Friday, October 21, 2016

I Can't Always Be There

Some days a parent's heart hurts because he or she can't solve everything.  I'm starting to have more and more of those days.

My boys are off on their own more now.  School is six hours a day which means they have to navigate a classroom with I believe 19 other kids lunch in a cafeteria, recess, art class, music class, free play and more.  We recently went to two birthday parties and their worlds are becoming more complex. 

When I hear that a child wouldn't play hide and seek with Jeff or someone bumped Aaron on the playground and my child wonders why that happened it hurts me.  I want to rush to their aid.  I tell Jeff that he can find another friend and I let Aaron know that some kids don't know better, but their world getting rocked a little is something I can't totally fix.  They need to find their own friends.  They need to stand up for themselves a little.  They need to join the right crowd.  As parents we may guide our children towards certain goals or away from other goals, but the truth is that they are the ones leading. 

I have tried to raise empathic, caring, sweet boys and some days I wonder if a little more assertiveness wouldn't hurt so much.  There are times in this world where you do have to claw your way to the top, but there are times when I believe compassion for others is really the ultimate skill.  In this day and age our children are supposed to be independent, but watched 24/7.  They must be academically pushed but also left alone to be a kid and play.  Children must be learning about technology because that's our future but not have too much screen time.  When a child shows an interest in something we are supposed to encourage that but then, if a child wants to quit, we shouldn't encourage quitting but at the same time we shouldn't force them to do something they hate.  Parenting is a constant balancing act where too little of something can be just as bad as too much of something.

So as my boys struggle to figure out how to make friends I know there is a delicate balance between me wanting to be their friend and me allowing them to fail on their own.  Parenthood is hard.  I see what people mean when they say the problems become more complex.  It's no longer about how many cookies the boys can have (although I believe there will always be struggles with cookies) but about hurt feelings, social relationships, gender roles, and more. 

Wish me luck.  As my former teacher once said, "Life is like a roller coaster and you just have to ride it until the end.  There's no getting off until the ride comes to a complete stop." 

Monday, September 5, 2016


Apparently there is a lot of fear and trepidation in our home these days.  But if you look hard enough you can find a silver lining. 

At dinner tonight Aaron brought up the fact that he still wants to be a fireman when he grows up.  Jeff responded by telling us he was going to be one of four things: a fireman, a construction worker, a something-I-can't-remember, or an audiologist.  Aaron then hoped that Jeff would be an fireman so they could be together.  When Jeff said he was really considering becoming an audiologist Aaron then decided he would be an audiologist too.  He then turned to me and asked if I would be an audiologist so the four of us could be together.  He seemed truly scared to be away from Jeff when he grows up.  He said that he wanted to work with Jeff.  We did our best to assure Aaron that even if he and Jeff work in different places, they will always be brother who love each other and his daddies will always love him too.  While the actual fear and sadness was heartbreaking it was sweet to know how much he loves his family.

Jeff had some behavior problems today and this afternoon I sat him down and asked if he was feeling sad or mad or scared or angry.  He said no to all of them.  Then, after reflecting on his answers for a minute, he told me that he was scared about starting junior kindergarten in a couple days.  His beautiful little eyes got wet and scared.  I hugged him and told him that his brother would be with him as well as two friends we had met on the playground.  I promised him that he will get to play new games, read new books, sing new songs, etc.  I reminded him that we will get to visit the school as a family on Wednesday and see what his classroom will look like.  I'm sure he is still scared about this new adventure, but it impressed me that he was able to actually verbalize his fear.

I'm scared too.  As a parent of course I'm worried about my kids.  They will in the youngest grade in the school and most likely they'll be the youngest kids in the class.  It's their first time being in school all day.  I'm nervous that they won't eat their lunch or that no one will help them open their yogurt.  I'm worried that they won't make friends or that someone will pick on them.  I hope they have a good teacher.  I hope they learn a lot.  I hope they have fun.  I'm also wondering what life will look like for me when they are in school all day and how I can balance work and parenthood again.

I am looking forward to the summer ending and having time to do things for myself again.  I believe I am a better parent when I have some of my pre-kid life back.  I'll be performing in a show this fall and I'm sure I'll be able to figure out my work/life balance.  But school starting is a realization that my boys are growing up, becoming independent and needing me less.  I know I have been craving that most days, but it is bittersweet...well, let's say 10% bitter and 90% sweet.  ;-) 

Years from now, when my boys read this, they'll roll their eyes at this last part...

Every night, for as long as I can remember, I sneak into their room before I go to bed.  I kiss each one on the head and most nights I tell myself that I will try to be a better parent the next day.  I think about how they will always be my little men and how I hope they are happy.  I know that in a few years they won't want kisses from me and they won't dance an impromptu hula dance in the kitchen with me to The Pina Colada Song like we did today.  I want to protect their happy lives for as long as possible, but I know that we all must grow up and face the big, scary world at some point.  Still, when my mom or dad tells me everything will be alright or sits down with me to eat a homemade chocolate chip cookie they still have the power to lessen my fears even just a little bit.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Broccoli and New Hampshire Pizza

A few years ago I heard the story of new broccoli.  Apparently it's better than regular, old broccoli.  My friend told me that her friend's kid refused to eat broccoli.  The parents tried every which way to get the child to eat the vegetable and all attempts failed.  One day, when the mom was cooking dinner, she told her son that she wasn't making broccoli; she was making new broccoli.  He probably wouldn't want it since he didn't eat broccoli.

Of course the child wanted to try anything that was called "new" and has been a broccoli fan ever since that day.

I have to brag a little and say I think I do a pretty good job of getting my kids to eat.  While they aren't the kinds of kids who will be adventurous enough to try tika masala and escargot, they do a pretty good job of eating overall. 

Aaron, however, won't eat pizza. 


I know.  I know.  Pick your jaw up off the floor and keep reading. 

When the boys were about a year old I started taking them to a pizza shop around the corner from my Chicago home.  It was amazing pizza and for about $5.00 I could get enough pizza for the three of us for lunch.  The boys happily gummed their pizza and I got out of the house for an hour.  It was great.

One day, when Aaron was maybe two years old (I'm totally guessing) he declared that the red sauce was "sour."  (Sour was the word for any food he didn't like.)  I thought it was a phase but for the next two plus years pizza was verboten on his plate.

My parents live in NYC and white pizza is popular there.  My parents introduced him to white pizza which is basically just bread and cheese.  We were now able to go out for pizza as long as the place could make a white pizza for Aaron.  Over the last two years we have scoped out the restaurants that could make pizza without sauce and life was decent again even if we had to order double the amount of pizzas we wanted.  At least we came home with leftovers and I could have cold (white) pizza for breakfast.

A few months ago a parent at my boys' school decided to treat the kids with some pizza.  Aaron asked the teacher for white pizza.  The teacher explained that the "red pizza" was the only kind of pizza she had and Aaron could eat it if he wanted or eat nothing at all.  He ate it.

I was shocked.

But now I knew that eating pizza was a possibility.

This past weekend my family headed up to New Hampshire to celebrate my parents' 50th anniversary.  One night we got pizza.  We ordered a red pizza (or as everyone else in the world calls it: a pizza) and a white pizza.  Aaron ate a piece of white pizza and wanted more.  Someone (I think it was me...but maybe I'm stealing the credit) told Aaron that we ordered New Hampshire red pizza which was different than other red pizza.  Aaron decided to try it. 

He ate it.

He liked it.

He can now attend birthday parties where they only serve pizza -- I mean New Hampshire red pizza.

Yesterday we went to a food court and I ordered a piece of white pizza and "New Hampshire" red pizza even though we were in Boston.  Miraculously they make New Hampshire red pizza.  (wink wink)  Aaron ate it and liked it.

So we have learned a few things. 
  • Broccoli is yucky. 
  • New broccoli is yummy. 
  • Red pizza is yucky. 
  • New Hampshire red pizza is yummy. 
  • Kids are easy to fool
Now, if only I can figure out a way to get both of my kids to eat mac 'n cheese again.  They stopped eating that a few days after I bought a package of 18 boxes at Costco.  Ugh!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Our Family Doubled

About a month ago Jeff came up with a magical, invisible friend.  She (I believe it was a she when she first appeared) showed up a few times over the course of a week and would often stay for a short time.  Aaron's magical, invisible friend came a few times too but very rarely. 

Then the friends disappeared.

A few weeks later Jeff's friend came back again.  She is here to stay, it seems, considering how often she has been with us.  Over the last week or two I have learned several things about her.  Her name is Silly.  She sleeps in Jeff's bed most nights under her own blanket but sometimes sleeps up in our lofted space on the toddler sized plastic slide.  (I'm sure that's not very comfortable.)  She has two moms.  She sometimes eats with us or comes into the car with us but sometimes she will eat the dinner her moms cook or ride in a car with her moms.  Oh, and her moms are named Miss Movie and Miss Candy because they let Silly watch movies (i.e. a cartoon on Netflix) and give her candy.

Aaron's friend is named Shiny.  We don't hear much about her, although we do know she is a she.  Just yesterday I found out that she is not a human being; she is a star.  Aaron drew a picture of her and she was a red and orange "star" -- although it looked more like an amoeba and she may have been red and orange because those were the colors of crayons Aaron got at the restaurant.

So it seems that our family of four is now eight and it includes two daughters (one human and one star) and two moms who are named after overindulging their children.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Cindy the Librarian

"You look tired," Cindy said to me.

"Yeah," I replied secretly impressed with how well she knew me.

My boys and I met Cindy almost two years ago.  She does a sing-along/story time for kids at the library near our home.  She runs her story time well and my boys started sitting through her performance after just a couple weeks even though they were only two and a half years old.  She started to know us because we showed up to the library quite often.

I don't remember when but shortly after we moved to Massachusetts my parents came for a visit.  I'm guessing it was around Halloween because I remember they were visiting so they could watch the kids trick-or-treat.  I took some work (or maybe I just ran away from home for the day) and my parents took the kids to the library.  My mom, who will talk to just about anyone these days, started talking with Cindy and immediately they were like old friends.

The next time I came into the library Cindy made a big point of learning my name, Jeff and Aaron's names and even Derek's name.  I remember she wrote it on a piece of paper and knew our names from then on.  Every time we went to the library she greeted us with a personal touch. 

Over the last two years the kids have grown to love her.  When we walk into the library they look for her.  They tell her stories about their lives.  They ask her questions.  She always gives them her full attention and respect.  Who knew a librarian would be such a big part of our lives?

So yesterday, when I talked with Cindy, she saw I looked tired.  She could tell something was different.  I told her what was bothering me and she validated everything I was feeling.  She told me about her experience as a mother (her children are now grown) and empathized with how hard parenthood can be.  She told me that she is like Lucy and she always has a sign saying "The doctor is in."  The wonderful thing is that she means it.  She made me feel so much better about myself and my feelings.  If she accepts my insurance maybe I should start seeing her once a week.  Although Lucy only charges five cents so I could probably afford that even if she's out of my network. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What Will They Be? (Part Three)

It's both exciting and scary to watch my kids' world open up.  Now that school is out and I am home with them most days this summer I understand a parent's need to have structure.  If we were home all day every day with no plans I think I would go insane.  So off to classes we go.  Their interests are growing and it made me want to write another installment of "What Will They Be?" since I keep predicting what their futures will look like.  Watching their interests develop is exciting.

We started taking gymnastics class a couple months ago and we are continuing that.  It works well because Aaron uses some of his limitless energy and Jeff is improving his coordination.  The boys enjoy it and the teachers are great.

Last week we added swimming lessons.  I took the boys to the pool with their new Paw Patrol towels and got them ready to swim.  On the way in Aaron saw a pool with a twisty slide and immediately decided he wanted to do that.  I explained that he had to learn to swim first.  So we went to class and the boys swam with their floaties and pool noodles and had big smiles on their faces.  Both of them enjoyed it and at the end of the class Aaron stated that he could now swim and was ready for the slide.  I explained that when you fall off the slide you splash into the water and your head goes underwater.  That was a little too much for Aaron so the slide will have to wait but he still tells me that he can swim after just one lesson.  (In his defense he did swim without holding on to the teacher.)

A few days ago we started ballet class.  Aaron had been asking for dance for a while so I got him some dance shoes and registered him for class.  Jeff did not want to least not the first week.  He wanted to watch.  When we arrived at dance class Jeff told the teacher "Aaron is a little scared."  Aaron nodded in agreement.  The teacher asked if Jeff wanted to join class with his brother and he immediately said yes.  He turned to his brother and said, "Aaron, you don't have to be scared because I'll be with you and I'm not scared."  Jeff took Aaron by the hand and walked him into class.

My heart melted.

So gymnastics, swimming and dancing are all a hit with both boys.  Jeff still loves numbers and reading.  Aaron still loves to run non-stop.  Jeff is sweeter than sweet and recently got two dimes for doing something nice for me and asked if he could give one to his brother.  Aaron enjoys singing, cooking and trying to get my not-so-social cat to smell his finger.

My new predictions are that Jeff will do something with finance since he loves numbers so much but will reform the whole banking system to be an honest one because his heart is just that way.  Aaron will be an Olympic runner/swimmer/gymnast and be a vet in his spare time.

Only time will tell if these predictions come true.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Grateful and Lucky

We made it.  The boys just finished their first year of school today.  I am so sad to be losing their teacher.  Ms. Long has been phenomenal in every sense of the word.  We really lucked out to get such an amazing teacher and her three assistant teachers.  But time marches on and kids grow up so it is time to say goodbye to Kristin, Shela, Catalina and Becky (as well as Stephanie and  Kayla who were there earlier in the year) and look forward to the exciting world of junior kindergarten.  My boys have grown up so much over this year.  They have learned how to write their names, color in the lines, socialize with other kids, play new sports and more. 

I have learned something too.  I learned why there is a joy to parenting.  Now that the tantrums have stopped (mostly) and the boys' personalities have emerged I found myself looking forward to spending the summer with them.  I have entered "The Golden Years."  It's those years when they are old enough to act like humans and yet young enough to not ask a parent to walk 10 feet behind them when they are out in public.  (Sorry, Mom, for asking you to do that.)  They have a desire to experience the world and they do it in an appropriate way.  This summer I can take them to a butterfly garden or a street fair and not worry that we will have a melt down because the lemon lollipop is too yellow or their hair is too heavy or the Rice Krispies treat is too crispy. 

They have personalities that are fun.  I have fascinating conversations with them and learn things like "97 infinity" is an actual number in their world and that queen bees can give another bee a time out for stealing all the honey.  I've learned from them that somersaults should be done in the summer, falling to the ground is only a short fall when you're four, Donald Trump may have broken then elevator in our building and you have to wait 25 years for your next pretend birthday but only one year for your next real birthday. 

The world of a four year old is complex.

I'm am hopeful this summer I'll be writing about all sorts of fun experiences with the boys and the three of us will have big smiles on our faces.  But just in case, I may still keep the babysitter's number on speed dial.