I have decided that the act of putting syrup on a child’s waffle can be an interesting psychological study.
My kid asks for syrup, I don’t skimp. My reason: when I was a kid, I found a waffle with too little syrup to be a pointless culinary endeavor. So, now that I’m all grown up I say, when it comes to syrup go hard or go home.
But Andy has a much different take—he’s a skimper. His reasoning? Too much syrup is unhealthy, and a kid doesn’t need that much syrup for the waffle to still taste good.
I think the syrup study represents 2 different types of parent. One type (I’m referring to myself here) easily slips into the shoes of the child and addresses the problem from that perspective. I remember what it was like to have too little syrup and how annoying I found it, and so I empathize with the child and just dump it on there.
The other type (my husband) has a more objective approach. He takes his own (correct) opinion on the matter to be the more relevant factor in making a syrup decision. So he skimps, giving just enough syrup to make the waffle sweet.
Without question, when it comes to syrup (and many other things) he is making the correct decision. Less syrup is better for the health of the child overall.
However, my willingness to lavish syrup on my kid’s waffle represents something that children need too. And that is an acknowledgement of the child’s perspective. It is not necessarily right or appropriate to empathize with a child who just wants MORE SYRUP DAMN IT. —OK, it is probably objectively the wrong thing.— But to empathize even to an absurd degree shows an understanding of how that child might feel about their breakfast.
Parenting, in its essential components, boils down to a combination of objectivity and empathy. In this house it seems quite obvious that the objectivity comes much more from Andy and the empathy much more from me. That is absolutely not to say that I am unable to be objective or that Andy lacks empathy. But we approach the syrup debate differently in a totally uninhibited and natural way. And to me it is symbolic.
Where we land on the scale is well demonstrated by how we manipulate maple syrup in the morning. Good to know we have both sides of the waffle represented.
I have a sensitive little girl. When I say sensitive, I mean, sensitive. I bought Fern Gully, a cartoon, for the kids to watch while Andy is away. Well today was one of those days, so Fern Gully went on. While I was talking to Grandma, the kids watched it—-I had not seen it before. That was a huge mistake. Brynn is so profoundly sensitive that virtually any cartoon with conflict bothers her.
Andy and I have tried to toughen her up, and let her see that in movies conflict is resolved and although things seem scary for a short time they get better. However, I realized today it is not the conflict that bothers her, it’s largely the imagery.
When I got off the phone, I realized this movie was way, way too scary for my kid. There is an oil monster. All I saw was an image of oil moving and sliming around and morphing into a oily skeleton. Brynn was covering her eyes and trying to stay calm. I fast forwarded the movie.
Fast forward to bath time. Brynn says as she’s washing her face, “that oil monster was scary. It made me feel funny in my tummy.” ”Why, Brynn?” ”Because it was so slimy and gross it made my tummy hurt so I just had to close my eyes.”
Brynn is a cerebral child so I said, “well honey, the movie was just trying to teach kids that oil is bad for the environment, and can be dirty and bad, so that’s why it was turning oil into a bad guy.” Silence. Wheels. Turning.
“Well, sometimes oil is good too mommy for things like….cars, trucks, trains, that kind of thing.”
So I took the opportunity to tell her that 100% of our groceries come on trucks which use oil…etc etc. Then she said, thoughtfully, “Yeah, oil is good but only grown ups can handle it and only when it’s in a can but it’s not for kids to touch.”
I am ASTONISHED by the extent to which she thinks for herself at 5 years old. Most kids, including myself, would have bought the movie line hook line and sinker. Oil bad, nature good, stop oil. Here’s my little 5 year old sorting out the complexities of the demand for oil despite it being portrayed as monster in a movie. Listening to her reason it out was like peeling an onion. Her ability to comprehend is shocking.
Since Leah was born, Drew has had: double ear infection, croup, strep, cold, and strep.
He has been continually unwell. I can safely say that in my stay-at-home-mother world, nothing stresses me out as badly as looking at my kids and wondering if they’re sick, then deciding they’re sick, then wondering if it merits a visit to the doctor….and Drew is particularly tough. My little boy is so stoic. He will play, eat and drink as long as he possibly can—through double ear infections, through strep throat and croup, he’ll sit in the back yard at the water table and splash, or quietly “read” books in his room. He will say not a word of complaint. But his face is generally pale when he’s sick, a vein between his eyes tends to be more visible, and he gets, as shown in the previous post, super annoying at times. He’ll talk incessantly and be simultaneously incredibly difficult to understand. He’ll be overly belligerent about irrelevant stuff—even for a 2 year old. So those are all my clues. But here’s the trick. As posted previously, 2 year olds are freakin’ annoying. So sometimes I sit there and assure myself that it’s just him being annoying, that in fact I am paranoid and he is fine. And then a day later I decide to take him to the doc to be sure, and that’s when I find out he has some infection cooking.
And of course, this time, since it was the RETURN of strep throat, we were advised to take Drew’s nuk, his germ incubator, away. I have been aware for some time that this was coming. It is time. So we took it, the day he was diagnosed with strep, whatever the hell day that was. And my boy, my stoic little man, has asked for it only a few times. No tears. We told him that the doctor said it’s time to take it away, that it gives him boo boos in his mouth, and that we’ll get him a special new toy instead. (Not once has he asked for a toy.)
Drew has always been my antibiotic boy. He has been on them at least 10 times in his little life. Brynn, I think, maybe 3, tops.
And now with a newborn in the house, there is the added stress of trying to decipher if strep has reached her, if I should take her in for a test…she has, after all, been crying excessively during/after feedings—she has begun her colic at 3 months, which seems, well, odd. I am left wondering, what’s wrong? Is she sick? Is it gas? But I know that it is more than likely just newborn gas and nothing more.
So after all the strep business of this week, I awoke yet again yesterday with terrible nightmares. Picture: zombies, night of the living dead, that type of thing.
In sum, nightmares, pending departure of my husband for 3 weeks, and my kids’ questionable health status left another pit in my stomach and hole in my heart as I took my kids to drop them off at PMO. As I hugged Drew goodbye I couldn’t help wonder what new virus he’ll catch while there….and that’s when I had a somewhat public, totally unanticipated crying session. A few kind friends asked me how I was doing. That just triggered something. Because the answer, truly, was —not well. Not well at all. And I cried right then and there. So that sucked. But I got a ton of loving hugs, kind words, support and friendship, and that was so nice.
For all the rhetoric and ways of thinking about things, sometimes, life can just suck. That was the position I found myself in yesterday. I cried all morning. I cried and cried. And cried.
In the swing of things, my stresses are not that great. So it’s a little case of strep. Drew will get better, he will be ok. Leah will be ok too, no matter what exactly is going on with her. We will all be ok.
So Andy is leaving for a few weeks. He will come back. We will be ok.
That is what I repeated to myself over and over last night.
I don’t know what to do with the fact that my 2 year old is on my LAST nerve. GAR. This kid is so. annoying right now!! He has begun the “look at me” phase and the —pay attention to me at all times at all costs phase. Quite normal for 2 years of age. I am well aware of that, since my oldest was also very annoying at 2. But here’s the thing. My Drew is normally a mild mannered, quiet and sweet little guy. Loving, affectionate and genuine. But lately he has started to have an affected manner. He says things to copy his sister, he says things that aren’t actually true, he tries his hardest to manipulate me just to see how I react. He’ll claim injury when there is none, he’ll tell me he can’t do things that he can, and it’s all with the intent of getting my time. But here’s the thing. He has my time. I have made sure of that. When I interact with Drew I try hard to play with him in a genuine, focused one on one way. But even when I do give him unadulterated quality time, he is still bossy and mean and really not interested.
So here’s the lesson. Right now, Drew is freaking ANNOYING. I have tried “feeding the meter” so to speak— a wonderful tip from The Happiest Toddler on the Block. The idea is to proactively have quality time with the child so that they feel emotionally fulfilled and less demanding of Mommy’s time. This tip works wonders with my Brynn. Sit and color and make believe with her for 20 minutes and she’ll go all day on her own gas after that. Drew gets bratty, demanding and rude during quality time.
Drew is, obviously trying to see what he can get away with. No amount of quality time is going to change that right now. He wonders, “just how much a slave to me will you be?” I don’t mean this in a cynical nasty way, I just mean, he is experimenting with boundaries, and rightfully so. This is what we want from our children. Push those envelopes, test away, see how it works out for you. It’s called learning. But it’s SO ANNOYING.
I think that I am beating myself up for being annoyed. I have never felt that way in a sustained way with Drew. But he has also never been 2 1/2 until now. So this is new territory for my steady sweet boy. He is having a 2’s moment. And compared to Brynn, my shrieking, screaming, tantrum-ing, hitting, kicking 2 year old, Drew’s 2’s are still mild and moderate. But annoying none the less in their own distinctive way.
I keep thinking, if I just….if only I….if I do better with….. and I am realizing that regardless of what I do, Drew will do the same things because that’s what he’s doing right now. Drew is 2 and it isn’t about me. He won’t be less annoying no matter what I do. Because he’s 2 and that’s what they do. And it’s ok to be annoyed, and I won’t fix it over night. I think the hardest part of my annoying son is forgiving myself for the fact that he annoys the crap out of me. It’s a forgivable offense.
So there. I said it. He’s annoying. And that’s OK.
I have read many times that removing some toys on occasion and then bringing them back out is much like buying your kids a new toy. In particular I have read it in a fabulous book:
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne and Lisa M Ross.
Every time I have read about the idea of the toy lending library to exist in your own home, I have thought to myself—nope. Not doing it. Why? Well, I don’t think of myself as the type to go rifling through toys and to occasionally present them, only to pack them away again later. I haven’t liked the idea of messing with toys I guess.
Also, part of the rule is that with the new toy you bring back into the light of day, another one must disappear so that the overall number of toys in the playroom stays constant and doesn’t overwhelm. So according to this concept, I am supposed to rifle through basement garbage bags of put away toys, and then rifle through bags again to store the toy that was removed to make space for the “new” toy. Simply put, many times, I have said, “I’m not doing that.” And, after nearly 5 years of parenting, I haven’t. Until today.
After all, Daddy’s continued absences call for increased creativity and resourcefulness. Also, my 2 year old is super annoying. So. I brought up a box of alphabet blocks from our beloved Auntie Kate, and the “ball popper”. Brynn has turned the blocks into a building to house her animals, and Drew has been working the ball popper incessantly. They have been playing for an hour. Uninterrupted, pure play. What were my reservations again? Live and learn. I am reminded of the phrase—can’t say you don’t like it til you try it. True indeed. Probably should follow my own advice from time to time.
The title of this blog is the theme of the week. I am officially discarding the words easy/hard from my vocab when it comes to raising my kids. Andy is gone. He will be gone a lot. Is it hard? I am sure that it can be interpreted that way. And if I spend long enough thinking about all the ways it is hard I could come up with a lot. But, alternatively, I could list all the ways it is easy.
So often, in order to feel worthy we label what we do as hard. It somehow adds value to our opinion of ourselves. If we succeed in doing something hard that must mean we have more worth or are better in some way. But it is an artificial badge of honor that we reward ourselves. Because what we do is simply what we do, hard or easy. And when we drop the label, the experience becomes the heart of the matter, not how we would characterize it.
Instead of judging my own performance each day, I am trying to simply be the day. If I am tired, I rest. If I am bored I do something. When my kids need my time I give it. When I need time I take it. When Leah wakes up in the night I feed her. When I am angry I say so. When the garbage needs to go out I do it. When I don’t feel like cooking, I don’t. When I don’t feel like cleaning, I won’t. And all of a sudden that “hard” label just falls away. And the days just become what they are. When I stop thinking of it as hard —ooh this will be a hard few weeks—and simply do my day, the hard disappears.
I think hard is simply a question of perspective. So many mothers out there think that being hardworking or tough makes us better mothers. Dinner on the table as a family every night. If you made it with a crying infant on your hip then you are all the tougher. No tv even when you are alone and have no help or have just had a shit day. Clean homes and orderly families and no time to tool around on the internet or just do nothing while a sitter watches your kids….if what we do is hard it is better. If you run a marathon then you are a person who has done something very hard. And therefore, I think in some ways, you can view yourself as more worthy. (NOT true for all, but for some I think this is accurate.) Take the old saying, I walked two hours to school and it was uphill both ways. I am tough, I did hard things, so I am better.
Take, for example, all this pressure to have drug-free births. Some mothers who have had drug-free births wear it like a badge of honor, or believe themselves perhaps more worthy because they suffered more. Their labors were harder and therefore, in the eys of many these days, superior. But I would simply say that their labors were theirs. And that is all. How many times have you heard someone say they had a drug-free birth and responded, “WOW that’s AMAZING GOOD FOR YOU!!!” And meant it? Many, many times. I do think it’s amazing. But it goes hand in hand with a belief that those of us who haven’t, or can’t, aren’t as tough. And we are supposed to be tough. And the way we can be tough is to show how hard what we do is.
Might I say, even with my epidural, right before Leah entered the world, I shook like a leaf from head to toe with love, terror, excitement and anxiety. I had no physical pain. But the fact that I had an epidural, or an “easy” birth in no way detracted from the joy and victory of bringing a new person into the world. My births were simply what they were. No better, no worse. Not hard or easy. They were births. And now my kids are here. My merit is not connected to those things.
This doesn’t have to be hard in order for me to be worthy. It is what it is. And I will do my best.
And truth be told, kids are simple. They want time and love. And the rest doesn’t matter.