children, family, grief, humor, kids, kindergarten, loss of parent, motherhood, parenting

Mom’s Best Advice

I L-O-V-E this kid!Last week T.Puzzle’s teacher approached me for a conference.  The thing about conferences is that they usually doesn’t consist of the teacher listing all the ways your kid is truly outstanding.  As I entered the school building for the impending conference, I had a feeling she wouldn’t share anything with me that I didn’t on some level, already know.  Basically, he speeds through everything, oversimplifies and isn’t interested in expounding on anything, ever.  Pretty typical stuff for a kindergartener, but as his classmates are slowing down and answering questions in more detail, he is fine to zip through his schoolwork at a breakneck pace (Full Speed, Jr., anyone?). There’s not much to be done except encourage him to slow down as he does tasks at home and try to prompt more than one-word answers from him (Mad Dog, Jr., anyone?).

The hardest part of this conference day is that all I really wanted to do was call my Mom to talk about it.  She was always the perfect combination of empathic listener with a good dose of pragmatism.  She had a way of putting things in perspective while taking into consideration my extremely sensitive nature.

I miss that.

I miss her.

Of course she is on the forefront of my mind as Mother’s Day approaches.  All I can do is remember a conversation I had with her shortly before she passed.  She told me l knew her well enough that if I ever needed her advice when she was gone, I could imagine what she would tell me and I’d be exactly right.

So?  What would she tell me?  That T.Puzzle is brilliant, charming and handsome.  She’d tell me that he’s an extremely active boy who would rather play soccer than sit still, write sentences or answer questions.  She would tell me that I’m a great Mom and it’s only kindergarten.  She’d tell me to focus on the good stuff the teacher said like how T.Puzzle is respectful to his classmates and his teachers.  She’d tell me that when he’s CEO of a Fortune 500 company or president of the United States, that how he behaved in kindergarten won’t matter.  It matters only to his future first grade teacher and first grade is months away.  A lot can change over a summer and be patient.  It will all work out just fine.

Thanks, Mom.  I needed that.

children, family, humor, kids, motherhood, parenting

Moms Like Me Want to Know

I had lunch with T.Puzzle this week at school.  I wasn’t able last week because I was under the weather.  That fact that I had to skip out on him didn’t phase him one bit.  He told me that ‘he wasn’t going to miss me at all’ and proceeded to apparently have a perfectly wonderful lunch without me.  His indifferent attitude had me questioning scheduling a lunch with either of my boys. Was it possible that only I benefitted from this weekly check-in?   After further investigation, T.Puzzle admitted that yes, he would still like to have Mom come for lunch but he is okay if for some reason I can’t make it.  I didn’t wait for him to change his mind and told him I would seem him soon.

As I sat at the parents’  table with him, his teacher stopped by and graciously thanked me for my emails.  She said that she appreciated staying in touch.  What she doesn’t know is that for every one email I send her, I’d actually like to send about a thousand more.  I wish she would live tweet or video stream every significant move T.Puzzle makes.  If T.Puzzle learned something, she should let me know as quickly as possible.  If he gets out of line, if he exhibits outstanding behavior (we all have dreams, don’t we?), if he says something cute or funny…basically, if he does anything at all, I want to know about it.  Same goes for Full Speed and his teacher, too.

Instead, I constantly coach myself to leave my kids and their teachers alone.  I fill my time in other ways while always holding images of what I picture my boys doing at school (I tend to picture them doing only amazing stuff, it’s much more fun that way), and that has to be enough.  It doesn’t feel like enough, but it has to be.

children, family, humor, motherhood, parenting

Two. That’s All Folks!

T.Puzzle and Full Speed getting ready for a surrey bike ride when we lived near Milwaukee a few years ago.

Agreeing to disagree on a variety of issues is a cornerstone of marriage.  There are compromises on things big and small.  As long as both involved feel they ‘win’ at least some of the time, life can run fairly smoothly.  It’s when it comes to the bigger ticket items that you both have to be completely on the same page.  For instance, the number of kids you plan to bring into the world, if any at all for that matter, must be as close as possible.  This number can change and shift as unforeseen circumstance arrive.  Initially, Mad Dog and I had talked about having a big family.  As pregnancy turned out to be one of my least favorite states of being and as Full Speed and T.Puzzle evolved into their strong-willed, glorious selves, I was quickly convinced two kids was more than enough.  Recently, Mad Dog has been pondering the possible expansion of our brood.  I think I could be open to this notion down the road, say when I’m about 90 years old and don’t remember who or where I am.  I’m sorry, but my boys have worn me out.  I believe I am only beginning to safely tread the waters of motherhood and even so, I still feel regularly challenged beyond my normal capacity.

Fortunately for me, two recent events have diminished Mad Dog’s inkling for family expansion.  First, we had lunch with friends that we hadn’t seen in a very long time and finally met their two, extremely adorable boys.  We met at a restaurant and I was flooded with memories as their very active nearly three year-old motored about the perimeter of the table and their nine month old baby insisted he needed to be held during the entire meal (to be honest, if I was that cute, I would insist on it, too).  As we talked with our friends, the little conversation we could manage over the normal hustle and bustle of raising small children, the more I appreciated my spirited boys who at least are able to independently eat a meal.  Mad Dog appreciated this, too.  This was a relief to me.

The second event was T.Puzzle’s recent surgery (he is doing fantastic by the way).  In the first days post-surgery, I had given him pain meds throughout the day and night at regular intervals.   I don’t do well with sleep deprivation (putting it mildly).  This is why the newborn phase was and never will be, my shining moment in motherhood.  Somehow, Mad Dog does not remember this.  He claims to only remember the good.  Seeing my cranky face at the end of this week managed to bring it all back into focus.  Who knew being cranky could work so much in my favor?

I think I dodged a bullet.  At least, I sure hope I did.

children, family, kids, motherhood, parenting, potty training

From One Mom to Another

If you are out their struggling to make sense of your child’s behavior, you are not alone.  If you were to tell me how hard it has been for you to get your child to be potty-trained, eat vegetables, ride a bike, etc., I would empathize.  I wouldn’t be the type to tell you how easy it was for me to teach those skills to my kids and tell you the miraculous way in which I did so in under five minutes.

I’m not that Mom.

I’m the Mom that would listen.  I’m the Mom that wouldn’t judge you because I’ve been there.  In fact, I’m still there.  All you would need to see is me in the pool ‘teaching’ and ‘encouraging’ Full Speed to expand his swimming skills.  It would take you under a minute to see his stubborn face emerge, frustration creep over my face and understand the only thing learned in the pool that day is that I’m a terrible swim instructor.

I get it.

I get that you’ve tried every angle, every bribe you possibly can to get your child to comply with the life skill you are attempting to teach.  I get that you stress about it late at night and wonder what other Moms must think of you.  I know I especially experienced a lot of angst over potty training my boys.  All the ‘helpful’ suggestions from friends who had easily potty-trained their kids failed miserably for me.  Eventually I learned it is less about the methods and more about the DNA of your kid.  Even if you are equipped with top-notch advice and researched hours of the best solutions to your issue, if your kid is hard-core stubborn, most things are not going to work.

I am also the Mom that has faith in you.  All I can offer you is a spin on the current parenting challenge you are facing.  Focus less on what they are not doing and think about it more in terms of why they aren’t doing it.  It is all a matter of power and control.  So, maybe your kid isn’t the first one to ride a bike without training wheels, in the long run, when they learn won’t matter.  What you will come to appreciate (hopefully!) is that fire inside them that fights tooth and nail against your wishes will be one of their greatest assets as they move forward in the world.  I’d put money on them that they will be huge successes in anything they choose to be or do in this world.

I’m here to tell you that your kid, in all their feisty glory, is well on their way to being a strong, independent, amazing person.   A chip off the old block indeed, Mom.

children, family, humor, kids, motherhood, parenting

Parenting is a Kick

No matter how long I raise boys, there are aspects of them that I will never understand.  The physicality in which they move through life is fascinating to me.  

Why is it necessary to karate chop each other while brushing teeth?  Why is tackling a part of getting into the car?   Why is furniture considered a jungle gym? 

All I can do is make some rules about safety, hope they follow at least enough to prevent harm and accept that my house resembles a three-ring circus more often than not.

This morning, as I have been working hard with T.Puzzle to control himself while brushing teeth, I saw a rogue high kick escape from his leg.

“Hands and feet to yourself!” I implored.  “No kicking!”

“I didn’t kick him, Mom.  I missed,” he replied.  His tone indicated that by missing his brother’s face with his foot, that he was the epitome of decorum.

So, the morning was saved.  I’d like to say I owe it all to my incredible parenting skills.  Mostly, I owe it all to T.Puzzle’s terrible aim.