Moxie Mom On Life and Kids

MOXIE MOM on Life & Kids

Welcome 2011

I used to be one for New Year’s resolutions, but somewhere along the way, I gave them up. Too easy to fall off the wagon. Now I just go for little goals without big consequences if I don’t follow through. But I do have some parenting goals I hope to remember all year.

  1. Listen. Really.
  2. Talk less (you lose them after two sentences anyway).
  3. Smile more often.
  4. Catch my kids doing good things.
  5. Stop nagging my son. Okay, maybe just do less of it.
  6. Be consistent.
  7. Be in the moment.
  8. Be grateful. Remember life can change on a dime.
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Slacker Advice for Halloween

Halloween is coming and I know some parents out there are stressing about the amount of sugar their kids are going to ingest. It’s a yearly topic. I bring it up because I came across this blog, Spoonfed, with a post on how this family handles Halloween (look for “Candy insanity: Halloween here we come.”) 

Okay, I’m truly a slacker parent—the votes are all in. Here’s why: we let the kids eat their Halloween candy. No night sprite comes to trade toys for candy in the middle of the night (I’m way too cheap for that). We don’t throw out the candy after the kids go to bed, and I didn’t throw it out when they were young, either—my husband and I prefer to help ourselves and hope the kids don’t notice. We don’t separate candy by health quality, we (they) separate by type of candy—an important ritual—and they eat it. We don’t hand out toys to kids at the door because we get too many kids in our neighborhood (see cheap, above).

I know sugar is rampant. As are chemicals. The Spoonfed blogger is more concerned with chemicals than sugar, and I’m right there with her. And I get she’s just trying to dialogue on health with her kids. I applaud her energy.

I also know what happens when you ban kids from the sweet stuff (or television or polyester or skateboarding). They crave it all the more, and you run the risk of creating, or at least contributing to, food fixations and even eating disorders. Really, I know adults in this boat. I’ve also seen kids get pretty bossy and judgmental with their candy-eating peers, and who needs that?

But mostly, I’m just trying to walk a line. When I was a kid, our sugar consumption was seriously controlled. In fact, my dad told the local store owner—we had exactly one store in our community—not to sell candy to me and my sisters. I didn’t know about the edict until I tried to buy candy one day (I was about 10) and the store clerk had to break the news. He was embarrassed, and I was mortified. After that, when my friends bought candy, I would feign disinterest in the sweet stuff and buy an apple instead because I was too embarrassed to admit my parents’ sugar ethic. My sister? She took to stealing candy and hiding it in her dresser drawer.

So, I’m all for feeding kids a healthy diet, but I don’t go overboard on the control issues. Call me a slacker, but I have put some thought into this. When Ty was 3, we let him “eat” all his candy in one night, about 15 pieces (incidentally, your dentist will agree this is better for your kid’s teeth). Ty opened every piece, took one bite, and put it aside. Okay, yes, I did throw it all away when he went to bed. But he thought he’d gorged on candy, and the issue was over. The reality is I’m just too lazy to monitor and negotiate candy for weeks on end. Slacker.

These days, I don’t have any say in what the kids eat on Halloween (and they’re quicker to notice declines in their candy stash)—nor do I think I should be controlling a 13-year-old’s choices. She needs to figure that out. But I do remind her to brush her teeth. And my kids are quick to spot the difference between fun food and healthy food (Leah told me recently our house was healthy but not crazy healthy. I think she meant it as a compliment). They eat vegetables and fruit, and they steadfastly refuse to eat hot lunch at school.

Personally, I say trick-or-treat to fewer houses when your kids are young and skip the downtown business trick-or-treat scene. The best way to cut down on candy is not to bring it into the house at all.

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Honda Whispering

Our car, an aging automatic Honda Odyssey, has taken to getting stuck in Park. I have been stranded in all manner of places—parking lots, driveways, in front of the library, you name it, and it’s kind of embarrassing.

I keep thinking it’s a metaphor for parenting. Similar to a recalcitrant toddler, the car can’t be forced. Wrenching on the shifter only serves to remind me I might break the mechanism and be stuck for good. Last week, picking up Leah from middle school, I got stuck for ten minutes jiggling the shifter and feeling mightily irritated.

Like most parents do with tough kids, I’ve taken to anticipating the issue, except instead of warning my charge we won’t be buying treats while grocery shopping or wondering whether today will be the day I will abandon a full cart due to a meltdown (I never abandoned a full cart and now, looking back, I wish I had), I park so I won’t ever block anyone (that happened in a driveway last week, and naturally it was when the blocked-in driver was in a hurry). I also park in the outer reaches of parking lots where there are fewer witnesses to watch me go through my round of tricks.

I’ve tried all kinds of tricks: wheeling the steering wheel around as I pull down on the shifter, turning the engine off and turning it back on again, setting and releasing the parking brake several times, and taking deep breaths to minimize the red flush that invariably crawls up my face.

But, like a toddler bent on independence, the car only does what it wants to do when it wants to do it—I never know what pops it into gear, although recently when I took to stomping on the brake pedal (my husband’s trick), I discovered more consistent success. Hmm, the car equivalent of spanking?

Luckily, with a car, you can just call in the mechanic. In fact, it’s in the shop today. I hope it’s easy to figure out—they have never run into this issue before. Story of my toddler parenting life. Thank God I’m done with it.

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Our Fragile World

Last night I told my husband the online Bellingham Herald had the latest update on Dwight, the WWU student who disappeared last week. He knew, without me telling him, that the news was bad.

“I don’t think I want up-to-the-minute coverage,” he said. “I’ll read the paper tomorrow.”

My husband doesn’t dwell in dark places. He doesn’t like to think about what-ifs, and he doesn’t want to hear the details about children’s deaths. I, on the other hand, allow my mother brain to go to the darkest of dark places. I know I’m not the only one—I’ve read entire essays devoted to this female phenomenon.

Imagine, then, the last week and a half here in Bellingham. I cannot stop thinking about the 2-year-old girl hit by a car in front of one of our high schools. Or the girl who never in a million years expected to cause an accident on a sunny afternoon, and, oh, I can’t stop imagining my own daughter in her shoes in two and a half years. And I can’t stop thinking about Dwight, a boy whose world was his oyster, who had just arrived in town to begin his college career at the university. He was five years older than my daughter is now.

I feel the urge to pull my kids close and keep them close. And yet life must be lived, and children must walk without you. They will learn to drive, encounter strangers, use their own judgment, make their own decisions. You can’t stop the process—it’s like trying to dam the ocean.

And even when they’re old enough to leave home, they will not be ready. They will learn on the fly, through experience, through mistakes, through others’ mistakes, through their parents’ mistakes, and most of the time, they will be fine, but sometimes not. It’s the nature of being human in a fragile, delicately balanced, beautiful world that brings heartbreak every day.


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Life with a Kitten, continued

I fear we may have created some bad habits. We make Milo sleep in the bathroom at night. Every night. And now we can’t imagine how we will transition him to sleeping somewhere, anywhere else in the house (his choice) besides the bathroom. He now knows—learned quickly, it turns out—that when all the lights are off and he’s locked in the bathroom, it’s time to go to sleep. And he does it quite dutifully. Who can complain? The first night he meowed for about ten minutes, but every night thereafter his meowing decreased, till within three days he didn’t meow at all. If only babies were so easy.

Milo on basket

But now it’s a month later, and we’re still carting his litter box and water/food bowls upstairs from the kitchen every night and wondering if we’ll have bathroom sleeper forever. We’re afraid if we don’t put him in the bathroom, he’ll sit outside Leah’s door and meow until he wakes her (we’ve seen him plant himself there after she goes to bed and try it). Corralling him might not, at first glance, seem like a big deal, but the downside is we’ve taken to holding it in the middle of the night lest we awaken his yowlie highness, and we find ourselves tiptoeing past the door in the morning. Most mornings, Curt succeeds in creeping down the stairs at 5:30am without waking Milo, but at 6:45am I have no such luck. Now I’ve developed the new habit of whisking him downstairs to feed him before he wakes the rest of the house.

Milo playing with paper

Who knew a kitten could create such changes? While we can’t resist cuddling him—and we think his fascination with flushing toilets is hilarious—we all agree his meowing is a bit much.

And like a guilty parent, I can’t help comparing his loud ways to our late Leon, who never meowed about anything, not even when he was hungry. The most you would get was maybe a friendly fur rub around the ankles. Milo, on the other hand, sits at his bowl and aims his small, pink mouth upward to issue forth a cacophony of caws until you respond.

The vet’s advice at Milo’s last vaccination appointment? Ignore the meows to avoid creating a bad habit around demanding food. Only feed him when he’s not meowing at you.

“Sort of like not giving in to a toddler’s tantrums,” I commented.

“Just like a toddler.”

Only I thought I was done with toddlers.

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