Category Archives: Kids

WriterSpawn


It’s 7:45 AM. The sun is out, the weather, gorgeous. The beach is deserted. A dreamland for a kid who’s already been awake for two hours, mainlined a bowl of sugary cereal and awakened every adult in the house.

And instead, he’s doing this:wp-image--2074352929

I even asked him if he wanted to go down to the beach. He said, “no, I want to finish making my book. I’m so excited to read it to you.”

As parents you sometimes find yourself in these moments. Moments when the heavens open up and celestial light shines down, and you realize that you’ve done the right things, and your kid is going to be OK, that he’ll be a force for good in the world.

Then there are other moments. Moments when you wonder whether the next time you see your kid, he (or maybe you!) will be on the wrong side of iron bars and bulletproof glass, and you question every parenting decision you’ve ever made.

I’m not sure which of those moments this is. If he’s a writer in the making (and he’s definitely not an athlete, so, you know, maybe!) then he’s doomed to a life both torturous and wonderful. Afflicted with a sickness that causes him to think about everything, absorb everything, and never let his mind be quiet. Gift and curse. Not sure if good or bad.

But this morning, he’s a creator and not a consumer, and that’s more than a little inspiring.

 

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Toddler Life, ch. 68: (Lack of) Sleep Chronicles


My daughter has never been much of a sleeper.

I mean, she’ll do it, in much the same way I eat my vegetables. (I know it’s a thing I have to do, and if I don’t do it for long enough, I start to feel really funky.) But it’s not a thing she’s ever chosen to do, or done willingly. I think it’s safe to say she expends more tears in a week of bedtimes than the average pregnant woman does over the course of her nine-month term.

And that’s at home, where all the routines are firmly ensconced and the deviations from said routines are rare.

But this week, we’re on vacation. Which means: strange beds, strange rooms, strange barometric pressure, the total absence of anything like routine, and her absolute favorite person in the world (grandma!) hanging around to dote on her at any time. Which by extension means that if sleep is usually a struggle, this week it’s more like healthcare (who knew it could be so complicated?)

Tried her pack & play (for the uninitiated, that’s a fancy word for a “quick set up” crib that doubles as a playpen, which has accommodated both of my kids — in either task — for maybe three hours TOTAL) in a couple of quiet rooms in the condo. Nothing doing. Tried the air mattress we packed in case the pack & play didn’t work. Not a chance. So on night one, she slept in my bed with my wife while I slept on the air mattress (which I’m pretty sure is Greek for, oh, you’ve never had back problems in your life? Well, surprise, now you do).

Surprise surprise, the baby who doesn’t sleep very soundly by herself sleeps even less soundly while sharing a bed with an adult. My wife hardly slept a wink with the little princess kicking her, tossing and turning next to her, waking up to scream and falling immediately back to sleep.

So I slept with the baby last night, while my wife — who actually has legitimate back problems — opted willingly to dance the dance of death with the air mattress instead. This doesn’t seem like a terrible call. I’m a sound sleeper in exactly the way my daughter isn’t, so theoretically, we should balance each other out.

Should.

I woke up five times that I can remember in the night.

Every successive wake-up I found myself closer to the edge of the queen bed. Somehow, the little girl 20% of my size and body weight managed to completely box me out of the bed until I was, quite literally, dangling an arm and a leg onto the floor, somehow managing to hold onto my place either by biting the pillow or clinging on with my toes.

When we went to sleep, she was arrayed on the mattress like a normal human. Head on pillow, feet pointed downward toward the edge of the bed.

First wakeup: she’s angled herself away from me slightly, head pointed away and feet pushing firmly against my hip.

Second wakeup: She’s aligned herself like a torpedo aimed at my shoulder blades, the top of her skull driving into my spine and forcing me towards the edge.

Third wakeup: The toddler torpedo has reversed itself and is now pushing its feet into the small of my back while she lays flat on her face, arms at her side, like one of those planking videos from five years ago, except that in a truly remarkable abuse of the laws of physics, she’s leveraging me — 150 pounds her better — off the side of the mattress. At this point, I actually get out of the bed, redistribute her like an actual human in the bed, and reclaim y rightful half.

Fourth wakeup: she’s curled up in the fetal position against the small of my back, which is kind of adorable, except she’s pressing the dagger points of her toenails into the soft tissue behind my knees. I concede an extra quarter of the mattress again to make the pain stop.

Fifth wakeup: it’s now six AM, the time when she ordinarily begins to stir when we’re at home. I open my eyes to find her face inches from mine, eyes wide open and gleeful, teeth bared in what I guess is a smile but what appears to my newly-awakened brain to be the grin of the very angel of death itself. She giggles and swats me with frankly astonishing strength in the ear. This is a fantastic move if you’re ever in a fight as it discombobulates your opponent and bollockses their hearing. It’s a real jerk move to pull on your father who was, moments ago, asleep, as it discombobulates the hell out of him and bollockses his hearing.

In slow motion, I slither out of the bed and collapse to the floor and attempt to sleep just five more minutes while my beautiful, delightful daughter — the apple of my eye, the joy of my life — continues to rain blows upon me.


Parents Who Hate Their Kids, Ch. 1


My son has a classmate named Taylor.

But not “Taylor.” It’s pronounced “Taylor,” but it’s spelled “Taeler.” Nothing against the name — I have a new niece named Taylor (and I hope I spelled it right, as I haven’t seen it in print yet, and HOO BOY am I about to make things awkward at Thanksgiving if I guessed wrong) — but this strikes me as a problem. Not because I don’t know whether Taylor is a boy or a girl; there are plenty of those names these days and that’s cool and trendy and whatever. But because poor Taeler’s parents have doomed her (or him) to a lifetime of interactions that begin with “actually, it’s spelled T-A-E-…”

Isn’t life hard enough?

Then there are C’Niyah and Zaniya. Pronounced the same, just starting with an “s” sound or a “z” sound. So is the apostrophe required? Or the “A”? How about the “H” on the end? Or are all of these things just flopping around like vestigial tails? And when it’s time to learn about capitalization, I pity poor C’Niyah — she (or he?) has to do it twice in her own name! How confusing is that?

In my own classes — this year alone! — I’ve got Michaela, Mikayla, Mikayela, McKayla, and Macayla. And maybe Mikaela. All pronounced the same. I’m pretty sure one of them has an “H” on the end as well, but does it even matter at this point? C’s, K’s, Y’s, E’s, H’s … they’re all flying around like cows in a tornado (RIP Bill Paxton), and there’s no telling where they’ll end up, or why. These poor girls (because there are plenty of other Michaelas, Mikaylas, etc enrolled) must ever clarify their identity by adding their last name, and have given up hope of ever having a teacher spell their name correctly — I personally couldn’t properly tell you which spelling goes with which girl with the first degree of confidence. These, too, might as well have the middle name “actually, it’s spelled …”

To say nothing of Caila, Kayla, and Kaela, whom I taught last year. Guess which one was pronounced “Ky-la”. You can’t, because there are no rules when it comes to names.

Here’s a fun one. How do you spell the name that’s pronounced “Jay-len”?

Trick question. I’ve seen it dozens of ways. Jalen, Jaelan, Jaylen, Jaelen, Ja-len, Ja’lin, Jalynn … I could go on. The possibilities are almost endless, because you can apparently capitalize whatever letters you like and throw around punctuation like you’re mixing salad with the SlapChop.

Image result for slap chop

Point is, none of these spellings for any of these names is “correct”, because there is no “correct” spelling when it comes to names. Which means — wait for it — ALL these spellings are INCORRECT! That’s just logic.

As a teacher, I dread meeting these kids for the first time, because inevitably, my first question will not be something insightful like “how was your summer” or something easygoing like that. No, the first thing I’ll have to say to them is “…spell that, please.”

And I know, I know. We want our kids to be unique, and we want them to stand out from the crowd because they are our delicate little snowflakes. But having been a teacher now for seven years (if that doesn’t make me the grizzled elder waving a yardstick around and get-off-my-lawn-ing), I can tell you that these names don’t uniquely identify a student to us, and certainly not in a positive way. Rather, these students are more likely than others to be frustrated with school, and people in general, because nobody can pronounce or spell their name! (Take it from a guy with a last name that’s vaguely eastern-European. I’ve heard so many different pronunciations I could start my own alphabet.)

If you want your kid to stand out, the way to do it is to bring them up to be a decent human being. One that seeks out learning and opportunities for their own sake. One that treats people with respect as a baseline. One who greets the world with positivity and optimism and effort.

You don’t do that by telling a child that they’re special all the time (and make no mistake, spelling your kid’s name “Taeler” when it’s pronounced “Taylor” only sets her — or him! — up to think that she’s special, that she’s different). That only confuses them when the world doesn’t back up that belief, and then they get mad at the world.

No, you make your child stand out by teaching them humility. Yes, to me you are special, but to the world, you are just another person like everybody else, and you have to earn what you want. In our new, technologic, me-centric world, it’s the person who actually lives in the real world, who pays attention to the people around them, who acts with compassion and good will instead of out of attention-seeking, who really stands out.

This post brought to you by M’ahtT, because apparently I can spell it any way I like.


The World of the Small


We took the sprouts to Six Flags last night, and it opened up our eyes (as doing things with your kids will often do) to some things that you just don’t notice or even think about when you don’t have kids.

Namely, “family” events. Before you have kids, these things might as well be taking place on the moon, and you can avoid them just as easily. In short, if you see a bouncy house, a grown person in costume, or a brightly colored clutch of balloons, steer yourself in the opposite direction, and you’ll be fine. But when you do have kids, these are things you have to do, somehow. There’s a vague impression that lives at the base of your skull that you’re not a “good parent” if you don’t take your kids to these things. Unfortunately, they usually also mean leaning into the worst things about having kids. The peer pressure of other kids acting crazy, which inspires your kids to act crazy. The hyperprevalence of sugary snacks and drinks, for which your kids will beg you incessantly. The proliferation of oblivious parents, obliviously ignoring the obliviously a-hole-ish behavior of their oblivious kids.

But because you’re dumb, you take them.

And it sinks in — again — that your life has changed irrevocably, and will never again be what it once was.

Because once upon a time, you were young and adventure-seeking, and you went to amusement parks for the thrill rides: the more the better. Your stomach was made of iron: you could easily take down a 64-oz full-sugar soda, a double cheeseburger and fries, and a funnel cake, then ride the most wickedly devised gravity-defying stomach turning rides and never blink an eye. There was a “kids section” in the park, and you knew its location only so that you could more effectively avoid it.

These days, you know the kids section because it’s the only area of the park that concerns you. You pack your own snacks because you know that a whiff of funnel cake after riding even the tame little teacups will leave you queasy and sweaty. And you walk right past the thrill rides with a suppressed sigh because you won’t be riding them today, even if you thought you could handle them, which you probably can’t anymore.

So it’s bad enough going to the park with sprouts in the first place. But it’s worse on the “family days” (here in Atlanta, it’s Six Flags’ Holidays in the Park). Because 90% of the traffic in the park is poor, run-down, exhausted and raccoon-eyed moms and dads and their squalling, snot-faced brood.

The kid-centric drains on your wallet are even more pronounced, prevalent, and shameless. The kids’ area is lousy with “games” that cost a ridiculous amount of money for your kid to win a bit of candy or a cheap stuffed toy. Everywhere around the park are carts selling pretzels and popcorn and hot chocolate. And around every corner is a festive elf or a costumed cartoon character just crying out for a photo-op with your bundles of joy — which means people are clogging up all the major thoroughfares and creating foot-traffic jams, the worst kind.

But worst of all is making your bee-line past the thrill rides — most of which have waits of less than five minutes, if they have a wait time at all! — to the kids area with its crappy slate of rides, for which you’ll be waiting twenty minutes a pop, because everybody who is here tonight is here for this.

The part of your life where you could run amok, ride everything in the park, and go home without making a bathroom stop halfway (because the four-year-old somehow never needs to go when you’re walking past a restroom, but damned if he doesn’t suddenly start doing the dance when you’re about to get on the crappy kid coaster)? That’s over.

Say goodbye to fun at the amusement park.*

You’re parents at the park, now.

Abandon all hope.

*Actually, Holidays at the Park is pretty sweet. I just hate everything.


Sick Day


The kids are sick. So I’m home sick with them.

And, almost as if on cue, the monstrous cough I’d been fighting for weeks — and thought I had the better of — has resurfaced. I’m sure it’s unrelated. Couldn’t be my stress over the state of the country or anything like that.

Eh, we’re not going there.

It’s weird. Teaching is one of the few professions where it’s almost more stressful to take a sick day than it is to just suck it up and go to work: upon your return, you’re almost certain to have behavioral issues to sort out, extra work to grade, a day to make up in your lesson pacing. Not to mention the sense — foolish as you know it is — that things are surely going to sharknado without you there.

Add to that I’m in my first year in my new job. I’m definitely in the not wanting to screw anything up boat. So taking a last-minute day off makes me feel a bit like I’m letting people down.

So around 10 last night, when my kid woke up with some pretty horrific, uh, bodily functions, and it became clear I was gonna have to take the day, I started stressing out. Got him sorted out, stopped him crying, and got him back into bed. Ran downstairs to chuck his clothes in the laundry (for the second time in four hours). Then I went to work. Fired up the laptop to e-mail supervisors. Whacked together some activities to e-mail to the sub. Started worrying about what was going to happen while I wasn’t at work. Struggled going to sleep.

Then I realized my priorities were all fargo’d. My kid is sick — in discomfort and upset in addition to oozing from his orifices (orifici?) — and I’m getting my knickers in a twist over my job, over my students — many of whom will be only too happy for me to miss a day!

And with that, I let it go, and I slept like a baby.

Frankly, the day off couldn’t come at a better time. I got to hang around the heezy, watch some movies with the kids (both of them somehow really dig the new Ghostbusters, which is fine by me), read ’em some books, snuggle them on the couch. All of which is a very welcome respite from where my mind has been for the past week.

Didn’t actually get much done that was productive or helpful around the house. Only managed to type this up while the kids were napping. (Here, the savvy reader might interject: couldn’t you have done some housework instead? Some dishes, a little vacuuming, a much-needed dusting? To which I respond: this was a sick day, dammit. That would be missing the point.)

But that’s fine. All of that is just fine. Despite the gummy gunk collecting in my lungs, I am breathing easier than I have in a while.

All the same, let’s hope sprout #2 doesn’t come down with the same thing sprout #1 had. You can only do so much laundry in a day.

 


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