Parenting Fail #324

I know what I’m supposed to do. A couple of years ago, I wrote an article for a local parenting magazine reminding other people to do it. I didn’t take my own advice, and I won’t even pretend that I’m sorry.

All the experts advise getting kids on their school schedule a week or two before school actually starts – goodbye, late nights; hello, early mornings. Yeah. I didn’t do it. I did cut out the late nights. Everyone’s in bed nice and early. Because that’s a hardship for me. I did that part. It’s the waking up early I didn’t do. I have a good reason. Meet my reason:

I know. He looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating bing cherries.

I know. Squish looks like a baby Nosferatu. He was eating Bing cherries, not feasting on the flesh of villagers. I swear.

Rousing the Padawan early involves waking his little roommate, as well, something I’m not quite willing to do. Because the kid doesn’t sleep. Naps are for pansies, bedtime is for losers. If he deigns to sleep, I am loathe to wake him because once his tootsies hit the floor, he is all up in my bizness awake for the next fifteen hours, about four of which are pleasant. Apparently not wanting sleep and not needing it are two different things.

Logic would tell you that taking a kid out and letting him burn off all his energy would help said child to sleep like a dream. Logic would be a big, fat liar wrong. I took the Padawan and his buddy on an overnighter to another city recently, knowing that if Squish can fight sleep for two hours all alone in his room, sharing a hotel room with four other people would make bedtime extra fun. But I had a plan.

That plan started with swimming. I chose a hotel with a pool so we could do a little splishy-splash. If I let Squish go for a nice, long swim, I reasoned, he’d be more amenable to catching some Z’s. Right? You know how it ends.

We swam until 9pm, then we went upstairs. He was tired. Very tired. But tired is only a kissing cousin to sleepy, so the next part of my plan involved a little television. Give me fifteen minutes in front of the TV, and I’m snoring like an asthmatic bulldog. Like mother, like spawn, right? After two-and-a-half hours of House Hunters, Squish finally fell asleep

Sleep may be too strong a word, really. He’s a bit of a flopper. He never hit a deep sleep, alternating between  bludgeoning me about the head, and dragging his claws toenails up my shin.

I never studied physics in college, but I did not expect that a body with such little mass could displace so much space. He put down roots in prime mattress real estate – dead center – and I couldn’t budge him for love nor money. At about 2am, desperate for some sleep, I scooped him up and slid him eight inches west and tried to tie him in place tuck him in. My efforts backfired, and I suddenly had a Squish clinging to my head like a baby octopus. It would have been easier to sleep in the floor. With a tiger.

At 7am, the kid was awake. Perhaps you are thinking that eight hours is all Squish’s body requires to function at top capacity. Does this look like top capacity to you?

Yeah, I'm all set.

“Yeah, I’m all set.”


We had two melt-downs and a Come-to-Jesus meeting before we even left the hotel. Tired = wired. Isn’t that fun? But I’m not one to give up. Because of my plan and all.

My plan told me that a long day spent running around out of doors would lead to a quiet car ride and pleasant night. You see where this is going, right? We enjoyed six hours at a zoo, two of which were spent playing hard on the enormous playground. Then we popped in the car for the three-hour ride home. I waited for him to fall asleep. And waited. And waited. Yeah. He was awake the whole time, refusing to punch his ticket for the dreamland express until after 9pm, three hours after we got home, and two hours after I began to seriously consider selling him to the circus. I love plans.

So I hope the experts will excuse me for enjoying a few minutes of solitude. If they judge me, I hope they do so quietly. Squish is still asleep.

What Your Kid’s Camp Leader Wishes You Knew

I love kids. I have spent the last ever many years steeped in them. Not just my kids. I like your kids, too. I have led enrichment-type programs in different venues for a very long time, and it’s becoming more and more apparent that parents aren’t always clear on the expectations. Most of them want to do the right thing, they just aren’t sure what that is. If I could sit down across the table from a parent signing their kid up for their first enrichment adventure, here’s what I’d say.

1) Don’t sweat it if your kid is shy the first time around. Picture it. You walk into a place you have never seen before, and a bunch of strangers are waiting for you. And they already know your name. It’s enough to make the bravest adult want to run for cover. Now imagine you’re three feet tall and the person you love most is poking you in the back saying “You’re not shy! Why are you acting like this?”

We aren’t judging your parenting because your child is hiding behind you. I promise that your kid won’t be the only one who has a moment of doubt when they walk in the door. A good instructor will know how to break the ice, and by the second or third class, your kid may be a pro.

2) They don’t have to know all the answers before they get there. When I teach an art class, for example, I don’t care if the kids know their Dali from their Deco. I can teach them that. Leaders ask questions not because they expect that the kids know the answers, but to encourage critical thinking. If no one in the class knows the answer, a good instructor won’t let the crickets chirp for long. They’ll ask the question a different way, or even share the answer.

Your child’s academic knowledge doesn’t matter. It’s far more important that that they know how to interact with other kids. If they’re toddlers or preschoolers and it’s their first time at the rodeo, you can help guide them in that process. Which brings me to my next point.

3) If it’s a Mommy and Me type of class, your participation is mandatory. I cannot stress this point enough. The activities in these classes are ones that require your assistance. Staying glued to a cellphone or talking to the parent beside you in the back of the room is rude and sets a bad example for the kids. If mom and dad are chatting, the kids will, too. These classes are designed for grownups and the children they love to interact together. And if Little Missy is misbehaving, it’s up to you to take care of it. You know her best, after all. There’s a code of conduct at most programs, and refunds are rarely given if a participant is ousted for bad behavior. Don’t let it get to that point. Nip it in the bud.

Image credit:

Image credit:

At my toddler programs, I completely expect the kids will act like toddlers, the good, the bad, and the throwing-themselves-on-the-floor-and-shrieking. I get that. But there’s a line between just being a three-year-old and disrupting the entire class. Know where that line is. If you’re unsure, ask your leader. They can give you guidance and also help you find a quiet place to let your little critter get control of themselves again.

4) You aren’t expected to know all the answers, either. And even if you do, it’s a good idea to keep them to yourself. Unless the leader asks the adults specifically, the instructor is usually looking for an answer from the kids. You’ve had a few more trips around the sun than the kids. We’d be shocked if you didn’t know at least some of the answers. Keep a low profile unless the instructor asks. If you’re whispering the answers in your child’s ear, examine your motives. If you’re enjoying having a cool discussion with your kid, awesome. If you’re hoping they will blurt it out to the group, it’s best to sit quietly.

5) Dress your child appropriately for the activities. The most terrifying sight in the world to me is a little girl in a darling heirloom, hand-smocked dress. On finger paint day. Or a kid who shows up for camp at the nature center in flip flops. Because you know who gets to hear about those red paint stains that won’t come out or make the decision on whether to cancel the planned hike for the whole group or send a kid out on the trail in footwear they could get hurt in? The teacher.

The kids don’t get points for matching bows and slippers. I don’t care if they show up on the doorstep dressed like orphans. The important bit is that they are safe and comfortable. It’s hard to be comfortable when someone is hanging over your shoulder saying “DON’T WIPE THAT ON YOUR DRESS!” Close-toed shoes and an outfit they can get dirty in fits the bill in almost every situation.

6) Respect age guidelines. Camps and enrichment classes are designed with particular ages in mind, and to try to slip a kid into the wrong age-bracket does no one any favors. Many years ago, someone begged the director of a program I worked for to let her kindergartner into a class with his first-grader best buddy. The director reluctantly agreed. It was a disaster. The younger child couldn’t yet read, and many of the activities involved basic reading skills. The kid was miserable. Don’t throw your child in over their head. Don’t let them be bored by sending them in with the younger kids, either.

It always makes me giggle when parents call me and insist that they have a “very mature four-year-old.” Giggle and then sigh because then it’s my job to explain that we can’t put their preschooler in the kindergarten camp.

7) Don’t keep disabilities a secret. Sometimes parents are afraid to disclose disabilities for fear the program won’t accept their child, but as their teacher I’d sure like a heads up if a kid has an issue that impacts the way they function in a group. I want every child to succeed, but success is a lofty goal if I don’t have a basic understanding of what a child needs. On papier-mache day when we’re messing about with balloons, I’d like to know ahead of time if a participant is triggered by loud noises or has sensory issues and doesn’t like to touch things like paste, or if they need some assistance navigating the pitfalls of prepubescent social interaction. There’s nothing I like better than seeing a kid try out something they never thought they could do.  Help me to help your child. And for the love of muffins, please, please, please let us know up front if your kid has any life-threatening allergies.

8) You aren’t the only paying customer. I understand that parents pay a bundle for kids’ activities. I respect the monetary investment. But remember, unless it’s a private lesson, other parents paid for the experience, too. Your child can’t be the star of every show. If your kid is hogging the spotlight or is being disruptive, you owe it to the other parents to rein them in. You’d expect the same consideration, right?

9) It’s supposed to be fun! Enrichment classes are just that, a fun way to experience new things. Hanging over a kid’s shoulder at art camp and insisting they color in the lines or critiquing racing form at track camp is counter-productive. Kids need to feel safe trying new things without the expectation of perfection. So do all of us, really.

10) Keep expectations realistic. You read #8, right? The bit about it being fun? Not every kid is Pavlova or Baryshnikov. Some of them are just regular kids who like to dance. An enrichment camp isn’t for the budding professional. It’s a starter experience. If your kid tries the diving board for the first time because of swim camp, you can count it as a huge success, even if the resultant dive was my personal favorite, the belly flop. If they had a great time at track camp, does it matter that they never ran under a fifteen minute mile? I think not. Don’t expect your child to be ready to win Olympic equestrian gold at the end of the week if the closest they had been to a horse before camp was a merry-go-round. The name of the game is try. And fun. Try and have fun. It’s a good motto!

Tiny Misunderstanding

It’s February! For such a short little month, it sure is packed with holidays, and Squish has been learning about them all in preschool. He’s super excited about tomorrow, and he’s been telling me all about the wonder that is February 2nd.

He’s going to be watching the news on the morrow with great interest. He tells me that if she sees her shadow, she’s going to pop back into her hole, and it’s six more weeks of winter for us. That’s right! It’s that time of year again. Squish wants me to remind everyone that tomorrow is Grandma’s Day!

He may have missed a little something in the translation.

Don't be scared, Granny!

Don’t be scared, Granny!

If Groundhog’s Day brings this kind of confusion, Ash Wednesday will be interesting.

It’s Here

Another school year. And once again, I’m not ready. I love summer. I actually enjoy hanging out with my kids, and I am reluctant to turn them back over to their teachers. They’re mine! So I’m here to whine about the stuff I am missing out on.

I miss afternoons at the grocery store alone. Girl-child is now quite old enough to be responsible for her brothers while I shop. I still hated the shopping part, but without anyone to entertain, I could get it done in record time.

I miss spontaneous trips to anywhere, staying up as late as we wanted because there was nowhere we had to be the next morning.

I miss afternoons free of automated calls. I have kids in two different schools, and I hear from at least one of them a day announcing everything from a football game to a partnership with a pizza chain, along with at least once-a-week verbal diarrhea from the school supreme monarch superintendent. Seriously. The calls are several minutes long. I now hang up by 58 seconds. Because I know I’m about to receive an email with the same information, sometimes as an audio file in case I enjoy listening to someone drone on about the cost of yearbooks. Also because I can’t focus on a one-sided phone call for any longer than that without starting to ponder what I’m going to make for dinner.

I miss an inbox without school updates. You know, the same ones they just called about? One school also sends me daily updates to keep me abreast of the Bone of the Week. Yep. Five different reminders, same old femur. Last year I got automated daily reminders that my son had not turned in his homework, which would have been useful except that school had been out for a week, and the alleged homework had apparently been assigned the day after school ended.

I miss my kids bickering in the background. Because it was always followed up by spontaneous gestures of affection.

I miss the Suburban that used to nearly hit us everyday when we walked to school last year. Their child must have graduated to the middle school, as we have seen neither hide nor hair of them this year. What can I say? I’m a nostalgic sap.

How many more school days until summer?

First day of school!


Students of Life

We’re never too old to learn. Not ever. Each and every day brings us the opportunity to learn something new, to add to our bank of knowledge. Don’t pass up your opportunity! You never know what’s out there. Allow me to share with you the things we learned this weekend.

My husband learned:

If I drop half a candy bar on the movie theater floor, I will wrap it back up, take it home, and put it in the freezer until such time I forget where it has been. In my defense, it was a 100 Grand bar. And sitting in the freezer for ten minutes six months  will kill any germs that may have hopped aboard. Right? This confession does not paint me in a good light, does it? Feel free to forget what you just learned.

You’d have done the same thing, and you know it. Thanks, Wiki, for the picture.

I learned: 

My husband loves coffee so much that not even a felony***  can keep him from his caffeine fix. For real. As we were driving into the parking lot of a nearby coffee shop, half a dozen police cars rushed in, lights flashing. A suspect, already cuffed and waiting to be stuffed was being wrestled to the ground by a pair of undercover cops. I thought perhaps we should skip the coffee altogether. Husband disagreed. His argument? This was now the safest coffee house in town, what with the eight cop cars and all. My favorite part was when the cop stopped beating the bushes for evidence (They really do that. They have a special golf club-looking piece of equipment for it and everything) and gave us a friendly “How ya’ll doin’? Don’t mind me!” wave as we drank our coffee.

My mom learned:

Heights literally scare the poop out of Squish. If you’re taking him to the playground to let him play on the big climbing structure, pack an extra pair of underwear. For him. And yourself, if watching a kid stumble around 8 feet off the ground makes you nervous.

*** suspect would like us to remind you all that at this moment, it is only an alleged felony. 

Adding Insult To Injury

Middle son came home a couple of months ago with a cabbage plant. Bonnie Plants donated them to second and third grade students all over the country. The object was to grow it as large as he could, get his picture taken with it, and submit it to Bonnie with the hopes of winning a scholarship. The Padawan is more interested in growing sea monkeys than plants, but the money caught his attention.

We opted to grow our cabbage organically. More because I can’t justify the cost of a bottle of Sevin dust for a single cabbage than because I’m worried about the kids growing a third arm from pesticides. Because it’s not like they’d eat it anyway. Maybe I should have sprung for the Sevin.

Here’s what our organic cabbage farm now looks like:

If Tim Burton had an organic cabbage farm, it would probably look like this.

And what’s this? Ah, yes. Destroying the entire plant was not quite enough. Whatever devoured the cabbage left their turds on the one leaf they didn’t actually eat.

That was thoughtful.