I Want an Owen

15 Nov

Every once in awhile, I long for the days when my kids were tiny, cuddly babies. And then I remember that I can leave my house with my kids alone and the oldest in charge, and be reasonably sure the house will be standing and all kids will be alive when I return. And I don’t mean just, “I’m running to the store for five minutes” alone. I mean, “we’re leaving you in charge of your two brothers, two of our friends’ kids, and going to a bar. See you in a couple of hours,” alone.

I think every parent has a moment when they realize their kids are old enough to be truly helpful; mine was when Owen first carried a 50-lb bag of chicken food for me. I have long since accepted that many of my technological difficulties can be dealt with by my thirteen-year-old, though from time to time, I have to explain to him that I am not completely inept when it comes to my iPhone. Owen is the person that starts fires in the wood stove for me in the afternoons when I am cold and Oliver is not home yet (I should point out that I am capable, but he is more interested). Owen turns on and sets up video games for his brothers (in this case, I am neither capable nor interested) and will frequently help them by making meals and snacks. I reluctantly have to admit that if I wanted to watch TV before 5pm, I might have to have Owen help me.

Not long ago, we were at a friend’s house renovating a bathroom and Owen was lugging everything outside while Oliver pulled it apart. Her kids are five and seven and she simply said, “I want an Owen.” My response was that she would have one in about five years. If you don’t feed them to lions, or sell them on eBay, which was always my threat, you might just end up with kids that are competent and useful at some point.

In one moment, I lament the loss of them needing me and wanting to snuggle with me, and in the other, I am counting down the time until the oldest can drive (less than 2.5 years) and can cart his brothers around. I guess this is why some people keep having kids, and why I had my tubes tied.

A Tree-Hugging, Peace-loving Optimist’s Guide to Trump’s Election

9 Nov

I promised myself (and everyone on Facebook) that I was going to remain optimistic if my chosen candidates did not win, and I am holding myself to that promise because 1. I am an optimist and I will not let Trump or anyone else change that, and 2. I don’t think the alternative is particularly helpful. But I have to admit, I am not feeling very optimistic today. In fact, I feel devastated in a way I would not have anticipated. Granted, I have far less to lose than many during a Trump presidency; I am an upper-middle class, straight, white girl from NH. And it’s not just the friends and family members that will be more directly impacted than I for whom I am fearful. It is also for all those Americans whose country (or at least half of it) seems to be turning against them. And it is for my children, whom I do not want to grow up in a world in which they have to be fearful.

But since I promised I would do it, and because I need some convincing myself, here goes:

  1. This election has brought up a lot of fantastic discussions with my kids about what it means to be tolerant, kind, and compassionate and a few more scary but necessary conversations about things like consent and the not-so-pleasant bits of our nation’s history.
  2. I have rediscovered the wisdom of people like Pete Seeger and Arlo Guthrie in listening to my old folk music and it gives me hope that since previous generations have made it through equally troubling times, so will we.
  3. It has shone a light on the corruption in our government while simultaneously reminding us how our government is supposed to work. I hope that it spurs us to hold our elected officials to task for their behavior. Perhaps having a political outsider at the helm will further bring that corruption out in the open.
  4. We still have people like Bernie Sanders in the Senate and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the Supreme Court and I would put either of them up against a dozen haters.
  5. Concepts like the electoral college and the two-party system have always been taken for granted, but maybe this is the beginning of the end for both.
  6. Our children will learn from this election. We get to choose whether they learn to get involved in their communities and government in a positive way and show kindness always or instead to learn to use their position to advance themselves and bully those more vulnerable. We will choose the former.
  7. There has been so much talk of Trump being a great businessman who will be able to fix the economy. And there are clearly many people who feel the economy is not working for them. I do not personally agree with Trump’s solutions, but let’s see what he does with his opportunity.
  8. In his victory speech, Trump spoke of uniting Americans rather than advancing the same hateful rhetoric his campaign has been full of. I hope he is taking the weight of his new responsibility seriously.
  9. If my Facebook feed is representative of much of the population, despite their hurt today, people are being kinder, more understanding with each other. They have reached out to the disenfranchised and have donated to or joined organizations that are making a positive difference. Maybe this has forced us to attempt to unite ourselves.

Optimism is a choice. While there is absolutely a part of me that is humming REM’s “It’s the End of the World,” and remembering my teenage self’s pact with friends to flee to Canada at the outset of the first Gulf War, I choose to be optimistic. I will not forgive Trump for his rhetoric or behavior, but I will make the best of the situation and I will hope, and work for, the best.

Maybe Three was the Wrong Number

19 Sep

There is a dynamic with three boys that is very different with only two boys, though I suspect this would be true regardless of the genders of your children. Now that my kids are getting to the age where they have plans with friends that don’t involve their brothers or other things going on, I find myself more frequently with only two kids at home for short periods of time. I’ve got to admit, it’s kind of nice.

Today, Duncan left for the week for environmental school. Normally, Owen and Duncan get home from school first and then when Calum gets home, he joins Duncan in whatever he is doing (typically playing with Legos or watching stupid videos on the computer). Owen, being the sporadically bitchy teen that he is, sits in his room by himself, doing whatever sporadically bitchy teens do (typically playing with Legos or watching stupid videos on his iPod). Today, Calum wanted to make teeny pancakes. Owen helped him. And not just, “yeah, I’ll get the pancake mix out for you” help. He actually made them with him and showed him how to do things like flip pancakes and use the griddle.

Owen would claim that it’s because Duncan is somehow the problem, but I pointed out that things are the same when Owen or Calum are the one kid missing. They are simply nicer to each other. It seems that with three (and I remember this from growing up with two sisters), someone is always the odd man (or woman) out and that kids who are one of three take turns being the one the other two are mean to, or on better days, the one who is simply not interested in what the other two are.

Oddly, the same thing seems to happen when you add extra kids to the mix. The dynamic changes and they are just kinder (usually). Since I have no intention of sending one of them back to where they came from or of making any more small crazy people, I guess I will just have to enjoy these short periods of niceness when I can get them.

 

Not Enough of a Worrier

8 Sep

Tonight I attended the parents’ information night on the week-long environmental school my 6th grader will be attending later this month. Based on the stuff the teachers explained, it was clear that they had spent the last several years addressing the varied and extensive worries of 6th grade parents concerning this experience. I left early thinking that I can’t be the only one who isn’t worried about any of this. Or that maybe I was tragically born without some critical parenting trait which allows me to obsess about the minutia of every moment my children are out of my sight.

I probably could have skipped the info session; the packet of information and forms sent home gave me more than enough info. What I need to know: 1. what stuff I should help him pack, 2. when I should drop him off and pick him up. That’s really about it. What other parents apparently want to know: 1. where will they sleep, 2. the mailing address, 3. the qualifications of the medical staff, 4. when, where, and by whom will they be supervised, 5. what they will eat, 6. what activities they will participate in, 7. how they will be grouped, 8. how they deal with homesickness (a bizarre affliction that people in my family are not prone to), 9. if they need flip flops for the shower, etc, etc.

I get that some parents have legitimate concerns about maybe food allergies or health issues, though most of peoples’ concerns seem silly to me. My thinking is that schools have been doing these trips for decades without any major incidents. If kids were getting lost in the woods or not fed for three days, environmental camp/school wouldn’t be a thing. These trips sound like so much fun, I wish they were looking for chaperones.

I don’t care about any of the details, or I won’t until Duncan comes home and talks non-stop for an hour about how much fun he had. And I know he will. That’s when I want to know about activities and sleeping arrangements and meals. I also know I will hug him goodbye and he will be off without so much as a glance back. I won’t spend a single second worrying about any of it. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Slingshots and Blow Darts

28 Aug

Some days I look at my kids and their antics and think they are typical boys. Other days, I’m not so sure. This is an actual conversation I just had with the two oldest.

Me, to O – “Don’t slam your door in your brother’s face.”

O – “He is shooting at me.”

Me, to D – “What is that thing?”

O – “It’s the blow dart gun I made him.”

Me – “Why would you make him a blow dart gun?”

O – “I don’t know. It was before he shot me with a rock with the slingshot. I don’t trust him now.”

I should point out that O also made him the slingshot, and that D’s  trustworthiness has been in question for much longer than that.

How do you even address these things? Is there an appropriate consequence for shooting your brother with blow darts? Or for making your brother a blow dart gun? Or maybe, the consequence is the irony of having the weapon you made for your brother used against you. O is smart enough to understand that irony, but apparently not smart enough not to build weapons for his 11-year-old brother. There may be a lesson in diplomacy and international relations in here somewhere.

For the record, I did not take away the blow dart gun as there is now a specific rule concerning the use of blow darts, while no rule yet exists for the next ridiculous thing O builds. Sometime next week, I will find myself saying, in my mother’s voice, “what did I tell you about the blow darts?”

 

 

Nobody is Dyeing their Penis

22 Aug

Duncan and I came home from school shopping today to find a pretty epic blanket fort that Calum and Owen built while we were gone. We have spent the last fifteen minutes in the blanket fort, laughing so hard we’re crying. They are at pretty fun ages right now since they still love and want to snuggle with me in blanket forts, but they have the conversations skills of very small truckers. If anyone wonders what it’s like to have three boys, I give you the following:

“I am going to name these underwear Calvin (as in Klein), Hobbes, and Red Nuts.”

“The foam roller is not a penis.”

“Don’t throw your brother’s dirty underwear at me.”

“You may be the best at some things, but I am the best looking.” “I have the best penis.” “Mommy is the best Mommy.”

“Nobody is dyeing their penis.”

“If you want to come snuggle with us, you need to put on clean underwear.”

“I don’t think Cloud will appreciate the blanket fort.”

“Underwear is not a sharing thing.”

“The hair dye is not a penis.”

“Let’s not put a bathroom in your blanket fort.”

“These underwear match your wrestling uniform. Go put it on so we can wrestle.”

“Yes, the word pianist is funny.”

“If you have enough hair on your penis, it will grow a beard.” Um, what?

 

 

 

Why I Hate Homework

11 May

There are lots of reasons to dislike homework, and I agree with pretty much all of them. Kids need more time for unstructured play; they already spend seven hours a day doing school work. It isn’t proven to actually improve learning. It takes away from family time. In many cases, it is more work for the parents than the kids.

This last one! Most of the time, homework is at least as much work for me as it is for my kids and here is why. As Elementary school students (who shouldn’t even have homework!), my oldest two basically required me sitting at the kitchen table next to them to ensure they were actually doing what they were supposed to be doing. They needed constant reminders to stay on task. Oddly, #3 is way more self-sufficient as a 2nd grader than #1 or #2 were. Some days, I’m just not sure where he comes from. They needed me to repeatedly  hand them a new pencil when theirs mysteriously fell onto the floor for the eighth time. They needed me to keep them from bugging and distracting each other. It was not enough for me to be in the room; they needed constant attention. And it wasn’t that they wanted this. It was that NOTHING would get done without me or Oliver standing over them.

While they have become way more independent in terms of homework, tonight it became evident that not much has significantly changed.

Me: “O, go do your homework.”

O: Shows me a paper about a field trip that is happening next year. Tells me about the field trip. Explains the difference between the two 8th grade teams.

Me: “Great. Now go do your homework.”

O: Tells me about the prize he will get if he has managed to keep all of his RPS homework from the whole year. Goes in search of the few he is missing. Insists it is part of his homework. Comes back to show me he is missing only one.

Me: “Homework.”

O:  Goes outside to dig for worms while I’m not paying attention.

Me: “So you finished your homework?”

O: “Not all of it.”

Me: “Get back in here and finish your homework.”

O: Proceeds to tell me about the worms he has caught and what he has named them.

Me: “I don’t want to hear a single word about worms until your homework is done.”

O: Sits down briefly to do homework, then comes back into the kitchen. “I have this project where I am working with other kids, so I need to call them to talk about the project. I’m not just chatting. I’m doing work. Oh, my phone is dead.”

Me: “Perfect. Do the rest of your work and then your phone will be charged enough to call your friends.”

O: “I’m just going to feed the fish a little bit.”

Me: “Seriously? DO YOUR HOMEWORK!”

O: “You know I’m procrastinating. I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA.”

I have come to the realization that homework is why parents drink.