February Break

I’m just going to lay it out there: this February break does not represent my best parenting work.

Now, I’m not saying that I suck. I have my moments, like constructing a fabulous Halloween costume, having impromptu female anatomy lesson, or getting kids to eat vegetables. This week, though? There just hasn’t been the kind of effort you’ve come to expect from a woman who spends her work life urging families to get their kids out and about.

Part of this is a scheduling issue. We had a plan for visitors that fell through. If I’d known that I was going to have a great yawning stretch of nine days, I would have at least attempted to plan a day trip or two ahead of time. Now that the calendar’s theoretically opened up, though, it’s surprising how empty the calendar isn’t. Between soccer and gymnastics, one girl or the other has had something scheduled every day this week, which discourages impromptu day trips.

And part of it is plain old lethargy. It’s cold. I have cramps. I did a free trial of Hulu+ so that I could watch the end of Parenthood, and those episodes won’t wait.

So, yes, there’s been too much tv. There’s been a discernible lack of grooming all around. Work outs have been well-nigh non-existent. But, hey, it’s almost done now.

Lucky for M, most of her friends are in town, so she’s kept pretty busy going on outings with them and their parents. M hasn’t hosted a birthday party since 4th grade, and she’s been pretty consistent about never wanting to invite anyone anywhere. It’s pretty irritating. She’ll happily run around with her friends and their parents. I’ve met these parents, and I really don’t think that I’m inherently more humiliating than any of them. These days I’ve taken to giving up and just trying to slip the hosting moms some cash. Part of me would like to plan a surprise party for M’s next birthday party, but I think that she’d really, really hate it. But with so many of her friends playing basketball, and because she never invites people over, I was really glad that kids were free to play this week.

Based on the last post, you might suppose that all of my parenting challenges are coming from the elder sister, but that just isn’t so. Sweet J has been a bit crazy-making these days, too.

J’s a poky little puppy. It always feels like a struggle to get her out the door to gymnastics. Usually, this makes sense, because she’s rushing to finish homework and eating a ridiculously early mini-dinner. But you’d think this week would be easier, with our schedule clear. Nope. I think that part of it is that traffic is so unpredictable that there’s not a consistent link between behavior and consequences. On an excellent day, the gymnastics place is 15 minutes away. Generally, I allow 20 minutes, and when traffic is nutty, it can take 30 minutes. Usually, if we leave 20 minutes before class starts, we arrive with a couple of minutes to spare. But sometimes we’ll leave on time or even early, and traffic’s awful, so we’re late, anyway, and sometimes we’ll leave late and we hit every light perfectly and skate in right on time. The result is that J seems to feel no sense of urgency to get out 20 minutes ahead. And the worst part.. . . the very worst part, is that when she decides that she’s late, she goes into a freak-out mode that seriously interferes with her ability to get her butt out the door. So I’m trying to keep her cognizant of the time without flipping the freak-out mode switch.

So yesterday, I gave her warnings at 15 minutes ahead and 5 minutes ahead, and she acknowledged it, and then about 3 minutes before it was time to go, she requested headache medicine. This was the first mention of a headache all day. In fact, the last time she mentioned at headache was right before gymnastics, and on that day I probed, “Have you been feeling bad all day, or are you just not in the mood to get off of the couch and away from the tv and do gymnastics?” She was appalled. She loves gymnastics. How could I even question it? I’m so terrible. “I’m just saying that I can understand that you might feel decent lying around and not-so-good doing back-handsprings,” I said. “But if you’re feeling really sick all day, you should stay home and rest.” NO. She was fine. So when she requested headache medicine 3 minutes before go-time I refrained from rolling my eyes, but that 3 minutes were supposed to be devoted to boot-pulling, refusing a coat, and walking past the full water bottle and going back for it, not measuring out and taking medicine and following it with a juice chaser.

She sucked down her medicine and, seeing me standing in my shoes and coat, switched into freak-out mode. I stood silently, watching her pull on her boots.

“I can’t get them on! And please stop just watching me!” I turned and sat at my conveniently-located computer. I even had some silly story to read.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” she wailed.

“Sweetheart, it’s fine,” I murmured. “I’m ready when you are.”

“Stop yelling at me!” She said this to her quiet, quiet, murmuring Mommy.

“Are you kidding with that one?” I asked, half-snorting. I mean, I was in the Mommy Zone. I was so Zen. I wasn’t late for my practice.

“You’re so mean. I hate how you’re acting all calm.” She said this. It is a direct quote. I know, because at this point it was so good I had to write it down, and luckily, I was at my desk.

“I’m sorry, baby. Should I yell? Would that feel better to you?”

I’m not usually much of a yeller, and my children occasionally accuse me of yelling when I actually get quieter. Once, strictly for demonstration purposes, I responded to the accusation by actually yelling, “This is what it would sound like if I were actually yelling” and M promptly started to hyperventilate. But in this case, J ignored me and I finished whatever I was reading on my computer and we headed out.



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