Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sibling Rivalry

I have been told by several people that I should write a book about parenting.  Although some parents may find my insights amusing, I doubt very much that I could give practical advice. After all,  I'm just making this stuff up as I go!  Take what happened today for instance:

We had just gotten home from work/school/babysitter and the kids were at it again...fighting.  Ugh, the fighting!  I've tried reasoning with them: "You guys haven't seen each other all day!  Play nicely!"  I've tried guilting them: "Lauren, he is the ONLY brother you have...be nice to him."  I've tried threats: "If I hear you guys fighting one more time...!"  I've even tried making them "hug it out."  Nothing seems to really work.  So, I've invented a method for dealing with sibling rivalry that I'm sure most psychologists would have a hayday with.

Turn up the music and dance.

And that's what I do.  I walk straight to my kitchen where the radio is, crank that sucker up, and bust a move.  No kidding.  It works wonders!  I'm sure you're thinking, "I'd have to see it to believe it."  Right?  Well, forget it.  I only dance in three instances: 1)with my Kindergarten class, 2)with my own children in the privacy of my own home, 3)in public after a really good night with really good friends.

So what is the reaction that I get when I do this?  Well, usually Braden wanders in and starts jammin' with me.  Lauren is usually mad at me that I have stolen her sparring partner and pouts until the end of the song.  Then, she and Braden go off and play together.  NO LIE.  This just happened in our house, and right now both kids are in my basement playing house, walking around in my shoes. :)  Oh the irony.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Let All the Little Children Come to Me

Okay, first of all, I am NOT comparing myself to Jesus Christ.  He is without sin, and I have done plenty of it!  He also performed a bunch of miracles, and most days it's a miracle if I'm on time to work!  But, this phrase has become a metaphor for every family outing that we take.  Here's just a taste of the magnetism that I have that seems to attract other people's kids.

I took my two kids to Play All Day on Sunday.  (If you've never been there, it is a must!  They have three big bounce houses and a ton of other imaginative play options for the kids to make a mess of.  They play, mess up the place, and you take them home exhausted and happy.  Check it out! http://www.playsiouxland.com )

Play All Day has a bunch of comfy couches and chairs for the adults to sit on and even has free Internet access.  So, I brought my computer and messed around on the Internet for a bit while the kids had fun going from bounce house to bounce house.  When they tired of that, they came to find me and wanted to play some other things.  Lauren went off to play with some girls she'd found, but Braden wanted help setting up and playing the bean bag toss game.  So, I put away my computer and sat on the floor with Braden to play the game.  No sooner did we have it set up, when another child wanted to join us.  Sure!  The more the merrier right?  Then another one, and another one, and still another one came over to join us.  So they were all playing with me being the bean bag retriever and re-setter-upper of the little animals they were tossing at.  I should mention, I was the only parent in this area and no, I do not work there part time.

Braden got tired of that, so we left the other kids to continue playing.  Then we set up the little bowling pins and started bowling.  Same kids came over to play, plus a couple more.  Same scenario, no other parents offering to help re-setup the pins, or to supervise the arguments that always take place when more than one child is playing a game.  By this time Braden was tired of being followed around, and so was I, so he set off to go play in the bounce houses some more and I went to find Lauren.

She was making a get well card for her great grandpa Livgren and was wanting help with it.  Soon, the other little girl at the art center was ALSO asking me for help with HER project!  By this time I'm wondering if I'm giving off some sort of pheromone that only kids are attracted to.  (Well, kids and stray dogs...I'm a sucker for both!)  So, I helped both girls with their work and then finally went to sit down again in my comfy chair.  But alas, Lauren and Braden both found me and wanted me to play house with them.  So off we go.  Along with about 10 followers.  So, we all played house with everyone else's children who were there serving me plate after plate of pretend food, etc.

I have no problem including other people's children in my play time with my own children.  The problem I have is when it is obvious that none of these other parents have any interest whatsoever of engaging their own children in play, or at least checking with me that it's ok for them to play with us!  If you don't enjoy spending time with your children, then why the heck did you have them anyway!?  Do I just LOVE playing pretend?  Nope...I actually despise it....like tremendously.  Do I LOVE being the gopher and running after bean bags and stray bowling balls?  No...but I do it because it brings a smile to my child's face.

My challenge to all of you parents out there is this:  The next time you take your kids to a place where they have the freedom to fun free and play, and you have the opportunity to just sit back and watch, (or text, or chat on the phone, or check your email) DON'T!  Get up off your butt, turn off your phone, and PLAY WITH YOUR KIDS!  And give the moms like me a stinkin' break!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


As parents we try to raise our children to make good choices in their lives.  When they are young we let them choose between silly things to give them a sense of having some control over their lives.  For example, "Do you want to wear the red shirt, or the blue shirt?"  "Would you like to brush your teeth first or read stories first?"  As they get a bit older, we let them make a few more choices, such as what clothes they want to wear to school.  Their choices sometimes embarrass us, like when Lauren decides to wear a red and white striped shirt that's too small for her, purple sweatpants, green socks, and her pink and white shoes. . .but we smile, tell her she looks awesome, and away to school we go.  Hey, she's dressed and I'm on time for work...it doesn't get much better than that!

But there are just some choices that we can't afford to let them make....that's why we are the parents and they are the children.  We know what's best for them, and until they are old enough to make good choices on their own, it's up to us to do it for them.  If I allowed my children to decide what they ate for every meal, they would weigh 100 pounds and their teeth would be falling out of their heads....hmm...well, at a faster rate than is normal for 6 year olds anyway.  They would sit in front of the TV when it is beautiful out and their bikes would look like they've never been ridden.  They would never bathe and would be known as the stinky kids on our block.  Braden would never enroll in school and would reek havoc on this world moreso than he is going to just because he is Braden.

I am a teacher in a very successful Dual Language Program.  Our students are learning to read, write, and speak in English and in Spanish starting at the very early age of 5.  I am very proud to be a part of this program, and prouder still to be a parent of a student in this program.  I did not give Lauren a choice of which preschools to attend, which elementary school she would attend, or whether or not to take part in the Dual Language Program.  As her mother, and now her teacher, I know that the choices I have made for her will give her a better chance to make something great of her life. Which is why my jaw dropped yesterday when speaking with another parent about my program during our kindergarten registration.

I had explained to her what the program's goals are, how her daughter's day would be spent, and how much success we have had.  She then turns to her 5 year old and says, "What do you think honey, do you want to learn Spanish?"  To which the little "angel" replies, no, with a shake of her head.  So her mom says, "Well, she's very opinionated, so if she doesn't want to, I think we'll pass."  Uhhhh....seriously?  Like....really?  I mean...you're kidding right?  You are going to let a FIVE YEAR OLD make THAT kind of a decision?  Wow.  I must be behind the times.  I guess I should give in to my 4 year old, withdraw him from preschool for next year, and let Lauren chew gum every minute of every day.