Life in General

Have you failed parenting?

Supermom

Last month marked ten years that I’m in the parenting business. Unlike any other professions where at the ten year mark you’ve mastered the skills and are ready for  a promotion and a raise…the rules of the parenting business is different. Can’t say the skills are mastered…or that there’s any raise coming…or a promotion from changing diapers…but I CAN say that I’ve finally discovered just what skills parenting requires!

Everyone has read a parenting book or two…gone to a workshop…ever wondered what it is we are trying to master, what is the key to successful parenting?

To be a perfect parent? I’m sure we all have a different definition of perfect…

Perfect parent = clean house?

Perfect mom = 3 inch heels?

Perfect mom = immaculately dressed?

Perfect mom = cookies and milk waiting at the table just as the school bus pulls up (in my imagination, at least) or to only buy organic free range eggs at $6 a dozen and non GMO gluten free biscuits?

It only took about 4 days into motherhood to realize I had to make adjustments to what I assumed was perfect parenting!

Is it raising perfect kids?

Kids who get straight A’s, eat with a fork and knife and always wear their socks?

Kids whose PJ shirt and pants need to match?

Kids who keep their toothbrushes properly stowed and never dunk them in the toilet?

Kids who only use the amount of toilet paper needed and never just pull a whole roll for fun?

By the time my oldest turned 2, my perfect child list was quickly shrinking…

Either I failed the parenting test or I had to redefine parenting.

And so I opted for redefining, figuring it would be more motivating that way.

And after many years of trial and error, I figured out the definition of parenting. No, I have not mastered it, but at least I now know what I need to master.

Parenting is not about perfecting my  kids.

Parenting is not about perfecting my house.

Parenting is not about perfecting my husband.

Parenting is not about perfecting myself.

It is about working on myself.  Working on myself to accept that I am not perfect.

Accepting my kids for who they are.

Accepting my mess for what it is.

Accepting my husband for who is.

Accepting myself for who I am.

Becoming more patient.

Becoming more flexible.

Becoming more persistent.

Becoming more consistent.

Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect parents.

Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect kids.

Letting go of my misconceptions of perfect housekeeping.

Embracing my shortcomings.

Embracing my kids shortcomings.

I haven’t failed parenting because my kids talk back.

I haven’t failed parenting because they dump their laundry on the floor.

I haven’t failed parenting because they break each others’ lego.

My kids are not perfect. They will never be perfect. My house won’t be perfect and neither will I.

And parenting is the ability to accept that, embrace it and work on becoming more understanding. Letting go of things that don’t work as planned. Letting my kids be who they want to be, and not project on them what I want them to be. Letting them choose their own interests, not necessarily the same as mine. Their own talents, not necessarily the same as mine.

Accepting them as their own little people.

Parenting is not about being perfect.

On the contrary, it’s about being imperfect. And loving every minute of it.

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Life in General, Motherhood

I can’t sleep with the door open!

misc_bedtime

“I can only sleep with the door open, if you close it I’m never going to fall asleep!”

“I can’t fall asleep if the door is open, I’m so tired! I need the door closed!”

“No, it has to be open!”

“I finally got used to it closed!”

“No it needs to be open!”

“No it needs to be closed! The whole way!”

“It’s too dark!”

“It’s too light!”

I took a deep breath. I was done for the day.

Bedtime can do that to you.

They had all brushed their teeth so nicely as I watched so proudly, until my four year old made sure to autograph the mirror with the toothpaste. Something about the push down tab of the Aqua Fresh just begs for it…

Three year old had done his ritual of stepping into four year old’s negel vasser, and I made a mental note to email the French Twins and tell them I don’t appreciate their sense of humor.

“I need the door closed now!!”

I needed to get involved. My two big boys, 6 and 9 years old, were not going to figure this one out. And I needed them to go to sleep now!

I marched upstairs to their room, not quite sure how to resolve it. All I knew was that I was low on patience.

Who cares about the door? Just close your eyes and you won’t see if it’s open or closed! Stop driving each other crazy! You both woke up at 6 today and you need to go to sleep now! The next one to say a word will sleep on the couch tonight!

But I caught myself just before I launched into my mommy rhetoric.

I had a flashback. Me and my two sisters. We shared a room and we loved it. And we fought about the door. One wanted it wide open, one wanted it closed and I wanted it 3/4 closed. Not 1/2 way, it had to be 3/4, and I had a special way to measure.  And we argued. And we debated. For many, many nights. And despite all that, we are best friends.

I looked at my boy in amusement, still arguing about the door. How did they know that that’s what you’re supposed to argue about? Did they get the memo, bedtime rule #712: argue about the door until mom comes. Then continue arguing.

This wasn’t about them. This wasn’t about deliberately pushing my patience.

This was about the joys of siblings sharing a room.

It’s part of the growing experience. Part of the excitement of whispering at night to each other when you’re supposed to be sleeping, of waking up early and talking until it’s time to get out of bed. Of staring up at the ceiling and sharing your dreams of the night before.

It’s all part of the joys of siblings. And I didn’t want to steal it away from them.

So I used every last ounce of non existant energy to rationally resolve the issue.

And we came to a compromise. They were both happy. And so was I. Not because I came up with a clever solution, but because I had the presence of mind to see past the door.

I walked back downstairs, knowing full well that tomorrow night they’d have the same disagreement. And the next night. And the next. Just like I had done.

And I repeated to myself over and over again. It’s not them. They are doing nothing wrong.

It’s not the door.

It’s part of the childhood experience. Part of the learning to share and care for each other. Just like me and my sisters. 

In that context, I can hold on to my patience a few moments longer when I’m called in to referee.

I could hear them talking and laughing, making plans for the next day.

And I was relieved that I had caught myself in time.

 

Motherhood

I knew my house would be different

kid-drawing-on-wall

I had it all worked out. My house would be different.

I eyed my new dinette set. I had carefully chosen the color pattern for the chairs; the greys and blues blended so softly. The texture was right, and it was easy to wipe clean too. The table matched so well, all carefully chosen for my new home.

And I vowed that my house would be different; in my house, kids would not color on the chairs. Or tables. Ever.

I’d make sure!

Baby number one arrives. All pens, markers and writing utensils are hidden, stowed in high cabinets. He turns one years old. I smile smugly. See, the chairs are still clean!

No pen is ever left in sight.

Little sister arrives. Then little brother. I’m smiling smugly. My table and chairs are still scribble free!

Little brother. Little brother. The house is filling up. So are the toy bins. And markers and pens are nowhere to be seen.

I’m chatting with one of my friends. Her kids love to draw. And I stop and think. Do my kids love to draw?

Yeah, of course.

Um, I think so.

Well, I don’t really know, because… well because every pen and marker is out of sight!

And suddenly my plans don’t sit so well. My house can be different. At the price of depriving my kids from their creativity.

Or my house can be the same. At the price of my kids experiencing the joys of coloring. And accepting that they will scribble on my table and chairs.

I take down a few markers. The light colored ones. A few papers. I carefully watch as they color and quickly collect the markers after. The table and chairs are still scribble free.

I have a small coloring table. That’s where we color.

But who am I fooling. They need to color. They want to draw. They need more space.

And I can’t get anything done, because I am busy playing policeman to the markers!

And I break my promise.

I buy a 100+ marker set. All sizes and colors. I buy a case of construction paper. I designate a drawer in my kitchen for colored paper, and I refill it constantly. My dinette table is drawing headquarters.

And they draw. And draw. To their hearts’ content.

They draw pictures of me. They draw pictures of my husband. They draw pictures of their siblings. They draw pictures of places we went and people we met. They draw things I can’t identify.

I get a glimpse into their little minds. Into how they view what goes on in our house. How they view me. How they view each other.

They play Hangman and Tic Tac Toe. They make word searches and mazes.

The table is always full of construction paper. The floor is scattered with markers.

And this morning, as my three year old carefully explains to me every detail of his picture that looks to me like a line with two dots, I have no regrets.

And my carefully selected dinette chairs? Well, they have some markings.

And my table? It has seen many scribbles. Some come off, some don’t.

And even the walls have seen a scribble or two. Or three.

My house is not different after all.

But I learned my lesson. Kids can’t thrive if they are not given the opportunity.

It was well worth the price.

Motherhood

The freezer repair guy

Image

I knew I had to call the freezer repair guy.

I knew it for 6 months. When I plugged in the freezer back in November and it made this monstrous, horrific buzzing sound, I knew something was wrong.

But I did what comes to mind when you discover an appliance is broken – I plugged it in again.

Same noise.

So I did the next knee jerk reaction; I started Googling “buzzing sound when I turn on my freezer.”

What do you know, apparently I wasn’t alone with this! People from all walks of life had similar issues; I narrowed it down to the fan. Certainly the fan.

Now what? Call the repair guy.

But it’s my spare freezer. I didn’t need it working in November anyway, so I made due with the other two freezers I have.

And I pushed it off.

Checked in on it in February, plugged it in, hoping it had fixed itself. No, it hadn’t.

I pushed it off again.

Until finally, I needed the freezer and needed a repair guy now.

With Pesach quickly approaching, and 3 cases of chicken and dozens of milk being delivered next week; this was serious.

I tracked down a decent company, made an appointment and for only $79, I would know what was wrong. No, that wouldn’t fix it. This was just the initial visit.

And the guy came.

Plugged in the freezer. Monstrous noise. I smiled a little, as if to say, see, I was right, it IS broken.

He looked around.

Plugged it in again. Unplugged it.

Looked at the bottom ledge, where the light is. And apparently a small black switch sits there too. And he flipped the switch.

And the noise was gone.

That was it.

$79 to flip the switch.

Apparently this smart freezer has a temperature alarm that sounds if the degrees goes down to low. The alarm had been turned to the on position. So when the freezer was plugged in, this smart freezer sounded the alarm to let me know that the temperature was too low. You can’t get a smarter freezer than that!

I tried to negotiate, “C’mon, this was your easiest call today. Do I get a discount?” Nope, no discount.

I paid. He kinda felt bad, I felt rather stupid and my freezer, well, it felt great! It hummed to life.

At least that’s all it was. You didn’t want it to be broken! Better than having to buy a new one. At least it was so simple to fix. 

And those were all true! But I still didn’t like the idea of spending close to 100 bucks on something I could have done myself!

Moms sure have lots in common with these appliance repair guys.

We also carry around a multi purpose bag of tools and tricks. Only repair guys get more time to assess the damage before pulling  out the right tools. Moms don’t always have the luxury; we have to reach inside our bag and grab one quick!

Sometimes we look for big solutions, and there’s really a simple answer right in front of our eyes.

At times I explore new, complicated ideas; yet it’s the simple ones that work best.

Like what happened two weeks ago.

It was one of those days. My son was having trouble sitting at his computer during class. As I’ve mentioned, the unique schooling my children attend is online;  class, teacher, friends and all, with a webcam and mic. This comes along with unique benefits (I can send the kids to class in PJ’s if they’re late) and disadvantages (having to make sure they sit in their seat!)

And this was being a tough day. He was bouncing. He was bothering his siblings. He was sharpening pencils all over the place. He was doing everything other than sitting in class.

I took a deep breath. Reached deep into my “tool bag” of tricks. And started to formulate some chart I would put together and some system I’d establish to get his behavior back under control. Started to launch into how many warnings he would get and what consequences he would deserve. I was ready to be patient. And firm. And get him to sit in his seat and do what he was supposed to do.

And then, for a fleeting moment, I thought out of the box. Like a light bulb went on.

Ditch the systems and charts. Forget the lists of broken rules.

“Follow me!”

And he did. Eager for a reason to leave class, of course.

We went outside. “Alright, I’m setting my timer. Let’s see if you can make it to the corner and back in 20 seconds.”

And off he went. No questions. No negotiating. No complaints. He ran and ran. And then tried to beat his time. And beat it a third time. And we got it to 15 seconds.

And he was out of breath. Cheeks flushed. The type of flush that is full of life and exuberance, excited and challenged. And the type when a kid looks pleased with himself.

And we went back inside. Him to class, me to continue what I was doing. That was it. It worked.

He didn’t need any complex behavior chart. He just needed help switching gears.

I just needed to flip the switch. He had the wrong one on, and thankfully, at that moment, I was able to realize that.

But I can’t say I always do.

So many times I harp on the same things. trying the same route again and again, thinking it’ll change things, when it doesn’t.

Sometimes I look for complex and time consuming solutions, and that’s not it either.

Like with my freezer. If I would’ve just looked at it, instead of all around it,  about it, and Googling it, I could have saved myself a couple dollars.

Same with my kids. I need to make sure to stop and do that more often.

To stop looking around at what they are doing, saying, going, playing, destroying, bothering, wrecking; and instead look at them.

Because more often than not,  I know that’s where I can find the solution.

Behavior & Discipline, Motherhood

Kitchen grout and kids

house

What happened to the grout?”

Huh??

What grout?

“The grout on the kitchen floor, between the tiles;  why is it that color?”

I stood there staring at my landlord, baffled.

There are pros to renting a house and not being a homeowner; namely, when something breaks, it actually gets fixed! A downside, though, is when the owner wants to do an annual inspection and see how the house is doing.

I know he’s not coming to judge my housekeeping abilities per se, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that my capabilities are being scrutinized. As many times as I tell myself he wants to make sure we didn’t knock down any walls or paint the kitchen  without permission, I still can’t help but feel it’s the dreaded housekeeping police, the type every mom has nightmares about, that walk in unannounced when the house is an absolute war zone.

But I was ready and  I was pretty pleased last week when the landlord arrived; the floors were clean and the toys were put away. Even the sinks were empty of dishes!

And the kids – they were all dressed. In matching clothes. No, not matching to each other, that stopped when baby #3 was born. But they were wearing pants and shirts that matched each other, respectively! And some even had socks on. They had all brushed their teeth the night before, their faces were clean. I was proud.

All the more reason why I was standing there speechless when he started asking about the grout.

At first, he gave a quick scan of the living room. All was in its proper place, we hadn’t taken down any walls, or build any new ones either. But it was during his quick look at the kitchen that he stopped to frown.

My first thought was -there are no dishes in the sink! Not a trace of last night’s dinner! Why are you frowning??

And then came the grout question.

You’ve got to be kidding! This house is still in one piece, the place is clean, the beds are made, kids are dressed, and you are worried about the grout?!

But of course, I didn’t say that.

I smiled sweetly and shrugged, “The floor is washed a couple times a week. I guess it’s the sign of life.”

He nodded slightly, not totally convinced.

And I silently counted my blessings. The many blessings that consume my life so that things like tile grout isn’t something that made it to my stress list. To me, that was the sign of a full life.

And later that evening, during bedtime, when I was doing a quick scan of each bedroom before checking off the kids’ charts; to see if clothes were in the hamper and things were put away, I caught sight of some little toy/thingie hiding in the corner of one of the rooms.  I caught myself as I was about to point it out to the kids.

I thought of the grout. Of how I felt when all my hard work on maintaining this house, (ok, with the help of my housecleaner!) was unnoticed, and all that was mentioned was the measly kitchen grout that refused to stay its original color.

The kids had cleaned their room. Their clothing was in the hamper. Their things were properly stowed. And one measly toy, cast aside, was forgotten and unnoticed…well I wouldn’t notice it either. I wanted to motivate them; and mentioning the one didn’t-do instead of the many did-dos would not help them want to do it all again tomorrow.

And later that night, when all was quiet, I did a quick google search just to clear my conscience. And guess what. There is no long term solution for keeping grout clean! Unless you get on your hands and knees and scrub it each night. I’d rather keep it the color it is. As a constant reminder that my life is full of more important things.