Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A Penny for Your Thoughts...

I made a point, from day one, to never "baby talk" to my daughters. I spoke to them like they were adults even before they uttered their first word.* I'm used to the weird looks shot in my direction when I use four syllable words with people under the age of four. I love words and I wanted them to know as many as possible. Once S reached the age of three, I discovered the joy of conversation with little kids. They want to tell you everything. They are forming opinions and making observations. They try to be as descriptive as possible. They are figuring out our language and how to use it. When my girls say a word incorrectly, I'll tell them the correct pronunciation. But, I'm not going to lie. I LOVE it when kids mess up words. It's adorable and funny. I don't encourage it but I do try to remember it so I have funny stories to share later.

Here are a few of S's (age 2) Greatest Hits:

You can't hug a "porky nine" mama. They have "stickies" that pinch you.

Look at the "Squeal!"

Is that a chicken frog?!

I have to use the "Toe-Let."

Don't you be mad to me!

As of this past Sunday, B (3 months shy of age 3) started a real conversation with me. Before then, I could only pick out a few words and most of the time, she was asking for something, rather than telling me something. But, Sunday, while watching a baseball game on the television, B launched into a 20 minute conversation about what she saw on the screen and I understood every word:

B: That guy hit the ball with the stick because that guy threw the ball to the guy with the stick because they like to play the baseball.
Me: Who hit the ball?
B: Look mama! Did you see? That guy over there threw the stick and run over there because he hit the ball with the stick because that guy with the hat on his head threw the ball...

It was a 20 minute "Who's on First?" reenactment. I loved it.

B also started saying things like:
I love popsicles. They are "de-wishes"

What's that smell? That's disgusting!

Can you open the "re-frid-gator" door for me?

B also started the "why" phase this weekend. S never really asked "why" when she was younger, but then S is more a rule follower. B is more rebellious and questions my authority all the time. I try to truthfully answer B's why's as much as possible. Sometimes, it seems as though she is not listening to my answers so I'll mess with her a little:

Me: Go brush your teeth, B.
B: Why?
Me: Because you need clean off all the food bits from your teeth.
B: Why?
Me: Because you want sparkly and healthy teeth, don't you?
B: Why?
Me: Because if you don't, your teeth will rot and fall out of your mouth. You'll never be able to chew your food ever again and the tooth fairy does not bring quarters for rotten teeth. Capisce?
B: Capisce.

I've tried playing the "why" game with her but she usually wins the first round and I just give up.

Me: Why did you jump off the back of the couch again?!
B: It's fun.

Me: Why are you wide awake at 3am again?!
B: I'm done sleeping.

Me: Why don't you want to use the potty?!
B: I like my diaper.

Me: Why do you eat chalk, crayons and the occasional rock?
B: It's yummy!

Me: Why do you put pencils in my water glass?
B: They were thirsty.

I'm a chatter box. I admit it. I am also very animated when I get into telling my stories. I hope my girls embrace their storytelling gene. They come from a long line of boisterous yarn spinners. Unfortunately, S is starting to get into trouble for talking too much during class. I understand the challenge of keeping quiet. There you are, emotionally invested in the intricate set up of your story and the teacher interrupts you right before the apex to continue her lesson. So, instead of "pulling cards" when she talks during class, I'm trying to channel her need to share stories into journaling. If she has a story to tell, I ask her to wait until she is at home and write it down. Then you can share it when people are ready to listen.

Perhaps that's why I started a blog.

*S's first word was "Dada." Second was "shoe." Third was "Mama." B's first word was "Mama." I stopped keeping track of B's words after 'Mama." That's the only word that counts, amiright?!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Kids: Cage vs. Free Range

I love my kids. They are super wonderful little human beings. The hub and I made them. I think we did a pretty good job. I enjoy hanging out with my kids and teaching them stuff. I think my kids are very good looking. I think they are smart and witty. My kids make me laugh a lot. My kids are smart asses and I like that quality. My kids are compassionate and loving. I'm going to be honest with you. I love my kids more than your kids. Please, don't be offended. I'm pretty sure you love your kids more than my kids. I'm sure you believe your kids are the coolest, smartest, most awesome human beings on the planet. I bet there are a few people who would agree with you. But even then, I bet they are glad your kids go home to your house instead of their house at the end of the day.

I think one of the hardest things for a parent to comprehend is the fact that some people don't really want to be around your kids. To you, your child is the best thing ever and you love being around them. That is good. You are supposed to think that... I think it has something to do with biology or keeping you from eating your own young or something. For the most part, others can agree with you. Your child is cute and it's pretty cool that he can do whatever he did on that video that you posted on YouTube. The problem is when parents are so enamored with their own children that they become blind to the fact that their children are not perfect. Their children can act up and be loud, rude, gross, smelly, mean, or weird. They might not see it, but the rest of the world does. I know that my eldest daughter, S, is crazy sensitive and emotional. She also has a flare for the dramatic and everything is a crisis.  My younger daughter, B, is a dare devil monkey with a temper. She is also a bull in a china shop and gets into everything. Both have little patience and nag a lot. They are unpredictable and sometimes blow up despite my best attempts to defuse them. See: How to Defuse a Bomb. I know this very well. It still hurts to hear it come from other people. No one wants to hear that their kid is not perfect or that their presence is undesirable.

I'm not sure if this is new or I'm just aware of it now that I'm a parent of young kids but I'm hearing that more and more businesses are not putting up with screaming babies anymore. Airlines are kicking cranky kids off of flights. Restaurants have kid-free hours or nights or are seating families with children as far away as possible from kid-free patrons. People sans kids are getting tired of our kids being everywhere and want public places to offer kid-free zones, similar to the smoking and non-smoking sections of yore. Believe it or not, I am okay with kid-free zones in certain public places. Yes, I think there should be rules about dining out with children under the age of 4. When I am out on a date with the hub, the last thing I want to hear is your Little Billy screaming his head off at the next table over. We go on dates to get away from our kids. We didn't want to be around yours. I've only been a parent for six and a half years. I still remember what it was like NOT to be a mom.

Now before anyone starts with, parents are people too, I don't have the luxury to get a babysitter every time I go out, or babies cry and sometimes there is nothing we can do about it, or stop being an ageist,  please understand, I am in your shoes. Hear me out because I think I have a pretty good argument here:

If public places like restaurants* offered kid-friendly sections or kid-free times, then:

  • Parents could relax knowing they were not being judged by the sans-kid patrons if they are in a section for kids or they are there when kids are welcome. So what if your kid is singing the Barney theme song on repeat at full volume if you are among other families? These are your people. They understand you and your situation. They have more patience and therefore, can tolerate a little more noise than your average sans-kid person. You don't have to spend your dinner-out pleading with your child to sit down or be quiet. You don't have to be embarrassed when your kid proudly announces they have to poop mid meal. But most importantly, you can have more choices in restaurants. You won't be shunned to family friendly restaurants only, where the staff wears pieces of flair and every dish comes with french fries. 
  • It turns the tables on the sans-kids people who are very vocal about banning kids from public places. They can't complain about your kids if they don't have to be around them. If you don't like being around my kids, then sit in the kid-free zone. Or don't come on nights where we are allowed to be here. It gives us parents some leverage in the Should You Take your Kids Out debate.
  • If you are going out on a date without your kids, you can go to kid free-places or sit in the kid-free zone and enjoy being totally kid-free. It would be like the time you finally moved from the kids' table to the main table for Thanksgiving dinner. Remember how cool that felt? That feeling could be yours again.

I don't remember going out much when I was a child. I think my parents knew my two sisters and I were a bit too unstable for the structured adult world. My sisters and I would get into heated debates about seating arrangements or if one sibling was breathing on or looking at or touching the other. One of us would throw a tantrum or have "an accident." I grew up with the understanding that there are kid places and there are grown-up places. If you embarrassed your parents by misbehaving whilst in a grown-up place, it was pretty much guaranteed that you would never see the inside of a grown-up place again. That stuck with me. That's why the hub and I don't take the girls out very much. I don't want to be THAT mom with THAT screaming kid sitting next to you. I don't want to have to worry about what it looks like to other people when B is crawling under the table or crying because I won't allow her to run around the restaurant or look at the fish tank by the hostess station while we are eating dinner. I can try to restrain her or distract her, but once B figures out that she can't get her way, she throws a tantrum. (We're still working with her on that... ah, the lovely terrible two's.) So knowing there is a good possibility that she will act up in a public place, I often chose not to put her in that situation. But, I am also not a hermit and I need to get out sometimes and I don't always have a babysitter. My girls love sushi and other exotic cuisine but most of those places are too nice for my kids right now. If a nice restaurant offered kid-friendly seating, we'd probably go out more. Until then, it's either take out, date night, or wait for the girls to mature some more.

Kids are really getting a bad rap and maybe because we don't see them for what they are... newbies to society. We are taking them to nice sit down restaurants and movie theaters** so we can enjoy all the things we used to do before we had kids. Maybe, they are not ready to be everywhere just yet. Maybe we have not taught them enough etiquette to handle the adult sector of the world.  Or maybe we have and they are just not old enough to remember to use that etiquette when they are in an exciting new place. They are still learning the rules of the road. There are a lot of rules, too. (I assume everyone is trying to teach those rules to their children. One can hope.) But, honestly, how are children going to understand the rules of the road if they are not allowed on the road? At least give them training wheels to the adult world. Not every restaurant is a Chuck E. Cheese and introducing your child to the adult world is part of raising a well rounded person but it shouldn't be at the expense of other people's enjoyment. So having kid friendly areas and times at nice places could be part of the transition from your dining room table to the restaurant table. Once your child is accustomed to fine dining rules, they can move over to the general public area. If more people witnessed well mannered children in public, I believe the general public would be more accepting of little people and might actually like your kids as much as you do. Hey, it could happen.

* When I say "restaurants," I mean fancy sit-down places that are not advertised as family friendly. If they do not immediately offer crayons and a kid's menu when you are seated, it is a fancy restaurant. If you decide to take your date to a family friendly restaurant like IHOP or TGI Fridays, you've pretty much forfeited the right to bitch about being around other people's kids. 

**An R-rated movie is no place for a baby. Period. If you can't find a babysitter, you'll just have to wait for the DVD. If you do bring a baby into an R-rated movie, just know that everyone already hates you and your child. They will think you are a lousy parent. You probably shouldn't bring a baby to a bar, either. It's just tacky.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Babies are Cool, I Guess...

Something must be in the water because everyone around me is having a baby. Babies, babies everywhere! All I see are beautiful baby pictures on facebook. I love looking at baby pictures. But, I've noticed that something strange happens to me every time I see a baby. I feel a wave of exhaustion roll over me and I swear my ovaries shrink a little. I am done having babies. I had two. Two is enough for me. It's not that I don't like kids. Kids are great. I love kids. I'm not keen on babies ages 0 to 24 months. Babies are little and cute. They are also scary and breakable and lousy conversationalists. Babies cry and won't tell you what is causing them to feel sad or angry. Are they hungry? Are they tired? Are they injured? Maybe it's gas. Who the hell knows?! Babies stress me out. My babies really put me through the ringer and I now know I could not handle the infant/toddler stage again.

You would think by now, I would be comfortable with babies since I'm a mother of two. I thought I was pretty good with babies after my first daughter, S, was born. S was a good baby. Good Babies are not the same as Angel Babies. Angel Babies sleep through the night almost immediately, never cry, never get sick, and makes your Good Baby look like Rosemary's baby. Good Babies challenge you just enough to make you believe you can handle parenting. Good Babies might have a few little quirks that cause a parent to worry for a little while. S would only sleep in her swing, had eczema, light food allergies, and chronic ear infections her first year. Other than that, she was pretty easy going. After a year or two with your Good Baby, you look at your partner and say, "Look at our Good Baby. We did a good job with our Good Baby. I think we know what we are doing as parents. Let's have another baby. I'm sure it will be a Good Baby." That is when you have a Demon Baby. My second daughter, B, had colic for about 6 months. From 7pm to 11pm every night, she screamed like a banshee. Her sleep schedule was (and still is) erratic. B has two moods... monkey and angry monkey. If B was born first instead of S, B would have been an only child. B was Rosemary's baby. B ruined babies for me. I'm glad B is not a baby anymore.

But, I do like kids. I think kids in general are pretty damn cool. Funny kids, sweet kids, naughty kids, loud kids, rough kids, smart kids, quiet kids, and talented kids all have something to give to this world. They all have something to give to us, adults. I've made list of some of my favorite things about having a kid around. This is not the kids love you unconditionally, hugs and kisses and smoochy poo stuff. This is the other stuff... the cool stuff I discovered once my babies became kids.

  • Halloween candy - As an adult, it is your job to quality check your kid's Halloween candy stash every year. Sometimes you snag a Snickers or Reese's Peanut Butter Cup in the process. Score! You also have to eat the treats left out for Santa. In our house, Santa gets cookies and beer. You have to play along... for the kids.
  • Young kids think you are awesome if you are better than them at something (as long as that something is cool). Here are some examples: If you save the princess in Super Mario Bros on your old school Nintendo, can draw something without tracing, know some sports stats, throw a Frisbee in their general direction, are able to pluck a chord or two on an electric guitar, stay on your old skate board for a few seconds... dude, to a little kid, you rule so much.
  • Kids are funny. Just sit down with a pre-schooler and start up a conversation about anything. Kids can be incredibly perceptive and witty. If you ask them a question about how something works or why something is the way it is and they don't know the real answer, kids just make stuff up. The best part is, they completely stand behind what they say. Ask a kid where babies come from and prepare for a good laugh. 
  • Kids take idioms literally.
  • Kids want to help you all the time. They want to feel like they are an important part of the family. They want to help cook or wash the car. Kids also love getting stuff for their parents, whether it's handing you tools while you're fixing something, rushing to grab an emergency roll of toilet paper for you because you realized you were out after it was too late, or a beer from the fridge. Take advantage of this while they are still interested in helping. Also, it's not child labor if they want to help.
  •  Kids make up songs all the time. Sometimes I feel like I live in a musical when the kids are cleaning up their toys, coloring pictures, or taking a bath. Kids also mess up the words to popular songs. This offers a great deal of comic relief in my home.
  • Want to get 100% honest opinions on your outfit, make up, hair style, or new hipster eyeglasses? Ask a kid. Warning: Not for the thin skinned. Kids tell it like it is. Adults are not always so honest. There's fine print in adult world - not so much in kid world. If a kid says you're cool, you're cool. If not, you might want to check yourself. 
  • You can relive your childhood! Toy companies are bringing back our old toys and cartoons from the 80's. They call it retro. Retro? Yes, retro. (I'll give you a moment to process that.) Break out your old Transformers, GI Joe, Strawberry Shortcake, or My Little Ponies and show off your rad collection to your kid. You can watch your favorite Saturday morning cartoons. I was so stoked the first time S watched an episode of Fraggle Rock. No, you don't have to have a kid or be around a kid to enjoy your old toys and cartoons, but I think it's neat to see another generation geek out on the things you loved as a child.

To all my pals with new babies:

Congratulations!  You did it! You are now a parent. Here is my unsolicited advice on parenting. It's okay if you are scared. It's okay that you don't know what you are doing half the time. It's okay to question why you ever thought procreating was a good idea and that you could totally handle it when you are up at 3am with a screaming baby. We might not like to admit it, but every parent has moments of doubt and frustration... avoid conversations with parents who never admit doubt and frustration. Have a glass of wine when the colic stops for the night. Enjoy the moments when your baby is doing something cute, like sleeping. Trust your gut. Take a lot of pictures and be sure to backup your picture files so you don't lose them if your computer crashes... twice. Yes, your baby will not be a little baby for long and that might make you feel sad. The good news is, your baby will become a kid and kids are more fun (see list above). During the rough times... and there will be rough times... try to find the humor in it all. There are a lot of laughs to be had. And most of all, please remember that you'll be fine... I promise.