Tag Archive | Sadie

Do You Want To Raise A Resilient Kid?

photo (43)

 

I want my kids to be resilient.  I want them to bounce back after losing a competitive round of Candy Land or roll with the disappointment when their favorite popsicle flavor is not available.  When I think of all the things that they will face in their lives– acne, spelling bees, heartache, identity theft– it seems like best thing I could give them is the tools to face the great ups and downs that are inevitably coming.

But how? How do you teach your kids to dig deep and dust themselves off?  Certainly I hope I model that, but I’m still looking for other ways to reinforce to them that in the face of disappointment, the best course is to face it head-on and then keep going.

Recently, Sadie surprised me by showing me that resilience doesn’t always look like redoubling your efforts at the same task.  Sometimes, getting on with it, looks like changing course and following the bliss of another path.

 

Click here for my new post on Mom.Me about how Sadie abandoned jump ropes for soccer balls and taught me something I needed to know.

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Quick! Someone Sing The Circle of Life– My Kid’s Asking About Death

Image credit: blogonair.org

Image credit: blogonair.org

For the life of me, I can’t remember when I first contemplated death.  When my grandfather died when I was in third grade, I remember crying and feeling sad for weeks.  By then, I understood something of the permanence of death.  I was eight, and I was a fairly morbid and sensitive kid, who, in her spare time prayed for the stigmata just like St. Teresa of Avila. 

My daughter, at half that age, has started asking questions about death and from her questions, it seems like she sees it everywhere.

It started when our nanny Sandra came to work one morning with a blotchy face and a runny nose.  In front of my daughter, I asked her if she was OK.  Her face crumpled in grief and she explained that her beloved uncle had died and that she wouldn’t be able to make it home for the funeral.  I comforted her and asked her a few questions after offering to give her the day off to mourn her loss.  Before my conversation with her was over, I felt my daughter tugging at my shirt.  “What are you talking about, Mommy? Where is the uncle now?”

I took a deep breath and stared at Sandra.  We both realized that we had to offer an explanation because my daughter had heard too much.  Sandra offered, “My uncle had a bad boo boo, and I won’t be able to see him for a while.”  Unfortunately, my daughter wasn’t accepting that because she’s got a finely tuned BS detector.  She looked at me as if to say, “Come on. What’s really going on here?”

Naturally, I stalled, stammered and evaded.  I sing a few bars of that song from The Lion King about the circle of life, but all that came out was a something closer to Goodbye, Norma Jean.

That whole conversation sparked something in my daughter.  Now, when we listen to her favorite CD and the song Found A Peanut comes on, she asks me why the singer died from eating a rotten peanut.  Then she asks me where bugs go when she smashes them with her foot.  She wants to know if she will die someday too.  

I’ve had to ban NPR in her presence because the last thing she needs to hear is about death tolls from forest fires, Syrian rebels or gun violence right in our own city. I’ve curtailed any flip sayings like “I’d rather die than pick up the mess in this house,” or “I’d kill for a Dove bar right now.”  It’s not appropriate now, and it probably never was.

People have recommended age-appropriate books about death to read with my kids.  I am only mildly consoled that lots of kids start asking these questions at her age.  But I still hate it.  I hate that I have to look into her eyes and tell her that death is a long goodbye.  I prefer to deny both the fact that she’s asking about it and the fact that the answers she seeks are pretty grim.

It’s in these moments when parenting wrenches my heart the most.  She deserves clear answers from me, and it’s my job to give them to her no matter how hard it is for me to talk about it.  Parenting means talking with my kids about all parts of life, not just the simple joyful ones that are easy to talk about.  Parenting also means keeping it simple, direct, and honest.  Even when it comes to death.

 

Butt Crunch Pretzels: Why We Wear Clothes At The Table (Now)

We’re into naked at my house.  By “we”, I mean Sadie and by “into” I mean she likes to do everything in her birthday suit.  Tolerance, I have it, but I draw the line at eating meals naked. It’s too Raising Arizona for me, which may not make sense to you, but OMG, my kid has to wear clothes to the table. Period.  The end.

Except.

Well, sometimes I get a little lazy at breakfast.  On the mornings I go to work, I punt, thinking “let the nanny deal with it; that’s why we pay her.”  On the mornings that I am home, I punt, thinking “let’s not ruin a happy morning with a power struggle.”  (Yes, the parenting manual is coming out soon, just working on the final proofs.)

But it only took one incident to shock and disgust the lazy right out of me.

As I remember it, Sadie was sitting on a stool au natural as I was making breakfast.  I know that none of YOU are the judgmental types (except maybe you, YOU’RE always judging me), so I can tell you that Sadie was drinking milk and eating pretzels and avocado.

Because I was busy like a boss making shit happen in my kitchen, I was not paying that much attention to what my children were actually doing.

“Mommy?” Sadie asked, innocently enough.

“Yes.”

“Did you hear that?”

“What?” I said, still not suspicious.

“I just put some pretzels on the stool and then I sat on them.  I crunched them into little pieces.”

Powers of speech failed me, because I could see her chewing. Pretzels.

“Mommy?”

“Yes?”

“Now, I am eating them.”

*speechless*

“Mommy, want one?”

“No thanks.”

I guess I should be glad she didn’t try to make guacamole with her butt and then dip her pretzels into it.  (Me– always with the bright side.)

Thanks to the butt crunched pretzels we have a new and necessary iron clad rule around here. No clothes, no food.  I’ve been heard to say “If I can see your genitals, you can’t have a snack.”  Other chesnuts that have passed my lips, include, “Get your hands off your penis if you want a popsicle,” and “Let’s not put couscous in our vagina, m’kay?”

I knew these days were coming– days when my kids would gross me out in ways far exceeding their full newborn diapers.  I was hoping it would be puberty scenarios that would shock my conscience.  But my three-year old’s butt crunched pretzels have ushered in not only new house rules, but a new era in our house, one that assures me I will be grossed out time and again.  Also? I predict we’ll dispel the myth that boys are “grosser” than girls.  If I am raising her right, my daughter will be as gross as any boy her age.

To that I say, Bring it! (Just wear some pants, please.)

5 Ways My Kids’ Childhoods Differ From Mine

There are so many ways my kids are having a different childhood than I did.   I’m not bitter, but I am taking notes.  You should too.

Here are the top 5 things my kids do differently than I did:

  1. Birthday parties: For the love of pinatas filled with crapola, when did birthday parties become such a big damn deal? For 3 year olds, no less?  Our big birthday parties were roller skating and that was in third grade.  These days we have our weekends booked with birthday parties at the local jump zones where we pick up strep throat germs and bad habits.  Also? My kids seem to think it’s cool to spend 11.5 months planning their birthday parties.  Literally. Two weeks after a birthday, we start planning the next year’s soiree– Princess cake, Hello Kitty party favors, Spiderman decorations.  When did birthdays get the steroid injection?
  2. Favorite Colors: My kids and their friends are obsessed with their favorite colors.  Sadie’s favorites are pink, purple, brown and white. (Brown? Reallly? M’kaaaay. . .)  They talk about it All. The. Time.  If there is something white in the room, say a table cloth, then it’s Sadie’s because white is one of her favorite colors.  Simon loves orange.  If we see a pumpkin or some construction cones– well, they are his because ORANGE.  We didn’t do that in the good old days.
  3. Mugging For The Camera: By the time I was 7, there were approximately 67 pictures of me in existence.  In most of them I was crying, because I was that kid.  We took 108 pictures of both of our kids within their first hours of life.  We have more pictures of my breasts in their mouths at the hospital than all the pictures of me and my siblings combined from the years 1973 through 1979.  Now of course both of my kids know what to do when someone holds up a phone/camera– smile just long enough so that the picture taker thinks they will have a picture (they won’t) and then dart away like assholes.  We knew to stand still until the picture was snapped, because there might not be another one for 3 months.
  4. Seat belts: I suspect that I might be game for having more children if only we never had to drive anywhere and deal with the damn seat belts.  It feels like I spend hours getting those straps just right– not too tight because they will freak out; not too loose because I am afraid they will die.  It’s a razor-thin line with those seat belts.  We didn’t have to deal with pesky safety issues in the 1970s.  I am not sure OSHA even existed. I do know that our diapers were cloth (because I am that old) and they were fastened with safety pins.  Big, fat, sharp safety pins that could puncture human skin or skulls.  And there was no damn Elmo on my diaper. Oh, the deprivation.
  5. Clothes: My kids pick out their own clothes.  My parents weren’t fanatical about how we dressed, but there were rules of decorum and we followed them.  Maybe it helped that we went to Catholic school and always had to wear uniforms.  I certainly don’t recall exhibiting the flair for fashion that my kids have.  Especially Sadie.

Can you feel me on this?

Headed to Home Depot dressed as Annie Hall

Headed to Home Depot dressed as Annie Hall

How about this?

Elvis day?

Elvis day?

Oh, and this:

Zsa Zsa Gabor?

Zsa Zsa Gabor?

For more on how Sadie’s fashion choices make her look ridiculous creative and stylish, but I grit my teeth and let her out of the house anyway, check out my new post on Mom.me.

Double Date With Newborn FAIL

“Wow, we hate to rush off, but we just remembered that Dale has a haircut at 2PM,” Cari stammered right as I returned from the bathroom.  Before I could say a word, she packed up her angel baby Caitlyn, who had not made a peep in the last hour, and swooshed by me.  I felt a breeze as her size 00 2 maxi dress billowed in her wake.

Jeff and I stared at each other.

“What the…? Do you think they know I accidentally peed on my legs?” I asked sincerely, trying to show Jeff where I had a little urinary mishap in the Starbucks bathroom because I was trying to pee (read pop a squat) with our daughter Bjorned on my chest.

Jeff looked over at my leg– over-sized, under-shaved and now sopping wet from pee– and shrugged his shoulders.  “Seemed like they were going to leave before . . . well, before whatever happened in the bathroom.”

Would you date the three of us?

Would you date the three of us?

The guy behind us sipping an espresso and reading The New York Times laughed out loud at us.  Who could blame him?  There’s always a few train wrecks in Starbucks, and that day it was us me.

We were trying to be adventurous and social.  Actually, I wasn’t trying very hard, but Jeff found a website that connected families with new babies in our neighborhood.   I was feeling isolated and depressed so Jeff set our family up on our first blind double-date with our 4-week old daughter.

I was grumping on the walk over.  My breasts were sore, and I was scared that Sadie would howl the whole time we were there.  I could picture it: Sadie would flail on my chest, knocking coffee out of some stranger’s hand, which would scald her little face, and we’d end up in the emergency room praying for skin grafts for our newborn. 

Thirty minutes in, I thought the date was going well. I pretended not to notice Cari was totally together– wearing an actual outfit with a pedicure to match– while I was still wearing maternity yoga pants and a “vintage” men’s Gap t-shirt.  On my way to the bathroom, I whispered in Sadie’s ear that Caitlyn could be her new BFF and that maybe they could be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.

What happened in the bathroom is unimportant, except to note that even as sleep-starved and hormonal as I was, I knew I wasn’t supposed to put my newborn baby on the floor in the Starbuck’s ladies room.  So I left her strapped in. 

I was proud of myself for managing as well as I did, but back in the seating area, my pride seemed unearned as I watched our dates cross the street and head to the “haircut appointment.”

“Jeff, I learned a lot today: I shouldn’t try to pee with Sadie in the Bjorn, I should consider getting a pedicure, and I am just not ready to date.”

Agreeing, Jeff said, “Good, because we just got dumped.”   Laughing, I broke the news to Sadie: “Find your own damn bridesmaids, kiddo.”

When Your Kid Misses You While You Are At Work

I want to work AND pick up this munchkin

I want to work AND pick up this munchkin

At 3:10PM I see that my nanny is calling me on my cell phone. I’m at work so she and Simon should be picking Sadie up from school.  I don’t panic. (Yes, I do.)

“Hi, Sabrina. Is everyone OK?”

“Yes, Christie, everyone is fine, but do you have a moment to talk to Sadie? She’s missing you.”

“Of course.”

Sadie tells me that she told her teacher how much she misses me and that she wants me to pick her up from school.  (At least, I am pretty sure what’s what she said as she held the phone almost inside her mouth to talk to me.)

“I’m glad you can tell your teacher and me and Sabrina how much you miss me.  What did your teacher say?”

“Mommy, I didn’t let her talk because I wanted to keep talking. I told her over and over and I did not want my nanny to pick me up. I wanted you to pick me up.”

I still don’t panic. (Yes, I do.) Teachable moment.  I feel sad that she’s having a hard time and grateful she can articulate her feelings.  And I wish I could be in two places at once and that money grew on trees and that I understood how to balance my life.

“Sadie, I would love to pick you up.  I miss you very much.  On Thursday, I can take you to school and pick you up.  I can’t wait.”

There are a few more rounds of “I. Don’t. Want. My. Nan. Nee. Picking. Me. Up.”  I let her vent and say it as many times as she needs to.  I promise her I will see her very soon.  We discuss the snack I will bring her on Thursday when I pick her up– “No Goldfish or Wheat Thins.  Cold Water with ice and dried raspberries.”  I start to sing her The Greatest Love of All and she hangs up on me.  Accidentally, I’m sure.

Later I email her teacher and let her know that I am aware that Sadie is unhappy at dismissal time because she wants me to pick her up.  Within 16 minutes, the teacher emails me back:

I know it’s probably hard for you to hear her disappointment, but I think this can be a great growing experience for Sadie.  While we always would like to remove disappointment from children, it is inevitable, and I think sometimes, just helping them learn how to cope with the disappointment is almost more valuable.

And now I commence to sob heartily into my pillow because (1) teachers got so incredibly loving and aware since I was Sadie’s age (no offense, Ms. Durlan), (2) because I can’t fix her disappointment or be two places at once, (3) because I feel responsible for her distress, (4) because I’m not sure if the job is worth the toll it is taking on her (or me), and (5) because there is something about my kids being surrounded by loving adults (like me, Jeff, and their teachers) who love them and will honor their feelings and help them face whatever life (or I) throw at them.  It makes me cry.

There are tears of joy, gratitude, fear, indecision, regret, anxiety, sorrow, humility, confusion, hope, and terror.  It’s going to be a long cry.

Suffer Intimacy

For years, I specialized in superficial relationships– friends from work or school “knew” me well enough, but I made it sure it stayed light.  I was scared of conflict, and I had a bucket-full of secrets about the weird way I ate oranges or how I had to exercise on weekend mornings.  I kept other people at an arm’s length, because I was terrified of their feelings and my own. Keep that shit away from me, please, because I don’t know what to do when the ca-ca hits the fan.  (And it always hits the fan.)

And that life strategy worked until it stopped working, and I realized because I’m smart with the help of lots of therapy that my loneliness and depression might be connected to the quality of my relationships.

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Ok. Fine.

Eventually, I learned to handle conflict better and now lots of people (Jeff, Sadie and Simon) know how weird I am about eating oranges and I am more comfortable with lots of feelings being expressed in my presence.  I may not be an intimacy pro, but I have some muscles built up that at least makes it possible for me to allow people to get close to me.

But the terror is still there.

Like last night, for example.  Sadie was having lots of big emotions, which were manifested in crying, defiance, being a wee bit too rough with Simon, and then throwing couch pillows on the floor and refusing to go to bed.  I think we can all agree that’s fairly standard for a three-year old who’s been cooped up for almost 2 straight weeks with her parents and brother.

In response to Sadie’s big emotions, I had my own reactions.  Mostly, I felt that old squeamishness creep in that still shows up whenever anyone else around me is having lots of feelings.  Intellectually, I know that I want my kids to be free to safely show emotions (throwing pillow couches: fine; smacking Simon’s head: not fine), but everything inside of me can’t wait until it’s over.

Because it scares me. I feel out of control– I certainly can’t control her, and I can’t control my reactions either.  I feel rage when Sadie won’t just come sit down and have delicious Costco rotisserie chicken with us.  We. Are. Eating. As. A Family. Damnit. 

Then, as we limped through bathtime, I was enraged all over again when she wouldn’t pull the drain stopper out. Why can’t she just do that for me?  My back is killing me and I really need her to just do this one thing.

So it was one of those nights.  Sadie was acting age appropriately, and I was flailing around alternating between rage and shame for feeling so much rage about a three-year old’s antics.

Once I was alone on my bed at the end of the night, I remembered a peculiar guy named Peter I used see at recovery meetings.  He anachronistically wore a tie-dyed hat with a pin that said, “Suffer Intimacy”.  While I was scared to death of colorfully-clad Peter, I loved to stare at this pin.

Because being intimate feels like suffering to me.  Having an intimate relationship with Sadie is going to be extremely painful: we will hurt each other (we actually already do).  We will disappoint each other, we will say the wrong things, we will have bad habits, and we will see each other’s ugly parts.  Some of it will suck a big one.

I let myself visualize what it would be like to have a distant, superficial relationship with Sadie– would it be easier? Would we clash less? Would it be like the difference between flirting with a guy at the bar whose morning breath (or anything else) you will never know and marrying your co-worker whose morning breath (and open heart) greets you every morning?

Of course, I want close relationships, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you how scary it feels and how sometimes (like last night) I wonder if I am capable.

Can I suffer intimacy?