How to Win at Parenting (You Know, More Than Your Partner Wins at Parenting)

June 9, 2014 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

I lost last week’s Parenting Competition to my husband, which, to be precise, really Sucked the Sucky Suck.

Now, Greg doesn’t know there’s a weekly Parenting Competition, or that we’re competing at all, because I’ve never told him. Also, he’s nice and not competitive (except during Settlers and Scrabble when he’s kind of a jerk) and so he’s always rooting for me in parenting and in life (but not in board games), but that doesn’t make the Parenting Competition less real. Or me less of its winner. Because winning when no one else knows you’re playing? IS STILL WINNING, friends. Still winning.

In case you’re kind-hearted and a team player (pffttt) like Greg, though, the Competition goes like this: the parents in two-parent families compete against each other, and the one who works harder, who’s more exhausted at the end of every day, and who most convincingly plays the role of martyr wins. 

Throughout the week, each parent accrues points for every task he/she performs. This is works-based, folks, not grace-based. For example, points can be awarded for (but are not limited to) family scheduling, kid transporting, appointment tracking, grocery shopping, errand running, party planning, clothes washing, tear drying, puke cleaning, butt wiping, up picking, nap putting, manners reminding, bread winning, meal prepping, and, of course, for remembering your kids’ birthdates, sizes, food preferences, diagnoses, allergies, friends’ names, teachers, sports practices, recitals, clubs and All the Appointments that are trying to kill you.

Bonus points are awarded for performing any task while sick or with a sick kid in tow. 

OR, if you’re not into tracking specific points, you may alternatively accrue general points by committing to do way, way too much, never asking for help, raging internally about all you’re doing, muttering about how little help you’re getting, and then getting defensive when your partner offers to help reduce your workload. This is my preferred method because I believe it’s important – critical, really – to play to my strengths and live into my areas of giftedness. Throw in a dramatic sigh, toss your hands in the air, and say something along the lines of, “You just don’t GET it!” or “Nevermind, I’ll do EVERYTHING” and you’re a shoe-in for 1st place. Sure fire way to WIN, baby! 

A winner is declared (not necessarily out loud… in your mind is fine) when one parent has clearly out-parented the other. 

And I? I WIN. Like, all the time. 

Except when I realize what I’m doing, and then I don’t win because I try to be kind (gag) and a team player (gross) and communicative and mature and responsible for my own feelings and dysfunctions, which is vulnerable and hard and makes my marriage better in the end. But most of the time I just stuff my feelings with food and the slightest bit of rage… so, WINNING. YAY!

Last week, my oldest kid had foot surgery. Which was planned. And still hard. And painful. And exhausting. And I hate seeing my baby suffer. But ALSO IT WAS AWESOME, because HELLO, OPPORTUNITY TO WIN! 

And I had last week’s Parenting Competition in the bag, I tell you. IN. THE. BAG. Because I was up ALL NIGHT with her, newborn style, every half hour, clicking her ice machine on and off, and on and off, and on and off, and on. For days at a time! EVERY HALF HOUR, man. I set my alarm for EVERY HALF HOUR to ice my baby’s foot, and I threw in some pain meds for her every 3rd hour, and I never, not even once, helped myself to those narcotics. So I deserve, like, a TROPHY, right? 

And it was RAD. I mean, I looked TERRIBLE. Smudgy make-up. Droopy pajamas. No shower for 4 days. Hair wonky. Smelled fantastic. And I didn’t cry at all. Like, ZERO crying. Just stoic and stiff-upper-lip and very I WILL OVERCOME. Very sacrificial. Very LOVING and GIVING and Woe Is Me; I AM DOING ALL THE THINGS.

And, sure, Greg offered to take a night or two or all of them so I could sleep in our bed and he could take a turn on our daughter’s floor. He offered over and over again. And, sure, Greg handled All the Other Things during the week. And, sure, he changed sheets and ran for meds and watched the kids and kept up on his job and handled the bedtimes and checked to see How I Was Doing. But I did not let him help me. I did not let him Win, ’cause I know that ploy. That ploy to pull ahead! And he was NOT going to get away with it. Nope. Not on MY watch.

But Greg is sneaky. And Greg is savvy. And Greg is SMART, darn him, and he keeps thinking with his giant, genius brain, and so, on Day 4 of my Surgery Vigil, Greg offered a solution. A way to make my life easier. He suggested – get this – that we put Abby’s ice machine on a timer. A timer. A timer to automate the on/off cycle so I could sleep, pulling my martyr rug right out from under me like a magician with impeccable timing and expert slight-of-hand, and leaving me standing there, shocked and rugless.

Don’t worry, though; when he offered to set up the timer, I wasn’t nice about it or anything. I sighed and said, “You just don’t GET it!” like a timer was the world’s stupidest way to handle a round-the-clock icing machine, and then I threw my hands in the air dramatically and said, “FINE; set up a timer if you think that’s a good idea,” like I was doing him a favor. And, I know, I know; even though it was clearly the strongest possible comeback under the circumstances, I still know Greg won last week’s round. 

But what I really think you need to take away from this is, I’m winning. You know, in general. I mean, not recently. Recently, I lost the Parenting Competition. Bigtime. But I’m on a Winning Trajectory is what I’m saying. Lifetime Parenting Award! And one teeny, tiny setback will not (will not) determine the outcome of the entire competition. 

(Also, I apologized to Greg.)

The End

P.S. This may not be the best site on the internet for marriage advice.

P.P.S. Or parenting advice.

P.P.P.S. Or, you know, advice of any kind.

How to Teach Your Kid Effective Communication

June 4, 2014 in Beth, Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

I’ve got one kid who’s more susceptible to the stomach flu than the others. I promise you, if it’s going around, and often even if it’s not, this kid will get it at least twice. Often three times. And repeat every other month or so just so he doesn’t forget how. But the good news is, he processes it in less than 24 hours. Every time. So, silver lining!

The problem with kids, of course, is they suck at communication. I mean, it’s not their fault they suck at communication; it’s just they don’t yet have the experience or vocabulary to give us grown-ups all the information we need. For example, Stomach Flu Kid? Yeah. For the past two years, every single vomitty episode is the same.

  1. Cael goes pale.
  2. Cael complains of headache.
  3. Cael harfs buckets.

And he’s not the kid of mine who always makes it to an appropriate vomit-receptacle, either. Nope; this is the kid who ralphs without warning, but with great enthusiasm, and we never, ever – ever – get the bucket to him in time, because he never, ever – ever – tells us when it’s coming.  

So I’ve spent years with this kid – two straight years at least – trying to help him with his stomach flu communication. Trying to help him understand that the headache isn’t a headache… that’s called nausea, or, if that word’s too hard to remember when you’re sick, then it’s called “I FEEL LIKE I’M GOING TO THROW UP, MOM.” 

But no luck. Just none. Because TERRIBLE COMMUNICATION, I tell you. This kid can talk you under the table about Minecraft or insect anatomy or why 7-year-olds should be allowed to have driver’s licenses, but he cannotno matter what, identify nausea. 

And guess what?

Cael had the stomach flu three times last week. Woohoo! Twice at home and once at school. Three times lucky, friends. And every time was the same. 

Pale.

Then, “Mom, my head hurts.”

Then me, “That’s called nausea, Cael. Do you feel like you’re going to throw up?”

Then him, “I have a headache.”

Then me, “Can you say nausea? Nausea. You feel nauseated. Do you need a bucket?”

And him, “I have a heada…”…aaannd… puke cascading everywhere.

Every. Where. All of the Places. Like PlayDoh or glitter or those teeny, tiny LEGO pieces, impossible to contain once released into the wild.

And I swear I didn’t chide him for barfing. I didn’t. I wiped him up with someone’s t-shirt and undies, helpfully abandoned in the hallway near-by, and I said as I carried him to my bed to rest, “Oh, sweetie. Honey. That was nausea.” 

And he looked at me, droopy-eyed and exhausted, and said, “I had a headache.”

Which is when it occurred to me that he might be having… wait for it… headaches.

Because it also occurred to me that I get migraines.

And my mom gets migraines.

And my symptoms are primarily headache followed by the sudden onset of nausea / vomitting. Without, you know, a build-up of nausea as a precursor. 

Years. Years this kid has been telling me he has headaches.

Years. Years I’ve been telling him he’s wrong.

So I took Cael to the doctor yesterday to talk about his penchant for the stomach flu. And the doctor listened to his symptoms and diagnosed him with migraines. 

So… that was great.

And here’s my awesome advice on How to Teach Kids Effective Communication:

SHUT UP AND LISTEN TO THEM, Beth. Geez.

OK? OK.

I’m glad we had this chat.

P.S. Obviously, I have Parent of the Year in the bag, but if you have a similar I Rock Parenting story, I’m not opposed to having some company here on the awards stage. **ahem**

On Sunday Morning

June 12, 2013 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

On Sunday morning, after the 12th “GEEZ, MOM,” and the 17th “WHATEVER, DAD,” and the 45th time he made that cat-ralphing-up-a-hairball sound of teenaged disgust, I sent the large boy child to his room. He said, “GREAT!” and grinned maliciously in my direction with a sassy little shake of the head, so I said, “You can stay in your room for INFINITY!” And he said, “I WANT to stay in my room for infinity!” And I said, “FINE. You can stay in your room for LONGER than infinity,” because I think it’s important for the parent to always remain calm and set an example of mature authority.

On Sunday morning, I sent a second kid to her room for lying about personal hygiene. Did I care that she hadn’t showered? No, I did not; I was just wondering. Did I care about the lying? Well, of course. You know, theoretically. Or only because Caring About Lying is in the Mama Manual, but whatever. But you know what really got my goat? What really sent me over the edge? THIS —> When I asked whether she lied, she responded with a proud, gleeful, “YEP!” <—THAT. In other words, she’s totally me as a kid, which we all know is GAH. Terrifying! Does anyone know which stage of childhood it is when kids finally internalize the fact that faking is important? ‘Cause sometimes you gotta sell a “sorry” even though you’re not really sorry at all. And sometimes you gotta sell a “sad about lying” face even when lying secretly makes you feel powerful and giggly. LIFE LESSON, KIDS. LEARN IT.

On Sunday morning, I took a third kid to the doctor. Did I mention it was a Sunday? So I took the kid to the expensive, immediate care kind of doctor because her mouth hurt and was visibly swollen so I knew she probably had mouth cancer or an infection threatening to enter her blood stream or an extremely well-hidden penchant for chewing tobacco that we needed to discover STAT so we could get her into a top-notch juvenile chewing tobacco rehab center. Yeah, I’m not always rational when my kid is in pain.

On Sunday morning, while I took a kid to urgent care for a canker sore, Greg taught our preschool Sunday School class without me. I told him I was sorry I couldn’t help him, and my face looked very sad.

The End

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P.S. Yes, I know it’s Wednesday and I just wrote about Sunday. I started this post on Sunday. I meant to finish it on Sunday. I feel like this is an accurate demonstration of my ability to finish things on time.

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P.P.S. Sunday was actually fine. Weird. But fine. Our family rescued us, as usual. My cousin, our pastor, covered our other church responsibilities. My cousin, the middle school teacher, took charge of the large boy child and jostled him out of his funk. My parents showed up with a chainshaw and a bucket to tame my yard.

photo 1 (55) And my son wore plaid Bermuda shorts, a Superman t-shirt and fashion forward transportation rain boots to dinner.

photo 2 (63)

What’s not to love?

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P.P.P.S.

Dear James Harbeck,
You’re rad.

Phonetic Descriptions of Sounds Teenagers Make
by James Harbeck

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Chime in! How was your weekend? (‘Cause that’s a fun question to ask on a Wednesday.) Or, if you’re already so over the weekend… what’s happening right now at your house? 

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When the Mommy War is of My Own Making

February 22, 2013 in Beth, But Seriously by Beth Woolsey

I opened her blog and I saw it again. Another statement — an aside, really — explaining why she no longer writes about her children. It was just a quick note to her readers to help them understand the shift in her content, I think. Her babies are getting bigger, you see. And she wants to honor their stories as their own. To respect them and hold their hearts gently. To do everything in her power to protect their sacred space.

She wrote beautifully, as always. And compassionately toward her children. And gracefully. And honestly. And full of light and truth.

I was annoyed.

I will tell you now with as much honesty as I can muster, and I will confess, that I didn’t hear her words kindly or accept them as an invitation to spend time in her sweet spirit. Instead, I was a teeny, tiny bit eye-rolly and the smallest bit breath-huffy. Because when I opened her blog and I saw it again — again — it felt like a weapon. Subtle, for sure. But it hit the mark, aimed not just at what I do, but at who I am. A veiled critique of my writing, my sense of humor, and, most vulnerably, how well I love my littles and my bigs. How deeply I cherish them. How well I protect them.

I stopped reading her for a while, although I love her writing and her heart and her perspective. I stopped reading because her asides hurt my feelings and there was no practical way to defend myself. Also, it takes a lot of time to be grumbly.

But, I wanted to respond, can’t you see?

Can’t you see that I DO respect my babies in the very telling of our stories?

Can’t you see that in the middle of our growing, and the middle of our muck, and the middle of our pain and our joys and the wreck and the redemption that is family, I hold this space as simultaneously sacred and silly and holy and hilarious and irreverent and healing and true and deep and real?

Can’t you see that talking about this crazy, messy life sets us all free? And that silence traps us inside false models of unattainable perfection?

Can’t you see that I walk with my children and I ask for their permission and I hide some things in my heart and I do this — I write this — to honor them always?

Can’t you see?

Can’t you see me? 

And that last question was when I realized I was wrong. GAH. I was wrong for all the best reasons, of course, which I always feel should somehow erase the wrong if the universe is just or merciful, but nope. Still wrong.

In my desire to be heard, you see, to be known, to be trusted, to be liked, and to live fully into my calling as one who writes the deepest truths I know, I took her truth, her conclusion, her best way forward for her family, and I made it about me and mine. I took her experience, I fashioned it into a knife, I fell on it, and then I blamed her in secret for the Not Good Enough way it made me feel.

Which makes me wrong — again.

And I’m sorry.

And will you please forgive me?

I’m not a big believer in the Mommy Wars. In fact, I went on record debunking them after I found so many mamas with so many differences who all share the same desire to love our children to the very best of our abilities. (Our abilities which sometimes suck, but still.) But here I found myself harboring a Mommy War of My Own Making. My heart — the same one that beats to the rhythms of other mamas’ hearts — was unable to hear one mama’s story because I was too myopic, too defensive, and too afraid that her truth was too different from mine to listen.

Oh, this is not who I want to be, friends, this person with a bit of war hiding inside me. This is not who I want to be at all.

I want to be a Listener, friends. And a Story Honorer. And a Grace Giver. And a Love Sharer. And a Light Shiner.

I want to be a Door Opener. And a Back Patter. And Ceaseless Praiser. And a People Defender.

I want to be Myself and champion You, too, even though we’re different or perhaps especially because we are.

So I declare a cease-fire in my soul. I declare that Peace has won the day. I declare that her truths are no less true for me having different ones. And I declare that I will declare the same things tomorrow and the next day and the next day and however many days it takes to lay the war to rest.

Let us all be our truest selves. And honor others for doing the same. There’s room, friends, for every one of us to live the truth out loud.

xoxo,
B

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Please note: The “she” I mentioned up above? Isn’t just one person. There’s no one to find. This is a theme that popped up in many places over time, and I’m not pointing to any one specifically. Just so you know.

Warning: Kids Grow Up. This Is Not a Drill.

February 8, 2013 in Beth, But Seriously, Family by Beth Woolsey

I feel like it’s important to warn you so you at least have a chance to avoid me today. To hunker down in your house under your blankets or your baby’s burp-rag or whatever you can find. To lock yourself in the bathroom and to tell your littles to shush and quiet down and here, eat this whole Hershey bar so the crazy lady outside can’t hear us when I come pounding on your door. To not answer the phone when I call you. To put an out-of-office notice on your email. To runRun, is what I’m saying. Save yourselves.

See, the problem is, I took this picture approximately last week, on Abby’s first day of kindergarten.

pic 002

And then, 25 minutes later, this happened:

photo 1 (43)

Mama friends, especially all you mama friends who are new to this parenting gig, I want you to know I am trying to do the right thing here. I am trying to be a good friend to you. Which is why I’m issuing this warning:

I am going to the grocery store today, and I am going to grab every single mommy-with-littles I see, and I am going to hold on squeezy tight to her upper arms, and I am going to breathe my too-too-coffee breath in her face, and I am going to say, “HUG THEM, mama. This time goes SO FAST. LOVE THEM and LOVE THEM. They’ll be grown before you know it.” And all the white haired ladies in the checkout lines who say these things that make us want to tear our mama hair out will nod in solidarity and give me a fist bump and holler, “WORD.” And all the mommies of littles will cry because they are too exhausted for this kind of Cliffordand time does not go so fast, and seriously?!

Oh, friends. I’m sorry. I will get ahold of myself and make the grocery store a safe place again. I pinky swear and cross my heart. I will. I will just as soon as these kindergarten boys let me squeeze all the air from their bodies

IMG_5066-001

and promise to keep playing dress-up and shoving Golden Books down their pants.

Because this happened:

photo 2 (49)

And this happened:

photo 1 (44)

And, oh my word, I’m pretty sure it’s happening again right in front of me.

So next time an older lady stops you at the grocery store and tells you on the slowest, longest, most excruciating day of your life to hug your babies or that it flies by faster than you can imagine, I want you to know I’m sorry. Truly, deeply sorry. Forgive us. It’s just that, even though we mamas of young ones are right and the days go by soooooo, soooooo slowly, we older mamas are right, too, and the years are gone before we know it.

I know it’s true because I learned it from watching her.

pic 005

xoxo,
B

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P.S. A great big thank you to Abby and our next door neighbor, Zac, for allowing your mamas to recreate your First Day of Kindergarten photo. That was Love to us, babies. Love.

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UPDATE: My dad posted this pic of yours truly to Facebook with the caption “Warning: Kids grow up. This is not a drill. We are familiar with this phenomenon… and it’s okay.”

BabyBethI want to recreate this photo for my parents, but I’ve misplaced my pink bloomers again.

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5 Tips for Kids on Writing Apology Notes

January 31, 2013 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

We’ve weathered our fair share of apology note writing at our house. Just off the top of my head, our topics have included hitting, head butting, face flicking, and nut punching. Not to make you jealous, but we’re very, very experienced apologizers. It’s important as a parent, I think, to lead the charge by screwing up at least once a day — more if you can manage it — and then apologizing so your kid can see by example how it’s done.

Coincidentally, my kid wrote an apology note just last night.

It went like this:

photo (36)

Dear _____,

Sorry for hitting you with the hole hop and sorry for hitting you MORE THEN ONCE.

So.

That was a fun family evening.

Given the fact that some of you are new to the parent gig and may not have as much expertise in this area, I thought I might offer some assistance. Some advice. Some guidelines. Some tips. Longtime parents like to do this sort of thing from time to time to convince ourselves we’ve learned something. Anything at all, really. Bear with us, OK? Be kind. Our advice may be obvious, but we need to give it.

5 Tips for Kids on Writing Apology Notes

  1. Say you’re sorry. It looks like this: “I am sorry.” I know it’s a terrible thing to have to do, kid, but everyone owes an apology from time to time. Suck it up. Get it done. Move on. It will prepare you for paying bills someday.
  2. Say what the apology is for. For example, “I am sorry I ended the last sentence with a preposition.” Make sure the letter recipient knows you understand what you did. It’s a stand-up thing to do, it helps diffuse anger, and, believe it or not, you’ll feel better when you admit where you were wrong.
  3. Don’t excuse your behavior with if’s or but’s. Not even when you have a really good reason for what you did. For example, “If you hadn’t stolen my colored pencil, you Mean Stealing Stealer Who Steals, I wouldn’t’ve had to flick you in the FACE” might better be expressed screaming into your pillow than in writing. Stuff in writing can come back to bite you. Don’t make it worse.
  4. Spell words correctly. Like “hula hoop” which is spelled H-U-L-A  H-O-O-P and is definitely not spelled H-O-L-E  H-O-P. Baby, it’s important for you to know I’m willing to talk to you about anything. Anything at all. That’s my commitment as your mama. Open communication. Answering questions to the very best of my ability. But, for both our sakes, can we wait on this one a few years? Yes? Oh, thank God.
  5. Express your commitment not to do it again. And then don’t do it again.

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P.S. “And then don’t do it again.” Hahahahahaha! I’m 39 years into attempts on that one. No luck yet. But if this apology thing was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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My kid accidentally punched his sister in the face.

January 16, 2013 in Family, Funny by Beth Woolsey

My six-year-old accidentally punched his teenaged sister in the face on the way to school this morning. I know it was an accident by the way he yelled, “IT WAS A ACCIDENT. IT WAS A ACCIDENT. IT WAS A ACCIDENT.”

She thought it wasn’t an accident, FYI. She thought he did it on purpose. She thought he should Knock. It. OFF. GEEZ! But I reminded her that he accidentally punched himself in the penis last night and laid himself flat — twice — so I think maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

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P.S. One time my kid punched another kid in the nuts. I can’t help but think we’re making progress.

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