wakes me up at 5:45.  He watches a movie and I turn over and sleep for an hour…but this drains the battery so it sometimes needs to be charged (he’s a better excuse than “I forgot to charge it” or “I played too many games of Scramble that it drained”)
  • Some money – I always have $20 stashed somewhere (not telling you where!).  I can’t tell you how often it has gotten me out of a jam (like showing up to dinner with friends and not having my wallet…or running to the store quickly, and …).  I’ve used it so often that I’ve developed a system to prompt me when I need to replace the money as well.  I’m just saying, if you don’t have this already – do it!!  Quarters don’t add up fast enough.
  • The most important thing in a vehicle, of course, is Baby Wipes (brand not important)!  It’s shocking how many uses there are for them – sticky fingers from the lollipop, mocha latte splattered onto the consol, dust on the dashboard, sticky drivers wheel, bits of granola bar ground into the car seat cloth, really just about everything….including a baby’s bum, amazingly enough!
  • And for uniqueness, my mobile home at this very moment contains half a plastic dolphin from a “happy meal” from our beach trip in June, a few spare clean diapers, an umbrella, 2 empty plastic water bottles, 4 one-third less plastic bottle tops from said water bottles scattered across the car, a half-eaten box of Honey Nut Cheerios (the other half appears to be on the floor), one Hot Wheels race car, several granola bar wrappers (oh yes, granola bars belong in the list of “must haves” because the 10-minute ride from day care to home in the evenings can become disastrous with hungry tummies!), the swimming bag, the “floatie” for Noah in the pool, an extra pair of Noah shoes (I just took out a pair of socks 2 days ago…), and the ever-present box of tissues (which can work in a pinch if you’ve run out of baby wipes!).
  • Finally, I think the best thing I’ve purchased is a plastic bucket for the back seat so that Micah has his own trash can.  I mean, how many 6-yr-old boys wouldn’t love their own trash can?  He loves it so much, he’d rather keep it clean and just throw the dirty tissues (yes, he has his own tissue box, too – I do not have elasta-arms!) on the floor!  But it really is the thought that counts.

What are your must-haves?

Don’t forget to laugh!

As you might be able to tell by now, I like to think about parenting.  And one of my recent thoughts is how to inspire other parents who might be going through similar things.  It helps to know someone out there has also completely lost it over the kid splashing water outside of the bathtub.  I mean, what’s the big deal really?  It’s a bathroom.  Everything about a bathroom screams “get me wet, I can handle it!”  And yet, when my boys sit in the tub thrashing about or squirting streams of water droplets into the air, I have some mini-volcanic eruption about water hitting the water-proof tile floor (though I save my level 8.5 Richter Scale explosions for when they slide down the back of the tub sending a Tsunami reverberating back and over the edge…again….onto a water-proof floor!). My head shakes wondering why this “mess” is so offensive to me.

Today I was contemplating this in light of what a friend recently posted as her favorite “rules” of parenting (thanks AskDoctorG): “1. Love, 2. Limit, and 3. Let them be.”

1.  I sure do love my boys….though sometimes I show a little “less” love in the midst of discussing whether or not Micah will get dressed for daycare this morning (of course you will).  And sometimes I have to remind myself that part of how I show them love is in the small touches, so I tousle their hair (which is universally disliked by kids) and I pat their legs (which is typically greeted with an “ouch”), and give them “lovings” as Micah has coined it.  But sometimes I realize the true depth of my love when someone challenges my kid, like the woman who honked at Micah as he tried to steer his bike off a path at the playground this weekend – and the fiery dragon of protectiveness unleashed itself within me and roared at the open window about honking at a kid and being patient with a kid, and ….and….and….heart thumping emotional energy of love encircled my child as a shield. This reaction is not always rational, but it sure is powerful love.

2. Limits – ah, the splashing in the tub.  I do have very clear limits on “hurting another,” but I don’t know why I decide to “limit” other behaviors. Of course, it’s not always the “bad” things that I limit – sometimes it’s the good as well.  Sometimes it’s telling Micah that he’s had enough screen time.  Sometimes it’s saying no to a third or fourth “treat” even though you want to give in and make them happy (meanwhile, I fly past all normal limits of portion size for ice cream…on a routine basis).  And sometimes, as a friend and I discussed today, it’s even limiting the activities we do with our kids.  Just because they are old enough to do something (zipline, white-water rafting, waterpark slides) does not mean that we need to expose them to everything at once.  It is okay to have a completely unscheduled weekend….at least I think so…and we’ll have to try it some time.

3. And I definitely let the boys “be” if they’re being quiet…unless they are being too quiet…and every parent knows when that threshold is crossed!

But I decided today that I would add a 4th “rule” and that is: Laugh!  A statistic flashed by me recently that said a child laughs 400 times a day and an adult only 15.  This is sad indeed.  Clearly something has gone wrong – I need to laugh more.  And I need to remember to laugh more at the boys and with the boys.  So, when my sister decided to let 2-year-old Stephen run around naked for a few minutes after a bath yesterday to dry out his swimsuit-chaffed legs and said “it’s no problem as long as he doesn’t have to go potty,” guess what word Stephen heard in that sentence?  And guess who sprung out of range when he commenced to spraying the carpet.  Naturally, one day it will be a good idea to limit the location of his urination, but yesterday it was a good idea just to laugh.