The trouble with grandparents or the trouble with *my* parents

As we were leaving my parents’ house the other day, I noticed the storm had blown a huge piece of paper around my tire.  I picked it up and started walking towards the community garbage can, across the street and down the alley, passed two houses.  The boys were playing in the front yard with my parents were keeping an eye on them as well as pulling weeds.  I dumped the trash and started walking back.  I noticed the boys were playing on the corner, on the curb that flowed into the street.  Not a place I wanted my children.

Then I watched as Tornado A saw me and started into the street, only to be sidetracked by the giant puddle in the middle of the street.

“NO!  NO!  THE BABY!  THE BABY!  GET HIM!” I screamed.

I ran.

I ran as fast as I could,  but I was slowed down by my flip-flops and the soft mud.  A cold and sickening thought occurred to me as I ran.  I could see through the chain link fence on my left, through the school yard to the end of the street, but I couldn’t see to my right because of concrete backyard walls to see the other end of the street.  And I knew if a car came from that direction, I would be too late.  I pushed harder.

I watched my father stand up, take in the situation, walk into the street, and pick up Tornado A, carrying him back to safety.  All with a slowness that made me growl.

I ran across the street, glancing to make sure I wasn’t going to be hit by a car.

I opened my mouth as I stormed onto the sidewalk.

My dad (still holding Tornado A): Look at your Mommy!  I bet she hasn’t run like that since high school.  (He chuckled.  He f-ing chuckled.)  She was so worried.  There weren’t any cars coming, Fae.  I had it under control.

Me: YOU had it under control?!!! If YOU had it under control, my child would not have been in the street!!!  (I grabbed Tornado A out of his arms.)  What is wrong with you?! Haven’t you learned anything after three children?!  You are not going to watch my children again!

Do you know how hard it is to yell at someone who is taller, bigger, and more imposing than you?  He might be retired, but my Dad still has the aura of Cop hanging on him. Do you know how hard it is to yell at someone who was the imposing authority in your life for your childhood, one that held the balance of justice and law in the house?

I must have sounded like I was five years old, in pig tails and a pink dress, scolding my daddy for letting my Teddy get wet.

Because my Dad chuckled again.

My Dad: You don’t mean that.

I did what any sane parent would do in this situation.

Me: MOOOOOOOOM!

I called in the higher authority.

My Mom: T, keep a better eye on the boys.  Fae, your father knew what he was doing.

Yeah, knew what he was doing.  Right.  Three kids and he still acts sometimes like the stories of my babyhood.  Come to think of it, sometimes so does she.

My parents acted like they didn’t know a damn thing when it came to raising a baby.  When my Mom was pregnant with me, they went skiing.  The doctor told them no, but since he originally said yes, they went any ways. Thank God, it rained.  She refurnished a dresser for me, using paint stripper and white paint, while she was pregnant.  She used chemical oven cleaner while she was pregnant with me.  My dad insisted on doing my first diaper change and then proceeded to get poop all over every item on the cart, the cart, and me.  My Mom stuck to a strict four-hour feeding cycle, which would have been fine if I didn’t sleep through the night, and she ignored doctor’s orders to wake me up to feed me in the middle of the night.  (Now we all hate to wake sleeping babies, but I was nearly failure to thrive.)  No one will admit who held the door and who held me when a hotel door slammed on my head, causing “the most interesting shades of purple and red,” and then no one took me to the hospital.  My Dad was on watch when I did my first roll . . . off of the couch and into the corner of the coffee table.  Sure, I could swim before I could walk, but I also received my first sun burn before my first birthday.  I swallowed a tack.

Yup, my parents were child-raising geniuses.  I’d forgive them if they were teenagers.  They weren’t.  They got better though.  The only crazy thing my mom did while pregnant with my little brother was lie about her pregnancy to ride the Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland.

Maybe I should start looking for another sitter. . . .

Q-TIP

Once upon a time, a young, Hispanic, single mother became an EMT.  She worked her ass off to get through school, juggling kids and work.  When she got her first assignment, she was sent to a suburb known for catering to retirees, usually from the Northeast of the country.  Her supervisor gave her a tour of the facility on her first day.  She found it odd that on every computer, on every desk, nearly everywhere she looked she saw a Q-Tip. 

“Uh, why are there Q-Tips taped everywhere?” asked the EMT.

“Oh that.  Good question.  It’s to remind us to Quit Taking It Personal.  Q-TIP.  One day you’ll answer a call, and it’ll be a little old woman.  And you will try to help her, and she will scream, ‘Get away from me; I want a man.’  If you take it personally and back off, she will die.  You have to ignore her and do your job,” said the supervisor.

The teacher at the parenting class told us that true story and then related it back to parenting.  Often our children behave in certain ways or do certain things or say certain things, and we are so very sure they are acting out to get us.  We assign “adult” motive to behaviors that just are.  They are not insolent; they’re kids.  They’re not ignoring you out of spite; they’re ignoring you because they HAVE to finish their projects.  They don’t mean they hate you; they are just so angry they can’t express it.  Once you let go of the assigned “motive,” it’s easier to get to the root of the problem and handle it appropriately. 

When we take it personally, we let our emotions get the better of us.  And when we act in that way, well, we’re killing the souls of our children.  Slowly.  We want our children to question, to lead, to think for themselves, but we want our children to listen and mind us. Parenting is a balancing act of teaching a child morals, values, and social norms and allowing the child autonomy to be who he/she is meant to be. We don’t want to squash them, so we must give them enough rope and realize that we are the adults and need to act like it.

It works with adults too.  We are self-centered people.  We assume every action was done to us for some reason, but often what is done to us is done by someone just as selfish as us and did it for personal reason, not having to do with us at all.

So, Q-TIP.  Quit Taking It Personal.

Words, words, words

A debate rages on in the household.  Over Tornado A’s first word.

Tornado E’s first word was dada.  Tornado S’s was mama.  Tornado A had to be the tie breaker.

Tornado A said mama first.  But I didn’t mention it to his father because of the separation and wanting his father to have his own joy of hearing a first word.

But after a week, Tornado A had not said his word in front of his father.  After a week, Tornado A said dada.  So his father believes that dada is Tornado A’s first word, and nothing I say will dissuade him from that belief, which he is vocalizing as gospel truth.

But then there is the baby book.  She who fills out the baby book, records history.

The beginning of beautiful friendships

Parenting classes have started again.  For those keeping count, this is the third session of six-week classes.  Most of us have been together from the beginning, with one exception (and they were at the last session).  It is nice to be surrounded with smart, funny people being driven slowly insane by parenting.  While I’m sure the class has great value, I go for the entertainment.

Such as:

Dad A: So when do you suggest we start corporal punishment?

***

Dad B (in response to what would make your child feel treasured): Long dresses.  That’s all she wants.

***

Dad B (giving me helpful advice on how to get Tornado E to leave the school without a battle): Get in the car and drive around the block.  I guarantee he would never do it again.

***

Mom A: I learned to speak softly

Me: And carry a big stick.

***

Mom C: We have four children, ages 6, 4, 2, and 2 months

Dad B: And no TV.

The teacher: What?

Me: You know, because they have four kids.  (turning to the mom) They have some really great TVs for reasonable prices and DVDs too.

***

Me: I have three kids.  5, 3, and 10 months next week.

Mom E: So you haven’t slept in years, either.

Me: Oh, I have long ago decided I didn’t need sleep.

***

Mom B: I get it.  No sarcasm on the children.  But we can still use it on our husbands?

***

Next week I’m going to count how many times our teacher raises her eyes to the heavens and says, “They don’t pay me enough to do this.”  We are going to do what countless of parents sent by the state have failed to do . . . send this woman to early retirement.

Anxieties and Accidents

I knew the separation was going to hit the boys hard.  Their daddy wasn’t going to be there in the middle of the night.  The Husband didn’t think it would be that bad.  Maybe an outburst or two.  He figured that they would be used to him going away for two weeks and being back for two weeks that this would be cake.

But it wasn’t.  They’ve been sniffing the air, testing it, knowing something isn’t quite right with their family.  Tornado E asked one day months ago, “Daddy, why do you make Mommy cry?”  Here we thought we were having our tough conversations with them tucked in bed asleep.  Or the day after The Husband decided we needed a separation.  Tornado E said, “Mommy, is Daddy going away to live in California forever?”  “No, Baby; he’d never leave you.”  Or later that day when Tornado S said this, “Daddy, you don’t go away.  We need you.  We ALL need you.”  This was months before we even decided on the official separation and before we even told them.  So yeah, I knew it would hit them hard.

It will be two weeks from tomorrow when we told them.  Tornado E has peed his pants once a day, if not twice, since then.  Tornado S is having accidents almost every day too.  I don’t know how I can reassure them any more.  We hug them and love them.  We whisper our love into their ears.  We’ve kept the Saturday Fun Day with the family going.  My mom gushes over them, holding them.  But the accidents keep happening.

Any suggestions?

Super Trooper

With the knowledge that The Husband wanted a separation, I couldn’t face my family for Thanksgiving.  I didn’t want to answer questions.  I didn’t want to lie.  I didn’t want to be honest and bare my heart.  So did what any sane person does.  I organized a trip to California to take my family to Disneyland.

It was a crazy little trip.   The night before Thanksgiving, I demanded to go to our favorite sushi bar.  Not that it took a demand to convince The Husband, and afterwards I took the boys to yet another Target to buy more pants for Tornado E because he failed to the bathroom once a day.  I also stalked up on treats and such for the next day.

On Thanksgiving, we woke early, packed and excited.  Luckily the day before I had met with The Violinist and her adorable daughter.  Since the Violinist still worked at Disneyland, as she had when she was my college roommate, she graciously bought our park passes to use her discount (and yes, I gave her the money.  I’m not a user.).  She even told me that the family could walk across the street from our hotel and just take the parking lot tram.  (Thank you, Violinist!!!)

We actually arrived at the park a half hour after the gates opened, which is a record for us.  We proceed to Fantasyland to scare our children to never want to ride another ride without lots of coaxing, pleading, and bribing. (Snow White will do that to you.)  But after a trip to the Pirate Island, the boys were more than ready to taste their courage on The Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Captain Jack awaited them.  After that, it was one adventure after another.  Even though Star Tours was closed (the one ride we couldn’t wait to take the boys on), we had a great time riding rides.

I was packed to the gills with the double stroller.  Tornado A did fine, though he was a little grumpy over the fact he had no rolling around time.  While Disneyland has a wonderful Mothers and Babies room, with changing tables, high chairs with feeding seats, and even a breastfeeding room with gliders, Tornado A just fed all over the park, like Tornado E did when he was a babe.  I only wish I had bundled Tornado A up in a sleep ‘n’ play rather than pants that rode up on his legs to expose a little bit of leg to the cooling air.

At Tornado A’s last feeding, The Husband encouraged us to seek shelter in one of the few indoor restaurants.  It was getting pretty chilly, and I had packed only light jackets.  The Husband bought hot chocolates, a brownie, and a rice krispie treat.  The boys ate gleefully (all of them), but they were fading fast (all of them).

The Husband: Maybe we should go.

Me: It’s not even eight yet.

The Husband: Maybe we should find a warm place to watch the fireworks.

Me: But we told the boys we would ride on Pirates again after that.

We looked at our tired boys.

The Husband: They look really tired.

Me: Who wants to go on Pirates?

Tornado E and Tornado S: MEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

I cocked an eyebrow.

The Husband: Fine.  But then we’ll find some place warm to watch the fireworks, AND THEN we’ll go back to the hotel.

Me: You’re getting to be no fun in your old age.

The Husband: Responsible.  I’m getting to be responsible in my old age.

Me: Whatever.

Then I looked over at the boys.  To find Tornado S with his head on the table, right hand curled around his brownie, and fast asleep.

Dang.

I looked under the blanket.  To see Tornado A fast asleep, snuggling against my warm breast.

Double dang.

Me: Ok, Mr. Responsible.  Does this mean we go back to the hotel now?

Recap 8/27

1. Tornado E still loves school, but I’m betting it’s because of the social element.

2. I represent destroyer of cartoons to Tornado S.  Daddy, obviously, is the savior.

3. To Makers of chocolate chips: STOP REDUCING THE AMOUNT YOU PUT IN BAGS!  We want MORE chocolate chips in our cookies not less!  Yes, I’m on to you.

4. Want to make Rice Krispie Treats tastier but less healthy?  Add Milk Duds.

5. I’ve been spoiled by having The Husband here all summer.  Now he’s going away for two weeks.  Ugh!

6. The Husband has introduced the boys to Boomerang.  We have a rebellion against educational cartoons.

7. I think Tornado A just may be settling into a sleep rhythm.  But I’m not holding my breath.

8. I think I’m addicted to SuperNanny.  I don’t know why.

9. Of course all the mom gatherings and parties would be when The Husband is gone.

10. Tornado E NEEDS an umbrella because apparently he’ll melt if rain touches his skin.  I should have known I birthed a witch.

No, what is this?

Not even ten minutes went by from the last conversation before this one occurred.

Tornado E: I LOST MY PENNY!!

The Husband and I: You’ll be fine.

Tornado E: But I lost my penny!

The Husband: Don’t whine.

Me: We’ll find it when we stop.

Tornado E: But I lost it in my seat!  I need it!  Pull over and find it!

Me: We’ll find it when we stop.

Tornado E: But I need it now!

The Husband:  Here!  Here’s a new penny.

Tornado E: Thank you, Daddy!

Blessed silence.  The Husband and I returned to our conversation.

Tornado E: Daddy, what’s this?

The Husband: A penny.

Tornado E: No, Daddy!  What’s on the back of the penny?

The Husband: The Lincoln Memorial.  We told you that already.

Tornado E: But, Daddy, what’s this?

The Husband: The memorial.

Tornado E: No, what’s this?

The Husband: The memorial.

Tornado E: No!  What is this?

The Husband: The memorial!

Me: The Husband, maybe you should just check it and see.

I remembered the year they placed four different backs on the penny.  They also placed shields on the back of this year’s penny.

The Husband: Tornado E, let me see the penny. . . .  A shield?!  Why does it have a shield on the back?

Me: To get more people to collect them out of the system.

The Husband: Here, Tornado E.  It’s a shield.

Tornado E: Now, let’s lay Heads or Shields.

What is This?

Tornado E: Daddy, what is this?

The Husband: A penny.

Tornado E: No, Daddy!  What is this?

The Husband: A penny, Tornado E.

Tornado E: No!  What is this?

The Husband: The head of Lincoln.  Get in the car, Tornado E.

Tornado E: No, Daddy!  What is this?

The Husband: Tornado E!  Get in the car!

Me: Tornado E.  One side is the head of Lincoln and the other side is the Lincoln Memorial.

Tornado E:  But what is this?!

The Husband: Get in the car, and I’ll look at it.

Tornado E: But Daddy-

The Husband: Get into your seat!

I buckled Tornado E in, and The Husband and I got into the car.  I started the car and began to back out of the parking space.

Tornado E: Daddy!  Now can you tell me what it is?

The Husband examined the penny.

The Husband: This side is the profile of Abraham Lincoln.  And this side is the Lincoln Memorial.  It’s in Washington, D.C.

Me: And I’ve been there, and one day, we’ll take you there.

Tornado E looked at the penny.

Tornado E:  I have an idea!  Let’s play a game.  Heads or memorials!

The Husband and I exchanged a look.

The Husband: The kid’s too damn smart.

Me: I know.

Surpirse, Surprise.

We were at church when Tornado E noticed something about his tooth.

Tornado E: My tooth is broken.

Me: (whispers) Mouse voice.

The Husband: (whispers) Let me see.

The Husband looked into Tornado E’s mouth.

The Husband: (Whispers) Did you know he broke his tooth?

Me: (Whispers) No.  But he would’ve cried when it happened, right?

The Husband shrugged.

We went out to breakfast for my Dad’s birthday.  My brothers and sister-in-law were there, and I sat on the farthest end from Tornado E, who procured a seat of honor next to my Dad.

Tornado E: Papi!  My tooth is broken!  It’s wably!

Me: What?!

My Mom: Let me see, Tornado E.

My Mom looked into Tornado E’s mouth as my Dad put on his glasses.

My Mom: It’s loose, all right.

Me: What?!

My Dad: Wait. I think he’s already missing a tooth.

Me: WHAT?!

I jumped out of my chair and ran around the table to inspect for myself.  Sure enough, my eldest baby, who won’t be five for another week, had a loose tooth.  WHAT??!!!!!

SIL:  Fae, your face!  It’ll be ok.

Sure, laugh.  You’ll be looking the same way when you have a baby ready to lose a tooth.

My mom: I guess I’ll have to make a tooth pillow soon with my wedding dress.

I sat down in my seat and called The Husband to demand why he failed to mention Tornado E’s tooth was loose.  Failing getting a hold of him, I texted my BFF.

Me: Tornado E’s tooth is loose!

BFF: Omg!  Omg!

Me: Right?

So when we returned home, I confronted The Husband.

Me: Why didn’t you tell me Tornado E had a loose tooth?

The Husband: He has a loose tooth?!

Me: Yeah.  That’s why it was broken.

The Husband: Tornado E!  Come here!  Let me see your tooth!  Isn’t he a little young?

Me: Yeah!  I think so.

This morning as I tried to wake up, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, exiting the bathroom, Tornado E came running up to me.

Tornado E: Mommy!  I lost my tooth!

Me: What?!

Tornado E: See!

There is was a space where a tooth should be.

Me: So where’s the tooth?

Tornado E: I don’t know.  I was jumping on my bed dreaming, and then my tooth fell out.  It went this way and that way.

Me: Um, what about the tooth fairy?  Remember how your uncles were telling you about the tooth fairy?

Tornado E: Well, the binky fairy will find it because she’s made out of light and can find anything.

But what about me?  What about the picture I wanted of you holding up your tooth and smiling with a gap?  What about the tooth I was going to hide until you were an adult and surprise you?  What about the tooth pillow?  What about me who is losing my mind that you are old enough to lose a tooth??