Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Swimming Lessons

Ty finished a session of swim lessons, half an hour every day for two weeks, and I have to say, it went swimmingly.

He went in every day. In our family this is a big accomplishment. Not only did Ty go in, he actually enjoyed himself. In our family, this is unheard of. I admit, after the first morning, he said, “That was kind of torturous.” But still he got in the next morning. In our family, this is also unheard of. Afterward, he said, “That was okay.” The third day he said, “That was kind of fun, kind of torture.” The same on the fourth. On the fifth morning, diving board day, the day my daughter flat-out refused to participate when she took a round of lessons several years ago, he said at the end of the lesson, “That was fun.”

“Really?” I said. (To fully appreciate where I’m coming from, you have to read an article I wrote a couple years ago for Wondertime.)

This is how we got here. After a long hiatus from group lessons, I decided to put my foot down with Ty (Leah was slated to be off at her horse stable). “You have to take group lessons,” I told him in May. I’d hired a friend last winter to give him some private lessons because Ty was so convinced group lessons would be hell (I’m equally convinced now it was all Leah’s influence). And while the personalized attention was fantastic, I found the scheduling a tad difficult, and the pool impossible. The little pool (at Arne Hanna) was often too crowded, and the big pool was too cold. Ty’s a skinny minny and learning in cold water is one of the worst things for newbies, I learned during interviews for my Wondertime article.

Plus I love the idea of an outdoor pool in the summer, but alas, in Bellingham, you have to belong to a club to have access. The only way to get into one of those pools is to take group lessons. So, group lessons it was. I got firm and told him he would like the outdoor pool. And you know, he did.

In fact, lessons went so well, I’ve signed him up for a second session. “Does he know, Mom?” Leah asked me, incredulous. “He does,” I said. “And he doesn’t mind.” Believe it or not, I did not say, not all kids hate lessons as much as you do.

And for two weeks, I watched him drop willingly into the pool every day and swim across it every day and do whatever the swim instructors told him every day. No cajoling, bribing, arguing, or sitting on the side with my child in my lap. No debates at home about whether we were headed to swimming. We just were. Every day.

I love compliant children, don’t you? They make parenting so easy.

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Trading Kisses

My son and I have a little tradition we carry out every night at bedtime. I don’t even remember when it started—sometime back when he was tiny. Anyway, when I kiss him goodnight, I always give him about five smooches on his cheek, sometimes more, sometimes fewer. And he always, without fail, keeps count and gives me back the exact number of kisses I gave him.

Doesn’t get much sweeter than that.

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Summer Freedom

Even if the weather can’t pull itself together (yes, I admit, this afternoon was beautiful), summer mode is going full force in my house this week. I think it’s mainly due to the fact that my beloved husband is in the Sierras for ten days, climbing his little heart out while I’m here holding down the fort. Really, I’m not bitter. Really. Now that the kids are older, Curt going climbing is not the big deal it was when they were babies.

In fact, things are pretty dang relaxed around here. Funny how one adult being gone means there’s no schedule. Read: no dinner. Or at least nothing formal. We eat when we’re hungry rather than according to a prescribed hour, and often spend less than a minute preparing quesadillas or popping a can of beans or the like. Last night Ty had a corn dog, and I ate a frozen concoction from Trader Joe’s (Leah was off at a sleepover). I’m not even sure there were any dishes to clean up.

With school out less than a week, we’ve managed 4 sleepover sessions (two of those with a gaggle of friends visiting from Seattle and England) and multiple playdates already. Leah’s planning another sleepover tonight. That’s the other thing that’s different with Dad gone. Since I’m home with the kids (cramming in writing wherever I can and not as often as I need to), I really don’t care if they head out the door for yet another playdate or invite someone in to wile away the afternoon. It buys me the time I haven’t scheduled with a babysitter.

The other thing about solo parenting is there’s no one to question (or even witness) my slacker parenting ways. No one to quietly suggest that maybe I’m taking the no-routine thing a bit far. No one to see Leah’s eyes rolling in her head from fatigue or notice that Ty hasn’t had a balanced meal (but pasta counts, right?).

Then there’s also the impromptu decision-making that, you know, is just kind of fun. This evening, I invited the boy down the street to dinner, with whom Ty has been playing since about noon. And now they’re contemplating a sleepover even though Ty has swim lessons in the morning, and normally I would say no, but I can’t really think of a reason to say no. His lesson is only half an hour long and if he’s a little tired, oh well. Plus the boys are still getting along so well, so what the heck?

Of course, while we’re all enjoying the hiatus from the family schedule, I do hear occasionally, “When is Daddy coming home?” Usually in some quiet moment between social activities. This breakneck schedule will wear thin soon, and the novelty of no dinner won’t be a novelty anymore. And holding down the fort all by myself is fine for a while, but being in charge of everything isn’t the bees knees either (that lawn is starting to look a little long). And somehow I’ve got to get the dining room hutch moved because the electricians are coming tomorrow to finish up the  rewiring job that’s not quite done. And every time I want to talk, about, you know, adult stuff, I have to file it away in my brain to bring up next week. Yeah, the things we appreciate about our spouses become most clear when they’re gone.

Half an hour later…

Leah just called. She’s bagging on tonight’s sleepover because she’s too tired, so she’s coming home to sleep in her own bed. Such a sensible child.

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New Horizons

I’ve just returned from the last-day-of-school assembly, which featured a slide show of the kids and the many events that took place this year, as well as a send-off for the fifth graders. Each fifth grader received a certificate, kind words, and many rounds of applause. Afterward, they lined up in the hall outside the cafeteria to receive congratulatory handshakes from all the kids, the teachers, and the fifth grade parents, who were specially invited to watch this rite of passage.

My daughter is one of those fifth graders. For about an hour longer. She is very much looking forward to the new horizons of middle school, and with the busyness of this week’s end-of-the-year celebrations, she isn’t focused on the finality of this good-bye. But of course her mother is.

As I write this, I am recalling a visit with my grandmother about 8 years back when my son was a baby and Leah a toddler prone to violent tantrums. I was awash in diapers, baby food, dirty dishes, tears, and broken nights, and often I was ready to snap. But on that cloudy morning, not unlike today, as I chatted with my 91-year-old grandmother, who was debilitated by bad hearing, macular degeneration so advanced she couldn’t see faces at all, and the general malaise of a 91-year-old body, and yet still able to laugh at a funny story and cuddle a squirming baby, she said something that has stuck with me. 

She said, “These are the best years of your life. These are the golden years. ”

This from a woman who had lived her life, a very full life, and who was closer to the end than either of us knew. Who had more perspective than I’ll ever have, and who could see more clearly than I could where I was in my life with my babies.

Whenever I am passing through the entrance to a new phase of my children’s lives, as I am today, I think of her and those words, and how fast our parenting years move.

And I wish she could have been there today to clap for Leah. She would have been so pleased and proud.

These are the best years of our lives.

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Friday Night Dinner

You’d think on a Friday night when everyone is ready for a break from the usual dinner fare that choosing a restaurant would be easy. You’d think.

For a long time, Curt and I chose where we’d eat and then we’d have to endure the distress of our children because they had other ideas. More often than not, Curt wanted something ethnic. I  love ethnic, but my goal was for everyone to be happy (read: kids happy), so I wanted a restaurant with predictable fare. And the kids never want anything ethnic. You can already see the dynamic setting up.

So I came up with the brilliant idea of taking turns. The first time it seemed like it worked, but on Friday Ty was unhappy because I said it was Leah’s turn to choose, and he couldn’t believe he didn’t have any say. I told him he could choose next time. No consolation whatsoever. Actually, Ty would prefer not to go out at all, which I know (and which he stated on Friday evening more than once), but I’m not prepared to stay home and pull something out of the proverbial hat just because he doesn’t want to go out. Because the other thing I know about him is he gets through his tears and always has a good time. I can’t remember the last time he didn’t manage to pull it together.

The other issue that clouds our dinner decision making, and I’m sympathetic, is Ty’s tendency to crash (blood sugar, I mean). He crashes and cries, and then he’s in no shape to go out and manage the various parts to going out: parking, walking, ordering, and waiting for the meal. Crashing is actually not a tendency for him—it’s a fact of life. Every day. Right around dinner time. We know this about him and we pack snacks to be eaten on the way to the restaurant. But still we have to endure his tearful pleas for us to stay home.

So on Friday, no one can decide who’s supposed to decide, even though we keep saying it’s Leah, and Ty is upset that anybody gets to decide without his input. His input would be fine, but it directly opposes what Leah wants, and, not surprisingly, she doesn’t really care what he wants. Curt is ready to throw in the towel, and so am I, except that someone will have to cook at home and neither of us wants to. Secretly, I would like to go to La Fiamma, but we’ve just been there, and Curt would prefer to go somewhere new, and anyway it’s about 6:00 and the line at La Fiamma will be too long, especially for the likes of our low-blood-sugar son (stay tuned for my review on why I like this place so much). Frankly, I don’t care where we eat as long as I can have a beer.

So, we’re driving around on a beautiful evening, when we really should be on bikes (but who would bike with a kid who has to be picked up and put in the car?), and we have no idea where to eat. Bandito’s, Leah’s choice (or was it Ty’s in the end? I really can’t remember.) is too busy. All the tables are taken. So I muscle in and suggest Taco Lobo, just around the corner. I love this place almost as much as La Fiamma, so I’m secretly pleased that my choice might be the one that wins. We agree we have to check first on how crowded it is. But Ty’s beginning to wipe away his tears, and Curt and Leah look a little perkier.

And what do you know? Taco Lobo is not too crowded. We’re all happy. Leah gets her veggie burrito, I get my carne asada tacos, and Ty gets the child’s plate that seems to satisfy him. Curt gets something with pork. But most importantly I get my beer. Life is suddenly looking pretty good.

If only it didn’t have to be so painful along the way. Suggestions for equitable restaurant choosing welcome here.  


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