Family Planning

When you are having babies people are very concerned about timing. Do you want to have them all in diapers at once or one at a time? Should siblings be old enough to help with the baby or better to just pack the car seats in in the back of the car like cordwood? Will they play together better if they are 2 years apart or 4 years apart? So many questions. So many debates.

But you know what no one ever considers?

Do you know what the big oversight in child spacing consideration is?

Middle school.

I just realized I’ll have a middle school girl in my house for eight straight years.

Eight. Straight. Years. Of. Middle. School.

Please send Bourbon and dark chocolate, we are going to need a lot of it.

Now, hold on before you feel the need to tell me how wonderful my eldest is. I know she’s a great kid, she has spent the past few years turning into a lovely, even keeled, responsible child. But now she is a middle schooler.   And she is just the stereotypical, grunting, lack of eye contact, hormonal, moody kid that you expect a middle schooler to be and, because we’ve been doing our parenting job tolerably well, she’s mostly just like that at home.

Ahhhh! The sweet, sweet rewards of parenting!

The look Ivy would give me if she knew about this post.
Never tell!

We have “discussions” about why wearing ear buds while talking to people is rude. There are tears and pouting that pass like summer storms and are replaced with a girl that exudes rainbows and sunshine only to have her fall to pieces later in the day/hour/minute. We have a continual one sided discussion about how words are an important part of conversation right before she chats at me non-stop for an hour. I know I can look at this as an excellent opportunity to practice my own patience and understanding. I can use these times to work on my compassion, even on a busy day, and to practice forgiveness, even at the drop of a hat. This is a personal growth opportunity presented to me on a silver platter.

And I try. I really do.  But see, here is the thing.

It’s not that fun.

It’s really hard.

And I fear for the future.

It’s all well and good to say practicing patience, compassion, understanding and forgiveness is good for you. But when the every day reality of life gives you opportunities for self improvement, whether you want them or not, it feels a lot more brutal and a lot less fortuitous than it sounds.  These great growth opportunities where one can practice all these skills are presented to you every single day. And not just once a day either.  Opportunities abound on days that you are sick and days you are tired and days where you already did a good job of being kind and understanding to the kid that screamed at you all morning and you really don’t have it in you to try it again.  It was one of those days that I accidentally did the math in my head and realized that I will have a middle school girl living in my house for the next seven years, eight years total. I’m not actually sure I can afford to consume that much dark chocolate and bourbon.

So, if you are in the baby having years consider this a warning! Think ahead, plan for middle school.  And when your baby has a meltdown in the grocery line and the mother of a young lady gives you a sympathetic, “Solidarity mama, you can do it!”  look, check her cart. If it’s got a stash of dark chocolate and bourbon, give her that look right back, she’s gonna need it too!

 

Advertisements

Parenting Rule #1: Always Be Suspicious

Clara: “Mom, touch this.”

Me: “No.”

Clara: “No, just touch it.”

Me: “Why?”

Clara: “Just touch it.”

Me: “What is it?”

Clara: “It’s either poop or octopus tentacles.” 

Me: “I stand by my original answer.”

It’s not poop or octopus tentacles… I don’t think.

I Forgot…

Well, I forgot one of my kids tonight.

It was bound to happen eventually (Actually it might have happened before. I’m not sure. I forget.).

Fortunately her dad didn’t forget her and, while Ivy was the last kid picked up from her after school activity, she was remarkably fine with the fact that her mother forgot her.

(That’s not our kitten- Thank goodness!)

I mention this because:

A) Lots of people lately have been all “Omg you are amazing, you do so many things!” And I try to tell them things like, “Yeah, no,” and “Not really,” and then they don’t believe me so I try hard to learn how to accept a compliment and move on. But here is the thing. If you, like me, talk about slightly abnormal things like chasing escapee geese in a flooded river (I really should share that story here…) and traveling with pigeons and keeping bees, it seems that people assume you are doing all those things plus all the things that people, mothers even, regularly do. And to that crazy thought I say, “HA! Are you serious!?” my days have 24 hours in them just like everyone else’s. Something always has to give and in my life it always seems to be the “boring” things- you know, cooking, cleaning, and remembering things, like how to count to three (coincidentally that’s how many children I have) that fall by the wayside. Nobody is superhuman, least of all me.

B) She’s fine! I’m not the worst mother in the world (John assures me crackhead mothers and people who drown their children are much worse than me.). Sometimes people leave you hanging. Sometimes you have to wait. Sometimes shit happens. Would it be better if someone else taught my kid that sort of lesson? Probably. Do I still love her and she knows it? Yes.

C) Have I forgotten to return your call or your bowl or your e-mail or drop off a bag of apples or some other thing that I forgot I even forgot recently? Don’t be offended, it’s not you. I forgot my own kid today.

 

E-mail Conversation Circa 2012

What follows is an actual e-mail conversation between John and I from May of 2012. At that time Jane would have been about five months old…

…Clara two and half and Ivy five, though not yet in school…

..and e-mail was John and my primary method of communication while he was at work.

John:

Can you email or call Abi and see if they are available for us to visit on the 31st? And to refresh my memory, you were thinking leaving Thursday morning, so I should take off right?

Did things improve with the girls today?

 

Me:

yes until it rained in kitchen – now sucks jane asllep pn arm, stuck and afraid to move

 

John:

Would you mind elaborating on “rained in kitchen”?

 

And then, according to my old e-mails I was cleaning out, I never answered him. Which makes me giggle every time I re-read it. Because what must he have thought at work knowing total chaos waited him at home? “Well, at least they didn’t burn the house down.” or “I guess it’ll be cleaner now.” or “Just another typical day at the Stevens house.” I have no idea, and he doesn’t remember either but, unless it rained in the kitchen twice in May of 2012 (a possibility I am NOT discounting!) I did blog about it…

“It’s Raining…”

 

One of the major problems I have staying home with three kids is that while I’m nursing the baby the other two are doing stuff. Some days they are doing nice stuff and some days are like today. Today I came into the kitchen and found that Clara discovered not only how to change the kitchen faucet from a stream to a spray but that you can also pull out the head of the faucet. I pull out the head of the faucet to wash large pans and clean the sink. Clara pulled it out, must have thought it was actually intended to be the worlds best water gun and got right to work spraying Ivy.

Read the rest of it’s raining here: https://behindthewillows.com/2012/05/22/its-raining/

 

 

Bike Rider

Jane has been using a scoot bike for the last few years.

A scoot bike, for those of you who are not familiar, is a bike that has no pedals/gears/etc (some people call it a balance bike).  Kids can learn to balance and steer while they push themselves along on their feet Fred Flintstone-style. Jane was a master scoot biker but until this last week was completely unwilling to make the transition to *gasp* *shudder* *panic* …pedals.

But, this week, she, with help of a ridiculous purple Disney princess endowed bike (thank you Grandma Mary) was convinced to give the pedals a try – sans training wheels. There was panicking. There was whining. There was moaning. There were two really unconcerned and unhelpful parents because they had seen her navigate the downhill slope of our terribly rutted gravel driveway on her scoo

t bike and she was going to be fine as soon as she tried it.  Twenty min. later Jane was riding a real bike.

An hour later she called me out to watch.

Personally “Mom, watch me!” inspires feelings of dread and desperate wishes to have something, anything, else to do. But not this time. This time I was excited for her. She was riding a real bike.  With pedals. It’s a big milestone. I willingly went to the driveway to watch.

Foolish, foolish mother…

“Mom, count how many times I can go around the circle.”

(the circle being the small paved area in front of our two-car garage.)

“One!”

Foolish, foolish mother.

….

“Five!”

I was still proud of her.

“Twelve.”

I was still proud but the novelty had worn off.

“Twenty one.”

I sent Clara for a camera so I would have something to do.

“Thirty seven.”

“NO! You didn’t’ say thirty six, this is thirty six.”

“Oh, I just counted in my head.”

“That doesn’t count!”

“… thirty six….”

“forty five…”

Foolish, foolish mother.

“MOM ARE YOU STILL COUNTING?!?!”

“SIXTY EIGHT!”

“Aren’t I good at bike riding?!?!?”

“… seventy… three…. *yawn*”

I started daydreaming about setting time limits. As in, “Yay! You learned something new, I’ll be encouraging that new skill for the next five min and then I’m moving on. Ready… Go!”

“eighty eight”

This is right about when Clara, also bored out of her skull wanted to show off her bike riding skills too. Complete chaos ensued. Bike crashes, screaming, fighting, gravel needed to be brushed out of palms, the whole nine yards.

The dust settled, and there was Jane, still riding her bike and also demanding the entire driveway to herself.

“Fine. You can have the whole driveway but I’m not watching anymore after one hundred.”

My feelings of pride were lessening, the novelty was gone and my encouragement was getting mighty thin.

“ninty nine.”

“one hundred!!!”

Foolish, foolish mother.

“Aren’t you going to keep counting?”

 

Moral of the story: “Watch me” never, ever, ends well for the mother.

A Dubious Purchase

I did something recently I’ve never done before. Something I would have never guessed I would have done. Something that I still can’t believe I did.

I bought a bag of makeup.

This might not sound so ridiculous to you so let me be more clear. I, whose makeup purchases in the last 10 years begins and ends with two identical tubes of mascara, bought a bag of totally random makeup. A bag of makeup that, I might add, didn’t even have single tube of mascara in it.

The woman selling it was very good, very sneaky saleswoman, she caught me at my most vulnerable, in the toy aisle of Walmart. You see it happened like this…

Ivy needed a birthday gift for a friend. I needed printer ink and tortellini. Walmart was the place to go. I met the girls in the driveway after school, so we could all go shopping together. This was mistake number one. The girls (well everyone really) are at their worst at 3:45 in the afternoon.

Everyone knows that at 3:45 you should either be taking a nap or just getting up from one. Not a single one of those girls is either sleeping or has just slept when they climb off the bus.  I, waiting in the truck, was also not sleeping, and I hadn’t taken a nap either. That was probably mistake number two.

After school is also the time when everyone is hungry. I’m sure this has something to do with the fact that Ivy keeps growing and is a bottomless pit, Jane eats slower than a snail in February and always has at least half of her lunch left and Clara, well Clara eats a snack at school at 2:30, I have no idea why she’s starving when she gets home but she is.

So I took those tired, hungry and therefore cranky children, who I knew would be tired, hungry and cranky and loaded them up in the truck anyway.  All the other mistakes pale in comparison to that decision and all things that came after this point were directly related to that decision.

Now, Walmart is the closest place for us to buy these three random things but it’s still just about a half an hour away. And remember how the kids are always hungry when they get home from school? Good, because I forgot. So Jane’s leftover lunch parts were fought over, Clara performed a random feat of magic and pulled half a bag of veggie chips from her backpack (I have no other explanation for it’s appearance) and then all the available food was declared boring and fighting erupted. The backseat food wars escalated until the truck pulled over and children were separated in such a way that no one could stay buckled up touch anyone else.

And you wonder why we drive such a big vehicle.

Now before you envision me as the wild haired frantic mother yelling “Don’t make me pull over,” I just want to say that, on this day, I handled everything with a remarkably calm and cool attitude- on the outside.

Approximately 23 grey hairs later we pulled into the park lot. Parking lots, if you don’t know, are triggers for kids to start begging for snacks. Me, evil monster mother of ridiculous expectations said, “No.”

Repeatedly.

There was crying, there was begging, there was the slowest putting on of shoes ever. And then we went into a Super Walmart.

Miraculously, and in a way that you may only understand if you also have young children, the girls all became angels. They held hands and stayed close and smiled and giggled with one another. They happily tried on super freaky looking giant animal heads. My mind reeled with the sudden change of attitude.  And then we hit the toy aisle.

Ivy was looking for a Smooshy, or a Mooshy or a Squishy or some sort of weird smash-able toy. And while they all maniacally ran up and down the aisle asking if they could get toys of their own, (No!) Ivy tried to educate me on the differences between Smooshys, and Mooshys, and Squishys and Smashies and Gooshies and… Under the guise of looking for a Mashy-Smooshy-Smush I threw one last “no” over my shoulder and snuck off toward the LEGO mini-figures.

That’s when she pounced.

Targeting moms in a Walmart toy aisle. It’s either the cruelest act ever or complete stroke of brilliance. Just wait until those mothers have said “no” so many times to their kids they don’t have any resistance left. Then use normal adult language without even a hint pouting while you show them your wonderful shimmer powder and bag of makeup that they can buy, right there between the LEGOS and the Barbies…

I didn’t even protest, I didn’t even fight, I just handed over some cold hard cash and walked away with a small bag of makeup products half of which I’ve never owned and had no idea what to do with.

When I got home I looked at what I had bought, saw that it included a pair of false eyelashes, panicked and did what every girl faced with a bad day and a pile of makeup does. I called my friends.  I had to let them know I was probably having some sort of traumatic crisis and I was in need of help, support, love and makeup tutorials.

 

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home and the Dog Dies by Barb Taub

Barb Taub has another book out!

Though I must say this collection of essays is really more of a…. pick it up and hide in the closet with some chocolate and read it when the dog just threw up on the carpet again and the car died and your kids have gone on a hunger strike so you know that you aren’t alone in the wild world of parenting and family drama…. rather than a sit down and read it cover to cover with a nice hot cup of tea kinda book.

‘Cause when you laugh that tea is gonna come right out your nose, and it’s gonna hurt.

Would I recommend it? Of course!