Parenting Soundtracks

Anita Renfroe had the right idea when she created “Momisms” and sang it to the tune of the William Tell Overture. The problem is her song condenses everything, so we can’t use it in place of real parenting. Which got me thinking: I could totally use a Parenting Soundtrack (patent pending) to get me through the days where it’s just me and Z. I’d be free to read another book, or think about the plot of my current manuscript. She’d be free to ignore me (which she often does anyway). We’d be happy as clams.

See how happy we are?

Here we have a demonstration of the Parenting Soundtrack “Fine Dining.” Other available soundtracks include:

  • Pleasant Potty Training: “Pee and poop go in the potty!”
  • The Great Outdoors: “Run as fast as you can! Burn off that energy before naptime!”
  • Beautiful Bedtime Routines: “You may choose two stories and two songs.”
  • Responsible Clean-up: featuring that all-time favorite “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere!”
  • Fantastic Freeplay: “Be gentle! It’s good to share.”
  • For Parents of Two or More: “I give up. The bigger one gets her way.”

As soon as she wakes up, I’m going to get started on recording. My studio? Wherever it is I find myself needing to remind my daughter of the rules. So I guess that’s the kitchen, dining room, bathroom, family room, the backyard, the car, the grocery store…

How Teaching High School Prepared Me for Parenthood…

…and how it didn’t.

Now that Z has hit the magical age of TWO, my life has moved from the Fast Lane to the Super Fast Lane…with nightly visits to the Family Bed (Of Pain) [more on the Family Bed (Of Pain) in a future post]. Yet occasionally in the Super Fast Lane, we take a naptime break from mach speeds and I am able to reflect.

Recent reflection: Parenting a toddler is a lot like managing a classroom. No, I am not saying ninth graders are just like toddlers. Okay, maybe a little. But since all of my ninth graders have graduated or are now seniors, this list shouldn’t compromise any egos.

1. Routines! Kids of all ages thrive on routines. My ninth graders had a Daily Starter, something other teachers call “bell work”…it’s a short activity to keep students occupied while you take role, take a breath, and buckle up your seatbelt for the hour ahead. Z’s daily starter is a snack prepared by Daddy while Mommy lies in bed and growls at the cruel cruel world. (No, I am not a morning person.)

People like to know what’s coming next. Leave surprises for birthday parties, and keep your kids clued in by doing daily things in the same order every time. I cannot stress how important this has been for bedtime. Cannot. Stress. How important. For bedtime. The simpler the better, and we’re working on that.

2. Transitions. This is something I never quite “got” as a teacher. I guess some people like more warning than, “Hey! Put those papers away, it’s time to move on! Move it move it move it!” As a mom, though, it makes more sense. “Z, you have two more minutes of swimming time, and then we’re going inside to do something really fun, like wash the dishes!” And my daughter, bless her, cheers wildly because she LOVES doing the dishes. By the time I pause to wonder where she got this particular freaky genetic aberration, I’m sure it will have faded away.

3. Short Breaks. Those five-minute passing period breaks we got? Old students of mine, count yourselves lucky. Maybe it’s fine when you’re young to have an entourage every time you step into the bathroom. Me, I like the door firmly closed between myself and any other persons, yet most days Z and her “friends” walk right in. Sometimes she makes comments, which I will not share here.

4. Rewards and Praise. Every single person appreciates rewards and praise. Praise is inexpensive, but don’t give it away for free, or it will seem cheap. Stickers got me a long way on the Great Potty Training Experiment of 2010, but after awhile they lost their luster. And their stick.

5. Workload. I could write pages about how underpaid public school teachers are. They work so hard, earn so little…We all know this. Why isn’t it changing?

6. Kids can tell when you don’t know what the H-E-Double-Hockey-Sticks you’re doing. Now, the younger they are, the easier it is for you to pretend. But if they’re older, and they sense doubt, weakness? They go for the kill. I think substitute teachers have one of the worst jobs on the planet. I’m shuddering as I type this.

7. Inexplicable Temporary Deafness.

Teacher: Okay, class, your paper is due on Friday. When’s the paper due?
Class: Friday!
Teacher: Say it again.
Class: Friday!
Friday comes. Sixteen kids “forgot” the paper was due Friday.

Compare to:

Ever-Suffering Mother: Z. Z? Z! Stop playing with that. Bring it to mama. Do it now. What did I just say?
Z: Stop playing with that.
ESM: Yet what are you doing?
Z: Playing.
ESM: Yes, with that. Now stop.
Z: [does not stop playing with that.]

8. You are an example. Ah, how I hate this one. Wouldn’t it be grand if I could just let loose with a string of swear words every time some…poo-poo brain cuts me off on the road? But the truth is, as soon as I signed that teaching contract, and as soon as that baby was born – boom. I am now a person that another little person watches. All the time. And in the classroom it might be worse. Watched by many. If I had the good fortune of their attention.

There are differences between teaching and parenting as well. As a high school teacher, I got to go home at the end of the day. Maybe not always as early as I would have liked. Maybe I never felt like I was leaving my work behind me (often I was indeed carrying it along in the form of essays to grade).

Looking back from where I’m standing now (which is next to the potty while my child sits and sits and sits and sits), the most important difference was that my high schoolers did not ask me to wipe their bottoms. They went through Very Important Do-Not-Ever-Lose-These Handouts as if they were toilet paper, though.

One Small Banana to the Head…

…One Giant Leap for Mommies Everywhere

So I promised I wouldn’t name any names. But I heard the greatest story last week, about a mommy who threw half of a banana at her husband’s head.

First, applause to the mommy, because the banana actually made contact (I would have missed and would have had to clean smeared banana off the microwave door).

Second, I in no way advocate the use of bananas as projectiles in domestic conflicts. And neither does Mommy X (like Madame X, get it? No? Whateva.) (Although, a banana isn’t the worst choice of things to throw.) (A tomato might be better. I’ve got ’em in spades, and some have gotten kinda soggy.)

Mommy X didn’t say why she got so angry she was driven to throw the banana. And it doesn’t matter. Haven’t we all been mad enough to throw a banana at some point? What’s important is that Mommy X was enraged. Enraged enough to hurl something at her husband’s head (lucky she was holding half a banana and not, say, cutlery). We’ve all been there, right?

The rest of the story, if you’re interested (and even if you’re not because this is my blog), is that the Banana’d spouse thought she was joking around at first, and he chuckled a little bit. Then he saw the look on her face and said something along the lines of, “Oh, I get it….”

So, confession time: have you ever been mad enough to chuck something at your Significant Other? Or (I can’t resist) – have you ever gone bananas?

What, you want me to go first? Fine. Yes. I threw my cell phone. But luckily Husband wasn’t actually at home. That was the problem – I was trying to call him at work and couldn’t reach him. I was very upset at the time, obviously.

I was rewarded with a new phone.

(For an interesting Parenting article, “Mad at Dad,” you can click here. And here’s the follow-up article.)

That Niggling Question

There comes a time in every mother’s life when she asks herself: “Am I raising a sociopath?”

Oh, you mean you’ve never asked that question? Never? So your kid has never said, with a sweet smile on her face, “That baby is crying!” And she looks, well, happy about it, or proud or something. Like she orchestrated the other child’s tears. And the look of horror on your face.

It wouldn’t bother me if this had happened only once. But any time there is a child crying, or even whining, in the library, at Target, the grocery store, a birthday party, anywhere, she says this. All creepily. She looks a little like Jack Nicholson when she says it (Nicholson in The Shining, Batman, whatever). And I put on my sad face, and say, “Yes, the baby is very sad. Poor baby.”

And Z just stands there, smiling.

So here’s a list of criteria for antisocial personality disorder (also called sociopathy), researched on that paragon of scientific truthfulness, Wikipedia, and how Z fits the mold:

1. Persistent lying or stealing. Do you have to go potty? No. Are you sure? No. Do you have to go? No. SHE GOES. Then there’s: Hey, that’s my DS! Leave it alone! Come back here! SHE RUNS OFF WITH DS.

2. Apparent lack of remorse or empathy for others. See smiling while other children cry, above.

3. Cruelty to animals. All I can say is, Poor Clark. Her tail will never be the same.

4. Poor behavioral controls. We’re talking about a two-year-old, here.

5. A history of childhood conduct disorder. Already in the making.

6. Recurring difficulties with the law. Two words: time out.

7. Tendency to violate the boundaries and rights of others. Um, yup. Not only were my boundaries violated during the sixteen months of breastfeeding, but there’s the constant skirt-tugging. And the hug-attacks on her little friends that often leave them crying.

8. Substance abuse. Her addiction to goldfish crackers counts, I think.

9. Aggressive, often violent behavior. She bit me today. Then she said, “Biting Mommy.”

10. Inability to tolerate boredom. Wow. It’s like the people writing this list actually know my daughter. Were they here yesterday afternoon? [Checking home for hidden cameras right now.]

11. Disregard for safety. She runs everywhere without even looking at the ground. She almost fell into the fish pond at the Butterfly Pavilion in Denver. She ran around with a fork before dinner last night.

Well, there you have it. I am raising a sociopath.

But she’s so freakin’ cute. And she’s my sociopath. And I love her so.

E Tea

We like to pass our finer points on to our children. Our striking good looks, endless patience, witty sense of humor. Unless you’re me, and have none of those things (okay, I’ve got the good looks and the sense of humor. Yes, I do say so myself). At any rate, if you are like me, you can also pass on both your tendency to hoard things, and the things you hoarded.

See my Photographic Evidence below.

Photographic Evidence A

This is my E.T. Tea Set, circa 1982. Utterly fabulous. I had to battle TWO black widows to rescue it from the clutches of my doll closet. The doll closet is a whole other picture, but I’m not about to venture out to the Love Shack (garage/guest room) at night to take a photo.

Photographic Evidence B

Here we have the companion to my tea set, a Read-Along Book & Record set. Not pictured are my “Gingerbread Man” and “Walt Disney’s Peter Pan” Book & Record sets.

Sadly, the records have disappeared. Not that I would know what to do with them if I had them. Z might use them for serving platters for her tea parties.

Photographic Evidence C

See the treasures I have unearthed! It’s The Cabbage Patch Kids! What joy!

Photographic Evidence...What Letter Am I On?

Vintage souvenir t-shirt from Great America (now Six Flags or something completely different. I’m hoping I never have to keep track).

Photographic Evidence Too Much

Is there no end to the wealth of wonders? This flowered cat is companion to…I kid you not…a flowered camel. Don’t ask me why.

I’m SOOOO glad I saved them though!

Photographic Evidence The End (Finally)

There are scores more books where these came from. [Hey look, it’s the Peter Pan book!] Her current favorite books include “Bedtime for Frances” (mine), “E.T. Read-Along” (mine), and “Peter Pan Read-Along” (also mine).

All of this, and more. As my parents will tell you, since they hauled it all to our garage as soon as we bought our house.

And these are just the things I found lying around. I didn’t have to search for them. There’s also the unicorn shirt which I desperately wanted a photo of, but Z happens to be sleeping in it right now. It screams 1980s.

If I can’t give my daughter good looks (like I need to; she’s beautiful on her own) or any of my other desirable qualities, at least I can give her lots of cool junk.