Sunday, April 07, 2013

Sometimes It's OK to Fight Back

I have three boys, ok? They are different from girls. For instance, I found it incredibly amusing when parents of girls came over to visit and a bump emanated from one of the boys’ rooms. They looked at me and asked, “do you want to go check on that noise?” I remember thinking, “what noise?”

Now, I have calmed down considerably and no longer have First Baby Syndrome, where my child would be polite, sharing, kind, use their words, and never, ever instigate any conflict. Yeah, right. By the time my third son was born I had come to the realization that I couldn’t watch their every movement 24 hours a day.

This realization was brought home to me one summer when I had a choice to finish my business in the bathroom or investigate the source of the yelling. I chose the bathroom, and have felt positively liberated ever since.

Now, there are occasions when I actually let my boys figure out for themselves whatever their issue is, especially since Andrew and Luke are close to the same size. I don’t always rush over and mediate the disagreement or urge them to “use their words”. I know, I know, violence isn’t the solution, and I need to teach them conflict resolution skills. But, darn it, there are times in life when you have to sock somebody in the chops. And if you can’t practice a headlock on your brother, who can you, I ask?

So, when a member of the Parent Police rushes over to tattle, um, report an alleged infraction my child has committed against their child, I stay cool. I have no illusions about my children anymore. 90% of the time, they are in the wrong.

But, that leaves the other 10% of the time.

I recently went to an indoor playground near our house with our two younger boys – Andrew (10) and Luke(8). Luke was having a ball roughhousing with two other boys around his size in the bounce house. Of course, being boys, they eventually all went down in a heap, with arms and legs flying in all directions. One boy got up rubbing his shin, another one his back, and another boy his eye. No one was seriously hurt. I had seen the entire episode, (it being one of those rare episodes where I actually was watching my child like a hawk) and it is highly unlikely Luke’s hand connected with the eye. For one thing, Luke was on the bottom of the pile, facing down, and eye boy was at the top of the pile, facing up. I digress.

The boys disperse, and shortly afterwards eye boy and his pal ambush Luke at the bottom of the slide. Luke loved it, “dogpile” being one of his favorite pursuits. I notice the father of one of the boys looking on and say to him, “I don’t mind if you don’t mind” and he replies in his Southern accent with, “well, mah boy got punched in the eye over thar on thet bouncy thang”.

I kept my cool and had Luke play somewhere else for a while. I told him the other boy had hurt his eye and it would be better to play with Andrew for a while. Now I am definitely watching like a hawk. He and Andrew eventually made their way to the bounce house and were having a good time when eye boy came in and tackled Luke. Luke looked at me for his cue how to respond. I said, “Luke, come out. That boy’s daddy doesn’t want him to play rough.” Luke asks, “why not?” I said to him, “He probably doesn’t have any big brothers, who like to wrestle.”

I sensed the barely concealed rage of the father, who had rushed over, realizing his precious angel was in the same vicinity as my little hellion. There are times I really love being a girl. I mean, what could the man do? Pop me one in the kisser? I led my children to another section of the playground, and we proceeded to have a hell of a good time, playing hide and seek.

The other family left soon afterwards, after we rebuffed eye boy’s attempts to join us in our game. And, darned if I wasn’t right – eye boy had an older sister.

Sometimes, it is ok to fight back. But try to remember to use your words.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mosaics for Mom

I love being a girl!

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Frosty, who?

Andy the First Grader,
is a happy jolly soul.
With a love for trains and cookie dough
he also plays with his Legos.

Lukey, the Kindergartener
is sweet, so teachers say.
His parents ponder and his brothers wonder
what he’s up to every day.

There must have been some magic
in the parents that they got.
For after Matthew broke them in
nothing else could ever shock!

Josh is still running
like a crazy fool some say.
Lucky Kirsten knows he’ll bring home a rose
And put his stinky shoes away.

(To the tune of “Frosty, the Snowman”)

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Monday, August 23, 2010

A Questionable Persuasion

As the mother of three sons, I've resigned myself to the fact that boys are louder, rougher, dirtier, and stinkier than girls. I quit looking enviously at the parents of girls in the pew in front of us at church some time ago. (All three of their girls sit quietly and color!!!!!) There are trains, cars and a heck of a lot of blue at our house. My boys regularly get notes sent home from the teacher for unruly behavior at school. (What school authorities call unacceptable behavior is, in my opinion, a normal level of activity at home.) I've never had to guess at our boys predilictions. Dolls and pink, ick. They currently avoid girls (except for me) whenever possible.

Not so for my friend Angie. We often commiserate (she has two sons) on the rollercoaster train wreck our lives have become as the parents of sons. One of her boys, while reassuringly wild and crazy (he fits right in at our house), occasionally gives her cause to wonder what his future preferences might be.

On the one hand, this kid displays reassuringly Y chromosome behavior. He kissed all the girls on the first day of Kindergarten, can't sit still, and is on his way to a black belt in karate. He also, at the age of 9, has a girlfriend. They enjoy chatting and swimming together, sitting together at lunch, and occasional walks home from school. But a recent trip to a sporting goods store gave Angie a moment's pause.

Let me explain. In the South, a large sporting goods store usually includes everything from rifles to ice skates. Upon viewing the gun case, her son clapped his hand together with glee and exclaimed, "Mommy, look! Guns!" and then, "a pink one! Oh, Mommy, look!" The clerk behind the counter gave her a LOOK. Since she didn't feel like explaining that her child was excited for her (he thought a pink gun would be perfect for Mommy) she quickly steered him away from the weapons section of the store.

While checking the fit of her younger son's football gear, he got bored and wandered off. Angie found him in the swim section, feeling up a plastic mannequin. As she herded them out of the store, she asked her son just what, exactly, he'd been doing to the mannequin. He answered that he'd been "feeling the dolls boobies", then giggled and said, "I liked it". Angie almost fainted. (Where the hell is my husband when I really need him!?!?!?)

When she told me the story later, she admitted that the boys made out pretty well that day. After the sporting goods store, they went to Target. They walked out with a cart full of G.I.Joe, Nerf guns, and even some warlike games for their Wii.

But she stayed away from the Barbie aisle. She thought it best to keep her son away from any possible temptation.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Trip to the Mall

I went to the mall today. Now, under former circumstances (that is pre chiildren) such a visit rarely caused me anything more than mild consternation. Maybe I got a little annoyed when it was crowded after Thanksgiving, but otherwise, a trip to the mall was accomplished with a minimum of fuss and I generally got out with what I'd intended to purchase.

Well, this trip was a little different. First of all, it was unplanned. Oh, stop yelling at me. Yes, the spontaneity is mostly gone. Yes, I always have been anal. Yes, that tendency may have been reinforced in the military. Granted, being married to a type A+ personality has rubbed off on me slightly. But trips with my three boys are usually planned with precision and with a flush bank account. This one was necessitated by the failure of Josh's car to start when it was supposed to this morning. Hubby went off to work in my car (no problem), but I was stranded at home during summer vacation (serious problem). And yes, there was an errand I HAD to do today. I had to pick up the stupid chickens. But that's another story, so I won't digress.

Got the car jump started by a dude called "Buddy" (I'm not kidding), who pulled his tow truck into our driveway with what I can only describe as finesse. The boys, still in pajamas, were entranced. Andrew said to me with an almost reverential tone, "Mommy, there's a TRUCK at our house". Buddy, himself a father (2 boys, 1 girl) gleefully alowed them to climb all over the hulking thing, while watching me hyperventilate as they swung back and forth on the hook. Fortunately the battery had enough juice to start, and three sad faces sadly waved goodbye as the tow truck left with a smiling Buddy.

So, off to Sears we went. Getting in the car isn't as insane as it used to be, now that eveyone can wipe their own hiney and get their own clothes on. But the Sears here in Huntsville, AL is unfortunately attached to a mall. My efforts to conceal our actual destination were a complete failure. I think some of my military intelligence genes passed through the uterus. I went in through an entrance towards the back, thinking I might get away with camouflaging our location. Nothing doing. The minute we entered the garage they knew precisely where we were.

While waiting in line (there's always a line when I have my kids with me) to converse with a mechanic I firmly stated to my children, in the following order:
#1: stay here
#2: do NOT touch the towers of tires that apparently pass for decor at a Sears auto center.
#3: do not yell
#4: do not TOUCH your brother

The other patrons in line stared at me (the men) while the grandma looking lady winked at me. When my turn came to speak with a mechanic, all three boys took advantage of my inattention to not follow my instructions. Any of them. Andrew made a dash for the tower of tires he'd been eyeing, Luke took off to explore the view in the waiting room, and Matthew, ostensibly to return Luke to me, broke instructions #1, #2, and #4.

I ordered my offspring back to my side in a tone which broked no argument, peppered with German words, and my evil eye look. I separated them, Matthew too my left, Andrew on my right side, with Luke 2 feet behind me. When I turned back to the service dude, a young man barely out of automotive school, he was openly grinning. After reaching an agreement on what precisely I wanted done, he smiled and said, "I think I better call my mother today and thank her. I have two brothers." The grandma lady in the waiting room snorted and merely said, "God bless you". I don't know why. I hadn't sneezed or anything.

Error #1

Due to my swift action in getting to Sears, I arrived too early. That is to say, the mall part wasn't open yet. I had another 10 minutes to keep my children occupied in a small room filled with adults containing no books, no crayons, and the Today show playing on the television. Andrew, like an angel, amused himself looking through the glass wall at the fascinating scene of cars and trucks being worked on by the aforementioned mechanics. Matthew sat next to me and every 30 seconds groaned at the inanity on the Today show (I couldn't blame him) and loudly whispering if he could change the channel. Luke, unable to bear the thought of Andrew involved in something that didn't involve him, sidled up next to his big brother and proceeded to bother him. This invoked recollections of my own childhood, where I would be minding my own business when my bored brother proceeded to annoy me, simply for lack of anything better to do.

Chidlhood memories aside, I remembered that my beloved husband had recently gifted me with a new phone (that romantic fool). The phone had email access and a screen. I quickly went to you tube and called up "The Cat in the Hat" video. Luke quickly left off annoying his brother and was entranced for the remaining 9 minues and 30 seconds we had to wait.

Error #2. Now Luke knows that Mommy's phone plays this video. I can't go anywhere anymore without him asking "Mommy, can I watch your phone?". Matthew instantly became incensed, demanding to know why he couldn't play with my phone. I gave him my special LOOK OF IMMINENT DEATH and he sulkily retreated back into his chair, muttering under his breath.

The mall finally opened, and we went through the Sears store, amused at the elderly people waiting for the garage door to open up so they could pounce on the latest sales.

Now, I don't know about you guys, but we have a definite pattern at the mall. First, we go to the play area. Andrew and Luke amuse themselves jumping around, Matthew begs for money for the neighboring arcade, and I sit down on a nearby bench. On a good day, I can make this stretch for an hour. This was not a good day. There was a playgroup of some kind that were there that morning. My two youngest children were surrounded by small babies and toddlers in the play area. It got boring dodging around the babies after 15 minutes, so we collected Matthew and decided to find some other amusement.

Second, we rode the escalators. A lot. I ignored the evil looks I got for permitting my children a dozen rides up and down the escalator. Hey, they weren't pushing, shoving, or yelling, so what is it that possesses a complete stranger to approach me and lecture me on the dangers of escalators? She was there with . . . you guessed it... two little girls. After delivering her message, she sat back, expectantly waiting for me to fall to my knees, clasp her about the ankles and thank her for her words of wisdom. I literally gave her the cold shoulder and replied, "they're fine" and ignored her until she flounced away. I got even with the little priss at the jumping place, where my kids did flips while her two little princesses gingerly bounced up and down, careful not to mess up their pinafores. A kindly gentleman added fuel to the fire when he said, "those are some fine boys you have there" as he and his silver haired spouse continued their lap around the mall. I could have kissed him.

After the jumping place, we discovered something new. In what had been the old Disney store, an enterprising woman had placed 5 inflatables, complete with a ball pit. Considering that it had been an hour and the car still wasn't done, I figured that it was well worth the cost to let the boys jump around for a bit. The proprietor was an 80 year old woman from India who spent the entire time telling me about her far flung relations around the globe. While the boys were having fun throwing brightly colored balls at one another, I heard about her 8 brothers and 3 sisters, her husband's 9 brothers and 2 sisters, her 6 sons, and the shortcomings of all her daughters in law. Luckily the timer went off announcing the end of our session before I could hear about the educational accomplishments of her 19 grandchildren. What really freaked me out is that this woman was more limber than I was. She walked around the place, scooping balls up and bending down with more energy than I can ever remember having. I want to go back sometime without the boys and ask what her secret is.

Well, now that we were back on routine, our next stop was the cookie store. I informed Matthew that no, he couldn't have the double cookie with the frosting between that would send him into a diabetic coma, and then helped Andrew and Luke make their selections. Do you have any idea how much three lousy cookies cost at the mall? My cell phone rang, and it was Sears, telling me that something was due and the belt was in bad shape and that it would cost $1900 to replace it. I felt my blood pressure rise, but managed to politely ask the man to just replace the battery, thank you very much. He tried to convince me otherwise, and I answered with " It's been two hours and I have three kids in the mall. Do you really think I want to have the $%&# belt replaced? Just give me a new battery." After a pause, he chuckled and told me he'd have my car ready in 10 minutes.

The bad part was, we had to go back up an escalator (Matthew nagged me to let him go up the elevator) and past a toy store to get back to Sears. Did I mention that Luke had broken his arm 4 days ago? He picked up a soft and cuddly Sponge Bob, gave me a devastating look, and called, "Mommy, look! Sponge Bob will make my arm feel better." A lesser woman would have caved, seeing those blue eyes and the bright yellow cast, but Germans are made of stermer stuff. I gently took it out of his hands and reminded him that he already had a sponge bob at home. He argued, but I got away with scooping him up in my arms and load of guilt on my shoulders. I barked a "no" at Matthew and Andrew and we were on our way.

When we got home everyone went to their own room to chill out. The car had a new battery, I had a headache from listening to Madonna mall music, and my wallet was $45 lighter. And I didn't even flinch when, 1 hour later, Matthew asked me, "Mommy, can we do something fun today?"

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Twas the Night Before Christmas

To give you an idea how hectic it's been around here lately, I'm finally posting something from Christmas. Happy New Year!

Twas the night before Christmas,
and all through our dwelling,
A little boy had to be scraped off the ceiling.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
With warnings to the boys that they’d better not dare

Get out of bed for a glass of water
Or otherwise disturb their beloved mother
She was wrapping presents, and couldn’t recall,
Where she’d hid all the toys; not another trip to the mall!

Then came Dad to the rescue, to inject common sense,
Into the cloud of wrapping paper, which was really quite dense.
He carefully approached Mommy, where she sat,
Desperately trying to wrap a pogo stick for Matt.

Darling, she begged, won’t you make yourself handy?
And wrap this car for dear little Andy?
The grandparents looked on our preparations with glee,
Said they, I’m glad it’s them and not me!

Dad spoke not a word, wrapping like a mad hatter,
But still managed to hear a distinctive pitter patter.
Could it be? Was it Santa? Was it a fluke?
But no, of course not; go to bed, little Luke!

Dad sprang into action, things moved along rather quickly,
And Mommy became notably less prickly.
We whispered to our children, as we turned out the light,
Merry Christmas to all, please sleep tonight!

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Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I was recently asked to address a group of women at their monthly meeting. Apparently I'd made some sort of positive impression on the coordinator. I can't imagine why, as I am still running around like a chicken with its head cut off after my three boys, ages 9, 6, and 4.

Two other ladies spoke before me. One was a practicing psychologist and another an ethsitician. When the mistress of ceremonies introduced them, she included their impressive qualifications, which included advanced degrees and their own business. Since I was a last minute addition (the original speaker wasn't able to make it) she hadn't had time to find out anything impressive about me. When she introduced me, "and our last speaker is Kirsten Kennedy...a ..." she hastily mentioned my past accomplishments, which I must admit, sounded impressive. The last one was finished over 10 years ago, and I've sacrificed myself on the altar of motherhood ever since then.

When I was preparing my speech the night before, I was filled with panic. What on earth could I say to a group of women of differing ages, education, and income that would be entertaining, inoffensive, and interesting? I was staring at the blank screen on my computer when the answer came in the form of my 4 year old son covered in sand, coming into the house to request my assistance with the finer points of castle construction.

Of course. Kids. Most of us had them. And those who didn't had probably seen some at some point or another. They definitely had heard them. My speech went like this:

Hi. I'm so glad to see so many of you were able to make it this morning. I was asked to address you and offer some practical advice of some sort. About what, I'm still not sure. I'm sorry I was running late today, but our boys had karate and gymnastics, and our dryer isn't working, so I had some trouble finding clean clothes this morning. I have three boys. The first two are separated by three years, and the middle and youngest are 21 months apart. Let me make it easy for those of you without any functioning brain cells after your sleepless night: at one point in my life I had a five year old, a two year old,
and a newborn.
We were living in a two bedroom house without a dishwasher. Less said on the size of my house, the better. Sort of like the size of my hips. When my youngest was 4 months old, at some point in the midst of the chaos which now passed for my day, I realized that something was wrong with me. I was fat, exhausted, and overwhelmed. In step with my generation, I ran out and got a book to help me with my problem. That didn't work, so I joined a mom's group. That only made it worse. I'd never seen so many thin, pretty, put together women with perfectly behaved children in my life. I quickly decided I needed to find out what they had, and get it, quick.
I got a "to do" list longer than my nursing tops. Depending on the source, the advice I received only made me more tired. I needed to work out every day. I needed to keep the house nice and the children clean. I needed to cook nutritious meals. I needed to get together with some other moms. I needed to develop a hobby. I needed to put on makeup every day. I needed to dress nicely. I needed to go out on dates with my husband. I needed to discipline myself to do a Bible study every day. The books and women all promised me, do this one thing (whatever their particular "thing" was), and you will feel better.
I have only one thing to say. Baloney. What I needed was a full body post partum epidural. When was I supposed to put on makeup, when there were some days I didn't even make it into the shower? Work out? I got a workout every day pushing the double stoller up a 60 degree hill. Keep the house nice, puhleese. By the time I got the dishes done from breakfast it was time to make lunch. Fold the laundry - why? Do you have any idea how much a new baby spits up?
What I needed as angel. And that's what I got. She knew, you see, what I was going through. Without my even asking, she flew across the country to my rescue. For one glorious week, I slept, took a shower unaccompanied, went for walks with my baby, and ate nutritious meals. Mama cooked, cleaned, did the laundry, and somehow kept the boys entertained during it all. She even stayed up all night once so that I could get a full night's sleep.
I closed off my speech with an exhortation to the assembled women to ask for help if they needed it. Even if they were a graduate of West Point and had an MBA in Finance. I was beseiged with women sharing their stories with me after the luncheon.

Happy Mother's Day, Mama. I love you.

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