Busted By The Art Police

Art appreciation is hugely subjective. Especially when it comes to kids’ art.

As new parents, we naturally pore over every scribble, finger painting and nascent stick figure with enthusiasm, curiosity and caution. Will my kid be a future talented artist? What does this picasso-esque rendering of our family reveal about my kid’s psychological state? Why is Mummy’s head so much bigger than Daddy’s?

We proudly stick these pictures to our walls. We photograph their artwork, we post them to Facebook and Instagram. Heck, I even created an online gallery of my son’s best works.

But, really, seriously people: there’s art and there’s art. The reality is that 90 percent of the “art” that our kids bring home from daycare and school is junk. Go on, admit it.

Just recently, a good friend posted on Facebook that she had been “busted by the art police” – again!  Discussion followed with other parents about their strategies for clandestinely disposing of crappy art work, including these cunning maneuvers:

  • in the dead of night, I remove all traces immediately to the outdoor recycle bin
  • I fold them into tiny pieces and stuff them way down at the bottom of the big can in the kitchen under the icky wet coffee grounds
  • I hand shred and place them into old envelopes that bills came out of
  • I wait until recycling morning, then put it all out at the curb after they go to school

Genius! Me, I wait till they are in bed, rummage through their backpacks and then if there’s a roaring fire ….. Alternatively, if they come out of school or worse still, after the craft table at Papa Gino’s on a Thursday night, proudly showing off the paper doily decorated toilet roll snow man they just made, then I put it on the passenger seat of my car as we drive home. Inevitably, as they bundle out of the car and into the house, said artwork nonchalantly slips into the trash can in my car ….. and nobody ever seems to notice. Lucky me.

Parents, trust me. There’s a time to ooh and ah over your kid’s latest masterpiece and there’s a time to find a way to get rid of it.

What to do, however, if your kid insists of keeping his or her drawing? Well then, I’m not above grabbing some tape and sticking it to an assigned wall somewhere. But don’t overdo it or the kids will insist that their art is plastered everywhere. Better to finesse your sneaky disposal habits, trust me.

Have you been busted by the art police?

P.S. For greats tips on how to talk to your kids about their art, check here.

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The Facebook Post That Made Me a Terrible Mother

by Kristin Parran

I can’t keep it in any longer. I must be the worst mother ever. It doesn’t matter that my not-yet-3-year old son adores me. Or that he climbs in bed with my husband and I and tells us we make the best team (then asks for high-fives). Or tells me he loves me more than cars. CARS! None of that matters.

Two things I have read today make me believe that despite all of these things, I must be a terrible mother. First, I read a blog post about breastfeeding. Or, rather about not breastfeeding. The author shared her honest feelings around the disappointment – and subsequent judgment – around not being able to breastfeed. The point was that mothers should leave other mothers alone – breastfeeding or not. Funny, though, all of the comments from women who felt judged about not breastfeeding came from a place of not being able to breastfeed. I didn’t see one from a woman who CHOSE not to breastfeed, like I did. It’s hard as a new mother to not feel at least a little judgment with every decision you make – even if it’s self-inflicted judgment. But, I am increasingly finding that mothers like me – those who choose to bottle feed for one reason or another – don’t exist in public forums. They sit back, try to stay unnoticed and feed their babies the best way they know how. Some choose the expensive organic formula. Some pay for soy-based. Some do extensive research to understand which product is best for their babies. But the thing that connects all of these women is that they love their babies just as much as breastfeeding women do. I love my son no less than the next woman. I firmly believe – and would argue til I died – that in the way I know how, I have given my son the best chances for a life full of love, happiness and health. But it’s hard to find people like me out there. At least those who admit it.

The second thing I saw was on Facebook. This kind of thing usually doesn’t affect me the way it did today. Maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive, or because my stepdaughter is visiting and that always has my emotions doing somersaults. Either way, it hit me. An old acquaintance just went back to work and posted that she’s missing her babies more than ever. But that’s not it – it’s what she said next that hit me: “I know every working mom would rather be at home with their babies all the time.” I dropped everything and started this post. I couldn’t help it. My brain is screaming. You ARE a good mom. You ARE a good mom. But, am I? Really? My response to that post was not: “Sister…you are so right! I would so much rather be at home with a screaming toddler, playing with cars and arguing about naptime Every. SINGLE. DAY.” Rather, instead my response: “That’s BS! While I LOVE my baby, I also LOVE my job. And the people I work with. And the opportunity to be ME. And the socialization. And that I contribute something financially to my family. I love having both. I NEED to have both.”

I get the sense that a lot of mothers will read my response and gasp. GASP. HOW COULD YOU SAY THAT!?! How could you say you love your job AND your baby? How could you not want to spend every single waking moment with your child? The answer for me is simple. Being me – the me who loves my job and my husband and my son and my friends and my time alone – makes me the very best mother I can be. Whether or not that mother meets standards set by others is something I can no longer judge myself against. I wish I could say that feeling follows me everywhere, every day. But, it obviously doesn’t. Rather than reading that post and saying: “There are mothers of every color, and I happen to a bright pink” I took it as a jab. A knife turning in the heart that is still trying to heal from post-partum. So, I’m not perfect. I do let some things get to me. But after the initial crazy self-judgment and guilt wear off, I once again see that I’m not such a bad mom. My son is an incredible human being. And, at the end of each day, I have to believe that I have something to do with that.

Kristin Parran is a mother of one (nearly 3-year old) boy and wife to a husband who anchors her in peace. Wise enough to know life can (and should) have balance, brave enough to listen to her gut – but not always smart or Zen enough to stop sweating the small stuff – she recently moved her family 1,100 miles to give everyone the best shot at equilibrium. She spends her days working from home for a tech PR firm and shedding tears of gratitude for newfound peace – which is soon interrupted by the impatience of reality. Each time she leaves her house, she secretly hopes to be discovered by Keith Urban, Brad Paisley or Dierks Bentley as a (silent, yet energetic) back-up singer. Or, to someday see her name on the cover of a book.

KP

Will You Snuggle with Me, Mama?

Recently, my daughter – who is six – has started asking that I snuggle with her at bedtime. This is by no means unusual, many kids do it. It’s also not a distraction technique to put off the inevitable aloneness of going to sleep. She’s never had a problem with bed time. She knows when she is ready for sleep and welcomes it. In her threes, she was quick to dismiss me once we were done with reading. “Go. Door,” she’d command me. Unlike many kids – and unlike her brother – she likes to sleep in complete darkness with the door closed.

Truthfully, the whole evening routine, and especially the last five to ten minutes of it, have always been a challenge for me. As a working Mom, I am already exhausted and lacking the requisite zen for serenely supervising baths and PJs and teeth brushing and all of that. I just want the whole thing to be over – quickly. Fortunately, my kids are old enough that bath time is no longer about play – it’s all business. At least, that’s how I view it. I want them in, washed and out. But, for them, it’s how they unwind. I see how they drift off into the bubbles, into their imaginations. I find myself stuck between letting them immerse their bodies and brains – and hustling them out of the tub.

The next ten minutes, for me, are truly the most aggravating and patience-testing. The process of toweling off and PJ-putting on, following by the inevitable shenangans as they squabble over toothpaste and so on fairly drive me nuts. I admit that I often resort to threatening to remove everything that matters to them (him – 3DS, her – blankie) if they don’t just get on with it.

Then there’s the book reading. This is where I have always cheated, I confess. When they were toddlers and young’uns, I perfected the art of reading aloud – with feeling – while at the same time thinking about 74937 other things that needed my attention. Fortunately now, my six year-old reads to me and my nine year-old reads to himself.

But then come the words: “Will you snuggle with me, Mama?”

By this point, it’s usually 8.30pm and I’ve barely got an hour left of consciousness left in me during which to converse with my husband, catch up on work emails or watch TV. By 9.30pm, I’m toast. I want this hour of me-time. I need it. I struggle.

But snuggling with her is so … delicious. There in the dark we lie, nose to nose, our breath and warmth meshing. I stroke her hair. She touches my cheek. We whisper. Gradually, her breathing slows and deepens as she drifts off to the land of nod. It’s an honor to witness this up close. That’s if I don’t fall asleep myself. More often than not, I wake up a few hours later and tiptoe out, foggily, my hair askew … and head straight to my own bed. (Note to parents suffering insomnia: go snuggle with your kid and you’ll soon be cocooned back to sleep.)

Admittedly there are nights when I decline her request. After all, there are new episodes of House of Cards to be binged. But I never regret it when I do snuggle with her. Emails can wait. Discussing the family schedule with my husband can wait. Even Frank Underwood can wait.

She won’t be six forever, she won’t want to snuggle forever. Now are the snuggle with me years and I intend to make the most of them.

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The Split Personality of the Working Mom

Guest post by Andrea Eaton

Duality (noun): an instance of opposition or contrast between two concepts or aspects of something. The state or quality of being two or in two parts. The term itself–”working mother”–denotes dualism.

The woman with a career plus the woman who mothers. The woman who shows up to the office looking (relatively) professionally polished plus the woman who, minutes earlier, had a breakdown at daycare or desperately dabbed spit-up off her shirt.

If you are living or have lived this, you know exactly how Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde or Superman/Clark Kent can feel. But you know that each persona is one you grip to, a precious part of you. Equally critical and non-negotiable.

You also know that the job of “mother” is the most stressful and seriously exhausting one there is. Angelic as your babies may be while you’re imagining them from the safety of your cubicle, let’s be honest: a few hours earlier there was at least a tiny part of you counting down until that moment you’re commuting … alone. This is not because you don’t love your kids. It’s because you do. You love them so very much, nothing is more important to you than how you care for and shape them. Their lives are literally depending on it. It’s a heavy load that you feel all the time but especially when you’re with them.

Sometimes I giggle to myself about how the “working” in “working mom” is the part that most implies duty yet feels most like a vacation. A respite from that all-consuming responsibility of rearing. Arms empty. Minds free to muse. Quiet.

Plus, we need to check in with the people we were B.C. (Before Children). A ritual of mine is to do this with the music–my music–cranked as I cruise to the office. We do it in meetings when we offer up our brilliance (which does actually extend beyond remembering to pack everyone’s hats, mittens and snacks). We do it in the hallway or kitchen when we compliment a fellow mom’s shoes. We do it when we tap creativity to help a client (which is similar to concocting an acceptable dinner out of only what’s in your fridge but different).

Schizophrenic as it may feel on our worst days–when we fantasize about how a singular focus would slash stress–”working mom” is a title we don with pride. It’s not easy. It’s a life smeared with spit-up, peppered with forgotten snow pants, injected with bits of independence and intellectualism … and riddled with rewards. “Carves some calmness out of what is mostly lovely chaos” is just part of the job description.

Andrea Eaton is a mother of two boys, 4 and 6 months. She has built a career in sales and marketing in the software industry.  Her “spare time” these days is spent playing with her boys, in class to become a certified yoga teacher and fantasizing about an alternate reality where she enjoys fame and fortune as a fiction writer.

andrea eaton

A Parenting “Aha” Moment

You know those lightbulb moments when, like a bolt outta nowhere, you suddenly slap your forehead and realize something utterly amazing.

Well this wasn’t like that.

Rather, this was a slo-mo, blurry edged, fuzzy thing dawning on me kind of realization. But it did make me slap by forehead.

For years now, I’ve been giving my kids multi-request instructions. And, by giving, I mean yelling across the house. For example:

“G, please go upstairs and turn the light off in your room, pick up the PJs you left strewn on the floor and put them in the hamper. And don’t forget to bring your library book downstairs.”

or

“T, it’s  time to put your shoes on and then brush your teeth. Don’t forget to also brush your hair. Then get your coat, hat and mittens on. Oh and is your lunchbox in your backpack?”

or variations thereof.

This happens on a daily basis. Often many times.

You are nodding, I see. You do this too. And, like me, you wonder why all components of such requests never ever ever ever get completed?

The slow-loading realization that finally slapped me around the face like a cold, wet fish was that, after the first few words of the request, kids universally hear the following:

“Wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah wah…….”

It’s nothing personal (I hope.) I realized they can only process one request at a time! All this time, I’ve been projecting my multi-tasking-ninjaness onto these little creatures whose brains simply cannot deal with that much information at once, let alone remember the correct sequence.

This finally dawned on me when my six year-old said, just like Otto in the movie A Fish Called Wanda, but cuter:

“What was the middle thing?”

Henceforth, I must remember to break down these requests into bite-sized chunks and deliver them eyeball-to-eyeball, rather than shriek them from one end of the house to the other. We’ll see how that goes during the usual morning mayhem.

“What was the middle thing” Otto, from a Fish Called Wanda

The Day I Lost My Son

When I say “lost,” it’s actually more like “mislaid.” And it was only for 20 minutes or so. But, as any parent who’s lost visual contact with their child in a crowded place knows, even a minute feels like a lifetime.

I surprised myself by being completely calm and rational. But, before we get into the psychoanalysis, let me describe what happened.

We were on vacation in Australia. In a small town on the bay of Melbourne called Anglesea. It was a Sunday morning and we were strolling through the market alongside the water’s edge, two adults and five kids aged 9 through to 4. There were all kinds of colorful booths selling books, crafts, food, souvenirs and other random local stuff. It was hot and sunny, and milling with families vacationing in the seaside town. We had given the kids each a few dollars to spend and, kids being kids, they had each spent it all on the very first items that took their fancy. And then kept asking and asking and asking for more money to spend on this item and that item. We shut them down, of course, intending to impart a lesson.

Onwards we browsed, lingering a while here and there at different booths and trying hard to keep the kids all herded together, despite distractions in every direction. At this point, my son was perusing a book stall (even though he had already spent his money at an earlier book stall.) Now, I’m not going to squash his interest in combing over books but, after a while, we needed to keep moving on: in fact, we’d spied some delightful, fluorescent frozen slushies at a booth that the kids just “had to have” to quench their thirst. I told my son we were leaving. He pleaded for a minute more. I acquiesced. But a minute passed and he was obstinately ignoring me. Another reminder, followed by a warning, was issued. And then I “fake left,” i.e. I told him I was leaving, hoping this would be enough of a kick up the derriere to get him to put down the books and rejoin the group. We were quite literally two metres away. Thirty seconds passed and I asked one of the other kids to go find him, tell him we had bought him a neon-red raspberry slushie. She returned, saying he wasn’t there. I went back over. No sign of him. I did a 360, searching the immediate crowd for his bright yellow t-shirt.

He was gone. I asked the vendor if she’d seen which way he had gone and she pointed in one direction.

I wasn’t worried, at this point. More annoyed, truth be told. I found the rest of our party, told them what was happening and we set off, retracing our path through the crowds in the direction we’d been told he’d gone. Scanning through the thick of bodies for a 9 year-old boy dressed in a yellow t-shirt and blue shorts (I was relieved he’d chosen such a bright top to wear that day.) After about 25 metres and no sign, I thought it best to leave the group and go solo. It’d be faster, I could be more nimble in the crowds.

At this point, maybe 15 minutes had passed. I figured I’d go all the way down one end of the market, then make my way back through to the other end. I was wondering at what stage I should start panicking and who I would call. Being that I was a tourist. All this time I was also worrying about my son’s state of mind. Would he be nonchalant? Or terrified? Would he have the presence of mind to ask for help?

It never crossed my mind that he might have been abducted. Had this happened in America, like in a busy mall, I’d have been immediately anxious and suspicious. But, everyone here in Australia seemed genuinely nice and, well, normal.

Another five minutes of searching and, suddenly, I spied him seated at a bench surrounded by some concerned adults. I called his name, probably sounding higher-pitched and less chill than I thought I was, and he ran to me and clung to me, sobbing. The kind adults saw that he was OK and moved away as I expressed my thanks and relief to them.

I sat down with my son, held his trembling, teary body as he gulped and sobbed. My heart and womb clenched with complete relief. I wanted to shake him and yell at him, but I could see just how traumatized he was. I knelt down and looked him in the eye, telling him: “I will always find you, no matter what.” A promise to him. A promise to me.

Holding hands, we turned back and re-found the rest of our group and everyone was happily reunited. We texted folks to let them know we’d found him. We talked with the kids, reminding them of the different things they should do if they were ever lost or separated from us, which included:

  1. If you have a pre-agreed meeting place, head there.
  2. Or stay put, don’t wander. Let us come to you.
  3. Find a helper, like a Mom.
  4. Know your parent’s phone numbers.

My son did #3 & #4 and I was very proud of him for that. Sure, the number he gave them was my U.S. cell phone and he had no clue about international dialing codes but I’d like to think that, had the local police got involved, they would have figured that all out.

That evening at bedtime, he wouldn’t go to sleep without me. He fairly clung to me. And there were bad dreams too that night. See, there was no need to yell and be mad at him. Those 20 minutes amounted to some of the best education he’s ever had. Frightening, yes. But he’ll never wander off again, that’s for sure.

As for me, yes I was rather calm and collected during those 20 minutes. I did not fear for his safety. But, my heart is forever scarred by the look on his face when I found him.

20mins

The Grand Illusion: Mogul, Mom & Maid

A real conversation from early December:

Husband: “Honey, when will our Christmas cards arrive?”

Me: “I’m sorry, I haven’t even ordered them yet.”

Husband: “What? How come? We’re already receiving loads of cards and should be sending ours out now too.”

Me <insert snark> : “Oh, I didn’t realize. I’ve been lying here on the couch watching reruns of Desperate Housewife and filing my nails.”

Husband: “I know you are busy, I get it. But I’m surprised the cards aren’t done because you always seem like you have everything under control.”

BOOM. The moment of truth. It always seems like I have everything under control. Hahaha!

The reality is: I don’t. It’s all a thin veil or, rather, a grand illusion. Scratch the surface and there’s a hot mess of confused priorities, a healthy dose of anxiety, a fair amount of disorder, random spots of remarkable focus and OCD, a pinch here and there of laissez-faire and, more often than not, a wing and a prayer, a shrug and a nervous giggle.

Or, as a friend who is also trying to figure out this working Mom thing calls it: the sliding scale of incompetency.

Reality #2. Also back in early December, Liz O’Donnell, author of the new book Mogul, Mom & Maid: The Balancing Act of the Modern Woman” asked me to contribute to a blog carnival with other working Moms, to share our tips and perspectives about our balancing acts. Irony: it was one of those weeks when all around me, life was exploding and there was no time to blog for me, let alone anyone else, let alone blogging about my balancing act! So, Liz, here’s my post, just a few weeks late …..

So, I ask myself, what of this grand illusion? Does it help or harm me? One the one hand, apparently I project this image of a confident working Mom, managing all that comes with it, with a smile on my face. This is good, surely? Heck, I even fool myself most of the time. I achieve this illusion, like so many other women, thanks to my ability to prioritize, multi-task and to turn on a dime when it’s really needed. It’s also thanks to several handy tools that help save some precious time and the wonderful invention that is Waterproof Post-it Notes which, quite literally, ensure the contents of my brain don’t disappear down the shower drain. (Buy them now …. hurry!)

On the flip-side, existing in this mode is a scary place. At any given point, there’s a terrifyingly strong chance that I will screw something up big time. The fragile card tower that I hold together all day and night is precarious. One missed deadline, one forgotten item at the grocery store, one overlooked play date invitation – not to mention the fun and games of hormones – and it can all come toppling down. The energy involved in keeping the cards propped up and balanced is exhausting.

So this is my balancing act. With the emphasis on the word ‘act’. But would I exchange it for not being a working Mom? Nope! This is my bed and I chose to lie in it.

Oh, and back to those Christmas cards. Yes I did get around to ordering them but so late that they ended up arriving on Christmas Eve. Have I had the chance to mail any out? No. Will I? The likelihood is probably not. Sorry folks. Because here’s reality #3 which, thanks to Dr. Seuss, I use day-in and day-out as a filter for the choices I make when prioritizing the 23697,2466,00000 things on this working Mom’s to-do list:

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind!

Entering the 3DS Zone

After much indecision and comparing notes with other families, we finally caved and bought our son a 3DS for his 9th birthday. I had been against this for a long time. Mostly because both my husband and I really don’t like computer/video games: we don’t play them and didn’t want to encourage our kids to spend even more time in front of screens. After all, when they go to friend’s houses, they get ample opportunity to play. Also the sheer cost: even the 3DS was a lot more money than we usually spend on any one kid’s item.

But he wanted one really, really badly. He wanted something electronic he could call his own. Also he’s very cute and persuasive. However, I also saw this gift as a huge opportunity to reinforce a few rules and for added oomph on the bribery and punishment front. After all, I can give but I can also take away (or at least threaten it.) Does this make me a mean Mom? Probably but too bad.

So the following rules have been drawn up and drilled in. In fact, he’s even signed them. It’s a contract now. We’ll see how it goes!

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The Two Words That Moms Love Most

(Other than “love you,” of course.)

Picture this. A crowded shopping mall, two and a half week’s before Christmas. I’m taking my son to Build-A-Bear for a pre-school class mate’s birthday party. I’m fully prepared to hang out for the hour or so, watching a gaggle of five year-olds stuff and clothe some furry creature. I know a few of the parents, I’m ready to chit-chat. But then, the parents of the party girl offer the following wonderful utterances: “This to totally drop off. Just come back in an hour or so.”

The angels wept. A free hour. In a mall. Christmas shopping. Without a child. Hallelujah!

Off I scampered, barely even glancing back at my son who, I knew, was far more interested in the impending stuffing (of bear and of cake) than whether his Mom was hanging around watchfully.

This was just the beginning of what I realized was a major paradigm shift – and I don’t use those words lightly – in my parenting journey. All of a sudden, every party was a drop off party. Every play date was a drop off play date (unless the Moms want a play date too! I mean, haven’t you read The Three Martini Play Date?)

Moving from having to negotiate the universe with an infant/toddler/pre-schooler constantly attached to your side (or at least within a meter’s arm grab) to a few sacred hours without them was an eye-opener. What to do with this free time? Most often, it was the gloriousness of solo grocery shopping which is so much more efficient ‘sans enfant.’ Or other such errands. Very occasionally, I treat myself to a mani or head to Starbucks and join the cool folks, sipping their lattes, comfortably ensconced in an armchair with the sunday papers or a good novel.

Let it also be known, being a fan of paying it forward and good karma and all that, that I also happily host the drop off play date and let my fellow parents experience the joy of a few solo hours. I can always see the relief on their faces.

So, to all the parents that have said to other parents those two delicious words, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Kids, Sensory Issues & Battles Over Pants

This morning I spent a good 20 minutes trying to convince my six-year-old to put on some pants.

It wasn’t that she didn’t want to wear pants. (Though I know several grown-ups who would prefer this option.) It’s just that she didn’t want to wear ANY of the six pairs of PERFECTLY GOOD pants in her closet. All her favorite pants were in the laundry. “Go clean them, please” she sweetly but infuriatingly demanded.

I cajoled, I explained, I empathized. I insisted, I bribed, I threatened. I gave in and let her wear shorts. (The seven stages of dealing with obstinate kids?)

What is it with kids and pants? I went through the same dramas last winter with my son who was extraordinarily picky about pants that had to feel just right.

An informal survey of a few of my Mom friends made me realize two things:

  • This is quite common. Kids aged between 5-8 ish have these sensory issues with their pants, especially pants that – horror or horrors – have a button and a zipper.
  • This explains why so many pants that I’ve been fortunate enough to receive as hand-me-downs are in such excellent condition. Clearly, every kid that has ever owned them has steadfastly refused to wear them. And so they get handed-down, practically good as new. Again and again.

So my question for you parents out there …. Is this normal, have your kids thrown a wobbly when faced with the abomination of unsuitable pants? How have you handled? And have you contributed to the never-ending chain of perfectly good pants being handed-down?

Cos any day now, these six pairs of PERFECTLY GOOD PANTS are being shipped out. Some things just aren’t worth fighting over.

Source: Unearthed Comics

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