We Are Both Right

When Speaking Up Means Staying Quiet

Football stadium

Amanda discovered that sometimes advocating for your child means not saying a word. ©We Are Both Right

It’s a piece of advice that seems to transcend parenting books, styles and experts: Advocate for your child. There’s a lot of wiggle room in those four words, but for me, they always meant “SPEAK UP!” whether it was in the classroom, pediatrician’s office or even on the playground. If my child can’t articulate for themselves what they need, then it’s my job as mom to help them get it. I learned recently though, that sometimes advocating for your child means knowing when to stay quiet.

Over the weekend, my 11-year-old son and I attended an incredibly popular sporting event. A football game, you may have even seen it on network television (I hear the commercials are pretty funny). The circumstances of how we attended aren’t important, but that we did, just the pair of us, is. I was slightly nervous about going to an event like this without a male presence — not to demean myself as a woman, but in a stadium filled with rowdy, possibly inebriated fans, I felt like my son and I (decked out in gear supporting our team) were easy, vulnerable targets.

For the most part, I needn’t had worried. Our section was filled with fans supporting both teams and there was even a family sitting immediately to the right of us. At the beginning of the game, a group of three male fans about seven rows back were escorted out by security for having a bit too much to drink (something they denied but was then confirmed when one in their party slipped down the cement steps — ouch!), but otherwise we were in a good group of people who were just as happy to be there as we were. And while we were all hoping our team would win, just being at this game was enough to keep everyone satisfied.

Kind of. In the row immediately behind us, were a pair of 30-something males who were rooting for the team that we weren’t. That’s fine, except their choice of language wasn’t exactly the stuff nursery rhymes are made of. Now my son is 11, he’s certainly been exposed to words like this (not by me!), but not at the frequency and the intensity that these words were uttered (and shouted).

So what to do? If my husband was there, I’d either ask him to say something (chances are he’d do it on his own) or I’d speak up myself. Nothing confrontational of course, just a simple, “Hey guys, do you mind watching what you say? My kid is sitting right here.” But my husband wasn’t there and I wasn’t sure how these men would react to me, a mother and her child. Would they feel terrible for their transgression, curb their creative vocabulary immediately and apologize for their lack of tact and etiquette? Could be. Or would it go the other way and would I suddenly find myself in a not-so-great situation with my son looking on?

Honestly, I didn’t want to find out, so I did nothing.

Well, not nothing exactly. The next day, after the game was over (our team won!), I mentioned what had happened to my son to get his read on it. It seemed like he hadn’t even noticed, so caught up in the game was he, that the two dopes behind us never hit his radar. Still, in hindsight I question if I did the right thing. Maybe I should have said something, or even texted security (there was a number where you could report unruly game goers). That thought had passed through my mind at the time, but I was concerned that the pair would have just been given a warning, my hand would have been tipped and then a few choice foul words would have been the least of my problems. Also, I felt uncomfortable about “tattling” when I hadn’t had the courage (or good sense) to first speak to these men myself.

Overall, I’m comfortable with what I didn’t do and would probably make the same choice next time, but I’m curious what other parents would do in my situation. Seeing that the family sitting next to me didn’t speak up either, I feel like I’ve been validated a bit. What do you think? Did I make the right decision? Have you ever felt that staying silent was the best option?

Coming Up for Air

This is the type of coming up for air we wish we were doing right about now. Maybe next year. ©Juan Velasquez/stock.xchng

MYTH: Amanda and I have escaped to a tropical island with our husbands and are now sitting on teak beach chairs, pink drinks in hand, while we let this site accumulate dust bunnies.

FACT: The slow, quiet post-holiday weeks we anticipated have swallowed us alive. We are each ear-deep in science projects and laundry, work deadlines and stomach bugs. Dinner is pizza more often than not and by the time we’re each done wrangling the kids into bed, there’s just enough time to cap off the night with a melatonin cocktail. And maybe a quick phone call between us to say, “Yeah, I think I might be able to post something this week. Maybe.”

Just when did winter become the busiest season of all? I guess I should ask the same people who decided that the nice little rotation we had of baseball in the spring, football in the fall, and basketball in the winter should morph into each being a three season venture. Oh well. It’s all for the kids, right?

Anyway, as much as I’d love to chat, it’s time for me to take down my Christmas tree. The fake one. The real one came down January 2. I’m not that bad.

But I promise we will be back real soon. We have to. For sanity’s sake.

In the meantime, please tell us how you are coping with getting back to normal in this new year? We’re all ears.

11 Years Later, Still Parenting by the Seat of My Pants

There is a small potty chair in the middle of my living room. Not surprising when you consider we have a two-and-a-half-year-old living here, but downright shocking if you know my take on potty training.

No potty seats and certainly not in the living room. You learn to do your business on the toilet on a potty ring. In the bathroom.

So why do I have a toddler watching television as he attempts to go to the bathroom?

Because he’s my third child and I’m tired and desperate.

To be fair, I didn’t buy the potty seat. It was sent to me to review for one of my other writing jobs. I had considered passing it off to someone else, but then I re-evaluated my stance when S. took an interest in the box.

Now our living room is one step above a public restroom, but at least he’s sitting on an actual toilet with his pants down, which is something he wouldn’t do yesterday. (Small victories people. It’s all about the small, strange victories when you’re a mom.)

potty training chair arm and hammer potty munchkin

We do need a new chair for the living room, but I was thinking recliner. ©Arm & Hammer/Munchkin

The potty ring isn’t the only way I’ve changed in my style of mothering. With nearly nine years separating kid number one from kid number three it isn’t surprising that we do things differently (and a are a bit more relaxed). As a one-week old, youngest child S. was being carted around to Little League games where I would nurse him in the stands and chat with the other moms and dads. When our eldest C. was a week old, we would maybe, possibly venture out for a walk if the weather was just perfect. If we were in public when it was time for him to nurse I’d whisk him away to a private place where we would be left alone.

Obviously, my thoughts (and consequently my parenting style) have changed on lots of things — some major, some minor — and while I’m not shocked by it, I am interested in my evolution from a know-it-all-yet-panicked first-time mom to a quite zen, oh-let-him-drink-soda-once-in-a-while third-time mommy.

And apparently a woman who encourages public urination.

How has your parenting style changed over the years? What is one thing you swore you’d never do that you do now?

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary (Toddler Edition)

©the_franz/stock.xchng

If my toddler had his way today, I would have been spending a lot of my time in the naughty chair. ©the_franz/stock.xchng

I love annoying my kids. I’m a mom, it’s my right to do it and I take full advantage. I turn the radio up in the minivan and sing my favorite ’80s hits to my heart’s content. Now that my older two are 8 and 11, I happily beat them in every board game we play.  I openly steal candy from their Halloween bags. When it’s time to wake them up in the morning I turn on the lights and sing joyful tunes.

Yep, I’m that person when it comes to my kids and I’m proud.

The great thing is, they are never really angry with me — they may roll their eyes, but usually it’s all good. Until today when my toddler decided that having me as a mom wasn’t as peachy as it usually is.

I don’t know why, but he was in a bad mood all day. Maybe he was tired, hopefully he’s not getting sick — whatever, he was just really cranky and no matter what I did he was not happy about it. The thing was, his reactions to me were hysterical and I would laugh. Which would make him more mad.

It started early in the day. After his siblings got on the bus we headed out with a small to-do list — Kohl’s and then the park. “Kohl’s first,” I told him, “and then we will go to the playground.” His response was quick and cross. “NO! Park first, Kohl’s second.” We went back and forth for a few minutes with our bickering and then pulled into the shopping center parking lot. Sorry buddy, mommy always wins.

That I made him ride in the store stroller made him all the more mad. He complained the whole trip until we hit the registers, when another mom asked if she could have our cart when I was done. We were heading to the parking lot and I only had one bag so I took S. out right away and let her put her daughter in. Oh the horror. My son, who had just been whining for the past half hour about having to stay confined while we shopped suddenly wanted back in. “MY STROLLER!” he yelled all the way to our car. “NOT FOR GIRL! MINE! I SIT! NO GIRL, YOU NO SIT!”

I thought the playground would cheer him up and it did for a little while (although he wanted to go to one park and I took him to another). Until I had to repeatedly scold him for playing in the dirt. After the third time I told him if he did it again we were going home. He stood up angrily and marched over to the slide. “YOU NO LOOK AT ME MOMMY. YOU NO LOOK AT ME ANY MORE.” Anytime I would turn to face him he’d screech, finally causing him to bring him home anyway (we might have been garnering a little bit of attention).

The rest of the day was more of the same. I’d say something or do something (wrong) and he’d pitch a fit over it. For me it was like taking care of a pint-sized Sybil, for him it was like having Joan Crawford for a mother.

At lunch, I didn’t put enough peanut butter on his peanut butter crackers. At naptime, I put the wrong books in his crib. After dropping his sister off at religion, when I told him not to take off his sneakers in the car, he told me I was being naughty and I needed to sit in the naughty chair. Tonight when I put his (usually beloved) fire truck pajamas on him he screamed because they have buttons and he wanted to pull up the zipper.

Today was just one of those days for S. I could have brought Elmo to our house for a party and he would have yelled that he wanted Cookie Monster. He’s entitled though — I certainly have enough cranky moments. Just because a person is two it doesn’t preclude them from being in a bad mood. And while I didn’t like being on the receiving end of his tirades, I certainly found some of his frustrations to be adorable.

Does your toddler ever have bad days? How do you help him through it?

Taking a Break (from Sleep) on Vacation

©We Are Both Right

They look sweet enough, but try sleeping between them. ©We Are Both Right

When is a two-night stay at hotel and spa not an exercise in relaxation?

When you have to share your bed with a two-year-old and an eight-year old. A double bed. With two pillows.

While the facility advertised “luxurious linens, fluffier pillows & down comforters” I spent my weekend resting my head on a bright yellow duck pillow pet, curled up under a corner of the decorative blanket that looks nice when you first walk into the hotel room, but most people don’t give it too much thought when it comes time for actually sleeping.

Not that I did too much of that.

It was a quick getaway two hours north of our house. A visit to a museum, some laps in a hotel pool, a few meals out — a nice way to bond as a family. And it was. We had a great time. The grownups just didn’t get any sleep. Normally we’d put the three kids (11, 8 and 2) in one bed and the adults in the other (and sometimes the 11-year-old opts to sleep on an air mattress on the floor), but the littlest guy was coming down with a cold and had a cough, so I decided to sleep with him and my daughter.

Toddler S. still sleeps in the crib, so to keep him comfortable and safe in the bed, we positioned it up against the wall. Our daughter A. slept on the other edge and I took the least-coveted middle spot. (There’s a reason why when you are picking your seats on an airplane those seats are never taken by the way. Even so, an eight-hour flight wedged between two sumo wrestlers would be preferable to what I endured.)

It was 10 p.m. on the first night and we were all tired from the day and our trip. We had arrived at our room a half hour earlier and everyone was ready to settle down. Everybody that is, except S. who was excited that all of his favorite people were all going to “sleep” in the same room at the same time and whose second wind seemed to kick in the second we walked into the hotel.

“S., stop kicking the wall.” (pause, kick) “S., get your feet off the wall.” (pause, kick) “S., stop kicking the wall.”

“I not tired! I no want sleep! I watch tv! Turn tv on!”

Kick. Kick. Kick.

Eventually (e-ven-tu-al-ly) he fell asleep, but as those of you who have shared a bed with a toddler know, I still wasn’t safe. Because that’s when the kicking, punching and head-butting portion of our evening started.

The thing is, I’m a big advocate of bedsharing. We’ve done it with all of our infants. The problem I have with co-sleeping is that once the kids get older (and their heads get harder), sharing a bed with your little one is less of a portrait of a snuggling family cuddled up under blankets and more of an image of a WWE wrestling ring. And guess what parents? You never get to win. Ever.

Sigh. Still, I tell my husband all the time that one day in the far too soon future, we won’t have a little person kicking us in our sleep or leaving sticky fingerprints on the television or pouring an entire cup of RED fruit punch in the middle of the sage green living room carpet (two months later we still can’t get rid of the stain) and we will miss every single second.

Even in my no-sleep-induced haze, I know we will.

What are sleeping arrangements like when you are on vacation?

That’s My Preschooler, Shouting (Our Business) From the Rooftops

preschooler oversharing

A loose-lipped preschooler can be funny, as long as they're not talking about you. ©patcoelho/stock.xchng

When I pick my daughter up from school I’ll often get questions from her teacher like: “By any chance, are you going to Boston this weekend, bringing one black and one green suitcase, and eating seafood on Saturday night?”

Or, “We were wondering if you really are having twins, because S. has been talking about the two new babies she’s going to take care of and that she saw fuzzy pictures of them.”

Sometimes it’s along the lines of the commentary I heard tonight as we lay in her room at bedtime: “My friend Ami has bugs in her house. They have them on their floors. I guess they don’t clean their floors. We do — sometimes.”

Oversharing — as perfected by a preschooler with absolutely no boundaries.

And most of the time, I am given the opportunity to confirm or deny. Although, half the time, it’s an embarrassing corner to back out of.

Like the time she told all the parents who picked up their kids before I arrived at day care that we were planning to spend Friday night in the hot tub with “everyone” and bringing our drinks in with us. Sounds like a hot party for sure. And I can’t blame the moms who just had to ask about our hot tub social during a preschool birthday party the following morning. They were probably wondering why I wasn’t stumbling in.

Guaranteed they didn’t believe my babbling about the hot tub being for my husband’s therapy after back surgery or that our drinks are water-based. Despite my clarifications, the image remained a wild party with frozen drinks and string bikinis.

That’s OK though, because I know my little loose-lipped preschooler can’t help it. And neither can her friend who asks every women he sees why she doesn’t have a baby in her tummy, because his mommy does.

At this age, they feel free to share what color underwear we (and they) have on. And while we’re at it, do you want to know what my grandma said about my dad’s cooking? Embarrassing stories that make for embarrassing moments.

Why do they do this? Because a preschooler is synonymous with information overload. And they are all too pleased with their ability to recount both the peculiar and the mundane in their world to anyone who will listen.

They thrive on feeding the masses with their fascinating tidbits. In a completely unfiltered way.

But I’m OK with it. Really. Because someday I will probably lose my filter, and tell the cutest stories to her hot date about how she still tucks her childhood lovey bear into bed every night. No really, it’s so cute, you have to come and see it. And then we’ll see who’s excusing who…

Has your child ever regaled an audience with TMI? Do tell.

Taking A Trip Down Memory Lane with the Kids

college homecoming reunion

Heading back to campus (with the kids) was great! ©We Are Both Right

It was just like old times.

Me and Amanda hanging out in the parking lot across the road from our college dorm. Watching the crowd gather for the football game. Glancing through the latest edition of the college newspaper. Planning our next set of stories. Gossiping. Wondering what the guys were scheming up now as they headed toward the tackling dummies. Wiping glitter and asphalt off our children’s knees (now, not then).

If our lives were a sitcom, this was the week of the retrospective episode. Taking it back to where it all began. Homecoming weekend at college.

Like a new show on TV, it would have been all too predictable to start our story, well, at the beginning. So one year into this blog and sooooomany years after we first met at college orientation, Amanda and I are finally getting around to sharing a flashback or two to put it all in perspective.

Let’s just say that homecoming isn’t quite the same as it was when we first stepped foot on our college campus 19 years ago (yikes). Actually it’s so much better.

Those new boyfriends we had back then. Husbands now. Great cooks to boot. Still doing crazy things that make us laugh and sigh at the same time. And did we mention they are great cooks? We’re talking winning-a-throw-down-with-Bobby Flay-great.

On Saturday, they were proud of themselves for having the culinary skills to wow everyone who walked by — from alumni to giggling co-eds. But there was a little bit of regret hanging in the air (on their part) for not having figured out two decades ago that the secret to life (and girls) is as simple as paella and skirt steak sliders on a grill in the parking lot. Hee hee. Amanda and I were happy to sit back and toast our luck with bottles of beer coolers.

We could see the college kids at their tailgate table which was lined with green and yellow plastic cups, and three layers deep of bottles of alcohol, while we inhaled the scents of saffron and caramelized onions.

Our own kids were entertaining themselves (!) and each other riding scooters and doing their version of preschool in a parking lot, thanks to some paper lunch bags and glitter glue that our friend Christine brought. The older boys went roaming around campus in search of a lawn to play football and came back with a broken umbrella handle, fashioned into a kicking tee (A+ for innovation).  Right before kickoff, a walk over to the free carnival afforded the little ones their first ride on a ferris wheel and the three oldest their first falls off a mechanical bull.

The rest of us were content to sit in between our loaded-to-the-brim minivans, talking about how we still “had” it. And how we didn’t.

Case in point: John went up to one of the student club tables set up outside the football field, where three of the current editors of the school paper were looking for people to join. “We’ll sign up,” he said, pointing to himself, Amanda and me. Maybe it was the kids swarming around our knees that gave us away, but they looked doubtful. Then when he launched into a “back when we were editors, almost 20 years ago…” their eyes glazed over. I bumped John’s elbow and said, “Time to go, we’re looking like old folk.”

But those were the days. Late nights in production at the paper, which coincidentally resulted in six marriages among staff. (Somehow I managed to never be at one of those all-nighters — sorry Amanda — but my 4 p.m. deadline for the features section let me preserve my work-life balance even back then.) Then there were the parties in our dorm — where I first met my husband and supposedly gave Amanda her first wine cooler too many. The walks on the roof. And the 90210 viewing parties in Amanda’s room.

Considering that none of us had actually planned to go to this college, but for reasons including parents reluctant to part with their firstborns and the lure of a full scholarship, we all ended up there. And now looking back, we’re really glad that we did.

Why My Son Will Never Forget His Homework Again

©amab7/stock.xchng

When it comes to my tween son and girls, the phone is my friend -- for now. ©amab7/stock.xchng

My 11-year-old son, C., is mad at me but I don’t care. He made a mistake (twice) and I came up with what I thought was a suitable punishment and now he’s ticked.

I made him call a girl.

(Hee.)

For the second day in a row, C. forgot to bring home his vocabulary words to study. A test was announced for Friday on Wednesday. When he came home Wednesday afternoon and realized he didn’t bring home his Reading/Language Arts notebook, I drove him back up to school so he could retrieve it and review them. When he did the same thing on Thursday, I wasn’t so charitable.

“You’ll have to call one of your friends and get the words and definitions,” I told him. There are two boys in this particular class that he is friendly with. The problem was, we didn’t have either of their numbers. The number I did have was for a girl from his religion class. A girl he’s known since kindergarten. A sweet (pretty), smart girl who I knew would not only have the words at home but would have the entire list of them and their complete definitions (and undoubtedly, written neatly).

Now this is 2011. I could have easily looked up the phone number of either of his two buddies on the Internet, and C.’s task of recovering his studying materials would have been both simple and embarrassment-free. But C. tends to be forgetful and scattered (admittedly like his mother) and we are only six weeks into the new school year. I didn’t want him to ever forget his notebook again. So I opted to send him down the path of most resistance. The path that was going to make him squirm.

Like I said before, hee. That her father answered the phone made it all the better.

The thing is, although this girl is his friend, C.’s at a funny age. He’s definitely a tween in middle school. He knows girls exist in “that” way and I know that some of his peers are already “dating” (he confirmed this for me, plus, I used to watch Degrassi Junior High so I totally know the score. Zit Remedy 4eva!) For now though, he and his group of (all boy) friends have zero interest — or at least less than ten percent interest — in spending any of their free time with someone who doesn’t want to make movies of themselves acting out in funny skits (their obsession of the moment) or play or view a sport of some kind. So for now anyway, we are girl-free.

That he was annoyed and that he did well on the test confirms to me that my “punishment” was a good one. For now. I suspect in three years my scheming will involve me trying to get him to put the phone down (and losing that girl’s number).

One Year Later…

Time flies when you're having fun. And we can't believe our blog is turning one! ©We Are Both Right

One year ago, I was taking my daughter for a potty break in the Adventureland section of Disneyland. By the time we left the bathroom, I wanted to scream.

Out of joy.

For the next few minutes, my gaze was locked on my phone. The little Snow White at my side wanted to know what I was squealing about. And finally I sat down on a bench, pulled her onto my lap and said, “Look, that’s you and Mommy. On Mommy’s new web site.” She laughed at the site of her cartoony image, and just then my husband and son emerged from a ride.

“Check this out!” I screamed.

And there I was for the next half hour, wandering into parades and knocking into those big balloon clouds with my eyes glued to the design of our new home page. A site that a college friend and I had conceived in her kitchen one afternoon months earlier. A pursuit that would finally give us full control over our own writing. A concept that would showcase our different approaches to parenting and how we remain friends in spite of it all.

As soon as she answered the phone back home, Amanda and I gushed over how cool it was to see our idea come to life (courtesy of another mom blogger who was much more poised around graphic design than both of us put together).

It wasn’t long before the din of the parade grew louder and we had to agree to talk later.  I moved closer to my family perched on the curb, my daughter up on her daddy’s shoulders and my son watching Mickey and Minnie come down Main Street, U.S.A.  Tucking the phone away, I was still trying to grasp that something I had wanted for so long was actually happening — while I was in Disneyland.

Most of the time, you can’t count on me to be the gushy, fantasyland, karma-ish, fate-is-life kind of person. But I have to tell you that in that moment, I gave myself permission to channel Walt Disney. And he couldn’t have been more right:

All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.

In the year since, it’s been more of the same as we worked together to brainstorm and create. We’ve made new blogging friends and broadened our 1996 view of the web enough to pretend we know what we’re doing in social media. But best of all, we have realized that in so many ways we are more alike than we ever thought.