CrunchyMetroMom

Trying to create balance…

I love my kids, but I’m glad to be done having babies August 1, 2014

Filed under: parenting — crunchymetromom @ 7:28 am
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Yep. I’m committing heresy. This is pure girl blasphemy. I’m saying OUT LOUD to all the Interwebs that I’m glad I’m not having more kids.

I realize that – by some people’s definition – mothers are supposed to be all “Oh, babies are just the best and I could totally go for another one!” anytime a friend shows off their newborn, but I’m perfectly content to coo from a distance and be happy snuggling the two I have. As the younger of two kids, from parents who were an only child and the elder of two, respectively, I’m used to the concept of a small family. Meeting DH’s family for the first time, and seeing that the extended family was A) large, and B) around each other on a regular basis, was overwhelming. I swear it took me a good six months just to learn everyone’s names.

When we talked about kids, DH really wanted four. His mother is the second of four, and he really liked the idea of a big family. Until I met DH, I’d figured I wasn’t going to have kids at all; it was never really something I wanted to do, and I never thought I clicked well with kids. We waited for me to finish graduate school before we really started trying to have kids, and it seemed to take forever before I finally got pregnant. I’m actually pretty sure I had a miscarriage right before I got pregnant with dd. It was early, though, so it just felt like a horrible period.

I remember lying in bed one night when I was pregnant with dd, wondering aloud, “What if I don’t have a maternal instinct?” DH assured me that everything would be fine, and I just hoped for the best. While some parts of the early parenting experience were rough – like exclusively pumping for six months because of physical issues that made breastfeeding hard and my stubborn refusal to give up – it turns out that I do have a maternal instinct. That part, at least, is comforting.

At some point during my pregnancy with ds, my OB/gyn asked me if I wanted to have a repeat c-section or a VBAC, and it took me a while to think it through. DD had been in full breech, so c-section was the way to go for my first delivery. There was some risk with VBAC, and I gathered info from my doctor and other sources before making my choice about how I would have ds delivered. Ultimately, I decided on a repeat c-section. When I told my doctor this, she immediately countered with, “Would you like your tubes tied?” I think I blinked a few dozen times and let that sink in.

 

“Can you do that?”, I asked.

“Of course. They’re right there,” she said, cupping her hands in the air as she mimed holding my fallopian tubes.

Huh.

I called my health insurance company and they said that “voluntary sterilization” was a covered benefit, and they thought it was great that I would be able to consolidate things into ONE hospitalization and ONE anesthesia and ONE recovery.

Huh.

“Voluntary sterilization”.

 

It sounded so…sterile.

 

And so it was, that on August 11, 2009, after giving birth to a healthy baby boy, I was voluntarily sterilized with a tubal ligation. In normal people-speak, that means, I shouldn’t get pregnant ever again. That doesn’t mean I can’t, since I know that there is a minuscule chance that I could get pregnant. One of the former teachers at the kids’ daycare center is a tubal baby, so I know it’s possible. But still, as much as I hate the creature with the rusty knife that attacks my abdomen every month, I’m secretly happy. It means I escaped one more month closer to the point when babies are simply no longer an option.

It’s not that I don’t love kids – I adore my kids. They are the light of my life and there is no way that I would want to know what my life would be like if I had never had them.

But knowing what it was like struggling with breastfeeding that never worked and pumping that I made take over my life, remembering what it was like to juggle life with infants who couldn’t tell me funny stories, and thinking of what it was like dealing with blow-out diapers and strollers and high chairs and baby food and pacifiers and and and…I’m happy never to go back.

I love my babies. And though I know that it probably makes me a freak in some people’s eyes for saying that dd and ds are enough, I don’t want more babies. I want the kids I have and I know I was meant to have only them. I’m more than content with that. They are all that I wanted and never knew I needed until they were in my arms. And each time I get my period, I say a silent thank-you to my body, for keeping me at just the two that I adore. I have an abundance of awesome in my two sweet and wonderful kiddos, and that’s all I need. Anybody who thinks I should ever want more doesn’t know me and doesn’t know my babies. I truly have all that I need.

 

 

How to make your kiddo’s first movie enjoyable for everyone (within reason) July 21, 2014

Filed under: parenting — crunchymetromom @ 7:19 am
Tags: , , , ,

Recently, a friend of mine who has a 4yo son asked me if I’d written something about how to decide when it’s okay to take your kiddo to their first movie, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet covered that (although I do talk about the kid-freak-out-potential in my movie reviews). In the spirit of fairness, I figured I’d write up a longer version of what I discussed with him, since this was something that I was worried about when my kids wanted to start going to movies.

Let me preface this by saying that I love going to the movies. Seriously, I adore it. There’s something about going to this magical building where you can be transported away to some other time and place through sound and images. It’s a link with culture and the arts, it’s escapism, and it’s stories brought to life by people with incredible talent (both in front of and behind the camera). The first real opportunity dd had to attend a movie was when she was 4-1/2yo and one of her friends invited her to a birthday party at the local movie theater, to see “Hop”. Not being a tremendous fan of Russell Brand, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I dutifully took her to the theater. When other parents did the “drop-off” thing (leaving their kiddos in the care of the parent[s] in charge of a party), I stuck around and bought a ticket for myself so that I could be there for her. It’s not that what those other parents did was wrong and what I did was right, but I wasn’t sure that bringing my daughter to her first immersive movie experience and then leaving her there would’ve been the wisest move I could make.

Turns out I was quite right. During the previews (the PREVIEWS!), she had a freak-out at the violence in the trailer for a “Kung-fu Panda” movie. Having been raised primarily on The Wiggles and PBS Kids shows to that point, she didn’t see violence. Ever. And even cartoonish violence can cause massive panic. I don’t recall if I offered her my lap or if she just cuddled up with me, but she was fine by the time the feature came on. There were moments where she snuggled up close, not because “Hop” has any especially scary parts but more because – at age 4-1/2 – she just wasn’t able to process all of this information without it overloading her to some extent.

By the time ds was ready to hit the theaters, it became more apparent that the “cuddle up” message had to be made and reinforced – early and often. The “cuddle up” rule for movie-going in our family is that if something on screen causes someone to get scared, they need to “cuddle up” with the nearest parent. If I take the kids on my own, then they each get an arm (it’s only fair). For the most part, ds has been fine; he hasn’t yet needed to see an entire feature on my lap, but he did get very upset when Constantine brandished a gun at the end of “Muppets: Most Wanted”, and there were tears. Since then, he’s asked for scare-level information about each movie we’re considering, so he can decide whether he wants to see it or not. Contrast this with some girlfriends whose similarly-aged kids have seen “Marvel’s The Avengers”; not every kid hits the panic button about violence, and some of it may just go away on its own. Each kiddo is different.

We’ve been to several movies with the kids (as a complete family and one parent + one or two kiddos), so at this point I feel like we have it down fairly well. With that in mind, here are five suggestions for those who are considering taking their young child to their first movie and would actually like the experience not to suck to be a good one for everyone involved:

 

1. Make sure your kiddo can get through a whole movie at home first.

If they can’t get through a whole movie at home, then attention span may be an issue. All you need is your kiddo to get bored in the theater and you’ll both be climbing the walls. Between previews and a feature, a movie experience may run 1-1/2 to 2 hours for a beginner movie; if your kiddo is unable to sit still and pay attention for that long a time, then heading out to the theater may not be the right move yet.

 

2. Check the ratings and reviews before heading to the theater.

I consider this the “Cars 2 Rule”. One exceptionally hot day, following an tent concert by The Wiggles that nearly made both of us melt, I took dd to “Cars 2” as a way to cool off. I made that spur-of-the-moment decision not knowing that “Cars 2” was rated PG. When the movie started out with a shootout, I realized I’d taken her to the WRONG FILM. I trusted that the “Cars” label meant “kid-friendly” and didn’t expect that it was really “kid-friendly at a certain age”. The new Planes: Fire and Rescue is also PG, so buyer beware.

 

3. Consider nap and meal schedules.

This one should be a gimme: if your kiddo is used to naps at the time when you want to go to the movie, consider the likelihood of a meltdown and plan accordingly. Similarly, check to see what your local theater offers for food if you’re going near a meal time. Nicer, newer theaters will often have anything from hot dogs and pizza to chicken nuggets and fries. Not every kid will eat well when you’re in a theater (sensory overload), but it may be easier to aim for a movie at lunchtime and head home for nap than to go to a mid-afternoon movie that may not exist. (Movie theaters just don’t consider nap schedules well enough when setting movie times!)

 

4. Use the bathroom right before the previews come on.

It doesn’t matter whether your little one is potty trained or still in diapers; odds are, if you don’t check right before the movie starts, you’ll end up missing part of the movie for time in the bathroom. That old adage of “Always go before you go” is still great advice.

 

5. Reinforce “the cuddle rule” right before the feature comes on.

Make sure that your kiddo knows that they should cuddle up if they get scared and that you’re there for them. Even if they don’t take you up on it, knowing that the offer is open (and reminding them to the point of having them repeat it) removes one potential source of stress for them. That way, if they do get worried or scared, they immediately start clinging and you both know that’s the signal that you need to “protect” them.

 

Additional things worth considering:

  • Sitting on the aisle, in case you need to make a speedy getaway (either a bathroom run or just a run for somewhere that wailing is acceptable)
  • Finding baby/kid-friendly movie showings, often a special program run by certain chains (such as Showcase), that have lower sound volume and slightly brighter overhead lighting
  • Getting the booster from the customer service desk can make it easier for kids too small (light and/or short) to see properly from their seat; the alternate is typically that YOU become the booster seat (which you may or may not like)

 

When all else fails, try just renting something from Redbox or grabbing a movie off OnDemand/Netflix/Amazon Prime, popping some popcorn and springing for $1 boxes of movie theater candy at the local drug store. Really, there’s nothing to stop you from having a “movie viewing” at your house that mimics the experience well enough – but at a price tag and with amenities – that are a little more everyone’s speed.

 

 

An open letter to my mom May 3, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 1:08 pm
Tags: , ,

You were right.

Well, at least some of the time.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

When you think about all of the stuff your mom said to you as a kid that just seemed incredible or downright ridiculous, it’s how funny so much of it actually was her telling you stuff you needed to know – even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear at the time.

 

If they’re really your friends, they wouldn’t treat you like that.

This is so incredibly true it hurts. I mean, it actually HURTS when you think about all of the time you wasted on people who were toxic, people who made you feel less than you really are, people who only had you around because it served some purpose in their life without providing similar return to you. I’m not saying that you should run your life like a game of “Survivor”, but it is really rather fantastic how many people I used to know that I just don’t even miss, because they just weren’t positive influences in my life. My best friend of 24 years is still my best friend, even though we haven’t lived in the same city for two decades, because even as much as our lives have changed and we have evolved in (sometimes different) directions, we still share mutual love, admiration, respect, and a belief that the other person is *important*.

 

Always GO before you go.

Parents of children really GET this. Case in point: I took ds up to the elementary school on his bike the other day; he biked and I walked. He played for maybe 10 minutes before he suddenly announced that he needed facilities that aren’t open on the weekends. While I give him high marks for being able to hold all bodily functions until we got home, I give myself poor marks for not having forced him into the bathroom before we left. Sure, the school isn’t too far from the house – but this is a rookie mistake. (Right up there with that time I forgot to bring diapers to a well visit when dd was still an infant; that’s a mistake that you only make ONCE.)

 

You can do better.

This applies just across the board. When I think about how things are going at work (extremely well, by the way), I wonder how much of it is luck. I’m sure there’s some karma involved, but some of it is just that I work very hard – and very efficiently – so that I can deliver at a level that meets or exceeds expectations. And I always, ALWAYS, assume I can do better…to the point where people accuse me of being humble when I shouldn’t be. There’s always room for improvement, whether it’s at work, or at home, or in the never-ending fight with my waistline. That’s not to say that I’m at the Marxian level of complaining that the capitalist system sets things up so one can never reach the divine; it’s that I think there’s always room for go beyond where you are. My pie crust could be homemade. I could rely less on boxed and frozen items when cooking during the workweek. I could be a size 8. She was right, though. I really interpret this NOW as “Celebrate when you succeed, and plan how next to exceed.”

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

So, Ema, the basic point is: you were right. And I’ve learned a lot in the 41 years I’ve been on the planet – but none more so than in the 7-1/2 years since dd made her first public appearance in the delivery room. But you were right.

At least some of the time.

 

Exiting the kiddo birthday party arms race November 1, 2013

This was the year.

Since dd was on the cusp of 3yo, we’ve been attending kiddo birthday parties that made everything I grew up with pale by comparison. Honestly, I don’t remember my friends having big birthday parties when I was a kid…although, to be fair, I primarily was close just with my bff and didn’t really get the time of day from the “cool kids” that treated me like crap. (Back then, it wasn’t cool at all to be the smart-but-short-fat-girl-with-glasses; these days, I’d be the subject of my own YA book series with an option for a 3-movie deal.)

When we attended the first of these new-fangled kiddo parties, at a mini gym, we were immediately taken with the notion of having someone else be responsible for corralling, entertaining, and then cleaning up after a classroom of kiddos. It seemed like a fantastic idea. Well, that is until we saw the price of these parties.

In most cases, it was something on the order of $300+ just for the location and the staff; then you had to add in the cost of the cake (typically store-bought, for simplicity’s sake), pizza (if it was near a mealtime), drinks, and favors. In some cases, the starting price is even higher (especially for the indoor bouncy place near us), in which case the final tally for a party would be anywhere from $400-500. For a party. For pre-schoolers.

We knew this couldn’t last.

Last year, for dd’s 6th birthday party, we did a gymnastics party at our local YMCA. The limit on kids was something like 27 or 29, including dd (it was all based on ratios of coaches:kids), and we invited her entire Kindergarten class plus a small group of neighborhood kiddos and close friends. The idea was that we would wait to see who from her class just blew it off and then we’d add in the remainder of kids we also wanted to invite. Trouble was, nobody backed out. We had 100% YES RSVPs. It was shocking, to say the least. The YMCA team, much to their credit, rallied and managed to handle the large crowd in style – especially at improvising additional games/activities when some aspects of the party took less time than anticipated. I think we all just found the party overwhelming, and then after doing a twist on the invitation game with ds’ 4th birthday party this summer (starting with the list of neighborhood kids and close friends FIRST and then inviting only select kids from day care), we just felt like we were overspending and overthinking it all.

In our neck of the woods, there are plenty of kiddo party options (outside of the house). You can be active (YMCA, indoor bouncy / gym / playarea, karate, gymnastics, etc.), you can be crafty (Joanns, Michaels, paint-your-own pottery, etc.), you can be educational (such as kid-oriented museums), and you can be outdoorsy (hayride with pumpkin picking, hiking at the nearby Audubon or state park, etc.). The options become completely overwhelming, and the cost isn’t far behind. Even the party favors end up stressing me out: let’s see if we can spend less than $100 on gifts for up to 30 kids and not make it all plastic junk toys or candy. My go-to favor solution has mostly been some kind of notebook, notepad or coloring {thing}, along with some kind of writing/drawing implement (markers, crayons, or pencils) and some form of innocuous kid-oriented food {thing}, such as Pepperidge Farm Goldfish. Buying the writing/drawing stuff from the local Job Lot or Target and the Goldfish from BJs, we typically manage to keep the price on the favors within budget…but it’s all still crazy.

So, this is the year that I pulled the brakes – to a certain extent. I didn’t say that dd couldn’t have a birthday party; I figured we needed to get her on a step-down program. What we’re doing instead is a targeted party at a local Build-a-Bear for just a very select crew. I can’t adequately describe how awful I feel at not being able to invite all of the neighborhood kids, but it’s just cost-prohibitive. For this party, we’re keeping it to just 8 kids, including dd and ds, so she had 6 invitation slots she could fill. That. Was. It.

I figured we could skip the expense of the favor (each kid is going home with a stuffy they made themselves, so I am comfortable with saying THAT is their “favor”), and I let dd pick out a scaled-down cupcake cake that should result in no leftovers and be relatively easy to wrangle in the mall food court, as we take over a table for the food portion of the party after the bears (and other assorted stuffies) have been built.

There’s a part of me that is incredibly happy to say goodbye to the era of the big party for dd; aside from the expense, the stress of trying to figure out how to maximize the experience for a large number and variety of kids is exhausting. Even dealing with the thank you cards is just some new level of insanity; my hat is totally off to the parents of ds’ preschool classmate, who put thank you cards in each favor bag. KUDOS on getting that out of the way, man.

I don’t know how this party will go. It’s tomorrow, and both kids have been stoked to go build some bears. The other kiddos invited to the party have also been jumping up and down at the thought of going, so I’m hoping this doesn’t turn out to be some kind of build-up for not much actual return for them. I just want everyone to have a good time and for it not to break the bank. A part of me also wants dd (and ds) to have the parties I just don’t remember having or going to when I was that age, even though I sincerely doubt that withholding such parties will end up severely adding to their future therapy bills.

It’s just that fine line – balancing the needs of the few (dd & ds) with the needs of the many (all the other kids) and the needs of the one (checking account). Something had to give…and we drew the line in first grade. If this works out fine, ds has only 1-2 more years of “the big party” and then he’ll start his own party step-down program. It may seem crazy to think about it this way, but did I ever mention that I’m an overthinker? Yeah…in spades.

 

The perils of constantly questioning whether you’re the worst mom ever September 18, 2013

Filed under: parenting — crunchymetromom @ 7:48 am
Tags: , ,

Being a parent is a tricky thing. You made some kind of choice – either explicit or implicit – that you were willing to bring a child into the world, and then you’re responsible for making sure that child is allowed to grow to the point where it can leave the proverbial nest. As my father (and Bill Cosby?) said, a parent’s responsibility is to civilize a child so they can survive in society. But really, there’s very little that prepares you for the constant nagging feeling that you’ve chosen wrong with just about everything you decide on your child’s behalf.

I discussed some of my concerns when we first put dd into summer camp last year, because she spent the better part of four weeks being utterly miserable. She hated camp. She didn’t want us to go each morning at drop-off. She wanted to be picked up early so she wouldn’t have to endure post-camp. Everything was awful, and she made that abundantly clear. For the better part of four weeks, I vacillated between thinking “OH DEAR LORD SHE’S RIGHT AND I’M SCARRING MY CHILD’S PSYCHE” and “This, too, shall pass.”

Whether by hope or just the passage of sufficient time for her to adjust to the new norm, she settled down sometime in that four weeks and suddenly, dramatically, fell madly in love with camp. It got to the point that she was terribly sad when she finished camp at the end of the summer and headed off to Kindergarten.

Figuring that we’d capitalize on her newfound love of camp, we set about putting her back in the same program this summer, timed to coincide with our return from our trip to DC. She got 1-1/2 weeks of gymnastics camp, then we had vacation, then she went back to her regular camp. And everything was fineFor all of one day.

By the time she’d gotten home from that first day, she decided that camp was (yet again) the worst thing EVER. And this time, with only five weeks of camp in front of her, she was going to drag this out as the worst experience for all of us if we didn’t fix it. The nagging concerns came back to the forefront of my brain again, wondering if we should’ve just left her in the gymnastics camp all summer. It was about the same cost, but the difference in commute (compounded by the fact that the location of that camp almost certainly requires that I’m on the only one who can get her) meant that I’d have to give up any hope of evening workouts in the gym, post-work. So, we all soldiered on.

I made her an advent calendar, of sorts, and challenged her to cross off each day at its conclusion and then write what she liked about camp at the end of each week. When we got to the end of the last day of the last week, I asked her to write down three things she liked about camp and to tell me which camp she wanted to go to next summer: regular camp or gymnastics camp. I fully expected to see her write GYMNASTICS CAMP in bright, shiny, blinking letters. Instead, she wrote REGULAR CAMP.

You could’ve knocked me over with a feather.

It turns out, what dh and I were missing this entire time was that the difference between her pre-K camp and her first grade camp was that she didn’t get nap time. And, the difference between her first grade camp and the other camps at higher levels (2nd grade on up) is that the camps for older kids got at least one field trip per week. In other words, first grade camp is a total screw job where you’re trapped in one location and don’t even get a nap for your trouble. OH. It all makes sense now.

Fast forward to Sunday, when I brought dd to her first day of “pre-team” gymnastics training. It’s a 2hr session for girls who are interested in taking their gymnastics to the next level. Girls who really excel are invited to take on a second 2hr session every week, so that’s something to keep an eye out for. She’d been up and down about going pre-team, but she loves gymnastics and has shown quite an aptitude for it. When I finally got her registered for pre-team (no small feat), she looked at me as though I’d just knifed all her favorite stuffed animals. She’d asked for pre-team repeatedly, but that wasn’t the same as getting it. And so, for weeks, she alternated between planting her feet and taunting us with “I WON’T GO” and telling her friends, “I’m doing pre-team!”

{cue a very large palm-print on my forehead}

So, I took her on Sunday, and I was unsurprised that she hung on me tighter than any plastic wrap. I brought her into the gym, and she cried and clawed at me, begging me to stay. I managed to pry her off me, and eventually a coach led her off to sit with the other girls. I saw some sniffling, but it disappeared quickly. The start of class was slow, since it was the first time for this session and there were a ton of new girls (like dd), but this helped her get acclimated. She stretched, followed all the directions, and – amazingly – paid incredible attention to the coaches. She didn’t even gnaw on her fingernails, as she so often does; she was that engrossed in what they were teaching her. As she ran and pranced past me in the whirling mass of 6-13 year-olds, warming up, she would look for me at the window and wave, smiling brightly.

At her first water break, she bounded out for her water bottle and teased me for not leaving it in the gym. At the second break, she pulled me down to the locker room for girl talk while she had a bio break, and as she shut the bathroom stall door, she shouted at me, “I want to compete on pre-team!” I was nearly in tears. The idea that we’d possibly gotten it right was something that I kept in the back of my mind, because the pulling and crying and yelling and denials always end up pushing self-doubt forward and self-confidence to the back. Always.

I wonder if it’s like this for all parents…or just for some of us?

She asked me to take her to pre-team again next Sunday, and I’m looking forward to it. She said that I can go workout elsewhere in the gym, which I’d like to do, although there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to spend the entire 2hr stretch on a treadmill. Really, I want to watch her excel and smile…because sometimes the validation I need as a parent is what isn’t told to me. Sometimes, it’s just seeing the look on her face and understanding that – this time – I didn’t get it wrong.

 

Let’s talk about SEX…and VIOLENCE? September 3, 2013

The other day, I was in the kitchen doing kitcheny-type things (dishes or preparing dinner, I can’t remember which), when DD came up beside me and said something that sounded like the word “sex”. I paused, turned towards her and calmly said, “Excuse me?” She looked at me with a huge grin on her face and said – much louder and more clearly – “SEX!” It’s at this point that I think I made a face much like Ferris Bueller, whenever he gave a glance at the fourth-wall. Uh…

It seems that the little miss, inspired by the kid-requested heavy rotation of the “Pitch Perfect” soundtrack, had decided to latch onto the word “sex” from the Treblemakers’ cover of Salt-n-Pepa’s “Let’s Talk About Sex” during the “Riff-Off” medley. Hmm. At this point, I took a quick breath and decided to explain that sex is something between two consenting adults in a committed relationship and how the song is about wanting to TALK about sex before actually DOING anything that would ruin a relationship. Her eyes glazed over and she wandered off, fairly bored and having her sex balloon completely deflated. Score 1 for me?

[Of course, I don’t think that my description of sex is a 100% accurate case; there are plenty of folks who’ve had more than 2 people involved, and “adults” is a bit of a strong term, and “committed” is a state of mind and and and…but I wasn’t in it for accuracy; I was aiming to get her to think it was more than just a game, like “Monopoly Junior”.]

DD has seen movies aplenty before, mostly in the house, and I even screened “Pitch Perfect” for her fairly recently. And sure, the movie has a few mature things in it here and there – but that’s the whole “P” in “PG” – parental guidance. I remember seeing “No Way Out” with my father, on VHS no less, and he sent me out of the room when the infamous limo scene came on. He then called me back out and replayed the scene, explaining that it was a 3 out of 10 in terms of sexual content. Apparently, he was so disappointed in it, he didn’t care that I saw it. I think I found it rather silly back then, and something tells me I’d now find it as laughable as the pool sex scene in “Showgirls”.

Of course, this SEX thing happened in the same week where I took ds to his first movie in the theater. He’s seen movies before, at home, but this was the first time I was taking him outside of our four walls in order to catch a flick. He was excited about the prospect of seeing “Planes” (TALKING CARS AND TALKING PLANES, MOMMY!!!), so I took both of the kids for a show. While he was fine during the movie, I wasn’t even sure that he would make it that far: he lost his nut during the trailers. The very first trailer was for “Free Birds”, an animated feature about a pair of turkeys that try to go back in time to the very first Thanksgiving to get turkey taken “off the menu”.

There’s a scene in the trailer where the more militant turkey (voiced by Woody Harrelson) is squaring off against the happy-go-lucky turkey pardoned by the President for Thanksgiving (voiced by Owen Wilson). When Wilson’s turkey draws a line in the dirt and says not to cross it, Harrelson’s turkey slaps him. Repeatedly. It’s a funny scene, for adults, and dd seemed to enjoy it. DS saw the first slap and IMMEDIATELY turned on the waterworks. He just lost it completely.

I pulled him onto my seat and immediately started cuddling with him, kissing him, stroking his hair, and generally trying all of the tricks that one uses when trying to calm your child. I was really grateful that we were in a fairly empty matinée attended only by people with similarly-aged children; I’m sure that the other parents heard ds and thought, “There but for the grace of God go I…”, much as I do whenever I’m the one with the well-behaved kid, hearing some other kid completely losing it.

And so this all makes me wonder: what age IS the right age to introduce these things? Cartoonish violence, like that of the “Free Bird” trailer, seems perfectly acceptable to me, but I was raised on “Looney Tunes” cartoons. ACME anvils, Wile E. Coyote’s thousand-foot drops into canyons, and point-blank rifle explosions into Elmer Fudd’s face were the norm. None of it was considered real. Wait 15 minutes, and another cartoon will come on showing the same character, back exactly as they were before whatever befell them in the prior cartoon. As much as I love “Marvel’s The Avengers”, I’m absolutely not ready to show that to my kids because the violence is way too much. And the profanity and references to sex in “Pitch Perfect” went blissfully high over dd’s head (or were edited out/explained by me, so as to gloss over them).

Given the dearth of G-rated films in the movie houses these days, I feel like I’m backed into a corner to either live on a steady diet of DVDs or take them to/show them movies that are in the PG range…and ds’ sensitivity may preclude a lot of his viewings. Trying to get a sense of whether it was just that movie or all violence in general, I did play about an hour of “Looney Tunes” for the kids this past weekend, and both kids saw Wile E. Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Gossamer and Marvin the Martian in some of their most famous pieces. Both laughed. There was no crying whatsoever.

So, maybe it was just that trailer. Or, maybe it was that ds was extra-sensitive from being hungry, since he hadn’t yet really plowed into his food at that point. Or, maybe still, part of what we need to do – much as my dad did for me with that lukewarm sex scene in “No Way Out” – is pick what we think is good enough for acclimating them to the stuff gradually, so they will eventually make their way to the harder stuff they’ll really want to see in later years. I can’t figure what the perfect approach is, but for now I’ll just labor under the impression that letting them pick the pace at which they “progress” up the ratings scale will probably work far better…and just help them along the way as I can. Honestly, I’m not sure what else I can – or should – do, when faced with so few new feature options that are free of sex and violence.

And yes, I know that Bambi’s mother got shot in, like, the first 10 minutes of that movie, and Scar is a scary lion, and Maleficent is a scary witch and…OMG NOTHING IS SAFE. Oh just forget it. I think I’ll just put “CARS” on repeat. Don’t mind me.

 

A week on the road with the kids July 18, 2013

Filed under: parenting — crunchymetromom @ 7:41 am
Tags: , ,

We spent all of last week on my home turf: the DC area. We decided to get ourselves away for a less-expensive vacation than House of Mouse, and the original plan was halfsies in Sesame Place and halfsies in DC. When it turned out that I couldn’t even stomach the price of 3 nights of hotel + 2 days admission at Sesame Place, we decided to go all-in for DC and just give ourselves more time to visit with friends, more flexibility in scheduling what we’d do, etc.

Before I get into this, let me give a BIG shout-out to KidFriendly DC, which had some fantastic ideas about where to go, what to do, etc. I haven’t lived in the DC area full-time in 16 years, and even with trips home no less than once a year, I don’t know all the latest-and-greatest places to take kiddos. So, big thanks to a blog that’s really well done and very helpful.

As we did in prior trips, this was a driving trip, and I’ll say only that I learned three very important things on our drives down and back:

  1. NEVER travel on a Sunday in the summertime,
  2. Google Maps has another color that’s for traffic worse than bright red and, if you see it, time to start looking for an alternate route, and
  3. I want to give sloppy tongue-kisses to whoever it was that designed the DVD player in the backseat of our SUV.

Seriously, for someone who (pre-kids) thought, “I’ll never need a DVD player in the back of MY CAR”, I’ve come over to the not-so-dark-side in relatively short order. That stuff is genius. DD appears to have inherited at least some portion of dh’s carsickness, so she can’t read in a car or focus on things in her lap for too long without getting ill. The DVD screen, however, works fine for her and she can watch it for a good long stretch with NO negative side-effects. Sure, her brain’s probably rotting out the side of her head for watching so much TV but…did I mention that we were on vacation?

Anyhoo, we did our usual thing of staying at a suite hotel that’s near a Metro stop. When the kids were younger, having a kitchen with a sink for washing dishes and a fridge for storing milk was key. These days, it’s less important, but it’s definitely a nice thing to have: you can fill up the pitcher with water and just pull cold water for your water bottles first thing in the AM. A full breakfast is included in our room price, so we had fantastic breakfast choices every morning – something for everybody. Getting a one-bedroom suite is also the standard for us, since it allows us to put the kids to bed in the evening and then adjourn to the living room to chill out, watch TV, read, etc. before we retire to bed – all without disturbing the sleeping kidlets.

The kids got plenty of exposure to many of the kid-friendly places in DC: Smithsonian institutions like the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air & Space Museum, and the National Zoo, plus the National Building Museum, the National Aquarium (in Baltimore, MD), the B&O Railroad Museum (also in Baltimore) and a bunch of neighborhood playgrounds. Staying in the close-in MD suburbs also gave us great access to really good restaurants (like Redwood, in Bethesda, MD) and places that are MUST-EAT-ATs, like Tastee Diner (we went to Bethesda for that, as well). I was overjoyed – and totally unsurprised – that the meal the kids ate best was as the Tastee. I’m not sure how many late night and weekend breakfasts I had there when I was still a local…let’s say many.

Eating out was something we were dreading, since the kids don’t typically do well at eating out in a one-off situation, much less for about 21 consecutive meals. So, we devised a scheme to tackle this: a rewards system. We told the kids we’d give each of them a single point for trying a bite of something new to them, and we’d give them 5 points for eating an entire serving (or whatever we carved out as what we wanted them to eat). Every 10 points could be cashed in for screen time on dh’s iPad or my iPhone. The hope was that they wouldn’t exist solely on chicken fingers, pizza, and burgers for the entire week. And it worked…somewhat.

DD turned out to be the more adventurous of the two (which is a bit of a reverse from the usual), but that was mainly because she was all about the points. (Her common response to my offer of a food or drink: “Will I get a point?”) I think if I’d asked her to eat fried worms, she would’ve done it to get the point. DS was less into it, but he still tried a few foods here and there. The big surprise for us was that we all liked baby cactus (included in a light salad offered by Oyamel, in downtown DC), especially dd. We all agreed that the baby cactus pieces tasted just like pea pods, and she gobbled up the serving dh gave her and proudly told everyone throughout the rest of the trip, “I ate baby cactus!” She also discovered that she likes some cheeseburgers. (Now, I could’ve told her that, since she’s finished off my cheeseburgers before…but I was trying to encourage the girl to branch out, and I wasn’t about to burst her bubble at this point.)

All in all, it was a nice week away…the kids got plenty of outside time, dh got some workouts in, I got a nice tan, and we got visiting time in with several of my friends who I desperately miss. There’s something very frustrating about not being able to just hop on a plane for a weekend visit like I used to do in the old (read: pre-kid) days, but life’s different now and I mostly accept that.

One of the big benefits, in the end, was also seeing that we could go on the road with each other for a solid week and have everyone come home in one piece. Future trips may be in the car, or may be based on a plane (which would be a whole other new frontier for the kids), but we at least have our routine down for life in a hotel. I’d say it was a big win all around. Now, if only I can scrape together enough cash for that trip to Florida…

 

Parenting dilemma #347: When to start grounding your kids November 26, 2012

Filed under: parenting — crunchymetromom @ 7:20 am
Tags: , , , ,

As someone who spent the better portion of my teens in some state of “grounding”, it should come as little surprise that my firstborn would get an early start on things. Yes, at the tender age of 6 (just turned, even!), dd has now experienced her first grounding. It’s not something I planned but, you see, I was at my wit’s end.

Backing thing up a little…

A few weeks back, dh went on a work trip out of town for several days. While he was gone, dd was INSISTENT that she needed to sleep in my bed (much as she was steadfast that she couldn’t sleep alone while I was out of town for BlogHer’12 earlier this year), and I – foolishly? – gave in to this request. Now, it’s easy to cluck tongues and remind me that this is only going to lead to bad things, but let me start off by saying: A) I KNOW, and B) it’s awfully easy to say “don’t do it!” when you’re not the one facing the night of lost sleep while shuttling back and forth between bedrooms trying to get her to SHUT UP already. This isn’t to say that I think co-sleeping is a bad thing, no matter what the AAP says. My daughter is six, and it’s unlikely that she’s going to experience negative effects from co-sleeping other than future difficulties breaking the habit and the fact that my bed is higher off the ground than hers (longer way to fall).

This started in the first night dh was gone and continued for the next several nights, while he was away. Naturally, when dh managed to luck into an earlier flight than expected, one that returned just before midnight (so he could sleep in his own bed one night earlier), she planted her feet in full-on rebellion and tried to wheel and deal. She’d be quiet if she could sleep in our bed until dh came home and then he could move her to her bed. Uh, no. *freaks out* She’d be quiet if she could sleep in our bed all night. NO. *freaks out* Head, meet wall. Repeatedly. I can’t fully remember how it all went but I seem to recall that I didn’t get her to stop fussing until about two hours or so after I put her down. Maybe 2-1/2hrs. It’s all a blur.

And then we get fast-forward to this holiday weekend, where it seemed like things were going downhill fast, as the little miss decided on Friday night that she needed to be in our bed. Over the next several hours, it became apparent to both me and dh that she was going to insist on coming into our bed even though both of us just wanted our space. He didn’t feel well thanks to some kind of stomach bug, and I have been fighting a miserable cough for weeks. My initial attempt to get her to sleep was around 7:30pm. We would be fighting this battle with her, on and off, for the next 2-ish hours.

I tried reasoning with her. I tried appealing to her sense of self-preservation (“You don’t want to get {whatever crud it is that we have}!”). Nothing worked. DH tried similar appeals. Both of us even threatened to take away privileges, as a last-ditch effort. Still, nothing worked.

Sure enough, she ended up in our bed around 1:20am.

At that point, I’d already told dh I wanted her grounded, not sure what that would mean much beyond “you’re not allowed out of your room except for potty breaks and meals”. She agreed to be grounded in exchange for sleeping in our bed, to which dh responded, incredulous: “I’ve never heard of anyone asking to be grounded before!” I suppose it’s also easy to be incredulous at 1:20am. At that time of day, at our age, any activity is surprising.

So, Saturday morning began the DAY OF THE GROUNDING. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t come with me on a trip to Kohl’s to buy presents for the kiddo whose Christmas we’re underwriting through an “adopt a child” program. She didn’t get why she couldn’t go out to play. She didn’t understand why she couldn’t linger in the den after a meal was over.

I feel for her, really I do. But having already revoked her privileges to her bike, her scooter and TV for a WEEK over the fuss she put up the night dh was coming home from his trip, I wasn’t sure what I could take away that would have an impact. We’re looking at implementing some kind of system that will be more along the line of positive reinforcement, probably in conjunction with her responsibility chart (using only a handful of items as the responsibilities we’ll track).

There’s a part of me that says that there’s nothing we can do to get a six-year-old to fall in line, but there’s another part of me that’s sure this isn’t true, that there are disciplinary and proactively reinforcing measures that will work. I’m just not sure what they are. I’d prefer not to have to ground her again anytime soon, especially since I’m not really sure that it has any real effect at this age. If anybody has any suggestions – short of corporal punishment, which I’m desperately trying to avoid – I’d love to know. What has worked for you with your kiddos, ’round about that 6yr age range?

 

Having an “out of mommy” experience August 30, 2012

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 7:21 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Today, dd starts Kindergarten. It seems improbable that I’m the mother of a kindergartner. How is that possible?

It’s funny how, as she leaned on me yesterday morning – fussing and crying because I wasn’t coming with her on her school “visit” day events thanks to work commitments – I wasn’t even sure how this was happening. This was my child, clearly, and I was supposed to comfort her as best as I could for someone who had already RSVP’ed to a full-day meeting at a vendor’s site. And she looked at me and called me “mommy” and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how I had a child who was so grown. Just unbelievable.

For the longest time, before I met dh, I never wanted kids. They always seemed annoying. Loud. Sometimes cute, but more often than not, I was happy when I wasn’t required to do anything for them. When dh and I started dating, we (fairly early on) had to have “the talk” about how we’d ever raise kids. I shrugged and said, “Of course, any kids of mine would be Jews.” (Being Jewish, and being female, that’s the law, dontcha know.) He seemed confused, since he was raised American Baptist. Oops. Guess that’s something we’d have to figure out.

Eventually, we did figure it out – we’d raise them with both sets of traditions. And we do, muddling through it all as best as we can. Neither of us is religious, though we have religious identities and we both are spiritual people to varying degrees. We don’t attend synagogue or church, and we typically only do our big nods to organized religion on the respective high holidays – Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah and Christmas (I omit Yom Kippur from my list for various reasons which could be a blog post unto itself).

When we decided to have kids, and then got pregnant, there was a part of me that really went “Oh, crap” rather frequently. Once I was pregnant, there was no turning back for me, and it seemed inescapable that I would become a mother. What on earth did that mean? I remember crying on my pillow one night while pregnant with dd, snuffling over the fact that I was worried I didn’t have a maternal instinct. DH calmed me down and told me that there was no way that was true, and he was right. When I had people reporting to me, I often defended them like a mother lion protecting her cubs. If they went wrong, I’d set them straight, for sure, but I tried to shield them from other people’s BS as much as possible. In other words, just like a mom.

So then we come back to my moment of reverie: dd hanging on me, anguished and looking only for her momma. And that’s me. And though I know she’s mine, there’s something odd about seeing this tall, slim, gorgeous girl coming to me and looking at me as though I can make it all better. I wish I could…but even the most super of all moms isn’t able to make everything all better all the time.

And I wasn’t able to get her to stop crying completely before I left for my all-day meeting; she was wailing for me as I walked out the door. But dh assured me that she’d calmed down not long after I left the house, and later reports from both of them showed that she had a good time visiting at school with her new teacher and the people running the after-school program. And today, I get to walk her up to school on her first day.

So mommy will be there sometimes, but not all. And no matter what, mommy is me. It’s as undeniable as the air I breathe. There are clearly days where it will seem strange, as though I blinked and my life fast-forwarded years in a heartbeat. But as bizarre as it may seem to stare at this wondrous beauty of a girl who can’t possibly be old enough for elementary school – and yet clearly is – the look in her eyes reminds me of the perfect truth reflected in her eyes: mommy is me.

 

Saying goodbye to camp August 22, 2012

Filed under: parenting — crunchymetromom @ 7:37 am
Tags: , , , ,

On Friday, dd will finish her last day of her first summer camp experience. Kindergarten starts next week, and it didn’t make sense to keep her in camp for half of the week, with Kindergarten intruding midway through the week. DH and I are splitting the duty; he’s got her for a few days and I have her for a few days, and between the two of us we’ll now begin doing this comical dance that somehow provides us with coverage for days when she’s not in school while simultaneously keeping us from running afoul of the dregs of our paid time off pools.

It’s been a strange journey. I thought I’d write more about it, especially when she was such a sad panda for those first few weeks, crying about not wanting to go to camp before we’d even made out of the house, clinging to my leg like a wet leaf as I signed her in every morning. But somewhere around the 4th week, things went past clicking – and she really fell in love with it.

By then, she knew all the counselors’ names, and they all clearly knew her. They loved playing off her humor and they knew how to push her buttons to get her to smile or interact with them, and this increased my comfort level dramatically over the course of the summer. We’d originally been very hesitant to send her to this camp, since though most friends gave it decent reviews, we heard bad things from one friend whose daughter is a contemporary of dd. There were anecdotes of her dd coming home from camp still in wet clothes (they swim daily) and too-young, clearly inexperienced people tending to my friend’s child. But when I sent in dd, whether it was that she was a year older at the time that she went or whether it was just the difference between the two girls, dd just didn’t have those issues. She never came home in the wrong clothes, or in wet clothes, or in anything other than what I expected.

She came home happy.

She never face-planted into her dinner plate, as I’d been warned that she might, but she did come home tired every day…worn out from playing outside in the lovely summer weather and swimming in the pool.

And now she’s leaving it behind, for terra incognita. She’s off to Kindergarten, a whole new adventure.

We knew that things would change come the Fall; one drop-off would become two, breakfast and lunch would be on-us rather than served up at day care, and a backpack would be the norm rather than a rare exception. Camp was our opportunity to get everyone into that new routine a bit early. Our ds also needed some time to adjust to not having his sister RIGHT THERE when he wanted her, since day care allowed them to visit each other pretty much whenever they wanted. Camp set a serious geographic boundary between them that forced him to handle the day all on his own, and he’s done well with it. Oddly enough, when I come in to pick him up in the afternoons, his sister in tow, he blasts right past her with yells of “Mommy! Mommy!” and gives me the biggest, awesomest hugs ever.

It’s been quite the summer. It’s whisked by in a blur of trips and parties, with camp, daycare and work as the only things not on some kind of orbit. They were fixed points. And now one of them is changing – again. I suppose it will actually get easier; the elementary school is closer to home than camp. Still, it’s all more changes to the routine and somehow we just need to get into the new routine without somehow losing our collective nut.

So expect that I’ll still struggle some with lunches and snacks and the inevitable “OMG HER NEW MORON FRIENDS ARE GETTING HER INTO {name something I’m sure to hate}“. I suppose every parent goes through this at some point or another. It just seems like the summer raced by and I don’t know how it happened that my little girl, who it seems I only just put into day care, who only just became a big sister, is now staring down turning six in a couple of months and is starting Kindergarten in a week. ONE WEEK.

It all seems rather incredible, and yet I suppose I can believe it. So we’ll say goodbye to camp for now – with plans to return next summer (perhaps with both kids this time). And I’ll still think of her as my little girl, because (deep inside her) she always will be.

 

 
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