Friday, September 26, 2014

“But, Mom, people really ARE annoying.”

OK, today I am not arguing this one. Today I am saying, yes, when people say this one particular thing to me, I get really irked. As I’ve said before (in a lovely blog here), I’m not naturally a super bubbly people person. I would rather be home alone with my books and skulls and bats and stuffed walruses. I do try to be more patient and understanding and outgoing, though. I do try to reach out to people and engage in the world around me. Most of the time, it works and I find that “fake it till you make it” works. Most but not all of the time.
How I feel some days. Just go away, people.
I know that for a lot of moms the real “I’m gonna punch you in the teeth” question is the “what do you do all day” question. Yeah, that one can be annoying, but I really don’t think the question itself is the problem. As a former working mom turned stay-at-home mom, I get it. I used to wonder what SAHMs did, too. I wasn’t being judgey. I was curious. And I think most of the people who ask me are curious, too. There are judgey people, but the question itself isn’t inherently judgey.

No, the thing that gets me riled up and has me grinding my teeth and doing mental back flips trying to come up with justifications for people saying crap like that is when people say to me, “well, you’re just lucky your kids were born so well behaved.” Um, no, they weren’t. Before I get into why this annoys me (acknowledging upfront that I might be overreacting, but whatever, I’m allowed to considering I don’t actually in real life flip out at people so how much am I really over reacting?), here are my rationales I run through in my head to stop me from saying mean things back to people:

  • The people are just trying to say my kids are not being poop heads. That’s a good thing. Take the compliment and run. Really. Just run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • Most parents are insecure about their parenting abilities and try to find ways of justifying what they see as failures on their parts. Saying someone else’s kid was born that way just takes a little of the burden off them and makes them feel better. Let them feel better and run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • People get mixed up about nature vs nurture and think it is an either/or thing. Explaining the way brains are wired and how we are socialized and the way we are a balance of inherited traits and learned behaviors takes too long. Just run. Don’t open your mouth.
  • Maybe they know I’m part Irish and eat way too much Lucky Charms? Who knows . . . now I’m grasping at straws. Just run. Don’t open your mouth. Unless it is to eat Lucky Charms.

Here is why that bugs me. I work really hard. Really. My kids, like all kids, were born as little screaming babies. Well, one was. The other wasn’t screaming because she couldn’t breath. But eventually she was a screaming baby. Point is they were not born preprogrammed to obey their teachers, raise their hands in class, do their homework every day, follow rules, respect authority figures, say please and thank you, not hit kids when they don’t get their way, etc. My husband and I make very deliberate decisions with our children (I talk about that more here) and work very hard to teach them how to behave. Can we control them? No. But we can try to instill morals and values and guide them. Are our girls perfect? Heck no! Do they have challenges? Oh, YES! Just because people don’t see the challenges doesn’t mean they aren’t there. We have had many epic battles with the girls at home. We have questioned our parenting and wondered if our kids will in fact grow up to be international criminal masterminds (even if they turn out evil, we expect them to do well). We have had sleepless nights worrying about our kids and wondering what to do. When we get to those bridges we can’t cross on our own, we get outside help which for our younger daughter has meant speech therapy and help with anxiety.
"She reads? You're so lucky." No, I had to fight and have
MANY conversations to find the right kind of books for her
to read and the right kind of motivation to get her to read.
It wasn't luck; it was determination.
Each girl has a different personality and different needs to be addressed. That is true for every child. Every parent takes the child they have and tries to parent the best they can to meet that child’s needs. For us, as we go along and learn we have had to adapt our parent strategies to fit the needs of our two very different children. This means swallowing our pride, researching parenting techniques, talking to specialists, meeting with teachers, spending countless hours listening to our daughters and trying to figure out strategies for success with them, explaining why punching annoying people in the face really isn’t a good solution (no matter how tempting it is). In short, we work HARD to have good kids. Our kids are physically healthy at this point, and that is partly luck (and partly careful parenting again), but that is where the luck stops.

I’m not saying we work harder than other parents, but I am saying we do work. Calling our kids’ good behavior “luck” ignores our hard work. It diminishes the effort and careful consideration we put into every day. I know sometimes parents say it because they are defensive about their own kids and parenting, but honestly most of the time I am more focused on my kids and wouldn’t have noticed their kids till they made that comment. Calling my parenting “luck” makes me think, “you think parenting is about luck not work? What are you doing with your kid? Sitting back hoping to get lucky and have him figure out on his own that he shouldn’t push my kid? No wonder he is acting that way.” And that is when I do get judgey. And I don’t like feeling judgey. And I don’t want other moms to feel judged. Being a mom is – or at least should be – hard enough.
Spending time with our girls, talking to them, trying to understand them
so we can guide them the best. No luck involved here. Just lots of time.

So if you come across some really well behaved kids who are eating a salad and not throwing knives at people, don’t be mean to the parents or snarky by calling them “lucky” or worse yet making a sarcastic comment mocking them. Either say nothing or just say, “what a nice kid.” Because chances are the parents had many battles at home before the kid would eat that salad in public.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

“Mom, did you know some kids don’t know about gender equality? Ugh. It is so annoying.”

my Righteous Babe in her fave "someone call the girl police" shirt
This seems to be a constant source of annoyance for my older daughter and her personal mission in life. We have nicknamed her our Gender Equality Warrior Princess. Ever since kids started teasing her about her running shoes when she was in first grade (story here), she has been painfully aware of gender stereotypes in this country and the limitations they try to put on people. It bugs her. I am bugged, too. Her dad is, too.
She made this shirt herself to spread her
gender equality message.

There are a lot of problems when it comes to gender inequality and gender stereotyping.  They range from day to day little things that the girls face in school to larger problems that adult men and women have to deal with in jobs, politics, and health. How we are treated and how we are expected to behave are still defined by gender. For my older daughter, that becomes an annoying problem because she wants to think and act beyond those boundaries. She wants to make decisions for herself based on her own personality and preferences and does not think she should be limited by something as arbitrary as gender.

For the last three years, she has been coming to terms with how her classmates want her to behave and accepting that when she follows her heart, they won’t always approve of it. We have a saying in our house: “Not everyone likes broccoli.” Every person has different tastes and won’t like the same things. We can’t change our tastes to suit the tastes of the people around us, and we can’t expect them to change their tastes to suit ours. It is not always an easy thing to do, being true to herself in the face of snarky girls who mock her for not wearing nail polish or sparkly clothes, but she perseveres.

For her father, the journey to feminism was a bit different. He thought he was a feminist until he had daughters and a wife. Then the tiny little prejudices started showing. They seep in because they are such a strong part of culture. It is hard to avoid absorbing some assumptions of who should do what or who is capable of doing what. He has grown to be a gender equality warrior along with his daughter, and I think, like my own dad, it isn’t because he is the father of girls, but simply because he is a father. He doesn’t care about gender equality because he is a feminist in the sense that he thinks females need to be defended but in the sense that he loves his children and wants them to have access to all their dreams and to be free to be themselves. If we had sons instead of daughters, he would want the same for them. He is a feminist in the sense that he wants all people to live to their full potentials.

That is why I am so excited about Emma Watson’s speech to the UN. For my Gender Equality Warrior Princess, seeing Hermione standing up - her voice shaking, but still speaking up - telling the world to look at gender, “as a spectrum, instead of two sets of opposing ideals,” is powerful. It is empowering. It is reassuring. It is telling my daughter she has been right all along and she is not alone. It is saying, “you can like fairies and hockey, and that’s ok, and I stand with you.” It is also supporting their dad. It tells him his role as a father is valuable, and his emotions are valuable. It tells him, “you can love your daughters just as much as your wife does, and that’s ok, and I stand with you.”

I love that speech, and I love the He For She campaign. I hope it reaches many people, but even if it doesn’t, it will reach my daughter and help her. And as a mom, that makes me happy. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

"You're weird, Mom."

“NOOO!!!!!! Tribbles don’t go for walks! What are you thinking? You have to CARRY it! I can’t believe you did that!” *insert massive wailing*

"But I can't go to sleep! I don't have The Flu!" *insert frantic searching under the bed for a stuffed flu virus*

Or another example, the other day I was sitting on the couch, silently minding my own business, ignoring my children, when the older one walked over and yelled, “Mommy!” I responded calmly, “um, what?” to which she yelled back, “I don’t want to talk to you right now!” *insert confused blinking*

Recently we had relatives over and during some down time, the girls were playing in the dining room area while the adults relaxed on the couch and I puttered around the kitchen. The girls were being their usual selves, playing their normal imaginary games. I was only half listening, just catching stray sentences about coronations, brain eating amoebas, vampires, time travel, etc. Then I looked at our guest sitting on the couch who apparently had been listening in.

“Is this what you listen to all day?” she asked.

To my girls, all this is completely, totally, 100% serious stuff. To me, it is hard to not bust out laughing sometimes (a lot of the time). There are times it gets annoying and I did have to make a “No Fighting About Imaginary Stuff” rule, but it is usually so random that it is hard to not just go, “wait, what did you just say?”

My mom says, among other things, kids need humor and heroes. I totally agree.  The heroes part I’ll talk about later. The humor part seems to be one sided a lot of the time, however, sadly. The girls are hilarious to me. What they say and do and how they dress. I love it. I often step out of the room to laugh so they won’t think I am laughing at them (which I am). They don’t see the humor in what they are doing, though, which makes sense. They don’t always see humor in what I am doing either. A lot of what I have to do is not funny. Cooking, cleaning, paying bills, driving, laundry, and kitty litter are not especially entertaining. Especially the bill paying. Not funny at all. And kitty litter is literally poopy. So what do we do? How do we teach our kids that there is humor in the world and that they don’t have to take everything so seriously? Even though being a grown-up is blechily serious. Ugh. This is an important lesson, so it requires extra effort no matter how serious and grown-up we feel. Here’s what the girls’ dad and I try to do:
  1. Goofy selfies. Trite, right? But it never fails to make them laugh and shows them we don’t take ourselves so seriously we are afraid to look ridiculous. Their dad is extra good at this.
    They stole my phone and I got it back
    FULL of pictures like this.
  2. Horrible dancing. This is not hard. Good dancing is hard. Horrible dancing is just fun. All we have to do is, again, not take ourselves super seriously. I have a really bad back, so sometimes this one is actually painful, but the pay off is worth it when the girls join in and relax. Enjoying being alive is a good thing.
  3. Decorate however we want.
    Watching some tv with Pillow Nana
    We do like HGTV and decorating magazines, books, and blogs. My older daughter stole my copy of Young House Love and has already planned her own first house. But when it comes to decorating our own home, we don’t mind mixing walruses, dinosaurs, and skulls. Those things make us happy, so that is what we put out. All year. We tell the girls we decorate to make ourselves smile. And we do. It is hard to not smile when I look around my living room and see a crazy blend of Polish folk art, Ukrainian embroidery, a giant robotic triceratops, a life size stuffed version of my mom (not taxidermy . . .  like a rag doll . . . slightly less creepy), my Jane Austen action figure, a sparkly purple skull, etc. To others I’m sure it is a random clutter of things that make them say, “um, what’s that?” (I’m sure because they do say that when they come here and see Pillow Nana), but to us it is our home.
  4. Sing along with songs we like. We can’t sing. Really. We’re not musically talented at all. A lot of the time it is just lip syncing. But it’s fun. And often drives the girls nuts. Which is just extra fun. So when we hear a song we like, we go along with it. I admit, whenever I hear Eye of the Tiger, I bust out not only my best lip syncing but also my super awesome horrible dancing. Actually, I have pretty much these same dance moves (although my car isn’t as cool):

Our end goal is simple. We want the girls to be happy. Life is full of bad stuff. There is disease and war and natural disasters. There are also all the little things that drain us day to day like bullies, annoying people, boring tasks, stresses, etc. We need to learn how to focus on the joy whenever we can. They can’t always see how funny and silly their little lives our, so as grown-ups we have to show them it is ok to laugh and give them things to laugh at.
We have to show them not everything has to be super serious because there are enough serious things already. So put that goofy hat on for no reason other than to make a kid smile. Don’t worry about looking like a doofus.

Dance like Elaine. Go on. Right now. Or when you pick your kids up from school. Or in the grocery store.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"School's better . . . but not perfect."

Honestly, that’s fine. I’ll take it. If you’re not sure where this is coming from, read THIS first. All caught up? Here’s what happened next.

My daughter did go to school and did talk to her teacher. She was nervous, but she got through it. At first, she didn’t get exactly what she wanted. Of course, exactly what she wanted was for either everyone else to disappear or for her desk to be moved to the hall. Not really realistic. Instead, the teacher said she would address the problem of kids talking out of turn and being disrespectful to the whole class the next day and by the end of the week everyone would have new seats. Rearranging seats is not as simple as one might assume. Kids are people with complex little personalities and the teacher has a lot to take into consideration. Plus, this is still the beginning of the year. She is getting to know people and balancing things out. Additionally, entire classes cannot be uprooted just because my (adorable princess center of MY universe) daughter wants her to move everyone. Long story short, I was satisfied, but my daughter was not entirely convinced things were going to get better. To complicate things, she then got sick and was absent the next day. D’oh!

Fast forward a week. Her teacher, being a professional who has her eye on the bigger picture beyond just my one child, did address the whole class. She talked to my daughter a couple more times over the week to find out more information about what the problem was and did separate my daughter from the girl who was harassing her (yes, I think repeatedly questioning someone’s gender during class every single day is harassment).

From my daughter’s perspective, the situation is slightly improved because she is no longer directly next to that one girl, however she is still there. Now we are talking about what my daughter can do on her own to not let the annoying stuff get to her and ruin her day. Filtering techniques: focusing on the positive things that are there; instead of focusing on what other people are doing, focusing on what she is doing and her own purpose. The point is, she cannot control other people, but she can control herself.

From my perspective, this is a huge victory because the whole thing was dealt with without me getting involved at all. My daughter did all the talking to her teacher herself. She felt comfortable enough to speak up for herself. That’s a big deal. It is also a victory because her teacher didn’t brush her off. Her teacher either was already aware of the situation from seeing it or considerate enough to listen to and believe her student. Either way, good sign of a good teacher. Teachers have a lot of other goals without also worrying about social problems and classroom discipline, but the social problems and classroom discipline have a huge impact on learning. I am very hopeful for the rest of the year and glad that our message “teachers are partners” was proven true. Oh, and it helped that my daughter earned the Take a Fuzzy Friend to School card. That always makes school better.

Heading to school with a smile and a fuzzy Dronkey friend.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Me. Before coffee.
I hate mornings. Ughhhhh. Really. I am not a morning person. But I am also incredibly stubborn and super determined to kick my enemies’ butts. Morning is my enemy. I will kick its butt. Grrr.

Before becoming a mom, I admit I was much less butt kicking and much more snooze hitting. There is something about being a mom that makes me fiercer. I am much more determined to get my kids to school on time than I ever was to get myself anywhere on time. It’s not like everyone else is always super punctual (except the annoying perfect people who I am sure secretly have basements full of dog poop which is the secret flaw I imagine for people who appear to be perfect because I hate dog poop). And parenthood really isn’t a competition. But it feels like it sometimes. And that challenge of I WILL Get Them to School ON TIME Today is powerful. Hey, whatever motivates, right? So I crank up the music and we hustle. I found this great video of what trying to get out the door on time feels like and it is totally accurate. Now that my girls are older, I don’t get peed on or get the oatmeal thrown at me any more, but the chaotic feel can be there still.

Here are my top time savers that super help me get my kids out our door and in the school door before that tardy bell (warning: won't work for everyone):

  1. I don’t work any more. You have no idea how much time I save by not trying to also shower and make-up myself while also trying to wrangle the girls. I remember sticking the girls in the bathroom with me while I took the world’s fastest showers hoping one wasn’t toothpasting the other, then trying to brush my teeth and supervise toddler teeth brushing at the same time. It all got done, but I certainly never looked as pulled together as my coworkers who had no kids or the ones who admitted they dropped their kids at daycare then went home and got ready alone (I would have to drop my kids off at 5 am to do that!). Anyway, I know this is a b.s. time saver because who can really just quit their job to streamline their mornings, but honestly, every morning as I stick a hat on my dirty hair and throw jeans on without showering I am glad I am not working. I miss the paychecks and socializing with other grown-ups, but not the extra getting ready in the morning.
  2. I don’t own a dog. HUGE time saver. No offense to dog owners. I had a dog. I loved her, but when she died, we didn’t get another dog. Not needing to walk the dog in the morning is great. I just need to take care of my two humans who are enough to deal with most days. Again, streamlining and minimizing the to-do list. We have cats, but the litter box scooping goes way faster and can be done when I get back from dropping them off. Just as "quit your job" is a pretty b.s. time saver for a lot of moms, "get rid of your dog" will be, too. But not having one right now saves me time. (And, frankly, don't most time saving lists contain a lot of crazy, b.s. ideas? Some even have ideas that seem like they would take MORE time. But I am off on a time wasting tangent now . . .)
  3. I don’t do cute breakfasts. 
    Yeah, I like Pinterest and all the cutesy mom blogs and stuff, but I am
    not going to make fun breakfasts. Breakfast is cereal or oatmeal or a pastrami sandwich (the older one likes that . . .  she’s odd). Breakfast also has a time limit. The kitchen eventually closes. Eat and move on. Why do I have to tempt my kids to eat? They are hungry when they wake up. They eat without poking or prodding. It is probably the only time they will eat without a fight. Thus the time limit. The younger one would eat six breakfasts if I’d let her. She does on weekends.
  4. Clothes are already set out. Sure there are still occasional whines about outfits, and fall and spring get tricky with the temperature jumping around, but most mornings we don’t have to think about it. The girls have a hanging cubby system in their room. I stuff the cubbies with outfits including socks and underwear, so in the morning they just have to grab an outfit. They can pick any outfit from any cubby. This is probably the biggest time saver. I hate fighting about clothes. I think it is a ridiculous fight to have. I just want them dressed and moving on to the next thing, so this system works great. The girls preapprove the cubby outfits these days which greatly reduces the risk of morning “I don’t want to wear that” or “I don’t know what to wear” whining. I love it.
  5. Lunchboxes are also cubby systems. What can I say? I love a good cubby. We got these from Pottery Barn Kids, but similar ones are available all over the place. I don’t need to worry about running out of baggies (or feeling bad about killing sea turtles). I just put food in each cubby, close the lid, and move on. Super simple. Again, I don’t try to be cute. Sure, I’ve seen the Pinterest boards of people making their kids’ lunches works of art, but I just make it something they can eat. A sandwich and sides. Bing bang boom. Done.
As long as there are no major meltdowns about snarky girls or annoying people, everything runs smoothly and we go from bed to car in 40 minutes or less. We usually have time for a little playing or chatting or reading or dancing along the way, so the morning can start not super stressful. Of course, then I come back home after dropping them off and crash on the couch as if I’d just run a race. But I feel quite accomplished. And can check off that, yes, I did get up, kick ass.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

“I just want to be left alone.”

Some mornings being a mom is exhausting. Not all mornings, although it may seem that way. Most mornings go smoothly, actually, but then there are mornings like these. I went through them with my older daughter, and now I am having them with my younger daughter. The challenges aren’t exactly the same because the two girls aren’t exactly the same. Their personalities are as different as their appearances. But here I am again, facing a little girl who doesn’t want to go to school because of a classmate.

I feel pretty lucky. I feel as though I entered parenthood with a pretty heavily stocked arsenal. Not only do I have my own experiences growing up to draw from, I also have a mother who writes and lectures about teaching kids resilience and peacemaking. I have a father who is an exceptional educator. I have a sister who is also an incredible teacher as well as countless teacher friends who are always willing to listen to me and answer all my questions about my elementary age children. (I majored in secondary education. These younger people are a whole different kettle of fish!)

Thanks to all that, this particular fish today got out of her egg chair and then out the door pretty smoothly by drawing on two carefully preset points we have been working on:

  • Teachers are partners. We have always stressed this and have always been sure to let the girls know which of our family members and friends are teachers. We want them to know that teachers are human beings, people that care about them, and people they can talk to. So far, all their teachers have reinforced this lesson (BIG relief!). Last year when my daughter was wanting to drop out of first grade (totally different reason), we met with her teacher who very patiently and attentively listened to all my daughter’s concerns and worked out a plan with her to make things better. The number of teachers I have met who are NOT willing to do that can only be counted on one hand, and the number of teachers I know . . . well, I’ve lost count.
  • Ignoring problems makes them worse. This is when cats and kitty litter are really useful. Smell that? What would happen if I ignored the kitty litter for a day? What if I went back to bed and ignored it for a week? Would the smell just go away? If I want the smell of cat poop to get better, I have to deal with it. I have to face the kitty litter. We have to face our problems. It sucks, but ignoring problems just makes them suck more later.

The problem was that there is girl who sits next to her who talks to her too much and keeps asking her, “are you a boy?” Everyday. My daughter says she has tried telling the girl to be quiet and leave her alone and has repeatedly explained that she IS a girl, but the other girl keeps talking. We wrote on a post-it note her primary concern – “too much talking” – and she went out the door prepared to ask her teacher if they could talk when she got to school (they have free time in the classroom with their teacher before class starts instead of morning recess). If that doesn’t work and she isn’t able to meet with her teacher informally today, we will email her teacher to schedule an appointment. Again, I don’t know many teachers who turn down appointments with students.

This is something we will be working on constantly - learning how to interact with classmates, coworkers, people around us - but I want my daughters to know that they are not alone as they figure things out. I can’t be there with them to see how they are talking to people or how the people are reacting, but their teachers are and their teachers do want them to be successful. Yes, at some point this is all on the kids, and I do encourage the girls to speak up for themselves first, but when that doesn’t work – as in this case – going to their teachers for assistance and advice is a good next step and sure beats dropping out of school to hide in an egg chair.

We’ll know this afternoon how it went and what the next step will be. To be continued . . .

Monday, September 8, 2014

“Mom, please, can I watch Queen now? You know, the fun one?”

Fandoms are fun!
OK, I admit inside I did do a Mommy Victory Dance of Joy when my daughter reqested I put on the Bohemian Rhapsody music video. As much as I want my girls to be themselves, have their own tastes, explore their personalities and feel free to have opinions which differ from mine or my husband’s, part of me really dreads the idea of them crying and screaming over pop singers like Justin Bieber or whoever else is out there (I’m really trying to not know). I remember thinking the girls around me who were losing their minds over New Kids on the Block were slightly nuts, and then as a mom hearing about girls physically harming themselves over that Bieber kid just made me eeek a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love fun fandoms and being enthusiastic about stuff (this Simon Pegg quote is on our fridge), but I think enthusiasm and obsession are two very different things. And I think there is a difference between blind adoration and gleeful admiration.

So what do I do to try to counter the strangely obsessive pop culture stuff the girls encounter when they get to school? On weekends and in the mornings, I blast MY music at them (insert evil laugh). They do have their own CD player in their room and their own CDs – older one’s fave is her Taylor Swift Red CD and younger one loves her Everly Brothers – and they do have their own playlist on my phone which includes the Frozen soundtrack, but I admit to trying to teach them there is more music out there. When I was a kid, I listened to my parents’ favorites which was a lot of Beatles. I think that’s a great place to start. In Ukraine, that was all I played on my phone during our down time, and my daughter learned a lot of their songs. I also listened to Guns and Roses, Amy Grant, and Dead Milkmen when I was in elementary school. A bit of an eclectic mix, and I’m really not sure Dead Milkmen are entirely appropriate, so I might hold off on them (although I do still listen to them as a guilty pleasure occasionally).

In the mornings, while we are getting ready, I put on Pandora. Last year it was the Cat Stevens station.

So nice and chill! What a nice way to start the day. This year, I decided to boost the energy level a bit, so we switched to the Queen station. The girls LOVED it. I like to use weekends to push my own agendas (also known as parenting), so I spent a day just playing Queen songs and watching Queen videos on YouTube and talking about why Freddie Mercury was awesome. It was a really fun day. The girls were learning life lessons and how to head bang and insulting my hair (my hair naturally looks like Brian May's at its fluffiest), and I was getting bounce around like a doof and giggle and play with my kids. So what are the great lessons that can be learned from spending a day with Queen?

  1. If you are passionate about something, do that. Queen had a passion for music and creating new, cool songs together. Freddie Mercury had a passion for writing and singing. When the girls learned that he was singing right up until he died, they were impressed.
  2. If you have a talent, use it ALL. One of the girls favorite songs is Bohemian Rhapsody. They love how it sounds like so many pieces all in one. They also thought it was cool how not all the Queen songs over the years sounded alike. There is a variety of sounds and styles. When they learned the songs were written by the band members and they each had different tastes, but they agreed to use and appreciate the talents of everyone, the girls thought that was really cool. Talent wasn’t wasted. It was stretched.
  3. You don’t have to like everything about someone or know every detail to listen to or like their music. Ok, so this isn’t strictly Queen related, but it is important. Do I want my girls to imitate everything Queen or any other rock band did? Of course not! Although, the part about getting a degree in physics like Brian May can be imitated with my blessing. Liking a band does not mean memorizing every fact about them and shouldn’t. I like Ani DiFranco, but I have no idea when her birthday is. How does that change how her music makes me feel? Also, fans don’t need to prove themselves by trying to become in every way the people they are listening to. The girls can bounce around to Radio Ga Ga without needing to also get drunk in a bar in London. I like when there are some admirable qualities, of course, and those are what I focus on when I talk to the girls (physics degree, use of talent, camaraderie, creativity, etc), but everyone has flaws and makes mistakes. We talk about the flaws and learn from them, too, so we DON’T imitate those parts. Mostly, though, we talk about the music and enjoy it and live our own lives, because frankly we are awesome as is. The girls know the name of Freddie Mercury and that is pretty much all the Queen trivia they can give you. Everything else was broad strokes: they wrote their own songs, there were four of them, Freddie died after he got HIV, Crazy Little Thing Called Love was written in the bath tub (ok, that's specific, but funny so totally worth knowing).
  4. It’s ok to get pumped up about yourself. I love listening to Queen in the morning because I like the idea of sending my girls to school singing “We will ROCK YOU!” I want them pumped up about themselves and about life. I want them to celebrate their successes and be proud of themselves. I want them to feel like they can conquer the world. One thing we talked about was the difference in the messages of the songs. They weren’t all about dating or hooking up or breaking up. There were songs about simply kicking butt and being awesome. That, I think, is a good thing to have as a background soundtrack for a fourth grader.

If my daughters don’t like my same music, that’s fine. I assume they won’t like all the same things as me, but I can still expose them to it and talk to them about it. I can still try to teach them there is a world bigger than what they see and hear at the lunch table. And I can explain that they will most likely never marry a pop star, so devoting all their time, energy, and money to obsessing over one is not healthy. It is much healthier to just rock out and be awesome for themselves. So this is how I’m parenting in the mornings, and I’m having a good time empowering my girls, so don’t stop me now. (And, yes, this is my personal Mom Theme Song.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

People are Annoying.

Me: How was school, Yasya?
Yasya: People are annoying and they are killing my brain. 

I know I should discourage the negativity, but, good grief it is so true. And so hard to deny. And probably my biggest challenge as a mom. Deep down inside, I am Wednesday Addams. As a kid, I identified with her more than anyone else. I didn't like socializing or people. I made sure there was at least some bit of black in my clothes everyday even if it was just Mickey Mouse’s ears. My inner monologue is still all in her voice. Or if you want to get more modern, you can put in April Ludgate. Either way, it is not a bubbly voice. And I have been accused of being too sarcastic. As an adult who moves around in society and used to work with teens, that wasn’t always so good. I mean, to a certain extent, it worked (teens and kids in general usually prefer honest people who are a little dark to overly bubbly people who are clearly trying too hard), but at some point it is good to stop and try to be cheerful. *sigh*

So I have tried to grow and adapt. Here comes the debate. Does trying to act nice and cheerful even though I am Wednesday Ludgate inside make me a phony? Or does it mean I am trying to evolve as a person and adapt to different situations as needed? When I was a retreat leader, this topic would come up periodically. Not that we were talking about me, but we would talk about how we acted in different situations. Do people act differently at school than at home or work, for example. If we think about all the environments we pass through in a week – home with kids, home with spouse, playdates, school, work, church, grocery shopping, library, etc – it is pretty clear that identical behavior in each of those environments would not be appropriate. If I talked to my husband the same way I talked to my daughters, he’d get pretty annoyed (I know this from experience). Similarly, if I acted the same now in my thirties as a mom as I did as a dark teen hating everyone, that would be . . . sad. Ideally, people grow as they age. And I don't mean fatter.

Also, as a parent, I need to think about the long term affect of my actions. How I talk to my children and how they see me interacting with others will to some extent shape how they interact with others. I want my children to be slightly less dark and gloomy, so I do try to focus on the positive with them. Normally, I avoid asking, “how was school?” It leaves the door open for negative answers. Normally I ask for best things of the day or who the girls played with or what was the most interesting thing they learned. At dinner, all of us have to say what the best thing of the day was. On my super grumpy days, that is really hard for me. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue to avoid saying, “I didn’t stab anyone today.” For my older daughter, the sunshiney stuff seems much more natural. For my younger daughter and myself, it is a skill we have to practice daily and really work on consciously. That's part of why I named my Etsy shop HAPPY Walrus instead of Morose Walrus. There is joy around me as long as I keep looking for it (and sometimes the joy comes in the shape of The Addams Family or Tim Burton movies or super dark humor shared with my younger daughter). On bad days, like the day my daughter said the annoying people were killing her brain, we did talk about all that negative stuff. I want to be clear about that. Focusing on the positive does NOT mean ignoring the negative or shoving it in a closet. She vented and ate Oreos, and we talked about actions to take in the future.

I am still true to myself and have my pretty little skulls and bats decorating our apartment, my sarcasm does show up sporadically (though not to the point of making people cry), and I still have a mostly black wardrobe including skeleton boots I wear all year, however it isn’t overwhelming. My hope is that by focusing on the positive, I can gradually shift my own inner monologue a bit, too. People are annoying, but I do have to live around them and interact with them. I can choose to be constantly annoyed by them, or I can – reluctantly – try to change my attitude. When I go out, I have some friends who are my Wednesday Ludgate friends, but my other friends are needed to balance that out and remind me that sometimes talking to people about things isn’t so bad. The world needs Leslie Knopes, too. Hopefully my kids will be able to grow into Leslie Ludgates. The annoying people won’t stop asking, “are you a boy? Are you sure?” or “Where did you get her from?” (referring to my daughter who I got from my uterus and what kind of normal person asks that question, seriously?) or refusing to use turn signals, but we can learn to smile despite – or in spite of -  them. Then paint our nails black and eat some waffles.

What can I say? We look good in black.