One of those days

Do you ever have those days when your kids want to watch a show, and you really want them to watch a show, because it makes them stop yelling and banging things for 17 minutes?

So you tell them that when their markers are all picked up off the floor, they can have a show? Because that’s not a bribe, that’s a when/then situation and you know that’s what people say you should do?

But your kids don’t really want to watch a show badly enough to actually clean up, so they continue playing, and then instead of one mess [markers] you now have 18 messes [markers, play kitchen, magnetic dress-ups, an entire bin of trains and train tracks, every tiny pony tail holder your daughter owns]?

And your head wants to explode a little, but you’re trying very hard to model self-control so you sit on a bench with your head between your knees taking deep breaths and trying not to yell and stomp your feet?

And meanwhile your two year old is saying Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Ready? Ready? Ready? And taking off the jacket you’ve already put back on him four times this morning?

And your four year old is saying Mommy? Mommy? Look what I made! Look what I made! [I know what you made, sweetheart: ANOTHER MESS]

And you know you have a thousand things on your to-do list, but you haven’t had time to look at it, and honestly you haven’t really the will to look at it, because you know it will make you panic?

And also, you didn’t have any creamer for your coffee this morning because you forgot to go to the grocery store yesterday?

And really wasn’t all of this the stupid creamer’s fault, anyway?

A-hem.

No?

Me neither.

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Let’s Talk Parenting Books

[I told you I had more to say about Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline…]

I remember when Mary Bullock was about a year old, and I was sitting with a group of women [let’s leave out the specifics, shall we?], and they were talking about how badly they felt about having to yell at their kids. The consensus seemed to be that the hardest part of the day, the part that resulted in the most yelling, was getting everyone ready and out the door for school.

And I remember sitting there, imagining my Bubby, my precious Bugina, or whatever it was we called her before she named herself Buck Buck, and thinking: what in the world would I ever have to yell at her about?

Seriously. I remember thinking this thought in my poor, naive little brain. This was back when the only parenting book in my arsenal was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. And this was back when, for the most part, healthy sleep habits did mean a happy child.

And then she turned two. Suddenly, healthy sleep habits were woefully insufficient for keeping that girl happy.

It actually never occurred to me that anyone would be anti-parenting books until I was pregnant with MB, and I heard someone say she would never read that crap because she could use her common sense to raise her children.

Maybe it’s the teacher in me, but I always think there is something to learn. Maybe it’s in a book, maybe it’s not, but it never hurts to read it and see what you think.

And so I did.

By the stack.

I could write up a healthy bibliography of the parenting books I’ve read.

But I really should have just skipped them all and read Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline first.

The basic premise of Easy [we’re on a first name basis] that is different from every other parenting book I’ve read is this: my children are not the problem. I am the problem. I am the one who is difficult to discipline.

Actually, I take that back. If I had read Easy way back in the day, in my glory days of parenting only one child who could barely talk back to me, I probably wouldn’t have been able to accept this basic truth. I am the problem.

But this book slid onto my radar at just the point [HOLY CRAP I HAVE GIVEN BIRTH TO THREE OF THEM!] when I recognized this parenting thing would get the better of me if I didn’t get myself together.

I am the problem. And that’s not: oh, poor me, I am the problem. It’s: I am the problem, and I am someone I can control.

I can’t control what my children do– nor would controlling them be my ultimate goal, if I want them to grow up to be independent and happy.

But controlling myself? Modeling self-control? That I can do. Some days better than others, let’s be honest. The ideas in the book are amazing but also amazingly hard to carry out. Can we talk about how difficult it was for me to respond with love when Mary Bullock hit me the other day? 

But I did. I did it! And then she took a nap [healthy sleep habits!], and the day was salvaged from near ruination.

Maybe you have an angel child who never throws tantrums, never hits, never screams at you or calls you Bad Mommy in a fit of rage. Maybe you were born with supernatural patience– I have met such people in my life. I, however, am not one of them. And my children will never, ever, ever sit peacefully in a high chair, as long as they are in high chairs, till the end of time, Amen.

But I can take a deep breath, scoop them up, hug their little bodies close [pinning down the arms as necessary if her name rhymes with FAIRY GULLOCK] and say comforting things to them.

When it doesn’t work, it’s at least as effective as yelling.

When it does work, the heavens open and down pours all forgiveness, love, protection, and understanding. For them, and for me.

Sugar & Spice

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This morning Mary Bullock walked into the nursery where I was feeding Tucker. She had dressed herself in a pretty dress and had accessorized with an assortment of bracelets and plastic high heeled dress up shoes. She had done her own hair with hair bows on each side. They were slightly askew, yes. But she was so proud of herself. Her face radiated peace.

I’m going to a wedding, she said. I got a card so my whole family could come. Would you like to come, Mommy?

It wasn’t earth shattering, just a pretend morning wedding. But ugh– if I’d had the hands, I would have hugged and squeezed her. She’s so easy to love some days. IMG_1316

Other days are harder. Yesterday, after an early wake up and an exhausting morning at MOPS, she collapsed into a puddle of tears and screaming and refused to leave. She went to that dark, frustrating place where reason won’t pull her back to me, even if she could stop crying long enough to hear my voice.

Then she hit me. A couple of times, actually.

That was really hard to love.

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After lunch and a two and half hour nap, she was all smiles again.

It’s hard to be four.

It’s also hard to be a four year old’s mama.

So on those mornings like this morning, when she’s smiling and rested and reasonable and uses her manners and not her fists, I think: I need to keep this. Drip all this sweet into a bottle, put a cork in it, and save it for a dark day. Then when her sky turns stormy, I will take it out, pour myself a glass, drink it in.

Just to keep things even.

This is about Tucker

Really, I swear. But I have to start with a story about Lee.

So you know when Lee and I first met we were not fans of each other, right? And when I say we were not fans of each other, I mean he was not a fan of me.

I know you’re thinking to yourself: WHO IS NOT A FAN OF SUZ? But believe me, such people exist. And Lee was once one of them.

So I set about finding out how to make him a fan of me. That was back when I cared if people liked me– a habit of which, in my old age, I have now mostly divested myself.

Turns out, there was a secret*. Once I knew the secret, we were instant friends.

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See? This is us, 1997. Plaid was in then, I promise. Hawaiian shirts were never in.

Anyway, the secret* was that Lee needs to be loved up to. These are not my words. I’m just repeating what I was told. I wasn’t sure quite what that meant, but the next time I saw him, I probably greeted him with something like Hiiiiii, LeeeeeEEeee! instead of my generic Hey, what’s up clown? And a friendship was born. The rest you already know about.

So anyway, back to Tucker.

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I spent most of his first few months wondering if I had the crankiest baby on Earth. Especially after Bo, who would laugh at anything in that sweet way he has, where first he’s laughing, and then you’re laughing because he’s laughing, and then he’s laughing more because you’re laughing and then suddenly Mommy’s crying because she loves his laugh and– well, you know. It happens.

But Tucker. He smiled a little starting around six weeks, but it was ambiguous enough to make you think that maybe it was still gas. And then around four months I could wiggle his little toes up near his lips and he would sort of giggle, but it was short lived and honestly sort of hard to get super excited about.

And then I noticed: he reserves his biggest smiles– the big, dimply smiles– for old ladies in grocery stores. You know the ones. They lean over his carseat and say Look at you! Aren’t you a precious one! Yes you are! I want to take you home with me! Yes I do! Oh look at those eyes! I could eat you up!

And on and on.IMG_1339

And Tucker would take it all in with the biggest grin on his face. Even with a paci in his mouth you could see his ginormous dimples and know: he needs to be loved up to.

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So I’ve written that down in my little book in my head of Tucker knowledge. The rest we’re still figuring out.

*Now, ladies. Do not attempt to use this knowledge against me. He is taken taken taken. That goes for Tucker, too, grocery store ladies and girl babies!