When the Wheels Fall Off the Wagon

30 Oct

Bear with me on this post…it’s long…it starts off sounding like I’m telling you my child is perfect but I promise it’s an honest post about parenting.

I have an inherently good child. She is kind. She is thoughtful. She is more compassionate than most adults I come across. She sees the beauty in places I’m too busy to look. She makes us cards, writes us notes and is quick to tell us what great parents we are. She skipped the terrible twos. We breezed through the trying threes. I can only remember two tantrums she ever had by age 5. I did not take this for granted. I was not smug about it. Because I knew the wheels would fall off the wagon at some point…they have.

In the past few months she has become defiant and if I’m being honest…bratty at times. I understand she’s her own person. I know she has an opinion, she is, after all, my child. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with her voicing her opinion if she does so with respect. However, lately she’s been downright defiant and disrespectful. Not all the time but enough that it needed to be addressed. Mike will tell her to do something as simple as getting in the bath. If she responds, it’s usually with, “NO! I don’t want to!” Most of the time she just ignores any request that is made of her. It’s frustrating and becoming more frequent. She acts as if she’s running the show and she kind of is.

Then comes the whining, the begging, the negotiating and if none of those work…the complete meltdown shows up to the party. And all of this usually comes in the morning, when I’m on my own with her. I ask her to brush her teeth. She says no. I tell her to brush her teeth…we have to go…we’re going to be late. She responds with, “If you give me $5, I’ll brush my teeth.” I say no. She says, “You’re the meanest mom in the world!” I get increasingly frustrated and repeatedly ask her to brush her teeth. It usually ends in me yelling and her crying and I’m brushing her teeth for her so we can get out the door. Brushing the teeth is just the example I’m using here…but it’s pretty much anything we ask her to do. Get dressed, do her homework, clean up, take a bath, turn off the tv. You name it, the answer is no and she’s ready to fight with how unfair we are.

I cannot live like this. Mike cannot live like this. Ava cannot live like this. Our house has become a war zone in the mornings. Half the time she’s crying before we leave the house and I’m crying after I drop her off at school. I hate that I’ve raised my voice and then the mom guilt kicks in. I’m sure that I’ve damaged her psyche beyond repair…of course I know this isn’t true…most of our interactions are fun and loving. I know we’re good parents. I know we praise her and love her and give her the attention she deserves. I know we provide a stable and safe environment where we encourage her to learn and grow and love.

I’ve reached the end of my rope. I know I have to regain control. She talks back and is defiant because we have allowed it to happen. I don’t think we were even aware at first…we never experienced tantrums or defiance at 2 or 3. At first when she started acting out we figured she was tired or it was a bad day or she was transitioning to first grade. It never occurred to us that we were creating a pattern. We ask her to do something, she says no, we repeat, she says no, we raise our voice, she either does it or we do it for her. So basically she knew that until we raised our voice she still had time to continue negotiating and that we weren’t serious yet. We first decided to start with a marble jar reward system and it worked for the first week brilliantly…the second week was mediocre…this week it didn’t much matter to her if she got a marble when she brushed her teeth. Although on Friday when it’s time for allowance I’m sure there will be a giant meltdown because she wants more money that she simply didn’t earn.

So I found this parenting book on Amazon that had received rave reviews. I bought it and read it in a few short days. Mike read the parts that he needed to read. We discussed it last night and the plan went into action. Basically the book works on an “If ______, then_______” strategy. So I asked her to please brush her teeth before bed. She said, “No. I don’t want to.” So I told her, “If you do not brush your teeth now, we won’t read your library book before bed.” She said, “I don’t care.” What she really meant is, “You’ve said this before and when I throw a big enough fit and you’re tired of hearing me scream you give in.” I could hear it in her voice. She simply did not believe me. She had no reason to as we’ve both been pretty bad at following through with consequences.

So she didn’t brush her teeth. When it was time for bed she went to get her library book. I calmly told her that we wouldn’t be reading the library book tonight because she didn’t brush her teeth. I told her to use the restroom and come to bed. I heard her in the bathroom…first she brushed her teeth, then she flossed, then she used her tongue scraper. I honestly felt bad for her. Surely she thought that being this thorough would earn her the privilege of reading the library book because the girl never flosses without a fight. She came into her room and said, “I brushed my teeth, flossed and scraped my tongue. Can we read my library book now?” I told her, “I’m sorry sweetie but we can’t read your library book. I told you earlier that if you didn’t brush your teeth when I asked that we couldn’t read the book. You chose not to listen so you don’t get the privilege tonight.” You guys…World War III broke out.

It was 41 minutes of her crying, pleading, begging, offering me money…she started at a dollar and was up to a million dollars within minutes. I ignored all of it. I stayed with her but would not respond to any of her requests or what soon became demands. She told me I was the meanest mom in the world. She told me that I was being unfair. She just kept hurtling things and I just kept quiet. It was the hardest 41 minutes of my life. After about 30 minutes I told her that if she didn’t stop crying that I would leave her room and give her time to calm down. She kept crying. I left. She stopped crying. I went back in and she was in her bed reading the library book! How I remained calm at this point is beyond me. But I did.

I asked her for the book. She handed it over and then said, “It doesn’t matter. When you leave I’ll just get another book off my bookshelf.” I said, “Actually you won’t because I’m taking all the books out of your room.” She said, “You can’t do that.” I said, “I most certainly can.” I called Mike in and we started moving the books out of her room. She was shocked and just said, “Okay mommy. I get it. You can move all of the books out of my room. Please stop.”

We moved quite a few of the books out of her room. Enough to make the point. It would be so easy to just read her the book and have this whole thing end. I know that. Mike knows that. But now I also know that is where the problem originated from. If she doesn’t get her way she cries until she does. She tries every trick in the book. She wins every stand off. And we just can’t do this anymore. This is not the way I want to parent. I don’t want us to be angry with each other. Finally…after 41 minutes I walk into her room. She says, “I’m sorry I didn’t do what I was supposed to do when you asked because now I don’t get to read my library book.” I hugged her and told her I was sorry she didn’t do what she was supposed to do either but now it was time for bed. I told her that I loved her. She asked if she got up and did her morning chores before school if we could read the library book before we left the house. I said, “If you do your chores and are ready to go by 7am, then I will read your library book before we leave.” She said she understood.

Then…she broke my heart a little. I put her to bed every night. Last night she asked me to leave. She said she would rather put herself to bed. I went and sat in the bathroom attached to her bedroom and cried while texting a good friend who knows all about parenting and the challenges it brings…a woman who is honest and real…a woman who’s parenting style I admire….a woman who says, “I’ve been there.” But the most profound thing she said to me last night was, “[Some parents] are the type that always have to hold things together. I just can’t connect to that. Our vulnerabilities are what bring us together. I wish more people understood that.” I wish more people understood that too. Being a good parent doesn’t mean having perfectly behaved children. If children were perfectly behaved then parenting would be useless. To me being a good parent means continuously seeking out new ways if old ways aren’t working. It’s having the courage to reach out to friends and be vulnerable. It’s knowing that sometimes the right way isn’t always the easy way. We have many more beautiful moments in our family than bad moments…but when we reach times of struggle it’s nice to know that there’s other moms out there who get it.

Eventually I heard a little voice say, “Mama? Can you please come back? I tried to go to sleep alone but my bed isn’t the same when you’re not here.” I may or may not have done a flying leap from the bathroom into her bed.

I know this isn’t the last battle we’ll have. I know there will be more. But I’m hopeful. I know I can be strong when she’s pushing every button I have. I know I can hold my ground and remain calm. I know I can manage my emotions even when hers are out of control. I can be the example she needs when every emotion of hers is overflowing.

Things I Promise the Kid at 4 AM

24 Sep

So Mike and I were woken up by Ava this morning around 4 am. She was crying and I climbed out of bed and walked to her room. She told me she had a very bad dream and she didn’t want to tell me what happened. I said, “Honey, just tell me…it’s only a dream.” That was my first mistake. She tells me, “I had a dream someone sliced you up and cooked you.” What. the. ______?

I can only think of two explanations for this. 1) She’s been secretly watching episodes of Dexter, or 2) I tease her occasionally about her behind being a rump roast and joke that we’re going to have a rump roast for dinner. Either way…it kind of freaked me out.

So I explain that it was just a bad dream but she’s still really upset so I bring her back to our room. She’s trying to fall asleep but keeps crying because she says she can’t stop thinking about the dream. She asks me if she can go to work with me today because she’s worried something bad will happen to me. So of course my anxiety kicks in because, you know, if she had a dream about it then something must be about to happen to me.

Then she says she wishes I was her teacher so she never had to leave me. I ask her if she likes her teacher because, as a parent, my little red flag goes up. She says she loves her teacher but that she just misses me and daddy sometimes. So I said, “Why don’t we plan a tradition for two days out of the week so you’ll have something to look forward to when you’re at school.” She says okay.

My brain is not fully functioning because, hello, it’s 4am. So I suggest Taco Tuesdays and Pizza Fridays. This turns into a whole conversation about how she doesn’t like tacos but we could do burritos on Tuesdays. Then she starts asking if we can do homemade pizzas on Fridays. I swear this kid’s brain is in overdrive sometimes.

Mike asks me this morning, “Why did you say we could do Taco Tuesdays?” I don’t know…I couldn’t think of anything else to take her mind off of the fact that she just dreamed someone sliced me up and cooked me. I figured we should probably cook up something else besides me for dinner. As a parent you’ll promise just about anything at 4am if it means going back to sleep, right?

Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?

11 Sep

I awoke from a dead sleep to the phone ringing just before 6am PST. I scrambled to grab the phone wondering who would call this early. It was Mike. His first words were, “The world is coming to an end.” Groggy and confused I asked him what he was talking about. He said, “A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. Turn on the news.” I switched the TV on, unsure of what I was really seeing. I asked him if it was a private plane. He said he didn’t know. I listened to the reporters talking, everyone just as confused as I was…not understanding what happened and believing this was a tragic accident.

I was glued to the TV, Mike still on the phone, when the second plane hit the second tower. “Oh my God, Mike. Oh my God, another plane just hit the other tower.” He said I must be confused that I was probably watching a replay. And I said, “No Mike. There are two gaping holes…one in each tower. What the fuck is happening?” Tears came. Fear came. I told Mike I needed to call a friend who worked for the airlines. My friend told me that reports were coming in that two more planes were hijacked and weren’t responding to radio calls.

I was so confused. I couldn’t understand or make sense of who would do this or why. I called Mike back and told him what I knew. He had no access to a TV so I was telling him what I was seeing. I remember the shock when I told him people were jumping from the building. And his silence as I cried. I remember watching the first tower collapsed. I remember thinking that it just wasn’t possible. I remember him thinking it wasn’t possible, asking me if I was sure it had collapsed. I remember watching the second tower fall. The tears just kept coming. I didn’t know what to do. Are you supposed to go to work when something like this happens? Living in Los Angeles, I knew it wasn’t happening here, but it was happening to all of us…as a nation.

I called my boss who said he thought at a time like this it was best for us to join together and that if people wanted to stay home they could but that he thought it would be a good idea for us to come in, huddle around the TV and order lunch for everyone. So that’s what we did. We sat and watched and cried and called loved ones. We waited for answers. We heard from people who were supposed to be on one of the flights but missed it for some reason or the other.

Living right next to LAX in the small town of El Segundo, I became used to the sound of the planes. Really loud during the day and a low hum at night. I became used to seeing them in skies on my daily commute so when they grounded all the flights an eery silence fell over our city. It was almost as if you could hear a pin drop. The silence scared me…it was so foreign. I remember when I saw the first airplane in the sky a few days later it felt odd to see it there. Like it didn’t belong and somehow was threatening.

A few days later I headed to Las Vegas for a friend’s birthday. On Sunday I decided to catch a flight home. It was a Southwest flight and I remember being terrified. There were four passengers on my entire flight. Do you know how weird a plane looks with four people on it? We all sat together. We all talked about what had happened. What we would do if it happened on a flight we were on. We were no longer strangers engrossed in our own daily lives but people who shared a common bond of sadness, fear and love for our country.

What happened in NYC affected us as a nation. The motto “United We Stand” became something we truly were. We were united…gone were the political party lines for a short time…it was a time when we remembered that we were fellow Americans despite our differences in beliefs and we truly came together in an attempt to heal a nation that had been shaken. To offer assistance by any means we could offer it. People came from all over the US to help with search and rescue. We donated blood, we opened our homes, we sent care packages, we enlisted in the armed forces, we became friends with strangers, we cried for people we didn’t know.

For all of the fallen heroes on that day, I remember. For all of the service men and women fighting for our freedom, I remember. For all of the people who lost their lives, I remember. For all of the men and women who lost their spouses, I remember. For all of the children who will only know the legacy their parent left, I remember. I will never forget the outpouring of love in the days that followed the attacks.

 

Take Another Little Piece of My Heart Now Baby

18 Jul Tooth 1

The story about how my daughter broke my heart…

Ava lost her first tooth yesterday. Yesterday morning she woke up and said her tooth was really “wobbly.” I checked…sure enough it was. I thought I had time. I thought it wouldn’t come out for a few days at least. It wasn’t that wobbly. Mike took her to swim lessons and she told him that her tooth felt really weird and that she kept trying to push it back in but it wasn’t working. Sitting on the bench, waiting to get in the pool Mike hears her say, “OH! My tooth just came out!” She hands it to him. I get this goofy, toothless picture at work and all I can think is, “My baby girl is growing up!”

I posted this picture on Facebook and immediately realize I am not prepared for the tooth fairy to visit. Apparently the tooth fairy of 2012 brings fairy dust and gold coins? I did not know this. So after the wee one goes to bed, the rumor is that the tooth fairy was hard at work trying to do more than just slip a $5 bill under Ava’s pillow. I think the tooth fairy did a fairly decent job with the limited supplies she had.

It’s a milestone losing your first tooth. I remember losing mine. I remember being so excited for the tooth fairy to come. As a parent of a child who loses their first tooth, it’s also a milestone. She lost her baby tooth…her baby tooth! She lost the tooth that kept me up at night when she was a baby. It’s these little markers of babyhood that keep falling away and reminding me that my baby girl isn’t as much baby as she is girl now.

And then there was this morning. She woke up excited to see what the tooth fairy left. We read the note and she decided she would use the money to buy herself a toy. We got ready for school. Usually when I drop her off in the morning, I walk her all the way to the classroom and give her a hug and a kiss. She hugs for a long time…she’s not a big fan of drop-off. She doesn’t like me to leave her. Until this morning.

We walked through the gate and another one of her classmates was walking in at the same time. I went to the office to sign her in and she kept walking. I stopped and said, “Ava, aren’t you going to wait for me?” She said, “No mom. I’m going to walk with my friend.” Watching her walk away I said, “Well, aren’t you going to say goodbye?” And she glanced over her right shoulder and nonchalantly said, “Bye mom!” And she kept on walking.

I stood there staring at her back. Making sure she wasn’t going to turn back around. Making sure she wasn’t going to run back for a hug. Making sure she was okay. I worried she would realize in 2o minutes that we didn’t say goodbye…at least not in our traditional way. I walked into the office a little teary-eyed with the other child’s mom and she said, “And so it begins…”And my heart was torn. On the one hand I was so proud of her independence, and on the other I thought, “There goes my baby.” Two big milestones in a 24 hour period…my heart can only take so much.

And I do feel like this is how it happens with Ava. With each milestone she reaches, she gains more confidence in being a big kid and she lets go of me a little more. And I know that this is the way it’s supposed to be. I know that my parents watched me grow and gain independence until one day I was 32 with a daughter of my own. They gave me the freedom to grow and let me know that it was okay to let go a little at a time. But how they dealt with it, well, I’m still trying to figure that one out because my heart hurts a little today.

It’s Not Impossible

12 Jul

The other night during our normal bedtime routine Ava climbed across me on the bed and with the most defeated voice said, “Mom, I wish I could love you as much as you love me, but that’s impossible.” I asked her why she thought it was impossible and she said, “Well, because you made me.” My heart melted into the biggest puddle in the world.

I replied, “Well sweetheart, you are the only person in the whole world who knows what my heartbeat sounds like from the inside.” Her eyes got really big and she said, “That’s true mom!” Then curiosity set in and she said, “When I was in your belly did I grow in your bones and stuff?” I told her no…that she stayed in a special place in my belly. Then she asked, “Mom, when I get a baby in my belly will people think I’m fat and make fun of me?” Oh my sweet girl…I worry about how much she worries. So I said, “No baby…people will come up to you and want to rub your belly and they will tell you how beautiful you are and that you’re glowing.” With eyes wide she asked, “I’m going to glow like a lantern when I’m pregnant?!?!? Really, mom, is this true?!?!”And I dissolve into a fit of giggles and she quickly followed suit.

I love these conversations. The ones where she has no idea the depth with which they touch me and yet can end on such a light-hearted note. I love the ease at which she switches from serious to funny…I love these moments I share with her. I know she might not remember them…that’s why I share them here. I hope that one day she can look back at her life documented and know how very much I love being her mama. That all of these little things are what makes up the big love I have for her.

What Were They Thinking?

21 Jun bullying

“You’re so ugly, your kid should kill themselves.” Klein said her son committed suicide 10 years ago. 

I sat down to eat my lunch today and thought I’d catch up on the news. I really hate reading the news because it gets my blood boiling. Especially today. I’m sure by now most of you have heard about the 68-year-old school bus monitor who was bullied by a bunch of middle-school kids on their bus ride home. If you haven’t, her name is Karen Huff Klein, and you can read all about it here. I was beyond disgusted and beyond angry when I saw this and heard the horrible things they were saying to this woman. I felt ashamed of kids I didn’t know and embarrassed for how she must have felt. The suicide comment above must have hit so close to home for her that it made me cry.

It is incidents like these that make me so worried my own daughter and school. Because this is happening. This bullying is real. The sheer fact that there are so many avenues to bully people now just overwhelms me. Four different kids took videos of what they did to this woman and then decided to share it with the world. As if being bullied wasn’t humiliating enough, now the whole world knows. And maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it will open the door for us, as parents, to talk to our children and reiterate what is appropriate behavior and what is not.

How this woman handled it with such dignity is beyond me. I felt rage and wanted to scream at them for her. I wanted to yank those kids off the bus and march them up to their homes and have a talk with their parents. This is a 68-year-old woman and I’m sure their words hurt very much. At 68 I think she possesses the maturity and understanding to know her life is worth living. That she shouldn’t kill herself. But what about a 10-year-old? This is what scares me.

I don’t know what I would do if Ava were on the receiving end of treatment like this. Lord knows I’ve bought a few books to try and learn how to raise a happy, confident girl. I hope that if that day ever comes where she’s bullied or sees someone being bullied, she stands up and stops it. I hope that she is always 100% certain that her life is worth living. I do know this, if she EVER treated an elderly person (or peer) the way the children in this video treated Ms. Klein, she better be prepared for eight hours a day, five days a week volunteering at the local nursing home over summer break. She better be prepared to change bedpans and get to know the people who have come before her; people who have shaped this world she lives in.

I don’t know the types of homes these children came from. For all I know, they have great parents who are really, really angry at them right now. I can only hope that’s the case. I hope that the parents make these children right what they’ve done wrong. I hope that these children are taught a lesson they will never forget. I hope we are all taught a lesson we will never forget. Treat people with respect.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” – Haile Selassie

What My Horoscope Should Have Said

12 Jun 182489_10150106123579310_4721359_n

“Capricorn, you’ve always felt the need to free yourself from society. You need to feel independent at any cost. You may need to face certain relationship problems at this time. Perhaps you’re hesitant to commit either at work or in your personal life. You may ask yourself if your attitude isn’t in fact revealing a desire to get away from it all. Perhaps you’ll find the answer today.” 

What I’ve learned from my horoscope today is that horoscopes are BS. The alarm clock went off for Mike at 4:44 am this morning. He asked me, “What time do you need to get up?” I responded. I hoped to fall back asleep but the bathroom beckoned. I used the bathroom, went back to bed and was just starting to doze off when the bedroom door flies open, hits the wall, my cat runs full speed across me, hits the window and starts going batshit crazy behind the curtains. I’m trying to untangle her in the curtains while making sure she doesn’t fall through the screen. She’s hissing at me, teeth showing and all I’m thinking is, “What the eff is going on with her?” Apparently there was a cat outside that she wanted to eat. It was 5:36 am.

At this point I figured I was awake and might as well get my day started. So I go to take the dog out and he won’t go to the bathroom. I’m standing in the backyard in a t-shirt and underwear begging him to please do his business because it’s cold. He’s walking around eating plants. I give up and leave him out there.

I walk to the bathroom, turn on the shower and step in. I immediately fly out of the shower sideways because the water is FREEZING. I turn on more hot water. Nothing happens. I turn off the shower, call Mike and ask if he had hot water this morning. He says yes. He then tries to give me directions on how to check our hot water heater settings. I’m pretty sure his directions were in French. I give up and tell him I’ll just take a cold shower. Have you ever taken a cold shower? This is not a cool shower, this is an arching my back, didn’t rinse all the shampoo out of my hair, screw conditioner, only wash the important body parts, cold shower. I got a brain freeze from the shower.

After getting out of the shower I wrapped myself in a parka, scarf, socks & slippers to try to return my body temperature to normal. I went to go wake up Ava and I crawled into her bed, only to be welcomed by a big wet spot…of pee. My daughter has wet the bed once since she’s been out of diapers. Once in three years! She has a cold and I gave her benadryl last night before bed…apparently benadryl makes kids dream they are on the toilet. I get her up and I tell her she wet the bed and she tells me, “Mom, I don’t think so. I went to bed and had wet legs last night after my bath and that’s why the bed is wet.” I tell her, “I’m pretty sure that funny smell is pee.” And she says, “Oh Mom. I think you’re right. I’m sorry I had an accident.” I tell her it’s okay. I strip all the sheets and duvet cover off her bed and go throw them in the washer.

I call Mike and ask him if he can throw her sheets in the dryer when he gets home today and there’s this long pause on the other end of the phone. I ask, “Mike, is there a problem with you putting the sheets in the dryer?” He says, “No. It’s not that. I just don’t want her to go to school smelling like the ‘pissy kid’ and we have no hot water.” You guys…looking back…I should have burst into laughter because if you know Mike, this is such a typical response. Out of all the things to worry about, namely our expensive, tankless hot water heater not working, the fact that he’s worried about Ava smelling pissy is hilarious. So after promising to wipe her down with a wash cloth and baby wipes I get off the phone with him.

I get in the car and am seriously worried about driving to work. The way my morning is going I just have that “What’s next?” feeling. I get in the car and my phone won’t connect to the bluetooth. After dropping Ava off I run back home to get my headphones. As I’m pulling into the driveway my phone connects (finally). I just started crying. I was having such a frustrating morning and I was now in a seriously BAD mood. I pick up the phone to call Heather and she doesn’t answer. I try calling Casie, she doesn’t answer. More bad morning luck. I get on the freeway and as I’m pulling on two cars in the left lane and one car in the right lane all decide MY lane is the one they need to be in. Thankfully there was no accident but I was really thinking, “Boy howdy this would just cap off the morning, wouldn’t it?”

Heather was the first to call back and I knew she was really busy and I knew she probably couldn’t talk long but after hearing me relay my frustrating morning girlfriend stayed on the phone with me until I got to work and my bad mood was forgotten by the time I got there. And Casie called back too but I was mid-conversation with Heather…but I know she would have lifted my spirits up too. I’m so thankful for my girlfriends who listen to me bitch…girlfriends are like boo-boo kisses and band-aids for grown-ups. They make everything all better.

P.S. I still think horoscopes are bullshit.