A Random Sampling of the Wanton Destruction Unleashed by Boys

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Kids make messes. They destroy things. I know this. I’ve been around the parenting block a few times now.

But sometimes, when I look around my house, I still don’t understand the sheer destructive power.

How, for instance, is it possible to crack a countertop using only a TOOTHBRUSH?

cracked-counter

How can the need to move fast and hard be so overwhelming that you RIP THE FRONT OFF A DRAWER?

broken-drawer

Why is there this inborn need to bang forks on the table, leaving hundreds of dents in the extremely high-quality oak table we invested in to accommodate large gatherings?

Why is it that after being told sixty-five times, “Put your shoes in the cubbies!” and getting in trouble seventy-three more because you can’t find the shoes you *didn’t put in the cubbies, you STILL TAKE THEM OFF AND DROP THEM WHEREVER YOU ARE?

And what in the name of all that is holy is the deal with ripping holes in knees??????????

(Why, yes, in fact I do consider the multiple punctuation justified.)

Bleach spots on the wall!

bleached-wall

Sharpie on the kitchen table!

Marker on my computer chair!

Marker on the basement carpet!

Paint on the basement carpet!

painted-carpet

DVDs snapped in half! (Have you ever *tried to break a DVD? It’s next to impossible!

Chips in the piano keys!

chipped-keys

Drumsticks. That’s how.

Pee everywhere EXCEPT in the toilet bowl!

Clothing that has a food stain on it five minutes—literally—after it gets put on the body!

The same food smudge across the right cheek that has been there for FOUR YEARS!

Yeah. What dirt.

Yeah. What dirt.

I do not understand this. I know I’m a girl and all, and that I grew up in a house full of girls, but we were not particularly girly girls. I mean, we played on tractors and jumped off hay bales, and we *still didn’t get as dirty and break as many things as my boys do on a regular basis.

Most of the time I am pretty philosophical about it all, but every once in a while it occurs to me that it would be nice to have a house that looked, you know…nice. And it’s an almost daily occurrence for me to send my kids out into the world with a mental groan, thinking of all those parents who manage to get their kids to school with their backpacks neat, their clothes intact, and no black jelly smudges across their right cheek.

It must be my fault, because I’m the mom. And I routinely (read that: virtually always) forget the a) canned good for charity, b) dress-down day, c) stuffed animal for school reward day, d) pajama day.

But I am not, nor do I have any interest in being, a helicopter parent. I’m pretty sure when I was a kid, I was expected to be on top of my own special-dress days. And of course, we didn’t have things like stuffed animal parties and pajama days at all.

And so I continue to navigate an uneasy truce between taking care of my kids and expecting them to take responsibility for themselves.

Besides, I figure I can always pull the “I have kids in three different schools” card. And I do so without apology. Regularly.

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Kid Moments, To Brighten Your Day

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Pinkeye, Xbox remote, blue-blooded ghost, and Tinker Bell

Alex, 11, as we pull in the driveway after school: “You guys used 30 pronouns in the time between the stop sign by the pool and here.”

Me: “Were you counting?”

Alex: “Yes, and that was another one.”

**

Julianna, 9, in the van, listening to Puff the Magic Dragon on the beat-up Peter, Paul & Mommy CD: “…AND FOCKUS IN DEE AUTUMN MIST…”

Me, because there are way too many words that, in the mouth of a child with speech problems, turn into the F-bomb: “Julianna. Frrrrrrrrrollllllllicked.”

Julianna: “Frrrrrrooooccc—frrrrroolllllllick.”

Me: “That’s it! Good!”

Julianna: “PUFF THE MADZIC DRAGON LIVE BY DA SEA AND FOCKUS IN DEE AUTUMN MIST…”

Me: (Face palm.)

**

Nicholas, 7, making his breakfast the day after throwing up.

Me: “Nicholas, have you had any funny moments lately?”

Nicholas: “No.”

Well, there you go.

**

Michael, 4 11/12, on Halloween, wearing a sloppily-cut sheet spattered with blue paint, made by Mom, who is not the whiz of Halloween costuming in the house. He is tripping over his hem, and the sheet keeps getting pulled sideways, so the eye holes are nowhere near his eyes.

Michael: “It’s HARD to be a ghost!”

And finally…this year, it’s official: We’ve had Christmas carols for 12 months straight. They never stopped singing them the entire year.

Parenthood. A nonstop adventure.

Notes from The War Zone

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That's my candy pumpkin! No, I had it first! You've had three already! MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!! (The LEGO storm troopers never disappoint. Image by DuckBrown, via Flickr)

That’s my candy pumpkin! No, I had it first! You’ve had three already! MOOOOOOOMMMMMMMM!!!!! (The LEGO storm troopers never disappoint. Image by DuckBrown, via Flickr)

A lot of days, I feel like I live in a war zone. And a lot of days, I just want to throw in the towel. Like yesterday, for instance. We let the kids sleep in, let them wake up slowly, gave them no responsibility whatsoever. Just a nice, relaxing morning, in advance of a once-a-year treat: a baseball game.

By nine-thirty a.m., there had been three major fights, at least one of them taking place outside for the edification of the entire world.

Every so often I ask adults how they got along with their siblings when they were kids, and how they get along now. Christian likes to say that his brothers beat each other up, but then it was done—and nobody, but nobody, outside the family had better mess with them. And now, generally, they get along great.

A lot of other people tell me, “Sure, we fought some, but mostly we were really close. We were best friends.”

When I hear things like that, I can’t help feeling like a complete failure as a parent. Because surely it’s our fault—and really, mine, because I’m the primary caregiver—that my kids haven’t learned how to deal with each other with some slight measure of tolerance. That they get in each other’s business to the point where the fighting sometimes seems nonstop. I get so tired of being asked to arbitrate “he hit/kicked/pinched me” or “he won’t give me the fill-in-the-blank.” Because a hit was almost always provoked by the victim at the end of a long escalation, and you can never tell who actually fired the first shot. And there’s virtually no way to get a straight answer about which kid actually had dibs on the toy (or book, or article of clothing) in question. Sometimes I just take it away from them both, because it’s easier.

Not that long ago, I told them I refused to arbitrate, because they were asking me to play favorites, and that wasn’t fair to me.

We try to teach conflict resolution in love. We require apologies—often from both parties, because so few conflicts are one-sided—and we require the words “I forgive you” (NOT “It’s okay,” because that’s flatly untrue; it’s NOT okay; if it was, there wouldn’t be a need for an apology in the first place) and a hug. Which is the hardest part, by the way. Words are easy. Actions make it real. We talk about Jesus, we talk about love and kindness and the importance of family–that someday, when we’re gone, all they’ll have is each other.

I don’t use the word “mercy” with the kids, because it’s taking me so long to wrap my head and heart around it. But mercy is what I’m trying to teach. They’re very aware when I’m having to take deep breaths and self-regulate my own reactions. I don’t try to hide it. And I’m pretty open about apologizing when I don’t succeed.

Some days I think this is all part and parcel of the learning process. I can take it philosophically.

Other days, I just feel frustrated.

(Can you guess which is true today?)

Recently I wrote an essay for Columbia Magazine called “Mercy Begins in the Home.”. My kids opened my eyes to that reality, but there’s a vast chasm between recognizing something to be true and teaching them to choose mercy themselves.

Of course, choosing mercy is a tall order for children at ages almost-5, 7, 9, and 11. But if we don’t expect it now, how can we expect it from them ever?

Empathy and “here’s what works for us” would be welcome.

For posts containing more actual “mercy,” click here.

Mercy Monday small

“But I Like You!” and other kid moments

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Julianna:

j-charms-the-ggs

Charming the Golden Girls at the annual Tiger Walk

Julianna’s newest “Julianna-ism” is:

“But I like you!”

As in, “Julianna, it’s your turn to clear the table.”

“But I like you!”

“Julianna, time to get up.”

“But I like you!”

“Yes, I like you, too, but it’s still time to get out of bed.”

Alex

alex-readerAlex took Benadryl for the first time this week—a desperate attempt to control some combination of allergies and cold. I warned him it would make his nose stop running but he would be really groggy, probably too groggy to do anything useful at all. He wandered around in a daze all afternoon. The next day I asked him about it. “Was your brain all fuzzy?” I asked.

“It was like I didn’t HAVE a brain,” he said. “I was like those proto humans who just went, ‘Want food. Want drink. Want book.'”

Yup, that sounds about right…

Michael

michael-guitar-heroMichael’s son-of-a-singer earworm gene has kicked in. He sings all the time, even when he’s chewing. It’s like a compulsion; he can’t seem to stop himself. And it’s always the same playlist:

1) Star Wars opening (first two phrases only)

2) Imperial March (again, two phrases)

3) Superman

4) Joy To The World

I truly think I might go mad before he goes to kindergarten.

 

And Nicholas?

nicholas

I could write a novel, but I’ll stick with this: What does it say about my third-born that this is his favorite song?

(Nothing good, I fear!)

The Thing About Boys…

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Michael AlexThe thing about boys is that they’re confusing.

Like my laundry pile. It makes no sense.

On Friday of one week I fold six loads of laundry (I got behind. So sue me), and nine days later, on a Sunday afternoon, I do the next three. And if the laundry pile is to be believed, in that week Preteen wore nothing but six pairs of socks, while Second Grader wore eight uniform shirts. Even though there were only five days of school.

As Miss Clavel said: Something is not right!

The thing about boys is that they sit down with me to watch the Sound of Music and the big 43-year-old boy whines and makes fun of it as much as the 11-year-old one. And somewhere around the wedding scene, when we turn it off for bed, the 11-year-old asks if this is the end, and I say no, everything’s about to fall apart for them, and he lights up and says, “Is there gonna be an explosion? Is somebody gonna DIE?”

And 43-year-old boy goes on a little riff about helicopters exploding in the movies. Talk about collectively ruining the moment.

The thing about boys is that they get wildly excited about Brain Ice.

Brain Ice

 

The thing about boys is the way they like to climb up on the barrel of a cannon. (And what’s most telling: the ROTC guys don’t bat an eyelash.)

Michael Nicholas cannon

And then, of course, there are the practical jokes. Because what else would you do when forced to clean the bathrooms?

Prank 1

Prank 2

Perhaps you’d care for a closeup on that one?

prank 3

Raising boys. It’s a glorious mystery.

Commando Olympics and other Quick Takes

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The kids have been entranced by the Olympics lately. Michael calls them “Olymp-kicks.”

Image by Rareclass, via Flickr

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I’m so glad I blogged about chicken legs a couple weeks ago. Because now when we call her that, we can’t be accused of copying Allyson Felix.

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Last week my friend Kelley posted this status update on Facebook:

Went for a walk with the kids. Arrived back at the house carrying a bike, a helmet, a guitar, and a pair of shoes. ‪#‎momlympics2016‬

Other moms chimed in with these:

“Thinking the f-word without actually saying it”

“I’m hoping to just place in the “They all ate at least a meat/protein product today (veggies optional)” event.”

“I’d definitely get gold in “Eating secret chocolate.”

I definitely qualified in the semifinals for “carrying everyone else’s crap, you’re welcome”

First seed, for sure. Second seed: the burrows of the Grand Canyon. They ain’t got nothin’ on you.

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What’s my contribution?

Hm.

Well, the thing about having kids who are getting older is they take care of their own dressing routines. Only they aren’t always on top of it all. They sometimes skip steps. Like brushing teeth, and washing hands. And other things. The other day I found myself saying this: “Michael. You wear ONE pair of underpants and ONE pair of shorts. Not two pairs of underpants and shorts. Not pajama pants and shorts. Not shorts with no underpants. ONE pair of underpants. ONE pair of shorts.”

So I guess my contribution to the aforementioned #momolympics2016 is actually #kidolympics2016: Michael takes gold in Going Commando To The First Day Of School.

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He also should at least get an honorable mention in the category Going To School In The Afternoons But Still Needs Nap

Sleepy

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My only actual contribution to the #momolympics2016 is to wash out in the Stay Off The Internet So You Can Get Some Work Done event.

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All joking aside, I’m having serious thoughts about setting aside blogging. Hits are way down and I am wondering if I have said everything I have to say that people want to hear, or whether it’s just that people don’t read blogs anymore. Either way, I am seriously questioning whether it’s a good use of time.

Speaking of Time…it’s Time to get the kids up for school…and mow the lawn…and grocery shop…and figure out where I can carve out an hour or two of writing time today.

Linking up with the ladies at Seven Quick Takes today….Kelly has what looks to be a very moving post about disability that bears looking at!

Julianna and the Ticking Clock of Approaching Adolescence

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Photo by Frankieleon, via Flickr

I have this parenting theory: It’s not that a child is too young to learn a particular lesson (like, say, toileting). It’s really a matter of when the parent decides he or she is ready to take on the task of teaching it. When the parent makes it a priority, the child learns.*

 

I know this isn’t a terribly popular view, but I have four kids, so I kind of think I have the right to my opinion, at least as far as the young years go. And in fact, I think this theory covers a whole lot of life outside of parenting, too. Like weight loss, for instance. I spent years listing all the reasons I couldn’t lose weight, and then one day I decided it was important and I did it, and that was the end of that. I can think of two people who, facing their own mortality, did the same.

But it’s parenthood I’m thinking about right now. Because last week, Julianna had a zit on her nose.

A zit.

She’s going into the third grade.

I developed early, and it took me until I was nearly thirty to feel at home in my own skin. And in fact, I think I got ogled a few days ago at the grocery store. Which is not as flattering as you might think, a few weeks shy of 42. Truthfully, it was a little creepy.

But I digress. The point is, the day I’ve been dreading since I found out my daughter has an extra chromosome is fast approaching. I know what happens to a girl’s body when puberty hits. And let me just say we’re behind the curve in learning self-care. Way, way behind the curve. In just about every area you can imagine.

The truth is, I’ve let a lot of things slide, where Julianna is concerned, because it’s easier that way. We’ve made halfhearted attempts at modesty (for boys and girls alike), but one of the Things You Hear Around The Basi House is: “There’s a whole lotta nakedness around here!!!” It’s really hard to get everyone ready for school or bed and police whether kids have put away their clothes, put stuff in the laundry that’s dirty, NOT put stuff in the laundry that isn’t, get teeth brushed, and so on. It’s simpler to do things FOR Julianna so we know it got done right. For instance, she has a strong oral defensiveness—it’s her only sensitivity, really. I’ve spent a year working very hard to get her to let me get at the upper front teeth, only to discover that we hadn’t worked hard enough on the lower ones.

But things keep smacking me in the face, reminding me that time is running out. There was the zit, of course. There’s the fact that in the last 6-8 months, she’s finally started putting on bulk. She doesn’t look much bigger, but she’s much more solid than she was a year ago. I can’t pick her up anymore (at least, not without risk of self-injury). Then there was the orthotist, who told me the other day, while prescribing calf-height inserts instead of ankle-height, that we have to deal with her feet before puberty, because once she starts cycling we have 18 months and the bones will solidify, because she’ll be done growing. I had to reboot and play mental catchup, because I heard the word “cycling” in relation to my daughter and my overload switch flipped.

And then, of course, there’s the sudden uptick in stubborn lack of cooperation—a taste of what adolescence might look like for this girl, I’m afraid.

It’s time to prioritize this. Now, while she’s still a giggly, sweet girl who forgives you as soon as the traumatic lesson in taking a shower instead of a bath is over and done. Because soon, she’ll be too big for me to work with physically, and I know, as stubborn as she is now, it’s only going to get worse.

Life with a girl with Down syndrome seems incredibly slow: slow to travel from point A to Point B (“But Mom, I don’t LIKE to walk fast!”); slow to learn; slow to grow. Slow all the way across the board.

But it’s movement all the same.

*Note: this is about typical kids, not kids who have severe disabilities or emotional/mental trauma. I’m talking about your ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill middle class kids with parents who read parenting magazines.