Friday, February 24, 2012


Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere! 
It’s an adorable idea, huh?  So cheerful! Gotta love the thought of millions of kids around the world stopping when they hear that tune and saying, “Oh, you’d like me to pick that up?  GLADLY!” 
The reality of it, at least in my house, is quite different.  If I wrote it that song would go something like “Clean up, clean up, everybody fucking pick something up RIGHT NOW before I lose it!”
I hate that it gets stuck in my head every time I see a stray sock on a bedroom floor or a random matchbox car hanging out in the hallway. 
If only a magic purple dinosaur would appear and help me out when it came time to make the kids clean up the playroom.  It doesn’t even have to be a nice one like Barney.  It can threaten to eat them for all I care…whatever motivates them.
Am I the only mother whose blood pressure sky rockets at the thought of asking my kids to clean up their toys?  I look at the puzzles, cars, plastic food pieces strewn about the floor and I have to fight the urge to scream. 
Usually when I ask the kids to clean up they just ignore me.  Now, I know there are people out there going “Just make them clean up. You’re the boss.”  Yes, I know, thank you.  I also believe that I am the boss.  The problem is the kids don’t think that’s the case.
When I had just Carter it was easier to manage.  One kid = one mess.  By this logic two kids should equal two messes.  This, however, is not how it works.  When you add another kid the amount of mess multiplies exponentially; it makes absolutely no sense.  I would challenge the world’s most accomplished mathematician to come up with some sort of formula to explain this phenomenon.  Nobel Prize winning material for sure.
It really sucks for me because mess is my weakness…and the enemy knows this.  The absolute worst thing the kids can do is dump out the multiple bins that house all of their cars, blocks, etc.  The noise that makes is unmistakable and makes me want to die.  I would rather get punched in the face than hear this noise.  Extreme, yet true.  Carter sometimes tries to talk me off the ledge:
Me: "Clean up this playroom right now! I'm so sick of the mess you guys make!"
Carter: "Mom, you need to relax."
Me: "I don't need to relax I need to have kids who...wait...did you just tell me I need to relax?"
Carter: "Yeah. Don't you think that's a good idea?"
Hate him. 
There has to be a good way to make your kids pick up their shit.  But I haven’t found it yet.  And believe me, I’ve looked. 
We’ve tried to put them in time out but we all know how ineffective that method is in my house.  All that happens is they go back and forth between time out and the toy room for an hour and still refuse to put anything away.  At the end of the day I forget why they are even in time out because I’m suddenly distracted by the huge mess in the other room and need to go clean it up…my OCD really works to their advantage. 
We’ve tried taking away whatever toys they left out but they have so many that they don’t even notice what’s missing.  And actually, when we finally bring those toys back out it’s like they’re getting new stuff.  So they are basically being rewarded for not having listened to us in the past.  Jesus Christ!
Sometimes I’ll set a timer and make them race it.  This has had some success in the past.  The only reason it works is because they don’t know what happens when the timer goes off.  Carter’s anxiety makes him fear the unknown.  My lack of a conscience makes me use that against him.
“What happens when the timer goes off?”
“I don’t know.  I don’t think it’s good though.”
“Does something explode?”
This will only work as long as I get to the timer before it beeps.  Once it beeps and nothing explodes they are totally going to call my bluff.  Things to do: Google a list of explosives that I can safely use indoors…
Since I’m totally on an “I’m going to learn how to parent better” kick, I’ve looked into a few new ideas on how to get kids to get with the program. 
I read that you should take them out of the situation and ask them to do something you know they will/can do. You praise them for doing whatever it is, thus putting them in a more cooperative mood, and then take them back to the mess. 
I liked this idea so I shared it with my husband.  I was so excited the day that I came home and he told me he had used this new technique!
Mike: “Yeah, they weren’t picking up.  So I said ‘Hey kids!  Why don’t we go eat some cucumber finger sandwiches’, cause I knew they would do that. So they did.  And then we cleaned up!”
Me: “That’s great!  Wait. What?  Cucumber finger sandwiches?  Did you really?”
Mike: “No.  I’m totally mocking you.  That didn’t happen.”
I hate him too.  I give up. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Behavior Modification

Discipline is stupid.  I hate it. 
I know I don’t do it right and no matter what course of action I take there is a high potential for failure.  So basically I’m screwing up my kids no matter what.  And I don’t think I’m alone…I just think I’m one of the few who are willing to publically admit it. 
Here’s a hint, fellow moms:  Misery Loves Company.  When your own kids are being horrible the last thing you need to hear about is how outstanding other people’s children are.   Knock it off with the “isn’t parenting a breeze” status updates!
“Little Suzie got on the honor roll for the 94th time!  Must be doing something right (hee hee, winky face!)”  or “So proud of my Johnny!  Hit his first home run in T-Ball, rescued a three legged Chihuahua from a burning building and still had time to crochet a blanket reading ‘I LOVE MOM’ (smiley face, exclamation point, heart, heart heart)”.
First of all, I don’t believe a word of that crap.  Your kids suck too.  Fess up. If your child is not currently naked from the waist down chasing his brother with a Lincoln Log attempting to use his head as a drum then I don’t want to hear from you. (True story.)
I don’t want to get any more notifications that Betty Johnson likes “Hit like if you love your kids!”  Please!

I’ve come to learn the difference between LIKE and LOVE.  You can LOVE your kids even when you don’t really LIKE them all that much. 
How ‘bout a button that says “Hit like if your kids terrorize your life on a daily basis but you love them anyway so you haven’t killed them…yet.”  I would hit that button proudly.
So that being said, I’m now on a mission to make my children behave better.  Mostly for my own sanity.  If I spend another morning screaming at the top of my lungs for hours on end then I’m going to have to commit myself.  So I started looking to the experts for help...

The problem is that most parenting books are, like, 400 pages long.  If you have time to sit down and read a 400 page book on how to raise a better child then you probably don’t even need that book in the first place. 
Dear Parenting Experts: Please speak to me through bullet points.
Alright, well first I'm going to try to stop yelling.  It stresses me out, it stresses them out, and I’m going to try not to do it as much. 
I read somewhere that you should whisper because it will force your kids to pay more attention to you.  But when there’s a toy siren going off, a dog barking and a kid screaming it’s really hard to be noticed while whispering. 

So I have to yell…to alert them to the fact that I’m whispering.  Yup. 
Next I read about how to stop a temper tantrum.  One expert says that when a kid is having a tantrum you should speak to them in short simple sentences, like baby talk almost, to calm them down.
I tried it this morning with Carter.
“Want snack.  I know.  Want snack.” (I felt like a moron).
But he did stop the tantrum… long enough to yell "MOM! WHY ARE YOU TALKING LIKE THAT???"  He apparently shared my thoughts on what I sounded like.  This technique is not for us. 
Ok, next up is the idea of identifying your child’s feelings and sympathizing with them. 
"You're frustrated because I said no more snacks, huh? I understand how that feels.  I know you really wanted a snack.”
I thought “Look at me!  I’m applying my new parental skills to a real life situation! Go me!” 
I was going to calmly and rationally deal with my three year old who was crumpled in a heap at my feet in full melt down mode.  I was going to be patient.  I was not going to give in and give him more of the organic white cheddar rice puffs that I had just purchased. 

(Oh yeah, I had also decided that we were going to start eating more organic food…although the gaping hole in my wallet has since cured me of that notion.)
Are you picturing this?  I’m using my nicest voice trying to rationalize with a screaming, thrashing child.  He couldn’t even hear me over his crying so I don’t know what good I was supposed to be doing. 
All of a sudden my husband came around the corner and informed me "If you keep shopping at Trader Joe's and talking to our son like that I'm going to divorce you."
Eh.  Well it was worth a shot.  “Carter, get off the damn floor right now!  Knock it off! GET IN TIME OUT!”
Aaaaahhhh!  That’s more like it!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Role Models

Do as I say, not as I do. 
That really should be the motto of my household.  Some things are harmless.  Like, telling the kids they have to sit at the table to eat while I cannot remember my last meal that wasn’t consumed in front of the TV.  Other things, however…
I routinely surround my children with my loud, obnoxious, inappropriate (but lovable) family.  Everyone yells, everyone swears, everyone fights.  We don’t have to look far to see where I picked up my questionable habits.
I have an awful mouth.  Like, a really bad one.  I’ve had it my whole life.  You’d think that being the primary caretaker for two impressionable young children would motivate me to alter my behavior. 
It hasn’t.
One day Carter told he needed our dog Toby to get away from him.  When I asked him why he said, “Cause he’s a pain in the ass.”  Oh, ok then.  I wanted to tell him that we don't use that word, but can I really discipline him when I completely agree with his assessment of the situation?  
I really like when the phrases he picks up from me are accompanied by gestures.  It’s a nice little surprise.   We like to play charades and on Carter’s turn he started acting out holding a steering wheel.  All of a sudden he yelled "What the hell!" put his hands up for a second then went right back to driving.
Ummm...apparently I have to get my road rage in check.
Now, I know exactly where phrases like “pain in the ass” come from.  I say that on a pretty regular basis.  (Save your judgment until you have two kids, two dogs and a husband who are all huge pains in the ass!)  I own up to what he got from me.  Sometimes, though, I have absolutely no idea where he picks stuff up.
"Mama, can I say weird?"
"Yeah, Cart, I think that's an ok word to use. Like, how do you want to use it?"
I’m thinking he wants to say Grant is weird, these peas taste weird, that dude on TV is weird looking…stuff like that.  So imagine my surprise when he answered with:
"Like, that's some weird fucking crap."
Whaaaaaat???  Um, what? Some weird fucking crap?  I don’t think I’ve ever said that in my life.  Also, you think weird is the bad word in that sentence?  We have some work to do.
Phrases are not the only things that he picks up from his parents/babysitters.  Actions sometimes speak louder than words…unfortunately.
Recently Carter has taken to telling people that he’s gonna hug them “like Auntie Shelly”. 
That might sound really innocent…unless you know Auntie Shelly.  She is the least gentle person that has ever walked the face of the earth.  She can often be found telling people that she’s going to “squeeze the shit out of them”.  That’s how she expresses affection…and yes, I use her for childcare on a regular basis.  
So you can understand why both Mike and I jumped to intervene the night Carter told his great-grandmother the he was going to hug her like Auntie Shelly.  It was like one of those slow motion lunging scenes from the movies, with both of us yelling “Noooooooo!!” as we tried to stop him. We didn’t want him sent to a juvenile detention center for accidentally collapsing Oma’s lungs. 
The other inmates will wonder about the new kid till one day someone will nervously say “Oh him? That’s Carter.  Steer clear of that guy. He’ll hug ya, man.  He’ll hug ya like Auntie Shelly!”
It makes sense when he repeats behavior that he’s seen.  But it baffles us when he comes up with behavior that we are relatively sure he’s never witnessed.
One Sunday afternoon I’m in the kitchen when my husband walks in with an odd look on his face:
Mike: "Do you shoplift from Shaw's?"
Me: "What? NO! Why?"
Mike: "Cause I'm playing with Carter and he told me the game we're playing is called 'I didn't pay for my food at Shaw's and now I have to run away'..."
Of course I laughed.  What three year old plays games involving felonies?  Mine of course. 
Now THAT is some weird fucking crap!