Category Archives: parenting

She could have totally kicked my ass….

I am not really sure why I feel absolutely compelled to write this post – right now. 

But I do.

So I will.

Maybe today one of my readers needs to hear this story – I am not sure – but I am going trust my gut and share.

This isn’t particularly easy for me – but I am going for it.

If you know me, you might not imagine that I was bullied in high school. I am pretty confident (okay, most of the time) and I am not afraid to stand my ground (pretty much ever). I’m not gorgeous or particularly hideous. In those days, I fit pretty much right smack dab into the middle of just about everything. Not too tall. Not too short. Not too fat. Certainly not too skinny. Not too geeky. Certainly not too cool.

In high school, I had plenty of friends and I had dates to just about every function – most of the time I had a boyfriend. I made good grades but wasn’t a total nerd. I owned at least one pair of Tiger shoes and a pair of Guess jeans. Had me a pair of Gloria Vanderbilts too. And at least 3 shirts donning that Lacoste gator. So I wasn’t necessarily setting trends but I wasn’t a fashion abomination. Continuously falling right smack in the middle.

Because I was President of the Student Government and an officer in several other clubs, I also had fantastic relationships with quite a few teachers – okay, maybe I was more nerdy than I realized. But, the point is – I didn’t ever have to walk down the hall alone – I wasn’t invisible to teachers. I knew lots of people and got along with most of them.

Except one girl.

I won’t share her real name – but she did not like me – not one little bit. (I guess I will call her Tasha – because that’s not really her name.)

Tasha hated me.

H.a.t.e.d. M.e.

I mean really hated me. Really, really.

Honestly, I didn’t really care so much if she hated me. Her impression of me wasn’t that important to me.

Remember – I was a pretty confident kid – I completely understood that her opinion of me did not define me. Just because she called me a bitch (or worse) every. single. time. she saw me walk down the hallway did not mean I was a bitch or worse. That was clear to me.

However, she could have totally kicked my ass. I was pretty afraid that one day she would realize her words didn’t work to hurt me and that she would turn to sticks and stones to try and break my bones.

It was painfully obvious to me that the only way to survive a fight with Tasha was to never get in a fight with Tasha.

She was in my face. A lot.

And I was scared of her. A lot.

But I would just walk down a different hallway. I didn’t come back at her with words and certainly never with actions.

My worst experience with her was one night at a party at the lake.

She found out I was there and came looking for me. Running up the hill with her friends, screaming, “Where is sheeee?”

Thank God I was in the bathroom with the door locked. (Teach your children to lock the bathroom door at a party.)

She pounded on the thin wooden door for what seemed like 15 minutes, daring me to come out.

Then begging me to come out.

There I stayed – behind that locked door – probably shaking – trying to guess what my best option was. Thinking what was the worst that could happen if I came out.

That was easy. She could have totally kicked my ass.

Totally.

So I figured my best plan was to leave. Quickly.

Apparently, Tasha didn’t like that little life-preserving decision of mine. Maybe she was tired of me turning away from her. I don’t really know.

But, she positioned herself in front of me – and in front of everyone else, she threw her drink on me. Right down the front of my shirt. The funny thing was I had borrowed that cute white sweater from a friend of mine. Who was also a friend of hers.

Of course, it was a red punch drink of one sort or another.

My theory remained in tact – the surest way to not get beaten up was to not get in a fight.

I headed to my car, ever grateful that I still had my keys with me.

Tasha headed to her car. If I remember right, it was a jeep. I could be wrong on that. But I think it was.

Two girls in my class drove jeeps – the homecoming queen and Tasha. Funny little Southern irony there.

Anyjeep.

I drove on the dark hilly road along that lake scared out of my mind. Not knowing where I was going. No cell phone. No GPS. Just sheer adrenaline and prayer. Lots of prayers.

Tasha followed me very closely. And it was my distinct impression that several times she tried to run me off the road.

Yes, you’re right. She was mean as hell.

Somehow, I made it out of the woods in one piece, without wrecking my car and without getting in a fight.

That night I went to bed in that red-stained sweater, still shaking. I never told one adult what happened. In fact, I never really talked about it with my friends – even those who were there.

Tasha’s need to spew her hate at me seemed to quiet down after that night. Maybe she scared herself too. Who knows but I enjoyed a little respite.

She didn’t say much more to me until we were rehearsing for graduation. I was asked to give the prayer for the graduating class.

Tasha was my motivation.

My prayer appeared focused on the global picture of war and hate but it was meant for her.

Stop hating. Stop scaring. Now, I was begging her.

She pretended to shoot me as I walked down the stairs from the stage.

Finally, I said something.

“Oh, I think you got me this time.”

I must have looked ridiculous clutching my chest and pretending to be shot. But I finally felt it. Enough already.

Several months later, a dear friend of mine invited me to join her in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl. She went to Auburn and they were playing Alabama (my favorite team).

My only reservation in going was that I knew Tasha had moved to New Orleans. Yes, I was still worried enough about her that I almost didn’t go.

The friend who had invited me reassured me – it’s a huge town, thousands of people are going to be there to see the game, you’ll never see her. What are the chances?

You can probably guess what the chances were – 100%.

We were walking down the street and, towards us, came Tasha.

My heart tightened and I had to catch my breath.

She walked right up to me and gave me the biggest, hardest hug.

WTF?

“I thought you hated me,” was all I could muster.

“Oh, that was high school,” she said and laughed.

Now we are facebook friends and we have joked about how much she hated me. Now she’ll know just how much she scared me, too. I couldn’t bring myself to laugh about that.

To be fair to Tasha, she has since shared with me that she thought I was mean to her friend – I thought Tasha hated me because of a boy who called me when he was “going with” her. Tasha said that she was defending her friend and was furious when her friend stopped being mad at me. I guess Tasha just couldn’t let go. To be fair to me, I don’t ever remember not liking this other friend or being mean to her. If I was, I am sorry for that.

As I said, I am not sure why I am supposed to share this story but I feel that I am.

Maybe there are some important things here. I will share what I think they might be…

  • Being nice is always the best option.
  • If someone comes to you with a bulling story, please do not tell them that they simply need to toughen up. Help them. It is really hard to share these things – if they thought they could handle it on their own, they would have.
  • There are books that can help you talk to kids about bullying. If you aren’t sure where to start, look here at Dinner A Love Story.
  • If your child is a bully – it’s not cool – he’s not tough, stop him now. Or her. (Boys aren’t the only bullies.)
  • If you are modeling bullying behavior for your child, stop it now. You are not cool and you are not tough. But I think you know that.
  • If you are bullying your own children, you might be creating bullies. Get help so you can stop the cycle. And get them help too.
  • Scaring someone is not entertainment. Buy a movie ticket.
  • It’s not always obvious who will be bullied. Even those who appear strong can be victims because weakness is in the eye of the beholder. And the beholder can be a vulture waiting to strike when no one is looking.
  • Those who are bullied will not always tell that they are being bullied.
  • Even if they have multiple safety nets.
  • If you are being bullied, tell someone. Someone you trust, especially if you are scared.
  • Red drink stains will come out of a white sweater with 409 and it’s good to lock the bathroom door at a party.

Taking the “er” out of Mother……

I know taking the “er” out of mother would simply leave us as “moth”s.

But maybe that wouldn’t be so bad.

Moths don’t care what their hair looks like, when their children start reading, or what size anyone’s jeans are.

Gray doesn’t mean they are older. It just means, well, they are gray.

Moths don’t need earrings that match a purse that matches their eyes. They don’t have to clip coupons (although that might be fun to watch). Moths don’t have to potty train their little moths so that they won’t embarrass them at the playground.

Moths are just, in every moment, moths.

They spend most of their time searching for bright, shiny light that has all the promise of warmth. And there’s lots of room around those lights for everyone to squish in and warm themselves. Those moths shy away from dark, lonely places.

It’s when we add in the “er” that comparisons ensue. We become mothers and comparers.

She is prettier.

Oh look, she is skinnier.

Her house is bigger.

Oh dear, her child is faster.

And her son is reading earlier.

She might just be better than me. Eeeeks.

Wait just one minute…

She is fatter. And my child is taller. Whew.

I recently read this fabulouso article by April Perry on a website called the Power of Moms (what a wonderful use of “er“) that details how social media isn’t helping mothers one bit. We spend too much time online mourning over who we are not.

We see meals on Pinterest that we could never actually make, party themes that would require an entire film crew to pull off, and others who are supposedly doing it better.

Facebookers share with us trips that we could not/did not go on and college scholarships our children won’t get.

Twitter takes clever to a whole new level. There is tremendous stress in trying to figure out how to be witty or impart wisdom in 140 characters or fewer, especially when emoticons are frowned upon as a wasted use of space.

All the while, our little moths sit and wait for us to stop clicking on keyboards and return to being just who they want us to be. Their mothers.

And if you have evidence that moths actually eat their young at birth, please don’t confuse the beauty of this symbolism with science. I am not trying to be smarter, just less “er“. And that cute little moth made me smile. 😎

Just in case you didn’t get enough of my “er”ism here – I wrote this post a while back. A small warning – I was snarkier then. 😉

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese………

Photo compliments of Campbells Soup

I just found out that someone that I care a great deal about is very sick.

“It’s amazing just how quickly your whole life can change,” is a phrase that I have repeated far too often this month. And it is amazing. How quickly these delicate lives of ours can change. In an instant.

What does that have to do with Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, you ask? Welllll, just about absolutely everything.

About a month ago, my son asked me what tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches taste like together. Yes, I have admittedly failed him as a parent.

“They are all sorts of fabuloso,” I exclaimed. The poor kid got to hear all about how I grew up on tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and Sprite. How saltine crackers are the best accompaniment and how Cheetos aren’t bad either. How oyster crackers stink because the poor babies are just too thick. How, when I was sick, not even penicillin could cure me as quickly as a can of Campbells and some Kraft singles melted perfectly between two buttered slices of Wonder bread.

It took my husband decades to learn the exact composition of milk and warmth that would soothe my woes and speed my recovery. I was like Goldilocks – this is too hot – this is too cold. Then, finally he heard the magic words, “oh, my dear, this is just right. I feel better already”.

The day my son asked me about the mythical combination was a warm winter day. Hardly worthy of tomato soup introduction. So I said, “sometime I will make it for you”.

Now the daffodils are blooming and winter promises to soon be barely a memory. I missed a chance to share some cheesey tomatoey goodness with my son on a blistery day. To create memories for him and relive memories for me.

And I am reminded that he will leave for college before I know it and that, while some may be better than others, there probably isn’t a bad day to make tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

So, today I hope I remember to slow down enough to smell the tomato soup and that life doesn’t change too quickly for me to enjoy it.

(By the way, the picture is from AllRecipes/Campbell’s recipe site. Yum, right?)

Swim Parent 101………

If your child has ever been involved in anything competitive (including learning to tie his shoes), you have run into the “my child ties his shoes better than your child” parent. It is exhausting. Swim parents are no exception. So I humbly offer some guidelines for those parents who will be sitting with other parents waiting for hours for their children to swim one and a half minutes more beautifully than any other children has ever swum before.

  • When attending a swim meet at an indoor pool, forgo the perfume/cologne. It does not mix well with the chlorine laden air. In fact, let’s just make this a life rule – if you are going to be around other people and you will not be able to spread your arms out straight to create some space between bodies, perfume is a no go.
  • Do use deodorant. Always. Every time.
  • Don’t forget to pack snacks. Snacks make a swim meet better.
  • Either buy a meet sheet or figure it out on your own. They are usually just a couple of dollars. Don’t keep asking for “just a peek” at the parent’s sheet next to you.
  • Walk outside to talk on your phone. Turn down your ipod.
  • If you say to your child, “you must get a 37.06 in this race” and your child’s response is “I just don’t know what you mean by that,” reconsider swimming as the sport of choice for your kid. Or at least temporarily suspend your hopes of Olympic Gold. If your child is younger than 8 and you are quoting must-meet times, check yourself. You are already an out-of-control swim parent.
  • Do not talk to the parent next to you when her child is swimming. Especially with a running commentary on his technique/speed/cuteness of suit.
  • Do not offer that parent advice on how his kid could improve his technique/dives/turns after watching him swim. Even if you have the best idea ever. No wait… especially if you have the best idea ever. Just say, boy that was a nice swim. Period. Done.
  • You really cannot predict height or wing span – even if the doctor “guesses” what the height of your child might be. Just let your kid swim the race at the meet you are attending and worry about how great they are “going” to be when they are sixteen when they are actually sixteen. And if you are using the term wing span in reference to your own child’s fabulousness, settle down. Have a snack – it is better to use your mouth for nourishment purposes at this point.
  • When you stand up in the stands and wave your arms wildly in a kicking motion, you can be pretty sure that your child’s thought bubble is not saying, “oh yippee, look at my mom being so super supportive and giving me last minute pointers. Thank God she reminded me to kick. I might have forgotten that at a swim meet I am supposed to kick.” Your child is actually thinking, “oh dear heavens, please sit down.”
  • If you are extremely out of shape, you lose credibility in the athletic world – no matter how great you might have been once. It is not fair, but it is very true.
  • Once your child dives in with a swim cap on over his ears and begins to swim with his head mostly under water, he will not hear you screaming. No matter how loud you scream. Yes, this is also unfortunately true for backstroke. But you can cause hearing loss or at least headache damage for the poor parent sitting next to you.
  • Sending a piercing whistling sound through the air every time your child’s head pops out of the water during breaststroke should be deemed a crime punishable by death.
  • Parents are generally not allowed on deck. Get over it. Of course, if you really want to be on deck, grab a stopwatch and volunteer to time. Every parent has felt the pang of watching her child walk through those big glass doors alone. We give our kids a cell phone to keep with them so they can reach us if they need something. Walkie talkies work too. And before we had cell  phones, we used our kids DS game – if you have two, they can talk to each other. But seriously, just consider volunteering. You will probably even get free food and all the bathroom breaks you need.
  • No matter how many different ways you can think of to praise your child, the parent next to you is still going to think her kid is better. Even if scientific evidence and swim times point to the contrary.
  • If your kid has a bad swim, don’t make excuses. It’s hard to get your best time – really hard. And humans make mistakes. I have never seen a kid intentionally screw up a flip turn or a dive or swim his slowest in a race. Not ever. So, when they get out of the water just love them for getting in the water in the first place. Let the coaches correct their technique. That is why you pay them. Too many kids are brought to tears by their parents opinion of a race.
  • and the Golden Rule of Swim Parent 101 – don’t ever, under any circumstances, ever quote another child’s time to his/her parent. Just be busy with your own child’s time and leave other children’s times on the time sheet where they belong.

Of course, all of these are offered humbly because I have been the victim of my own wisdom more than once. 😉

Stranger Danger……..

I was listening to the local news radio station and heard a news story that there had been a few attempted abductions of girls in the area. My mommy ears perked right up and I paid full attention.

There really is no need to panic and lock your children in the basement just yet. It seems that these have been isolated incidents which occurred pretty far away from each other and, thankfully, no-one was actually taken because the girls were able to get away. Truthfully, we don’t need stories like Penn State and this one to remind us that the sad reality is, whether it’s on the news or not, we have to teach our kids to be careful. The boogie man is, very unfortunately, real.

But we also have to teach them to live and laugh and enjoy.

So, how do you effectively scare the hell out of your kids so that they are watchful, but also insist that they relax enough to not need anxiety pills every time they step out of the front door? Welcome to the hard-core world of parenting where that kind of balance simply does not exist.

For example, yesterday Flower had a friend over. They wanted to go to the playground. They are old enough to go to the playground. They should be outside in the fresh air rather than sunk in a couch simultaneously texting (probably each other) and playing the Wii.

So, in attempt to master that impossible balance, I said to them, “Yes. You can go to the playground. But, girls, stay together. Come back when it’s dark. It’s not enough to have your phone, you must also answer it if I call you. And, if someone walks up to you with a picture of a puppy and asks you to get in the car to help him look for it – RUN!”

And then I added, “Oh yeah, now go have fun.”

We did seriously have a little chat about how unlikely it was that someone would warn them that they were about to be abducted and how much more likely it would be that they would be presented with a plausible, compelling reason to let their guard down. And how important it was that they not do that. It was really a light-hearted talk about being careful – we did laugh a little bit in between my bullet points. They walked out the door without trembling and had big smiles on their faces.

Surely that was balance achieved – wouldn’t you agree?

On their own, they decided not to go to the playground. There was someone there and they didn’t get a great vibe. So they opted to play in front of the house.

And then it happened.

A woman walked up to them and asked them if Flower and her friend had seen her little dog. It was already dark at this point and they could not make out her face.

No, I am not lying.

That is exactly what happened.

They looked at each other and looked at the woman. They were very quickly trying to figure out what to do. Clearly they had been paying attention to my presentation. But they didn’t recognize her and they didn’t run. Maybe it was the fact that she wasn’t in a car that threw them off. Or maybe it was that she didn’t have an actual picture in her hands. AURGH.

The woman must have sensed that they were a little spooked so, as she walked closer, she put the flashlight on her face. Flower realized it was a neighbor from our street.

They were freaked out. Flower’s friend thought I might be a witch capable of seeing into the future. (Which is clearly not the case, because I would have never let them out of my sight if I had a vision that a stranger in the dark asked them to help her find her dog.)

When the girls came inside they were at least giggling but still pretty nervous.

We all laughed about it. Okay, I pretended to laugh – I actually nearly threw up when they said a woman had really asked them to find her dog.

I am not sure I am cut out for this parenting nonsense. 😉

Oh, you had to know there would be more…………

Yesterday, I wrote these little parenting tips based on my vast experience in parenting non-success. And it’s not because I think I am a wicked smart parent. There’s too much evidence to the contrary for me to even try to believe that. 😎  I shared them simply because I wish someone had told me about these lessons before I figured the little nuggets out on my own (usually too late to use them).

After I hit publish, more ideas came to mind. Which is evidence of the number one rule in parenting – you are never really done. 😎

Anyparent, I thought would share some more ideas…

  • Your child does not need an orange plastic pumpkin for trick or treating. A pillow case will do just fine. And, by the by, even a small pillow case has a much bigger candy capacity than a large plastic pumpkin. (That will bode well for parents, too.) And, not for nothin’, there is not a single place your house that will work well for storing a large plastic pumpkin for the 364 days, 23 hours and 15 minutes that you will not be needing it. However, a pillow case tucks neatly back into the linen closet.
  • I think it is perfectly acceptable for teenagers to trick or treat, as long as they are dressed up and not playing mean pranks on the smaller goblins. Just have them make/buy their own costume. Kids grow up way too fast and if they want to (respectfully) do something childish, let them.
  • My kids don’t really like most of the candy they get on Halloween, so we very often donate the massive leftovers to the local hospital, fire/police station, or school office.
  • At some point, your children are going to lie to you. Maybe in a little way – maybe in a big way – maybe even in little and big ways – but it’s gonna happen.
  • Choosing not to breastfeed does not doom your children to remedial math.
  • Having a c-section does not mean you failed as a woman/mother.
  • When buying a blanket for your newborn baby, get (at least) two identical blankets. Yes, that is in case you lose/misplace/aliens steal one. Make sure you wash the spare whenever you wash the original so that they “feel” the same. You will thank me for this later. I promise. There is not a parent on this planet who can keep track of a baby’s blanket 24/7 for the number of years required to never have a special blankie go missing at exactly the worst possible moment for said blankie to go missing.
  • When you take your children to the grocery store (which you absolutely should do every now and then – even though it is easier not to), let them pick out just one thing. If they ask for something else, tell them they can have it but they have to put their other choice back. This is an invaluable lesson in not getting everything and making choices. When you are feeling really cocky, give them a spending limit. A relatively low spending limit.
  • When they are old enough, make your kids pay for some of their own things. It is amazing how quickly desires weaken when they are attached to the child’s own wallet.
  • If another parent or a teacher or a church leader has something not so fabulous to say about your child, listen to what they have to say. You do not have to agree with them. You do not have to like what they have to say. You don’t have to invite them over for dinner. But if another adult takes the time and energy to invest in helping your child, at least listen. Approaching a mama bear about her cub is dangerous business and if someone is willing to put him/herself out there, you should at least be receptive to hearing (and then digesting) what they have to say.
  • Having said that, no one knows your child as well as you do. If you believe that your child needs something, do not be afraid to ask for it. You will ultimately be your child’s biggest critic and but you must also be his/her biggest advocate. It is a tricky balance but you are best suited for it. And no one else is going to do it for you.
  • When your child talks to you, stop what you are doing and look them in the eyes and listen – just as you want them to do for you.
  • Teach your children the difference between emergencies – “the world is ending” is not the same as “I stubbed my toe”. Patience really is a virtue. And teaching your child to not interrupt adult conversations just because they want to, is a gift that will last them a lifetime. (And when you figure out the magic trick on this one, please share.)
  • Bandaid baskets are magical. Always have one at the ready. Nothing makes a child feel better than having a boo boo taken seriously. Let your child sit on the counter so s/he is face-to-face with you and go all Florence Nightengale on his/her scratches. The bandaids will mend the scrapes – the attention will mend everything else. Sometimes the boo boo doesn’t really hurt that bad, but your child just might need a break from the chaos that caused it.
  • Just because you can, does not mean you should. Sometimes parents should just make do when making do is good enough. Not everything has to be bigger and better and more sparkly. There is tremendous value in being happy with what you already have vs. always getting everything else you want.

And that is enough of what I have learned. If you have more to share, please do!

A tip or two………..

As I look back on my parenting journey, I realize, I have made me some mistakes. And so now I am going to share some of my knowledge (earned the hard way, of course) to spare you some pennies and aggravation…..   

  • Rain boots, snow boots, rain jackets, and snow jackets should be bought in black, blue, or green.  This is especially true if your oldest child is a girl. Yes, pink and green rain boots with frogs carrying umbrellas are absolutely adorable. However, if your second child is a boy…. well, let’s just say the playground can be a mean place. (Important Disclaimer – if your son wants to wear the rain boots with frogs and umbrellas, you should absolutely let him.)
  • When writing names in stuff – shirts, towels, lunch boxes, backpacks, think of writing your last name. Then anyone can use it. Ah ha, right? If you have a common last name, just add a star or some other identifying mark behind it.
  • Ask any 14 year old what happened at his/her 3rd birthday party and it is extremely unlikely that he/she will remember. Keep it simple and inexpensive and apply the pony/clown/expensive (but really cute) cake dollars to college savings. (And no, it doesn’t count if said 14 year old remembers simply because you have pulled out the scrapbook at every birthday and taken a trip down birthday party lane.)
  • It really isn’t ideal to be the last parent picking up at anything.
  • If you have a child who tends to be on the shy side, try arriving at school, parties, practices a little early. It is much easier to watch an event unfold and become larger/busier than it is to jump into the middle of chaos.
  • Leave parties and functions when your child is still happy. If you wait until they crash, well then, they have crashed. That’s never pretty.
  • If you have a gut feeling about something, pay attention. Really.
  • If you have good friends who have kids and you aren’t a big fan of their kids, you can spend adult time with them sans children. You can like a person (a whole lot) and not like their parenting (a whole lot). It’s okay.
  • There will be things that you worry about that you will be able to laugh about later. Pinky swear.
  • Never say never – as in “my child would never”. That never ends well unless you are fond of a diet consisting largely of the feet you will end up putting in your mouth. It is a cosmic law of the parenting universe that the exact moment the word “never” leaves your lips is the exact moment your child will do exactly whatever it is you said he would “never” do – or worse.

I am sure I have more brilliance tucked away but that’s it for now. 😉

The used-to-be me……

This whole blog started off as a way of journaling our move to India so we would capture – and never forget – the details of our adventure. I wanted to remember the monuments and the memories but had no real way of knowing that, while those were fun, they were insignificant in what we should remember from our experience. The memories came from traveling – but the lessons came from everyday life. The routine that never actually became routine.

We have been home for over a year now and I still have not written about everything. And I have (finally) accepted that I will never write about everything. You just cannot remember it all – and even if you could remember every detail – there is simply no way to explain it all. Partly because India hits everyone a little differently and partly because there are just not enough words.

Unfortunately, I drop little pieces of our India experiences like sand falling off my shoe.  Some of them are hard reminders and I eagerly (and unfortunately) toss them out like I would a rock cradled under my toe. Others just drift away all on their own. And this blog was supposed to be like a big broom and sweep up everything. It turns out there is not a blog or broom big enough for that task.

One by one, you barely miss a piece of sand – but together they can form a beach. It is not good to lose a beach of experience. It’s really not.

Alas.

But what is making me really frustrated and sad is that I changed in India and I am losing some of that. India taught me to be more patient and to have a bigger world perspective. To remember the reality of it all. And, damnit, I am letting myself get caught up in some of the nonsense again. My perspective is shrinking and re-framing.

In many ways, India brings non-Indians to their knees. It’s hard to live in an “all-about-me” bubble when you are constantly bombarded with people suffering and struggling and still surviving – and surviving happily. The people who have the most to legitimately complain about actually complain about nothing. I am not sure if they don’t complain because they don’t think it will do any good or if they just find it unnecessary. But complain they do not.

Please know that this is not an “India is so dirty, the people are so poor” story. If you are a big lover of India, please do not take this as insulting. But the reality is that there are people in India who survive on very little and it is hard to be selfish and self-absorbed when you are reminded of that every single time you step outside. Not everyone owns an ipod – or an outlet to plug it into.

Even when you are inside. It is inescapable.

When you have to give your cook and his wife water when they go home at night because they don’t have access to water, you suddenly remember to turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth. You realize that what you absolutely take for granted as ever-flowing and abundant and even safe is non-existent for someone else – really, most everyone else. It puts you in your place a little bit.

And you have a lot less energy to worry about what other people are doing and what other people aren’t doing. You are busy getting through a day that is just exhausting to get through. And you are often even more busy getting your children through a day in a world that doesn’t make a lot of sense to them. You try to let them experience the reality of it, while protecting them from the reality of it.

I remember one day in India that we got in the car to go to school. The kids were fighting about who was going to sit where. My head almost spun off my neck. My tirade went something like this………..

Holy Hell. You are really going to sit in an air conditioned car with a full belly which is covered by clean clothes and with a head that slept on a pillow on a bed in a room that you do not have to share and drive by all of “this” and complain about anything. Seriously. What are we doing here? Have you really not learned anything? You ate breakfast made by someone else, put the leftovers on a side plate for Ravi to eat at lunch (he would literally eat the crusts they left on their plates), and left your dishes in a sink for someone else to wash. In fact, I should have stopped with “you ate breakfast“. Turn to the left, look out the window and turn to the right, look out that window and shut the hell up.

It was not one of my stellar mommy moments. But that morning had an impact on all of us. The kids didn’t complain (that morning or the next and maybe not even the next). And I wondered how we could walk and live and breathe in India and not lose more of our selfishness.

How could we drive by children without clothes or a roof over their heads or even morsels of food on a plate – dear God, who am I kidding? A plate. No, you are right, they didn’t own need plates – and complain about which comfy cozy seat our bigger than necessary arses were going to snuggle into so that the air conditioning could hit our faces just right.

For Pete’s sake, our driver rode his motor scooter in traffic and dust for an hour to come and clean our car and wait for us to be ready to go somewhere, anywhere  – at any time. He held the door for us and swept up our messes and ran our errands. And at night he took our leftovers to a home with no air conditioning whenever we declared ourselves done for the day. He just waited for us to decide when we were finished so that he could see his family at some point before they laid on a threadborne mattress all in the same room together and went to sleep. Just to wake up early to do it all again.

And we did learn those lessons and we do embrace letting go of some very unnecessary involvement in things. But sometimes I slip and those slips are coming more often. I am getting caught up in minutiae and it is making me nuts. I have an opinion about too many things.

Anyway, this little rant is almost over. Pinky swear.

The bottom line is that I am going to start praying harder for (and working harder toward) patience and perspective. And, yes, a winning lottery ticket would certainly be nice – but if perspective kicks in properly, I won’t push my luck. 😎

What I Didn’t Know Then………

My parenting journey is a long, long way from being complete. But, even though I know I have a lot to learn, I do feel wiser than I used to think I was. Huh? Yeah, I have (finally) learned some things that make my parenting life easier.

One of the most important things that I have realized is that my children keep my worry chest busy enough. I don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about how little Johnny’s parents handle Johnny. And I can cross my fingers that Johnny’s parents won’t have an opinion about my parenting – but that is simply a waste of time. As a parent you will be criticized by other parents. Don’t take it personally. It is just your turn. Someone else will get a turn soon enough.

As a parent, you only have to follow your heart and intuition and do what you believe is right for your kids.  Even if it is in direct conflict with what other parents are doing or not doing. Trust your gut.

Along those lines, trust your kids instincts, too. It’s definitely hard when your kids don’t necessarily want to play with the children of your friends. But forcing friendships isn’t any easier. It makes for stressful play dates and stressful mommies. And moms can be friends even when kids aren’t.

Sooner than you can even imagine, your little munchkins will be in school all day and you can connect with your friends over lunch. Steering clear of uncomfortable friendships will be much more important for your kiddos later in life. A little practice at articulating how they feel is a good, good thing – even if it makes us uncomfortable because they might not come across as being “nice”. Allowing them to trust their instincts will help them to follow through on those feelings when you aren’t right there.

Teaching kids to be gracious is extremely important but being nice at their own expense might not be such a great lesson to learn.

Another little tidbit that I personally learned the hard way is that words don’t taste so good going back down. Never (yep, never) say “I would never ……… ” Or even worse, “My child would never…….” Because guess what happens next? I will give you one guess. 😉

Yes, my youngest child has a cell phone and has played the Xbox game Call of Duty (maybe even more than once) – and she has seen almost all of the Harry Potter movies. Are you asking, “isn’t she only 9?” Maybe.

Are you now asking if I swore that Harry Potter was way too dark for my son when he was 9 and that 9 was ridiculously young for any type of personal electronics? Maybe. Possibly. Burp. So sorry, please pardon me.

And seriously, you simply cannot make your child faster, taller, smarter, funnier, prettier, or any other “er”. But the good news is that they are fabulous just as they are. Most children learn to read. Most children talk. Most children walk. When they hit about third grade, it has pretty much leveled out. The rock stars aren’t rocking as hard and the average-to-slow kids are catching up. The early readers are reading, but so are the late bloomers. Pretty much everyone has given up diapers and pacifiers. And hard work begins to matter as much as, if not more than, natural ability. And don’t go bringing up the likes of Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. You know what I mean.

And speaking of reading. It is important to read with your children because it is fun to do it. They love the attention you give them when you share a book with them. It does help them learn to read. But it is not so important for you to stress out about teaching them to read. They will learn to read. (If you don’t believe me, reread the paragraph above. Oh yea, that’s me talking too. Sorry. Ask a parent of an older child. Oh, you don’t know about that yet? Please keep reading.)

It’s also extremely helpful for you to have adult friends with older kids. They have a better perspective on what is really important to worry about with smaller children. And they will tell you what is important to know about school and classes and teams and all the stuff you will be dealing with in the next phase of parenting.  They will be gentle with you because they have been there but they might laugh a tiny bit – don’t worry, they are not being critical – it’s just that they are remembering when. And their kids can babysit for you. Bonus.

I personally feel (and no, I am not a teacher, doctor, or educator – so this is just my opinion) that the single most important thing you can teach your kids is confidence. If your kids feel safe trying something new no matter how it turns out, they will always be successful. If they are not intimidated by people, places, or activities, they have a tremendous advantage. Tremendous. Children who are smart but are afraid of failure will face more challenges than those children who are “average” but brave and confident. Children need to know that their parents will love them no matter what. And parents, we need to love our children no matter what. Home should be a safe place to fall. And get up and fall. Again. And again. Always. Every time.

When our children are learning to walk, we encourage them to stumble and tumble. We let them go boom on the concrete and bump off of coffee tables. Even when they fall and cry, we say “get back up, you can do it.” We don’t say, “why didn’t you walk better?” We are proud and we smile and we hold out both hands and we hug them tightly. That should never, ever change.

Not too long ago I read a passage that went something like …. intelligence is not measured best when children know what to do, it is measured best by how children respond when they do not know what to do. (Yes, I wish I knew who said it – but I don’t -sorry.)

And when you are proud, tread lightly on the bragging. If you believe you have an exceptional child and you are sharing how fabulous your child is with another parent, please keep in mind that they most likely feel that their child is (at least) equally as exceptional as your little superstar.

Hey, I never said this parenting stuff was easy. It’s all a tricky balance.

I actually had a parent try to convince me that her child was better at the dentist than my child was. I started to defend how well my child handled the dentist when I quickly realized how nuts the conversation was. Seriously? We are competing over who handles the dentist better? Really. I am quite sure there are more important quandaries to tackle.I don’t know like civil unrest in Libya – Tsunamis in Japan – poverty anywhere – the civil unrest in my laundry room. Blah Blah Blah.

Parenting will probably be the hardest thing you ever do. You will bleed love for your kids and, at some point, one of  your beloveds will stand at the top of the stairs and scream at the top of their lungs that they hate you. And they will mean it. For a little while at least. But not forever. And you will cry and laugh and love and fear and rejoice more than you ever have before. Put that seatbelt on. It’s going to be a fabulously bumpy ride.

Teachable Moments………

Pretty soon, I am going to have to change the name of this blog to Sports Are (Not) Us.

I have a friend who calls any mistake a teachable moment. And it’s good to remember that parents can have teachable moments too. My family got to experience several yesterday.

My daughter plays basketball. She just started this year and she really, really likes it. And she has great coaches.

She had a game yesterday. She is 9, as are all of her teammates. It’s rec league – not travel. So there are rules about how many quarters everyone can play so that everyone gets fairly equitable playing time. Of course, depending on how many players are there, it’s not all even steven but it can be closer than not.

The coach from the other team played one player – a super duper great player – all four quarters. There were 7 players on his team so no one should have played more than 3 quarters in the land of following the rules. But his choice left at least one other child to play less than her fair share. Conveniently enough it was not one of their strongest players.

Our coaches pointed it out at the beginning of the third quarter when it actually would have been effective to address it.

The other coach ignored it. “Oh, we’ll talk about it later,” he said. Seriously, you have been told the rule and you opt out?

The teenage referees were not counting quarters of play and it quickly became too late to do anything about it. Without boring you to tears with the details – the other coach waited until the last quarter to give one girl her 2nd quarter of play. This meant she could not be substituted in for the player who was playing her fourth. It seemed suspect.

Then, when he tried to substitute another girl in mid-way through the fourth quarter who already had three quarters of play in and who was also conveniently also a very good player (by taking out a girl who had not yet had her three quarters), our coaches said “Wait a minute. You just cannot do that.”

The other coach said basically, “Why not?”

Well, let’s see, besides the little thing called the rule book, no reason.

So someone we were sitting with looked up the rules on his smart phone and took the rules onto the court. I have to say initially I was very happy he did it. I simply cannot stand it when coaches pull this kind of crap. I really can’t – it teaches so many bad lessons and it is so unnecessary. But the reality of it is that parents aren’t allowed on court. The parent did not stay to argue the case but you know – two wrongs rarely make a right. And two bad examples don’t end up being a good example.

I have to say that no one was yelling, the teenage refs kept their composure, and it was all fairly civilized. But every last second of it was completely unnecessary.

It is still very hard for me to understand why this coach did this. I know winning is a lot of fun. But if you win by cheating then are you really winning? And if you know you are cheating, well…..

We took advantage of the teachable moment it gave us to talk to our kids about a lot of things – the character of the coach, our inappropriate involvement in the discussion (I was pretty fired up myself), and how unfortunate it was for the girls who were being shortchanged and even for the girls who were being relied on too heavily.

The worst part of all of it is that this team is undefeated which means they have a really good team made up of strong players. They are probably even coached pretty well. They played well together and had a lot of strengths. They would have had a great game within the parameters of the rules.

So as parents we (read I) have to remember to let the coaches coach and the refs ref and to not have an opinion.

And, most importantly, we need to let (all) the players play the game and just watch.

I also need to rethink how close I sit to the coaches. I heard way too much of what was going on.

As coaches, please remember you are setting an example of how to behave on and off the court. It’s is more important for us all to raise children of character than WNBA superstars. Of course I understand that the dynamics of the play structure are most likely lost on the girls. They probably did not understand what was happening. (Although I bet one little girl understood very well that she was not playing nearly as much as someone else.) I can barely figure out the playing time matrix, but the coaches should understand it. And if they don’t, well then, the league should educate them better. Although I unfortunately do not believe this was a breakdown in the education system.

The bottom line for me is that I fell off my high horse yesterday smack in the mud and I am a little sore today………….