25 Unanticipated Realities of Parenthood

This post is inspired by – and dedicated to – my incredibly wonderful family and parent friends without whom I would probably be insane by now …. !
  1. The Mama Bear instinct is utterly overpowering. (Admit it: you really do want to deck any kid that is mean to yours.)
  2. You realize pretty quickly that Mother Nature screwed up royally by not equipping you with an extra arm.
  3. Mothers that are well put-together, serene and skinny are, in fact, aliens sent from another planet to torment you.
  4. Pediatricians are not there to treat sick kids; they exist to talk anxious mothers off the edge.
  5. You will learn that Purell can remove Silly Putty from hair. (Thx Meri!)
  6. You tread on lego pieces, every day, every where.
  7. The moment that the kids are finally asleep is the best part of the day.
  8. You can catch puke in your cleavage.
  9. You shriek ” stop yelling” with disconcerting frequency. Mostly in public.
  10. Your car will never be the same. (You won’t care.)
  11. Play doh is evil.
  12. You will never understand Pokemon. (It’s OK.)
  13. Wine is your savior.
  14. Motrin is also your savior.
  15. Just because your kid likes another kid does not mean that you and that kid’s mother are going to be BFFs. This can lead to awkward play dates.
  16. Children are always smarter than you think.
  17. Managing the family schedule is a full-time job – and the principal source of discussion/negotiation/contention between you and your partner/spouse.
  18. To quote my pediatrician “You cannot make them eat, sleep or poop.” You will however ignore this and believe that you do actually have complete control over their every bodily function.
  19. Other moms are rockingly awesome. They are fantastic. You need them. Treat them with love and care. Especially the ones that share the same survival instincts.
  20. Alone time is sacrosanct. Woe be to him who tampers with it.
  21. Laundry. Laundry. Laundry. Nuff said.
  22. You don’t look back for a second. You can’t look forward either. But being in the here and now is a challenge.
  23. The cost of daycare/preschool for one, let alone two or more kids, will take your breath away.
  24. The cost of summer camp will bankrupt you.
  25. Parenting = a sliding scale of incompetence. Don’t fight it. Embrace it!

I am 689635% sure you have more suggestions to add ………. Be my guest!

 

Are We Teaching Our Kids to Settle?

“You get what you get and you don’t get upset.”

If your child has spent more than a few hours in daycare or preschool, then this is undoubtedly a refrain you know well. And truth is, it works well too, inciting littl’uns to curb their innate urge to whine and complain if they don’t get the pink one, one with not enough frosting or, the one little Jimmy has. As a parenting tool, it’s extremely handy and I am not afraid to admit that I am quick to use it.

But it occurred to me the other day that this phrase has a darker side. By using it, we are actually telling our kids “this is the way it is, you have no choice in the matter and no means of recourse.”

I don’t know about you but I don’t want my kids to accept what is given them as a fait accompli, a done deal, like it or lump it.

I firmly believe that each of us is in charge of shaping our own destiny. If you sit on your butt and don’t speak up, then guess what? Nothing happens and you have no one to blame but yourself.

Rather than teaching our kids to settle, let’s teach them to form cogent arguments. I’m not saying every four-year old should be able to construct a formal appeal but I’m willing to listen to a decent case (as long as there’s no whine.)

If we equip our kids from a tender age with the ability to stand up for themselves, articulate their thoughts and negotiate with purpose, then we are letting them know that their opinions matter, that they have a voice and they can affect change.

The pragmatist in me, the working mom just trying to get through kids’ dinner time without incident so that their bedtime is smooth (and soon) knows that I’m not always ready to hear the come-backs. I’m quick to put up my hand to my son and say “no negotiating.” But when I then hear my daughter say to her brother in a rote fashion “you get what you get and you don’t get upset” I am reminded that I should hear them out. It’s true that my answer may not change but at least they will know that their voice has been heard.

This mother does not want her kids to settle. I hope I can teach them to be articulate advocates.

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What Would You Like Me To Write About?

Since I started this blog, my mind is assaulted everyday with ideas for posts. Most of them are jotted in barely legible writing on a small notepad in my car. I recognize the impulses that spark my writing urges – some stuff is pent-up inside (my kind of personal manifesto), some is reactionary to stuff I see, read, hear. A lot is inspired by you – my friends and family. And by all you lovely people I follow and chat with on Twitter, of course, too.

As my boss, colleague and friend Beth has written, blogging is not about the blogger, it’s about other people.

So, what’s on your mind?

What’s on Moms’ Minds?

Get a gaggle of Moms together and you get an unabridged, uncensored and often hilarious slice of real life!

Every couple of weeks, I’m lucky enough to hang out with a group of fellow Mom friends. Moms who need a Moms’ Night Out! We all relish the chance to outsource bedtime to our spouses/partners, get out the house for a few hours and let down our hair. Most often we’re too tired to get too crazy, but what we do get is the opportunity to swap stories, discuss our challenges and explore whatever’s on our minds – without judgement and with shared interest and laughter. If we are lucky enough, like last night, we also get an entertaining waiter to spice it all up a notch!

So you want to know what’s on Moms’ minds. Here goes:

  • Homework – with kids ranging from 4 to 11, we are all tackling homework in some shape or form. And I’m not talking about doing our kids’ homework for them, I’m talking about figuring out how to fit it into their already busy days. Some kids don’t get home till 6pm yet there’s still the expectation of a project to complete. Others get the opportunity to do their homework after school – but would rather not. Some rush through it. The older ones have 1.5 hours of homework every night. As parents we are trying to figure how to help our kids find the time and focus so they can apply themselves and learn, without burnout or frustration.
  • Logistics – the daily chaos of dropping off and picking up numerous kids to and from different places is a challenge we face day after day after day. Thank heavens, we get to divide and conquer with our partners most of the time. But there are so many moving parts, it makes us dizzy.
  • Diversity – our kids have all been learning these past few weeks about Martin Luther King Junior. For our kids, inequality is an utterly foreign concept. It’s interesting: they live with families and communities that are a beautiful mix of colors, religions and cultures and to them, this is perfectly normal. They don’t see the differences. As we discussed last night, racism is a learned behavior, one we hope they never learn.
  • Smartphones and apps – we all have them, we all love them, some of us even admit that our smartphones have “changed our lives.”  Hooray for our smartphones that let us multitask, work flex hours, keep up with friends, gossip – and play. Last night it wasn’t long before we were comparing the apps we use for managing our store discount cards, couponing and so on.

What didn’t we discuss last night? Men, politics, recipes, fashion, diapers, labor, sex – but who’s to say those won’t be on the agenda next time?

Turning Crappiness into Happiness

Some days it’s tough to keep the glass half full.

Take this morning, for example. I wake up with a stinking headache and stuffy nose. Then, in the space of roughly 90 minutes, during which there are four people to corral, dress, feed, wipe, organize, please, pack lunch for, find shoes/mittens/hats, brush teeth, repeat commands over and over …etc, etc, my husband and I somehow try to squeeze in meaningful discussions about important stuff like money, kids summer camp, kindergarten registration and our plans for a spring all-inclusive family vacation somewhere in the sun.

Big mistake. Frustration. Disappointment. Tears.

Not the best way to start the day.

In the car en route to work, I start the process of giving myself a good talking to. Accept the complexity and the challenges. Deal with disappointment. Find alternatives that could work, even if they are not ideals (set aside dreams of lazing under the Caribbean sun, pool-side, sipping cocktails while kids are being entertained….) Let it go. Resolve to find better times to have these important discussions. Deep breath. Put on my smile and get on with the day, grateful for my loving family, employment, income and good health.

There now, that’s better.

9 Ways to Be Generous That Don’t Involve $$

I was fortunate to meet and marry the world’s most generous man. Sure, at first, he lavished me with fine dinners, expensive wines and, eventually, the precious stones in my engagement and wedding rings. But what truly sealed the deal was his generous spirit, undefined by money but motivated purely by the desire to share and please others. Fast forward ten years and our focus these day is on nurturing the same selflessness and generosity in our kids. Kids, who by definition, are self-interested. In the process of this journey, I am also trying to be more generous every day. And so can you. And you know what, it feels really, really good.

Here are nine suggestions for sprinkling some extra generosity into your actions each day to make someone feel special, acknowledged, happier:

  • Say please, thank you, excuse me and you’re welcome: basic manners but quite often neglected.
  • Listen. Actively.
  • Smile.
  • Open doors for people; this does not just apply to men (though some wonder if chivalry is dead?); you should hold the door open for anyone.
  • Compliment someone on how they look, how they behaved, what they said.
  • Make a phone call, write a letter or card, send a tweet, post on someone’s Facebook page, drop by – a simple ‘hi, how’s it going?” shows that you were thinking of them.
  • Donate; clothes, toys, furniture. Face it, most of us own way more than we really need.
  • Send/give flowers. Yes, OK, this involves money but who doesn’t love receiving flowers? Don’t wait for a birthday, anniversary, do it “just because.”
  • Draw a picture for someone: this is my son’s favorite form of generosity. Here’s one he did for me recently that plastered a smile on my face for hours!

Please don’t take this post as “preachy” – I am just as bad as the next person. Our lives are all so incredibly busy and the urge to navel-gaze is natural. But being a parent forces you to examine your behavior and try to be the best role model you can possibly be – even in the midst of the mayhem of daily life. So choose generosity. If you are looking for further simple ideas about how to spread some kindness, check out this lovely list of 57 ways you can brighten someone’s day.

Which Are You?

(dedicated to my Transformer-obsessed daughter.)

When Bad is Good & Avoiding Awkward Conversations

I’m evidently on to something with the posts I recently published about silly American words and British expressions that Americans find amusing. It’s fascinating – even academically and culturally intriguing – how deeply words separate us Brits and you Yanks. Having studied semantics and etymology, I’m captivated by this language that both unites and distinguishes us.

So, when I recently had to ask a colleague what “sucking wind” meant, I knew it was time to relay some of those cross-cultural phrases with opposing meanings. Hopefully these will help you avoid some awkward conversations.

The following American words all mean GOOD: bad, wicked, doesn’t suck, the bomb, kill it.

Ex: “That was a wicked fun evening; your friend is the bomb.”   “Don’t worry, we’ll kill those goals.”

At this point, I also feel obliged to explain the nuanced distinction between the use of the word “quite” in American English and English English. This is important as the culturally correct use could definitely improve relations with your partner/spouse.

Ex 1: (in the U.S.)

Q: “Honey, how do I look in this dress?”

A: “Quite nice.”

Q: “Thanks, sweetheart – you look nice too!”

Ex 2: (in the U.K.)

Q: “Honey, how do I look in this dress?”

A: “Quite nice.”

Q: “Huh, only quite? What’s wrong with it? Does it make me look fat? Why don’t you like it?”

For those who didn’t catch it, the U.S. “quite” is a compliment whereas the U.K.’s “quite” means “only a little.”

You can thank me later for this important lesson. And I do hope you think this post doesn’t suck wind.

2012 is the year that …

A new year ahead filled with promise and plans. It’s thrilling to imagine all that might transpire in the next 12 months & I’m a firm believer in making things happen (rather than waiting for them to happen to you.) And while I cannot foresee all the highlights that might cross my path, these are the things I know – in no particular order:

- We will take our first family vacation – without family.

- We will finish paying crazy daycare fees.

- I will practice yoga.

- I will dance!

- Devin & I will celebrate ten years of marriage.

- Both my kids will be in elementary school.

- I will resume full-time employment.

What’s in store for you in 2012?

10 British Expressions that Americans Find Amusing

I recently published my list of 10 silly American words –  expressions that I still find ridiculous, despite having lived here almost 12 years. I generally try avoid situations when I have to utter the words “bangs” or “rutabaga” or other such words that I find to be just, plain silly. I have my pride, after all.

To be fair, there are many British words and sayings which humo(u)r or confuse my fellow Americans. Just last week, I used the word “slapdash” in a meeting, only to get what I call “the look” from colleagues. Anyone who’s been a traveler in a foreign country trying to make themselves understood knows that look. It infers, “I have absolutely no clue what you are trying to say but I’m going to nod and smile nonetheless.” Being a communicator at heart, getting “the look” pains me. But at the same time – and with the glass half full – I seize the opportunity to clarify my statement (which can sometimes lead to further hilarity) or, at the very least, educate my audience about the meaning of the expression so that the next time they find themselves in the room with a Brit, they can nod sagely rather than inflicting “the look.”

Here’s a shortlist of some of those British expressions that have caused me to be on the receiving end of “the look”:

  • donkey’s years (= a very long time)
  • putting a spanner in the works (= throw a wrench)
  • and Bob’s your uncle (= and there you have it)
  • gone barmy (= gone mad)
  • a lotta bottle (= a lot of courage)
  • picking up fag ends (= listening to the end of conversations)
  • dog’s bollocks (= cat’s meow)
  • fancy dress (= costume)
  • chuffed to bits (= very pleased)
  • gobsmacked (= amazed)

I confess that I also proactively alter the way I pronounce several words here to avoid getting “the look.” For example, I’ll ask for wahder, say tooona (instead of tuna) and ask for tom-ay-to. It pains me but “the look” pains me more.

Meantime, my fellow Americans, here are some useful links to sites to help your English cross the pond: Effingpot – the very best of British, British Sayings/British Words and this great post about 20 British expressions you will never hear in the U.S.

Cheers!

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