Rules for Shopping

Mar 18 2010

We recently took all 5 of our kids shopping at Target.

Having learned a few things after parenting for more than a decade, I asked the kids to review the rules in the car on the way to the store.

Here’s what they said.

Family Rules for Shopping

  1. Be nice.
  2. Don’t jump on people.  Or climb on them, either.
  3. Use quiet voices.
  4. Don’t steal other people’s food.

Sometimes kids have better ideas than we do.  I wouldn’t have thought to tell them not to jump on people or not to steal other people’s food, but, sure enough, those are some of my expectations.

To think I would’ve just expected that behavior without saying it aloud.

Crisis averted.

St. Patrick’s Day

Mar 17 2010

My cousin Jen visited with her fabulous family over the weekend.  On Sunday, the grown-ups participated in the 5K Shamrock Run.

The run actually has nothing to do with the rest of this blog entry, but I figured it was fair game since it has the word “shamrock” in it.  I pretty much just wanted to mention that I RAN in a RACE!  And, by ran, I mean that I ran the whole time.

Yeah, so I was the slowest person in my whole group.  So what?  I might possibly pass out from pride just about now.

Give me a sec.

OK.  I’m good.

So about St. Patrick’s Day.  It’s mean.  It’s green.  It’s a leprechaun machine.

Here’s the difference between new parents of young children and jaded parents of older children:

New parents: “I wonder what wonderful traditions I can create around each and every holiday to give my children sweet memories of their childhood.”

My cousin Jen (parent to an 8 and 6 year old): “Why, oh why, did I start stupid St. Patrick’s Day traditions that I have to maintain every single freaking year?”

I love Jen.  We have so much in common.

Jen and Kevin, her husband, started a fun St. Patty’s Day tradition when their kids were tiny.  Every year, the leprechauns visit and play crazy tricks in their house.  They (the leprechauns, that is — certainly not Jen and Kevin!) have dyed the toilet water green, dyed the milk green, left behind boxes of Lucky Charms, etc.  Now, eight years in, the leprechauns are forced to up the game every year… and it’ll only get worse.

Imagine a room full of parents after the kids are in bed, helping the dang leprechauns brainstorm what they can do this year.  The green milk is out; the kids wouldn’t drink it (after all, the green dye could come from leprechaun pee, so we must be reasonable).  We came up with some good ideas, but we’ll see what the little creatures actually did this year in a household full of excited kids and tired parents.

I was sharing this story with my co-worker today.  She’s a parent of kids aged 10 through 19.  Definitely parent of older kids category because her response was, “Yep! My 10 year old son woke up this morning and cried, ‘Where’s the candy?!’ At which point I remembered that leprechauns usually scatter gold coins overnight.  Shoot!”  This is the same parent who was doing late-night shopping for the same child who had promised his teacher he’d wear green tights to school.  Sadly, there were no green tights at the store, so her son (who may thank her when he’s older) had to wear green-striped basketball shorts and a green shirt.

Why do I tell you all this?  As a warning to new parents.  Be careful of your traditions!  Like it or not, your children will insist you maintain them.  The more children you have, the more likely they will remember Every. Single. One.

There will be no forgetting the traditional making of the bunny cake on Easter.  No way they’ll miss out on reading Santa’s reply to our annual Christmas thank you letter.  And there’s no chance they’ll let you stop giving them Valentine’s candy when they’re in their 30’s with kids of their own (thanks, Mom!).

On second thought, scratch the caution message and carry on with adding traditions with reckless abandon.

So what if we’re up at all hours of the night shopping for green tights?

Who cares if we have to bring other parents, uh, I mean leprechauns, in to the conversation to think up new pranks?

And if the kids have to search their rooms high and low for the coins the Tooth Fairy left (“Oh, I’m sure the Tooth Fairy didn’t forget to bring you money, Aden…” – commence crazy, behind-the-back signals to other parent to rush upstairs to remedy coin shortage – “… did you look under your bed? Sometimes that Tooth Fairy gets a little sloppy.”), they’re none the wiser and overjoyed… so we’re good.  Right?

Nope.

We’re great.

Because there are silly, sloppy smiles on our kids’ faces, and somehow that makes it all worthwhile.

Our personal family tradition today is about as low-key as you can get.  We just have an annual recurring appointment on our calendar.

“St Patrick’s Day – WEAR GREEN!”  (Although that might as well read, “You will be the suckiest of parents today if you let your kids get pinched – do not blow this one.”)

Hey – it’s not much, but we do it every year.  Reminding the older kids, laying out clothes for the littlest ones.

And, so far, we have a clean pinch record.  That’s us; 11 years pinch-free.

It’s not the size of the tradition.  It’s the sentiment behind them.  The little things that tell your kids (even if you roll your eyes a LOT behind the scenes) that you care enough to remember, too.

Carry on, little green men.  Today’s your day.

Sex Ed, Take Two: The Birthing Theories

Mar 12 2010

Sometimes, we have conversations with our kids, and they just don’t seem to listen.

I know… weird, right?

Several months ago, we tried to have the conversation with Ian, age 10, about his birthing-babies theory.  We were concerned that kids at school might start to make fun of him if he started referencing a mom pooping out her babies.

Knowledge is power and all that.

Unfortunately, knowledge isn’t power unless the kid actually hears you and acquires the knowledge.

I discovered our lapses in educating Ian during a recent car drive.  I was taking Ian, Aden (8), Cai (3) and Cael (3) home, and the following argument ensued:

Ian: “…poops it out her butt.”

Aden: “Frows it up out her mouth.”

Ian: “Poops it out her BUTT.”

Aden: “Frows it up out her MOUTH.”

Ian: “POOPS. OUT. BUTT!”

Aden: “FROWS. OUT. MOUTH!”

Ian: “BUUUUhTTT-UH!”

Aden: “MOOUU-THUH!”

I can always tell when an argument has deteriorated beyond control.  When kids start adding an extra syllable — an “uh” that’s more of a grunt than part of the word, not unlike the noise a tennis player uses to punctuate a particularly hard hit — to the end of everything they say, it’s pretty much all over.  So when “butt” became “butt-UH” and “mouth” became “mouth-UH,” I knew it was time to intervene.

My friend Bev drives Aden home from school every day.  Bev’s started to contemplate writing a book titled “Ten Minutes with Aden” because their time together can be so enlightening.  It was from Bev that we first heard this theory that the mommy throws the babies up.

Aden showed Bev her imaginary kittens, and then proceeded to stuff the kittens in her mouth to keep them safe while the car crossed a river.  Bev asked Aden what would happen to the kittens if she accidentally swallowed them, but Aden wasn’t concerned.  “Then they’d be back in my tummy,” she replied, adding, “so I can frow them up when I want to play with them.”  Makes sense.

Now, I have to give credit to my kids.  In the absence (despite our best efforts) of reliable information regarding birthing, they each formed logical theories for how babies must be birthed.  Not only do they have their theories, but, by golly, they’re going to stick by them come hell or high water!  That’s conviction, folks!

However, as I mentioned, the uh-grunts were forcing my hand in the response department.

Me: “OK, Ian and Aden, that’s enough.  Those are good ideas about how babies come out.  But they’re not quite right.  Do you want me to tell you how babies are really born?”

Both, though Ian with a slight hesitation, which shows some wisdom on his part: “Yes.”

So I told them.  Yep, used the word vagina and everything.  Right there in the car.

Poor Ian.

My Child Of The Overly Sensitive Gag Reflex (read: prolific puker) began involuntarily to try to get those imaginary kittens out of his tummy.  Bless his heart, he rolled his window right down and stuck his head out of the car so as to not get puke all over.  Chivalry is not dead, ladies!

Aden, on the other hand, was quite taken with the whole idea and clearly felt very empowered as a woman by this information.  Her resounding, “YES! The babies come out a VAGINA!” could probably have been heard for miles.

At this point, my three-year-old boys, who had been wide-eyed with rapt attention for the entire previous conversation, felt it was time to chime in.

Cai, shaking his head back and forth and back and forth, as though he just learned that monsters are real: “No, Mommy. No, no, no.  That’s GROSS.”

And Cael, my ever-logical, scientifically-minded child: “Except my babies, Mommy.  Them come out my penis.”

All in all, my favorite car ride of all time.