Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Yesterday was one for the books.

I dropped my son off at daycare without incident. At this point, I should have returned home, crawled under the covers, and pretended not to realize it wasn’t a three-day weekend. Memorial Day is in May? Shit! I knew it was an M-month.

I drove approximately two feet towards work before noticing an angry red light on my console strongly suggesting I check my gage. I did so, only to discover my engine temperature was rocketing up towards a little picture of a volcano erupting. Crap. I’m no mechanic, but I believe that’s hot.

I pulled over to the side of the road, cursing my procrastinating ways and that for-emergency-use-only cell phone I’d been mulling over. The one I hadn’t gotten around to purchasing yet. You know the one.

I turned around and headed back home, pulling over every thirty seconds or so to let the molten lava indicator cool down. Several hours later, I arrived home. Nathaniel, beautiful fantastic hunk of a man that he is, flew to my rescue and replaced the engine thermostat, ecstatic that in my woman-driver ignorance I had not gunned a smoking hot engine, blowing it to smithereens. I had somehow overcome the conundrum of being both a woman and a driver and made him proud. I try.

Since the day was only half-wasted, I got back on the road (I just don’t learn, do I?!) and headed to work.

Shortly after arriving at the office, and only just after having explained for the trillionth time what had waylaid me, my phone rings. And…get this…I answer it! No! No I won’t ever learn! EVAAHHH! Mu-ahahahaha!

It was, of course, daycare. My son had…the runs (thanks, Grandma, your pc terms are still useful in polite society) and was…this part kills me…CRYING, they said. He just keeps crying, they said. Have you MET my son, I wanted to scream?! My cry-baby whiner of a pitiful mess? He cries! This is what he does! If he were NOT crying, I would be alarmed. For the squirts, however, and only for the squirts, shall I retrieve him.

Ever so grateful to have gotten an entire HOUR out of the day’s parking cost, I said good-bye to downtown and began my forty-five minute commute. Again.

My younger son seemed to be fine, other than his painful trips to the restroom. Poor thing. Once done, though, he would return to his usual not-listening, defiant self, so it couldn’t have been too serious. The daycare fare, perhaps? SLOPPY JOES for lunch, you say?? Hmmm.

After having picked up my older son from kindergarten, where he was told he couldn’t hand out the birthday party invitations we had painstakingly prepared for his two best friends if he didn’t have one for everyone (NINETEEN KIDS! I think not), we wrapped up the day with nary another blog-worthy incident.

Cut to the crack of dawn this morning, and Spence, my older son, throwing open our bedroom door to announce HE FEELS LIKE THROWING UP and crying his eyes out. Spence does not cry, as Jude does, so I was ready to pronounce it serious as hell, until my dear ailing boys began to fight tooth and nail over what movie to watch while they rested.

Spence, hands braced against the toilet tank, bent at the waist and staring at the water…”You know what REALLY makes me want to throw up?”

Stupid Me: “What, honey, what?”

Spence, with all the venom he could muster: “Blue’s Clues.”

Friday, February 27, 2009

Well I was all set to come on here and joyously announce that my younger son, Julian, having reached the mature age of three, had finally broken his annoying habit of using the restroom. You may think me an awful parent for saying as much, but I’d almost prefer to go back to diapers at this point. Allow me to illustrate.

Nighttime rolls around, and with it that odd human ritual of retiring to bed. I am no dummy; I have read many books. Routine is key, they say! Routine is essential. You’ve been spot-on so far, Dr. Spock, let’s go. And so the rounds of “good-nights” and the brushing of the teeth and the using of the restroom commence. In that order. Very important. Using the restroom (I dislike the word “potty” almost as much as the word “fart,” just not very phonetically pleasing in my opinion) is last, must be last, in this strictly-adhered-to bedtime routine. There must not be a drop existing in my dear boy’s bladder. Stay with me now…

March up to bed, hugs, tuck my baby in, kiss on forehead, exit stage left. These are my directives, and I follow them. I am no parenting fool. There will be no one to sue if I haven’t followed the instructions in the books to the letter and my kid is still screwed up.

Close the door, head downstairs, begin to spend quality time with my older son, who has spent the evening completely ignored while I tend to his little brother’s constant crying. This kid has cried a river, literally. Poor neglected Spence could be building a nuclear missile with his Elmer’s and Popsicle sticks for all I know. He is a very bright boy. You should probably watch how you speak to him.

Fast forward five minutes…at this point Spence is just getting to the good part of the Story of His Day, which is of course what his best friend had for lunch, when inevitably…cccrrreeeaaakkk…a door opens upstairs. This is also part of the bedtime routine, the part my youngest has so thoughtfully tacked on, this last struggle, because we haven’t had enough struggles throughout the day. Here we go.

Step, pause. Step, pause. Step, pause. The entire point of Getting Back Up is to avoid at all costs the falling asleep part, which must be terrifying surrounded by favorite stuffed animals and love. Really.

So he drags it out as much as possible, until I can’t take it anymore and yell JOOOO-LEEEE-AN! GET DOWN HERE! My teeth are already on edge at this point from the sheer anticipation of the frustration I know is in store. Damn it. Let’s get this over with.

He hurries down the stairs, avoiding eye contact because HE KNOWS I KNOW HE KNOWS I KNOW. There is no way his little body could possibly have manufactured more than two drops of urine in the past five minutes. This is physically impossible. However, I would have to call the Department of Human and Child Whatever-the-Hell-it’s-Called and turn myself in for piss-poor parenting (no pun intended) were I to deny him the right to use the restroom. I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in most states.

So into the restroom he goes. He pantomimes using it and returns, all doe-eyed and innocent, looking for what I am no longer offering at the three-year-old stage of the game…being tucked back into bed. No way, buddy. I am OVER this transparent attempt for attention. I have given you nothing but attention since you popped out of bed before the sun rose this morning. I have given and given and given of myself, and have nothing left in the parental coffers to negotiate with. And if I do, I’m giving it to Spence.

I direct him back upstairs with a point of my finger and a hard line of my mouth. No words are needed. We’ve played this game every night since he crossed that line into Big Boy Land. He is three freaking years old, no longer a baby, and I’m done.

He knows. His face has begun to screw itself up into that pitiful pout before my pointing arm is fully extended. I’ve rolled the dice on The Waterworks, and lost. It will take him a while to get up the stairs and back into bed himself, but the wait is worth it. The wait while he offers up pathetic fake crying from his bedroom (a long, long time) is also worth it. Because if Dr. Spock is worth his salt, this too shall pass. I simply must be an emotionless rock for the duration and not give in to the desire to make it momentarily easier on everyone and tuck him in again. That would solve nothing. He’d be coming home from high school, hanging up his car keys, and waiting for me to tuck him in. I have to draw the line somewhere.

Last night, dear Reader(s), we had reached a glorious summit. I was beginning to see the sunlight on the other side, just barely peeking around this gigantic freaking mountain we had finally scaled. I felt like a marathon runner, completely out of breath and patience, ready to drop from exhaustion, arms raised in a giant ‘V’ for victory. The boy went down, and…drumroll, please…stayed down. It was absolutely surreal. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. IT DIDN’T. Tears of joy barely kept in check, I hugged my older son and got back to that crazy little thing called My Life.

Two hours later, Julian crapped his pants in his sleep.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Although I'm sure all of you are more than capable of following a link, I feel absolutely driven to re-post Michael Ian Black's parenting advice in its glorious entirety, below. Such sage advice. I am blessed to have stumbled upon it.

Some Advice On Child Rearing

Although I usually don’t talk much about my personal life on this blog, I thought I would make an exception today because so many people write to me with questions about how to raise their children. As regular readers know, I have two children, Suri and Maddox, and they are, as one prominent child psychiatrist put it, “perfect.”

Raising perfect children is a combination of science and art. Some would argue that genetics also play a role, but that would give partial credit to the children themselves, which is nonsense. No, when raising perfect children, the credit belongs to the parent or parents who are actually doing the hard work of molding perfection from witless lumps of flesh; just as you wouldn’t credit the stone for Michelangelo’s “David,” nor should you credit the child for their own fortunate happenstance of being raised by me (and to a much lesser extent, my wife).

Question: how do I do it? How do I manage to maintain a busy professional and social life while simultaneously imparting all of my knowledge, grace, and humility to my offspring? Answer: with a big heart and a firm hand.

First, the tough stuff – punishment, because that’s what everybody wants to know. “How do I discipline my child in a safe and loving way?” Read on.

Now, I am not an advocate of corporal punishment because, frankly, it doesn’t work. When a child misbehaves, I never spank or hit that child. Instead, I follow our president’s lead – I use waterboarding. Now, obviously you don’t waterboard every time a child acts up because that would cause the punishment to lose its efficacy. Instead, you reserve “going swimming,” as I call it, for those occasions when the child has acted so egregiously (peeing on the toilet seat, leaving hand prints on the glass door) that you simply have no choice.

When most people hear the term “waterboarding,” they immediately think about what a small number of our interrogators did (or do) to a small number of high-value detainees at some of our nation’s detention facilities. And if you believe the liberal news media, you would think that this kind of treatment is beyond the pale. Well, I don’t know how they waterboard at Gitmo, but the way we do it at our house is to hold the child upside down, put a wet wash cloth over his or her mouth, pinch the child’s nose shut, and then pour a thin stream of water into the mouth. Believe me, this is not torture. If it was, it would be illegal, and as our president has made clear, this is within the bounds of the law. It’s just simulated drowning. The child is never in any actual danger, but it sure scares the pants off them!

That’s the key to punishing your children: make the punishment severe enough that it has the desired effect – namely, to get them to stop the behavior that got them punished in the first place! Trust me, time-outs only get you so far. Now, just the threat of being waterboarded is enough to get their attention. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I had to take out the washcloth.

(By the way, this particular form of punishment has in no way deterred the kids from actually going swimming. Suri and Maddox are both excellent swimmers and love going in the pool.)

But punishment is only one half of the equation when it comes to raising perfect children. The other, more important part is love. Love your children like the precious gifts they are. You know that old saying: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry?” This is especially true in the parent/child relationship. My children know I love them because I never apologize to them. This may sound odd, but it’s important to remember that, to a child, you are like the Mighty Zeus: all-powerful. When you apologize to your child, the fa├žade of infallibility crumbles and you look like just another schnook instead of a godhead. Be a godhead for your child.

Love also means doing stuff with your children. Stuff that both of you enjoy. Say your child loves horses. Take her to the horse track. That’s a good place to find horses. Or if your child loves baseball, take him to the horse track. That’s a sport, too. Maybe your kids love to cook. Great. Take them to the horse track. They have food there. You see? Of course if they don’t have a horse track where you live, that’s okay. You could go to the dog track.

Another piece of advice for anybody interested in raising perfect children: get an au pair. Au pairs are young girls from all over the world who come to the United States to study and learn about our culture. In exchange for a small stipend plus room and board, they agree to look after your children for up to forty five hours a week. That’s a lot of time that you don’t have to watch your kids! Maybe that sounds counterintuitive; after all, shouldn’t you spend as much time with your kids as possible? No, no, and no! The last thing you want is for your kids to take you for granted. The less they see of you the better. Plus, having an au pair means you get to have a young European girl living with you. Far out! There’s nothing like a little “cultural exchange” to keep parenting exciting. The kids learn a lot, and so do you.

Finally, make sure to tell your kids you love them every single day. This may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents neglect to tell their children these simple three words. I don’t know. Maybe they don’t love their kids as much as I love mine. That’s probably it. But even if your children aren’t as perfect as mine and you don’t love them that much, fake it. That way, they won’t be able to pull that “my parents never told me they loved me” crap so popular on therapist’s couches all over the country. I tell my kids I love them even when I’m giving them a simulated drowning. Why? Because it reinforces the idea that what they’re experiencing is their fault.

I could probably write a whole book about parenting perfect children, and one day I probably will. But if you follow the advice I’ve just given you for free, chances are your children will wind up just as perfect as mine. (I’m obviously exaggerating to make a point – your children will never be as perfect as mine. Not that it’s a competition. But if it was, your kids would lose.)

Posted by michael black on July 6, 2008 Permalink

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For more witty insight whilst you wait for my procrastinating ass to post something, anything, head over to http://www.michaelianblack.net/blog/ .

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

I attended the inauguration yesterday with my father (thanks Dad!) at a local theater projecting a live broadcast on the big screen. It was definitely a memorable experience. A sample of the crowd gathered on the Mall, we were of all ages, races, sex and creed. To leap to one's feet in the company of others moved as you are by an inspiring moment...priceless. To look around and realize you're not the only pathetic sap dabbing your eyes...invaluable. To witness a return to power of my beloved English language...a moment to cherish. I can hardly wait to tell my sons the story of when wonderfully intelligent words in the proper context made Mommy's heart sing.

My favorite part had to be when Yo-Yo Ma & Co. were playing and Obama looked out over the sea of faces upturned to his. The sheer magnitude of the responsibility was profound. All of these people are expecting you to lead them to the Promised Land. It's funny, though, he doesn't get up behind that podium and say, Tomorrow I will fix all your problems. He is masterful in his ability to take stock of our situation and say, This isn't working. This is going to be hard, we will have to change, this will be hard, so much work to be done, this will be hard. And we listen and say, Ok. Yes. And amen.

Something my aunt once told me has stayed with me...Things are going to be what they are. You can be happy, or you can be sad, but things are what they are. She was brilliant in her simplicity. What is today, simply is. What we may control is our reaction, our emotion. We are in the same position we were when we rolled out of bed yesterday, but the difference today is...hope. Sometimes that's all you need.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy New Year!! Now bugger off, '08, who needs ya. You bent us over and left us crying in the corner. The good news is that there's nowhere to go but UP from here, loveys!

I'm happy to report we've survived the holidays, a little worse for the wear but intact. If only the gosh-darned weather would let up, we could recover fully from the deluge of illnesses sunny Ohio has to offer. Tell her what she's won, Bob! It's a brand-new case of strep!! Twice so far this season, but who's counting? And to top it off, another foot of snow greeted us Saturday morning. The kids said, SNOW! Oh my gosh, can you believe it, look at all the wonderful, packable, sled-able, sparkling fresh SNOW! Yaaaayyyy...and I felt like screaming.

A bright spot on the horizon, however, is that blessed holiday after the holidays...Tax time! 2009 ushers us in with a little money slipped in the back pocket and a whispered promise of spring just around the corner. I'm wondering what this year has in store for us? I'm feeling very hopeful, with My Main Man moonwalking into the White House. 2009, if nothing else, heralds the return of intelligence and a firm command of the English language to power. You go boy.

In other news, dear Spence's vacation from school has ended, and mine ends on the 20th. He returns with barely-concealed jubilation at the prospect of learning again! I return with a slightly more subdued, if realistic, outlook. I did receive straight A's on my first semester. You'd think if I was so smart, though, I'd know better than to set the bar so damned high. What the hell, Cera.

Julian is growing like a weed. He still, however, insists on whining and crying his way through every obstacle. He's almost three, for crying out loud (literally), when will it end? We're doing everything right, or according to the experts, I should say, encouraging the hell out of his vocabulary and discouraging these endless tantrums. I have this recurring nightmare where I'm attending his high school graduation and he throws down his diploma in mid-step and begins flailing his arms and crying about his untied shoelace...Lord help me.

Sumbitch! Look-a like-a time to go! Wishing you the best in '09, dear Reader(s),
I remain faithfully,
Cera

Thursday, October 30, 2008

I apologize to those who've already seen this and/or were completely pissed off that my main man comandeered the major networks like he did. I post this for those like myself, who have had to cut cable in order to keep the heat on this winter. Rabbit-ears reception don't do the man justice. For those who are struggling, like us, watch. For those who see only the color of his skin...close your eyes and listen.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Exciting news...Spence has lost his first tooth! While on a field trip to an orchard with his class yesterday, he bit into an apple and lo and behold...that wiggly son of a gun just popped right out. I was under the impression these things didn't start happening 'til later, a couple of years maybe, but what the hell do I know. The adult tooth has already emerged, formidable white ridges rising above the gumline, so clearly it is time and I'm an uninformed idiot. I'm losing my grip on my defense mechanism of denial. He's growing up before my eyes, against my fervent wishes for him to remain small and needy and cuddly. Of course we still cuddle. I reserve the right to cuddle my son to my dying day, gangly and independent as he may grow. ADULT teeth, ladies and gentlemen, we are entering a strange new world here, despite my firmly planted heels and eyes squeezed shut against reality.

In other news in The Land of Brazen Independence, Julian is completely potty-trained. STOP THE INSANITY. Of course I don't mourn the loss of diaper money each week, but I do wistfully remember his needing me more. Now he trots off to answer the call of duty all on his own while I sit like a bump on a log. I'm probably the only parent on the freaking planet who is complaining about this, and don't get me wrong, I certainly don't miss lugging supplies all over creation or the smell of opening a freshly created present, I'm just saying...They don't NEED me. Luckily they still like me, and will keep me around for the moment.

School is going well, both for Spence and myself. I'm a straight-A student! I can say this because I've completed exactly one class and have earned an A in this, the easiest hey-dummy-this-isn't-high-school orientation class. The other two classes I'm taking this semester may reveal more about my scholastic aptitude when my true report card comes out in December. One semester down, 10 billion to go. This is going to take me foooreeeeveeeerrrr...

And Spence landed himself a ticket into a gifted reading class with his phenomenal assessment scores. Clearly things have changed since my elementary school days...He's already had his first offer of boyfriend-hood from a chicky-poo. A brainiac nerd outcast he is definitely not. Alas, the girl in question has been labeled a "potty-word" girl by my young Price Charming and let down easily. We simply don't associate with people who use potty words. We shan't, lovey, we simply shan't.

If I'm boring you to tears, hold on, it's almost over.

To those like myself, cringing at the thought of the long harsh winter spent pent up indoors, I would like to recommend...drumroll please...karaoke. Get out, have a couple of drinks with friends, and SING YOUR HEART OUT. I can't tell you what an effective stress-reliever it is to stand up and belt out those feelings. Try it!