Category: kids (page 1 of 24)

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast

I know October ended, like, almost two weeks ago, but let’s be honest: October! I’m still recovering.

Birthdays! Halloween! School stuff! But we survived. We survived!

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And having survived, I am now moving slowly, seeing the world with new eyes, experiencing life with heightened sensation.

Or trying to, anyway.

At night, I lie with each of the kids before they go to sleep.

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Little Miss wants me to sing “Let It Go.” She’s starting to sing along with me and it is, perhaps, the cutest thing ever. I know I’ve never said anything like that in regard to my children, so you’ll take that very seriously.

Squish’s request is “On My Own.” From Les Mis. I don’t know it very well, but he doesn’t care. He helps me out and we patch together a passable version.

And Manchild takes me through one of his imagination games. “Pokemon Fun” or something. The past few nights we’ve made our way across the country from North Carolina to Hawaii, employing the powers of various wild animals. We dove into the lava flow in a special ship. We created a special filter and saved all the monk seals. Tonight, we flew in a special Pokeball all the way to ancient Egypt. I was a scarab beetle. I flew on the outside.

After school, we stay and play on the playground if the weather is good. At dinner, I read to them while they finish their food. And during the day, when Little Miss and I are out for a run or running errands, we’ll stop and watch the ducks at the pond or swing on the swings.

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I’m new to this. It feels a little weird. I’m not used to sitting still or sitting back. It’s a bit disorienting to not have a list of a million things to do before the end of the day. But then again. Weird is good. Disorienting is . . . reorienting. And slow is a welcome change of pace.

“Chores” Doesn’t Have to Be a Dirty Word

I’ve been accused of not letting people help me out enough. And I’ll own up to it. Sometimes it seems like it’s just easier to go ahead and do whatever needs to be done rather than ask/teach someone else to do it. But even I could see that things couldn’t go on forever like that — especially since I have a growing labor force in my very own apartment. It makes no sense for me to feel overwhelmed by needing to pick up clothes, do the dishes, and sweep the floor when I could simply do one of them and give someone else a chance to feel useful and capable and like a contributing member of the family.

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Of course, I may never have taken the time to teach it if I weren’t also writing about it. And in the process of teaching it, I realized a lot of things: foremost among them is that it only takes a few minutes to save myself a lot of frantic pin-balling around the apartment as I bump from one task to another hoping that I hit everything before I collapse.

Here are the other things I learned as I passed off some of my homemaking/housecleaning expertise to the Manchild:

It’s Time For My 7-year-old To Make His Own Lunch

I’ve been really happy that, so far, there hasn’t been much whining and griping. At least no more than our usual Saturday chores elicits. In fact, the boy seems happy to help and pleased that he is being given more responsibility — for the moment, anyway. And while I do sometimes feel a little bad that he is often asked so often to help when his siblings are running wild, I’m coming to terms with the fact that people actually do want to help. Even if they are my own kids, and even if it is “chores.”

Friends. Pals. Buddies. Besties.

He falls. Skins his knee, scrapes his elbow. I run to help him, give him a hug, inspect the damage, tell him he’ll be alright. And he lets me — but just for a minute. Then he turns and looks around, Where is she?

She’s coming, running, ready to do her job. He jumps up, runs the rest of the way to her. Both have arms open wide for the healing hug that only she can give.

It happens again and again. The two of them know their roles perfectly. He trips, she hugs. All better. Best friends.

******
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At night, it starts with a giggle. Some rustling, a laugh. We hear them talking, telling stories, playing games. Manchild is telling them about his favorite Pokemon, or about how Calvin (and Hobbes) is so funny. Squish is pulling off some sort of physical humor (probably hitting his own head over and over again) while his siblings laugh. Little Miss wows her brothers with the fearlessness with which she breaks the “no climbing on the top bunk” rule.

It’s music and it’s magic and I listen in disbelief. It’s actually happening. They are friends. Pals. Buddies. Allies.

Sometimes it ends with a knock on the door (which we’ve locked so they’ll actually stay put and go to sleep). Someone isn’t in her own bed. Someone is keeping someone else awake. Someone needs to use the bathroom. The spell is broken as the parents intervene.

But when the door closes again, the music starts back up.

******

It sounds like a fight. Raised voices. Demands. Ultimatums. Sometimes there are tears. But I try to listen carefully to what’s going on in the back seat as we ride around on the bike and hear instead, “I like you. I want to play with you. You’re my favorite. I think you’re funny. Let’s play!”

It’s hard to hear sometimes, but it’s there. And it’s worth putting up with the crying and the whining and the occasional wrestling match because sometimes even best friends fight.

******

When all is calm and dark and quiet, and it’s time for us to finally head to bed, too, we crack the door, tiptoe in, scan the beds to see who is where. Sometimes it’ll take a few seconds to locate them all.

I’ll have a hard time finding Little Miss amidst the stuffed animals as big as she is.

Squish will be lost under the blankets — even with the blazing heat of summer.

And Manchild has surprised us once or twice by having descended from the top bunk to join his buddies in the fray down below.

******

Thick as thieves, partners in crime, they egg each other on and have each other’s backs.

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Boys Can Be Pretty, Too

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“What about these ones?” Manchild held up a box of running shoes. They were bright blue with hot pink accents. There may have been hearts on them. Clearly a pair of shoes made for a girl. Except, he didn’t know that and I didn’t have the heart to tell him. Or maybe I didn’t have the guts? Maybe I just didn’t know how.

After all, a color is just a color, right? He already has hot pink swimming trunks. He uses a pink plate or bowl and cup at nearly every meal. He likes pink. And that’s fine. Pink is just a color. I try to be neutral about such things, but I was grateful to have a reason to say no: “Those are cool. But they’re running shoes and you already have a pair of those. We’re looking for warm shoes for winter.”

He put them back on the shelf and we found a pair of brown boots with red laces instead.

That was back in November and I still think about it frequently. Not the event itself, but the question and answer that it brings to mind:

Why can’t you have the shoes with the pink hearts?

Because you’re a boy.

Boys can’t wear pink because it’s girly. Boys don’t play princesses. Boys don’t cry.

This seems unfair and hypocritical to me. Especially now that I have a girl. A girl who can do anything. Wear pink or blue. Be a doctor or a nurse. Play ball or be a ballerina.

Is it just me or does it feel like boys’ worlds get smaller as girls’ get bigger? How can I explain that to my boys? My boys who have no problem prancing around in princess dresses at their friend’s house? Who would rather be “bunnies” for Halloween than muscled superheroes? Who name their cars and airplanes things like Lilly, Amy, and Ella? How can I break it to them that, you know, they might get beat up, made fun of, teased to tears if they wear shoes with hot pink hearts of them?

I’ve been trying to figure it out for months. Do I tell them what could happen? Do I just draw a line at “cultural norms” and simply say, “Boys on this side, girls on that?” Do I let them feel it out for themselves?

And then, a week or so ago, this happened: Manchild was home sick from school. In an attempt to do something “fun” with our day, I pulled a bottle of nail polish from the bathroom cabinet. Within 5 minutes, both Little Miss and Squish had magenta toenails, and Squish was on his way to see if Manchild was interested as well.

I knew, of course, that he would be. And I knew that this was going to be a “teaching moment,” though I didn’t know who or what was going to be taught. Or how. But when Manchild walked in looking for the nail polish party, I opened my mouth, “Now, I don’t have any problem painting your toenails, but before I do, I want you to know that some people think that it is girly to have your nails painted, and if one of those people saw your nails when you are at swimming lessons, they might make fun of you or say mean things. So now I need to know: if someone said something to you about your toenails, what would you say to them?”

He hardly needed to think at all: “Well, I don’t want that to happen.”

End of discussion.

And beginning of an awakening. For me and my boys. And it kind of stinks. The world is closing in on us — on them, mostly. No pink nails. No shoes with hearts. Pretty soon there will be no more princess dress-ups, no hot pink swim shorts. Part of me wishes I’d just painted his nails, gotten the shoes, let him live it up while he can — until he comes home in tears wondering why I didn’t tell him, warn him, protect him from what he didn’t know.

I shudder at the thought.

And then I hope that as they “grow out” of their child-like and innocent games and interests and loves and into more traditionally “boyish” pursuits, they don’t also grow out of their sensitivity and sweetness — that being cut off from “cute” and “pink” and “pretty” doesn’t leave an angry scar.

A Song For the Road

Yesterday was Squish’s birthday. He’s 4 now, and so excited about it. (Little does he know the plans we have to exploit that: “Four-year-olds don’t need help getting their shoes on. Four-year-olds wipe their own bums. Four-year-olds eat green things.”)

It was fun to let him be in charge of the day. He wanted to go for a run. Which means he wanted me to push him in the stroller. And Little Miss, of course. I didn’t mind a bit. How could I, when the sky is so blue, the leaves are so red and orange and yellow, the air so light and . . . airy?

So we went. Happy Birthday to Squish!

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He’s been wanting to go running a lot lately, actually. And not always just to ride. Sometimes he runs, too. Not too far and not too fast, but he tries. He tries to run far and fast, but he also tries my patience. Because sometimes I just want to get to where I’m going as quickly as I can. You know? And he’s more of a “run 10 yards and then stop to play on the bicycle rack” kind of runner. He hasn’t yet developed the razor sharp focus necessary to get from one end of a block to another. So when he’s determined to “run” and I’m ready to pick him up and sit his little booty back in the stroller, I try to compromise, and I sing a song instead.

It’s a little ditty I made up, inspired by a tune from Cinderella, and it goes something like this:

You can do it, you can do it, you can do it, you can do it. There’s really nothing to it. You really can do it. 

(I should write songs for a living, I know.)

And then I cheer and call his name and tell him he’s looking good and not to give up. It usually gets him halfway down a block, if I’m lucky. But he loves it and it’s fun.

And it’s only fair that if I insist he cheer me on, I cheer him on as well. And I will. I will cheer him on so much this year. Every time he “needs help” getting his shoes on, or he can’t eat dinner, or he “can’t pronounce” that word he’s reading . . . I’ll be there with a song and a cheer.

Happy Birthday Squish!

Power to the Mom

Squish is a dad’s boy. He likes his dad more than anyone else. He wants to sit by him at mealtimes. He will only ride on the bike Dad is driving, if given a choice. And he’s very loyal to his dad. He’s careful never to admit that he may just have the nicest, prettiest, strongest, smartest mom in the whole world because, well, Dad is actually the best of everything.

It’s a good thing, and a good stage to go through. It’s fun to see his attachment. And funny to see how far he can take it. Okay, and maybe it is just a little tiny bit frustrating, in the same way it’s a little tiny bit frustrating that despite my sincerest efforts, I cannot get the boys to cheer me on as I’m pedaling up the hills. Or in the way they are quick to say that they don’t like the dinner I’ve made before I’ve even finished putting it on the table. Or in the way I sometimes hear in their voices that they don’t think I know what I’m talking about.

I’m feeling a little bit like I’m a piece of furniture, or a handy tool to have a round that they are free to ignore when convenient. This is despite Micah’s best efforts to remind them that their mom is awesome and amazing and deserves their respect.

For a while now, I haven’t really known how to handle it. I tend to sit back silently and let Micah do the talking. After all, shouldn’t they learn from their dad how to treat women? I also have this strange idea that demanding their respect will, somehow, make me even more of the enemy. I envision the irate, irritated mother yelling at her kids that they will respect her, and as she does I feel the fear in those children growing and the respect shrinking. They may obey her, they may acquiesce, but I doubt they will look to her for guidance. Not if they have any other choices.

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So I’ve hesitated to step in. But recently it occurred to me that “demanding” respect doesn’t have to sound like giving orders. Asking for encouragement and recognition can be done humbly and in ways that make them feel as good as it makes me feel. It doesn’t have to sound egotistical when I say, “Don’t you feel lucky to have a mom who will sit and blow-dry your homework pages for you?” Or, “Isn’t it great that your mom magically does all the laundry so you have clean clothes to wear?” Or, “Wasn’t that nice that I let you watch weather channel videos on my phone for 10 minutes?”

After all, being the mom is often an isolating pursuit. After school, when the homework is finished, and the boys are given their hour of screen time, I’m in the kitchen making dinner. When Micah comes home he can play along with them, but I’m still manning the stove. And while I’d like to get the chance to join in the game and be part of the team, in on the secrets, beating the bad guys, the kids still need to eat. And bathed. And put to bed. More often than not, it’s me that’s putting the pressure on to find a good stopping place so we can move on to the next thing. I’m working hard for them, to give them a happy and healthy life, but all they see is that I’m not playing with them. All they know is that I can’t keep up with their games any more.

It’s fair then, I think, to let them see that I am working for them, even if I’m not playing with them. It’s fair to let them know that I’m supporting them more than anyone else. And it’s fair for me to tell them they have the nicest, prettiest, strongest, smartest mom in the whole world – even if I’m not the best at everything.

Give A Little Respect

“Come on boys! Cheer me on!”

Silence.

“Tell me I can do it! Tell me I’ve got this hill!”

Silence.

“Really boys, don’t you think I’m doing a good job?”

Silence.

Finally, Squish speaks: “Well, I think Dad is the best and I like riding on the bike with him.”

Oh. Right. Thanks a lot.

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It’s a silly thing. I know it is. Wanting them to encourage me as I pedal them up the hills. I can get up them just fine. It’s hard, but not impossible. And I’ve done it – and am doing it – enough that it’s becoming easier and easier.

It’s more the principle of the thing. We’re a team here. Some of us are sitting on the bench, and some of us are giving it all we’ve got. And it irks me, just a bit, when the bench sitters are daydreaming while their teammates are laying it all out. (Not that I think they have to be fully invested all the time. But it would nice if they showed a little interest when I’m actually struggling. And asking for encouragement.)

But there’s a deeper level than that as well. I’m their mom. I birthed them. I bathe them and feed them and wash their clothes. I’m the first person they come to when they are hurt or in need. And I don’t ask a whole lot in return. To eat dinner with as little fuss as possible. To get dressed when asked. To not push each other off the couch. And to cheer me on when I’m pedaling up the hills.

Because we’re a team. We respect each other. We love each other. We work together. And we encourage each other on.

Or we will. Someday.

I hope.

In Which I Unintentionally Torture My Child

On occasion, you have the best of intentions. You really do. But then everything blows up in your face and you end up torturing your child to within an inch of his sanity instead.

It happens.

You see, I’d intended to give Manchild the opportunity to prepare for his next race. Last year he complained that I hadn’t trained him well enough to run a 5K, and he was right. I intended to do better this year. I had planned to take him running several times in the weeks leading up to the race (which is now a week and a half away), but life sort of happened without us running together and with Miles for Midwives right around the corner, I thought some running would be better than no running, and since the boy seemed game to try to squeeze in a couple of training runs before the race, last Saturday morning we went for it.

And by “went for it” I do mean that we dove right in without much thought. We gave no consideration to the fact that he hadn’t eaten breakfast. We didn’t even think that he expected to keep up with Micah and the other kids on the bike. Nor did we bat an eye at the distance he’d have to cover to get where we were going (over 2 miles) or the fact that he hadn’t run that far since last Miles for Midwives.

And with all that leaping without looking, I got what I deserved. The boy was crying before we even left. I took longer than he expected to get ready and Micah was well on his way by the time we got out the door. That was severely upsetting to him. And, because we always eat our muffins in the park on Saturday morning, he was fairly famished. There was no chance of getting the waterworks under control. None. So I did the only thing I could think to do: get him to breakfast as quickly as I could. Which meant running as fast as his little legs – and his heaving, crying lungs – would allow. I held his hand and off we went.

I can only imagine what passersby were thinking when they saw me pulling Manchild down the road, telling him what a great job he was doing, that he’d be okay, that we were almost there, that he just needed to keep breathing. I imagine . . . actually, I take that back. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. I just hope they were generous in their judgments. I was doing the best I could.

We made it about a mile before he said he needed to walk. And then he was pretty vocal in letting me know when I was going too fast. Still, he somehow managed to find the energy to squeeze in some fartleks on the downhills. It really seemed like he was trying to lose me as we sprinted down the last hill and through the tunnel and to the field where we normally play Ultimate. But he couldn’t lose me because we were stopped short. The field was surrounded by fences and people with walkie-talkies. They told us that the entire section of the park was closed for a Nickelodeon event. Ugh.

I’m pretty sure Manchild thought I closed the park specifically to torture him even more. I didn’t. In fact, I was pretty bummed about it too. There was nothing left to do but call Micah and have him come rescue us. Which he did. Within 10 minutes Manchild was recovering from his trauma while munching on a pumpkin muffin.IMG_4773

We spoke not a word of the incident the rest of the day. But the next morning he mentioned that he legs felt a little funny. Like maybe they hurt a little. And after a moment of consideration, everything from the morning before came back to me, only with this silver lining: he’s sore. He really worked hard. He’ll be stronger next time.

Assuming, of course, he’s willing to let there be a next time.

Weekly Retrospective: Things I Didn’t Know

I knew that Manchild starting school this week would have a huge ripple effect on our daily lives. I knew I’d be spending nearly 2 hours on the bike every afternoon to go get him. I knew we’d be waking up earlier to make sure he was on time to class. I knew I’d get more time with Squish.

What I didn’t know was that Squish was such fabulous company. He’s so funny and energetic and helpful and wants to talk and tell me everything he is thinking about (which today was, mostly, the Incredibles). He did that before, of course, but now it is without interruption. It’s The Squish Show all day long and I kind of like it.

I didn’t know that two children – even if they are the younger, less obedient two – are a delight to shop with when you are used to having three little people to keep track of and remind to be considerate and aware of others.

I didn’t know that I was even capable of waking up at 6:30 5 days in a row.

I didn’t know that finding time for Little Miss to nap would be such a headache. Two naps between 10:00 and 2:00 is kind of pushing it, but it’s better than having her fall asleep at 6:00pm, right? And then waking up at 8:00 for another 3 hours? Or maybe I should put her down when we get home at 4:30 and let her sleep until dinner? The jury is still out, and by the time we’ve figured something out she’ll probably be moving to one-nap days.

I didn’t know that pushing the stroller with two kids would be so hard for me. It didn’t used to be. But then, it’s been a while since I’ve done it. (And maybe I should have guessed – I chose to do that after riding over the Manhattan Bridge 6 times in 2 days, and with way too little sleep. (I stopped counting the hours. It made me too tired.)

I didn’t know we’d make it all the way to Friday before we had a major hiccup: forgetting the backpack. With the lunch. I spent my morning delivering it to him. Let’s not do that again.

I didn’t know how hard it would be for the boys to be away from each other, to not be doing everything together. Squish broke down in tears on Tuesday when he realized he wasn’t going to get to drop his big brother off at school, and several hours later Manchild had an emotional break of his own when he found out he missed watching a few episodes of “Charlie and Lola,” which Squish got to watch while I cut his hair.

I didn’t know how having one kid in school would effect my writing schedule. I knew that it would change. And probably pretty severely. I hoped the change would make it easier to write during the day. Turns out, it makes it harder. Which means not only are we waking up earlier, we’re getting to bed later. And just when I’d gotten to the point when I felt like this was sustainable. *sigh* Maybe I’ll reach that point again before too long. (But until then, please forgive my somewhat erratic posting schedule.)

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This week on Babble:

If you want to run fast, run fast!: 8 ways to increase your speed.

The seasons change and so do we – and it’s a good thing, even when it’s hard.

Can’t seem to let go of your pre-pregnancy jeans? Here are 7 reasons you should hold onto them.

 

Disney Baby Giveaway!

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A little while ago, we were invited to see some of Disney’s new looks for babies. Tigger was there. Manchild acted like they were long lost buddies, which was great because Tigger acted that way too. I mean, they even co-ordinated the orange stripes, so there you have it. Totally on the same wavelength.

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Pooh was there too, of course. Just another long lost friend, I guess.

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We spent an hour or so playing with the toys, enjoying the views from the hotel, getting our photo with our favorite celebrities (Pooh and Tigger, of course), and admiring the gear. Disney Baby has some really nice stuff these days. Not so much with the “just stamp a picture of Mickey on everything and call it good” these days. It’s much more subtle, much more fun.

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I found myself coveting some piglet onesies for Little Miss and wondering if maybe some Monsters Inc. bedding could find a home in the boys’ room. I really liked the Finding Nemo stuff as well.
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I’ve never really considered having a “theme” or even a motif for one of my babies. But if I had it to do again (and maybe I still do!), I might be tempted by an underwater theme with lots of Nemo elements, or a monsters look with some Mike and Sully scattered about.

(In retrospect, a monsters theme would have been great for Little Miss. Not only does she continually surprise us with her feats of daring, she really, really likes to roar. Oh, and she bears a bit of a resemblance to Boo.)

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On our way out, we got a gift bag with some great gear: Little Miss learned to walk in the Disney-themed Crib & Crawl shoes (she wears them nearly every day), the Minnie Mouse sippy cups are essential diaper bag items, and the blanket and book made excellent baby shower gifts, just to name a few.

Because we loved the gift bag so much, Disney Baby has kindly offered to give one away to one of you. So, are you pregnant? Do you know someone who is pregnant? Then please leave a comment on this post by Monday Sept. 2 at midnight! I’ll randomly select a commenter and you’ll receive a Disney Baby gift bag in the mail!

Just tell me which Disney movie/character you would decorate your child’s room around. A woodland theme with Pooh and Piglet? A racecar theme built around Lightning McQueen? Classic Mickey and Minnie?

If you win, you’ll receive:
– A Hallmark Classic Winnie the Pooh book
– Pooh throw blanket
– A pair of Crib & Crawl shoes
– A Winnie the Pooh bib
– An On-the-go puzzle
– A pack of 1st birthday invitation cards
– A pack of baby shower invitation cards
– 2 Minnie Mouse sippy cups
– A singing Tigger rattle
– A bottle of baby wash
– A lullaby cd
– A white sachet with a onesie
– AND a Roller-pillar ball set
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A lot of fun things and a lot of practical things. What’s not to love! Go ahead and leave a comment before Monday Sept. 2 at midnight! I’ll announce the winner Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Thanks!

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