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Keep on quitting!

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Happily, I don’t have to quit smoking, but last week, in a wave of poor judgement spurred on by an interesting article I read, I thought it would be a good project for me to try to st0p yelling for a week.The first day, I was Mary Poppins — no raised voices to be found. I should note that both kids had school and the babysitter was here after school. The second day – kids in school again (partial day!!) but no babysitter – I was screaming by bedtime. And my spiral continued until on Friday night when I was driving the kids to our lake house in a snow storm and I screamed myself hoarse for the last several hours of the (normally 2-hour) drive.  In fairness I should also mention that I’m recovering from an ankle reconstruction back in September and that I still am unable to run, which is a big deal for an every-day runner – so I’m a little crazier and yellier than normal. At least I hope that’s part of the reason.

I have lots of friends who never raise their voices at their children. How is that possible? I’m pretty sure my kids’ teachers don’t yell at the children in their classes. And my kids’ babysitter, the kindest, calmest woman ever created, definitely never yells at them. She says she sometimes yells at her sons when they don’t come to dinner on time, but I don’t believe her. Am I missing some sort of “chip”? My next-door neighbors don’t seem to yell at their kids, either, because I’m certain I would hear it. So why me?

Obviously, that’s what I should probably figure out. But in the meantime, I’m going to try to start my week-of-no-yelling again. Maybe I can make it two days this week.

Jan 10, 2011

Stop yelling for a week!

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Or something like that. That’s what hooked me as I glanced at emails on my phone over the weekend. I had gotten an email from WebMd and it challenged me to stop yelling at my kids for a week. I was coming off of two weeks in the woods – (not really the woods, but not the city, that’s for sure) – where I was virtually yelling non-stop by the end, and my interest was piqued.

The article’s author, Amy Wilson,  writes, “I don’t consider myself an angry person. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve shouted at my husband, and I wouldn’t dream of raising my voice at a rude salesperson.”

I continued reading and the author seemed to be writing about me:  she has one more kid than I but same age range-ish and she’s not a yeller normally,but her kids bring it out in her. I occasionally yell at my husband but that’s not the norm.  I expect that most people who see me without kids would be very surprised to hear the fishwife I become when the kids push my buttons or (gasp) simply don’t instantly obey. I never yell in a work setting; I don’t yell when my coffee is wrong or my cable is turned off or my taxi is taking a ridiculous way across town. I should also note that I don’t yell much at my kids in public but I have mastered a very scary hiss. (I’ll note, my sister and mother also have perfected the hiss.)

So I decided that Monday, January 3 is the day to begin the no yelling. Can I do it? Most of my fans say no. My sister, upon hearing my plan, suggested that I start small, trying to not yell at them for one day instead of one week. My husband just shook his head warily, albeit a little hopefully. Certainly, that fuels my motivation. One week it is.

Filed under Parenting
Jan 4, 2011

So I kind of lied.

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Apparently, I wasn’t completely accurate in my post yesterday about another not-proud parenting moment.  In fact, I wasn’t just inaccurate, my husband made it very very clear to me that I, in fact, lied. Most troubling, perhaps, is that it was utterly unintentional. (Ok, maybe it would be more troubling if I were intentionally lying. I’m not sure.)

I  recounted a story involving me pitted against 3-year old daughter in a fight about being cold. My husband read the post last night and emailed me this:

Did you rewrite the story to make it more readable? In reality, you put her in crib prison;  she screamed bloody murder;  I went in and talked her into her tinkerbell sweatshirt.  Problem solved.

While I’m not sure that’s exactly how it went – bits of it are true and were totally forgotten by lamemom. I did put her in crib prison and she did scream and he did eventually spring her from crib prison, though I think he sprung her sans sweatshirt. But that’s not my point.  It’s amazing how we can reconstruct our own reality, especially about something relatively low on the importance scale. I had totally forgotten the episode, only remembering the screaming, which was probably mostly mine.

I would bet that Jenn still remembers the episode. Which is what I should keep in mind. I guess, “forgetting” that I put the daughter in her crib until she did what I wanted is a good reminder that the behavior — mine, that is — was bad. Someone should have sent me to my bed. Unfortunately, that would have probably have made my whole day.

Dec 14, 2010

I’m freezing. Put on a sweater.

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On the weekend, I got into another (misguided) brawl with my 3-year old daughter.  The impetus? Our cottage (barely insulated on a good day) was about 45 degrees when we arrived there on Saturday, which was freezing, a typical early winter day. After we arrived and did the typical warm-up with blankets in front of the fire, Jenn declared herself warm and took off her shoes and socks. Then she left the coziness of the fire and took off her sweatshirt, leaving herself in cheetah print fleece pants (at least warm, if not stylish) and a long sleeved shirt. The rest of us were still wearing down jackets and hats (and happily were not in cheetah print fleece).

Looking at her made me shiver. And given the last two weeks of family flu, I was determined to get that sweatshirt back on her. Not that I believe that being cold makes you sick, I just wanted to make her comfortable. She, meanwhile, was determined to continue to play in her space shuttle tent. Even my cleverest cajoling didn’t work. I signed up the husband to help (I’ll note that when he told this story recently, he saved the day. I don’t remember how.) and he couldn’t woo her into anything warmer, either.

I know you’re thinking:

She’s not going to die. Let her be. When she’s cold (hungry/thirsty/tired) enough she’ll put on her jacket (have a drink/eat something/sleep).

I’m not always stupid; if you were recounting the story to me, I would be the first to say, leave her alone; she’ll be fine.  But I was already too deep in the battle, so to speak. Yes, I understand there is a problem with considering myself “in battle” but I find rational thought to elude me on occasion when I’m being ignored.

She and I screamed about it for a while.  And she eventually got cold enough to allow her sweatshirt to be put on her. So I guess it was a tie.  But I know I was right:  it was much too cold to be without warm clothes.

My grandma Dorothy would give us a drink when she was thirsty or a sweater when she thought it was cold, and I’m pretty sure that was infuriating at the time, but now I only remember it fondly. So as we have all tried to avoid turning into our mothers, at 40, I have managed to become my grandmother.   Certainly, there are worse things.

Dec 13, 2010

Pretty in pink

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Rumor has it that Santa is going to be bringing some kayaks for Jake and Jenn this year.  (No, definitely not for city use.) Because I’m helpful, I was searching online for said kayaks, finally finding them at one of the sports stores.  They are plastic and come in three colors: pink, blue and yellow. Almost without thinking, I picked a pink (because that’s Jenn’s favorite color) and a blue for Jake. Blue because I needed a second color; Jake likes blue (but loves pink) and I don’t like yellow.

Not surprisingly, I got distracted and never completed the order. Riding to work with my husband the next day, I mentioned the kayaks. Incredulously, he asked why we wouldn’t order two of the same color so they won’t fight over them, especially since they would both want the pink one.  I didn’t actually have a good answer for that, though I usually have (in my head) a reason for everything. Good idea, I agreed.

Of course, then we need two pink kayaks.  I worry that some of the bigger kids might make fun of Jake for having a pink kayak, even though that is the one he will want desperately. But kids will tease regardless of the situation and I guess all we can do it be ready for it and rise above, because in the end, it doesn’t really matter. So Santa will be bringing pink for everybody. Jake gets pink because he likes it and I like it and who cares who teases him. Maybe we’ll get him some lessons, too, so he’s fast. Then the other kids will all be trying to keep up with the pink kayak.

Filed under Parenting
Dec 7, 2010

Beginning of Advent, one day late

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Though I’m not feeling particularly holiday-ish, the season is apparently in full swing. We celebrate Christmas, but the kids learn about all the holidays at school:  last night Jake explained to me the significance of the candles on the menorah in our apartment building lobby. I’m not sure how accurate he was but I’m glad for his interest. (Pretty sure I wouldn’t have known a menorah if it fell on my head when I was five years old. )

When my sister was here last week she brought Advent calendars for each of the kids, the ones with little chocolates behind each door. Just like the two I have in the “Christmas Box” shoved under my bed, still full of candy, from last year. I think she gave us those, too.  (She is the opposite of a lamemom.)

Though we disregarded Advent last year, this year the kids are very excited about opening the doors on each day. We forgot to open any doors yesterday, the first day, but at 6:05 this morning Jake realized it was Thursday and that we had missed the first day, Wednesday.   I was able to put him off (as I was still in bed) by reminding him that we open calendar doors after school, not before.

But as the day gets closer to 3:10, Jake’s dismissal time, lamemom is approaching panic.  Not only have I not yet purchased the chocolate replacement candy for my non-chocolate eating son (I think a Starburst Advent calendar would be a great product.), I can’t find where I put the actual calendars. The apartment isn’t that big so I must have put them in a very clever place.

So what to do?  My plan B:  turn the searching for the calendars into part of the game– Jake and Jenn can help me root around in the office, which is where I most likely stashed them, and whoever finds them first gets a prize. Though I probably hid them somewhere high and the kids are still little people, so that might not work. Which brings me to plan C, which I expect I’ll end up resorting to:  dig around under my bed and dust off last year’s Advent calendars. How bad can the chocolate be after just a year? Bad enough that a 3-year old won’t eat it? I doubt it. And the 5-year old is having Starburst, or maybe a gummy vitamin in a pinch if I can’t get to the deli before he gets home. Necessity truly is the mother of invention.

Filed under Parenting
Dec 2, 2010

“We aren’t retake people.”

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Last week’s NewYork Times had an article about the legions of school photographers offering retouching of school pictures on their order forms. Of course, I knew just what they were talking about because I checked the box next to “Retouching, $7.00” on my kindergartener’s picture order form. Maybe it was $9, I can’t remember, but before you judge me (as my own sister immediately did), let me explain.

The example shown on the order form showed a teenager with unfortunate acne.  The retouched version showed said teenager with pristine skin.  I thought back to a high school friend with horrible skin and I thought, what a great idea – money well spent. Let me be clear: my son is adorable, you would agree with me without doubt. He is also a lip licker or sucker or whatever it is that he does with his tongue and spit — invariably any time one would want him to look particularly cute, he has licked or sucked the side of his mouth until he has a giant red clown smile. All the Aquaphor in the world can’t fix it. So for $7, rather than worry about whether or not Jake had a “licking episode” the day before Picture Day, I only had to hope that he smiled and remembered to put his sweater back on before the picture. (Last year he removed his sweater and so my son, the little boy with the whitest skin and whitest hair in the whole school had his school picture taken in an almost white turtleneck:   if not for his blue eyes, you wouldn’t even know that he was in the picture.)

Phew, another problem solved , I thought to myself. His pictures finally came and I eagerly pulled them from his backpack, ready to quickly cut them up and send them off to family members across the country. At first glance, they’re perfect. Then I saw the big one (the big photo, definitely not the picture; this is definitely not a big picture issue):  what is easily missed in the wallet size photo is glaringly apparent in the 8×10 — Jake has “crazy eyes” in the picture — like a wild horse, perhaps. Or like the photographer is doing something so horrific that my young son can’t quite fathom it — intrigued and repulsed at the same time.

I quickly emailed my sister the picture for an opinion and she agrees, crazy eyes. I muse aloud about having the pictures retaken on retake day, in another week. She quickly points out that “we aren’t retake people. I mean, really, ” she continued, “I never had retakes, you never had retakes and none of my kids (she has 3) have ever had retakes.”  In order to reinforce her point, she quickly emails me her 16-year old son’s kindergarten picture:  he defined “deer in headlights.” So, two boy cousins, both in kindergarten 11 years apart, with school pictures not bound for the cover of a magazine — it must be a 5-year old thing. I have already mailed them to the grandparents and I can hardly wait to see his picture when he’s 6.

Filed under Parenting
Nov 30, 2010

Another low point

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Sunday – 7:30 am.  I’m sitting at the table, enjoying the sunshine almost as much as the half and half in my coffee. I’m helping my son write a thank you note for a birthday present. If you have ever sat in this chair, you know how it goes:

Jake:  I want it to say “Cooper, thank you for coming to my party and for the present. You can come to my birthday party again next year and all the other parties. Love, Jake”

lamemom:  Well, you have a pretty small piece of paper and your letters (in fat marker) are pretty big so how about if we say, “Cooper, thank you for the airplane. Love, Jake”

Jake:  I want it to say “Cooper, thank you for coming to my party and for the present. You can come to my birthday party again next year and all the other parties. Love, Jake”

So on and on we go, writing very slowly and carefully. He asks how to spell the words and I tell him and he writes them and I’m a little ashamed to admit that I was half-heartedly cruising the front page of the newspaper. Eventually, he makes a mistake, mixes up the letters. He gets upset, I say don’t worry, we all make mistakes and markers are tricky because you can’t really erase. Then I hear myself asking him to pass me the paper and I said I could fix it, turning the capital letter d into an o.  But I’m not sure if at that moment, I was offering to fix it to make him feel better or if I was offering to fix it for some effed up reason so he has a nicer looking note, (fully cognizant of the awfulness, here), so it seemed “good,” and not “good enough.”  Was I trying to fool myself? Someone else? Will I be signing him up for a pageant next? (Though with that long blond hair of is, I’m sure he would win…)

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Nov 22, 2010

Daughter foils lamemom again

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The daughter this morning looked like she had a nest in the back of her head. She’s three and I’m never that pulled together so Jenn with bad hair is not surprising or unusual, though my response was.  This morning, for whatever reason, I wanted to comb that hair and make it smooth like all of the little girls in her class of 3-year olds.  Her hair was even clean, so I don’t know what came over me, but I was determined that it look cute. Again, grain of salt here – I’m the head of the lamemoms. Cute at our house doesn’t mean bows or other paraphernalia (in great part because big brother hoards all the hair accessories), it just means not dirty and brushed.

So as surprised as I was with my hair response, imagine what young daughter thought as I lunged at her with my great big round brush? Yes, I went for the brush so I could quickly yank it through the snarls – a comb would never have worked with fine hair like we have. I tried to trick her into pretending she was the dog by brushing her arms and legs first and then I going fastfastfast at the back of her head.

Of course, we know where this is going. My lady screeched angrily, mixing English and Spanish, “Don’t peine me” and as fast as I got the brush through, she took her hands and  (I swear) started back-combing her hair in an attempt to re-snarl it.  Spiteful. But she was winning and I was furious because at that point I was fighting about hair with a 3-year old and suddenly my pettiness had become about power and winning, never successful parenting strategies.

Meanwhile, the husband was howling with laughter as he re-tied his tie for the seventh time to get the length just right and the son was standing in the corner where I had sent him after he SPIT ON THE FLOOR. (Which definitely deserves its own post.) I got a glimpse of myself (my hair was snarly in the back, too) and my coffee was gone and I put the brush down.  Jenn was still howling and could only be appeased by the husband – who thought he was the world’s best dad when he calmed her down in the elevator. His solution? Giving her his bike helmet. So Jenn, sporting snarls and daddy’s grey Giro bike helmet, rode the M104 bus up Broadway to school. She might have looked a little simple, but if she falls down, she’ll be safe.  And nobody can see the snarls under the helmet.

Filed under Parenting
Nov 19, 2010

It takes a village

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As has been said, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Never did I know how true it was until I had my son, and then my daughter.  Parenting, regardless of almost everything, is hard, especially when one is doing it without said village. My husband, kids and I live in NYC, far from our families. We are lucky enough to have friends that  our kids call Auntie and Uncle, but for the real aunties, uncles, grandpas and grandmas to be around us, someone (hopefully them!) needs to take an airplane ride.

So we create our own villages — full of friends we picked, friends our kids picked, neighbors we like and dislike, colleagues, strangers and Mr. Evans from the drycleaners.  It is these self-made villages that help us raise our children, consciously or not.  I hope lamemom.com can join your village, and your ours.

Filed under NYC, Parenting
Nov 14, 2010

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