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It’s 2018! Doing my part to make it less of a dumpster fire than 2017!

by SweetMidlife

We wish you a Happy New Year!

 

Happy 2018, ya’ll! This is Leslie, who is sitting at Lynne’s kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a whole lot of grandiose plans about what I’m definitely going to and not going to do over the next 12 months.

This is largely speculative nonsense.

There is no way that we can say exactly what we’re gonna do in the future because we don’t control it. Stuff happens – death, hurricanes, job losses, illness – that throw the most monkiest of wrenches into the best laid plans of mice and men (and yes I mixed some metaphors and references that don’t belong to together. Have now made them a thing. They’re a thing now.) Elections go drastically differently than we expected. Friends and family members don’t show up the way we expected. Everything, as Dog’s Eye View once said, falls apart.

So should we just pack it in and go back to bed until 2019? Of course not. That’s unrealistic and unless you’re independently wealthy you probably have to work, as you have found that American Express doesn’t accept “fear-based inertia” as payment. There’s a lot happening in my life that is uncertain – my newspaper is being sold and I have no idea what that means for my job and my future . I’m trying to sell a book. My lease is up soon. My kid insists on getting older and needs stuff.

I mean, we can plan. Plans are good. Will and self-control are good. I plan to work out every day and hit my 10,000 steps on ye old Fitbit. This is something I am resolved to do. However, if my kid gets sick and I have to schedule a doctor’s appointment during my appointed workout time, or if it rains and I can’t go running, or if work just rears its unpredictable head and completely throws my schedule for a loop, that might not happen every single day. I could maybe try to go to the gym instead and get 8000. Or do some sort of video when my kid goes to bed and not just sit in my room and catch up on “The Bachelor.” Plans can change. Our intention for those plans can remain steadfast. Maybe I have to get 15,000 tomorrow.

That does not solve my love of potato chips. It doesn’t change racism, or sexism, or nuclear war. It doesn’t guarantee my job. But here’s what it does do – it makes me healthier and more alert. It gives me meditation time that is all my own to talk to God or to myself or sing Night Ranger songs real loud, because Night Ranger workouts are a thing and if you don’t know this you are missing out. It gives me more energy to write better at my job and to pitch this book, which is good and you should buy it when it’s out. It makes me more likely to be prepared to make my lunch before my son wakes, ensuring more control over the healthiness of it and that I’m not spending more money than I should on lunches out. It gives me preparation for the rest of the day, physically and emotionally and makes all the other stuff coming at me easier to manage. I can’t control that stuff. But I can at least try to walk around my room a couple of times and give some thanks and hum Night Ranger’s “The Secret of My Success” to myself as encouragement while dodging that stuff. (And as the song says, that secret is that I’m living 25 hours a day. 22 of which involve avocado products.)

This doesn’t mean that no one I love will be sick or die, or that I can’t lose my job, or that I will sell my book. It just means that I can control one little part of it, the part that is mine. I can try to be a better friend, a better mother and daughter and sister. I can be neater and on time and write things down in my calendar. I can be a better listener and put my phone away. That doesn’t stop everyone’s chaos but it can at least lighten mine.

We don’t know what 2018 has in store for us – as I wrote earlier, 2017 sucked in a lot of ways but that’s relative to what happened to you in 2016 or 2015. It’s going to be big – I know that big changes are coming for me and that hopefully they’re really good. And if they’re not, I hope I can learn from them. That’s all I can do. Besides finish this coffee and go dance to “Sister Christian” in the corner till my kid comes back downstairs.

 


So much to say, so little blogging: Some thoughts while I’ve been away

by SweetMidlife
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How many times do you watch a kid’s movie before it burrows UNTO YOUR SOUL?

 

It’s Leslie! And it’s been a minute – several of them, really – since I’ve written here. I was up to a lot, including finalizing the adoption of my son, Brooks, who is almost three years old and more than almost awesome. He is all the way awesome. And super loud.

In that time, with all that stuff going on, there’s a lot I’ve been thinking about, some stuff that directly relates to motherhood (I’ve been raising him since he was six months old, but it’s just been official now.) Some of it is serious, some of it is stupid and some of it involves the proper number of times a day a child should eat macaroni and cheese.

– Is it wrong to tell your kid “We are not watching any more ‘Dora Into The City’ today because Mommy doesn’t like it and it’s making her angry?”

– How much mac and cheese will warp your kid and turn their blood into actual Velveeta cheese sauce?

– I realized this morning as I packed the kid into the stroller to walk him to daycare that we were out of lunch food so I walked past the CVS and put a Campbell’s soup cup, one of those plastic cups of peaches (but in real juice!) and a yogurt in his lunch bag. Not one thing was either homemade or even wrapped lovingly in a plastic bag by me. Am I a bad person?

– “Bad Moms” was actually funny but annoying because every one of these moms was upper middle class or at least well-off, where they could blow off their part-time jobs or stay at home or at least get drunk in the middle of the day and not once was one of their complaints “If I change my life at all I can’t pay my bills.” Because I know very few moms who don’t worry about that.

– Are you gonna watch “Dancing With The Stars” even if it means endorsing Ryan Locthe’s stupid butt? (I am! Because of Vanilla Ice and Babyface.”

– Does the cancellation of “I Am Cait” set back the transgender movement or just mean Caitlyn Jenner needs to be nice to Kris Jenner so she can get back on “Keeping Up With The Kardashians?”

– How much sleep do you need before you can’t function? Asking for a friend.


The binky and the damage done: Flying with a toddler

by SweetMidlife
Sigh.

Sigh.

My sister is the expert in toddler observation and research, but as the kid who lives with us edges – makes that throws himself headlong- towards his second birthday, I identify more and more with her stories about Alex. I got to see him, and our little one, together in loud, nutty action two weekends ago when we traveled to Maryland for my husband’s college reunion weekend. The visit itself was amazing – if not a little messy, ear-shattering and yelly – but it was the getting there that made me want to buy a Winnebago or a Partridge Family bus and do all of our future travel that way until the kid’s, like, 12 and old enough to carry his own suitcase.

The above photo was taken on the first of our two flights back from Baltimore, to our stopover in Atlanta (that turned out to be more like a run-through.) We were already stressed from the logistics involved with traveling with someone who has more paraphernalia than the rest of us, but can’t carry it or logically understand what a stopover is, or why he can’t stand up in his seat when the seatbelt light is on. We found out that on our second leg, from Atlanta to West Palm Beach, we were seated in three different rows, which would have been disastrous, because in the overtired missed-nap moments, I don’t always love sitting next to my own toddler, let alone the toddler of someone who’s not in shouting distance to handle their business. Nobody wants that.

My husband had tried to handle it at the counter in Baltimore, but they couldn’t help, so he called the customer service number and was told they were looking into it. So we were nervous about that, and about the fact that we had a very, very short window to make our connection in Atlanta, where we often find that we land in Concourse A and our connection is in Concourse Z. (There is no Concourse Z. It just feels that way.) I sat with Toddler while my husband sat directly in front of me, next to a very nice lady who he accidentally knocked some water onto. She was lovely about it and said “Well, it’s water. Water doesn’t stain.”

But you know what does stain? Diet Coke! And it was that caramel-colored fluid that our kid, bored and trying to get my husband’s attention, hit dead-on with the above pink binky which we gave him to suck on to lessen the popping in his ears upon take-off and landing. He threw it backwards overhand and nailed the cup, which spilled all over the lady next to Scott. She was not happy. Scott and I were mortified and both offered to buy her a drink and pay for her drycleaning. She calmed down and smiled and said “No problem. I know what it’s like.”

I think part of our mortification is not wanting to be those parents, the ones that let their kids run up and down the aisle and knock into the flight attendants, who don’t comfort them when they freak out, who let them kick the seat in front of them (On or first leg to Baltimore, at 6:50 in the stupid morning, we turned Toddler’s car seat, which he was sitting in, around to face the back of his own chair, because he was kicking the back of the seat in front of him. The dude sitting in that seat was very appreciative.) Kids are humans, and cannot be expected to always sit quietly and be invisible. People don’t expect adults to do that, so the side eye I get when my kid sometimes even speaks on a plane is unfair. But I don’t want to raise a jerk. I will not raise a jerk. He knew he was being naughty, and when the binky was removed and only handed back upon landing so his little ears wouldn’t pop, he knew why.

I’m not sure when we’re going to fly again, but whenever that is, maybe he’ll be a little older and a little more…chill. And not knock over people’s drinks. I must add that the gate agent at our Atlanta gate, which was actually in the same concourse, not only didn’t make our kid sit alone, but put us all in the same row. Of course, we sat in the wrong row and didn’t realize it until someone came looking for their seats, but they were all cool about it and just sat in front of us. They might have been through this before too.

 


Happy, Qualified

by SweetMidlife

Howdy! Lynne here!

Yesterday, my son wasn’t happy with me. I had put him in his room for quiet time, which I hoped would morph into nap-time, because he needed it. He had a few toys in there, but when I picked up the stool that he climbs on to look out of his window, he kinda freaked out.

“I NEED it!”, he shrieked,

“I’m sorry. I’m taking it.”

“But I NEEEEEED it (shriek, cry, confusion, hubbub)”, he whined.

“No, honey, you don’t. Have a good quiet time.”, said me, as I closed the door.

And as I went to put the stool away in my office (or the place that my husband calls “The junk room”. Working on that), I had a very brief moment where I thought about leaving him the stool. He would be able to see outside, and he loves talking to the birdies, and watching cars go up and down the street, and telling the bugs to get off of the window. He would be so happy. But he would also be working himself up so much that he wouldn’t be able to relax, and then the chances of him actually napping would be very, very slim. So I went back in my room, with him protesting from across the hall.

Yep, not happy with me at all.

I am 3 years into this parenting thing, and sometimes the strangest thing happens, and I have talked to friends with small kids and they have gone through the same thing. It’s when your kid is mad because you are making him put on pants, and you think, “Well, he’s upset, and he’s cute, so who’s going to say anything if he goes to the playground in a shirt and a Pull-Up?” Then I remember that I am the parent, and I get to say if he wears pants or not, and I make him get dressed, and if he’s mad, he’ll get over it, and be sliding down the sliding board in no time, pants and all.

Because I do everything I can to make sure that my son has a happy life, full of love and support, and entertainment and toys, and treats and faith, and friends and family and music and donuts. But that doesn’t mean that he is going to be happy WITH everything that happens.

Sometimes he can’t have a lollipop for breakfast.

He still has to go to the potty when he gets up, whether he wants to or not.

If he won’t stop banging his tool box on the table after I told him to stop, then I am taking it. And I just paused to do this because this JUST HAPPENED.

And I won’t get the balance right all of the time, and sometimes I am probably too lenient, and other times I need to learn pick my battles.  I am working on it. I am still learning. But this way he won’t be a jerk. And he will learn good things. And we will all be happier in the end.

 

Our current state: happy AND happy with his after breakfast lollipop and plenty of Nick, Jr.

Our current state: happy AND happy with his after breakfast lollipop and plenty of Nick, Jr.


“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman: Maybe she’s just a bad parent?

by SweetMidlife

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SPOILERS! IF YOU WATCH NBC’S “PARENTHOOD” AND HAVEN’T SEEN LAST NIGHT’S EPISODE YET, DON’T READ THIS IF YOU DON’T WANNA KNOW WHAT HAPPENED.

Leslie here!

I have just a relatively scant eight month’s experience as a parent, versus 43 years being parented. But my folks were awesome, and they imparted to me, by example and by drumming it into my little head, that it was their job to prepare me for the world, because the world was too busy to worry about preparing for me.

“Parenthood”‘s Kristina Braverman really sucks at that.

NBC’s family drama, now finishing its last season, follows the extended Braverman family and their various domestic and romantic situations, and I find most of those situations relatable, which is to say that I want to alternately hug them and pop them upside their stupid heads. Kristina (Monica Potter) triggers my popping reflex more than anyone else, both as the mom of a son with Asperger’s and as the administrator of a new charter school for kids with behavioral issues, including her son.

For the non “Parenthood” devotee, Kristina and her husband Adam (Peter Krause) have made Max so much the focus of their lives that you would be forgiven for assuming that their other two kids were kidnapped by wood sprites and being held for ransom that’s never gonna come because MAX IS HAVING A PROBLEM. And girl, Max is always having a problem, and his parents (and maybe the “Parenthood” writers) might think that his Asperger’s-related traits – he’s incredibly, sometimes uncomfortably literal, doesn’t recognize social cues or other people’s emotions and is detail-oriented to the point of being rigid – are the reason that he’s often a pain in the butt.

Nope! I am not a disability expert and I don’t meant to speak definitively about it, but I love many people with them, and know that disabilities alone don’t make you a jerk! Parents who don’t set boundaries for their kids in the name of protectiveness and letting them be their own special selves make you a jerk! And that’s what’s happened to Max. Adam and Kristina – specifically Kristina – have a good track record of explaining to their extended family (and by extension to the audience) some of the things they might expect from Max. But they’ve done a poor job of explaining to Max that even though it’s not fair and he didn’t ask to have Asperger’s, that he has to try to see things from other people’s perspective, to be responsible to other’s feelings, and that there are social expectations of him that no one who doesn’t love him is gonna think is cute.

When Max pitched a fit because he couldn’t use a printer that his aunt Sarah had rented on her own dime for an important work project at the exact time he wanted because Sarah needed it, Kristina expected her to apologize for upsetting him because she couldn’t keep to his schedule, rather than saying “Max, I know you’re disappointed and that Aunt Sarah is using the printer when you’d been told you could, but she’s the adult, it’s her rental for work, and you’re gonna have to suck it up and deal.” When they didn’t it was disappointing, because they not only disrespected a relative who didn’t have to let him use her stuff in the first place, but because that doesn’t do that boy any favors.

And last night, when Max found his crush Dylan kissing another boy, he marches into his mother and principal’s office and demands the kid be expelled. That doesn’t happen, but when Max then passes around a flier detailing the other kid’s supposed crimes still insisting on that the kid get kicked out of school, then starting a fight with hin. Kristina’s response should have been to immediately discipline him, call the other kid’s parents and had a talk about, telling him in no uncertain terms that he was wrong and that he can’t lie about other kids because they disappoint him.

But of course she didn’t, leaving Max feeling justified to escalate things by making a creepy kidnapper collage of photos of Dylan, interrupting her lunch to declare his love for her in front of her friends and refusing to stop when she asked until she blew up and told him she was never going to love him and to go the heck away.

You should have seen me – I was literally standing over the TV, just knowing that this – THIS – had to be the moment where Kristina would be forced to be a parent and a daggone administrator by, as clearly as she good, telling Max that what he did to Dylan bordered on harassment, that while owning and relating his feelings is not only important but a few breakthrough for him, that he can’t force someone to feel the same way, and that when they ask him to stop, he must. But noooooo. She hugs him (a breakthrough for the touch-averse Max) and tells him that she’s proud of his candidness, but that he’s not in trouble, at which point I yelled some non-friendly words at the TV because come on. The Bravermans operate on the assumption that Max’s issues compel him to act a certain way, but they never seem to fill in the other piece, that he, like all humans, is responsible for the way that those issues affect other people. Not telling him this is not protection. It’s setting the stage for him to one day get punched in the mouth, or worse.

Max isn’t the only Braverman family kid whose shenanigans don’t get called out nearly enough. Adam’s sister Julia and husband Joel are going through a divorce, and their daughter Sidney, already a screamer-yeller, has gone straight into bullying classmates and losing her crap all over the place. Her reaction to her family crisis is understandable, but her parents’ response is to try to explain to the parents of the girl she terrorized how hard things were for Sidney, who has just given a snotty fake apology and run to the car without accepting any real responsibility for anything.

The victim’s dad, however, wasn’t buying it, telling Julia and Joel that he didn’t really care what Sidney’s problem was, as long as they were spilling over on his kid. This is what I want to see somebody – anybody – say to Adam and Kristina, and to Max, that things being hard for you doesn’t give you the right to take them out on other people, and that if Max proposes to not live in a cave, he’s gonna have to work that out.

I guess this affects me so much because I see all around me, in the newspaper I write for, the TV I watch and in the malls of the world, the philosophy that the world is supposed to conform to everybody’s wishes – that it’s OK for kids not to say “please” or “Thank you” because they’re “shy,” or that it should be alright for kids to bump into you in the mall, or be rude to strangers, because they’re “just kids.” No, they’re not. They’re future adults, and if the people in their lives don’t impress upon them their responsibility to check themselves enough to not cause harm to others, no one is going to like them. Many people are going to want to punch them.

And it won’t be a TV show.


OK, what?!? Or…your kid won’t be scarred by winning a bronze medal

by SweetMidlife

Leslie, the non-kid-having twin here. As a non-parent who is looking into adoption in the near future and thus will be joining those ranks, I am beginning to be personally disturbed about the parental behavior of others that previously would have just made me snicker. Probably judgemental-like. Yes, I admit it.

This weekend’s potential parental eyebrow raiser came at my niece’s big dance competition. This is not my first dip into the big money and sparkle world of kid dancing – my very talented niece has been at it for a while, and I’ve sat through a few very, very long dance recitals that lasted at least four hours, including a highly inappropriate spectacle where a creepy male teacher sang to a teenaged female student as a “present” as she graduated, and an all-kiddie ode to “Lady Marmalade,” meaning that either the dancers were meant to be baby hookers, or that absolutely no one listened to the words of the song before choreographing the dance.

Either option gives me hives on my eyeballs. Eyeball hives, people.

The competition yesterday probably had some inappropriate sexing up of the kinder,  but not that I saw. What I did see was a baffling award ceremony where the awards were, from lowest to highest, Gold, High Gold and Platinum. I was so baffled at first that I didn’t understand what they were saying: Goal? High goal? You get a trophy for having a goal? Don’t they all have a goal, like not sucking or falling on their little sequined heads?

When I finally understood, I was no less confused.

“What ever happened to silver and bronze?” I asked my niece.

“They don’t use it a lot. They don’t want anyone to feel bad.”

ZOINKS ZOINKS SCOOBY DOO CONFUSED FACE.

“But it’s still first, second and third, right? Gold is still third place, no matter what they call it, right?”

Pause.

“No, it’s not.”

“But if it’s the third down from Platinum, it’s still third place.”

Pause.

“I guess you’re right.”

What’s more disturbing than trying to pretend that nobody’s scored less than anyone else is the idea, which I found on some dance parent blogs, that bronze still is used, but as a punitative measure, sometimes to alert studios that they’re being inappropriate or tacky, ie “Lady Hookerlade.”

What that means is that not only is the traditional third place medal literally a punishment, but that there is still a need to GIVE EVERYBODY A TROPHY. There’s this idea, which I’m the millionth to point out, that it’s not good enough to just give it your best, and to know that you did. You have to get a present, or a token, even if it doesn’t mean anything other than that you got a present. Good for you. You’re still not first, and your lack of first placeness is being pointed out by your sucky trophy.

At least when I sucked at stuff as a kid, and didn’t place first, second or third, I didn’t have to know exactly in which placed I sucked. And that was OK. Sometimes, just showing up and doing your best is enough. Because – and again I’m not the first to say this, or the eleventy three-ist – there will come a time when they will confront situations in which they straight up just lose.

And then, no amount of renamed trophies is going to prepare them. I want to understand this. Can someone explain this to me?

Please?

 

 


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