Saturday, March 30, 2013

Parents Suck. The End.

It's nearly midnight, and I can't sleep.  I know what's keeping me up, and I know that I won't sleep until I purge my system, so to speak... therefore, I write.

Disclaimer:  This is going to come off sounding like I'm holier than thou, and I really don't care.  It's going to come off sounding like I'm complaining, and I really don't care.  I know it's neither.  I'm getting this off my chest because what happened today was insanity.  And by the way, I'm a fierce competitor.  And my girls will be, too.  But seriously?  This was just too much.

Today, Benny and I took the girls to an Easter Egg Hunt.  And there's your first clue as to what the coming vent will entail.

We had gone to the South Ogden hunt last year and had a wonderful experience.  My plan was that we would take them again this year, but we got a late start on the morning and before we knew it, it was too late to make it.  So, we decided just to hit the hunt at the Dinosaur Park.  We took the kiddos and let them play on playground while they set up each age groups hunt.  The hunt was supposed to start at 10:30, and at about 10:15, they opened up the gates for all of the 1-4-year-olds to stand around the outside of the small field and stare at the hundreds of eggs just waiting for them.  Unfortunately, there was some miscommunication somewhere down the line as to start-time, and we stood there staring at the eggs for 30 minutes.

With kids from age 1-4, you can imagine that after a while, some of them just couldn't take it.  There were sobs, screams and tantrums galore.  But not my girls.  They stood their quietly watching the eggs... I like to think they were planning their attack.  I imagine that Hazel's attack plan went a little like this:

"I'm gonna get THAT pink one, and then THAT pink one, then THAT pink one, and then THAT pink one!"

While Millie's was more:

"I'm gonna stay by sissy and do what she does, mkay?"

And had I known what was about to happen, I would have pulled them aside and said:  "Look kiddos, what I'm gonna need you to do is run to the middle of the field and start picking up eggs."  Yea, that would have been the way to do it.

It's midnight and I still can't believe what happened.  I'm still disheartened by the insensitivity of parents.  I'm still aghast at just... everything.

There are no words to describe how my heart broke when those two little girls - who stood waiting patiently, without crying or screaming, for 30 minutes staring at a field of plastic eggs - did not get a SINGLE egg because the parents of the other children there swarmed on the field like locusts helping their children pick up the eggs.

This, after the management repeatedly asked parents to stay back and only let children on the field.  It was announced repeatedly prior to the hunt and I was all:  WE KNOW ALREADY!  LET'S GET GOING!

I think that Benny and I were the only ones there that got it, because when they finally let the kids go, the rest of the parents pushed and shoved their way to the front of the swarm and helped their kiddos pick up the eggs.  Some even doing it on hands and knees, effectively blocking any forward progress for anyone behind them.

After staring at them patiently all morning, suddenly, my girls couldn't see the eggs.  Shoot, I couldn't see the eggs.  Their view was blocked by the legs of all of the parents in front of them.  Benny and I stood back and watched it happen.  Because at that point, there was no way we could have done anything to help.  We were just as shut out as the girls were.  I kept scanning the ground behind the mass to see if maybe someone had overlooked one or two eggs... but nothing.  I'm not sure the hunt even lasted a minute... and the eggs were all gone.  Every single one of them.  Our girls were in the middle of the field emptyhanded.... watching kids with buckets absolutely brimming with eggs running around excitedly. Seriously? You helped your kid get THAT many eggs and didn't think that maybe it was too much?  Or that maybe they didn't need your help and you should have stepped back?

To their credit, neither cried.  Hazel was sad, though.  She just held on to Benny's leg and looked around with a question on her face.  She didn't really understand what had happened.  Millie was fine... because she's still to young to understand that adults are super stupid sometimes and also... that she'd gotten screwed.

Mommy, though... Mommy was near tears.  Because I could only think about Hazel's excitement as she held on to her basket and waited for the signal to go... her excitement at seeing all those eggs... her pure joy when we told her she was going to get to hunt for Easter Eggs that morning.  And then to end up with nothing? Thank goodness for big sunglasses.  Sure, it was nice when one of the mothers who walked by and saw the empty baskets had her son give the girls eight from his stash of about 30.   I had to bite my tongue and actually thank this woman... who was part of the problem.  I had to THANK her.  I couldn't say to her in that moment that it wasn't the number of eggs that was the problem... it was the "hunt" that had been spoiled.  The sheer excitement of finding an egg, claiming it as your own, putting it in your basket and then running on to the next one. Our kids, if they'd had access to the eggs, probably would have ended up with maybe five each.  And they would have found those on their own... and would have been absolutely proud of those five eggs... and it would have been a great memory.

This parenting stuff is madness sometimes and there are times that yes... you do the wrong thing.  And I get it.  I do.  But to see how every parent today behaved?  As though their child was the only one there?  And who cares what the rules are and how many people you hurt to get them what you think they deserve simply because they're your child?  How can they sleep at night?  What did they teach their child today? 

It's MIDNIGHT and I'm still shocked by it.  Years ago, a friend of mine told me that she doesn't take her kids to public Easter Egg Hunts because of the parents.  And when she told me, I won't lie... I thought maybe she was being overly protective or dramatic.  Now I know... she was spot on.

And that's why I'm joining the ranks of parents who will never take her kids to a public Easter Egg Hunt again.

Friday, March 29, 2013

My Orange Rhino Project

I read something online the other day that struck a nerve with me.  It was written by a woman who has four boys under the age of five. I assumed that it would be the typical MY KIDS ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY BUT AT LEAST I HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOR ABOUT IT post that I usually read  to reaffirm that I'm not the only one who thinks this parenting crap is hard.  I'm attracted to those types of posts because... hey, I feel you!!.  And if you can get through it and keep your sense of humor intact, maybe I can learn something from you.  Lord knows, that's one of the only things I use the internet for these days.  Well, that and Words With Friends.  And to research how to get my 2-year-old to poop like a normal human being again. 

But this was different.  The title of the article is what drew me in:  10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling At My KidsCards on the table, my immediate thought was that she probably learned that she needed more wine and maybe a massage.  Anyway, in the article, the author describes her utter mortification when a handyman working in her home heard her go off on her boys in a way that only a mama with four boys under the age of five could do.  And how at that moment, she decided she would go an entire year of not yelling at her kids. 

I know, right?  Four boys? I've got two girls and if I can go a day without yelling at them, I'm all:  "Dude, this parenting crap is CAKE. Speaking of cake, pass the cake, please!  I deserve a reward"

An entire year? That's madness... and a ticket straight to the asylum.  Or at the very least, the bar.

But, as I started reading, I saw in her writing so much of what I'm doing right now when I am "communicating" with my children.  And it hit home just how much I whiff as a mother every. single. day with these girls... in ways that I haven't even realized.  I'm human... I know I'm fallible and I fully admit that there are moments that are a swing and a miss.  Where I see the ball coming and take my eye off of it for a split second and boom... strike zone.  But I'm talking about looking beyond those moments... and instead look at the whiffs I haven't even considered. And when I thought about that?  I punched myself in the eyeball for being a complete and utter idiot about, you know... life in general.

I'm really trying not to be one of those mothers who laments how hard it is to work outside the home... I am well aware that stay-at-homers have it just as tough... and we all make our choices and yada yada yada. But, you guys... getting the kids out of the house, into the car, out of the car, into school, up the stairs, checked in and then dropped off in their classroom each day without losing my mind takes a freakin' act of God.  First off, The Bean can't decide if she wants me to pick her up, or put her down, or pick her up, or put her down, or pick her up, or put her down.  But she does know that if you decide on which one it will be, SHE DEFINITELY WANTS THE OTHER ONE.

While The Bird adds to the situation by questioning every single thing you say.

"Hazel, please put your shoes and jacket back on, and go get in the car."
"Because we're late."
"Because you took your shoes and jacket off while I was busy playing charades with Millie.  Let's go!"
"Because I asked you to.  Nicely."
"But whyyyyy did you ask me to nicely?

And so it goes until Mommy just can't take it anymore and turns into the Mommy she swore she'd never be.  The one that yells at her children because they're being... children. 

It is with this background that I read the Yelling post.  The author refers to herself and to the project as The Orange Rhino.  Orange to remind herself to be mellow and more warm... and not ferocious (which would clearly be a Red Ostrich). And Rhino because rhinos charge with their horn, and she was charging with her words.  She was aggressive.  She was loud.  And she was scary.

She was... me.  

You know, sometimes you have epiphanies reminiscent of a light going on over Wile E. Coyote's head when he has a really good idea. It's a nice fuzzy feeling that comes over you... slowly so as not to startle you... and you're all:  "Hey!  Ice cream for dinner!  Yay!"

Other times, that epiphany is a grand piano falling from the sky, landing on you... when you thought you had everything figured out. It comes hard and fast.  And there's no escaping it.  And you end up bruised, battered... and probably with a mouthful of piano keys.

But if you're open to it, it is life-changing.  That's what the Orange Rhino was to me. 

Bottom-line?  I have yelled at my kids too much.  And it has always bothered me.  It's bothered me because I've been yelled at a lot in my life, from many different people... and I can honestly say that yelling never made things better for me.  It always made me feel bad about myself.  It always made me question myself.  Yelling at my kids has never made things better for anyone.  What... they're crying and so I'm going to yell at them to stop crying and expect it to happen?  Because I used my Mom Voice?  Madness.

I've heard it said that you emulate those traits that you despise most in others.  And I'll be damned if I wasn't becoming what I loathed:  A Yeller.  Even worse... A Yeller At Kids.

And that's just where I was until I read about the Orange Rhino.  

Without even making the life-changing statement of: I'm not going to yell at my kids for an entire year... well, I've stopped yelling at my kids.  I have gotten angry when the nonsensical drama occurs every 36 seconds, sure.  But it hasn't resulted in yelling.  It's resulted in me leaving the room a few times to gather my thoughts... it's resulted in hugs rather than screams... and it's resulted it me truly listening to the girls, and their knowing that I'm truly listening to them.  That?  THAT'S HUGE. 

Last night, after a particularly horrendous five minutes where both girls were screaming and crying because one of them hadn't napped well and the other one was just being three, they both got to snuggle on my lap while I read them bedtime stories.  Had I blown up at them as I was tempted to do because I'd had an awful day and I was tired and sick of the whining/crying, I never would have experienced the joy that was holding my two little girls while reading Where The Wild Things Are along with them and listening to them roaring their terrible roars, gnashing their terrible teeth, rolling their terrible eyes and showing their terrible claws.  I never would have experienced the giggles and kisses and pure sweetness of having both girls lay their heads on my shoulders as I read them Oh The Thinks You Can Think! and help them trace the tail of a zong through the pages to determine just how long its tail was.

I would have missed it all because it would have been tainted.  I would have been upset at myself for yelling.  I would have been upset at them for making me yell at them.  (Mommy-logic) It wouldn't have been a legitimate story time and cuddle session with them.  It would have been a make-up for yelling at them... and we would have missed out on a memory that I'll always treasure.  

And kids, they can sense stuff.  They can sense when you're open for those moments... and when you're not.  And they feed off of that.  So even if all of the tears had been wiped away and the sorrys been divvied out - as has been our custom - I know I wouldn't have been open.  And they wouldn't have been either.  It would have been an opportunity missed.  Instead, we created a memory for us all of quiet time together with no yelling or crying... just giggles, kisses and peace.   

It has only taken me three days of being an Orange Rhino to see a change in myself.  I can't believe that it's taken me this long to figure out that I was what I swore I would never be... a yeller.  And that it took me this long to figure out that yelling never helps the situation.  It never fixes the problem... it may cover it up like a scab on a wound, but it doesn't fix it.

And I will forever be indebted to this woman - this stranger - who gave me a tool that I didn't even know existed.  I will consider my parenting a success if my girls don't have to have this similar epiphany when they have kids of their own. 

And to ensure that happens, Orange Rhino will be on the clock.

Three days and counting.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Apologies In Advance To Aunt KC

As we were driving home from school today, we passed Odyssey Elementary School, and I pointed out how cool that school is because it has a spaceship built into it.  It was Hazel's first experience with the word spaceship, so I channeled my inner Neil deGrasse Tyson to attempt to explain to her about space and astronauts going to the moon.  It helped that I had just watched the video below and was still feeling inspired:

And by the way, I'll just put it out there right now... I've totally got an NPR/Daily Show-induced crush on Tyson.  And Ira Glass.  And Peter Sagal.  And given the fact that NdGT is a scientist, I really think I could get approval from Benny to get him on my Laminated List.  And that particular joke right there will only be understood by a select few people of my generation who were as rabid fans of Friends as I was. 

Anyhoo, so there we were, driving along talking about how cool it would be to go to the moon and, BTW... why has no one ever told me about the genius and hilarity of conversations with 3-year-olds? Had I known that the light at the end of the tunnel during those first few months of newborn hell included the innocent and sweet humor that only a three-year-old can produce was just 36 months away, I would have certainly considered not crying every night.

Seriously...there is honestly no one on this planet that can make me laugh as hard and as heartfelt as The Bird.  How can you not laugh when the following conversation takes place:

"So, do you want to be an astronaut and go to the moon?"
"Yea!  I do!  And I can bring Millie?"
(Heart swells with pride) "Sure!  You can bring Millie!"
"And you?"
"Yes!  I'll come, too!"
"And Daddy?"
"I bet he would want to come, too!"
"Should we bring Bonnie?"
"Yes... I mean, NO!!"
"Why not?"
"That's because Bonnie will poop and pee on the moon."
(Must control laughter) "That's true..."
"And she will poop and scratch  and chew and ruin the moon."
"But since there's no gravity, the poop and pee would float!"
"I know!  Floating poop!!!  But we could put a diaper on her. That would help and she could come then, right?"
"Yea!  But she has to have a diaper on."
"Okay.  What about Aunt KC?"
"Aunt KC can't come!"
"Why not?"
"That's because she'll poop on the moon, too!!"
(DYING) "Maybe we should put her in a diaper, too?"
"Aunt KC can't be in a diaper, Mommy!  That's just silly!  That was a silly question."

The Wormhole

Kiddos.  Love them.  Greatest thing I'll ever do with my life.

End of story.

But in order to survive this wonderful gift that we give to ourselves... this gift of no longer putting ourselves first and the gift of celebrating major victories like showering at least every other day... we must acknowledge the complete ridiculousness that is raising kiddos.

This is one of those acknowledgements.  Or as Law and Order would say:  THESE ARE THEIR STORIES.

Kids are funny.  They will make you laugh harder than you ever thought possible when you see your reflection in their actions.  For instance, when The Bird immediately removes her shoes and socks in the car after school and starts cleaning out the lint between her toes ("that's because they're dirty").  Which I realize I have inadvertently taught her because:

#1 - I hate socks.  And shoes. 
#2 - I hate lint between my toes
#3 -  I LURVE playing with my toes absently... usually while watching TV.   Which grosses Benny out.  Benny... the man who plays with fish each and every day is grossed out by me touching my toes.

Think about that for a minute.

But, I digress.  While kiddos will delight you in unexpected ways, like when The Bean will repeat over and over "Wuv. Eye. U!" to my "Eye. Wuv. U!" as I'm putting her to bed.  But, they're also prone to completely irrational meltdowns because - as they so eloquently put it between the sobs of despair - "I ONNA DO IT!".

'IT' being the first step of  a process - ANY PROCESS - that I've perfected over the last two years of raising two strong-willed children. Like almost all Mommy's I know, I have instituted policies and processes to help ensure survival of the Nadolski Clan.  There are processes for most everything... with the notable exception of laundry.  And then it's every man, woman and child for themselves.

For example, herding both kiddos out the door and into the car to go to school each day.  The Bird walks out to the car on her own.  She is now able to do so without falling on her face when she misses the first step off the porch... so yay for time healing all wounds and learning from past mistakes!! She can now also open the car door on her own (and very rarely falls out of the car as she's attempting to close the door) and then waits for me to come buckle her into the car seat.  It is now rare that I have to hold her down to buckle her in while she goes into convulsions because I put her ponytail two centimeters too far left on her head and WHAT AM I TRYING TO DO?  KILL HER?  She can now sit in the seat and "help" me buckle her in.  Which I let her do because... hey, we're on the verge of a morning without tears and if it takes me cutting off my left hand to meet that standard of parenting excellence, so help me God, I'm going to do it.

Now The Bean... her usual routine has been me carrying her out to the car and putting her next to her car seat so that she can climb in, stand up and then on my count of 1-2-FREEEEEEE! jump up, hit her head on the ceiling of the car and land on her bummy in the car seat amidst giggles of delight before letting me me buckle her in.  This is, of course, after she has turned on the light above the door... which I will not realize until after I make the day care drop off, head to the airport to catch a flight to whocareswhere and return two days later to a dead battery in 8 inches of snow... BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT BEING A MOMMY IS THESE DAYS. 

Yea... those were the days.  Those days ended about two weeks ago.  Almost exactly on her 2nd birthday when suddenly she began to repeat her mantra of "I DO IT!"  Usually followed by her second favorite phrase:  "I FAW DOWN!"  Followed by:  "HEP ME!"

But, back to the original point. What I've learned in the last few days is that it's not just the end goal of doing something by herself that The Bean is after.  If reaching the goal is a five-step process and you try to help her reach that goal by helping her get past step one... say, opening the front door and helping her on to the porch to begin the now TIME KILLING process of climbing into the car so that she can turn on the light, jump up, hit the ceiling with her head and then land on her bummy?  Well, there are things that are unacceptable: North Korea with a nuke... unacceptable.   Snow in July... unacceptable.  Pre-mixed mojito served in Miami... UNACCEPTABLE.

Then there are things that will cause a 2-year-olds brain to melt right out of her ears and open the flood gates to the point where you start looking for the animals to show up in twos.  Skipping the first step because Mommy did it for you?  That's one of them.  And it will cause a scene that makes me wonder why I ever thought that I could schedule that conference call for 9 a.m. because yea... we're not getting out of here any time soon. And there will be tears, snot and probably a little of my blood at the end of it.  And so much for that new blouse I was going debut at the office today to prove to everyone that it's a choice to continue to wear my maternity clothes because they're so damn comfy but yes, I can dress up when and if I feel like it.


So, The Bean cries up a storm while I'm buckling The Bird in and then proceeds to backtrack the progress I made for her... insisting on going back into the house so that she can walk out of the house on her own because... say it with me now:  "I ONNA DO IT!"  The roadblock in this little plan being that she is unable to open up the door... like physically unable to open the door to get back into to the house so that she can open the door to go outside.  You see my problem here?  I open the door for her to get into the house so that she can perform step one and then she gets upset that I opened the door for her to help her to get to step one, but let's not forget that she's not physically capable yet of performing step one because she can't open up the door, which is where we are right now and OMG I'M IN A WORMHOLE. 

Which is right about the time that Mommy's Patience Clock - which was reset at approximately 8 p.m. the night before when both kids were finally, blessedly, in bed - runs out.  The Bean may be the strongest little rugrat (seriously... her quad muscles make me green with envy) you've ever met, but for now I still hold the upper hand... what with my ability to open and shut doors... and pick her up kicking and screaming, carry her to the car and hold her down in the seat while I buckle her in.

All while The Bird looks on in bewilderment as if to say:  What's her problem?

As if she didn't JUST age out of this behavior.