IMG_7620

Soooooooooorry.

We break from the Harry Potter programming to discuss parenting and insanity.

Specifically…my parenting and my insanity.

Yesterday I went 3 for 3 with getting angry with my kids and failing at expressing that anger in any sort of productive way. 100% fail! Woot! #WinningAtFailing

But with the little ones, it ended in a good decision: A NO MORE SECOND CHANCE policy in our house. I’ve been trying to break Wes and Nikki of this snarky attitude they have towards me lately – it’s what I call the “DISNEY TWEEN” attitude. All of those Disney/Nick tween shows make the adults the butt of EVERY joke so they’re all rolling their eyes and getting annoyed with those dumb adults which means my kids now think I am one of those dumb adults. I’ve banned most of those shows (although I may ban more of them) trying to reprogram them, and I’m constantly doing the whole, “Excuse me?” thing to get them to repeat what they said in a better way…but as of last night? I’ve given up.

NO MORE SECOND CHANCES.

The latest bit I hate the most is the, “SOOOOOOOORY…” they give me when I’m pointing out something they didn’t do correctly.

“Wes, is that where your dish goes?”
“SOOOOOOOORY…”

With the tone of an annoyed teenager dealing with a nagging adult. You know, like you hear an unspoken, “Jeeeezzzz, chill out, lady…” afterwards. And while I might sometimes be a nagging adult? They are NOT allowed to be annoyed teenagers. YET.

So, the first time they dish out the attitude or rudeness? Punishments are distributed. BOOM. That’s the new policy. Because pointing out the attitude ninety million times a day and making them re-phrase or re-say what they’re trying to say with better word choices and less negative tone? None of that is actually changing their initial behavior. Now the habit is just: Snarky Attitude FIRST, then when Mom gets mad, deliver the message better but possibly with a stifled eyeroll underneath the surface.

I just really need my kids to talk to me with at least the same amount of respect I give them, more would be ideal, but I’d really just be happy with mutual respect at this point.

Also? I’m tired as crap. I’m still so very behind on life it’s not even funny. I had about 90 minutes of potential “free” time Monday night where I could maybe catch up with stuff that wasn’t house or work related (because those two things are taking top priority right now) and I couldn’t move out of the bed where the kids were watching TV. I zoned out on their shows and then just rolled up to bed. And then woke up at 3am because that is my new lovely schedule. The exhaustion is making my emotions super-raw and I’m basically crying at everything. It’s not about the lack of sleep even, I’m getting at least 5-6 hours a night (although I’ve discussed that I need much more than that to maintain my sanity) but it’s just exhaustion over my LIFE. There’s just too much going on. It feels even worse since so much built up on my vacation, but I just am having that terrible sensation that I’m in waaaaaay over my head right now and I can’t even begin to figure out where to get it all sorted out. I JUST NEED THE HOUSE TO SELL. I keep telling myself that will make things easier. Also, soccer season is finally over this week, that will help substantially. Of course, that’s been cramping into my Tri Training so now that soccer season is over I’ll just replace those hours with workouts I haven’t been doing, so it’s not like I’m going to suddenly have free time to just RELAX.

I forced myself to do some doodling in the car during Nikki’s soccer practice last night. I haven’t done it in weeks/months but I knew I needed some time to let my brain just zone out on something mindless because I could NOT stop crying after I picked up the kids yesterday. I needed to reboot my brain, if that makes sense, so I just zoned out on some doodles in my bullet journal. It helped, for sure. Need to remember that it helped and force myself to do that more often.

IMG_7620

Sorry for the off-topic rant there at the end. Just need to document that stuff periodically in case we ever decide to sell a house again.

4808511674_0eaa0c2073_b

The Rise and Fall of Our In-House Stylist

4808511674_0eaa0c2073_bAnyone who has been around these parts knows we started letting Nikki dress herself around age 3. This was partly because didn’t care enough about what she wore to lay out clothes for her, and partly because she cared SO MUCH about what she wore I had no desire to squash that. We went through some pretty insane years where she seemed to have one goal: ALL of the colors and ALL of the patterns and ALL of the fabrics in ONE outfit. It was epically awesome.

She eventually started getting a more normalized style and even seemed to care about how I dressed, encouraging me to step it up a notch even though I worked in an office full of guys in cargo shorts. She encouraged me to wear scarves and tights and kinda got me into fashion for a little while.

But then I started working from home and the athletic clothing I wore the other times of day went back to being my uniform.

And this is fine…except y’all? Now she’s the same way!

And I’m torn between thinking, “Yay! She wants to wear running clothes 24/7 just like her Mom!” and thinking, “Oh crap, did I squash the fashion maven in her with my own fashion apathy?”

That’s the thing about parenting…none of us have kids who are exactly like us. THANK GOD. But…BUT…sometimes we accidentally mold them in our likeness without even trying to. I loved that she was into fashion! But I didn’t do anything really to encourage it since it’s not my thing, so now I’ll always wonder, did she give up because her tastes changed? Or did she give up because she lived in a house of useless style regects.

It didn’t help that her older brother – the only other person in the family who has any sense of fashion – now lives 2 hours away.

So, she wears my race shirts with her running pants just about every day now. She has no desire to accessorize or style her hair. This is – of course – my mode of living so I support it 100%. But I hope that she wasn’t a style guru in the making, and we damped her fire with our neon and spandex.

How about your kids? Are there any pursuits you fear you accidentally squashed simply because of your own lack of interest?

IMG_3136

Teaching Lessons

I sat at the computer last night with my Ferguson twitter list open and my live feed running and talked to my daughter about the justice system and how it works. I explained the reason for trials (“Because it’s not always easy to tell if someone is guilty or not.”) and the idea of Innocent until proven Guilty. I explained that in a normal situation where there is gray area surrounding a murder, where it seems like there might be conflicting information regarding a crime, the case is tried in a court and lawyers are tasked with proving guilt (or innocence) and that a jury must feel like the person is guilty BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT before they convict.

“But this situation is very different. Because this situation involved a white police officer and a young black man.”

We talked a little about Black History as a general timeline that leads us to this point. We talked about people getting judged for things they can’t control, like skin color. I related it to bullying of gay kids at school because – while she has no family members who are African American – she does have gay family. We talked about Affirmative Action and the story recently who submitted his resume to dozens of places with his name “Jose” on it and got no calls, but when the resume said “Joe” they couldn’t call him fast enough. SAME RESUME. DIFFERENT NAME. We talked about what Moms have to teach their young black sons about the danger of wearing hoodies and having their hands in their pockets.

“That’s not fair. All boys wear hoodies and put their hands in their pockets.”

And then we talked about privilege. And how that – right there – is our privilege. Because of our skin color, I won’t have to talk to Wesley about where to keep is driver’s license so that no police officer would have reason to believe he was going for a weapon if he got pulled over.

When her sons were old enough to drive, she admonished them to keep their driver’s license and insurance card on the seat beside them, just in case they were ever stopped by police. When Griffin spoke earlier, she said she had told her son the same thing.
Source

I talked about how her brother could grow up and have a bad attitude and be disrespectful and rowdy and be out WAY too late and be up to NO GOOD AT ALL and yet – YET – there will not be a GIANT part of me terrified he might not live to make it home. Of course I’ll be fearful for him, but if he’s a trouble maker I’ll worry more about an arrest, or a suspension from school. But the same kind of behavior in a different body could lead to dangerous situations resulting in rash decisions being made by someone with a gun. Decisions made based on a skin color they can not control.

And this was all before 8pm.

As it got closer to 8pm we discussed Grand Juries and how in most situations a Grand Jury leads to an indictment because a case needs to be tried in a court system and how a lot of people in the legal world HATE the Grand Jury system because:

‘If the prosecutor wants an indictment and doesn’t get one, something has gone horribly wrong,’ said Andrew D. Leipold, a University of Illinois law professor who has written critically about grand juries. ‘It just doesn’t happen.’ Source.

But – I reminded her that this case is different. Because it’s a white police officer and a young black male victim – everything is different. And the “why” is very complicated.

IMG_3136I explained to her that BECAUSE there have been many cases where the African American community VERY RIGHTFULLY feels like they were abandoned or jilted by the justice system, a decision not to indict is going to feel very unjust. EVEN IF – legally speaking – the Grand Jury in Ferguson made the “right” decision based on the evidence…it’s still going to upset people because people of color simply can not trust the justice system.

And then they announced the decision. And she and I spent 4 1/2 minutes in silence, just watching the Ferguson Feed scroll by.

And then we talked some more.

“But we wanted them to indict him, right?”

And man…THAT is the crux of it all, isn’t it?

I sighed and did my best.

“Well. In a perfectly world we trust the legal system and we would walk away trusting that the prosecutor ONLY took the case to the Grand Jury because he wanted a conviction.”

Which we can’t trust because,

Ordinarily, prosecutors only bring a case if they think they can get an indictment. But in high-profile cases such as police shootings, they may feel public pressure to bring charges even if they think they have a weak case Source.

“So it’s not that we would ‘want’ an indictment, it’s that we ‘want’ justice to be served by the system we trust as a U.S. citizen. And this crime had eye-witness accounts that conflicted from the shooter’s, and Medical Examiner’s reports that seemed to give conflicting messages…so the only way for ALL of the evidence to be brought forward in a properly-managed manner would be in a criminal court.”

“If this was a White Cop and a White Victim, we we see the ‘no indictment’ news as a way of saying, ‘There is no where near enough evidence of a crime to even entertain a court case.’ But our justice system does not seem to represent people of color equally as their white counterparts so it’s really hard to see a lack of indictment as a sign of innocence in this case. History has jaded this community.”

It’s a tough thing to teach her. I dug up this statistic:

Once convicted, black offenders receive longer sentences compared to white offenders. The U.S. Sentencing Commission stated that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10 percent longer than white offenders for the same crimes. The Sentencing Project reports that African Americans are 21 percent more likely to receive mandatory-minimum sentences than white defendants and are 20 percent more like to be sentenced to prison. Source.

I used that as a way of showing why the African American community does not look at our court system as a “just”.

I tried my best to explain everything with numbers and facts because it was so obvious my emotions were at play and I worried she wouldn’t trust my words.

I combed through twitter for people who were doing a better job of concisely expressing the situation than I was.

And then…regarding the riots that followed I’ll point out that locals have said things like this:

But that – in general – these words sum up the mood of the people there.

But most importantly – I’ll remind her that it is our duty as White people to not forget it’s different for us. That if anything tragic happened to her or her brothers, I would naturally put a lot of faith in our justice system. I would trust it to do the right thing. I would trust the checks and balances in place to make sure anyone responsible would be punished.

And that is OUR privilege. And as long as people of color can NOT say the same thing, it is our responsibility to keep talking about it, to amplify the voices of those fighting to make things better, and to NEVER FORGET that it is NOT the same for everyone.

And that when it comes to skin color, Justice is not always blind.

IMG_3006

Hope For My Adorable Little Demon Child…

As Wes gets older, I start to very easily see that a lot of his behavioral issues relate back to one thing: He’s perpetually bored.

At his parent/teacher conference a few weeks ago – she pointed out that his standardized test scores from earlier in the year were ABYSMAL. Like, in reading? He tested in the “needs immediate intervention” level. In Math it was close, but more like, “consider intervention”. I thought this was INSANE because – with his school work – it’s obvious he’s a good reader and good at math. But then his teacher pointed out a KEY element on the report.

The test time.

Do you know how long he spent taking a test that should have taken 20-30 minutes? TWO MINUTES. He basically filled out random answers and then finished because…BORING!

And when he gets in trouble at home? 9 times out of 10 it’s because he’s bored and I won’t give him attention or his sister won’t. He tortures BOTH of us when he’s bored.

It does help to see this as a “reason” because I can then convince myself he’s a struggling genius (he’s not) instead of a sociopath…but it still always concerns me because the only way he ever seems to have fun is when he’s torturing us in some way for attention. He can’t just enjoy himself in a normal way that doesn’t make someone around him crazy.

But last night? At Disney on Ice? HE WAS SO GOOD.

He made funny jokes, we danced, we sang songs…it was just a fun night all around. Sometimes I don’t like to take Wes places because he can be SO BAD, but last night? It was just a fun night and no one was torturing anyone. We even stopped on the way home for French Fries and STILL had fun even eating french fries! It was just nice and a reminder that he has the potential to enjoy himself without torturing everyone around him or showing off in inappropriate ways just to get eyes on him. He was NICE and he was FUN and it was EXACTLY what I needed to stop the nightmares I’ve been having lately of him being sent to juvenile detention at age 7.

Will he go back to his fun-by-evil tendencies? Yes. Will I continue to struggle keeping him from being bored but also teaching him that he needs to be able to entertain himself sometimes? Definitely. Will he make us all crazy? Without. A. Doubt.

But it will be easier with last night to remember that some days are better than others. They’re not all going to be a struggle.

photo (2)

“Will This Make My Life Easier RIGHT NOW?”

Wes is 6 years old and I often still carry him around. Mostly on my back, because he is 6, but still…I often provide him assistance in transportation and I’m pretty certain the rest of the world stops doing that for their kids around age 3 or 4.

I do this for several reasons.

1) He is whiny
2) He is slow

In my world, any parenting decision that makes the single moment before me easier, is a good decision. I sometimes look at the big picture or the long-term ramifications of my actions. But most of the time – when it comes to parenting – I’m thinking, “Will this make it easier? Then yes. Let’s do it.” So, if I’m in a hurry and he doesn’t want to walk? I carry him. Does this perpetuate his inability to walk on his own for short distances? Yes. But in THAT moment it makes my life easier and for parenting? That’s how I make decisions. Which is why I’m totally going to write a parenting book. Because I’m obviously THE BEST.

But…THIS technique is why my kids don’t really own any of the devices their friends own – like iPads or iPhone Touches.

Well, this reason and the fact that if I had 300-500 dollars to spend on something extra it would not be for THEM, it would be for ME – but still.

We don’t have screens like that in the house for them to play with. Why? Because I would stick it in front of their face ALL OF THE TIME. I don’t have a problem with screens, in moderation, but I would not moderate it. I would be annoyed with them and would basically MAKE them play it all the time. Just to make things easier. And yes, there are “good” games but those don’t usually make things easier. TEMPLE RUN MAKES THINGS EASIER.

photo (2)I remembered that this weekend when the kids were fighting over the Kindle because I put Temple Run on my phone and BAM! SILENCE. They could both play Temple Run on their own devices. And I finally got some peace and quiet.

But because we don’t typically have separate screens for them to play with (THANK GOD) we are “forced” to find “easier” solutions that are a little better for their brains. Lately – that has been card-playing. When we go to dinner the EASY decision would be to let them take devices so we could enjoy a quiet meal with adult conversation. But since they don’t have devices to take, they take cards.

Now..the PROPER parenting technique would probably be to try to teach them how to behave at meals in restaurants with just us. You know, conversations or whatever, but that is DIFFICULT and my parenting style relies on EASY.

So, we will put off that kind of purchase for as long as possible because it is a crutch I know I would use often and poorly. I recognize my own limits as a Mother and my need to constantly make things EASY no matter what long-term lessons it might teach? Means that I’d not be good at managing screen use WHATSOEVER.