The Bearded Iris

A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: parenting tips

Three Parenting Things I’m Doing Right

I don’t usually see myself as a parenting expert. I am one of those people who, for whatever reason, will do nine things right and one thing wrong, and I’ll stew over that one wrong thing for-EV-er. It drives my poor husband right up the wall. He sure wishes I’d give myself more credit and not be so damn hard on myself all the time.

So today for Just the Tip Tuesday, I want to tell you about three parenting things that I’ve done right lately. Maybe it will strike a chord. I hope so.

For starters, I recently taught my sweet daughter Mini-Me how to disassemble the bathroom faucets and scrub the hell out of them.

That may sound like child abuse, but I assure you, she loved it. See?

 

Our bathroom faucet knobs had been grossing me out for a while…they were all moldy on the inside and I couldn’t figure out how to take them off and clean them. So on Saturday when the whole family was working on our chores, I took Mini-Me into the bathroom with me to see if we could figure it out together.

And we did.

The key was, I let HER do the fun part with the screwdriver. She’s only nine and that girl already knows “righty-tighty/lefty loosey,” how not to strip a screw, and how to make a faucet shine like new. I’m pretty proud of that.

I grew up with a single mother. I learned how to clean and fix stuff when I was a kid, partly because I was a curious child who enjoyed solving problems, but also because we couldn’t always afford new things or a repairperson every time something broke. As a result, I grew up to be a very handy and independent woman. I want that for my daughter too. 

Which brings me to the next thing on my list of good parenting. My husband and I recently noticed Mini-Me complaining a lot (and no, not about her chores). We’d all be on a walk with the dog after dinner and I’d say, “Oh, see those lights on that house? I like those. They’re pretty.” (Meaning: someday when we get new lights, let’s get some like that.) And my daughter would immediately follow that with “I wish we had nice porch lights. Our porch lights are so ugly. Our whole porch needs a makeover!” Frankly, I couldn’t agree with her more, but I didn’t like how it sounded coming out of her mouth. So negative!

The next night after we said grace at the dinner table, we started having everyone say a few things for which they felt thankful. It was actually my husband’s idea, but we’ve been enforcing it as a family, so I’m counting that as good parenting on my part too.

I cannot even begin to tell you what a difference it is making in our attitudes. Instead of complaining all the time about what we don’t have, we are all finding so many blessings in our lives. And sharing it aloud at the table is like keeping a gratitude journal times five!

It’s gotten to the point where the kids just start sharing what they’re thankful for, sometimes even when we’re not at the dinner table. Makes me tear up a little just thinking about it. Bucket Head even took a pair of Spiderman underwear off yesterday and said, “These are too small. Let’s find a little poor child we can give them to.” (Don’t worry…I’ll wash them first.)

And speaking of sharing our blessings, look what Mini-Me did last week:

That’s right, girlfriend had 12 inches of hair cut and bagged to donate to children who need wigs. We have several friends who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments or Alopecia and my sweet Mini-Me wanted to help them somehow.

As her mother, I humbly take some of the credit for her generous act because I did the same thing with ten inches of my own hair this past April.

Our children may not hear a single word we say some days, but by golly, they sure are watching what we do. 

(Thank God she didn’t see me smoke that bag of hair in my homemade potato bong later that night.)

Kidding!

I kid!

You know I don’t smoke…hair.

I know I joke a lot about how my kids are raising themselves and that they are thriving in spite of me, but when I sit down and really take stock of the things I am doing right, I should probably give myself a little pat on the back now and then.

My children are amazing. They are generous, grateful, and capable, among other things. I must be doing something right at least some of the time.

How about you? What are you doing right that is rubbing off on your family? Please share your parenting gems so we can celebrate together.

Yours truly,
Leslie

The best, easiest, tastiest birthday cake EVER.

Did you hear it was my little guy’s birthday yesterday? You certainly did if you live anywhere within a 20 square mile radius of us, as Bucket Head told EVERYONE we met yesterday, “I the birthday boy. I four. Thanks Bob.” Purdy cute. He’s going through a phase where he calls everyone Bob. May all his phases be that entertaining.

Even Mini-Me, who is usually loathe to share any of the spotlight with either of her brothers, figured out that even though Bucket Head was the star of the day, cake and new toys for him equals cake and new toys for her. She ain’t no dummy.

"I four."

So look, let’s keep this brief. It’s Lent and I’m off the sauce, which pretty much sucks for both of us because all work and no play makes Iris a bit crankier than usual.

But it is Tuesday, and you know what that means… I have a tip to share with you!

Baking a birthday cake for each of your gazillions of children every time there is a birthday in the house can be a bit of a chore. Agreed? Especially if you are a spaz like me who tries to assuage an excessive amount of Mommy Guilt with over-the-top cakes at the 11th hour.

Breathe easy, Mommy friends. Courtesy of my friend Laura, I have the ace-of-cakes you need to be the hit of the party with a minimum amount of time or effort!

Introducing (drum roll please)….

The Krispy Kreme Doughnut Cake:

What, too plain, you say?

TA-DOW!!!!

Aw, hell-to-the-yeah.

Two dozen Krispy Kremes, artfully arranged on a platter, and pimped out with a few Super Hero action figures on toothpicks. Any 4 year old boy’s dream come true. Plus, no utensils required. And no waiting for the cake to be cut and served. Just reach in and grab yourself some sugary love. Fabulous!

Happy baking! (I mean, buying!)

-Iris

© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

Urine Angel

Desperately seeking a way to make Christmas more meaningful to my kids this year, and flat out refusing to buy one of those trendy “The Elf on the Shelf” thingies, I signed up my kids to be in the Live Nativity at my church this year.

In hindsight, maybe not such a good idea.

But in theory, it seemed like a great opportunity at the time.

My church does it every year. They set up 8 different scenes outside and a guide leads groups through a candlelit tour of the Christmas story. The thing lasts for 3 and 1/2 hours as groups are ushered through the 8 scenes, one after another. Last year over 700 people waited in line for upwards of an hour to be lead through this dramatic recreation. It is a huge deal at my church, and throughout my community in general. The newspapers usually come, as well as people from other parishes near and far.

Until this year, the powers-that-be have cast only high school students in all the roles. This is the first year they opened it up for the whole parish. So naturally, I jumped at the chance for my overly dramatic six year old daughter, “Mini-Me,” to be in the choir of angels celebrating the birth of Jesus in song. I was totally fantasizing about the cute pictures and videos we’d get of her hanging out with Mary and Joseph in the stable, her little wire halo askew. And I thought she would LOVE it. This is a girl who loves the spotlight. She sings more than she talks. Her natural form of locomotion is a sashay/kick ball change. And isn’t it our job as parents to give them experiences that will help them discover and develop their natural talents?

But maybe six years old is not developmentally ready to stand outside in the bitter cold for 5 hours dressed like an angel and singing Joy to the World over and over and over. Yes, over the past 48 hours I learned precisely why this event has been limited to teenagers in the past.

First, let me just say that we are having a record breaking cold spell here in North Georgia. Two days ago it never got above the freezing point – all day. That is very rare here, and one of the reasons I have chosen this area for my home. Bitter cold… remember that now. It’s important.

So Mini-Me was assigned to the final scene (#8)… the big climax when Mary and Joseph are in the stable, awaiting the birth of Baby Jesus so they can place him in the straw-filled manger. For whatever reason, the director of the event assigned me to be the “behind the scenes” adult for scene 5, in which Kind Herod tells the Magi to report back to him when they find the newborn King. I don’t know why I didn’t insist that I be assigned to the same scene as Mini-Me, except to say that when we arrived for the first practice three days ago and I saw what a hectic, disorganized cluster bonk this whole production was, I didn’t have the heart to make a special request to the clearly overwhelmed director who definitely had her hands full. Did I mention that there were 108 people involved in the show and that there were going to be live animals in some of the scenes?

Yeah. So, we showed up for the first practice on December 21st, which was just an indoor script run through. I figured I’d be pretty close by if Mini-Me needed me, and that the director must have had a reason for separating us, so I didn’t challenge it. Mistake #1.

That night we braved the mall crowds to purchase a halo and wings at a local party store. Shopping at this time of year is NOT for wimps. Further proof that crazy, overcompensating parents like me will do anything for our children. Oy.

The next night, December 22, we had our one dress rehearsal. I knew we would be outdoors from 5-7 PM and it was below freezing, so I dressed my little angel in lots of layers. Naturally, we were running late and I was scrambling to grab everything we needed and get her in the car with her white sheet and wings and halo. We were very rushed. This is nothing new for my kids, and they constantly impress me with their ability to quickly transition from one thing to another without fuss. They are pretty used to compensating for their crazy Mama. Really good kids.

So we got to the dress rehearsal and had to wait around for a long time in the social hall until our two scenes were rehearsed. We were totally overdressed in way too many layers to be inside, but I didn’t want to take any layers off since we’d be outside at any moment with snot-cicles forming from our noses. We were hot. We were cranky. And we were surrounded by about fifty other hot, cranky, undersupervised children running amok while their stage-motherish moms sat and gossiped and yelled things across the room like “Tyler! Stop hitting your brother with that stick! It is a shepherd’s staff… not a light saber!” It was pretty chaotic, and quite an anticlimactic “hurry up and wait” period of time.

At one point Mini-Me asked me, “What if I have to go to the bathroom?” To which I inquired, “Do you?” and she emphatically said, “No. Just wondering.”

“Are you sure? Because I can take you right now. There is a bathroom right over there. This would be the perfect time to go since we are just waiting around.”

“No Mama. I’m fine. I don’t have to go.” Mistake #2. Here’s a parenting tip for those of you as stupid as I am: never, never, never “ask” if they have to go when you have a calm minute before the storm. Just take their stubborn clueless ass into the nearest loo and force them to go. And if they ever randomly ask you anything potty-related, they are clearly thinking about it and therefore probably have to go. Duh. Still can’t believe what a moron I am. You know where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Well, my scene was coming up, so I asked another Mom I knew there to keep an eye on my little angel while I was out blocking my scene, and she said she would and that her 11 year old daughter would help babysit. I introduced them all to each other and thought I had done my parenting part for the time being.

I went outside when my scene was called and stood around with the adorable Magi with the towels on their heads and the arrogant, uncostumed teen who played King Herod and didn’t even have the decency to know his lines or even have a script nearby from which to read. Sheesh. The “We Three Kings” CD that I would have to start and stop on cue wasn’t ready, the lighting wasn’t ready, and the kids were all very cold and unenthusiastic. We’d be doing this scene LIVE the next night for three and a half straight hours. I was definitely having my doubts as to how we would be able to pull this off.

I was only gone for about 20 minutes.

As I was walking back into the social hall the mother I had asked to keep an eye on Mini-Me approached me in nothing short of a panic.

“I’m so sorry!” she blurted. “I had to step out for my scene and my daughter didn’t realize that your daughter was in the bathroom.”

“What happened?” I tried to ask as calmly as possible. For Chrissakes – spit it out, woman! WHAT HAPPENED!

“Well apparently your daughter is in the bathroom crying. She’s been in there for about 20 minutes. She wet her pants. Poor thing, couldn’t get the angel costume off in time. She’s pretty upset.”

Oh shit.

I quietly knocked on the bathroom door and walked in, and there she was, standing above a puddle of pee, shaking and crying so hard that she was having a hard time catching her breath. Her eyes were red. Her cheeks were completely tear streaked and snot was running down her face. Her angel costume was completely in disarray, like she had truly put up a good fight trying to get it off so she could get to the toilet. I could see with one glance that she was utterly and completely humiliated.

My heart broke. Literally, I felt it seize up and shatter into a million little pieces.

I hugged her and rocked her and did a quiet “shh-shh-shh” in her ear for what seemed like a lifetime, brushing her hair out of her wet face with my hands and kissing her red cheeks. Her pants and long johns and socks and shoes were completely soaked through. She was cold and uncomfortable and frustrated. I wiped up the puddle on the floor as best as I could with paper towels and calmed her to the best of my ability, and then we exited the little powder room into the main social hall. The Mom I knew rushed up and apologized profusely. Naturally, I knew I didn’t have a change of clothes in my car, so there was no way to just clean her up and go on with the dress rehearsal. Besides, this poor little lamb was so far gone and distraught that I just wanted to get her home and into a hot bath.

Oh my God, the guilt. That poor child. She must have been so scared, standing alone in that bathroom for that long. How could I have left her like that? Why on Earth didn’t I have her go potty before we left? Why didn’t I insist that she go while we were waiting for our scenes? Why did I consent to be in a different scene from her? Why did I think that a six year old could handle an epic dramatic production? Why did God allow someone like me to breed? It is moments like this that make parents question everything.

Did Mini-Me recover? Did we return the next night to fulfill our destiny as part of the cast? Will I ever forgive myself for being such a shitty parent? Will I bring a tray of Vulva Candies to the cast party? Tune in next time for the dramatic conclusion to this intriguing tale of wonder and faith… The Bearded Iris’s Christmas Spectacular on Ice!

To read part 2 of this crazy tale, ASSuaging the Guilt, click here.

School Bus Bonuses

Parenting. Oy. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

My two older kids ride the school bus to and from school.  I consciously choose this for MANY reasons:

1.) it is very convenient.  The bus picks them up in front of my house every morning and brings them right back to my front yard every afternoon.

2.) it is environmentally friendly. One bus services my entire neighborhood, as opposed to all the Über-Moms who send thousands of tons of toxic fumes into the atmosphere everyday while they idle in the car rider line.

3.) it is economical.  I don’t waste any money on gas driving to and from school or waiting in the car rider line.

4.) it is practical.  I don’t have to wake up my toddler early and load him into the car to take a 20 minute round trip ride to school and back.  Nor do I have to wake him prematurely from his afternoon nap to then jockey for a good spot in the car rider line half an hour before school is dismissed, and then listen to him scream in his car seat while we emit toxic fumes, burn gas we can’t afford to waste, and lose precious minutes that I could be spending folding clothes, scrubbing toilets, or blogging like the dirty cyber ho that I am.

5.) it is encouraged. The school system WANTS us to use the school buses.  They don’t want the car rider line hassles (which require police assistance for directing traffic!), or tardy students who disrupt class, or elevated carbon monoxide levels in the atmosphere.  And I like to please, as you know.  So, for the most part, I do what authorities tell me to do. (Note to husband: dress like an authority figure and boss me around tonight…I will obey and you will like it.)

So basically, it sounds like the right choice, doesn’t it?  I mean, it’s easy, green, cheap, smart, and preferred by 4 out of 5 dentists school officials to let your kids ride the bus.  Right? Right.

Then why do so many moms in my hood opt to drive their kids to and fro in their ginormous gas guzzling suburban tanks??

“Ask and ye shall receive.” I think I just found this one out, the hard way (my favorite learning style).

Last night my oldest son, Nature Boy, asked me, totally out of the blue, why the worst swear words “are just random strings of letters.”  I asked him what he meant, and he said “… you know, like F-U-C-K… it isn’t even a word, but it is the worst swear word.”  GULP.  I asked him where he heard that one and he said it was on the bus… the “big kids” (5th graders) say it. Fuck, is right. That’s what she said (in her head… she, being me, of course).  So, good news, my kid has no idea what “fuck” means (phew). Bad news, he’s hearing other kids say it on publicly funded modes of school transportation.

But that is not the only issue.  Recently he also asked me what “gay” means.  Dude.  Gay.  He just turned 9 years old! He’s only in the third grade! WTF?!  Apparently, the hot bully move du jour is to force a kid to look at your hands while you do some dorky random hand signal like this:

If you can get some cooperative younger child to stare at your hands for 5 seconds, then you say, “Now you’re going to go GAY!” (“go GAY!”… as if… like going bald or going crazy).

So my sweet little Nature Boy says to me, “Mom, these kids on the bus made fun of me and told me I was going to go gay because I looked at their hands for 5 seconds.”

I was stunned. Not only because I don’t think it is appropriate for a kid like Nature Boy who has yet to ask me a single question about sex to be learning about it from 10 year old rednecks…but also because I had no idea he was being exposed to this kind of hatred.

“And what did you say to that?” I asked him.

“I said, ‘So what? What’s wrong with that? Like on the Flintstones Song: ‘You’ll Have a Gay Old Time!’…it just means happy!’  I’m proud to be happy.  Those big kids are dumb.”

WOW. See what I mean, that this child was clearly switched at birth?  There is NO WAY I could raise a kid this cool.  So, I let him believe that gay means “happy” for about ten minutes, and then I decided that knowledge is power, especially when dealing with hateful bullying good ol’ boy idiot kids.

So I explained to Nature Boy that it is also called “gay” when two boys (or two girls) love each other and want to be together as a couple.  I told him that it is something that people either are or aren’t, but that you can’t “go gay” because someone forces you to stare at a random hand signal, or because you like to dance, or wear pink, or sing show tunes, (what? don’t look at me like that!) or whatever else the bullies say. I told him that there is nothing wrong with being gay, and that people who make fun of gay people (or people of different races, or genders, or religions) are just bullies who are afraid of things that are different. And that smart, educated, kind, loving people are not afraid of differences – we celebrate them and value them.

And this led to a very interesting discussion about right-wing conservatives their fear of homosexuals and gay marriage (except of course when soliciting gay sex in airport bathrooms…although we didn’t discuss THAT) and what a hypocritical thing it is for them to want to protect their freedom to bear arms, but deny others’ freedom to love whomever they choose.  And he got it.  He is such a great kid.

But then he asked, “Mom? If both of the people in the couple are men, who has the babies?”  GULP.  “And if they are both women, do they both have the babies?”  Oh boy. Here we go.  Deep breath.  And…

“Well honey, great questions.  Gay men have to adopt babies, because only women can get pregnant. And gay women can get pregnant, but only if they have the help from a man because it takes a man and woman to make a baby.”

“Oh. OK. ”

Phew.  He is only 9.  He still thinks girls are gross.  He doesn’t need to know about the more graphic fluid-based details. Yet. All in due time.

But in the meantime.  You know what?  I’m still going to let my kids ride the bus.  Because my kids are great kids and they are learning really important life skills on that smut bus, like dealing with bullies, increasing their vocabulary, and becoming citizens of the world! Thankfully, our home is one in which our kids are comfortable talking to us about issues like these, and we listen and try to help them make good choices about how to handle them.  Pretty good strategy, if I do say so my own damn self.

And as for you Über-Moms, sheltering your kids from school buses, bullies, and words like FUCK and GAY…. well, remember when you got to college and were out of your parents’ home for the first time and you drank every night until you either barfed or blacked out? And remember how you shagged every dude in your dorm because it was like a free-unsupervised-all-you-can-eat-buffet? Well, that’s not going to be my kids. Good luck with that.

In summary, and in accordance with my “Just the Tip Tuesday” promise, talk to your kids. Loosen the reigns, let them live a little, and create an environment where they want to talk to you.  You’ll all be better for it.  And while you’re at it, do what Jesus would do and teach them to love others. Your cooperation in this matter will make other kids’ bus rides so much more pleasant, and the world in general a better place for all. Thanks, sugar.

Iris and two classmates on the first day of Kindergarten, 1975.
Bus Riders, yeah-boyeeee.

(I’m not going to tell you which one I am…you’ll just have to guess.
But how ’bout the shoes on that tall drink of water on the left?
Did she think she was on her way to Clown College, or what?)

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