Sunday, May 15, 2011

One Funny Little Baby!

Molly is hilarious.  I forget that she is not yet two and a half because she communicates so well.  It is only her little soft, cartoon like voice that reminds me how young she is.  Here are a few recent Molly quotes:

Yesterday I was telling her something that she didn't like.  I referred to her as Molls or Mollsie which are two of her nicknames.  She replied in her snottiest voice "Call me Molly."

This morning we woke up in a rental house in Westhampton.  As happens on most vacations, the kids wind up sleeping with us despite the fact that there are other beds.  She popped up and asked where Henry and Adam were.  I replied that they went out to get bagels.  She replied "Is it breakfast or lunch?"  I was confused and said "Molly, you are silly.  Of course you didn't sleep through breakfast."  She revealed her humorous intent when she replied "Can you believe they didn't have any hash browns?"   As a point of clarification because this is not at all funny on it's own, "Is it breakfast or lunch" is what Henry asks whenever we are near a McDonalds because he wants to know if there are toys available (only with lunch).  One time we arrived at 10:30am because they wanted a quick hash brown before the children's museum.  We were indignant that they were already serving lunch and didn't have any hash browns.  The net-net of this long story is that my daughter thinks she is Jerry Seinfeld and was just doing a little skit for me.

Later today we were sitting on my bed.  I was reading the newspaper and she was playing.  She starts talking to herself but really directed at me.  "When I was a baby I was in your belly.  I got bigger and bigger until I got stuck so I jumped out."  Really?  Where does she get this stuff?  I was cracking up laughing and she said "I'm one funny little baby!"

We went to get some Mr. Softee after dinner, because he was conveniently parked beneath our window playing his catchy tune.  It was during a sunshower so the kids and I were running back.  I over heard Molly behind me singing a little ditty.  Yes, you are not misreading:  "You gotta shake what your Mama gave ya!"

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day to all of the wonderful moms out there. 

Sometimes during a rare quiet moment, I reflect on what my kids will think of me in twenty or thirty years.  Will they remember me as fun or strict or crabby or nice?  When I think back to my own childhood, it is shocking how little I remember.   Certain memories stick out here and there but my whole childhood is pretty much a blur.   I try to remember that as I raise my own kids.  What seems so important right this second will be just a momentary blip in their lives.   What I am creating, I think, is an over-all feeling.  Will they grow up feeling secure and loved and happy?  I'm fairly certain that they will.

Although I don't remember every little detail, I am certain that I had a childhood that I would want my kids to have.  Now that I know the day to day and minute to minute work that goes into raising children, of course I appreciate my  own mom so much more.  I think it is a testament to her that I don't really remember much.  I think people that had very vivid childhood memories usually remember it for what it was lacking or for some particular trauma.

I think so much that a mom does goes unnoticed unless it is not done.  Like you don't notice that someone had picked up the toys or clipped their child's nails until the day comes that they don't do it. 

So I apologize Mom that I never thanked you for all of the things you did for us, because you never stopped doing them!  A belated thanks for the gajillion: meals you cooked, snacks you made, lunches you packed, juice cups you filled, tables you set, dishes you washed, pots you scrubbed, trips to the grocery store, drug store, clothing store, shoe store, loads of laundry you washed, dried, folded and put away, loads of garbage you took out, baths you gave, nails you clipped, hair you combed, toys you stooped over to pick up, stories you read, carpools you drove, boo-boos you kissed, gifts you wrapped, beds you made, interrupted nights of sleep, times you wiped my nose or my tush or cleaned up my puke.  

There are a million and one other things that I could thank you for doing.  Thank you for making our childhood a well-oiled machine that never stopped running.  You are the best!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Getting out of the way

Being a parent is a humbling experience.    The first three years or so are smooth sailing for a control freak like me. Do this, not that.  Don't say that.  Eat this.  Go to sleep now, these are your friends, this is good, that is bad.

Now that Henry is four and a half, he has his own ideas and opinions on how things should be done.  While Molly loves being squeezed and hugged and shuts her eyes in sheer delight, Henry squirms away and can't wait for it to be over.  He may give you a quick peck or a perfuntory hug but not often enough for me.  I have come to understand (begrudgingly) that is not how he wants to show or receive love.  He wants you to sit with him and play his little games or get him the scotch tape as soon as he asks.  He wants you to chase him and then toss him onto the bed.  He wants you to listen and laugh as he repeats the same story over and over and shower him with praise over every little jump or trick or achievement.

I learn a lot from him on how to be a parent.  Sometimes we do things that we think we should do, because that is what the books say or that is what everyone says you need to do.    He shows me that it is OK to give in sometimes or not be so hard nosed.  Is it really so bad if he does "x" in the house or doesn't do something the exact second I ask him to?  He is a person, not a robot.   

He often encourages me (ok shames me) to not being so hard on Molly.  Molly is at times, very stubborn and very emotional.   I try to be firm with her so that she doesn't turn into a brat.  There have been times that he has said "Don't yell at her" or "Just leave her alone" or "Just give her what she wants."  Most of the time he is right.  Why am I getting into a power struggle with a two year old?  There have been times that he has handled a situation with her differently than I might have.  She adores him and completely makes a turn-around.  She has said many times "Mommy, Henry just made me so happy."  As a parent, it just thrills me to see what a close relationship they have. 

I drive Adam to distraction with the same type of stuff.  We have had many a conversation that it is OK for kids to have one type of relationship with their mom and a different type with their dad.  Just because he isn't doing it my way doesn't make it wrong.  He is right and I know it, but you get used to doing things your way and it is tough to take a step back and just let things unfold.

Henry has a friend since birth that is a little bit on the rough side.  He has calmed down a lot, but he is very high energy, has a quick temper and is quick to get into mischief.  He dominates a lot of their play and wants to be first or not take turns etc.  It is difficult as a mother to watch them play.  My inclination is to step in and make sure things are "fair."  When they were younger, it was necessary just to make sure Henry didn't get hurt.  Henry is exactly like Adam in his calm nature.  He will never be the one to hit someone or get into a fight.  If kids get rough or a little too rowdy, he is on the periphery laughing and being involved but keeping his distance. 

The little boy was at our house yesterday with his sister.  I had to step in here and there because the little girls were fighting and I overheard the boy say a few questionable things to Henry.  Henry was tight-lipped about the situation and wouldn't tell me what had happened.   When the kids left, I said to the kids "Listen, you can always come to me if something goes wrong and I will come help you.  You don't need to fight about it."  Henry said "Mom, why do I have to tell?  Can't we just keep playing?"  It was then I realized that Henry is smarter and savvier than I give him credit for.  He knows his friend and his limitations and likes him anyway.  He doesn't need my protection or for me to fight his battles unless he asks for help. 

On the flip side, there are times that he needs and wants my help.  I haven't discussed it here, but I removed Henry from his preschool right before Christmas.  He did very well (surprisingly well) for the first few months.  He even admitted sheepishly that he really liked it.  However, there were a few factors that made things start to go wrong.  The first being is that five days were really to much for him.  He had never been away from home that much and he kept asking when the program was going to be over.  He had to give up his nap for school (it was in the afternoon) and I think it was just a terrible time of day for him.  He was always very tired during class and afterward.  He wasn't used to that school format and told me many times that he thought it was very boring. 

The mix of the class was not great, there were 13 girls and 5 extremely shy boys.  He had one good friend going into the class and made one other little girl friend who left in October.  When she left he had the one good friend and he never really clicked with the other boys.  He was friendly with the other kids but Henry really needs kids that will pursue him and the boys were not that type.  The teacher, in my opinion, did not do enough to faciliate the kids making friends.  Her approach was pretty hands off and the class was not set up in a way to force the kids to mingle.

Toward the beginning of December, Henry really started to hate going to school.  What started with just moaning and groaning turned into tears in the hallway and then outright refusal to go to class.  One day I just had to bring him home because he could not stop sobbing.    I found out later that he had asked the teacher other times to call me and ask me to come get him.  He started being very angry and aggressive at home which was unlike him.   There was one day that I went to pick him up from class and he was standing there shivering in his T shirt.  The classroom was so cold that the teacher was wearing her coat.  I went and grabbed him and put on the sweatshirt that was in his cubby.  He just crumbled into my arms and sobbed.  It was heartbreaking to see that he was not comfortable enough to ask his teacher for his sweatshirt or that she was too busy to notice that he was freezing.

After that I spent a two days in the classroom to see if I could help him re-adjust and become comfortable again.  Even with me there, he just sat there and cried.  Not a defiant cry or one meant to manipulate, just the cry of a very sad and scared little boy.  He was so uncomfortable and unhappy in that classroom that it was palpable.  I almost ran out with him and never returned after that first day.  I talked to the teacher and the school social worker and the nursery school director about the situation but it was clear that we were on different planets in our thinking.    They wanted me to just leave him there and let him work through it on his own.  Since I could never get out of him what had made him so sad or scared, I could not in good conscience leave him there.  What if I were to find out months after the fact that bad was happening to him?  Was I supposed to just "break him" like he was a horse?  Sure, I could force him to go everyday and I'm sure he would eventually stop crying.  But what was I teaching him?  That his words or thoughts or feelings didn't matter?  Because I was the adult he had to listen?

When I realized that our  approach and the school's were not going to mesh, Adam and I made the painful decision to remove him from the program.  I definitely have faced some criticism for pulling him from school but I am at peace with it.  We may be wimpy or coddling or over-protective but forcing him to do something that made him so unhappy is not how we roll in our house.  If being a Pre-K drop out hurts his chances of getting into Harvard, so be it.

Time marches on.  Each day I try to learn something new and be more patient.  It doesn't have to be my way or the highway every time.  It is hard to let go of the control but I am trying!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Task Master

My brother, sister and I have always joked that we didn't have toys as kids.  We had chores.  And lots of them.  I was the only kindergartener who know how to make a hospital corner on my bed and scrub a toilet without a brush.  We raked out horse stalls, carried bales of hay, chopped wood, raked leaves, scrubbed name it, we did it.  I distinctly remember cooking dinner three nights a week as a 10 year old.

You may remember when Henry was a toddler, I had him scrubbing the baseboards.  In my defense, it was something he really enjoyed.  It must have been more than once because a local friend called me recently to find out what the technique was.  Her baseboards were on her list and she wanted to get the kids on the job.  (Cloth diapers and a vinegar/water spray bottle if you are wondering.  A toothbrush for the seams.)

Last night Henry was in the tub and asked if he could bring his brush (from his dustpan and brush set) into the bathtub.  Whenever I can say yes to something, I do.  Could he put some soap on it.  Sure kid, anything that will get me back to my NY Magazine.  Can he rub the soapy brush on the walls?  Yup.  What about the washcloth? 

Now my ears perked up and I put my magazine down.  Here little boy, do you want to use your toothbrush?  It is getting old and will do the job the grout better, I mean it will be more fun.  He is now scrubbing away, happy as a clam.  I passed a princess toothbrush to the other idle worker, I mean child and she got scrubbing too.

One hour later, I had to drag them kicking and screaming from the tub.  I could only hoist Henry out after I promised that he could scrub the tub again today.  When he woke, I heard his chirpy little voice.  "Guess what Daddy!  I have to eat breakfast really quick because mommy said I can scrub the tile again today!"

After ninety minutes of scrubbing this morning I had to drag them out of the tub.  Henry only acquiesced because his friend that was coming to play had rang the doorbell.    They did a great job, the first foot of the tile is sparkling white.  Now only if they were a little bit taller...

Monday, May 02, 2011

Shake What Your Mama Gave Ya...

Due to Adam's work schedule, the kids are often up past normal bedtime hours.  I let them nap late every afternoon to ensure that they see him every day.  This means that they are sometimes exposed to some "inappropriate" TV programming.  One of their favorite shows is "Dancing With The Stars."  Molly has asked why everyone is naked.  I wonder that sometimes as well.

Tonight Adam was home early so they were in bed by 8pm.  They were very wired and having a hard time settling down.  They burst out of their room all full of smiles and said that they wanted to watch "that dancing show!" with us.  We agreed that they could watch one or two dances.

Henry went to get his little arm chair and pillow pet.  Zsa Zsa Gabor ran off to her room to get her raciest little tutu.  She selected the hot pink and black satin with lace number which I agreed was most appropriate.  She slid it on over her little pajamas and said "Henry!  Dance with Me!"    It is hilarious, they normally dance together during the show partner style. 

How To Talk So Your Sister Will Listen

There is a popular parenting book called How To Talk So Your Kids Will Listen and How to Listen So Your Kids Will Talk.  Just based on the title and the ways my kids act you can tell I never quite finished it.
I do think that Henry has been sneak reading it after we go to bed.  Here are three exact quotes that he said to Molly today:

Three quotes from Henry today in dealing with Molly:

We were cleaning their bedroom and Molly wanted us to play tic tac toe with her.

"We can't Molly, we are mopping the floor.  I'm not saying no. I'm just saying not right now."

After Molly offered him something:
"Molly, that is really nice of you to offer it but I don't want it"

And lastly as he was removing some Easter candy from her hands and she started to scream:

"You are going to make yourself sick if you eat anymore!  OK, just one more piece.  But no more.  You really will get sick!"
We are lucky to have Henry, he keeps us all on the straight and narrow.