Sunday, April 26, 2015

Me Range Parenting

"Free Range Parenting" is a hot topic in these parts due to the news coverage of a family's choice to let there young children walk home from the park on a busy street. At the root of it all is the government's right to intercede in parenting. I ,as usual, am on the fence. In my years of working with children, there are times I wish the government would intervene sooner. My feeling is, if you aren't hurting your children physically or emotionally, then you should be allowed to raise them as you see fit. This statement, though, brings back nightmares from my philosophy class. What constitutes emotional and physical safety? Who decides this? Oy vey! Now my head hurts!

What I practice is "Me Range Parenting." In others words, I do what works for me. I work in a world where I have dealt with everything from parents who won't let their 6 year old feed himself to parents who don't provide food. The older I get and the longer I parent the lines of judgement blur. I tend to offer help first and judge later, but after multiple times, I can get a little"judgey."

I think one of the things that made me so self sufficient was the fact that I had so much responsibility at home. I wasn't always successful at school, but at home I was doing the work of an adult. I cooked, cleaned, and took care of my brother (I even changed his diapers at 4). My mother gave me these responsibilities not out of parenting choice, but necessity. Later, she expressed regret at putting so much on me and asked that I not do the same to my girls. I don't think my friends realized how much responsibility I bore at home. I grew up in a time and place where a latch key child being raised by a single mother was rare. I longed for a mother who served my friends homemade brownies and kept a spotless house.

No surprise that once I was a mother, I took on that role. Also, I am a perfectionist and it is easier if I do it myself. My girls grew up with the kind of ideal childhood that I thought they needed. But as they grew older, I realized I might have been cheating them of something. They might be self sufficient at school, but not always here at home. As life becomes more full and I grow older, I can't keep up the pace. Things get messy, stuff gets lost, we all get annoyed.

Enter "Me Range Parenting." I have been pushing the girls to take more responsibility around the house. Things don't always get done the way I'd like, but they are done. This is especially important for Caroline as she prepares to leave us, but it is also important for Lily's confidence. Sometimes people are surprised at the amount of independence I give her in some areas. Others think I should give her more. That's why this is called "Me Range," it's what's best for me (well really us, but me rhymes with free).

I have also been letting Lily watch the news with us. I think she is ready to understand that there is more to the world than her own personal experience. We watch the History Channel together and various science programs. She understands that history and nature can be cruel. I know that some would question why we would let a child who is diagnosed with anxiety watch this. We are with her and the conversations we have prevent anxiety. She seems to be less worried when she has information.

We'll see how this works out. Really, as a parents, all you can do is your best.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

S!@# Happens

When I was in tenth grade, my English teacher gave us an awesome research project. We had to pretend that we were writing to a classmate before our 10 year reunion. We had to research our college, career, and city. In some ways, I had envisioned such a different life for myself: I went to UVA, lived in Boston, and married a lawyer. In others, I was spot on: I was a special education teacher, I had children, and dogs. The one thing that I missed was the poop.

No one told me that most of my adult life would revolve around thinking about poop. I think about pet poop, child poop, student poop, my poop, and even husband poop. I have cleaned up so much poop, that I really could have been a farmer: diapers, pet accidents, daughter accidents, toilets...

I have listened to students loudly explain that they are "poopin" after I have foolishly asked "What are you doing in there?!" I have changed so many diapers: preschoolers, siblings, cousins, daughters, and nieces. I have analyzed poop: "too much juice?" "not enough water?" "PediaSure?" "prunes?" "stool softener?".

Then there is all of the time wondering about poop's arrival. Will it come: "before I leave for work?" "in time to take the newborn home?"  "during her bath?"  "right after I've changed her?" "as we head out the door?" "when I hand her over to my Gramma?" "in the middle of the store?" "in the middle of no where with no bathroom and no change of clothes?" "in the middle of the living room while she is not wearing clothes?"

Through each stage of life my thoughts and concerns about poop have changed, but at the base of it all, not a day goes by that I don't think about poop. Why didn't someone warn me in tenth grade? Well, I would never have believed them. Truly, my research paper could have been summed up in one  sentence: "My life is full of crap, and I don't mind at all."

Miles Covered While Milestones Are Made

I feel like I could fill this blog with nothing but stories of the adventures that occur while Rob is out of town. I also seem to be developing a pattern of getting sick at the end of April. It started late Sunday night with some sort of stomach thing. I woke up exhausted with shooting pains in my stomach. It felt like I had swallowed hot lava. I can't remember the last time I hurt so badly. I went home early on Monday and stayed home Tuesday. Tuesday night I started sneezing and coughing. I went to school on Wednesday coughing, wheezing, and sneezing. By Thursday, I was doubled over coughing. I took Nyquil that night and woke up with pains in my left arm and a racing heart. I woke Rob up and was terrified. He calmed me down and stayed up with me. By the morning, my eyes were swollen and weeping. I called in sick (and missed our Multicultural day!). When Caroline got home, she drove me to school to pick up my plans and took me to the clinic. The clinic nurse insisted that I simply had allergies and it couldn't be bronchitis because I would have had to be coughing for two weeks (who in their right mind would put up with this for two weeks?). I have had bronchitis often enough to know what it feels like! I left with $50 worth of allergy medicine and a headache. That night Rob packed to leave on a work trip.

I woke up at 6:00 to see Rob off and went promptly back to bed. I woke up at 10:00 when Caroline woke me up to tell me she was taking the car to go pick up prom stuff (oh yeah, it's prom). I sat up and felt exactly as I predicted, my nose was clear (maybe I do have allergies), but my chest was full of rumbling, crackling, antagonizing coughing! I bent over coughing and promptly wet my pants. Not just a "oh I've had a baby" tinkle, but a "dammit, I'm in my mind 40's and wet my pants like a two year old." Is there no end to the humiliation of the aging process? I have just begun!

I collapsed in my favorite chair with tissues and hot tea. At noon the doorbell rang. I answered the door still in my pjs with a red nose and wild woman hair. A confused Latin-American man jumped back as I started coughing. It seems the roofer sent him to replace our gutters and forgot to tell us. Between gasps I tried to explain that it was prom today, and I needed the yard clear to take pictures (I know, first world problems). He politely apologized and backed away. I crawled upstairs and climbed into the shower. With each bang, I was expecting to see a roofer pop through the shower ceiling.

I struggled into clothes and tried to pick up the house while the dog followed me around shaking. All of the banging set off the smoke detector, which only added to her panic. I gave up and gave the poor thing one of her "chill pills." Lily got dressed and brushed her hair and teeth (after I reminded her 5 times). After I convinced her to "just make something to eat, but you don't have to eat it" (she always gets hungry while she's fixing food), Lily vacuumed. She missed half the spots (probably because she was concentrating on singing "Hard Knock Life"), but it was better than nothing.

By the time Caroline and her best friend got home, it was time to take her to get her hair done. It is a known fact that dress up events stress Caroline out. Add the fact that my raspy voice sounded plain bitchy, and things got a little tense (nothing humor couldn't overcome). While she was getting her hair done, Lily and I went to pick up the boutonniere. I promised her a "clambake." We were going to eat popcorn shrimp and watch Teen Beach Movie on Disney. I also let her pick out a cake.

When we got back, I spoke to the guys working on the gutters and realized that they missed part of what they were supposed to do (the notes he was given weren't clear). They finished the trim as I worked on Caroline's makeup. The noise did not relax her or Buffy. I finally disconnected the smoke detector!

I picked up Cristhian.Of course it was pouring rain, and we couldn't do the pictures Caroline had planned. Luckily, I am creative in a pinch. We went out on the sun porch and it worked out great! Lily was jealous, but dealt. I only doubled over coughing 5 times! Caroline looked gorgeous!!! She talked Cristhian into going to Noodles and Company. It was cheaper, faster, and she got lots of "awws."

The minute they left, I put on my jammies and hunkered down for the night. It still seems so odd for her to drive off without me. I think I feel too crummy to dwell on it too much. Through out the whole day, Rob sent me joking and encouraging texts. We are perfecting "parenting through text." I hope that Caroline has a wonderful time and returns safely to us. Tomorrow, I am taking Lily to an Earth Day movie sponsored by my school, and going to another doctor. I can't afford to miss any more school or sleep.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I am sitting here feeling calm. I am behind on grades and laundry. The house is in it's usual state of slightly cluttered chaos, but I'm not sweating it. Spring is in the air (finally after what felt like the never ending winter). Spring is bitter sweet. Spring means my mom's birthday and Easter (I don't think I am ever going to feel completely comfortable/excited about holidays). Spring is also means Caroline's birthday and growth and hope.

Last week was spring break and it kinda sucked. Spring break began with Rob out of town, moved into a surprise large bill and Buffy ripping up the basement carpet, then replacing our roof, then a vet visit (for chill pills for the anxious terrier), my car breaking down (complete with smoke and martial yelling), a tedious visit to the tax place, and finally a lots of swearing and tears. By the time Easter came around, I wanted to hide in my room and just quit. Lily (who is feeling much better) wanted egg dying and egg hunts and Easter baskets. Caroline wanted a roast chicken and dressing up. I tried, I really did. I woke up Easter morning grouchy and hating adulthood. I tried to get three different computers to work so I could catch up on grading. That didn't work, so I took my frustration out on jelly beans. I crammed those little suckers into plastic eggs while muttering like a fish wife. I hid them in the most haphazard, let's just get it done way possible. Lily woke up and didn't care. She and Caroline worked together, gathering and opening eggs. They sorted jelly beans and stuffed their faces. We went to the store (all in bad moods) and found a chicken.After a frustrating grocery store trip, we came home, gave up on dressing up and retreated to separate corners to lick our wounds. The evening ended with Lily dying eggs (we'd spent Saturday night at the tax place) and her hands while I tried to cook the stupid chicken. The damn thing wouldn't cook (I think it was frozen inside).

Soooo, after a week like that. Things could only go up. Caroline turned 17. This weekend, she went on a field trip to D.C. and Lily went to a sleep over party. Rob and I? Well, we cleaned up and chilled.