Thursday, September 27, 2012

Driving While Parenting

Maybe the eighties had it right—maybe that “Baby on Board” sign really was a warning.

We’ve all seen the clips on the news magazine shows—they take the simulator to a high school and the kids learn how much drinking or texting can affect their driving. I am 100%, completely and totally in favor of this. There is no excuse for deliberately doing something that endangers lives—the more kids learn about this, the better.

But no one ever tells you how profoundly having children affects your driving.

And I’m not talking about that first drive with your newborn in the baby bucket, either. You know, the one where you go 5 mph below the speed limit, signal a half mile before intersections, and constantly ask the parent in the passenger seat, “Is the baby okay?” Not that.

The other day the kids and I drove to my husband’s office to meet him for lunch. So that’s a 15-minute drive, about half of it on the interstate. You’d better believe I took a deep breath when we parked. Then, after lunch, my husband drove the kids home. I drove home ALONE.

Turns out age hasn’t completely deteriorated my reflexes and decision-making abilities. In fact, I drive as well as I did ten years ago…when I’m alone.

This leads me to a whole series of reminisces, like that time when S. was two years old. She had a playgroup and we went to lunch with friends after. Then we both needed a nap, STAT. So, for the entire 45-minute drive home, she dropped and then cried for her ball. At some point, it wedged in that spot behind the seat that you can’t reach, even at stoplights. You know the spot?

Of course, the true lesson was that I handed her the ball when we got home and, with a hugely forced smile, said, “Here’s your darn ball.” Delighted, smiling as if she’d never done anything else, she said, “Darn ball?” Boy, was I glad I used the PG version.

So if all that drama is going on in a parent’s car, not to mention the seat-kicking, food management, drink spilling, arguing, perpetual making of car noises from boys, and the occasional UFO, it’s bound to affect the parent’s driving. Let’s not even get into sleep deprivation and chronic lateness!

Hasn’t ANYONE come up with safety measures to combat this? IV sedatives built into car seats? Noise cancelling devices in the armrest? Standard soundproof windows between front and rear seats? Built in nannies?

Well, until then, if you see a parent with kids in the car, be kind. Don’t honk if they don’t take that left turn into a marginal gap traffic. They’re driving while parenting—better safe than sorry!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Eight to Life

Life with an eight-year-old girl means…

She learns important things at school, like how to illustrate a joke (A clean one! What were you thinking?) with four letters written on her fingers and a stick figure drawn on her palm.

She will pull her math workbook out of her backpack, then take her backpack to her desk and FREAK OUT because she can’t find her math workbook, causing her parent to try to hack the dysfunctional online math workbook site, finally give up to go to the bathroom, and see the math workbook sitting on the table.

An absolutely incredible, amazing, stupendous very good day involves being selected as one of the best jumpers in tennickling. I don’t know—don’t ask me!

When you tell her to go inside, she will walk right past the two-car garage with the door wide open and stand by the front door screaming, “I can’t—it’s locked!” over and over.

Silence means trouble, but not like it did with a two-year-old. Silence means that, in the middle of changing, showering, brushing her teeth, setting the table, or any number of things that you didn’t know took long enough to HAVE a middle of, one of those shiny floating beings has drifted in front of her eyes and bespelled her into Not. Doing. Anything. These spells last until interrupted. So... Silence=Nothing happening

When you tell her to stop talking to her brother for a minute so he can hear you, the parent, she’ll start whispering to him. When you tell her to stop that, she’ll start making faces and poking him. When you tell her to stop that, she’ll burst into tears. Obviously.

On the other hand, she gets my jokes, likes the same books I like, and has fun shopping with me. Yeah, I’ll keep her.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


No, you’re not behind the times. Well, maybe you are. Who am I to judge? But pee-mail is not the next email, gmail, Hotmail, Facebook or Twitter.

I totally planned to steal the concept of pee-mail from a dog trainer’s website I once found (giving credit to said clever individual, of course), but in the course of Googling for the site, I found an Urban Dictionary entry for pee-mail, so it’s officially part of the language.

Yes, pee-mail is what your dog sends and checks every morning and night, plus a few times in between, sometimes leaving really long replies and sometimes just dropping a quick…drop. You know, the stuff he gets REALLY annoyed about if he doesn’t get to finish checking. The stuff that you—you human, you!—just don’t see the point of.

Walking a mile with the dog in the predawn darkness leaves me LOTS of time to think about this. And, really, it creates so many parallels to human behavior that my head is about to explode! So bear with me.

Now, there are some places the dog just goes. Lampposts still top the list for this—he doesn’t have to sniff, he knows everyone’s already had their say on it, he adds his two cents worth. Let’s call this Peebook. Whatever you’ve got, automatically spray it here.

Then he finds places that warrant a good sniff or two—nothing serious, but definitely worth attention. These must be prestigious, high-profile spots because, after he makes his statement, he goes back to check it. And again, even on the way back by the spot going home. Whatever he posted here, he’s proud of it. He wants to make sure it gets the attention it deserves.

Since he pretty much handles his, uh…more substantial works the same way, we’ll combine categories and call these “p-log posts.”

Then we run across some spots—oh, boy! He paces back and forth, quartering the areas and sniffing like mad. He circles, nose to the ground. He pees. He does it all again, squeezing out every last drop to make his point. Let’s call this pee-communication a “p-rant.” Let’s call the spot he’s focused on obliterating Kristen Stewart, gay marriage, Lance Armstrong, mompetition, any form of politics…whatever the flavor of the week may be.

And me, poor human? I’m stuck standing outside in the humid, bug-infested dark, bored out of my mind, waiting for a junkie who just can’t pull himself away from the information exchange.

So, hmmmm. Yeah, we humans could learn a little something. Especially we parents. The little people waiting patiently for us to swap “opinions” probably get a bit bored, impatient, and uncomfortable, too. And I imagine some of the folks we dump on just didn’t need it that day.

Thank goodness we humans have the option to leave our excrement in the toilet, in p-rivate, and choose to take our better selves out in public.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Random Parenting Wisdom

Anyone who tells you that you’ll get to teach your kids is really kidding you. Life teaches them. They teach you. This is the natural order of things. So what have I learned recently???

DON’T be too specific when correcting a child’s behavior. You don’t want to say, “Take your hand off the TV.” Then you will end up having to say, “Take your foot off the TV.” “And your elbow.” “That elbow, too.” “For Pete’s sake, don’t LICK the TV!”

DO use general, positive language when speaking to a child who is testing your authority. For example, say, “Use good manners.” This will give you endless opportunities to say, “That’s not good manners.” “Neither is that.” “Nope, that’s not good manners, either.”

Wait. Both of those suck…

DON’T ever tell a reluctant eight-year-old to do homework at a creaky table. You will lose your mind before she writes out the second 9-digit number in expanded form. If the groans, sighs, and head-flops don’t get you, the endless squeaks with every letter and subsequent erasure will definitely do it.

DO use small words when speaking firmly to elementary-age children. Nothing breaks the mood faster than an inadvertent tongue-twister on a parent’s part.

DON’T ever establish a consequence you can’t control. For example, “That’s going to break if you keep jumping on it!” It will never, ever break. You lose a lot of credibility that way. On the other hand, you won’t have to buy a new one.

DO get your kids a good-natured dog. Yes, it’s a lot of money and work. But being able to say, “Go chase the dog with your dumptruck—I mean, go play with the dog!”? Priceless. And cheaper than therapy.

DON’T ever be surprised. By anything. Anywhere.

DO get botox. If your facial muscles are frozen, you’ll stand a better chance of keeping a straight face as you say, “Don’t throw your underwear on the dinner table!”

True story. Well, except nobody here has botox. Needless to say, we didn’t keep straight faces. We did do some interesting gymnastics to disguise our twisted faces, though.

Monday, September 3, 2012

My Sweet Babies

Pure love at 3 months and 3 years, respectively. Where did these babies go?
I've hit a new stage in my journey as a parent. I used to be able to look at old photos and say to the kids, "Wow! You've grown." Now I'll run across old photos and say, "Is that you?"

Of course, I know my children are, in fact, the babies in the photos. (Unless there are changelings involved, and some days I truly believe that's possible.) And I remember every step of the way from there to here--but not always, and not all at once.

There are too many memories in between for me to store them all in the front of my mind, so they have moved from my RAM to my ROM. I feel so blessed to have those memories, and so many of them, but I get that feeling sometimes. Like when you're on a familiar drive, commuting, and thinking through a tough problem in your mind and then, all of a sudden, you're there...well, I'm here.

I love the things my children have learned and done in the years they've been with us, and I can't wait to see what they do next. I look with pride on their physical selves, with all the signs of their personalities becoming imprinted on them--both have the wiry muscles that come from a never-stop, never-say-die attitude toward climbing and swimming, S. has the presence of an artist and the sparkling smile of a true humorist, while A. has the big eyes and thoughtful brow of an observer and thinker.

I love seeing their bodies and personalities develop in concert, but any rite of passage tends to make me sigh for a moment. I remember both of their first skinned knees, the first marks on their perfect baby skin. I loved what it meant--that they had tackled the world (literally, in the case of my kids!) and had adventures and gone for it! I also sighed for what it meant--they grew up a little that day.

Add up all the days between then and now....Sigh.

Okay, I'm finished. I can't wait to see what they tackle next!

Keep building!
Keep climbing!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Welcome to His World

I only have one brother, and I didn't really pay much attention to him when he was five. I had eight-year-old things to do then, and we all know how important those are! (If you don't, ask someone who is eight; they will tell you.)

So I'm really enjoying exploring the world of my almost-five-year-old boy. I mean that literally. He's an introvert, so he enjoys his quiet time in his room after school. Every day, when I finish my work and go get him for snack, he has created a new world. Sometimes it's the solar system, sometimes a park, a train track, a museum, or a town with all of the above.

Solar system--with Pluto that time.

He just recently discovered Transformers--robots? And vehicles? In one? Are you kidding? I thought he might explode. Of course, we have no Transformers as yet, so he made some....

See the green cement mixer and orange bulldozer turned into robots?
And this whole amazing town with the "world's longest water slide" was inspired by a book illustration that showed a lot of people waiting (patiently) in line for said water slide...

See how the line of people in the book (spelling "patience") ends at the start of the slide?
These little glimpses--okay, sometimes they're big glimpses and REALLY hard to walk around--into the complexities of his mind definitely educate me. It's a lot easier to be calm in the face of his frustration when I know how many things he's juggling in that brain of his. (I said easier, not easy!)

I'm glad my little guy can bring some of his world into ours--I like visiting there!