Archive of ‘Abe’ category

My 7 year old is my Guru

“Why do you always say I learn from my mistakes? Do I always have to get in trouble to learn stuff?!”
My son was hanging out the car window waving at neighboring cars in traffic until I scolded him to close the window and put his body in the car. “We don’t know those people, Abe! We don’t know if they are kind or safe, and we surely don’t hang out of car windows.”
“Sorry, mom,” he said before laying that first line on me. “Seriously though, mom. Why can’t I learn from something that’s not a mistake?”
It was a really fair question. And without wanting to turn this into long and drawn out “teachable moment,” I tried to leave out my own historical findings as a human and distill my words. “You know, you say ‘making mistakes’ and ‘getting in trouble’ like they’re bad things.”
“They ARE bad mom,” he rolled his eyes.
“Only if you choose to see them that way. What if making mistakes is actually awesome because, like you just said, it’s how we learn new stuff.”
Sometimes as a mom I even surprise myself.
While my child continued rolling his eyes and feeling annoyed, I thought back to all of my mistakes that led to learning really big things. I’d say the biggest mistake was getting married because I thought I had to. Married was what I wanted to be. The man I married, my son’s father, was the obvious choice because I loved him and he asked me. That mistake was never a conscious thought. I didn’t make the mistake while thinking, “This isn’t a heartfelt decision at all. This is a ‘Keeping up with the Jonses’ decision.” Of course, not. I whole-heartedly thought I was doing the very best thing, and it took years to tune into my conscious mind and understand where I went wrong. (It probably took him years to figure out the same thing.) But I learned so many huge lessons from those mistakes. Now in my second marriage, I understand what they mean when they say, “When you know, you know,” and also, “Marriage is difficult.” I understand because I’m here. I’m in it. Consciously. Fully.

I didn’t know you can’t microwave metal until I did it. I didn’t know internet lines run underground until I cut one with a shovel. I didn’t know high heels sink in dirt until I wore a pair to an outdoor wedding. And while all of these caused inconvenient experiences in my life, I learned from them. So how can mistakes really be all that bad? What if mistakes are actually awesome?!

Truth be told I hate making mistakes. I hate being wrong. But I convinced myself in the car that afternoon that, once again, changing my mindset would probably change the way I feel about mistakes.
“Mom! Check out my mistake!” Later that night, my son showed me a picture he drew.
“Where’s the mistake?” I asked.
“You can’t see it. I made the mistake, learned from it, and decided to turn it into something better. Now you can’t even find it!”

Hi. My name is Erin, and my 7-year-old son is my greatest teacher. Everyday.

The Field Trip or Bugs in Squares

I get my son about 50% of the time. That means one week I have him, the next week he’s with his father. So when there is a volunteering opportunity at school, I’m the first to sign up because it means more time with him.

A few weeks ago his first grade teacher emailed me and asked if I wanted to volunteer for the local University’s Nature Trail field trip. I immediately moved my schedule around and said YES!

YES YES YES! NATURE!

Would I prefer a field trip to Target so I can show them where they hide the pictures frames that are on sale? Yes. Yes, I would. But here we are.

This morning I helped Abe’s teacher wrangle 36 kids onto a big yellow school bus at 9am. Luckily the ride was only about 10 minutes and despite the fact that children inexplicably feel the need to scream words at each other on a bus, it was smooth sailing.

We arrived at the Nature Trail and immediately headed into a big, wooden yurt where some college students and a ranger gave the kids warnings like, “Don’t touch anything,” and “Don’t yell,” and, “Try not to be 7.”
All the children agreed to these rules and then immediately ran screaming into the woods to climb trees.

Our first stop was the picnic tables where we would explore different “nature stations.” With 8 tables and 36 kids, we could fit about 4-5 kids at each table and then rotate. The teacher assigned me a group of 4 students, and let me tell you…I lucked out. My students were quiet and studious and lovely. I think the teacher knew I would call kids out if they started acting like idiots, and she didn’t want to have to hold me back.
Our first station revealed 7 bugs frozen in some kind of resin square. Bugs in squares is what we were looking at. There were actual live bugs crawling on our table, but we were looking at bugs in squares. It took me the entirety of our time at the first station to realize there was a little script on the table I was supposed to be reading out loud to teach the kids about the bugs. So my group just looked at bugs in squares with no explanation for 10 minutes and then we moved on. Star performance.

Our second station required we write down the answer to some questions about the food chain. Eight pictures on the table showed us things like a bird, a bug, a fish, some grass, and the sun. The students quickly put the pictures in order and then began answering the questions on the mini-quizzes provided at the table. Until the last question… “What bug eats animals?”
Ummmmm.
“Ms. Salem? Can you help us with this? Which bug eats animals?”
“Oh, um…What?”
They all stared at me. I pulled out my phone and started to Google.
Google gave me results like “animals that eat bugs” and “how to cook bugs”, but nothing telling me which bug eats animals.
“Do you guys wanna know how to make marinara sauce? I can teach you that…”
Eventually a ranger came over and explained that the Giant Water Bug eats fish.
Because who doesn’t know that.
Our third station consisted of fake bugs that we had to measure with rulers. It was dumb. The fake ant was bigger than the fake scorpion, which left all the kids asking me if ants really grew bigger than scorpions. (I Googled that, too, just to be sure they didn’t…)
Station four had Giant Water Bugs in a bucket of water. Learning about the Giant Water Bugs at station four before going to station two would have been awesome for my personal level of self-esteem.Station five had leaves. We looked at leaves. We counted holes in them. We smelled them. We talked a lot more than I ever have about leaves.
I don’t even remember stations six through eight. It was a lot of looking at things I usually step on.

THEN we got to go on the NATURE TRAIL!!! YES NATURE! The Ranger handed out small clip boards with a piece of paper full of questions to each child. He told them they were to read the questions as we go because he was going to answer them during our walk. I considered raising my hand and telling him that was going to result in 10-15 children walking directly into trees and possibly the lake, but I decided it was a good chance for a show so I stayed quiet and let it happen. (And it did happen.)The Ranger guided us along the path and showed us wild blueberry plants and as the path neared the lake’s edge, he pointed at the turtles and the lilly pads. It was very pretty.
Then, the Ranger stopped. “Guys! Quiet! Look!”
And there he was. A long, black snake hanging out at the base of a tree. You guys, it was really exciting. He stuck his tongue out at us and nodded like, “Yep. Hey guyth. Yep I’m a sthnake. Jutht thitting under this tree here.” I liked him. He had pizzaz. He had style. He was waaaaay more interesting than bugs in squares.
The children, of course, all heeded the Ranger’s warning and ran screaming past the snake.

When the nature walk ended, we landed back at the picnic tables for bagged lunches. I sat next to Abe and his friends, which was cool because he talks to his friends now. It’s not like before when they just burped and laughed and showed each other the food in their mouths. They say stuff like, “My gummie fruit is similar to yours,” and, “One time my dad ate liver.”

The best, most amazing part of the entire field trip, though, came in the last 5 minutes. We boarded the bus, and Abe sat in our seat closest to the window. Slowly, he began to lean on me. Then, he slinked down a little. A little further. A little more. And then…boom.
My baby 7-year-old fell asleep in my lap.
The entire trip was totally worth those moments. Giant Water Bugs and food chains be damned.
My kid still wants to sleep in my lap after the field trip.

Lego Pieces

I’ve been writing a TON of blogs in my head. Have you been reading them?

No?

Rude.

“Mom? Pleeeease help me find this lego piece. I need it for my helicopter.”
I got out a flashlight and started scoping out the carpet and squinting my way under the couch, finding things I specifically put under there so I wouldn’t have to LOOK at them.
“I don’t see it, honey.”
Abe spend the next 10 minutes pacing the floor, looking under things he’d looked under before and finally peeling through box after box of extra lego pieces for the one he needed.
“MOM!??!”
“What, son…”
“I cannot find the piece ANYWHERE!”
“Stop looking for that one little piece. You have all the rest of the pieces, don’t you? You’re letting one little piece keep you from building the whole helicopter. Let go of the piece and move on.”
“Fiiiiine-nuh.”
And suddenly…I had another blog in my head.
I’ve caught SO many “little pieces” these past few months, both in my lives and in the lives of others. There’s one little thing that is keeping them from happiness or greatness or perfection.

If only my husband didn’t do that, our marriage would be perfect.
If only I made a little more money, we could afford it.
If only I had 30 minutes a day to myself, I would meditate FOR SURE.

We hold on to one. little. missing. piece and we forgo the whole helicopter. We fail to look at ALL the pieces that are working. My husband works his butt off for my future and has an insatiable need to touch me and would choose an evening with me over an evening with ALMOST anyone else in the world…so do I really want to focus on the fact that the trash has been overflowing for 3 days?
Nope. I really don’t.
What’s the “little piece” you’ve been holding on to? The one you HAVE to find in order to complete your helicopter? And what in the world would happen if you just went on without it? Because that thing, that one thing you think you need is just a placeholder. As soon as you have it, you’ll find one OTHER little thing you need. And you’ll rob yourself of a lifetime of happiness continuing to search for these missing pieces that you could just live without.

“MOM!”
“What?”
“I FOUND IT! It was RIGHT here all along! Like, right UNDER my HELICOPTER!!!”
“Well, hallelujah.”
“Now, where is the red piece that goes on the back?!”

We’re all missing pieces and parts. Stop looking for it and move on. You may find it. You may not. Either way you can still be happy.

P.S. He finished the entire helicopter with all of the pieces entirely by himself. But it was bedtime by the time he could play with it. If only he had 10 more minutes…

You Pick

You may have read a few weeks back about my son’s recent diagnosis of ADHD. The joke around the house now is that he puts the “H” in the ADHD. (It’s not a great joke…) We’re feeling confident about how much more we understand about ADHD, and how we can help him here at home. Now the issue is helping him at school…
Late last year we started the process applying to schools in our city. Abraham will be blessed in going to a private school and there are PLENTY to choose from. Little did I know the process of choosing a private school would feel like trying to get my 5-year-old into college…
1. We started with a smaller private school in a wealthy suburb. The school hosted a small open house for parents. I arrived to a fully-gated, entirely fenced, un-enterable school. I really appreciated the safety measure, but it took me 15 minutes to figure out how to get in. Once in, a huge room set the scene for a long and rather ceremonious series of speeches about how wonderful the school was. I sat there thinking about how I could improve their technique and presentation-style. A quick tour of a working classroom revealed…perfectly manicured children…I started checking my zipper. My skin started itching. I couldn’t wait to escape. Which I couldn’t…because as soon as I inconspicuously left the classroom, I hit the never-ending face and had to find an administrator to help me get back out.
2. The next school tour was very personal. And very long. Two hours long. I walked nearly every classroom of this school with the tour guide and while I didn’t have any trouble getting in, I couldn’t get out of the tour unnoticed. There were only 3 of us. Want to know something about the 4th grade science class? I could tell you. Want to know about the K-3 musical instruments closet? I’ll show you where it is…It was a lovely school, but felt a little antiquated. I wasn’t sure it was right.
3. The following week I toured a big, fancy, everybody-wants-in school. I was impressed. The school felt like a mini Country Club sub-division. Classrooms were small houses. Placed on the river, the scenery was stunning. Tennis courts, Swimming pools. Movie stars. And as we entered the classrooms, I felt rather at home! Then I started picturing Abraham in some of the classrooms…and that made me nervous. I imagined him jumping up, being fidgety, grabbing toys or pencils…come to think of it, where are the toys? I wasn’t sure Abe could even get into this school, but I’d come to learn that it would be a long process.
4. Finally, a fourth school. This one felt kind, loving, nurturing, and transparent. I walked in to a little sign in the office that said, “Welcome, Erin!” and a name tag for my tour. It was a short but informative tour, the classrooms that were filled with playful little kids, a playground covered in colorful students.The teachers were kind, but focused on the task at hand, and to top it all off…the musical theatre program was in FULL SWING!!! I loved this school, and we applied right away.
In order to apply for schools 3, Abe had to be privately tested by a school psychologist. Then he had to come on a separate day for a classroom observation. He was put in a classroom with other possible students and given a lesson…for an hour. Abraham can’t focus more than 5 minutes, let alone an hour. I was fairly certain this would be the end of our stay in the fancy school.
Applying for school 4 was easier: one Saturday morning observation while I sat in the library listening to their school strategies. It was comfortable, it was easy, and Abe loved it. I was praying he got into this one!

My guess was that he would likely get into at least one school, and that would help us make our decision. Both good schools.
This week we found out…he got into both schools.
After all that visiting, applying, testing, and observing, we’re now left with a decision! Is it a great place to be? Yes. But lord…now the decision about his future lies in my hands. And frankly I’m so nervous, I’m about to just flip a coin! Or better yet…you pick!

I BREASTFED HIM FOR A YEAR

Back in November, Abraham’s dad and I both started getting not-so-good reports from his preschool teacher. He’s in Junior Kindergarden this year and an August baby (the oldest in his class). We got notes home that he was disruptive, disobeying, and even hitting his friends. I watched closely for any of these behaviors at home, but he was awesome at home. He did his chores without my reminding him, he said please and thank you; yes he struggled with the inability to control the volume of his voice, but what 5-year-old doesn’t?!
It was then that the school psychologist in me started wondering if this was not a behavior issue but something a little deeper. (Did you know I have a graduate degree in school psychology? I pay $500 in student loans every month so that I can use my degree to diagnose…my child.) Soon after my radar turned on, Abe’s dad suggested to me that we have him tested for ADHD. Knowing what I know of that diagnosis, I was very skeptical. I’ve seen many an intern score an observational ADHD survey from a teacher and slap a diagnosis on a kid who had no business even being tested. The fact that we live in Jacksonville, not exactly the most progressive city on the map, didn’t quell my fears either. But his dad was insistent, and sometimes that insistence is a parent-gut feeling…so I agreed.
Abe’s dad, his fiance, and I all piled in to a little office last week with the psychologist who completed his testing. She was young. Younger than I’d prefer. But she had letters after her name and a good sense of who Abe is by her own descriptions, so I listened. She explained that Abe is a “joyful” little boy who had lots to say and was very polite. She described his intelligence as “above average” and his ability to gather information visually as being “gifted”. She was impressed with his physical control when he was asked to stand on one leg or hold a pose like a statue for 2 minutes. Then she got to the attention testing section of her report.
Let’s just say…it didn’t go…well.
And then to be more specific…he was…”Well Below Average.”
There’s passing, there’s not passing…and then there’s Abe.
I can’t say that I was in any way surprised or disappointed. But I was introspective for a few days. I considered all the times that people told me I let him play on his iPad too much, or that I shouldn’t take him to movies. I remembered that I breastfed him for a year, so I gave myself points for that. A clean diet with no simple sugars, more points. Divorce. Divorce might take away points…I mean. Is there anything I did to cause this or cause it to get worse?! I’M A SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST. I KNOW IT’S GENETIC AND RELATED TO A SPECIFIC PATHWAY IN THE BRAIN THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH DIVORCE OR TV. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a bad mom and therefore my kid has ADHD.
I go to Abe’s classroom at least three times a month and I see him. He is impulsive. He doesn’t control his emotions very well. He does drift away during circle time. He can’t even SIT during circle time. It’s hard to watch your child struggle with the inability to talk out a problem at school before he loses his mind over the injustice of a stolen lego piece. ADHD isn’t a simple case of five symptoms and five behaviors. It’s different in every kid. So when I think back to the camp counselor last summer who told me he “would never get away with his bad behavior in a public school”, I want to call her and shout at her, “MY BOY’S BRAIN DOESN’T WORK LIKE OTHER BOYS’. HE’S NOT BAD. HE DIFFERENT. AND I BREAST FED HIM FOR A YEAR!”
I’ve spent the past week attempting to disassociate my personal reactions to Abe’s diagnosis and allow it to be a guidepost on his little educational journey. I suspect this will be an ongoing challenge for me to maintain my composure as I explain to teachers year after year the best ways to capture Abe’s attention and calm him down because I’ve been doing it since he was born. I pray that his inability to focus works in his favor and he doesn’t notice the other kids doing things he can’t, like finishing an assignment in one sitting (even if it is just cutting out the letter “S”). More than anything, I just want his friends and educators to love him for the silly little guy he is.

11986491_10153310838166865_2465092216982342567_nAbe can’t sit down at the table and color a picture or focus on my voice when kids are running around and there’s lots of noise. He can focus when he uses the iPad to write his letters or do math problems. He pays attention to TV shows about how things work. He’s capable of reciting to you the full plot of the movie we watched last night. He can build the hell out of some magnetiles. That’s just him. And I’m not going to feel badly about using the tools that hold his attention and limit his impulsivity to help him gain access to education, entertainment, and frankly, the world. (Except for when I feel badly about it.)

Being a mom is hard.

I was an IDIOT!!

My personal growth over the past two years has been so exponential that I see my former self in pictures and videos and I think, my LORD! What an IDIOT!
I felt pretty self-righteous when my marriage ended, like I was going into this next phase of life with a LOT of information. Somewhere between therapy, self-help books, and all the religions, I guess I just assumed that I had things covered. I knew what I was doing. There was NO better way of looking at the world then the way I was looking at it then.
Now, not only do I think I was an idiot back then…I think I may have been an idiot as recently as last week! I am CONSTANTLY growing and changing. And I’m starting to see what all those old people were talking about when they said that wisdom can really only come with age.
Most recently, I realized that most of my adopted methods of parenting have fallen away and opened up a path to my GUT. I now have full access to my gut, my gut’s feelings, and all the things my gut has to say. Do I love parenting websites with alternatives to spanking and non-stop time outs? I do. I think there’s some great stuff in there. But I’ve also realized that I know my kid better than anyone else, and I know what he needs more than any parenting blog, family member, or pediatrician does.

Like…choices, for example.

"You have to try the edamame. It's not a choice." (He liked it. Suckaaaah!)

“You have to try the edamame. It’s not a choice.” (He liked it. Suckaaaah!)

Around the time Abe was born, there was this huge push to give children choices. “If they don’t have any choices, they will feel powerless.” Well, I bought into this idea hook, line, and sinker. I decided right up front that my child needed choices. All the time. Choices, choices, choices. He was a HUMAN, after all, and he deserved the right to have a say-so in his own life! Come on!
Trouble was, it never really felt like it worked.
If I offered three-year-old Abe the option of taking a bath or no dessert, he’d choose no dessert. Why? Because he was three-years-old. He didn’t want to take a bath. And with no ability to predict the consequences of his actions, he wasn’t capable of considering how unhappy he would be when we were all eating cake and he couldn’t have any. This led to three things:
1. A tantrum.
2. Sad parents.
3. A dirty child.
Guess what? If children feel powerless, it’s because THEY ARE!! I’m powerless most of the time, too, y’all! I don’t have a choice but to work and make food and mow the lawn and pay bills. I don’t get to decide between cake and a shower. I was in no way preparing my child for real life because I was acting like real life actually gave a crap about which CHOICE you want to make!
And, if I may, MOST ADULTS DON’T EVEN LIKE MAKING CHOICES ANYWAY! If I ask Bear what he would like for dinner, do you know what he does? He gets annoyed. Why? Because he doesn’t want to make choices. He wants to eat dinner.
The same happens when he whisks me away to a romantic date night: we get in the car and at the last minute he asks, “Do you want to go to Orsay instead?” I DON’T KNOW. WHAT? I WANT ROMANCE AND WINE.
Literally the only choice I have in life on a consistent basis is how I decide to deal with the crap I have no choice about. I can put in my ear buds and sing without regard while I mow the lawn. I can feel grateful I’ve got money to pay bills and even MORE grateful that I can even take a shower. But choices? I’m not given very many choices in life. Only in my attitude.

So, my most recent parenting strategy has been basically to say, “Yeah. It sucks. And it’s real life, buddy.” And then I show my son how to sing in the shower or where to find the lego booklet for the lego tower the dogs just knocked over so we can rebuild. He likes knowing what’s expected, he likes knowing he can rely on me to call him on his BS, and he LOVES knowing that through it all, we’ll figure out a way to laugh.

Times I Want My Child to Shut Up

If my blog hadn’t been clear at any point, my son talks. A LOT. There are many times I want him to stop talking because he’s A. agitating me. B. embarrassing me. C. waking me up to ask me a question at 5am.

IMG_3422While walking both the dogs the other day, I realized just far enough away from our house that I forgot the dog-poo bags. I told Abe that we would walk the dogs down by the shoreline of the creek so that they could get their poos over with before we walked in the neighborhood. “Because if they poop in someone’s yard they might step in it?”
“Right, and it’s rude to let your dogs poop in someone else’s yard,” I explained.
Both dogs successfully pooped and we went on into the neighborhood. Until…
Charlie decided he had a second poop in him. “Mom! MOM!”
“I know, Abe,” I said in a muffled voice. “Shh. Just. Shh. Don’t say anything.”
“WHAT?”
“Don’t say anything about Charlie pooping and no one will know,” I yell-whispered.
“BUT HE’S POOPING!”
“Abe. ABE. SHH.”
“Oh.”
Charlie finished pooping and we quickly walked away from his steamy little pile and pretended it didn’t happen. Until…
Mr. Nice Neighbor with the Black Lab Guy came out to say hello. We had a lovely little interaction and as we were beginning our goodbyes, Abe…my only son so I can’t kill him…said, “Charlie pooped in that yard over there.”
Pause. Breathe.
“WE CLEANED IT UP!” I didn’t shout it, but I said it loudly enough to not make sense in the current situation.
“No we di…”
“SO GOOD TO SEE YOU MR. NICE NEIGHBOR WITH THE BLACK LAB GUY!”
“We left our ba…”
“BYE!!!! ABE SAY BYE WE’RE LEAVING BYE.”

 

He’s also started a love-affair with the words poop, pee, butt, and penis. He can literally attach them to any other word and in his little 5-year-old mind he’s made a joke. Poop-pencils. Pee-trees. Butt-breakfast. These are all jokes made by my 5-year-old. In fact, I got a note home from school about his “language” and how we need to keep potty words in the potty. I informed him that he was not allowed to say those words unless it was to ME and in the BATHROOM. He agreed. About five minutes later he screamed, “BOOTY-BUTT!!!!”
“ABE! I just said not to say butt unless it was to me in the bathroom.”
“I didn’t say BUTT. I said BOOTY-butt.”
Later I informed him that he was not allowed to say those words attached to any other words or he would lose his legos. Good news! He didn’t come home with bad language notes today.

Farting is a big favorite now, too. We call it “tooting”. He doesn’t know the word “fart” and I’d like to keep it that way for a little while. But whenever he does break wind, he announces it.”I JUST TOOTED DID YOU HEAR IT?” He’s announced it in such places as the couch, the dentist’s office, the frozen foods section, and SOMETIMES TO STRANGERS JUST PASSING BY.

He eats soup with his hands. Today he informed me he wants to be an ice cream baker when he grows up. And he kindly explained to a woman in the shoe store that she was not allowed to his penis. Only MOMMIES AND DADDIES CAN SEE PENISES.

I am so grateful for an intelligent little boy who speaks and expresses himself with a vocabulary similar to that of a 12-year-old’s. But Lord. Let’s speed it up with the anointing of the mouth-filters, could we?!

Oh No She Didn’t

I had to make a visit to a popular children’s second-hand store yesterday because I realized Abraham has outgrown every last pair of pants in his drawer. This particular second-hand store is possibly the most aggravating store in this town as it’s run by a family who are constantly pissed off at each other. No one is ever polite to customers, which is probably on account on everyone behind the counter whispering obscenities. And yet…they give cash for old clothes and their selection is awesome and very affordable. What’s a mom to do?

There’s an entire used-toy section of the store. Abe is aware that he’s allowed to check the toys out while I shop so long as he:
A. Puts them back the way he found them, and
B. Stop to try on clothes if I need him to, and
C. DOESN’T ASK ME TO BUY ANYTHING.
I began going through size 5T jeans, listening to him down the aisle discussing with himself how cool the toys were. Until I heard him say, “Hey. Hey, you, little boy. Look at this bus.” I looked over and he was showing a boy, maybe a year or two younger than him, a school bus toy. My heart was all soft and yummy watching my one and only son being so sweet and inclusive of this little guy. I watched for a moment before I continued sifting through jeans as I listened to him share.
Then I heard, “Honey, no. Come here. Come away from him…”
I whipped around. “HIM?” I KNOW you’re not talking about my child…
I watched as a woman in sweat pants and a black t-shirt grabbed her child by the arm away from the toys. Well, maybe she just meant that she wanted her son to be within her sight because she’s one of those hawk-eye moms.
Then I considered the fact that I might in face be a terrible mom. I don’t always have my eyes on my kid. I mean, I let him go inside single-stall restrooms by himself while I stand outside. I let him look at the toy section in the pharmacy while I pick up prescriptions. Holy shit…I’m a terrible mom…
“Here! Try this one!” I looked over again and saw Abe showing the same little boy a different toy. Again, super proud of him. And again. “Come here. Come. HERE. You do not play with those.” I watched her this time, dragging him away from my son.
“But mooooom,” her son whined. Yeah! Why can’t he play?!
“No. I said no. We are not playing with the toys, that’s NOT what they’re there for.”
“But HE gets to play with them!”
“Well, YOU’RE obviously not HIM.”

Oh no she didn’t.

I might be a terrible mom for not watching my son like a hawk, but I am NOT a terrible mom for letting my son play with toys in a second-hand store while I buy him second-hand jeans because I’ll be DAMNED if I pay $30 for one pair of jeans he can wear a total of 4 months. I walked over to Abe while her son was now crying because he couldn’t play, and I LOUDLY asked, “Having fun, baby? You’re playing so nicely.”
“I was playing with a boy but now he’s crying.”
“I know, and you did such a nice job of inviting him to play. I watched you.”
I could hear the now-disgruntled mom of the crying son trying to get him to quiet down. I watched her lead him by the arm past the aisle in front of us, exasperated with his crying. Trust me. Every fiber of my being wanted to shout, “Maybe you should think about your stupid mom-shaming rules the next time you want to shop in peace like I WAS DOING…” But then…that just would have been mom-shaming, too, huh?
Then I thought about saying, “Lighten up. Why can’t he play? It’s not like your kid is going to break a second-hand toy leaving you to foot the bill. I mean, even if he does, the toys are all like $5. I WILL GIVE YOU $5.”
Yeah. Still kinda mom-shamey.
I ended up saying nothing. I didn’t make a passive aggressive comment and I didn’t commiserate with her over her son crying. I just packed up our loot and left.

Making a growl-y dog face while feeding the dogs!

Making a growl-y dog face while feeding the dogs!

Later on we went to the pediatrician for Abe’s 5-year check up. This was the first year that Abe’s doctor asked him the questions instead of asking me. She asked him about his letters, his chores, his eating habits. She looked at me and said, “Making his bed, feeing the dogs, clearing his plates, those are all really appropriate chores. He’s right on par with his letters and numbers, and his conversational skills are awesome. Great job, mom.”
You hear THAT lady in the second-hand store?! GREAT JOB, MOM. My son is smart and kind and loves TOYS like a NORMAL 5-year-old and a healthcare professional who went to school for many years just told me I’m a GREAT JOB, MOM.
Amazing how we take other mom’s actions or judgements so personally, isn’t it? You can tell me I’m a bad writer, a bad driver, a bad cook…whatever. I don’t care what you think. But even SUGGEST that I’m a bad mom and my brain goes into OVERDRIVE with anger and resentment and defensiveness. Don’t you?

 

 

I Have Nothing in Common with my 5-year-old Son or Just Take a Shot

My son loves legos. LOVES legos.
He loves building cars. He loves Jake and the Neverland Pirates. He loves running through the house after our dogs. He loves Octonauts. He loves puzzles. He loves his mini farm.
He loves talking. Loudly. All the time. About everything he observes and thinks.
EV-ER-Y-THING.

He has been begging me all week to “play with him”. Most days I can’t figure out what this means. I help him build things. We run around in the yard. We read books. We write things. We color. I’VE BUILT 12,000 LEGO CARS/TRUCKS/CITIES. But that’s not enough. He still wants me to PLAY.

WHAT THE HELL DOES “PLAY” MEAN?!?!

You know why I don’t know what play means? Because we have nothing in common. His idea of playing is my idea of slow death by boredom and “this makes no sense.” I am so tired of hearing about legos and he couldn’t care less about Oprah, and so it’s hard to understand how to interact with each other without one of us being miserable. And it’s frustrating when your child is old enough to do things but you don’t share anything in common you want to do together.
So I told him yesterday morning that if he had a good day at school I would take him to putt-putt golf. Because putt-putt golf is a game. A game you PLAY. I hoped and prayed this would satiate his need to play because I don’t know what else he wants and I’m so tired of all his boring games.
He had a good day at school. AND SO! Putt-putt.
You’ve never heard a child more ecstatic about anything. It was like I told him that he was going to Disney World to live there for free for the rest of his life. We were only going to do one of the golf courses, but we did both. Why? Because his leaping and celebrating with every putt made this kind of play actually…enjoyable.

This isn't hole #7, but you get it.

This isn’t hole #7, but you get it.

At the hole #7 on the blue course, Abe was faced with three long, green alleyways through which he could aim his golf ball at the hole. I watched him stare at his options, taking practice swings along side of the ball to try making his decision easier. And then he said something that made me stop and think. He said, “Let me see which one I get.”
Now, I hate to turn everything my son says into some transcendent experience, but it’s what I do. I realized he wasn’t staring at the different paths his golf ball could take and saying, “I gotta aim for this one because it’s more likely to get my golf ball closer to the hole.” No, he was actually saying, “I’m going to take a shot and see where this goes.”
In short, he shot first and asked questions later.
There’s a point during life when that changes. You stop taking a shot to see what it might land you and you start calculating: If I take this shot, then this might happen. If I take this shot, then the other might happen. Which is the shot with the least chance of pain/disappointment/failure? That’s the one I’ll take!
But before that, we were actually gifted with a glorious “Let’s see!” attitude towards life. Yes, it gets Abe in trouble sometimes. “Let’s see what happens when I write on the dining room table with this pen.” (Mommy gets mad, that’s what you see.) You ever notice, though, that the “let’s see” attitude is only cool as an adult like, right before you go on a roller coaster ride?!
Abe had no fear of failing. No fear of getting bummed out. Not even a real concern for getting the ball near the hole. His entire focus was on hitting the ball and then finding out what happens.
And so, Bear and I are going to put in an offer on a house tomorrow. We’re offering significantly less than the seller is asking because of some awesome professional help we’ve gotten guiding us in the right direction. I’ve been avoiding taking real action on this house we love so well because…what if we fail? Get rejected? Wish forever that we would have gotten the house?! Abe’s comment on hole #7 was a reminder that we just need to take the shot…and see what happens.

Abe and I went to a glorious dinner at the Whole Foods hot bar and I told Abe he would have a few minutes by the time we got home before we needed to start getting cleaned up for bed. “Mom. Putt putt golf is so fun. I hope we get to do it again someday,” he told me in the car.
“We will! We definitely will! I had a great time with you, too, Abe.”
“Yeah, mom. I had a great time with you, too.”
We pulled into the driveway and Abe asked, “How much time do I have before shower?”
“About 20 minutes.”
“Ok, mom. Hey, mom?”
“Yeah babe?”
“Can you play with me?”

You get to make up a noise that you think sounds close to the noise I made…

 

Anyway you all know where this is going… (Part 2)

BOP.
Sssssssssssss.
Beep…beep…beep…
I lifted my head off my pillow in the passenger seat and looked over at Bear, who was driving. A large, yellow, flashing set of words on the dashboard caught my gaze. In my half-asleep state, I could decide if we’d switched to a submarine while I was napping or if something was wrong with the truck.
“Are. You. &$#^ing. Kidding. Me.”
That’s all he said. And he said it quietly. Almost defeated, but mostly like one false move and he’d knock you out no matter who you were.
He began pulling over to the side of the road. I looked at the dashboard clock.
5:00am.
“What is it?”
“Our tire blew out…” he said staring straight ahead of him into the darkness of I-95 in southern Georgia.
I’d like to stop this blog and bring your attention to my last blog when I casually mentioned new tires. The new tires we’d purchased three days before. For this trip. So there would be no issue with the 600-mile drive. Especially not two hours into the trip.
We both sat in the truck for a moment listening to the slow beep.
“Mom?” Abe woke up. “Why did we stop?” Of course, Abe woke up.
“We need to change a tire, Abe.”
“Why?”
This is not a good time for whys.
“Mom?”
“Because the truck needs a new tire.”
Before he could ask more questions, I got out after Bear did and I met him at the back of the truck.
“What do we do?”
He continued staring at the back of the truck for several more quiet seconds before answering, “I change a tire. And I pray my spare is real and not a donut.”
“If it’s a donut, we can’t go. Those are only good for like 100 miles.”
It was funny because why would I think he didn’t know that?
“I need to get the jack kit.” It took the owner’s manual, waking Cubby up to move him off his seat, and eventually displacing both kids from the back seat entirely to eventually find the jack kit. Bear went to work pulling the spare out from under the truck while I went to work…holding my cell phone light for him.

Shhh. Don't tell him I took this. He thinks I'm just holding the light.

Shhh. Don’t tell him I took this. He thinks I’m just holding the light.

Praise God the spare was a real tire. Getting the jack up under the car and lifting the truck up to an acceptable height was like watching Olympic needle point; it was painfully slow but INCREDIBLY anxiety-provoking. When Bear removed the brand new tire, we found the little hole where the road shrapnel took it’s short, short life. I thanked the new tire for it’s service (in my head, obviously, because saying anything out loud besides “yes” and “right here” might have sent Bear running into traffic) and helped Bear to put the spare tire on by…holding my cell phone light for him.
I’d like to stop this blog again to mention that I think the amount of cars that passed two people on the side of the road at 5:00am trying to change a tire in the dark is DESPICABLE. Seriously.
“Mooooom?” Abe was opening the truck door.
“BACK INSIDE. BACK INSIDE. THIS IS DANGEROUS.”
“But I’m scaaaaared.”
“I know, babe. It’s ok. Just try to take deep breaths.”
“Is it the middle of the night, mom?”
“Yeah. Pretty much.”
“Why are all these big trucks awake??”
“I’m not sure, sweetie, but we need to keep the door closed for your safety.”
I returned to Bear and tried out a quiet, “Great job, sweetie.” It didn’t land so I just continued being quiet and holding the light.
It took a little less than 40 minutes for Bear to change the tire and get us road-ready. It took us approximately 7 hours to put the jack kit back together. Those things make NO sense. Why on EARTH would you insist the owner of said kit play a full-on game of Level 11 Tetris to put the damn thing back together? DON’T YOU KNOW WHOEVER IS PUTTING IT BACK TOGETHER JUST CHANGED A FREAKING TIRE?!
We spent a few moments getting the boys back into their seats and strapped back in. Of course, by this point it was 6:00am. That’s way too close to normal wake-up time for the kids to go back to sleep. This means, in total, we got a total of one hour…one hour of sleeping quietness on our 8, now 9-hour trip.

11951008_10154187896389829_2010456672_nI will tell you the rest of our vacation was full of water sports and steak. Like, just so much steak it’s probably already caused my cholesterol to go up 20 points. And 30 minutes into our drive home 4 days later…
“Are. You. &$#^ing. Kidding. Me.”

Service. Engine. Light.

Luckily, the truck manual suggested if the light wasn’t blinking, the issue wasn’t an emergency. And we decided that was just going to have to be true, because we were going home.

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