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 Love Letter to Mom Friends

One of the very best and unanticipated outcomes of motherhood – other than, you know, having kids – has been my Mom friends. So, on this Valentine’s Day, this is my salute to you from me, with love.

You get it.

You’ve got my back and I’ve got yours.

You don’t judge; you help.

You are the best sounding board – source of advice, recipes, spousal frustrations and snark.

Insanity is forgiven, as are tardiness, sticky floors and yoga pants.

Oh how we laugh together!

You’re my emergency contact on school and camp forms (and I don’t have to ask.)

Whether you work or stay home – really, who cares: you are still a Mom and a friend.

You are my muse.

(p.s. Dad friends, you are pretty awesome too.)

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On Citizenship and Gun Reform

I know this is a departure from my usual posts about kids, parenting and domestic dramas. But this is a topic that’s been burning in my head for a long time and I have to get it out, put words to “paper”, have my say. Bear with me, please. Or don’t – as this is about to get political and if you don’t want to get into this here on my blog, then I understand.

This week marks my 14th year living in America. This still amazes me as I really only intended to stay one year. But here I am, happily married, two beautiful kids, lovely home, great job … All the goodness of life in the US of A. I do not take any of this for granted, not for a nanosecond.

It often surprises people when they discover I’m not actually a US citizen: I’m still a legal alien. I have long qualified for citizenship and, in doing so, would not have to give up my British citizenship. I’ve been advised by attorneys that I should get my citizenship, if only to make things easier on my husband, should I pop my clogs before him. It’s always been there, hanging on my life to-do list, along with other things like getting my kids their British passports, which I really must do one of these days.

But something has always stopped me from applying for US citizenship. At first it was something intangible. Like, it would seal my fate, trap me here forever. Which I know is ridiculous but I like to keep my options open. The world is a big place. I long to live again in France. Maybe elsewhere, who knows? Also, there was the reality of becoming a citizen of a country led by George W Bush. I didn’t like his politics and couldn’t bring myself to do it.

And then Obama came along full of promise. I felt optimistic. Maybe, with him running the show, I would feel more at ease with – even proud – to become a US citizen. I firmly put it on my 2013 new year’s resolutions.

But then Sandy Hook happened. And my world was forever changed. How could such a thing be allowed to happen in this civilized society? How? I watched with hope and admiration as President Obama passionately put preventing gun violence at the top of his agenda:

While no law or set of laws will end gun violence, it is clear that the American people want action. If even one child’s life can be saved, then we need to act. Now is the time to do the right thing for our children, our communities, and the country we love,” he said.

I followed closely as Senators Manchin and  Toomey spearheaded the first concrete bill to enforce criminal and mental health background checks for guns purchased at gun shows and online. This is commonsense, no? And then, my heart sunk as the bill failed in the Senate, to the cries of “shame on you”  in their chambers. This, despite that fact that almost 90% of Americans supported it.

And what has happened since? School shooting after school shooting. Mall shooting after mall shooting. Accidental deaths of children who somehow get their hands on ill-stored or illegally acquired guns. And all because of the power and money and influence of the NRA-led gun lobby? Tell me, our politicians, how can you sleep at night while all around the country, parents weep?

It’s appalling. I cannot wrap my head around this. Sadly, my faith in Obama ‘s ability to achieve even the smallest step towards gun reform during his final term is waning. Still, I actively support the groups that lobby and advocate for reform and gun sense, such as Moms Demand Action which provides great tools for contacting your local government representatives. Day in day out they use their voices to bring attention to the issues and lobby so that we don’t become desensitized as a nation to these seemingly-daily tragedies.

To those who own guns legally and responsibly, that’s cool with me, if it makes you feel safe and satisfied with your constitutional rights. Just please – please – keep them properly locked up so your kids – and their friends – don’t find and “play” with them or they find their way into the hands of those with mental health issues or criminal intentions.

I know, if I were a US citizen, that my voice, my vote would contribute. After all, they say one vote makes a difference. Oh how I wish that were true. But sadly, I think this is not the case. I love this country. This is my home. It is also the homeland of my children, their heritage, their identity. But, until the safety of all of our kids becomes a higher priority than the interests of the gun lobby, I just can’t fully adopt it as my own.

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

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