Saturday, October 3, 2015

| Parent Tip | Tumultuous Tantrums

Only once did I exit Toys R Us and actually enjoy my time spent there. Once. I had all four kids with me and our biggest boy had to use the restroom. Having the skill of knowing the exact location of every public restroom within a five-mile radius of our home is the mom talent for which I am quite proud.
There was a pay phone bolted to the wall between the bathrooms and when our boy was retuning to the shopping cart, he glanced at the pay phone and with shock, reached to grab the pile of money that was sitting on the ledge, forty dollars. We immediately reported the missing cash and no one claimed it. What joy. Toys for all! This was a good day at the toy store.
Most visits to the toy store involved screaming at children who were writhing in frustration because I wouldn’t pull out my wallet and throw money at them for unnecessary purchases. Most times, my youngest was rolling on the floor and I was dragging him out by his arm in full disgust to the rest of the consumers making purchases. Typically my visit would be littered with the words “not today” as we perused each aisle and each child would chatter on about why they needed something sitting stoically on the shelf waiting to be purchased. 
One particular time, a woman who I knew, was horror-struck when I plucked our toddler from underneath the cart while he screamed and slugged me in the face. Every cashier had their fingers poised, ready to call social services while waiting for my reaction. It wasn’t pretty. Had any of the onlookers been mothers of toddlers, they would have watched with sympathy, and applauded my best efforts to not injure a child and the patience I exhibited by restraining from returning to the car leaving all children behind, which was tempting, and still is at times.
While there is truth to the fact that tantrums typically are a result of the selfish, narcissistic, innate make up of a child, tantrums can also be the result of hunger, agitation, loneliness, or fatigue. This proves true for all ages of children, and adults as well. I have been known to shed some ugly when I am hungry so I make a point to carry snacks and water to conceal any opposing foulness. I also carry snacks for our kids who also have a genetic propensity for hunger horror.
Look up the synonyms for the word agitation and it is no wonder that kids throw fits when this family of words is prevalent. Anxiety, worry, distress, nervousness, and all of their siblings are enough to make anyone throw a fit of rage. Finding out the reason for the agitation is part of the battle. When I am able to address the core issue, talking through the frustration before hand can often curb an outburst.
There is an unexplainable magnetic force that pulls words from a child’s mouth the minute I begin talking to an adult. When they aren’t getting my full attention they will do nearly anything to pull me away from meaningful adult conversation. A situation like this one hardly counts at their being lonely, but sitting in a shopping cart for 30 minutes without moving, or parents being gone or away for lengths of time can set off an emotional explosion.
In addition to my famish trauma, fatigue is my other archenemy. When I am tired I grab a caffeine-laden beverage to make the exhaust evaporate. If I am home, and can squeeze in a 15 minute power nap, life is good. Children need naps. One of our kids fought nap taking which resulted in a 45 minute routine to get them to fall asleep. It was worth every minute. Tantrums and tired are best friends.
Whether an outburst is a result of hunger, fatigue, agitation, or loneliness, knowing this can help any parent take steps to avoiding tantrums, however, there are no guarantees. Avoiding all toy stores is another safety precaution, unless of course you have gobs of money that you enjoy throwing away or can wear bubble wrap for protection from ensuing, angry, punches.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

| Parent Tip | Homework Rules

My arch nemesis is homework. Why on earth can’t elementary age children complete everything necessary while they are seated in a desk for most of their 6 + hours at school? I am considering the purchase a few cows and goats and a smattering of chickens and dogs so that our kids can use the 1920’s excuse that free labor for the family chores is a necessity for our survival and, therefore, all school work must be completed in six hours, at school. I could use some goats and cows. Our lawn is unruly.
Since my bovine purchases probably are not likely to come to fruition, I have devised a plan to get the most out of our easily distracted children.
Choose their favorite atmosphere. While I need complete silence and zero disruption while I am working, my husband desires a drone of noise projecting from his computer tuned to a talk radio program. Kids are similarly different. While one of ours goes to the desk in his room and prefers background music, the other likes to be near me, in the kitchen, amidst the bustle of clanging dinner making dishes, television news playing in the background, dogs barking at the UPS truck, and a glass of iced water within reach. Another prefers coffee store ambiance and black coffee.
Choose the worst first. The statement that always follows, “Do you have any homework?” is typically, “Do the hardest thing first.” Evidently most of our children were graced with my non-math gene. Doing math is like solving a puzzle. I hate puzzles, and our children don’t exactly have a love affair with math either. When kids begin homework with the hardest subject, and finish, they attack the subject when they are most alert and focused. For the easier subjects a cell phone alert disruption or a sudden urge to pet the dog has little negative impact.
Have the backpack locked and loaded. One of my biggest frustrations is going through all the work of completing homework only to leave everything at home. Putting all completed work, signed papers, and supplies in their backpack the night before, next to the door, assures me that all things school related will arrive safely. If needed, I will leave sticky note reminders on the stairs, bathroom mirror, and front door. “Lunch?” stuck to the doorknob is a simple reminder for our biggest boy and “water” written on a bright note goes on the front of their lunch bags. If that isn’t enough, I don’t pull out of the driveway until they convince that they have everything necessary; however, I don’t always drive to school.
Homework is here to stay. Thankfully there is black coffee, background music, a pad of sticky notes, and ice water. And when dinner is done and homework is completed, a stuffed backpack waits, near the door, stuck in repeat mode for the next 180 school days.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

| Strictly Temporary |

By the time I reached the end of my teen years, I had fragmented my front tooth. Having chipped it via a bullet’s graze or saving my sibling from a ravenous raccoon would have been a terrific story, however, I cannot remember how it was chipped. According my dentist, I either used my tooth as a tool (highly likely), or bit into a bagel incorrectly (again, highly likely), which are equally unimpressive.
Deciding to get the tooth fixed meant sitting in the dentist chair and going through the process required for a replacement veneer. In the throes of tooth sheering and shaping and Novocain ejections in places where soft food feels like an irritant, I would have terminated the entire process, but for the desire to escape being used as a cover model for People of Hillbilly Land magazine. The prepared tooth was small, slender and ugly.

After the grueling procedure of getting fitted for a veneer, I had to suffer through several temporary replacements until the ceramic tooth hue, shape, and fit was perfected.

Right from the beginning I knew that Mr. Temporary Tooth and I would scuffle. He was disobedient, unkempt, and foul. I grew to hate him as each new day began and nearly every day he tried to run from me but I shoved him back in place with a vengeance, bitter and frustrated with his inconsistency and ill-fit. I may have complained to the point of seriously frustrating my husband, but it is not legally documented.

Temporary things are not faultless, neither are they meant to fit well and last long. They fall apart, have flaws, fall off, look big, look small, feel uncomfortable, hurt, annoy us, cause complaining, and disappoint. Temporary things break, need attention, aren’t a responsible solution, fail, and frustrate. Their main job is to work for a very short period of time. They cannot to be trusted to work correctly.

Hebrews 13:14 says, “For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Our earthly lives are temporary. As believers in Christ we should not feel comfortable living in the world knowing that we have a Heavenly Father who is preparing a permanent home for us in heaven. Feeling uncomfortable and disappointed with an ill –fitting world is normal. The essence of temporary living is turmoil. Although we make the best of what the world offers, God’s design is for us to feel uncomfortable here on earth and to yearn for our encounter with Him and living with him forever, right by His side.

After a month my permanent veneer arrived. Mr. Temporary and I have parted ways. I love my tooth and it loves me. I have given up eating bagels and using my teeth instead of scissors, and, if I take care of the rest of my teeth, I can abstain from another affair with Mr. Temporary. He was awful.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

| Parent Tip | Debilitating Diseases

Until recently I was imperiled with Fomo disease. As genes would have it, our youngest has also contracted the disease as well as our not-so-friendly dog Kramer (non-genetic of course).

If you have never read up on this non-life threatening aliment, let me fill you in on the most obvious symptoms. Fomo is an acronym for “fear of missing out.” Knowing that there were conversations around me for which I couldn’t engage and situations within a 3-mile radius to which I was not privy, was debilitating. I could break out in hives just thinking about it.

Thankfully after many conversations with God and some counsel from my wise husband, I was able to overcome the disease. I can now let conversations around me continue without my interrupting and asking a packing list of questions, and sleep in spite of Face Book, Twitter, and Instagram entries clicking around the world wide web waiting to burst from my computer. Growing out of that stage in my life has been great.

We all go through stages of maturity, although some faster than others. As parents we have the ability to make ourselves sick by worrying about the things that could go wrong in the tiny little lives of our children. Will they have friends? Will they learn to do math? Do they fit in with the other kids? Will others appreciate their talent for flipping their eyelids inside out? What if they hate sports? What if no one plays with them? What if the other kids think their lunch is gross? When will they be motivated, passionate about something, sold out for Jesus, compassionate, kind to their siblings, less argumentative?

The answer is simple, only God knows, but, maturity happens, people change, God works miracles, changes hearts, softens behaviors, directs, guides, speaks wisdom, encourages, protects, nudges, and a whole host of other great things. Pray for them, counsel, lead by example, trust God, surrender, and relax. Part of being a great parent means helping our kids to react correctly, let go of fears, mature, conform, adjust, overcome failure, and celebrate successes.

Unfortunately I have recently discovered another disease that I have.  It’s called BNS, which is an acronym for “biting nail syndrome.” I’m sure there is a cure out there somewhere, but for now I will seek council from my husband, who never bites his nails.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

| Parent Tip | Great Adventure

Going on a Segway tour isn’t cheap. Unless I could locate a coupon for more than 10% off, the Segway activity I had planned for my husband's birthday wasn't going to happen. I secretly attained the coupon and planned the event only doling out bits of necessary information to those attending. The element of surprise absolutely slayed our children who must know everything about what we are doing, where we are going, what is involved, and how long it will take. Uninviting them would have been easier.
I have learned that when making plans outside the box of a trip to the mall or Costco I will be forced to endure the influx of question asking that can bring anyone to the point of curling up into the fetal position and weeping uncontrollably.
When we began driving toward the ocean, the question asking became relentless. “Are we going on a boat? I do not want to go on a boat. Are we going whale watching? Bike riding? On a glass bottom boat tour? Are we going snorkeling? I am not getting wet. I don’t like whales. This is so touristy.” I vehemently ignored all of what they were saying knowing that no one wanted to experience anything new, different, the same, or ordinary, and continued driving.

Because my sarcasm runs deep, and has thick woven bands that don’t easily fray, I began making up scenarios hoping they would leave me alone and let me drive. “Okay, I’ll tell you what we are doing. We are going roller skating on the pier and then after we cruise in a boat and see the celebrity homes we are going to have a seashell collection contest.” They finally stopped asking.

When we pulled up into the parking lot, they immediately realized we were going on a Segway tour around the beach. They were slightly hesitant but succumbed to curiosity and adventure. Since I was an experienced Segway rider I didn’t need the mandatory lessons, but they all did. I purposefully ran loops around them accompanied with sudden stops and backwards driving. Impressing them wasn’t my intent, I wanted them to all realize how much better I was then they were and that they should cower at my superior skills.

The complete tour lasted 2 hours and when it was nearing the end, everyone was very sad. The weather was perfect, the fun facts were interesting, the birthday surprise was perfectly planned, and the discount was applied.

When there is an unknown, kids will often resort to fear. This is true in social situations, adventures, change, and trying something that they have never tried before. When you know best, and you trust the plan, stick to your plan. Push through, keep moving forward, reassure them, and don’t give up.

Mixing things up and experiencing something different is great for kids. Change builds character as long as you can overcome the ruthless questions, and ceaseless complaining.

After our tour, the kids apologized for complaining and told us that they had a great time. They asked if we could do it again for another birthday and I quickly responded, “As long as I have a coupon, we can do almost anything.”

Friday, July 31, 2015

| Parent Tip | Traditions

Our entire family retreats when attention is brought to them on their birthdays, so much so that I cannot remember the last time we have hosted a birthday party with invited friends and neighbors. My husband once made the grave mistake of planning for me a surprise birthday party. I almost cried in embarrassment.

Gifts and cake, on the other hand, are a must. Forget to honor me with gifts and cake on my birthday and dangerous things happen, ask anyone. Someone once forgot to pick up my birthday cake from the bakery before it closed and I had to retreat to a corner of the room and be consoled by scooping frosting straight from the store bought tub while flipping through a glossy tabloid magazine. It was ugly.

For birthday celebrations, we line the dining room walls with balloons and a cheesy, dollar store birthday sign. Our table is covered in snacks and beverages most loved by the one celebrating, and the gifts are wrapped and spread among the munchies.

On the morning of the birthday, we play “Birthday” from the Beatles White Album while the evening is spent enjoying the birthday person’s favorite meal and dessert. Whether we eat sushi or sliced pizza, pancakes, or pecan pie, no one is allowed to complain about the food choice.

During financial fluctuation the contents on the table have decreased and meal choices have had to be priced under budget, but the tradition continued. On a few occasions, we have been out of town and have had to get creative, but the tradition continued.

While our children might say, “We don’t do anything for birthdays,” I know better. I know that we do. And while our kids may go off to college, a career out of state, or their own families, and have to celebrate their birthday outside our home, there is no doubt that they will remember what we have done, and the tradition that we have set in place.

Whether they are cultural, simple, passed on from family, or made up on your own, build traditions. Whether your tradition is Friday family night, mashed potato and movie Mondays, big birthday party blow out, every evening walk, or Christmas Eve soup and sandwiches, build traditions. And, if you happen to ask your child about their favorite family tradition and they reply, “We don’t have any,” ignore them and grab yourself a tub of frosting from the grocery store and a glossy tabloid magazine because, you know better.