Being Left Out Sucks

Waiting in line for a ride – and just as you reach the front, they put up the rope and tell you you’ll have to wait until next time.

The team captains are choosing players in kick ball and you’re the last person chosen out of the whole gym class.

They’re handing out Drumsticks and you’re the only one left not holding an ice cream cone.

Being left out sucks.

My kids are learning the hard way lately how being left out is lame. My 12-year-old daughter was crying the other night that (and stop me if you’ve heard this from a pre-teen before) “all my friends are going on field trips and I’m not and I feel really left out!” My 8-year-old son had a similar experience when his friends “fired him” from his club he and his buddies started at their day camp. And my 4-year-old complained about being the only kid not to get to have a friend over after school. Everyone is being left out one way or another.

All of us at some point have been left out. It sucks. And yet, it’s a lesson we all have to learn. Yeah, yeah, got that. But, how do you explain that to your kids? You just want to nuzzle them and hold them close and secretly call their so-called friends “jerks” in your head. But, how do you help your child through it?

What do you tell your children when they complain of being left out?

 

 

Lose 10 Pounds This Week

Okay, so the title of this post may be slightly deceiving. I have no idea how much weight you could actually lose – but based on the amount of sweat dripping from my body last night – it might be a lot!

The Mommy Exercise Plan

Step 1 – Agree to the many requests by your children to go to the park.

Step 2 – Dress in something that’s okay to get sweaty. And dirty. Dress your kids in helmets and gear.

Step 3 – Run after your kids as they bike to the park. Don’t worry – all those pauses and walking you do when they get off their bikes to look at an ant marching down the street or investigate the pile of dried up dog poop on the corner will be made up for in the all-out sprints you will perform when they get a little too close to the intersection.

Step 4 – Arrive at the park. Catch your breath. You’ll need it.

Step 5 – Proceed with an intense game of “Zombie Mommy.” Zombie Mommy – if you don’t know – is when the children run from you while giggling as you chase them from one piece of playground equipment to the next. Be prepared to stop on a dime as they suddenly claim, “NO, Mom! You DIDN’T tag me, because I’m on the swing and the swing is base! Duh!”

Step 6 – Pause briefly to catch your breath while random children approach you and ask you to play with them as well. And chase them. Make eye contact with said children’s parents to make sure they know you’re not some weirdo chasing their children around a playground while making growling Zombie sounds.

Step 7 – You’ve caught a child. Carefully throw the child to the ground – carefully, I said! Tickle the child and say in a friendly-Zombie-tone (yeah, you can do it) that you’re going to eat their brains. Release them. Repeat steps 5-7 for about half an hour.

Step 8 – It’s time to tell the kids – in your non-Zombie regular mom voice- that it’s time to go home. Threaten to not play Zombie Mommy again if they don’t listen.

Step 9 – Perform step 3 in reverse. Run after them all the way home.

Step 10 – Collapse into a sweaty pile on your couch.

 

Congratulations – you’ve just burned a million calories, played with your kids and tired them (and you) out for the evening. Give yourself 1.5 hours total for this exercise.

Oh – and it’s worth noting – despite the fact that you made eye contact with the other kids’ parents, you may still be perpetually labeled as the “crazy mom who chases kids at the park.”

 

 

 

The Waiting Game

My friend’s 5-year-old daughter (let’s call her “M”) has a loose tooth. For months, this child has been relentless, demanding her parents tell her when she would lose her first tooth. Now that it’s loose, well, now that’s a different matter.

As my friend explained this scenario to me, I couldn’t help but draw a comparison to when you first find out you’re pregnant. That growing child inside you consumes your every thought, “When will I start to show?” “When will the baby come?” And then, you’re 9 months pregnant. The realization that this baby has to come out somehow begins to dawn on you.

This sudden realization – that her long-awaited loose tooth must come out – has suddenly sunken in for “M.” Instead of the questions of, “When will I get a loose tooth?!” she’s now asking,

“How is it going to come out?”

“Will it bleed?”
“Will it hurt? What happens if it wiggles loose in my sleep and I breath in at the same time. MOM THEY DON”T dissolve in tummies like food! I DON”T WANT MY TOOTH TO GO IN THE POTTY! What does the tooth fairy REALLY look like? I believe she looks like the fairy on the front of my ‘Good Fairy Book.’ (Brian Froud)”

When my friend explained to her that there are really only two ways about it – patience or yanking it out – she had some very serious reservations about her options. To yank or not to yank is the question.

So, now, while we wait, “M” has become grumpily obsessed, much like an expectant pregnant woman, with when her day will come. Instead of eating basil and driving over railroad tracks, “M” may have a few days (or weeks) of apple eating and slamming doors with a string attached ahead of her.

At least when her day finally comes, she’ll only have a visit from the Tooth Fairy to look forward to and not hours of labor… And by the time her second tooth is loose, she’ll be an old pro. And much like a woman pregnant with her second child, she’ll foolishly think she’s prepared.

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: She has since lost her tooth. Drama over. For now. Until next time…

It Strikes Again

I was in the shower, all soaped up, when I heard my youngest son screaming, followed by a thud and then silence. At this point, as I hurriedly washed the suds from my hair and body while simultaneously screaming, “What’s wrong?! Are you okay?! What happened?!” I was trying to decide whether I should be relieved or concerned that the screaming and crying had stopped.

When I got out of the shower, I found my sons playing nicely (and calmly) on the couch. I asked what had happened.

“I zipped my penis up in my pajamas. Again.” said my 4-year-old.

“What was the thud?” I asked.

“That was me getting down from my bed to run and check on him,” replied my 8-year-old. “I told him that happened to me before, too. I said he should hold his hand behind it. And wear underwear.”

Sage advice from one brother to another, I suppose. At least he’d stopped screaming. And yes, he did say, “again.” Just a week or so ago, he’d done the same thing. Same circumstances – no undies. Apparently, free balling it at night is worth the risk.

Oh what a night

I thought the event of the evening was ramming my foot into the door frame, leaving me laying on the couch all night.

I was wrong.

Instead of going outside to play ball – which was why I was changing my pants, which lead to walking out of the bedroom door and into the door frame… we stayed on the couch and started a game of Scrabble. But then my 4-year-old wanted to play. Slight problem, considering he doesn’t know how to read. I explained that the game was arranging letters into words. He thought about it for a second, then said, “Oh – you mean like ‘kill’?” Okay, that’s disturbing when that’s the first word he comes up with!

Finally… after the kids were in bed for the night, my husband and I were watching a movie. A couple of hours go by and my 8-year-old stumbles out of his room and into the hallway bleary eyed, holding his crotch and walks into his sister’s room and shuts the door. Red flag. GIANT red flag. I hobble up – as quickly as I can on my lame foot – and rush into my daughter’s room. He is leaning against the wall – in front of a cabinet he has opened – and is peeing. EVERYWHERE. Totally sleep walking, he thinks he’s in the bathroom. Trying to get a sleep walking child to stop treating his sister’s art cabinet like a urinal is difficult, to say the least. Did I mention there was pee – EVERYWHERE?

We were able to get him into the bathroom for the last few drops. We changed him into new clothes and put him into bed. He doesn’t remember a thing. My 12-year-old daughter, on the other hand, remembers all of it: waking to the lights being turned on and the ushering of her brother to the bathroom, the sopping up of the floor with a towel and the throwing away of all her drenched-in-pee art supplies. She was less than thrilled, but surprising okay about it all.

So – how was your night?

Real Advice for Graduates

It’s graduation time. High schoolers across the land are crossing that stage and saying goodbye to the bondage of living at home with mom and dad (for the most part.) As I find myself writing in graduation cards for these new-to-the-real-world young people (wow, “young people?” that makes me sound really old) I am trying not to write the same thing they’re going to read in all the other cards they receive. And, side note, do we think they really read the cards, or at 18 are they just opening them and dumping them – looking for cash, checks or gift cards?

I find myself starting the message with the standard, “I’m so proud of you.” But, are graduation cards meant to celebrate what’s already been done – or to prepare a graduate for their future? I feel references to a brave new world coming on…

Here’s what I really want to say:

This is when it counts. College is the stuff you’ll be talking about for years – the friends you’ll make – the bad, bad decisions you’ll try to dig yourself out of. College is late nights and early mornings. It’s studying when your friends are partying. It’s partying when you should be studying. It’s feeling alone on a campus with thousands of other people who seem like they’re having the times of their lives. It’s spending your first birthday away from home without your family. College is learning to be you – without the restraint of a curfew. It’s taking off the leash and learning that sometimes it might have been good for you to be constrained. It’s learning how far you can go without one. It’s a long, steady push toward, “adulthood” and when you get there – it’s the terrifying realization that you’re supposed to know something by now. College is the first step toward realizing your parents are people, actual people, who know things and feel things, outside of you and chances are, it’s going to take until after those four years to figure that out. It’s meeting boys you might think are “the one.” It’s getting your heart broken and having nothing but your cold dorm room to comfort you. It’s getting sick and not having someone to take care of you. It’s making plans for Spring Break and saving up your weekly beer/pizza money to pay for it.  It’s all these experiences combined into one long stretch of four years that whirs by in a blur. It’s over before it started. My only advice is keep your eyes open, be safe, watch out for each other, treat each other with respect, have fun, learn lots, write home (with an actual pen and paper!), write home without asking for a care package or money,  take pictures (and don’t post all of them online!), make friends, be a friend and don’t get a credit card – no matter how cool the T-shirt is that they offer you.

Happy Graduation!

 

It Takes a Village

A former high school teacher of mine retired this weekend. Hundreds turned out to wish him well and listen to him give a few words. Of all the things this wonderful man taught me in my impressionable teenage years – one thing stands out the most: the 7Ps. Now, before I explain what that is – let me tell you about this man. He is a retired Marine who helped teach the NJROTC program at the high school. His students were a mix of the eager wanna be soldiers, kids needing to fill a credit hour, lost souls sent by their school counselors (or their parents) to be straightened out, book worms, stoners, football players, cheerleaders, the average Joes and Janes, and students looking to flesh out a good college application. It truly was a good mix. No matter who you were going in – it didn’t take long to see who you’d be coming out: a member of a family.

During his retirement celebration, speaker after speaker stood up to share how he’d changed their lives. They called him a God-fearing father figure. An inspiration. A moral compass. He was/is all those things and more. When it was his turn to speak, he talked about what it was like to be the father figure to thousands of students over his two decades of teaching. He said, “it truly takes a village. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.” It is so very true. While many of us were lucky to have parents who loved us, it was also such a blessing to have a family at school to watch your back and put you back in line, when you needed it the most. He was always good at putting us back in line.

Now, that brings me to what I said stood out the most from my time in his classroom: the 7Ps. “Proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance.” This old military adage stayed with me from studying for my finals before high school graduation, to studying in college, to my years in news rooms and in my own household as a parent. Think about it. If you’d just plan it ahead of time – you’d get a much better result. Of course, there have been times I’ve forgotten (or neglected) to remember the 7Ps. It has never ended well.

I pray that we all have a teacher in our lives who can influence us in a way this man has. That we all find a life lesson that shapes us as individuals. That we can be that person to not only our own children – but to our friends’ kids. To the stoners, the book worms or those just needing that extra support and the knowledge that there is someone who cares about them. Who wants them in their family. Because it truly does take a village.

Nowhere to hide

There are times when you just need a second. The times when you want maybe a millisecond to yourself. When you sneak away quietly, thinking no one will notice you are gone. You are wrong.

When you are a mom – they always know.

I thought Mother’s Day would be different. I was wrong.

I snuck away midmorning to use the restroom by myself. With the door shut. Rookie mistake.

As if they knew I was gone without even looking – they sensed the absence of my presence. And then they were on the hunt. My youngest found me within about 30 seconds.

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I have a series of photos like this. It’s very reminiscent of that scene in the movie “Signs” – where the alien sticks its fingers out from under the kitchen door and Mel Gibson’s character cuts them off. Of course, I would never do that to my child! But, a flashback to that creepy scene always seems to happen in moments like that. I was coming right out of the bathroom – I swear!

Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever tried to take in a moment of peace and been caught by your children?

 

Late for Work: Kids versus no Kids

Remember those days before you had kids, when you’d show up late for work? Some days, you’d stroll in, bloodshot eyes, hair smelling vaguely of cigarette smoke and dirty bar. The smell of coffee walked the line between the scent of salvation and the rank of what might lead you to expose last night’s menu in your cubicle trash can. Other days, you were late solely because you were changing outfits 40 times, or putting the final touch on your hair or makeup. Or, and most likely, because you hit the snooze button a few too many times.

Flash forward – you have kids now. Yes, you still have an inappropriate relationship with your alarm clock. And the smell of coffee remains – your only hope for the long day ahead. When you show up late for work, your eyes may still be bloodshot, but your hair likely smells like spit up, or the urine that splashed upon you as you attempted to change your preschooler’s wet sheets, while not waking his big brother in the top bunk.

Indeed, I was late for work this morning because my four-year old had peed his bed in the middle of the night and I was there, changing his sheets at 6am. If it was just this, I could have made it in time. But, no. Despite the fact that I did laundry ALL weekend and last night, this same child had NO underwear. I’m not kidding. I went through his entire underwear drawer. Nada. Where does the underwear go? My first grader just had the same issue with pants. We did laundry and yet – nothing. Are the children wearing multiple pairs of pants and underwear out of the house and depositing them across the city? Or, are there evil laundry trolls sneaking into my house in the middle of the night and stealing all the clean laundry? Again – another no-kids versus kids problem. When you don’t have kids, chances are you’re not searching for size 4 Batman underwear to save the day. But, I digress.

When you stroll in, late for work as a single person, you’re sometimes met with smirks and the, “mmm hmmm” kind of look. When you stroll in, late for work as a mom, those looks and comments change to, “Oh, I remember once when my son… (insert parenting horror story here.)” That is, if your coworkers are parents. If not, see the prior reaction for single people being late.

Either way, there’s grace in knowing that some day – years from now – my kids will be late to work, thanks to their kids. That is, after their years of outfit changes and alarm clock issues. (Okay, fine. The alarm clock issue never does go away.) Until then, there’s always coffee.

No “Thank You?”

Have you ever had that moment of realization as a mom? That moment when you realize, without a doubt, what a dick you were to your parents as a kid? The first time I encountered this was when I was about 23 and had this moment of clarity that my parents might actually know something that I don’t. That wasn’t so much me feeling like a jerk, as much as a second of wonder and awe that I’d never caught on to their intelligence until then.

My most recent, jaw-dropping realization hit me more like a ton of bricks: I was an ungrateful beast!

This discovery came after an evening out with my daughter. I’d taken her and a friend for a real (expensive) treat: getting a pedicure (which somehow turned into a manicure, as well, without my prior permission.) By the end of it, I was out a chunk of change, but it felt worth it to do something extra special on a girls night. They were thrilled – with smiles from ear to ear. Then, we got in the car and they immediately started asking me what was next. “Are we going out for dinner?” “Lets go get ice cream.” “How about Starbucks?” Um, how about some gratitude?!

I understand, being a parent is a thankless job for the most part. But it really shouldn’t be! It’s our jobs to teach our children manners, respect and thankfulness and obviously I’m not doing the best job at that.

As I was sitting here, feeling sorry for myself about how ungrateful my kids were (especially after I made them banana splits and instead of saying “thank you,” they told me I’d gotten their order wrong…) I realized I had never truly thanked my parents. They raised me with proper manners, so I know I’d said the obligatory, “thank you” in the past. But, had I really meant it? 

At this point, I texted my mom. Yes, texted. Because had I called her, I probably would have been a complete mess, sobbing into the phone in such a way that only your mother can comprehend what you are saying. So yes, I texted her. I started with the “I’m sorry” and then moved into the “thank you” for everything I could think of all these years later: feeding me, clothing me, cleaning up my barf, comforting me after I’d barfed, etc. And she laughed. You see, she’d come to this same realization about her own mother years before. Apparently, it’s all very cyclical in nature: Daughter is a jerk to mom until years later her daughter is a jerk to her and she apologizes to her mother. And repeat.

So, 25 years. I guess that’s when I can expect my “thank you.” Until then, I’ll teach them all the manners and the times they should say it and pray that at some point they’ll really feel it and be truly thankful for those around them. And not just me. 

One last thing: my daughter did hug me and tell me, “thank you for today,” which was the sweetest thing I could have asked for. And, for the record, they do say it, just not all the time…

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