Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Beware of the Baby Bear

When someone gets hurt at Emma and Allison’s daycare, the child is given a piece of ice wrapped in a paper towel or a sterile glove. So, when the girls get hurt at home, often they want to get one of the ice packs out of the freezer. The ice is rarely used for long. The mere presence of it seems to sooth them ~ or at least provides acknowledgement of their injury.

Last night, Emma twisted her ankle while dancing to a song and saying, “Mommy, can you do this?” Danny got her the pink kitty ice pack. Wouldn’t you know it, one of Allison’s boo boos from the other day started to hurt, too. When Danny went to get her some ice, Emma asked for the blue ice pack instead. It wasn’t long before she didn’t want it any more. After she gave it to me, I stuck it under her shirt. She didn’t appreciate this until after I did the same thing to Ally and Ally giggled.

After I put the ice on Emma’s neck so that she could giggle, I told her to “Go get Daddy.” Emma ran over there and put the ice pack on his back. He squealed and giggled and told Emma to “Go get Mommy.” When she didn’t, he ran over to me and put it down my shirt. It was a fun little game, but my reaction must have led Allison to believe that Danny had hurt me. She became very upset and told Danny to stop hurting me. She wasn’t in his face wagging her finger at him, but all of that was implied in her tone. We didn’t take this too seriously right away. She doesn’t like anyone to touch me that much. Danny and I can’t hug or talk in her presence without her trying to stop us. Even after we said that it was just play, she laid down on the couch and was very sad. It took a good deal of explaining and reassurance for her to feel better about what happened. Emma and Danny kept icing each other to help prove the point.

Momma Bear’s Baby Bear is a spunky one. She lets you know exactly what she thinks. It doesn’t matter if you are her parent, sibling, teacher, or friend. You will hear from her if you piss her off. If you start a fight, she’ll finish it. I wouldn’t mess with her Momma if I were you.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Momma Bear

I am not what anyone would consider a confrontational person. Every personality test I’ve taken has indicated that I am a supportive person who finds consensus more valuable than fighting for my point of view. I am a Libra for crying out loud. My dad simply summed it up at one point by telling me that I am a “pleaser.”

That’s not the case when it comes to my children. We went to a birthday party at a local kids’ party place that is filled with giant bouncer equipment. My kids really enjoy themselves there. All of the children were running around going from one piece of equipment to the other. At one point, Allison was climbing in when a six or seven year old boy climbs right over her to get in first. I can’t be certain that he heard me, but I yelled at him to be careful of the littler children. Allison wasn’t hurt, but I decided to keep my eye on him. Later on, Emma, Allison and I were alone in the basketball bouncer. This child, we’ll call him Zack, came inside. The very first thing he did was try to shoot baskets that just so happened to be aimed at Emma or Allison, not the basket. I told him again that he needed to be careful. When the next shot hit Emma on the top of the head, I started using a tone of voice that the girls instantly recognized. They stood back. I told him to apologize to Emma for hitting her. When he smiled and said that it was just an accident, I told him that if he tossed a basketball anywhere near one of the girls again that I would bring him to one of the staff members personally to tell them what was going on. As it was, I was tempted to drag him out right then and there. I guess that he was smart enough to leave on his own two legs while he still could.

Since I work so closely to the daycare, when I drive to the other building or to Taco Bell to get a late lunch, I often get the pleasure of seeing Emma playing outside. Today, Emma was running away from Lexie and another Emma. I smiled until I realized that there must have been a reason that she was running away. Based on the way she batted them away when she reached the fence, they probably said something to hurt her feelings. Anyone who knows Emma knows that it is not difficult to hurt those feelings. Still, I wanted to stop my car and get out and find out what was going on. If it was something more than that, I would have some heads (extremely figuratively – these are four year olds, not smartass pre-teen boys named Zack).

If either of those things happened to me – and I know that they have many times, I wouldn’t respond at all. I wouldn’t get angry or be assertive to defend myself. But don’t you dare mess with my babies! This is a typical reaction of mothers across many if not most of the species populating this planet. You protect your young because they are your future. It’s a smart and brilliant instinct.

Now that I know that I have it in me to pounce if I have to, I think I’m going to practice it for myself. Those bastards that have been trying to drag me down had better watch their backs! I’d name them here, but I think I’ll keep the element of surprise and enjoy it.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Slander and Libel Begins at Home

For quite some time now, Emma has been calling Allison “baby” or “Allycat” when she is mad at Ally or otherwise wants to get a rise out of her. Allycat is actually one of Allison’s nicknames, but for some reason, Emma’s not allowed to use it. Either baby or Allycat does the trick and has her crying that she’s not a baby or she’s not an allycat. You would think that Ann Coulter was in the house or something. The fact is, that Emma’s been able to get away with this more or less because Ally hadn’t learned the fine art of name-calling. As of yesterday, that has all changed.

I can’t recall what the argument was over yesterday, but it probably had to do something with a blanket or some other baby doll accessory. I was in the dining room and Danny was in the kitchen. When she’d had enough of Emma, Ally called her “Emma Booby.” Danny and I busted out laughing. We both knew that we should never laugh at name calling but we couldn’t help it. It hit us out of the blue and we could do nothing but laugh. We calmed down as quickly as we could and sent Allison to time out. Later that evening, however, Allison shouted “Emma Booby” in the living room again. We were prepared this time and thankfully didn’t laugh. Ahh. The things kids invent to call each other. I’m hoping that Ally heard another child use the word “booby,” but I wouldn’t be shocked if she came up with that one on her own.

Thus far, Emma hasn’t gotten upset yet. Ally’s been punished both times. Emma’s got such a sensitive spirit. It won’t take long before Allison has her crying uncle in the slander and libel department.

This got me thinking about the things my siblings and I called each other growing up. If I remember correctly, “poopbutt” was a favorite. It’s hilarious to think about now, but it sure hurt our feelings at the time. Do you care to share the words you used to defile your sibling’s names? I’d love to hear what else is out there.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Desert Flowers

Recently, both girls have been playing Mommy a lot. They love their babies, ask Danny and me to baby sit and help calm down a crying baby, change, dress, and even put them to sleep. As a sign of how mature she’s getting, last weekend Emma spent a good two and a half hours quietly caring for Kelsey and Alicia, her two babies. I’m sure that for Emma that some of this playacting is due to our recent visit with Aunt Donielle and her new cousin, Heidi. Still, a vast majority of the time she’s had to learn how a mother behaves and loves her children has come from her life with me. Based on what I’ve witnessed, I’ve done a decent job teaching them how to be a mommy. I also know that Danny has done a bang up job of teaching them how to love one another. Parenting skills, after all, are taught by both parents.

Allison has been increasingly more vocal about her love for me over the past month or so. She’ll come up out of nowhere and tell that she loves me. I can’t tell you how endearing that is. She tells me just about everyday, in referring to the trip to Chicago that she likes her “Mommy at home.” She comes up and asks specifically for a kiss and a hug. I absolutely love it. Sometimes as a parent I lament stages that Emma and Allison have grown out of. What I keep forgetting is that moving on means that bigger and better things are on their way. As much as I miss cuddling her to sleep, she couldn’t tell me that she loved me or wanted me to be at home with her.

Sometimes I also feel like I’ve been a less than adequate mother to my girls, especially during those long, dark days that aren’t all that far away in history. But Emma and Allison’s recent expressions of love for me and their love for their baby dolls feel to me like a sign that maybe I wasn’t as terrible of a parent that I thought I was. Also, children are surprisingly resilient creatures. They have an ease with forgiving and letting go that we seem to lose as adults. It’s as if they can see that adults are not perfect and accept that fact at face value. Perhaps if I looked at our every day lives in this way I would be more patient and much slower to anger when they act their age or try to assert their independence.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could create a contract for parents and children to sign at the beginning of their relationship?

I, [insert parents’ names here], will not expect you to act like a smaller version of me. I will keep in mind that you do not come with the full ability to handle situations and emotions effectively. I will do my best to remember what it was like to be your age and how it felt to explore my sense of humor, my creativity, and my boundaries. I will be patient as you learn. I will step back when I need to step back and I will forever champion you in what you do.
I, [insert child’s name here], will not expect you to be perfect. I will learn to forgive your faults, impatience, and distance by watching you forgive me when I spill fingernail polish on my beautiful toy box, run around the house with messy hands after eating, and preferring to enjoy my independent being, my siblings, and my friends by pushing my limits. By seeing, accepting, and loving your despite your imperfections, I will learn to accept and love myself when I fall short of my own expectations.

The problem with such a contract is that the parent/child relationship is entered with rose-colored glasses. Unfortunately, it is inevitable that soft, strong, and secure safety net that parents provide from birth will grow course, loose its flexibility, and develop holes over time. It’s not meant to be permanent in the first place. Similarly, our children will begin to do everything they can to ignore, work around, and tear and cut away at that safety net much sooner than we expect and can feel comfortable with.

As a parent it appears that I am my own harshest critic. It is equally true that my beautiful, gregarious daughters recognize, accept, and trust me as I am making positive changes in my life. They were not the cause of my own journey through the desert of my heart and soul, but they suffered from the heat, famine, and loneliness. I am working as hard as I can to be the mother they need me to be from here on out. Hopefully during the process they will learn that even in the desert there is beauty to be found if only you look.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

52 Books Or Bust

I just wanted to let everyone know that I fixed the link to 52 Books or Bust. You can actually get to it now if you are interested.

Our Trip to the Windy City Was a Breeze!

Knowing that Heidi had been born made Emma and me want to get there as soon as we could. Thankfully our drive to Charlotte (Emma only mentioned how long the drive was 50 times during the 2 hours and 45 minutes) and our two flights went smoothly. The only thing that I could kick myself about was that I forgot to bring a camera. I didn't get any pictures of Emma at the airport or on the plane. If this weren't a family blog, I'd have a few choice words to say to myself.

Peter picked us up at the airport with Sophia sleeping in the car. Getting Emma to sleep that night was a chore, but once she was out, she was out. Unfortunately, Sophia was sick and wasn’t in the mood to do anything but be held. Emma was so excited to play with her. Thankfully, when Donielle came home Sunday afternoon Emma had someone else to concentrate on.

On Sunday evening, Emma and I also got to visit with my parents and my sister, Meridith. It was so nice to see so many members of my family. Emma had been looking forward to seeing Grandpa just as much as the baby and Sophia. Heidi was universally loved and adored by all. Isn’t that a surprise.

Once the Motrin kicked in for Sophia, she was up and running. It didn't take long for Emma and Sophia started to play and become fast buddies. Yes, they argued over toys, but Emma usually could be convinced to make Sophia happy. I told her I knew how hard it was to be the biggest. Everything seemed to be so unfair. We bonded about that. Sophia was so excited about Emma that Emma became the first person she called by name: Memma. It is so darn cute.

On Tuesday I took Emma and Sophia to the Brookfield Zoo. It was nippy outside, but the girls really seemed to enjoy seeing all of the animals. I have to admit that I was bored to death at zoos when I was a child, but I love seeing Emma’s reactions. It makes me excited to see the animals, too. Emma’s favorite animals were the cheetahs and the polar bear. Mine was the male lion. I’d never seen one before. We were so close to it that you actually were able to appreciate how huge and beautiful they are.

Tuesday Peter and I took the girls to the Shedd Aquarium (Curarium in Emma-speak). Emma and I paid to see the dolphin show and it was so wonderful. I love to watch the dolphins porpoise across the water. The finale of the show was having the four dolphins jump in unison four times in a row. It was very exciting. I think that we could have spent a full day there and still would have wanted to explore. We got to see the beluga whale and the baby born in July. We sang “Baby Beluga” a couple of times. People might have given us funny looks, but we were so happy that we didn’t notice.

After the aquarium closed Peter took us to China Town to eat. I’ve never been to China Town before. Even the Walgreens nearby had Chinese wording on its sign. It was very interesting. Peter took our pictures in front of our animals and then we ate a wonderful dinner. Peter tried to get me to eat things that I wouldn’t normally eat. At least I picked a type of pork dish that I’ve never had before. We both missed Danny and Allison a lot while we were gone. We made sure to bring back some lip gloss and a baby penguin animal for Allison. Still, it was sad to leave Donielle and Peter’s beautiful family, too. It was even sad for me to leave Chicago. There is so much to do and experience there. It makes me long to live in a bigger city. I’ll just have to be sure that we plan a family vacation there someday.