20 Ways To Not Piss Off Your Parenting Partner

Being a parent is hard work. Being married to/living with a parent is also hard work. So here are a few handy tips based on my personal experience (and some from my friends) to help navigate the tough/busy/emotional times, balance out the domestic to-dos, and avoid frustrations, snark and general spousal pissed-off-ness. Note the below applies not just to husbands, but also to wives (like me). Read on, for marital and domestic bliss awaits you.

  1. Don’t make assumptions. About anything.
  2. When opening the fridge, take note of what’s not there, and add those items to a shopping list (physical or mental).
  3. When popping into the store, think about what’s on the physical/mental shopping list, and buy them. Heck, buy two.
  4. Do not question money or time spent at the hair or beauty salon. Budget for it in the family financial plan and tell her/him she/he looks lovely.
  5. Check with your partner before making purchases over a certain amount. Pre-agree what that amount should be.
  6. Don’t just talk about scheduling items; go ahead and put things on the family schedule. Physically or digitally. Just do it.
  7. Participate in meal planning (see items 1 & 2).
  8. Share homework checking and backpack management duties.
  9. Schedule regular alone time or time out with girl/man friends. Then do item 6.
  10. Don’t contribute to the general messiness and disorder of the house. Or at least try not to. And if/when you do, pick up after yourself. See item 16.
  11. Always be thinking/doing laundry. It’ll avoid those “I have no underpants” situations. It might even get you laid.
  12. Have assigned duties/roles (e.g. he handles finances/bill paying, she ensures kids has an adequate supply of clothes/shoes that fit even when they are growing like weeds which is like always.)
  13. Be united in your kid disciplining approaches. Kids can see through any weaknesses in a nanosecond and will use all and any leverage they can.
  14. Don’t make assumptions. I know, I know I said that before but, boy, it is everything.
  15. Tune in to each other’s work/stress load and proactively offer to take the kids out or handle a chore you don’t usually handle. Even better, take the initiative: book a babysitter, make a ressie and take him/her out for the evening.
  16. Just do it. Don’t wait to be asked. Like, if you see a mess.
  17. Listen. Put down your smartphone and listen.
  18. Watch/listen for unspoken cues. Like sighing, eye rolling or, you know, door slamming.
  19. Quash the temptation to snark about each other in public forums; instead celebrate each other on Facebook. (Snark about your kids instead. At least until they are old enough to read or use FB themselves. Cos then you are in trouble.)
  20. Never EVER assume (or state the words out loud) that time spent alone at the grocery store is the equivalent of real alone time.

(Am printing this off and putting on my bedside table to review on a regular basis.)

(Actually, am printing another one off and putting it on his bedside table too!)

 
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Invasion

They are everywhere. They are taking over. No surface is spared.

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When you remove them from one room, they appear in another.

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And then back again.

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On floors.

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On chairs.

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Everywhere.

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Transformers. Bionicles. Hero Factory. Chima.

Well done, toy manufacturers, well done.

The Agony and Ecstasy of Summer Camp

School’s out, summer’s here. Parents everywhere are cheering. Or are they?

I hate summer camp

I hate that we have to be out of the house a whole hour earlier than during the school year, in time to catch the bus to camp. Our already-challenging mornings become even more compressed and panicky because, no matter how well prepared we are, kids just want to play – not pack their lunches, find their towel, apply sunscreen, brush teeth, etc etc. It’s the fear of missing the bus and having to consequently drive 40 minutes in the opposite direction from my workplace that fuels these mornings.

I hate that, no matter how well I’ve organized the camp clothing procurement process with the goal of having a sufficient supply chain of shorts, T-shirts, socks, swimsuits and towels, I still end up having to do laundry every single night. Because camp clothes aren’t just a little dirty – they are sweaty, sandy, muddy, dank, stained with arts and crafts and bug spray. They require boiling. I hate that stuff always gets lost, no matter how well labelled. Towels, water bottles, sun screen, swimsuits, lunch boxes, goggles, underwear.

I hate camp songs. Sure, they are cute at first. But when your kids sing them over and over, morning and evening and all weekend – especially those “repeat after me” songs – it’s enough to drive me loony.

I dislike “dress up” or theme days. Nine times out of ten we just don’t have the right costume, color or accessory just hanging around the house. Or, most likely, we forget. Then as we arrive at the bus stop and see other kids in whichever theme of the week attire it is, my kids are inevitably disappointed. (Side note: if they cared enough about it, they’d make an effort to remember. Right?)

I dislike family night. Not because I don’t want to experience my kids’ camp, meet their counsellors and friends, hang out and have fun – but because of the damn mosquitoes that see me and think “mmm, dinner.”

I hate the cost of 8-9 weeks of summer camp because, as a working parent, what else are you going to do? I also hate that I have to start reserving my kids’ spot at summer camp in January, for fear that it’ll book up really quickly and then we’ll be royally screwed.

I hate that many of the fun, smaller or specialist camps are not only crazy expensive but they also finish at 3 or 4pm? What’s a working parent to do?

But …. I love summer camp.

I love that my kids spend their days outside at camp running, playing, swimming, fishing, boating, archery, learning outdoor skills and much much more. It’s how kids were meant to spend their summers: carefree, making new friends, trying new challenges. Happy as pigs in …. well, you know. I love how my kids’ camp – the YMCA – provides sufficient structure for a camp of 800 kids but at the same time encourages discovery, expression and free-play.

I love how my kids’ bodies become firm and lithe during summer camp, their little arms and chests becoming toned and muscular thanks to twice daily swimming. I love how, every summer, their swimming skills get stronger. I love their stories of new friends and adventures. I love the relationships they build with their counsellors. I love their farmers’ tans, the healthy glow that bursts from their happy faces. I love how they grow every summer, not just in height but in strength (inner and outer.)

I love that they come home tired, filthy, and hungry. They eat their body weight in food for dinner and then sleep soundly for ten hours. I love that they are spending less time in front of screens. I feel like our money has been well-spent and my kids are making memories every year, building layer upon layer of character and confidence.

So yes, mention summer camp and I’ll both smile and grimace.  And yes, soon enough, the time will come that they go to sleep away camps for several weeks at a time. Then, I’m sure, I’ll be singing a different tune.

Third Graders Ask “What If?’

As a working Mom I don’t manage to spend much time in my kids’ classrooms, something I try not to guilt myself about too much. But I aim to be there for the things that really matter to my kids – like when they are making a presentation to the class and other parents. The excitement and pride fairly sparkles in their eyes when a parent is there to watch them. And I admit it, I always get misty-eyed too.

Last week, following several weeks of prep and some last-minute panic over a suitable costume, my son and fellow third graders presented the fruits of their biography project. I was beyond proud to watch my son, dressed as Paul Revere, deliver his essay about this freedom fighter to the assembled kids and parents.  One by one, his fellow classmates each stood up and educated me about the character they had selected. Not just facts but their interpretation of why each person mattered, how he or she contributed to society and changed the world forever. In less than five short minutes, the kids explored the character traits and motivations of their selected biographical character, and how they felt inspired by their achievements. From Susan B. Anthony and Marco Polo to Nelly Bly, Steve Jobs and Louis Braille and more — I was truly impressed.

But the icing on the cake came at the very end when all the kids gathered together to present a poem they had jointly written. “What If?” explores how gravely the world would be different, were it not for the contributions of each of these individuals they had studied. I’m posting an abbreviated version of the poem below because I really think the entire school project (which lasted roughly six weeks) culminated in these kids not only learning some solid history but also realizing that they too have the potential to do great things. For this, I laud their teachers.

What If?

What if Marco Polo

Never explored

Or Walt Disney

Never built more?

What if Paul Revere

Never sent the call

Or Charles Lindbergh

Never flew at all?

What if Louis Braille

Never become blind

Or Dr Seuss

Didn’t have a creative mind?

What if Nelly Bly

Never travelled to write

Or Martin Luther King Jr

Never had a dream in sight?

What if Steve Jobs

Wasn’t so smart

Or Princess Diana

Never used her heart?

What if Susan B. Anthony

Never marched for  a woman’s right

Or Wilma Rudolph

Didn’t run with all her might?

What if you had a dream

And held it inside?

What if you had a dream

And never tried?

Paul Revere: TIME' Person of the Year

TIME Person of the Year: Paul Revere
by Gabriel McGarry

In Defense of Silliness & Spontaneous Dance Parties

This morning during breakfast, as Bruce Springsteen was playing on the iPod, I jumped up, grabbed my daughter’s electric guitar and rocked out to “Born To Run.” I couldn’t help myself! My six year-old looked at me, wide-eyed, with wonder and glee. After calling me weird, she jumped up and joined in, followed by my husband and son and a spontaneous dance party exploded culminating in us all grooving and giggling to Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”

Every morning should start off with silliness and a spontaneous dance party. It’s good for the soul, not to mention the cardiovascular system.

Admittedly, it’s a distraction from the “business” of the morning. Making lunches, brushing teeth, playing Minecraft on the iPad, packing backpacks. Yes, we were rushed as the minutes ticked by on the clock ….. but it was so worth it!

Every kid needs to see their parents being silly, every now and then. If we are always instructing, nagging, shuffling them from A to B, focusing on chores and homework, well, it’s all quite dull. The occasional goofiness provides healthy perspective. It tells them that we don’t always take everything so seriously, that we can be light-hearted and laugh at ourselves. Seriously folks, it’s even the secret to my happy marriage!

Silliness defies age. In fact, it keeps you young at heart. Being silly keeps you present and in the moment. If fosters togetherness. And, later in the day, you can reminisce about your antics and giggle a little to yourself.

Silliness has its time and place, for sure. Not every morning is suited to spontaneous dance parties. but, if the music moves you, I say go for it, let it rip. Your kids will start the day smiling and what’s better than that?

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On This Bed

I’m 46 years old and, tonight, I sleep again in this bed at my parents’ house. This bed where I slept most nights during the puberty years, the teenage years and my young 20s, and here and there during my 30s and 40s as I’ve visited. And when you think about it, this bed has always supported and comforted me. On this bed:

I daydreamed over pop stars and heartthrob actors
I’d play with my sister
I’d sit anxiously waiting for a boy to call
I’d giggle with girlfriends, plotting parties, dates, outfits, makeup
I’d do my homework and revise for exams
I’d layout clothes and more than often cries tears of frustration over how I looked – or thought I looked
I’d read and read and read
I’d dream romantic dreams
I’d cry over broken hearts, altered friendships
I’d write letters and pore over photos
I’d talk on the phone for hours with friends
I’d fill out university and job applications
I’d sleep with boyfriends
I’d make love to my husband
I’d feel the kicks and hiccups of infants in utero
I’d snuggle with my babies, then toddlers, then little kids

Tonight, as I prepare to go to sleep once again here, I’m thankful for this bed.

Sweet dreams.

A Plea For Kindness

It’s been well over a week since I last wrote and published a blog post. I’ve been meaning to but the tragic events of last Friday muted both my desire and capacity to write. The words failed me. In many respects they still do. It’s not often I find myself stymied when words, usually, are my salvage.

Through the haze of the tears, attempts to process and comprehend, and the sickening reality of so much pain and innocence lost, one word kept piercing my emotions and reverberating in my head.

It’s kindness.

As parents, it’s our sole duty to raise children that have experienced and know kindness and how it manifests itself. As parents, we must model it every day so our kids understand it’s just the way we behave. We are kind to one another. We listen, we say please and thank you, we pay compliments, we boost you up when you’re feeling down, we reach out a helping hand. We open our minds and our hearts. Without kindness, the world is cold, shallow and violent place.

So, let’s all pledge to be a little—even a lot—kinder to each other. That’s all I want for Christmas.

Thank you.

Guest Post: Talking to Kids about their Art

by Theresa Harris

When your child brings home their art from school, what’s your typical response? “Wow”, “It’s beautiful!”, or “I love it”?

This isn’t a trick question. No matter what your response, it’s understood that as parents and caregivers, our role is to support and encourage our budding artists, regardless of skill level. But here’s something to consider: What was going through your child’s brain when they drew that picture or painted that landscape? What did they imagine? Is the image part of a larger story? Is it fantasy-based or realistic? Does their art say anything about their hopes, their dreams or their fears? Wouldn’t it be cool if you could get into their creative minds a little bit and understand what their experience and process was when making art?

Art is so much more than what happens on the page. It’s also about the inspiration, creative thinking, and innovation. When you start thinking of art in this way, it opens up a whole range of possibilities for you to explore with your child.

How do you get the dialogue going? Here are five conversation starters you can use to talk to your child about their art in a thoughtful way. The questions are part of a parent education program I’ve started called “Art Talk.” The questions are straightforward, yet are designed to quickly draw out deeper levels of artistic thinking.

Here are 5 main questions to ask your child about their art:

  1. What did you create? What process did you use in making your art? What materials did you use and why? How did you plan your picture? Why did you use those colors?
  2. What do you see? What is this? Is it a thing or a place? Real or imaginary? What is happening in the picture?
  3. What did you learn? Did you use a new material or learn a new technique? Who taught you? Was it hard or easy? Show me how you did it so I can see what you’ve learned.
  4. What do you love? What do you love about this artwork? Are you happy with your work? Are there certain parts that you like better than others?.
  5. What do you wish? If you were to make this again, would you do anything differently? Would you use a different material, color or composition? Is there anything you’d like to change?

For more ideas for using Art Talk with your kids, take a look at the Parent Tip Video at  www.thriveart.com/arttalk

When kids are given the opportunity to talk about their art and share their experiences, it can enhance their self-awareness and confidence. When I’ve used this tool with my students and with my own child, I’ve been amazed at how capable they are at being reflective, and their responses are often incredibly insightful, and sometimes hysterical! Oh- the things they come up with!

What are some of the fun and insightful things your kids have said when you get them talking about art?

Theresa Harris is founder of Thrive Art School in Seattle and Thrive Art Online, a video-based art program for kids. When she is not is playing legos and making messes with her two lively boys age 2 & 4, she loves to hike and paint with encaustics.

theresa

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