Tag Archives: kids

On Parenting: Lesser Indignities


The kids are screaming again.

We’ve been home from work for about twenty minutes, and they’re screaming. And “screaming” is precisely the word for it — this is not a mildly perturbed whine, nor a plaintive cry for help — this is a top-of-the-lungs howl that doesn’t even really call for action or intervention, it simply rails against the great injustice of the world.

And it’s in response to a “stolen” spoon.

Not even a special spoon. In fact, the spoon in question is the exact twin of the one that sprout the younger holds clutched in her pudgy, grubby fist. But the spoon in question has been claimed from the tabletop by sprout the elder, and she has decided that that is the spoon she wants, not eventually but right the fargo NOW, and it gives him great pleasure to deny her anything she wants, and from her tiny lungs comes the mightiest ear-splitting shriek.

That sounds like fun, sprout the first thinks, and then he’s shrieking too, for the pure, unadulterated hell of it. My wife is up to her eyeballs in work she’s brought home from the job that taxes her more and more beyond her pay grade with every passing day, and I’m elbows-deep in chicken slime from cooking the sprouts’ dinner (which they will later totally ignore, for reasons that certainly make sense in the brains of a two- and four-year-old, but for no reason this thirty-something college-educated male can discern), and there’s nothing that anybody can do.

Time out, we threaten, which has about as much effect as you’d expect. Spanking, we enjoin, which they know is an empty threat — I’m not going to turn my salmonella hands upon them, after all.

This is how it goes in our house lately. And as parents, we get really torn, because all they really want is attention. They’re in day care these days, after all, so they only get our company for a few blessed hours in the evening. But, as any working family knows, you come home from work and there’s dinner to cook and baths to prepare and messes to clean up and the stress of the day hanging like an albatross from your neck and it’s almost a better idea if we don’t interact with the sprouts too much, because we might really unload on them, and they sure don’t deserve that. But still they clamor, and sometimes we can push the dark clouds aside and spare them a few minutes amongst the cascading junk pile of demands on our time, but sometimes we can’t, and when we can’t, well, that’s when the screaming starts.

Over anything. She’s in his chair. He’s got a toy that she wants. She dropped that thing I was playing with. He’s painting and she wants to paint too. She’s chewing on the coffee table. He’s holding onto the back of her shirt.

Their cries could shatter glass at a hundred yards.

And again, we endure it, because it’s better that than unloading a day’s worth of frustration and choked-back snide comments and real gut-boiling traffic-induced rage on somebody who has to stand on tiptoes to brush their teeth and who thinks that a dinosaur might make a really cool friend.

And then, somehow, some way, the clouds part, a ray of light shines down, and they stop howling. My wife and I lock eyes in shock but we say nothing. We don’t even try to look and see what they’re up to, lest we break the spell. We hear harmless, idle chatter from sprout the younger, and giggling, broken sentences from sprout the elder.

Just as quickly as the toddler tornado struck, the skies have cleared and they’re playing happily together. If we believed in God, we’d fall to our knees and give thanks, but God will soon make his absence painfully clear.

THUMP. THUMP THUMP.

It’s surprising how much any thumping sound can sound like a toddler’s head whacking any significant surface to a pair of bedraggled parents. We’re sure one of them has somehow managed to surmount the childproof stair gate and toss the other to their doom. We dash around the corner and look.

But they’re not dead. Not even close. They’re standing behind their little toddler armchairs, which have been upended and rolled across the floor, like wheels if they were designed by sadists and masochists working in perfect concert. THUMP THUMP. They push their chairs over and over, and the sound is a bit like carpet-wrapped bricks in a tumble dryer. THUMP THUMP. THUMP THUMP. Giggles. Laughter. Smiles.

Chairs aren’t supposed to be played with that way, for sharknado’s sake, and our teach-them-to-be-decent-human-beings instincts flare and we start for them with our voices already rising in chastisement.

But we realize it at the same time.

They’re not screaming.

Sure, they’re mistreating the furniture. Sure, it’s making an ungodly racket. Sure, they might crush a cat under all that tumbling upholstery (but the cat has it coming, and frankly the cats can go take a flying leap for all we’re concerned about their well-being at the moment). But paint this bald man blue and send me to Vegas, they have stopped screaming.

Being a parent is nothing if not a tactical, well-calculated slow retreat from a thousand lines drawn in the sand. Problem is, the tide never stops coming in. You have to pick your battles, and sometimes you choose the lesser indignity of the children pushing their tiny chairs around the floor like the worst sleds you’ve ever imagined over the perfectly disharmonious symphony of their unending screams.

We let this one slide. I finish cooking and my wife finishes working to the THUMP THUMP THUMPing of their chair game that would rival the dance beats of a few songs I’ve heard on the radio lately. We place a lovingly-crafted dinner of chicken and potatoes and green beans in front of them and watch as they refuse to eat a single bite. And yeah, that hurts my feelings a little bit.

But at least they’re not screaming.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: Childish Energy


Child, Cool, Dress, Fun, Hero, Red, Feeling, Kid, Boy

Tap, tap, tap.

It’s six AM on a Saturday, and my 4-year old is tapping on my forehead.

“Daddy, it’s Friday o’clock. It’s time to wake up.”

I grumble and open one eye at him. “Friday isn’t a number, Sprout. Time has to be a number.”

He thinks about this and says, “Dad, it’s Saturday o’clock.” Which is closer to correct.

I pull the sheet over my head. He climbs up on the bed and jumps on me. Why? Because he’s awake, the sun is coming up, and he’s ready to start his day of watching cartoons, eating fruit, drinking chocolate milk, running around in the yard, tormenting his little sister, chasing the cats, coloring on the walls, and all the other things he has to do. His schedule is a giant blank slate, but he runs from one thing to the next like he’s trying to stretch out time by moving close to the speed of light.

Seriously. He runs everywhere. To the kitchen. To the bathroom. Up the stairs to his room. To the car. After the dog. In circles around the coffee table. Everywhere. And, to shamelessly reminisce upon my post from a couple weeks ago, he does nothing halfway. With every task, every diversion, he throws himself into it like … well, like a 4-year-old hurling himself into a bouncy house.

He’s that kid that adults see and think, I wish I had that kind of energy. Imagine what we could get done! But the fact is, we do have that kind of energy, we’ve just forgotten how to channel it. We work at jobs that wear us out physically or mentally or emotionally or all of the above. We come home from those jobs tired, wanting nothing more than to collapse on the couch and watch The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt or whatever Netflix show is binge-worthy this week. And it’s all we can do to haul ourselves into bed a few hours later to steal a few hours of blessed sleep before it’s time to do it all again. We don’t have energy because our momentum sucks.

We watch TV because it’s that time of day. We heave ourselves out of bed after hitting the snooze button three times because we can’t put it off any longer.

Meanwhile, my son has seemingly endless reserves of energy because he’s always moving. He doesn’t rest because he just got done coloring or because he just wants to sit down for a minute after a hard day. He rests because he has to. He’ll run fifteen laps around the playground, then come to me and say, “daddy, I’m tired, I need to take a break.” And he does. For about two minutes. Then he’s up and running for the slides again. In fact, I can hardly ever capture a decent picture of him because he is always in motion.

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He doesn’t even touch the *ground*.

 

He has an urgency to everything he does that I wish I could recreate. He does everything in his life like he knows it won’t last forever.

And we can too, if we let ourselves.

Momentum matters.

We come home and watch TV for hours because our momentum sucks. We drag ass and sleep in and laze around on the weekend because we feel like we need the rest to muster ourselves for another week at work. But that’s only true if we view the movement, the activity, the doing of things as an obstacle in our day.

But these things are not the obstacles in our day. They are the stuff of the day itself. They are the stuff of life. Your job. Playing with the kids. Going to the store. Cleaning the house. This is life. And if it wears us out, well, okay, maybe that’s what happens. But energy is transformative. The more you spend, the more you seem to have.

It’s why I feel like I can get more done on a day when I run than on a day when I don’t. It’s why I feel like I need to write for an hour after I push through grading a whole stack of papers. The days I feel like I can’t get anything done are the days where I just never got started and can’t break out of the funk of the negative momentum.

So, back to my son tapping on my forehead.

Six AM on a Saturday. I’d rather be sleeping. But I’m coming downstairs. Making him breakfast. Taking time out to write a little bit while he chases the cats around.

And now, I think I’m going to go chase him around the yard a little bit.

You know, fill up the tank a little.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Clearance Rack


Is there anything more fun about Target than trying on the accessories?

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Here’s a photo in desperate need of a caption. Or maybe it’s a story prompt.

Try it. YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.


The Weekly Re-Motivator: It Even Snows in Atlanta


The world is not equitable. The playing field is not even.

Sure, most of us start with more or less the same genetic code, and people are generally people wherever you go, but there’s no telling who’s going to be naturally gifted at this thing or that thing. Some great writers languish, undiscovered, for their entire lifetimes, while the Stephanie Meyers and the E.L. Jameses of the world spread their cancerous tripe like a brush fire. Some of the best athletes the world will ever know have never set foot on a proper field or court.

All of which makes it pretty darn reasonable to throw in the towel. Getting discovered is a mug’s gameIt’s who, not what, you knowProbably, you’re too old anyway to take up anything new. Old dogs and all. Right?

And that’s the problem with our culture. We think that we’ll never get to the top, so we give up on our dreams before we even take the first step. I’m never going to lose the thirty pounds I’d like to, so let me chomp down on this pile of cheeseburgers and watch reruns of House all day. This or that measure won’t solve every single problem with gun violence, so let’s not even bother disrupting the status quo.

We have such a distorted view of success that we’re afraid to reach even for the hem of its garment. We might not be perfect, so let’s not even try to be decent.

But that’s bullshit. Kids know it.

Give my kids a couple of crayons, and they will gladly launch into a whirlwind of artistic expression. They’ll branch out from doodling on paper to scrawling on the walls to decorating the family cats, then bring their work to you with a face-splitting smile saying “look what I did!” They take pride in their work, even though it’s crap, because they have no conception of what good work is. They have no idea — and are therefore not concerned — that there could possibly be somebody else out there doing anything better than what they are doing right here, right now, at this moment.

And that’s where this insecurity stems from, isn’t it? The constant comparison, the inescapable knowledge that while I’m sitting here tying myself in knots to bang out a few more words on my novel, Stephen King is somewhere in a mahogany study probably twenty pages deep into today’s copy. Every word better than mine, and by dint of that betterness, more valuable, and once we start talking about value, well. Steve’s words have value and mine don’t. It is as unlikely as a blizzard dumping two feet of snow in Atlanta that my words will ever be as valuable as Stephen King’s.

So why bother?

When we focus on the prizes that the things we could do bring — publication, wealth, an adoring audience … or a slimmer waistline, or a smaller number on the scale, or a promotion at work, or a new car in the driveway, or a medal or a trophy — we take our eyes off the road at our feet. Now, having a goal in mind is great. You have to dream big and aim high or you really won’t have a shot. But the prizes we’re aiming at — or the prizes we’re told we should aim at — aren’t the only prizes out there.

You can run for the serenity of it rather than to be the fastest. You can play pickup basketball for the distraction and the exercise and never have to worry about getting picked for a team. You can write for the sheer joy of it, or for the rush of playing god with the lives of the tiny beings you’ve created, or because it relaxes you, or simply because you have a story to tell.

I may never get published, or never reach the audience I hope to, or never make a dime off my writing. But I think I’d be okay with that. (I mean, it’d be a bummer, but I like to think I’d be okay with it.) I’m having a damned good time telling stories, even if it’s just to myself. Even if I’m never even a patch on Stephen King.

Then again, every now and then, it even snows in Atlanta…

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This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Hooray for Time


Scientists have determined that the exact measurement of time at the molecular level is impossible.

In other words, time is complete and absolute bunk.

At no time is this more evident than Daylight Savings Time, an outdated and archaic practice that arbitrarily picks a day in the fall and stretches it by an hour, then arbitrarily picks another day in spring and shrinks it by an hour.

Now, a lot of people go about gleefully talking about the extra hour of sleep they get when we “fall back”, which is fine and dandy. But those of with kids know the truth.

DST means NOTHING.

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The kids are still going to wake up when their rhythm tells them to wake up, regardless of any “conditioning” or “preparing” you might have done.

My wife and I thought we were clever. We had slowly been pushing the sprouts’ bedtimes back since about a month ago, so that they could go to bed at the same “time” regardless of the numbers on the clock face.

HA.

Last night was Halloween, so any sort of regular sleep schedule was out. And this morning sprout #1 woke up to poop, which he cannot do by himself yet even though the attending adult is nothing more than a cheerleader and heinie-wiper. Oh, did I mention that he was up thirty minutes before his regular time, which was a full hour and a half ahead of the clock time?

Not only did we not gain time, we actually lost time on this exchange, which has me superjazzed about “giving the hour back” in Spring, let me tell you.

Meanwhile, it’s currently seven PM and it feels like midnight.

Thanks, Obama.

Seriously, DST is a joke. You want a non-arse-over-elbows, earth-specific time anomaly to get psyched about? Try the leap-second.


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