I Don’t Want to be “That” Couple

The other night I was out to dinner with my kids at a “semi-adult” restaurant. By “semi-adult” I’m talking about no crayons or paper kids’ menus. There were families eating as well as just couples. Some of the couples were middle-aged, the others a bit older. The common denominator was that they didn’t have any kids with them. It was just the two of them. Just a couple enjoying a nice dinner…alone.

Besides having no kids, they had something else in common…no conversation. It wasn’t because they were distracted by something else. They were just not talking…at all. Perhaps they said a few words here and there about the veal or the salad. But, that was it. You could tell there was no vital conversation going on.

Before you start calling me judgmental, this was not the first time I’ve seen couples like that out at a restaurant. I know you’ve seen them too. I know we all don’t know the circumstances surrounding their relationships. Perhaps they have engaging conversations at home and go out to enjoy silence. Who knows? You may be saying, well maybe they just had a long day or maybe they were just really hungry. I honestly hope one of those scenarios is to blame. If it’s not, then I truly feel sorry for them. I can also say I don’t want to be “that” couple.

It seems “that couple” is often the pair that has grown old together, raised their children and are now left with their partner. Just the two of them. Everyday. 24/7. There are no more “how was your day at school?” conversations or “should we let Cindy go to that concert?” or “who’s taking Billy to practice?” questions to answer. There are no little ones interrupting your conversation. You’re no longer talking in code with your partner so the kids can’t figure out what you’re saying when in reality they already have.

That chapter is over. In fact, the whole book has been read…a thousand and one times.

Now it’s time to move on to another chapter…start another book in your relationship. The book that just involves two main characters. Hopefully it’s not a book filled with dinners in silence and no conversation because the kids are gone. Who wants to be “that” couple?

Not me. I feel so sad when I see couples just sitting an entire meal without talking to one another. Is that what there is to look forward to once the kids are gone?

We all know kids take up a lot of time and most of the conversation at home. That’s why it’s important to just have couple time every now and again. Some people laugh at me when I say my husband and I have “date night”. It may sound silly to have a date with someone you are married to and live with. But, sometimes you need to make an effort and make a “date” to make that happen. Sometimes that means finding a babysitter or shipping the kids off to grandma’s house for the night so you can just be a couple. You don’t have to spend the meal cutting up food or playing rock, paper, scissors. You can enjoy your meal while it’s hot, have a couple of glasses of wine, and actually talk without being interrupted. You can have time together now so that you don’t become “that” couple later.

Carving out that alone time isn’t easy. With crazy work hours, multiple jobs, and toting the kids around to every activity from A-Z, life is hectic. Life is crazy.

What’s even crazier is spending a lifetime together only to end up as “that” couple. After “x” amount of years married you might not have a lot to say to your spouse, but I really hope I’m never sitting in silence during a dinner. I hope that I’m never riding in the car and find that I don’t have one thing to talk about that doesn’t involve the kids. If that’s the case, I know we’re becoming “that” couple. That’s an ending I certainly don’t want to read.

 

 

 

 

Dear Kindergarten, You’re Taking My Baby Away

Hello there Kindergarten. So we meet again. I remember you quite well from a couple of years ago when you lured my older daughter into your lair of learning. Now, you’re back with all your fancy sight words and cutesy books. But, this time, you’re going for the jugular.

You’re about to take my baby girl.

Do you know the worst part? She’s actually excited about meeting you. Before you go around and brag to all your little ABC friends, I have some words for you.

I know you’re used to sucking up to all of your new recruits with the glories of snack time and gym class, but I’m not too happy about all the things that are going to change around here. This momma is one carrot stick away from some major water works. You see, baby girl and I have been together like peas and carrots from day one. Yeah, yeah I know, you’re little brother pre-k has had her for a few hours a day over the past two years. But, this is not the same. You’re taking her for almost the entire day. You’re going to get to have lunch with her. You’re going to get to see the little light bulb in her head go on when something she’s been trying so hard at finally clicks. You’re going to hear her little giggle all day long. I’ll just get your leftovers when she comes home and tells me all about how great her day was. Thanks a lot.

You know you’re taking on a big responsibility. Sure you have experience and some great references, but you need to really take this one under your wing. I know all the other mommas tell you this too. But, you should listen to me. I have friends…a lot of them…friends that carry bats. I think I’ve painted you a clear enough picture.

You see, although my baby girl is excited, I know she’s a little scared too. So am I. It’s a whole new world for her. It’s a world filled with new people, new ideas, new routines, new lessons…heck, even new crayons. Since I can’t be there by her side it’s your job to make sure she gets through it all okay. Got that? You need to guide her and let her know she is going to be just fine when she feels like she won’t be. You need to encourage her when she gets frustrated. You need to cheer her on for a job well done. You need to make sure she’s kind and doesn’t say any bad words. You need to make sure she knows her teddy will be waiting for her in the car afterschool just like she asked. Perhaps most importantly, you need to make sure she pees! And of course, she needs to wash her hands.

Kindergarten, are you up for the job?

You’re not just adding another player to your roster. You’re adding one of my all-stars. I know this is all part of the circle of life, blah blah blah, but I kind of liked the circle we’ve created over the years. I’m not ready to start another one just yet. But, I know the decision is not mine. You’re a pushy one Kindergarten with no wiggle room for giving me more time.

I wish I could make time stand still, but I know Kindergarten is just the beginning of letting go. It’s a baby step in what will be a lifetime of changes, challenges, accomplishments and even let downs at times.

So, Kindergarten, be gentle with my baby girl. Although she may act like a tough cookie, on the inside she’s a big softie.

Sincerely,

One Misty-Eyed Mom

I’m Not Ready for Summer to End

As I look on my calendar, I realize that the kids go back to school in about a month. While many parents are doing somersaults and are ready to do the happy dance, I can honestly say I’m not. Truthfully, I’m sad that summer vacation as we know it will be coming to end sooner than I can say day at the beach.

Although there have been plenty of times my kids have driven me crazy over the past six weeks, there have been more times filled with laughs, smiles and hugs. For this, I am eternally blessed. There have been playdates and get togethers with friends that we don’t get to see as often during the hectic school year. I’ve been able to actually watch my kids learn how to swim right in front of my eyes. This is an accomplishment that I am more than proud of because there were plenty of moments when I honestly thought it would never happen! There have been walks on the beach and melting ice cream cones along with carnival rides and rollercoasters. There have been countless nights of no bedtime so we can stay up to watch “Full House” re-runs on Nick at Nite (this is a personal fave!). There have been lazy mornings listening to my girls actually play with each other without killing one another.

So, why would I want summer to end?

I’ll be trading all of this in for bedtime fights followed by morning struggles of literally pulling my girls out of bed. There will be the whole Kindergarten transition for my youngest (that’s a topic for an entirely different post). I’d rather poke my eye out with a spork! I can’t wait for the outfit battles this year now that our school has switched from a uniform to a dress code policy. That should be fun!

There will be extracurricular activities and sports to keep the girls busy and Mom crazy all at the same time. Saturday mornings will be taken up with soccer games and smelly cleats. There will be the birthday invitations coming home for kids I didn’t even know existed! Don’t forget the homework and the effort to get it all done without a fight.

Remind me again why I want the kids to go back to school? I’ll trade all of that in for an endless summer…along with the sunshine and great weather. A momma can dream…

 

 

 

Restaurant Menus Are Failing Our Kids

Have you ever noticed how limited many kids’ menus are at restaurants? Honestly, it never really hit me until we were on vacation last month. Ninety-five percent of the choices for kids consisted of chicken nuggets/tenders, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, macaroni and cheese, or grilled cheese. Of course the options for sides included fries because there is no other way to prepare potatoes apparently. Some offered fruits and vegetables…but not all.

Sigh.

I know many people are brainwashed to believe that is the complete food pyramid for many kids. Is that just because that’s all that we’re offering?

Case and point. During a dinner out while on vacation, my 4-year-old was not in the mood for the typical kids’ choices. She moaned and groaned. When she asked what I was having and I answered steak, she asked why she couldn’t have that too. Good question. So, I asked the waiter if I could order a smaller steak for her. While he said they couldn’t do that (hmmm…okay, can’t you just cut a smaller piece of meat?, but I digress) he did tell me I could simply order a beef kabob that was listed as an “add-on” on the adult menu. While this satisfied her carnivorous craving, I asked myself why this couldn’t be an option on the kids’ menu. Sure, I could have just given my daughter some of my steak, but that still doesn’t solve the problem. Plus, mama wants to eat too! Why are kids locked into a box of hot dogs and grilled cheeses? Can’t we do better for our kids? It’s no wonder we have a childhood obesity problem in this country.

Maybe some of it comes down to the all mighty dollar.We all know restaurants are making some bucks on their kids’ meals. Sorry, but when you’re charging $5.99 for a bowl of mac and cheese and a drink, I know there is profit to be had. A box of Kraft mac and cheese goes for about one dollar…and that’s a whole box that feeds more than one kid. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out who’s coming out on top here. It’s certainly not the kids and parents. If it’s not mac and cheese then it’s a $4.99 “meal” that consists of a hot dog, fries, and a drink. Sure it’s cheap, but mama always said, you get what you pay for. There is nothing nutritious going on in there. Why not offer more balanced “adult-like” meal options? Maybe baked chicken, steak, dare I even go so far as suggest fish? If restaurants have to charge more then so be it. It will then be on the parents to decide whether they want to pay an extra five bucks for their kid to have a better quality meal. Until or should I said if this happens it looks like I’ll be ordering that beef kabob from the adult menu for my kid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Kids Will Be Doing School Work Over the Summer and I’m Not Sorry

Start the name calling and pouty faces. I’m putting the school work in summer.

Yes, I know it’s going to be 80 plus degrees out and there are sand castles to be built and bikes to ride.

My girls will get to do all that and then some. But, they’re also going to be reading and brushing up on their skills. I’ve been browsing the internet and reading some debates about whether kids should be doing “homework” over the summer. For every yay there’s a nay.

See, I don’t really consider my little plan “homework”. It’s more like “Let’s stay smart so we don’t fall back in September.” I don’t think that makes me a mean mom. I think that makes me a mom who cares about her children’s success and is taking a hands on approach to help them get ahead. Why let them fall victim to the so-called “summer slide” and waste all the progress made over the school year? It just doesn’t make sense to me. I can’t understand why so many parents are still anti-school work over the summer.

What kind of horrid school work am I going to subject my children to this summer? For my soon-to-be Kindergartener, we’ll be practicing writing her letters and numbers as well as her name. Her new school actually sent home a packet of practice sheets to help with the process. While some parents scoffed at it during orientation, I wanted to give the packet a big old bear hug! At least now I don’t have to go looking for sheets to help her. We’ll also be practicing counting and shapes.

For my soon-to-be second grader, we’ll be reading books to keep her skills up to par. We’ll also start working on more reading comprehension so she knows what she’s actually reading. I’m also going to have her brush up on her math so she doesn’t forget the skills and tricks she’s learned over the year.

Before you think I’ll be chaining my kids to the kitchen table for hours on end over the summer, think again. We’ll do these little exercises ten to fifteen minutes a day or every other day. Reading will be done for at least another ten minutes a day. On average, my kids will spend 20 minutes a day doing dreaded school work. I’m going to try to bang it out in the morning so the rest of the day is free. That leaves 23 hours and forty minutes a day to do whatever else they want. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, do you?

Here’s the alternative. I can have them not do any kind of school work all summer. They can go back to school in September and not remember anything they learned. They’ll waste time re-learning things they knew so well. They may even run the risk of falling behind if everyone else is on the express train and they’re stuck making all the local stops. All for what? All in the name of summer fun?

There needs to be a balance. The earlier we teach our kids this coping skill, the better. They need to learn just as there’s time to play over the summer, there’s also time to learn. It’s just like fitting in play time during the school year. It all gets done.

No child ever suffered from reading or practicing some letters over the summer. So, yes, my kids will be doing school work over the summer and I’m not sorry.

 

10 Signs That It’s the End of the School Year

The end of the school year is here. You can hear kids and teachers rejoicing while many parents grunt and go hide in a corner. Besides the obvious calendar telling us what time of year it is, there are ten other things that happen to signal that the end of the school year has indeed arrived.

  1. The Thought of Buying Teacher Gifts Makes You Cringe. You know it’s the right thing to do, but you really don’t want to go shopping for teacher gifts. Although you should put some effort into the process and avoid buying another coffee mug, the temptation is too great. You could always go on Pinterest for some super creative ideas, but who has time for that? Coffee mug it is.
  2. Your Kids’ Homework is Wrong & You Don’t Care. So Billy added instead of subtracted his entire homework. At least he still did math, right? There comes a point in the school year when seven and six equals fourteen and you don’t care.
  3. Clothes Don’t Fit, Oh Well! Your children’s toes are rubbing against the edges of the sneakers you bought…in August. Who told them to keep growing anyway? Those yoga pants are looking more like capris. But, aren’t yoga capris in these days? The next time your child tells you that his shirt is getting too short just tell him to stop raising his hand in class. This way it won’t be so short. Problem solved.
  4. Bedtime & Wakeup is Getting Downright Dreadful. You can’t even convince yourself that it’s bedtime when it’s still light outside at 8 p.m. so how are your kids going to buy into it? Let’s not even talk about waking up for school. The whining is unreal! Maybe if they just went to bed when you told them,  the mornings wouldn’t be so bad. There are days I’d rather watch a Caillou marathon by myself then go through the whole bedtime/wakeup process.
  5. You’re Running Out of School Snacks. Your fruit snack and Goldfish cracker supply is dangerously low. Instead of replenishing you decide to get creative. Kids can bring cans of cream corn and baked beans for snack, right?
  6. You’re Sick of Packing Lunches. If you have to make another ham and cheese sandwich you’re going to throw it against the wall. Forget about thinking of different things to pack your child for lunch. Check back in September. At this point packing lunch means making sure they have enough money to buy whatever is being served in the cafeteria. What if they don’t like the menu? Maybe it’s time to try new things.
  7. You Can’t Find the Handle to Your Fridge Because of All the Artwork. The kids are bringing home all of their art projects. Yeah! You’re finally getting your Valentine, Easter, and “Holiday” card…all at the same time…in June. What could be better? Now, if you could just get into your fridge.
  8. Your Child’s Book Bag has Holes. “Mom, my book bag has a hole in it.” So. There’s no way that it’s going to get fixed. It’s just not happening. Anyway, don’t think of them as holes. They’re easy access pockets for when junior just needs to find a pencil or eraser right away.
  9. You Can’t Remember a Saturday Morning That Didn’t Involve a Coach or Referee. Sure, sports are great for kids. They have fun. You have fun watching them, but there comes a point when you dread Saturday mornings. The morning fights with the shin guards and cleats are no longer bearable. Trying to clone yourself to make it to all of your kids’ games gets exhausting. You want to trade them all in in for an endless cup of coffee and a Lifetime movie…or three.
  10. Your Child is Going on a Field Trip Every Other Day. You remember signing the permission slips, but weren’t these all supposed to be spaced out? Your child is going more places in two weeks than you’ve gone in two months. It’s all in the name of “learning”, I know. Let’s admit it, the real learning stopped after April vacation.

Before you can say sunscreen and shorts, the kids will back in school and we get to run the hamster wheel all over again! Here’s to some time off from glue sticks, flash cards, and school assemblies!

 

Stepping Out of Her Sister’s Shadow

It’s interesting to watch your kids grow up. Having two girls, the younger one has constantly mimicked her older sister. It’s monkey see, monkey do and “I can do it better than you” 24/7. The younger sibling constantly looks up to the older one.

Little sis has always wanted to play with the “big girls”. So, big sister’s friends became little sister’s friends “just because”.

But, then something started to happen.

Before you can say “share with your little sister”, little sister isn’t so little anymore. She starts becoming her own person. It’s both beautiful and sad in the same glance.

As my baby girl gets ready for Kindergarten in the fall, she’s beginning to spread her little wings. Gone are the days of having a death-grip on mommy’s leg because she doesn’t want to talk to the other kids. She’s starting to fly away without looking back. That’s a good thing, I know.

She’s also starting to make her own little friends and get invited to do things with her friends…without her sister. Everyday I can see her step out of her sister’s shadow a little bit more. While I couldn’t be happier that she’s becoming her own little person, part of me wants her to still play the role of co-pilot. As a mother, there’s something comforting in knowing that she’s always with her big sister, as much as big sister may not enjoy it.

While my younger daughter has always had a mind of her own, she also constantly wanted her sister’s approval. That’s also starting to disappear. Just this morning, my older daughter said she wanted pasta for dinner. In the “old” days, little sis would chime in with a “me too”. Instead, she told us she didn’t want pasta and that she was going to make herself a sandwich instead. After I finished laughing, I thought to myself, wow, you really are becoming your own little person.

Sigh.

Trust me, I know, this is just the beginning. Growing up seems to be so much easier for the kids to do. I wonder what their secret is! It’s a lot harder for us parents to watch!

 

 

The Real Meaning of Mother’s Day

While many mothers may actually look forward to the second Sunday in May, I can’t say I do.

It’s not that I hate it or anything. It just doesn’t make me want to back flips.

In case you didn’t know this Sunday is Mother’s Day.

It’s the one day of the year when you’re obligated to buy Mom an over-priced bouquet of flowers, a shiny new necklace, chocolates and a spa treatment.

Been there, done that.

Retailers love Mother’s Day if you couldn’t tell by the bombardment of ads that we see for all of the “perfect” Mother’s Day gifts. I think I read somewhere that Mother’s Day is one of the top “holidays” for retailers. I can’t say I’m surprised. But I can say that it makes me sad.

While it’s great to be recognized for all of the jobs that fall under the mommy umbrella, I don’t need my family to pay homage on one day. I know it’s just a gesture, but sometimes I hate when people do things because they are expected of them. It means so much more when it comes out of nowhere and for no real reason in particular.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day comes in everyday life. It comes in the “I love you’s” and hugs my kids give me everyday because they want to, not because they feel like it’s what they should be doing on Mother’s Day.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your child says a big thank-you for chaperoning a class trip.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your kids ask you to snuggle up on the couch with them to watch TV.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your child isn’t feeling well and only wants mommy to comfort them.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your kids do a household chore without you screaming at them to do it.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your child colors you a picture of your family because they want to, not because their teacher told them it was time to make Mom a Mother’s Day card.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day is when your kids tell you that you look pretty when you’re not especially feeling that pretty at the moment.

The real meaning of Mother’s Day can’t be measured in flowers, chocolates, or facials. It’s measured in those special moments that you just want to bottle up and save forever.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mommas out there! May you find the real meaning of Mother’s Day.

 

 

The Question Every SAHM Hates to Hear

When you’re a stay-at-home mom people pretty much know you spend a lot of time with your kids. If you stay home when they’re babies there’s a lot of diaper changes, feedings and sleepless nights. If you stay home when they’re a little older there’s more play time and child rearing going on.

As they get older they start making little friends and having playdates. As they enter pre-school and other programs, you may step back a bit and let other people do some of the work. But, what happens when all of your children are in school full-time? If you’re like me you start hearing the question every stay-at-home mom hates to hear.

“What are you going to do now?”

In just a few months, my youngest will be off to full-time Kindergarten. As a result both of my kids will be in school full time. It must mean I can now run off to a tropical island. Maybe it means that she and her sister will get to school by themselves, make their own food, and find rides to afterschool activities. It must mean my mothering role will become obsolete because everyone keeps asking me what I’m going to do. It’s not like they’re going off to college. It’s elementary school. The mothering responsibilities will still be there come September. They’re just going to shift a bit. I’ll shift along with them. That doesn’t necessarily mean I have a power point presentation about my future all cued up and ready to go. Does anybody?

Being a SAHM doesn’t mean your kids are your only interest. It only means that you made a choice that worked for you and your family. You made a tough decision and you probably made a lot of sacrifices. It would be like assuming all working mothers are only interested in their jobs. Working moms also made a choice that worked best for them and their families. Many also made a tough decision and made sacrifices of their own. Yet, I don’t hear working moms being asked what they’re going to do with themselves once all their kids are in school full-time.

Many SAHMs had successful careers they decided to put on hold before making the leap. Maybe it’s time to go back? Others have developed new interests…interests don’t involve diapers and rattles. Maybe it’s time to give those some attention? Sometimes it feels as though people can’t imagine what you could want to do with yourself when your role as a SAHM isn’t the main event anymore.

So, when people ask what I’m going to do now (or when September rolls around) I answer back with a simple “I don’t know. I’ll figure it out.”

Why? Because I don’t and I will. Quite frankly I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Do you?

There’s something exciting, yet scary, when you know your life is about to take a huge right turn. Sometimes it’s better when that shift is unexpected. Knowing change is on the horizon can be intimidating. It doesn’t help when everyone wants to know how you’re going to deal with it all. But sometimes not having a plan is the best plan of all.

 

 

Can We Stop Raising Mean Girls?

Mean girls have been around for as long as I can remember.

Perhaps you’ve ran into a few when you were a kid.

Perhaps you were their target like I was.

Perhaps you were even one when you were growing up.

Perhaps your child has had the unfortunate experience of being the victim of one.

Perhaps your child is one.

Whatever the case, mean girls seem to hang on and exist despite anti-bullying programs and zero tolerance policies at school. I just can’t seem to figure out why. What joy can I child get out of hurting another child either mentally or physically? Maybe I’m just naïve, but I just don’t get it.

The only explanation I can come up with is that we are raising a society of mean girls. Truth be told we have been for what seems like forever. It’s not just in certain parts of the country. It’s not exclusive to certain schools or districts. It is everywhere. While I do think outside influences can play a part, I don’t think we can pass the blame. It starts at home.

What are we teaching at home? Are we teaching kindness? Are we teaching tolerance? Are we teaching our kids to be genuinely good people? Sadly, I don’t think enough of us are. If we were then mean girls would cease to exist. We as parents need to take responsibility for the types of people we are raising. We need to teach them to be kind. It would be unrealistic for us to teach them to be friends with everyone. That’s just not possible. What is possible is to teach them to treat everyone with respect and kindness. The golden rule never gets old. Treat others like you want to be treated. It’s as simple yet as complicated all in the same breath.

Do you think those mean girls would like it if they were treated like they treat others? Honestly, some of them have become so damaged that it may bounce right off of them and onto their next victim. Others may actually feel some of the pain they’ve inflicted on others.

If you think your kids need to reach middle school or high school to feel the wrath of mean girls, think again. It’s happening even younger than you may think. I’ve seen it in elementary schools and as early as first grade. It is heartbreaking. No parent should every have to explain mean girls to their crying child who just doesn’t understand what they could have done wrong when they know they’ve done nothing.

At those young ages where are these kids learning this type of behavior? Why do they think it is acceptable? The only answer that makes sense to me is that they are learning it from home. Perhaps it’s what they are not learning at home. They are not being taught basic values of being a decent human being. If this is the case then we are failing as parents. We are failing as a society.

Simply put, can we stop raising mean girls? Is it really too much to ask? I can guarantee that everyone will benefit if we can just figure it out.