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Discipline

My second son has the hardest time keeping his hands to himself, following the rules and staying emotionally stable.  Smallest perceived slights can set him off and the mere mention of a special adventure can turn his behaviour angelic.

Today was rough:  it rained almost all day (need I say more?) and we had errands to run.  Liam had been asked many times to stop hitting his brother, to share, to make room, to listen, to quiet down, before the LAST STRAW (jumping on the furniture, in shoes no less) caused his mother’s head to explode a punishment of extra math pages.  Now, I know some of you are thinking, math should not be a punishment, and I admit I was on the fence about it.  But going to bed early (my usual) deprives him of time with his father, writing lines seemed pointless, and taking away electronics on a rainy day is punishment for ME.  So extra math pages it was. I figured at least he would be in his room being productive.  He could do them as soon as we all got home from the post office. (And do you have THAT pretty little picture in your head?  Three boys in a 40 minute line with nothing to do but poke each other and make fart noises with their armpits.  FUN).

When we got home he went straight to his room to work on his math/punishment . Finished, he came downstairs, pages in hand.  “Here you go.”

“And?” I say.

“And..um..” Then he gets it. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for?”

Liam looks at me blankly.  “Um..hitting Calen?”

Great.  Of all the things he did today he can’t remember which one was bad enough to saddle him with extra math work.  Obviously my discipline technique needs work.

Boys’ shirt cuffs should never be white.

Hospital ER’s should have a frequent visitor card that stores your info so you don’t have to fill out all those forms every week.

Frogs, though amphibious, will not survive a cycle through the washing machine.

Or the dryer.

Real men sit down to pee.

The middle of the lacrosse field can be a potty if you are small enough.

Permanent marker does not come off hardwood floors, furniture, or kitchen cabinets. That is why it is called ‘permanent’.

Teeth are not attached as firmly as you might think.

You can get tree sap out of hair with peanut butter.

All pants should be made with reinforced knees.

You know those pretty white hand towels you bought for the powder room? Forget it.

Before you tell them to KNOCK IT OFF! make sure that what looks like a serious, knock down, drag out fight isn’t just playful wrestling.

There is nothing about a rainy day that a pair of boots and an umbrella can’t fix.

Or a hunk of wood, a hammer, and a handful of nails.

Wooden swing sets are just structures meant to be scaled and jumped from. Forget the actual swinging.

To your weekly cleaning list add ‘wash doors and walls’.

Along with ‘College Fund’, start ‘Sports Fund’, ‘Broken Window Fund’ and ‘ER Fund’.

Use dark coloured cloths in the first aid kit because they don’t show blood and blood is scary.

Blood is scary. Get over it.

Hydrogen peroxide gets out blood stains.

Dirt: a toy never forgotten, always available, never needs batteries and enriches the imagination exponentially.  Embrace it.

And on it goes…

The Simple Things

It has been a very wet winter. It seems like every day it is either raining or overly soggy from yesterday’s rain. The boys are starting to ricochet off the walls like they’re stuck in a pinball machine and my rants are getting repetitive.

“Boys stop running!”

“If you break something you’re going to be in trouble!”

“Don’t chase him!”

“Stop jumping on the furniture!”

“Fine! But if you get hurt I’m not taking you to the hospital!” (This one I say a lot).

Yesterday, despite the rain, I had had enough. “Get your boots! Get a jacket! Go outside!!  Make mud pies! Jump in the puddles! Get disgustingly filthy, I don’t care just GO OUTSIDE!”

Ears ringing I stand at the sink, contemplating the dishes.  PEACE!  Jeez why didn’t I think of this earlier?

SWOOSH!  The window is suddenly and completely covered in mud.  Clumps of goo slide down the glass and land with a plop on the ledge. The window is an opaque rectangle of brown disgustingness. Cautiously, I stick my head out the door.

“What’s going on?”

Both boys immediately point at each other.  They blame in unison. “He did it!”

“Were playing a game and…”

“He threw a bucket of MUD at me…”

“We’re supposed to slime each other…”

“Yeah well you missed me!”

“Uh UH! You DUCKED!”

Perfect.  I give them each a rag and tell them no one is coming in until the house is clean.  At least it gives them another outside activity.

Today, a rare blue sky. We took bikes down to the park and stopped at the lake on the way back to throw rocks into the water. I watched my children, completely engrossed in their task and thought, This is what boys need. Fresh air. The hefting of stones. The percussive whoomp as they hit the water. A giant splash (even better if someone gets wet) and the careful choosing of the next, perfect stone.  Repeat.  We should all be as lucky to find such complete happiness and contentment in something as simple as this.

A Teaching Moment

I tell my kids all the time that my most important job is as their teacher.  To teach them manners, table etiquette, personal hygiene and egg boiling.  To show them the right way to cut an onion, to write a letter, to make their bed, to fold their socks.  I TRY to teach them to put their dirty laundry in the hamper, to clear the table and use the dishwasher (Future Wives, you can thank me later).

Like all Mothers I have my pet peeves – the things I have tried to teach them a thousand times that never seem to make a dent.  Like yelling for me at the top of their lungs when they are too lazy to come find me.  Yesterday I was working in the office while the children were outside running circles around the house.  The back door flew open with a bang.

“Mom! MOM! MOM!!! MOOOOMMMMM!!!!”

“Don’t yell at me from another room!  If you want to talk to me come in here and do it!”  I tack on a “GRRRR!” at the end for good measure.  Really?  Just how many times do I need to say this for it to sink in?

I can hear Calen’s little footsteps thundering across the kitchen, through the living room, and into the office.

“Mom?”

“Yes?”

“I have dog poo on my feet.”

Failing

“Hey mom, guess what?” Calen asks from his car seat.  We are driving home from baseball practice at the end of a long day, a day filled with swimming, friends, and sunshine.

“What?” I say.

“I love you!” he shouts with glee.

“Ha ha, I love you too!”  I say.

A moment later I turn the game back on Calen.  “Hey Calen, guess what?”  After our giggles, I look in the mirror and see Liam sitting silently.  I wonder what he is thinking, watching the trees go by.   I wonder if, years from now, I will read about this moment in his memoir, a moment when he longs for his mother to play the same silly ‘I love you’ game with him but instead gets only silence. Liam is my challenging son; the one who gets bent out of shape at the slightest provocation; the one who wants to one-up everyone, every time; the one who might smile agreeably when I ask him to do something or fall on the floor and have a screaming fit, depending on some secret inner scoring system that I haven’t figured out yet.  I feel like I never give him what he needs, no matter how hard I try.  We do a lot of shouting, he and I.  A lot of crying and hugging and making up, but a lot of shouting.

Determined to prevent the as-yet-unwritten memoir moment, I wait a few minutes and say in my most enthusiastic voice: “Hey, Liam!  Guess what?” 

“What?”

“I love you!”

“REALLY?! Mom?!!  That’s all you have to say?!  Arrgh!!”

Guess I was wrong.  Again.  

Parenthood is the best of times, and the worst.

Cereal

Yesterday we were having a discussion about cereal.  We have been consuming mass amounts of Vector that we imported from my mother’s house in Canada at Christmas.  For whatever reason Kellogg’s doesn’t sell Vector in America.   Don’t ask me why, it’s just another one of life’s conundrums.
Now with our stash depleted, Liam is trying to find something else to have for breakfast.
He picks up a box of cheerios and says, “Well, where does this come from?”
“That one doesn’t come from Canada,” I say.
“No, I mean, where does it COME from?” he repeats.
“You mean, like, what store do we get it from?”
“NO!  Where does it COME FROM?”
I am completely perplexed.  “Well, it’s made of wheat…”
Liam looks puzzled but is apparently satisfied because he walks away.
Later I hear him tell Jack, “Don’t eat the cereal in that yellow box.  It’s made of weeds.”

Magic and Wonder

You know, I’m all for the magic of imagination, tradition, and wonder.  The Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus.

But this is getting a little ridiculous.

Cuddling with my oldest son before bed one October night, he told me how excited he was about the Great Pumpkin.

“Um, the Great Pumpkin?”

“Yeah!” says Jackson, “he brings presents.  I put a note in the fireplace with a piece of candy.  He’s going to bring me a fandoogle cause that’s what I asked for in the note.  That’s what Olivia did and she got one!”

Ah huh.  (When I get my hands on the person who started this…)

Fortunately we dodged that bullet because apparently the Great Pumpkin doesn’t come unless everyone is in bed and asleep at 7:30pm.  So I got a day’s reprieve.  But the next night we didn’t get home from baseball until 8.  Tears, drama, boo-hooing and ‘He’s NEVER going to come!’ echoed through the house.  But what do you know, the next morning, three little presents for three adorable boys.  Whew.

One problem:  The present wasn’t a fandoogle (I might have found one if I had any idea what it actually was).  Jake writes another note, adds more candy, thanking the Great Pumpkin for the gift but this time he would please like a fandoogle.

Yeah, if you think I’m going to do this every night for the whole month of October you’re nuts.  The Great Pumpkin left his own note saying – sorry, only one gift per kid, try again next year.

And now it’s November.  A few years ago our family got a Christmas ‘Elf’.  Though he looks like a stuffed doll he is in fact a magical creature that arrives at Thanksgiving in order to keep an eye on the children until Christmas, watching to see if they are being naughty or nice and reporting back to Santa each night. Due to all this midnight travelling he finds a different spot each morning on his return, to perch and observe, usually sitting up high where he has the best view.  The children get up each day anxious to see what new spot he has found.

I should say, he is ‘supposed’ to find a new spot each morning. Often our elf decides that the spot he had the day before suited him just fine, thank you very much.

Recently I have heard that some elves are being mischievous, getting into the pantry and making a mess, taking all the books off the shelves, getting out toys in the middle of the night.  Our Elf (the boys have named him George) – he and I had a little heart-to-heart.  I explained to him that if he in any way contributed to the mess already created by my family of five, the dog, the cat, the visiting neighbor children and all the other creatures who make their way through the four walls of my house that he would find himself disemboweled and turned into a pillow.

And now, the latest: my sister has just reported to me that her elf is becoming very hungry.  Yesterday he ate a wagon wheel, a pile of animal crackers, a fruit bar and a banana, all before 10am.  Well, the elf might not be that hungry anymore but I bet my sister is going to put on a few pounds.

I’m all for magic and wonder.  I’m all for maintaining the bubble of childhood for as long as possible.  So am I wrong to think that diluting ever single event with a magical creature is a little over the top?  Magical creatures that make messes they don’t clean up, eat when it’s not meal time and sneak out in the middle of the night?

I’m just saying.  It’s not my idea of a good role model.

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