Browsing Posts tagged parenting

Do you let your kids play at someone’s house you have never met?

Years ago (or was it last week?) one of our kids was invited to play at a friend’s house and we excitedly accepted the invitation and sped over to the house.

Someone else wants to have our kid over to play giving us hours of freedom to sit and stare at the floor? (because that’s what parents do when the kids aren’t around)

We were elated.

We asked on the way over to repeat the name of the child as it wasn’t someone we had heard anything about.

In fact, this was the first mention of this particular friend or wanting to have a play date.

Still, our interest in floor staring outweighed all other options but as we arrived at the host’s home, something didn’t feel right.

It wasn’t any one thing, it was everything.

It was the angry dogs barking as we approached the walk-way. They were hunting us in a pack and their bite looked like it was going to be a lot worse than their bark. One of them growled, (in Kiefer Sutherland’s voice) “Get back in your mini-van….it’s really dirty by the way.”

It was the smell of someone smoking pot lingering in the air and while I didn’t actually see anyone in the act, it felt as though they were walking one pace behind me, just a split-second faster, trailing us while giving the dogs attack commands.

It was the broken glass on the lawn, the torn screens on the windows.
It was the make-shift bomb-shelter and the muffled screaming I could hear trying to escape. (Okay, I made up the part about the screaming but I’m not ready to rule out the possibility).

I know what you’re thinking, potato/patattah, tomato/tomata. (That works so much better when you say it)

Our gut instinct was to make up an excuse and leave which is exactly what we did.

What would you do?

I was taking Chloe to visit a friend and reminded her in the car, “Remember to use your best manners today Chloe.”

She said, “Why, are you leaving?”

It made me wonder if kids really do act differently when we aren’t around.

Chloe, our four year old often says unthinkable things when we’re within ear shot. I recently heard her ask an adult she barely knew, “Did you fart because your breath smells really bad?”

She says the kinds of things that make me want to crawl under the nearest rug, curl into a ball and tunnel myself to the closest exit.

But I’m not convinced she does any of these things when I’m not around.

Teachers, coaches and caregivers tell us, “Your J-Lo was a delight to teach” or “Pitbull is such a pleasure to have in class.”

Do your kids have an on/off switch?

So yesterday morning Chloe handed me a form and when I asked her what it was she said, “Oh, this is a paper you have to write your name on because it’s for people who don’t work very hard who can take our class to a dance.”

It was a permission form to go on a field trip.

Translation: What do you do all day anyway?

I guess it’s tough for the kids to get their heads around the idea of a parent who works from home (Dad) and a parent who works for home (Mom).

They see Dad get dressed in a suit with a phone in his hand and another wrapped around his ear. They hear him having heated debates and video conference calls and one day soon they might even hear the Caramilk secret slip out.

They see a Mom driving them to school and picking them, grateful not to be pressing “work pants” and puffy shirts, with no clue how to use the latest phone earpiece and possible traces of that same Caramilk bar lingering on her lips.

There are days when I think there simply isn’t enough time to get everything done I need to do and how on earth do women who work do it all? Then there are days when I ask myself, what the hell am I going to do all day?

I think the end result is a positive one for our family.

I am available to take the kids to their various activities. I can always go on class trips and volunteer at school when they’ll have me. I have time to plan meals and execute on some quinoa-infused (shhhh) recipes.

I may not work very hard but I can’t think of anything I would rather do than take my four year old to a dance.

Chloe is deathly afraid of the car wash.

I had no choice today. Nobody could see my license plate, I couldn’t tell if my lights were working and still, that old Ally McBeal episode plays in the back of my mind.

I took Chloe through the car wash, unbuckled her five point harness thinking she would end up in my lap as I tried to sooth her as the rainbow coloured foam pelted the windows.

As we pulled in and the wheel wells started to get sprayed, Chloe said, “Don’t worry Mommy, I’m not scared of the car wash anymore. I’m wearing my bear hat.” (pink, fleece hat with ears)

“Guess who’s doing the scaring now?”


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The older my kids get, the more involved they are in activities outside of just school.

Not that it’s “just school.” School is a priority (the priority) and sometimes we have to remind ourselves of that when we are being pulled away from the final bell towards stop watches and mesh netting.

I’m still surprised when I talk to other parents about activities their kids are in, hearing about different coaching techniques even though, there seems to be a recurring theme.

The coach who benches kids for missing a practice.

I’m not a coach, #I’mNotACoach, #IrepeatI’mNotACoach so I have no authority to even speak about the pros and cons of riding the pine, (even though I had a rather lengthy and intimate relationship with my high school volleyball bench. Ozzy and I still have our initials carved in it somewhere). I guess I just don’t know how benching a kid for enjoying different activities benefits anyone.

I know of a young girl who had a gymnastics competition on the same day as a hockey practice.

The hockey coach sat the girl for the entire next game as punishment for missing the practice.

I understand being benched if you are playing piano (because you’re already sitting on one) but public humiliation in front of your peers for participating in another sport on the same day doesn’t sit well with me.
Aren’t we all working together to raise well-rounded kids, keeping the doors open to try new things, learn new tricks and even play sports that compliment each other?

Doesn’t the threat of being benched also encourage kids to come to practice with tuberculosis?

I think we need to take a step back. We wouldn’t go into our place of work with the stomach flu for fear our employer would make us sit out of the next important meeting. If anything, missing work would result in more work.

Why not apply the same logic to sports? If you miss a practice, you have a little extra work to make-up.

No humiliation, no missing the game, just 3000 burpees for the athlete and their parents and everyone’s on the same page.

But I’m not a coach.

I had a conversation with a friend the other day that made me very aware of how I treat my kids and visiting friend’s kids when people are at our house.

I am guilty of sending the kids to “run along and play” after our guests have arrived, when I feel ample time has passed, we’ve all had a few nibblers, some light conversation and then I think it’s great for both the adults and the kids to spread out so I can display my collection of nude self portraits.

The kids can explore the house, the toys and the adults can engage in some meaningful conversation about how a bill becomes law while we show off our finest plastic trays.

But am I taking the kid’s feelings into account? They are part of this family aren’t they? They do live in this house with us. Why should they feel as though they’re not good enough or smart enough or gifted with the basket weaving skills required to hang out with the big peeps?

It’s a slippery slope. This weekend for example, I got the sense that a visiting child might have enjoyed playing in any other room with the kids her age so they could just be kids without the watchful eyes of all of the parents looming overhead.

I suggested to my kids they show their friend the dollhouse. The response was lukewarm at best. The kids preferred to have all-out access to the bowl of tortilla chips and guacamole that is usually closely monitored (pencil markings on the side of the bowl) and portions rationed. The rules related to all-things-avocado just fly out the window the minute guests arrive.

After a few minutes and a lot less chips, I told the kids to go down and play with all of the toys in the basement and show their friend around.

I think the kids ran away for three minutes and were back to lick the salt from the chip bowl before we started getting ready for our first course.

Gone are the days where the living room is roped off. Kids have all access passes to every room in the house. It’s part of being a family.
When I hear someone say, “The last thing I want when someone comes into my front entrance is to know kids live here,” it breaks my heart.

Times have changed.

I remember a family friend coming over when I was a kid and being politely nudged out of the room.

As much as we think the kids aren’t aware of how or why they are being banished, they’re smarter than we think.

Do you tell your kids to leave the room when friends come over?

Hair Net….

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I went to visit my Grandma in the hospital yesterday.

She has pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

She will be 92 in October.

I tried to keep the conversation light which was difficult with all of the yelling given the battery in her hearing aid had just died.

We talked about the weather. I must have mentioned and pointed excitedly every time the sun crept through the clouds as if there were fireworks outside.

We discussed the pressing issues; the ridiculous offer of a roast dinner for lunch vs. a sandwich. “Who in their right mind would choose a sandwich over a roast dinner?”

We talked about the hospital food, the busy nurses and what a good job they do all the while I tried to avert my eyes away from the copious amount of needles that seemed to have taken up permanent residence in her tiny arms.

As I sat talking with my Grandma, waiting for the sun to creep back into our conversation, I had to giggle at the universal feelings all women have when it comes to their hair.

The first thing my Grandma did after we arrived and woke her up was to reach for the top of her head, a primal instinct, primping herself for company. A woman tucked into her hospital corner sheets treats the presentation of her hair the same way a girl does on prom night.

She defaulted to her standard offering of food when guests arrive for a visit but had only an individual portion of Cracker Barrel cheese leftover from her breakfast to share.

The thing that blew me away was her feelings of embarrassment when it came to her hair.

She’s 92 years old. In the hospital for congestive heart failure and pneumonia. Her Granddaughter could think of nothing else to speak of other than the unpredictable patterns of the sun that day, but her biggest concern, above all else was where the nearest set of rollers might be hiding and if she could maybe use the shoe-cover-slippers to rig together a hair-net and get setting those perfect rings.

After the sun had set on our visit, we quietly said good bye, told Grandma we loved her and headed for the door but not before a tiny voice called after us, “And I barely have enough hair left to spoil a bowl of soup.”

Last week opened my eyes to something I haven’t given enough consideration.

My kids aren’t always the most responsible. Gasp.

Hanna left three different things in three different places at swimming.

Ellie left her best new sweatshirt at school.

I left my dignity at the eyebrow waxing place.

I started reading (that always gets in the way of my irrational approach to everything) about how we coddle our kids too much, we bail them out of situations when it threatens to be a tiny bit uncomfortable for them. The end result, we’re not doing our kids any favours.

Saturday at 5:30pm, Hanna went to look in her school bag for her home reading book–due to be completed by Monday.

I was proud of her for taking this assignment seriously, even getting ahead on the reading so she would have no problem finishing ahead of the deadline.

Unless of course she left the book in her desk at school.

My first reaction was to find the library phone number so I could zip out and pick up a copy of the book.
The library closed at 5pm and was also closed on Sundays.

Just an aside, our library is closed Mondays, lunch hours, rainy days, the eve of a full moon, days Starbucks offers samples and weekdays ending in “y.”

My second option was to try to buy an electronic copy of the book for her Kobo but for some reason The Birch Bark House is not available for ereaders. I’m sure this is for authenticity purposes and to remain true to the content taking place well before computers, following the lives of a family who eats beavers…..for dinner.

I did find the book, “Poachers, Beans and Birch Bark” but couldn’t convince her it sounded close enough.

Should I drive to Chapters and buy her a copy? I’ve already embarrassed myself there once this week stuttering my way through, “Do you have a copy of Gooney Goo Green Girls?”

I explained to Hanna that she would have to go to school on Monday unprepared for the discussion and hopefully learn a lesson from all of this.

If I continue to rescue my kids, they’ll never learn how to fend for themselves, face consequences and be accountable for their actions.

I know the poachers would agree.

If you have ever destroyed a perfectly good reusable, plastic container by poking a million tiny air holes in the lid so your child can collect grass, other backyard refuse, thinly sliced summer sausage and a disgusting house fly that they can monitor until their winged pet dies or the smell of rotting summer sausage forces you to move … might be a parent.

Now that I’m over waking up to nurse a hungry baby in the night, my sleeping habits have become much more routine and I am no longer trying to function on seventy-five, interrupted minutes of one-eye-open sleep while a little person in the house screams at me as though with a megaphone inserted directly into my ear drum.

It’s only now that I’ve had a couple of years of regular sleep I really start to notice when someone wakes up and how awful it is to try to function the next day if you’ve had a rude awakening.

Last night at 4am, Chloe (our 3 year old) walked into our room to ask me, “Mommy, do spiders make you shiver?”

Yes, they do Chloe…now and for the rest of the night I will be very aware that there might be a spider somewhere on my body and I will shiver uncontrollably. Thanks.

She went back to her bed willingly but I could hear her giggling the entire way. I think she may have even stood in the hall making spider shadow puppets on the wall just to mess with me.

I can’t wait for tonight. I’m going to sneak into her room and ask her if she heard the bat flying around and then make fire breathing dragon sounds from her closet.

Mwha ha ha.

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