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Margaret Dilloway, American Housewife

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What Was Wrong With Traditional Halloween?

A few weeks ago I chanced to see a book and figure about a Halloween witch.

This witch, you see, needs your candy. If you don’t give her the candy you trick or treated for, her pet will die. Or her broomsticks need it for energy. Or something. I saw a couple different kinds. I’m not even linking to it because there’s more than one witch thing on the market and it doesn’t need publicity, does it?

halloween-candy-600x400

Like Elf on the Shelf, this proudly proclaimed on the packaging to be a “tradition.” Never mind that a tradition isn’t a tradition until it’s been done for years (Tradition definition: “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way”). But obviously “tradition” is a great marketing keyword that makes you part with money.

I’m sure some parents think this witch is absolutely fantastic. Kids don’t need that much candy, they think. So instead of being actual parents and saying, “Hey, Jimmy, you get two pieces today,” or determining how much they can have in total, or my favorite, “Yeah, whatever, go ahead and eat all you want,” (kids only do that once because nobody likes being sick to their stomach) these parents’ apparent default is, “I’m too much of a wimp to tell my kids what to do. Therefore I will buy this object so I can trick my children into giving up their candy and buy them another object in addition.”

Because in return for the candy, the parent is apparently obligated to leave money or a toy. Before the advent of this witch marketing thing, I’d heard of parents telling their kids about a witch fairy, a sort of tooth fairy, who would leave them $20 in return for candy. Which led to my kids coming home and saying, “How come I didn’t get $20 for my candy?” Which then led me to explaining that those kids were tricked. That’s me, no parent-parent loyalty.

Anyway,  let me break this down for you. You spend $50 on candy to give out. You spend generally $25-35 on a costume for your kid. More money for Halloween carnivals and haunted houses and everything. And then you take your kid for 4 hours with their pillowcase to trick or treat and then…you make them give it all up? And then you pay MORE for the privilege by buying a toy or giving the kid money?

(shakes head) America. What would your greatest generation grandparents or great-grandparents say about this?

My father tells me that in his coal mining town of Nemacolin, PA, in the 1930s, he and his sisters would trick-or-treat for weeks, like into November They didn’t know any better and they were poor and their father had lost his leg coal mining, and obviously the neighbors felt kinda bad for them so they gave them treats through the whole month.

And here we are, tricking kids into giving us their candy.

Believe it or not, generations of kids have pigged out on Halloween candy and come out unscathed. For me, it was the one time we could. If you’re worried about your kid being overweight as a result of Halloween candy, then make them walk the dog more or go running with them or something. Once a year is not going to harm them.

And as the parent of not-young-kids, this has worked out fine. My eldest (despite having consumed non-organic foods and loads of Flaming Hot Cheetos, watching SpongeBob, and eating all the Halloween chocolate she likes) is graduating in the top 15% of the state, a year early. She has played water polo and founded and run a club. She remembers to do her chores. She is her own person. So she is pretty much my proof in the pudding (though honestly, she is just who she is anyway so I’m not actually taking much credit).

And, like I said, an average kid will only pig out to the point of being sick once.

If you want to do something with extra Halloween candy, look into a troop donation program. Our school collects candy for the military, who, by virtue of spending 8 hours a day or more involved in physical activity, can easily consume all those extra calories.

But why pay for a “tradition” that actually involves MORE work than just telling your kid to not eat all that candy at once? Why not just say, “We’re trick or treating two blocks, and that’s it.” Problem solved. Less work. Less money. Put the money for the Halloween witch into your holiday savings account or buy yourself some chocolate.

Otherwise the ghosts of your ancestors will rise up from their graves and slap you in the face.

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Introvert Parent, Extrovert Kid

I’m a writer, with naturally introverted tendencies. Sure, I can call out my extrovert once in a while when I’m speaking in public (which I actually enjoy!) or whatnot. But generally, I fritz out when there’s too much activity.

Right now, my kids are at three different schools, and just driving and doing the basics of maintenance are about all I can handle.

Luckily, or so I thought, I’d gotten away with all of my kids being more or less introverted.

Eldest likes acting, but many stage people are introverted (Audrey Hepburn, Harrison Ford, Meryl Streep– all introverts). My son wants to be a computer programmer and happy to be on his own. IF somebody invites him to do something he’s usually glad to go do it, but he’s also glad to be a homebody.

Little Girl was the wild card. She was awfully shy at school, but crazy at home. She provides a running commentary on everything and anything. All of the dog’s thoughts. What she did at school. The dreams she had last night. The play she’s working on (costumes, sponsors, dialogue!). Her plans to go to Hawaii with her friends (she dreams big, that one). And of course looking over my shoulder at the computer screen and asking questions.

So we always wondered– is she an introvert yearning to be an extrovert? Or an extrovert plagued with unwanted shyness?

Turns out it was the latter.

This year, softball and Scouts and maturity all conspired to bust her out of her shell. The more activities she has, the better. She’s always ready to go.

And– suddenly her verbal skills bloomed, too. She’s just as snarky as her daddy and her older brother and sister. (If you know my husband, you will realize that this means they’re all trying to out-snark and out-joke each other all day long. Which is entertaining but also chaotic.) This weekend, she had three big events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Each would take 2-4 hours.She especially likes to exercise this skill with her sister’s friends (mean age of 16) who will then gleefully say, “OWNED by the little Dilloway!”

When I told Little Girl about this weekend’s schedule, the only thing she said was, “And then what?”

“What do you mean?” I asked her.

“What are we doing AFTER?” she said. “Is that ALL?”

Dear Lord.

I am going to DIE this summer.

I remembered my friend Leah Singer had written an “>article about how she deals with her extroverted kid.

And I do tell her that she needs to just chill out and play sometimes. And if she says, “What NEXT?” I give her some chores to do. There are always plenty of those.

The good news is, my husband doesn’t mind driving around and doing stuff with her. His Meyers-Briggs personality type is The Field Marshal (ENTJ), but he’s just as happy hanging out quietly as he is doing stuff. So he can swing both ways, so to speak.

As for this summer: camp. Lots of camps.

An Introduction to Grief

This is an essay I wrote a few years ago. My then-editor and I had talked about finding it a home someplace, so she asked me to pull it from my blog, but nothing came of it. I saw it in my “unpublished” folder and decided to re-publish it today.

My husband cannot cry.

I say he must be able to, because his eyes have not dried up and fallen out; but he says ever since he got hit by a car when he was 11 and his skull cracked, he has been unable to shed tears. He says he wants to, wishes he could.

We are getting ready to say good-bye to his sister. She is just fourteen months older than he is and the sibling he is closest to.

Deb’s third kidney transplant has been failing for a while. This decline is not entirely unexpected. How can it be, for someone who has been sick her entire life? Yet it still comes as a shock. She will not go on dialysis again. She doesn’t want to. It hurts too much, and she will likely never get another transplant. She’s had this kidney for about two years.

Three hospice workers sit around my in-laws’ dining room table. Two of the hospice workers are warm and businesslike, mirroring my mother-in-law, who goes over the pile of paperwork with a calm, even cheerful attitude. This is what you need to get through this—to concentrate on the business at hand, I think. They tell me grief counselors will be available for the kids, give me hand-outs. But the third worker, the ride-along newbie, has an expression of sympathy that cracks me, and I excuse myself to the bathroom. On the way back into the living room, I burst into tears again. My mother-in-law hugs me and all I can think is I should be the one hugging her.

Deborah does not want us to feel bad for her.

She’s stubborn like that, always has been. You need to be to survive dialysis for over a decade, like she did before her last transplant.

She went to live in Kansas after college, got a job at a chemical company, then as a chemistry teacher. She got a Master’s Degree in Chemistry, volunteered at the Royals every single season as an usher, went on trips around the country visiting ballparks. During college, she toured Europe, worked at Mount Rushmore. Over the years she’s been all over the U.S.
She visited us in Hawaii after her transplant and went hiking up Diamond Head, snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, touring at Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl. I was way more exhausted than she was. Every year, at the beginning of baseball season, she’d sent all of us her picks for the year. Cadillac would laugh at her picks, always hopeful, never realistic to him.

We moved to San Diego around the same time Deb decided to move home from Kansas last year. She inspired the main character in my new book (THE CARE AND HANDLING OF ROSES WITH THORNS). That scientific way of thinking, that no-nonsense way of talking to people. Mostly, the kidney stuff. I interviewed her about her kidney problems, and she told me everything. I’d known some of it, but not all the grueling details. She told me about a doctor who thought an allergy to IVP dye was psychosomatic. She showed me the plastic tubes, the grafts, permanently implanted in her leg and arm. The veins so collapsed they could not draw blood any longer.

When I was done writing, I had her read it. She enjoyed it. There was a rose genealogy chart I made up in the book. The editorial staff said it didn’t make sense and asked me to change it. Deb said, “It’s based on me, so it made perfect sense to me!”

More important, I just liked her. She was the one who got me. Who sat with me at family gatherings and laughed at my jokes. When Cadillac was going to be out of town and I wanted to go do something, I thought to call her.

After never living in the same town, Deb took special interest in our kids. She took each on special outings. Eldest went to lots of science programs at the Fleet, where Deb volunteered. (She also ushered at the Padres and tutored students). My son got to eat crickets because of her. Little Girl went to the Safari Park with her. They baked cookies together. She tutored Eldest in math, a subject that used to make her cry, so she started pulling A’s. Over Thanksgiving, Aunt Deb hosted a Star Wars marathon. The kids spent the whole weekend with her, watching the movies and eating a huge host of snacks. At the end, they played a Star Wars trivia game, which Deb won. She gave the prize to the runner up, Son– a Star Wars poster.

Little Girl was at first wary of Deb. Deb didn’t look like other adults. She was small, under five feet. She had lots of scars on her arms from all the places she’d had to have IV over the years, scars everywhere, in fact, from various other procedures. But before long, it was Little Girl who became especially close to her aunt. She’d save up drawings to show, stuff to tell Aunt Deb, for days before we visited. “I’m going to tell Aunt Deb that there’s ICE CREAM at the Safari Park, and she will say, ‘Ooooh, ice cream! I love ice cream!’ and then we will buy some!” One of their bonds was the fact they both had blonde hair. “Aunt Deb is not just my aunt. She’s my friend,” she told me more than once.

These outings made the kids feel important. Special. It didn’t matter what they did. It only mattered that they got to be singled out for a day. It only mattered that they got to spend time with Aunt Deb.

It is Friday afternoon. We haven’t told the kids yet. We go pick up the kids from school. We are taking them to see her.

There have been easier parenting moments.

Right now, the kids are happy and high from sugar. It’s the last day of school before winter break, and they had class parties. In the parking lot by the junior high, where we pick up our oldest, Cadillac and I turn to face the kids. We have to tell them here, because we are going directly to see her. I take a breath. “We have something to tell you,” I say. My voice breaks. I can see them brace themselves. “It’s not good.”

My husband tells them.

They understand, I see, before he finishes the sentence. Like us, they have known about this possibility. They have seen her go into the hospital for infections and deal with dozens of other ailments. Our youngest bursts into tears, covers her face. The oldest blinks, hard.

Our son looks stricken, silent for a moment. He stares out the window. Outside the car, the middle schoolers romp, wearing Santa hats and waving candy canes. “Then, we will cheer her up,” he says.

We drive over to see her. Today she has moved from her bed, where she had spent the previous day, into her chair in the family room, looking so normal the kids aren’t afraid, or concerned. She is alert and nearly normal-looking. As normal as she has been recently.

They remember their aunt is worried about their reaction. They tell her about their Christmas parties, some science mini-series, social studies class. Little Girl gives her treats from class: a polar bear sticker, a stained-glass drawing. Aunt Deborah says, “Oooh.” They make her smile. She jokes with them.

There are no good-bye speeches. Deb doesn’t want to hear it. We don’t have to say these things aloud. She knows. We know. All we can do is offer some company.

Instead, we start watching The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Little Girl sits next to her aunt, peppering her with questions about what is going on. Like, “Why are they going in the closet? What are all the coats doing in there? Why is it winter? Who is that lady? What is her name?” Deborah answers all of them. Sometimes she hacks, sometimes she vomits. Green. She hasn’t eaten in two days, only had water. It’s something to do with the liver and kidney failing. Cadillac and his parents take turns helping her.

The kids look concerned each time. I wonder if they will say, “Ick!” or run away, or ask to go home; but they say nothing. They glance at her, they are quiet, they watch the movie.

In the middle of the movie, we have to pause because the notary has arrived to witness the Power of Attorney signing. I take the kids into the other room.

We finish watching the film. When the lion, Aslan, is killed on the stone table, Little Girl says, “This is too scary.”

Deb says, “Now, this ought to look familiar to you.”

The kids stare blankly at her.

“Who else got killed and came back to life?” she prompts. “What are they teaching you in CCD?”

“About God,” Little Girl answers.

“What about Easter?” I ask.

“You mean the Easter bunny?” Little Girl says, then giggles. She knows the answer. She is playing. “Jesus died and came back to lifeAn i,” she says.

“So don’t worry,” Deb says. “Watch. The lion will be okay.”

After the movie, more people arrive. We bow out to go track down dinner. The kids say good-bye.

“Thanks for coming,” Deb says.

“We’ll see you tomorrow,” the kids promise.

But it’s the last time she’s conscious.

In His Own Time– On the Spectrum of Normal

It started in preschool, during the language assessments. They asked me to discuss Son’s results.  There was a concern, they said.

“When we showed him this picture,” the assessor said, showing me a picture of a father, “he said ‘Dad.’ But when we showed him the picture of Mom, he would only say…’Honey.'”

I relaxed. “That’s what my husband calls me,” I explained.

The assessor wasn’t convinced. “He should still say Mom,” she said.

I shrugged. I didn’t know what to tell her. My son was stubborn. The speech assessor suggested we go to the pediatrician for further evaluation.

Ever since early childhood, various teachers from preschool to kindergarten, on the lookout for autism or ADD, have expressed concern about my son. He got frustrated and cried easily. He didn’t make eye contact when talking(many speculations about this: autistic? lacks confidence? because it’s somehow inherited through being Japanese? [is that even possible?]). He needed speech therapy. His motor skills, fine and gross, weren’t so good. He puts objects into his mouth. He doesn’t like to get his hands dirty (neither do I). He puts his hands over his ears during music class (well, have you heard music class for 4-5 year olds?)He doesn’t appear to be listening, ever. He is obsessed with trains.

Outings always had to be shorter than they were with Eldest, because Son couldn’t tolerate crowds. He liked to be at home. Any variation from routine threw him off enormously. Once, when he was four, we cleaned up the living room, which was a mess of railroad tracks and his sisters’ toys. He threw a HUGE tantrum, weeping inconsolably, saying, “I liked it before!” Things that were minor annoyances to other kids turned into what seemed like a life-and-death situation for him.

Okay, when I list all these things, I can see why they were concerned.

He was evaluated at school and the pediatrician and at Children’s Hospital. The speech therapist at Children’s, when he was four, really did expect something to show up on the tests, she said. But he was normal. “There’s something different,” she told me. “Keep an eye on it.”

When he was young, he often had a runny nose. I took him to the pediatrician. “Allergies,” he decreed. I took him to the allergist. Nope, no big allergies- a minor one to mold. She referred him to the ears-nose-throat doc, who diagnosed him with enlarged adenoids and tonsils in the hallway of his office, before we even sat down. Those came out, and his speech improved.

When he started kindergarten, he had trouble sitting still, even though he’d been to pre-K and developmental kindergarten . “He cries when I tell him to work,” his teacher said. “What should I do?”

“Tell him if he doesn’t work, he has to go to the office,” I said.

He started doing his work.

Cadillac and I tried to improve his motor skills.  Building with Legos. Picking up beads with tweezers. It was very difficult; he stopped trying after about thirty seconds.

We tried to get him involved in sports to give him better large motor skills. At T-Ball, he had to be told where to stand to bat. Every single time. At practice and at the games. He would face toward the backstop. He stopped trying to catch the ball after it hit him. In mini-golf, he held the club upside down and insisted on doing so after correction. If Cadillac tried to get him to catch a Nerf ball, he would simply turn away. When trying to dribble a basketball, he would sort of slap at the ball. It wouldn’t bounce. He would give up.

Yet, we noticed some other positive things that dispelled our worries somewhat.

During class or at home, he would appear not to be listening. But when the teacher asked him what they were discussing, he was able to answer the questions.

At home, let’s say we were watching a shark documentary. He’d be off in the corner, doing his own thing, yet would be able to recite facts from the documentary and relate those facts to other ocean-facts. So he didn’t just repeat– he could analyze.

One Christmas a few years ago, Santa (grandma) brought him a huge jar of Nutella in his stocking. He ran to the kitchen, got the Sharpie, and carefully and neatly lettered his name on it.

So he could write neatly– if it mattered to him.

He has always been very loving and engaged with his family and friends. He notices distress and rudeness. In other words, he has always picked up on social cues.

Last week, I took him back to Children’s for a speech assessment. Sometimes when he talks, he draws out a sentence by repeating a syllable. For example, “The roses–es–es are red.”

His teacher last year mentioned it and said he did it a lot during reading-aloud. Sometimes, I’ve observed him talking to people, and they look away or start talking over him. Sometimes he doesn’t even finish his sentence. It hurts my heart. We didn’t know if it was like a stutter, which you are not supposed to point out; or a habit, or how to address it.

He went through an hour-long battery of verbal tests. The therapist heard it, too, but we both noticed he has an exceptional vocabulary, can imitate modulations, and easily made up complex sentences about the pictures she showed.

“Usually,” the therapist said, “a stammer will come at the beginning of a sentence. His is at the end. It’s not the same. The question is, is it a habit, or not? If it’s not a habit, drawing attention to it could worsen it. But if it is a habit, it can be modified.”

“Maybe it’s like saying ‘um’,” I said.

“I think so,” she said.

He didn’t know he was doing it. I asked her if recording him reading aloud would work, so he could catch it. She said yes. We devised some exercises to try, with a contingency plan if those didn’t work.

Immediately, he became aware of the habit. Even now, a few days later, he is doing it less. I really think it is like “um.” At Toastmaster’s, where you practice public speaking, every time you say “um,” or “uh” or whatever, you have to pay a fine. Thus you break your habit.

After the therapist session, I thought back to all the times when he seemed to not be on the normal spectrum of development, and how much he’s progressed. Early on, I continually questioned my parenting. Am I doing the right things to help him? Is there more we could be doing? Things have improved tremendously as he’s gotten older. He has friends. He can dribble a basketball. He can swim. He can ride a bike. He loves to fish. He loves target practice with his BB gun and is super-vigilant about safety guidelines. He loves school. He loves playing board games. He puts together large Lego models and robot kits on his own. He loves reading. He’s still way more bookish than physical, but that’s fine. All we ask is he keep his body healthy and active. He still doesn’t like crowds (really, who does?) He has no memory of his train obsession or his frustrations.

And, most important, he is extremely kind and helpful– if a kid drops a container of pencils, he is the one there helping to pick them up. He offers people refreshments when they come over. He is generous. I have to tell you this story from some years earlier. I don’t know if I told it before. There was this kid at school who wasn’t very popular. Kids said he smelled bad, like he didn’t bathe. His parental figure was known as a kook. He got suspended for fights sometimes. Not a terribly happy kiddo.

Anyway, we were at the grocery store and my son sees this kid. This kid has his head down, way down into his jacket like he’s just praying he’ll disappear. But Son walks up to him, grasps his hand, claps him on the shoulder, and says, “Hey, Old Buddy, how ya doin’?”

And this kid got the biggest, glowing grin. He didn’t say a word back to Son, but clapped him on the shoulder too.

The kid walked off with his parents. “How do you know him?” I asked. The kid was older.

Son shrugged. “From school,” he said.

It sure seems like in today’s society, no leeway is allowed for late bloomers. Was he someplace on the autism spectrum? Did he just mature out of all these red flags? Or did the fact we kept badgering him to fall in line with how we wanted him to behave simply mean that he did so, eventually? I don’t know. We did all we could to help him along, but no amount of our prodding substituted for his maturity, in his own time.

I remember reading part of Temple Grandin’s autobiography a few years back, where she said she thought her autism symptoms would be a lot worse if her parents didn’t make her sit through church, wait for her turn at board games, and require that she be well-mannered. These skills are important for any kid to become a well-socialized adult.

So here are Temple Grandin’s Top Tips for Parenting, most of which apply to any child:

1. Get professional services like Early Intervention and Applied Behavior Analysis in place for your child as soon as you suspect he or she may be autistic.

2. Spend a lot of time playing board games (like checkers and Parcheesi) that have rules and involve taking turns – something Grandin says autistic kids have a very hard time doing.

3. Limit TV and video watching to an hour a day and focus on broadening your child’s world by exposing them to lots of different situations and experiences.

4. Match learning strategies to your child’s thinking pattern and areas of strength. Grandin identifies three different types of autistic thinking: Verbal Logic, who think in word details (they often love history, foreign languages, weather statistics, and stock market reports and aren’t good drawers); Music and Math thinkers, who see patterns (these people often excel at math, chess, and computer programming and are interested in music and play it by ear); and Visual thinkers – those like Grandin, who think in photographically specific images. (These thinkers are often good at drawing, other arts, and building things with building toys such as LEGOs. Many children who are visual thinkers like maps, flags and photographs.)

5. Increase your child’s social interaction by getting them involved in shared activities like science or computer clubs, horseback riding classes or interesting hobbies that could potentially turn into a career for them. Realize that one-on-one interactive relationships, while rewarding for you, may not feel the same to your autistic child.

6. Have clear and realistic expectations for your child’s behavior. Grandin is concerned that today’s looser social structure harms autistic kids far more than other children because of their inability to pick up on social cues.

7. Experiment with your child’s tolerance for different foods. Food problems with autistic children are frequently texture-related, so you should offer them many types and varieties of foods. Special diets like gluten-free or dairy-free are often successful in improving young autistic children’s overall functioning.

8. Be logical and thoughtful in how you use medication with your autistic child. Grandin believes that many powerful drugs with serious side effects are being given out to kids way too casually. Don’t be tempted to use strong medications to make your child a “teeny bit less hyper.”

9. Make sure your child gets lots of physical exercise. Grandin can’t emphasize enough how important this tip is and notes that the rhythm of horseback riding seems to be very soothing for autistic children.

10. Give your child lots of work experience, starting early. Grandin recalls that she had many jobs during her childhood including sewing dresses, cleaning out animal stalls and feeding livestock, and carpentry projects.

11. Get help! Caring for an autistic child 24 hours a day can be exhausting and emotionally draining. Grandin uses examples from her own childhood, noting that she had a nanny, lived with her aunt and uncle during some summer vacations, and also went to boarding school. Your family may not have those resources, but consider your options. Spending time with specialists, friends and family members not only gives your child new perspectives; it also gives parents much needed time to recharge.

Other resources:

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/extra-disorders-explain-autism/story?id=15407183#.UBbKU6OgHDU

Parenting Vlog Question: Dealing with Kids’ Tantrums– and Your Own Tantrums

My first vlog question, courtesy of reader Lizzie Ann!

How do you keep a 2-year-old from pitching a fit when she doesn’t get what she wants…more importantly, how do I keep myself from pitching a fit when I don’t get what I want?

What OctoMom and I Have in Common

The Introverts vs. the Extroverts

Parenting, if it’s taught me anything, has taught me that these little people come into the world with their own personalities. You do not shape these personalities to meet your own needs, as much as you simply deal with them. Sure, you can teach them right from wrong and all that jazz, but their general dispositions seem to be inborn.

Recently, I’ve discovered I’m an introvert. Actually, I have always been an introvert. But it wasn’t until recently that I had a name for it. This means, basically, that I am not so great at small talk and hanging out in big groups, and that I get my energy from ideas and being alone, rather than activities.

Extroverts, on the other hand, get energy from being out and about doing stuff and talking with people. They speak without worrying about what they’re going to say too much.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because I know, in my new somewhat public Author role, that sometimes I will be called upon to be more extroverted. I already have been. I can be, but I need to get in the right frame of mind. Luckily, I spent some time at the National Comedy Theatre taking team improv comedy classes, which basically force you to almost reroute your brain routes so you spit out whatever’s on your mind instead of thinking it over too much (thanks, guys!) It’s a different way of thinking and acting for me.

In our family, I’ve noticed these personality differences. My husband is more of an extrovert. Eldest one can go either way, at times focusing on the social and other times doing her own thing. And the son is an introvert. Little Girl is an extrovert (though she is quiet in new situations, once she warms up she never stops talking). She has to go go go!

I was struck by these differences on Saturday. We dropped our oldest one off with her friends and took the other kids to the park by the Waikiki Aquarium. After humid heat, crowds, a picnic, the aquarium, storytime at the aquarium, and several dozen kid-oriented activities later, the son and I had had a great time, but were pooped.

But Little Girl, she hadn’t had enough. The more stuff we do with her, the more she wants to do. It’s like she sucks in the energy she gets from activities and needs even more. “What’s next? Let’s go someplace else!” So we stopped by Leonard’s for malasadas, and then went to the Humane Society to pet some cats (they have cat rooms there where you may hang out with kitties for awhile).

She never wants her activities to end. Only passing out in the car will stop her, if she had her way. (Car naps are pretty much the only way she gets a nap these days). My husband is much the same way. He can go to Sandy’s for body surfing, take the kids out on some adventure, come home, make dinner, take the kids to the pool, and then need to go running, too.

Luckily, understanding these differences has helped. I know my son and I need to have a fair amount of decompression time, alone. I know my youngest daughter needs to have far (far) more activities and social time than I require. I know my eldest can go either way, depending on her mood. I know my husband likes to be out and about more. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy activities, too, but I get tired quicker. And so my husband and I can facilitate these preferences for our kids, and for each other. It’s probably actually a good thing we have these different personalities, because it forces us to find a bit of balance. And of course, child care tends to trump either of the adults’ individual preferences. If I’m tired and my kid wants to go to the pool because she’s bouncing off the walls, I’m sucking it up and going to the pool.

The odd thing is, it says in this article “Are You One?” about introverts, that introverts generally freeze in emergencies, so if you’re “in between” that’s how you can tell what you are. I generally do NOT freeze in emergencies, in fact I’m generally the one taking action first. So does that mean I’m only a fake introvert? I don’t know. I think that this trait has more to do with being a parent than with any introverted tendencies; protection of young takes precedence.

Dealing with Annoying People: Kid Edition

Yesterday, the Boy complained that a kid in his class was bothering him. “He makes fun of my name,” he said.

“How so?” I flashed to Cadillac’s description of pretty much every male, from high school to basic training, making fun of the last name. The name caused the drill sergeant, apparently, to double over in tears of laughter. I was not surprised to hear someone made fun of our name.

“He called me Dalloway and he knows it’s not,” he said.

Mrs. Dalloway? The Virginia Woolf novel? This struck me as not a particularly creative or sadistic name-calling effort. Perhaps this kid didn’t know.

“And he annoys me at recess,” my son continued. “He gets in our games and he won’t play by the rules!”

At his age, this is highly annoying to my son. I mean, it’s annoying at any age, but eventually you learn how to deal with it. The other day, in a different incident, he was enraged because two kids were helping a third play chess against Boy.

“Say, ‘If it takes three of you clowns to beat one of me, it’s not worth playing,’” my husband told him. I don’t think the Boy did; it’s not his style. I think he just told them they were cheaters and stopped playing.

At any rate, this kid who was bothering the Boy sounded more like a pest than like a bully. Bullies require a different and more serious tactic, but this kid didn’t sound so horrific. Either the kid lacks social skills, or he just likes getting a rise out of people.

I told our son, “Look. People like that just say stuff to see if you get mad. If you stop getting mad, I bet he’ll stop.”

I was also thinking of a great child-rearing book, THE BLESSING OF A SKINNED KNEE .* This book basically tells you, that as a parent, you must let kids deal with crap on their own. Your kid needs to learn how to excel despite obstacles. Whether it’s a less-than-stellar teacher or a kid who sits behind you making hooting sounds all day, these kinds of annoyances never stop.

Annoying people don’t magically go away when they reach adulthood. In just about every workplace, there’s an egoistical maniac, a pestering fool, a pendulum-mood coworker, a clique leader.

Learning how to deal with these people now is a good thing. And not becoming one of those people—even better.

*The book uses Jewish teachings, but the lessons are applicable to every family who wants to raise self-reliant and respectful kids, regardless of faith. I especially like the part that says you should make your kids clear the parents’ dinner plates. Put those kids to work already!

A Huge Box of Chocolates

The other day, in the midst of garage sale prep, I arrived home to find on my doorstep an enormous, heavy box. It was my Werther’s box! Huzzah!

I belong to this site called Houseparty which allows you to apply for parties in which the company gives you stuff to give to your pals. In this case, 5 cases of chocolate, which worked out to 60 bags, 30 each of light and dark Werther’s chocolate caramels. Which are, in fact, pretty good; a brown fuzzy blanket (which I WON’T be needing, thank you very much) and like 16 post-it notes bearing the Werther’s emblem.

So many chocolates and so few guests (they told me to invite at least 10– but that’s still a lot of chocolate). Hmm, this means I had some left to try!

It was then I found out what a sneak my 3 year old is.

After being told to not eat any more and putting the bags away (as much as I could; there was limited room with the sale and chaos) I heard her chastising her brother. “Ethan, Mom said not to eat more chocolate! No more candy!”

Her tone was odd; even odder; Ethan wasn’t responding to her haranguing as he usually does, by telling her to be quiet or shouting.

I went into the room and saw her on the floor, unwrapping Werther’s and eating, wrappers strewn all over. Ethan wasn’t even in the room. Her plan, obviously, was to eat them all and blame her brother.

Oooh, damn. Am I in for a world of trouble.

The Werther’s are all safely ensconced/given away at party/eaten by friends now.

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