I Want to Hold Your Hand

Honest confession: When given the choice between running through crowded parking lots or holding my hand in public, my not-quite-two-year old would rather take his chances against a mini-van. That is, until today! For some unknown reason, today was different. Today I was not the mother with a car seat in one hand and a child in the fireman carry over the other shoulder. No, Sir! Today I was the mother with a car seat in one hand and a sleepy, smiling little boy walking calmly next to me all the way to the door. Just when I thought my son had been tranquilized and given a good-behavior microchip, he reached up and grabbed my extended hand. We walked hand in hand without any pulling or straying all the way to the car for the first time. Rather than run away when released, he walked to the door, threw his little leg up into the car, climbed into his car seat, and waited to be strapped in. I could have cried.

holding hands

While this may not seem a big deal to some, my son’s idea of appropriate touching is tackling- in nearly every situation. Even as a newborn, he didn’t want to be cuddled or held closely. We have worked on hand holding for months and finally we had a breakthrough! Once we were home, he later crawled up on the couch next to me and patted my leg! I realized shortly after that he was wiping boogers on me instead of patting me gently, but oh well.

Hand holding is a great relief after an incident that happened not too long ago. It had been a while since the dreaded buzzer summoned us to the nursery during Sunday Service. Hubby was told that Firstborn had been involved in a “biting incident”. After a deep breath to prepare for a speech we heard something unexpected; “Your son was the victim.” I’m sorry, what? After recovering from the shock, the story came out. A GIRL had bitten Firstborn right on the face, next to the ear! He had a tiny red mark on his face where this young lady gave him a nibble. So in review, my son got a hickey from a girl in church. I thought it would be a little later in life that I would be called for PDA issues, but life is full of surprises.

So there we are- hand holding, booger wiping, hickeys… one thing is for sure; no matter what display Firstborn puts on, I am sure that it will be public. At least for now, I am very pleased that my darling boy held my hand in public today. I am sure it won’t be long before he wants me to drop him off a few rooms down the hall from his daycare room. Clearly I will have to threaten him with curler and robe wearing to make him grateful.  To have a boy safe in the parking lots and to feel loved by my Firstborn, I will gladly risk all the plagues and germs of daycare. It’s a host home for all manner of chemical and biological warfare research in there, no matter how much Clorox is used.  The need for masks and Haz-Mat suits aside, for now I have part of my ‘whole world’ in my hand.

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Scarred for Life

Chicago – 1994. It was a Saturday play-date at Burger King. Joined by family friends with two young boys, it was a special day. As the oldest, most responsible, and most likely to be a suck-up, I carried the tray full of kid’s meals to a table. My sister and I sat, the mothers brought the rest of the food and corralled the two boys that were practicing Ninja Turtle kicks. Now, I KNOW this was 1994 because The Lion King had just debuted in theaters. Thus, the toys included in the kid meals were Lion King themed.  As I pulled out the toy, I saw a card with the villain, Scar, surrounded by his hyena henchmen. The card had a phrase on it that Scar said during the movie; “I’m surrounded by idiots.”

surrounded by idiots

Unfortunately, this was before I had ANY progress in my constant struggle to keep monologue internal. Thus, I read the card aloud.  My mother- I then discovered- has not only invisible eyes on the back of her head, but super-sonic selective hearing. In the middle of making my younger brother sit in a seat and eat a burger before fries (which at the time was harder than disarming a nuclear warhead) she snapped her head to me and promptly began a stern series of loving discipline that I have not forgotten. Regardless of the reason, we do NOT say we are surrounded by idiots. A day’s grounding ensued. Meanwhile, my brother proceeded to bounce off of walls, put fries up his nose, and defend the restaurant against the invisible attacks of Shredder, Be-bop and Rock-Steady. Oh, the injustice.

Funny side note- my sister then whispered to me, asking me to read her card. Bless her heart- it was Pumba speaking in pig-Latin. She was safe. Drat. No, I HAD to get the villain card! No wonder they call him Scar. I’m still stunted.

Now, I revisit that moment of childhood scarring to explain the significance of what occurred in my home yesterday. My husband came home with a button that had formerly resided on a co-worker’s desk. This button looks like a Staple’s ‘Easy Button’ and also speaks when pushed. As you might have guessed, this button bears the image of Scar. Upon pressing it, one will hear the familiar deep voice of Scar saying, “I’m surrounded by idiots!” (At least it is unmistakably Scar’s voice so innocent readers are not harmed in the making of a memory.)

Let me reiterate that my husband, knowingly and without coercion, brought a talking button into a home with a toddler. Seriously? During a diaper change for Secondborn there was a button-pushing rampage followed by a rapping remix that occurs when a button is pressed before the phrase is over. I immediately wanted to remove the button from his adorable grasp and send it to the savannah. Furthermore, I wanted to impress upon Firstborn that in this house we do NOT say that we are surrounded by idiots! God Bless Texas…I am my mother. I also want fries. Oy.

I am now in the age of ‘older’ that it mentioned throughout childhood- i.e., “You’ll understand when you are older”, “You’ll thank me when you are older”, “Just wait until you are older!”

It is now that I realize the injustices of my early life were actually attempts at proper raising. With the mom-perspective of needing playdates to survive, I have a new appreciation for my poor mother’s endurance. SHE was the one surrounded by idiots…or at least a band of laughing hyenas. As I recounted this dark day in my childhood, my mother lamented her total responsibility for all things horrible in my life but reminded me how well I turned out. Eh, the jury is still out.

I think Scar leaves us with another catch phrase that encompasses the important lesson I learned last night. Be Prepared.

A friend without children reminded me this week that no matter how good of a mother you are, “You are always doing it wrong. Then when you fix it for the second kid, you are STILL doing it wrong.” Thank goodness for those true reminders. All we can do is our best, but that still won’t be good enough all the time! Perfection is unattainable; failure and learning are a part of it. No kid comes out unscathed- not to mention the mothers!  Being responsible for other little lives means being prepared. Be prepared for the straw to break the camel’s back. Be prepared for a total blow-out diaper at the worst possible time. Be prepared for horrible comments from strangers. Be prepared for something hilarious to happen while trying to give stern discipline. Be prepared to be called out on your mistakes. Be prepared to be surrounded by idiots. Just be prepared.

bepreparedhyenas

Who knows what my poor mother endured just getting us out of the house and to the Burger King, let alone keeping us somewhat quiet and contained while trying to have an adult conversation with Aunt Donna. During a full-body wrangling of 3 little boys and lunches (undoubtedly a huge struggle) her reliable and darling oldest declares that she is surrounded by idiots! I think I would have lost it too-especially when the lovely daughter, rather than just sweetly explain she was reading a card, pointed out the inconsistency of punishment between children! Yep, I deserved to be grounded. Of course, by that time in my life I should have been prepared for that.

Undoubtedly, there will be moments where Firstborn truly does feel surrounded by idiots- namely his mother. I am sure he will have numerous emotional scars thanks to me. He may even tell the world about them…I hope not, but I’m prepared for it. (At least he will have gotten something from me!)  Long before than possibility though, he will most likely find the “That could have been a lot easier” button and use it to drive me out of my mind. I’ll just have to be prepared. In the meantime, I’ll try to find a fitting place for the button to live. Anyone who has driven through Fayetteville could agree that my dashboard is a plausible location. Then when I press it I can channel my mother’s lessons in ‘appropriate yelling at other drivers’ (done politely but so they know they were wrong but won’t be provoked to shoot you).

scar

Ah, Mom’s yelling and driving lessons… but that’s another scarring- I mean story…

Timing is Everything

 

So there we sat- four young adults discussing an upcoming event while our children played in the next room only five feet away. The noise of four kids playing was easily heard; the sound of a Disney movie playing, the rustle of plastic toys, mixed with some squeals and light thumps. After about 30 minutes, I discovered that Firstborn had taken cover, realizing the ‘big kids’ outnumbered him. He had climbed into the very small toy bin under the nesting table after removing only half the toys. I have no idea how he fit in there. Furthermore, I have no idea how he was soon joined by the other nearly-two year old in the box. There is never a foxhole too tight when you are in the middle of a fight. Also, never underestimate the abilities of two year olds.

As I enjoyed an adult conversation and held Secondborn, my ears perked to the noise of the kids. 1…2…3… not four. I looked over at Hubby with that ‘Where is our son?’ eye shift. He got up quickly and after about 15 seconds we all heard a shout that could only mean a wild animal was in the house or Firstborn had done something new. Sadly, it was the latter. A second scream of “Oh! Gross! How did you even- NO! Sick!” was followed by “Honey! Immediate bath time!” I smiled sweetly over my burping bundle of newborn and inquired what on earth our perfectly behaved future joint academic-athletic scholarship holder could possibly have done. Apparently the absence of a sippy-cup prompted him to open the bathroom door, climb up to the throne, launch half his body weight over to balance his stomach on the rim, and cup toilet water into his mouth. I’d like to reiterate he has NEVER done that before and hopefully never will again. (I’ll allow time for your laughter here.)

As we rushed Firstborn upstairs, the visiting father of three asked a very important question. “Was it flushed?” God bless him. That was precisely what I needed! In the balance of “Seriously? This is my life?” and the embarrassment of such a horror happening with guests over, fellow sojourners on the mission of parenting real children extended grace. It was the perfect ‘it could be worse’ moment. Apparently with multiple potty trained children in the house, flushing can be an issue. As we started herding the children for bedtime observances, Hubby and I juggled the bath and bedtime routine. Somehow the four of us managed to continue a conversation through this…we’re used to it. There is something wonderfully comforting in realizing that someone else is experiencing something similar and can laugh about it.

Firstborn had provided some life application to an important lesson his grandmother repeated often: Timing is everything. He used his decoys and my distraction to try out something new. While today’s culture might encourage his resourcefulness and lack of interruption that is not how things work in this house. He has no problem handing us empty cups, make no mistake. Still, he seized an opportunity and dealt (smiling) with the consequences.

That’s not a bad lesson to learn from my dear Firstborn. While he was guzzling grossness, we two couples were planning to launch an endeavor we feel strongly about. It will require a major commitment of time, preparation and planning. Frankly, it would be easy to pass the buck and let someone without small children take on the task. I often find that the task of mothering small children is so encompassing that it is easy for us to devote our time and attention to them. While this is appropriate, we can also feel like we lose our enthusiasm, skill sets, and perhaps even confidence in the meantime. I sometimes fear that in 20 years I will look back on missed opportunities and realize an ability to quote every word to every VeggieTales video in character voice won’t make up for it. Once again, we are finding the balance.

There is something wonderful about sharing a meal with friends who also have kids. Whether it is a lunch date at a fast-food place with a play scape, a park, or a sit-down dinner, balancing the chaos of child-rearing with our own identities is nice to do in groups. There is something to be said about the herd mentality. (Oh, sorry academics… ‘group dynamics’ and ‘communal activities’.)

Time is precious because it can’t be replaced. I fight the urge to spend a morning in climbing Mount Saint Laundry or doing dish triage in favor for chasing Firstborn around the living room and watching him discover new things. As always, finding the balance is a constant process. This year I’ve decided that the things I claim are priorities will get the time they deserve. I’ve begrudgingly used nap times to work out and learned to do multiple things at once. 3am feedings are not for facebook until the daily scripture reading is finished. (No one posts much between 1am and 4am on weekdays anyway.) I set timers and thereby set limits. I’m now setting timers not only for chores, but also to devote 10-15 minutes to my children without interruption. Phone calls, dryer buzzers, and dishes will have to wait until my playtime is up. No work until I’ve finished my playtime!

time-management

How many opportunities do we miss because time will be limited and we fear feeling overburdened? How many times have our priorities slipped because our schedules are full of ‘good things’ that took time away from the most important things?My new planner already has a full first month. I also had to sit down and schedule out the mundane (like putting away laundry and mopping) to see where my time was going. I don’t want to waste my most important commodity. If I should strike while the iron is hot, I should first be aware of where the iron is and how hot it is. Hm…I should also pencil in ironing on today’s list.

5todo-list

As I look back on 2011 and 2012, the time that flies by is marked less by big events and more by time spent with people we love. Most of my best friendships were forged during a time that I was ‘too busy’ with a job, child, or PCS. 2013 will be a year of great things. I will take the time to see to it…as I double check the toilet seat.  That is worth taking the time.