Saturday, January 14, 2012

Brandon thinks tantrums will get him what he wants. He's wrong.

Brandon, at 16 months old, is learning the fine art of the temper tantrum. Such a delightful milestone. He's also learning pretty quickly that tantrums get him a first-class ticket on the train to Absolutely Nowhere. 

The other day he decided to throw one while leaving Ethan's school. Why, I couldn't possibly tell you, but I suspect it was because I didn't allow him to fall go down the 37 steps to the lower level area of the school, then cross over the sidewalk and run up the dirt path leading back up to the upper level. 

Anyway, once he realized that his dream of a concussion and broken arms was being thwarted by that fun-killing person he calls "daddy" (because that's the only word he knows how to say), It. Was. On.

You've all seen and heard it: the demonic screaming, followed by the arched back and kicking legs, then the sudden drop to the ground for more kicking and screaming, except that this time I was holding his hand, so he got a separated shoulder on his sudden drop to the ground (not really). He's still pretty young, so I helped him get settled on the ground and gently laid his head on the cement, then told him to be careful and looked around to find Connor. 

As if some tantrum fairy swooped in and waved her magical wand, he quickly stopped once he realized that not only had "daddy" helped him to the ground, she wasn't even looking at him. He laid on the ground for another 5 seconds or so, trying and failing to save some dignity by acting like he wanted to be laying on the filthy cement, then got up and we continued on our merry way. 

I really want to give thanks to all the people who have suggested ignoring tantrums. It works. 

At least, this time it did.

What else has worked for you?

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Friday, January 6, 2012

The Honest Parent

I appreciate an honest parent. By "honest parent" I mean one who not only admits that they like "Yo Gabba Gabba" more than their kids do but who also is not afraid to admit that they struggle with some aspects of having kids. Some parents struggle more than others for various reasons, but I think it's safe to say that we ALL have challenging times, and we all have been driven to the edge of sanity by our kids, even if only for a moment. Or, in my case, on a regular basis. 

Either way, I can completely respect the fact that some people don't feel the need to share those moments, but what I can't stand is the parent who tries to make it sound like they love every little thing about being a parent, and their kids never drive them nuts, and gosh, isn't this just the best thing to ever happen to anyone? You know the type: "Little Mary just puked ALL OVER my car, and even managed to get some chunks in my face and mouth, which subsequently caused me to crash the car into a mini van, killing an entire family, and wow, this is amazing!" "Sweet Freddie just put a baseball through the neighbor's seven-thousand dollar picture window, what an ARM, and the baby hasn't slept longer than an hour at a time for two weeks, and man, I just LOVE this parenting thing! My kids are GREAT!" 

Those people freak me out, because I know they are lying. How do I know? Because I HAVE KIDS. While there are some totally awesome, heartwarming kid-raising times, there is the flip side, and nobody is fooling anybody when they try to make it sound like they don't experience the bad stuff. They're lying to themselves, and the rest of us, or they're even crazier than me. I seriously want to throw up in my mouth when I hear someone say that they love every second of being a parent.

I mean, let's get real. I have had perfect strangers (usually new parents) randomly tell me that they understand why people have killed their kids. This is always followed with the disclaimer that of course, they would never do it, but they understand the feeling of being driven to the brink of losing their self-control, whether from severe sleep deprivation, extreme stress, or a demon-child's devil antics, sometimes all at once. Even I admit that that's a pretty harsh thing to say, but if we're perfectly honest with ourselves, I think most of us recognize that we've been driven to the edge of the dark side. We're just lucky enough to have the filter that stops us, even if our hand does twitch slightly. 

Even worse is the parent who not only refuses to admit to the occasional struggle, but then judges others for having a hard time. This serves to make the judged parent feel even worse and like they are the only one when in fact, they are not. Not by a long shot. 

I prefer to be around the kind of parent who is okay with saying that they felt like dropping their kid off at the local adoption agency after a particularly rough week or day. Of course, they wouldn't actually do it, but I appreciate and respect the fact that they are willing to be honest (and make a joke) about the bad stuff. I have a clear memory (one of the few remaining after three pregnancies and kids) of my bestie's wedding dinner six years ago. Another friend just had her first baby and told us about, after a particularly hard day, telling her husband that if he didn't come get the baby from her, she was going to throw the baby out of the window. I didn't even have kids yet (I actually was newly pregnant and didn't yet know - or plan on - that, and was drinking... oopsie) but even I knew that was the true side of parenting and I appreciated and respected her honesty 100%. 

Let's be real. Let's be honest. I get that some people may not want to share their difficult times, but if someone expresses frustration or difficulty with their child, a simple, "I understand" is all that's required. And it can make a huge difference to the struggling parent. Please don't look at them like they're some kind of freak, especially if you secretly know exactly what they're saying.

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Fostering Independent Kids Part 2: My house the sweat shop

Recently, I posted part 1 of this series. Taking it a step further, I have no problem also putting my kids to work for me. Hence, my sweat shop. No not really, but basically, I don't have a problem asking the boys to help out every once in a while. They help put the laundry in the washer or dryer and help put it away, carry in grocery bags, and get me things like a diaper or whatever when I am too lazy to get up. We've even been asking Ethan to help change diapers since each of his brothers have come along, and he refuses. Damn it! And when I was hugely pregnant with his brothers, sometimes when I dropped something, he was asked to pick it up. Like hell if I was going to bend over any more than I absolutely had to. But I would thank him and tell him what a big help he was, and you could practically see him swell with pride. 

The one drawback to the practice of putting them to work is that I have to balance whether or not they are going to make more of a mess helping me out than if I just do it myself - like the time one of my besties said that her daughters put all the groceries away for her but now, every time she opened a cupboard door, stuff fell out. Talk about giving one a complex; I'd start getting anxiety every time I walked into the kitchen. I can't stand stuff flying at my face - freaks me the F out!

In my house, nobody is exempt from my sweat shop - even the 16-month-old helps out. He has helped me stock toilet paper by carrying rolls from where we store it in the garage into the bathrooms, and has grabbed towels from the drawer to clean up water that he spills. He's picking up very quickly that his free ride only goes so far. He also helps me "sweep" after he eats - I set him on the floor and he eats the food he dropped.

Gross? Sure. But considering that I have caught him sucking on filthy shoes, frankly I'm not really bothered by him eating food he drops on the floor. A floor that I mop "somewhat" regularly. And holy moly, look at how white his socks are! They must have been brand new.

So, moms and dads, don't miss out on this gem you have at the ready; put those kids to work! You'll thank yourself for it, and really, they'll love the sense of responsibility they feel. Little kids love to please and this is one awesome way to help them accomplish that. Besides, it's been repeatedly said that "it takes a village" to raise children. Well, Nate and I have a small village right here in our house (feels weird to say that given that we're not quite up to the Duggar family's numbers) and let me tell you, I understand that saying completely. Completely.

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