The Life and Times of Monkey, Buster, and Yessa

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Shoes and Yelling September 26, 2010

Filed under: Dragonfly — mommie2zs @ 2:47 pm

I am by nature a yeller.  I grew up in a family that yelled.  I learned to yell, even to relish yelling.

Then I married Buds.  Not a yeller.  Doesn’t have the genes, nor the constitution to be a yeller.  He grew up with Family Meetings.

My childhood “Family Meetings” were called “Dinner” and there was always yelling and things might get thrown…like a fork.

So, since Buddie’s comfort was much more important than my need to yell, I finally learned to work through my anger in a different way.  The way sometimes involved my slamming out of our house and walking around the block feeling irate and almost blind with rage.  Very difficult for Buds to understand.

I worked through it by the time we had children, but after the children were older, I realized that I still had the propensity to yell, though not the desire.  It generally came about when I was feeling ignored or tired or under pressure to rush.  I abhor being late, and that rushing feeling doesn’t bring out the best in me.

I realized that one of the main times I was yelling, feeling rushed, and ignored (The Perfect Storm), was when we were leaving the house.

Everyone’s shoes were tossed into the coat closet in a mad jumble.  Somehow the shoes we always wore would wiggle their way to the bottom of the closet every single time they were tossed in there after being worn.  Every single time.

I finally realized the problem wasn’t with the children, nor with me.  It was the  shoes.  The shoes were out to get us.  The shoes were out to destroy my peace of mind.  It was an institutional problem, not user error.

So, I changed the system.  I started by having a bin that was just the shoes we wore most frequently.  That helped, but it was still a massive jumble, and the bin was stuck in a corner, and frequently one of the children would bump against the corner of piano, and that hurt…Better, but not the best.

A week ago, we implemented a new system.  After rearranging the living room, we found extra space for a wooden shoe rack.  Now, each person has as many shoes out as can fit on the rack.  This means Zachy has 1 pair, Noa has 5.

And today, as soon as he had taken off his shoes, The Buster carried them right over to the rack.  That’s a victory.

Plus, I haven’t had anyone say “Mom, I can’t find my shoes,” for a week!  That was worth vacuuming under the couch for.


The Sippy Cup Conundrum September 3, 2010

Filed under: Dragonfly — mommie2zs @ 9:59 pm

A husband and wife had been married for 65 years.  Their children threw them a lovely anniversary party, with an elaborate meal, a beautiful cake, many, many toasts for their continued happiness and health for many more years.

Late in the evening, after they had returned home, they both needed a snack before they turned in, so the husband offered to make some toast.  His wife, who was tired and rather overwhelmed after their big day, sat at the kitchen table watching him.

The toaster popped, he took the two pieces out, he buttered them, and brought them to the table.  He handed his wife the plate with the well-buttered end piece, and took the well-buttered middle piece for himself.

His wife looked at the two plates and burst into tears.

“After this beautiful day, and people saying all these wonderful things about you and our marriage, we come home, and you still give me the end piece.  After all these years, I still cannot believe you.”

Her husband looked up in the surprise and said, “But…I think the end piece is the best part.  That’s why I gave it to you.”

This story never ceases to bring tears to my eyes, and it also summarizes beautifully how the children and I interact about sippy cups.

I am not a fan of sippy cups.  Even before other people knew to watch for BPA in them, they just felt demeaning to me.  I liked our children to drink out of glasses…truly glass glasses or mugs.  We had sippies when the Buster and Monkey were wee ones, but we haven’t had any for years and years.

So, what happens when we go to my mom’s house, or The C Family or Aunt A and Uncle Z’s?  Our children only want to drink out of sippy cups.  I suppose it is the novelty, but they think sippies are the coolest things ever.

We were walking through Target and the Monkey says longingly, “Mom, could we get some sippy cups?”  It was like she was asking for winter boots because I’d been making her walk to school in January in flip flops.

Like many things, the children’s memories and mine will be interesting to revisit some day.  They will wonder at my seemingly bizarre objection to sippy cups, and I’ll wonder why they don’t remember it as me treating them with respect.

Thanks to this blog, I’ll get the last word.


Lies, Lies, and More Lies August 29, 2010

Filed under: Dragonfly — mommie2zs @ 7:29 pm

My father, God rest his soul, taught all of us to be outstanding liars.  It was a two-part process, and I’ll share the complete details with you to allow you to a) become an accomplished liar yourself, or b) train your children to be fantastic liars.

1)  Use little white lies, small fabrications, or outright falsehoods to get your way or to get people to do what you want.  In my father’s mind, he was lying to us with our best interest in mind.  He truly believed that he was doing what was best for us, and any means necessary, though he wouldn’t have phrased it that way, was clearly his mantra.

His favorite method, which Buds and I laugh about now with great affection was, “The County Man.”  When we lived in the Big Yellow House in Iowa, which we designed and paid for ourselves, though my family did help us extensively in the building process, and my parents lent us the money to purchase the land the house was built on, my dad often thought we were making poor decisions about how we cared for the house and the land.  If he was especially concerned about one of our choices, or if he just really, really wanted us to do what he wanted, he would tell us that, “The County Man stopped by to tell me to tell you…” fill in the blank with whatever Dad’s latest concern was.  “The County Man told me…”  We never saw The County Man, but he certainly visited Dad often enough that he became the stuff of legend for us.

I believe The County Man was a carryover from my teen years.  I finally started to rebel, and to try and appease my hair-quick temper, Dad would tell me, “Your mother told me to ask you,” or, “Your mom said you should…”  I would ask Mom later, and she had no idea what the heck I was talking about.  Again, this was Dad’s way of keeping the peace while still getting things to happen in the way he thought was best.

So, I had that as a role model.

Next method:

2)  Overreact to every single thing that happens in your family’s lives.  Truly, every single thing.  Immediately jump to the worst case scenario for every conceivable event, and have no balance whatsoever in what you allow your children to do.

He went absolutely ballistic when my mom got a flat tire.  Truly, ape-s__t bonkers.  I cannot tell you the intense pleasure I felt when he got a flat tire a week later.  I was 9 years old.

I didn’t get to stay overnight for a friend’s slumber party because her mom was divorced and had a boyfriend.  As a parent now, I begin to understand better his fears and concerns, but, truly, every other girl in my class was staying overnight, and the girl’s mom was a teacher.

When we sold our house in Indiana, Dad was convinced that we’d a) never sell it, or b) if Buddie’s company bought us out, they’d only give us 25 cents on the dollar on the value of the house.  Might these things have happened?  Sure.  And if they did?  We’d figure it out, just like we had everything else in our life.

I was a good kid.  A very, very good kid.  I wasn’t a drinker, didn’t smoke pot, didn’t have sex, never had a car accident, class president, student council, band president, a freakin’ nerd, in fact, but very popular.  It didn’t matter.  Dad would say he wasn’t worried about me, he was worried about the rest of the world.

What did he succeed in creating?  The very things he didn’t want to have happen:  I went out of state to college, married a man who lived on a coast, and learned to always, always screen the truth from my dad.  My siblings were the same way.  We ended up not telling Dad so many things as a way of protecting him, we said, but it was largely to protect ourselves as well.

What does this have to do with a blog that is supposedly about my children?

Well, it isn’t just about my children, it is also about my journey as a parent, and recognizing attitudes and habits and family legacies that hinder my growth as a parent.

Every time I over react to something my children do, I’m training them in how to treat me.  Every time I act like they are the cause of me feeling happy or sad or upset, I’m training them to hide from me.  Even when I do it out of love for them, like today when I ripped into the big kids for riding their scooters in the parking lot when cars are driving through, I am still training them in how to hide from me.  Is being safe important?  Most definitely.  Is playing the hard-a__, tough parent the best or even the only way to deal with a situation like this?  Most assuredly not.  In fact, I think it is probably detrimental.

Any time a hot rush of emotion dictates my actions, it’s an opportunity to examine what is going on.

Now, The County Man might say differently.  He might say that yelling and being stern with children is the best way to impress an important lesson on them.  The research doesn’t support The County Man.

NurtureShock has a great chapter on lying which explains that all kids lie, and let’s be honest, so do most adults.  (We say we’re doing it out of kindness or to protect someone, and kids do it for the same reasons;  out of kindness to themselves and others.)  Not a big shocker for me; children in the most restrictive, controlling environments lie the most.

Here’s my point for myself:  I am the one who dictates the relationship I have with these children we have been blessed with.  Though they will still lie, and I should not ever be shocked by that, I can train them that they have little to fear in telling me the truth or asking for my help.  And, I will stop acting like things are a big deal.  Very, very, very little is a big deal.

And for clarification:  I was only a liar with my dad.  Though I come from a very long line of exaggerators, I try very hard to not even do that.  It sometimes leads me to sound odd because I’ll say, “I got up at 6:27,” or, “I drove into the parking lot and picked out one parking place, but then ended up driving to another spot that was closer to the sidewalk.”  Lots of extra information to be sure I’m  giving accurate information.  I’m probably erring on the side of too accurate, and I’m comfortable with that.

And to be fair:  My dad had a generous, loving spirit, especially toward the end of his life.  I was never able to completely adjust my quick and sharp reactions to him to match the mellowing he did over the years, which has always saddened me.  As with everyone in our lives, he had many lessons to teach me, and I’m still learning from him.

How will it work out for our kids?  Time will tell, and time always tells honestly.


The Folly of Children and Manners

Filed under: Dragonfly — mommie2zs @ 7:24 pm

There is someone in my life that I have a very difficult time with.  In fact, now that my father has passed, this is the one person who can push my buttons so fast I almost have to remove the top of my head to vent the steam.

This person is going to remain in my life…by my choice…and I know that I must have lessons to learn from this person, just as I had many lessons to learn from my dad, because otherwise I would not have these intense reactions.

Still, for the most part, despite my generally negative reactions to this person, I treat this person with politeness and kindness, as best I can.  Being extremely human and fallible, I do not always succeed, but I do truly try.

Which brings me around to the children.  Why is it that children, and for some people, adult partners as well, are not given the same politeness and respect that is give to strangers or even people we cannot stand? People save their best selves for others they only see randomly, or may never see again, while their loved ones, with whom they plan to spend a lifetime, get scorn, harshness, rudeness, and even verbal brutality.  I grew up with it.  It’s a way of life for many, many people.

I’ve been trying to be very aware of the tone and attitude I have been using with the children.  They deserve no less than my very best, as does my spouse, and my friends, yes, even the person in my life I don’t care for very much.  And I’m not talking about nicey, nicey.  Blech.  I was called “nice” so many times in high school it makes me want to vomit.  It’s a stupid, half-demeaning word.

I’m talking about common human decency and respect.  When I yell at my children or use a cutting tone, especially in front of other people, I’m not giving them the same respect I extend to every other person in my life.  I would no more yell at Buds than the man in the moon.  I wouldn’t consider yelling at my neighbors.  I wouldn’t yell at the person that rings up my groceries at Trader Joe’s.

Think about the ubiquitous baby monitor.  It was a huge part of our life for 6+ years.  It was to help make sure we could hear our babies and toddlers if they needed us.  But, what if we think of it from a different angle.  What if it is a mouth monitor as well?  Every word and tone I use is broadcast out to the world, allowing everyone to hear how I am speaking in my own home.

I was staying with friends when Monkey was very young, and I was talking to Buds on the phone.  We’d been away from him for a week, though I was enjoying myself with these friends, it was a rather oppressive home for various reasons.  I started to tell Buds my tale of woe, when I saw the baby monitor.  It was turned on, and if I turned it off it would cause a loud, harsh sound on the other end, in the living room, where my friend and her husband were sitting with their children.  I couldn’t know if they had turned the monitor off on their end.  So, the rest of the conversation was in half-speak, and day-to-day stories.  And it was fine.  It was probably best that I didn’t speak negatively of my friend in her own home after she welcomed us as visitors.  And, I certainly am grateful that I hadn’t said anything that would have been hurtful to her.

My children deserve no less.