There is a common occurrence in our family. I write endless stories on the Internet about how crazy my children are and then I take them out in public where they behave perfectly. Okay, not always perfectly but tolerably well and certainly not with the breadth of evilness whereby they operate in the comfort of their own home. I constantly hear "I don't know what you are talking about with these children. They are a delight." My mother reminds me that I would rather have them misbehave with me than to do something really horrible out in public.
My friend has a similar problem with one of her two boys. Just last month Q put an entire container of sausage gravy into the dryer. His ready-to-pop-with-baby-number-three mother was not amused. I'm pretty sure dad had to come home from work early to clean up the mess and to, shall we say, save a life of one or to save the sanity of another.
Having met his mama through work, Sunday was the first day I got to meet these children of hers that I know through the Internet, Facebook and lengthy end-of-my-rope text messages.
And might I say, I have absolutely no idea what she is complaining about with this child. He is absolutely delightful and a perfect angel.
While Patience has been holding down the fort here at PBS Supersisters, Jen and Kristen have been partying it up at Blogher. Okay, Jen has been working and Kristen has driven over a thousand miles and right now is lost somewhere in Pennsylvania on her way back home. Tomorrow we return you to your regularly scheduled programming....
We have been on the road for a total of 24 1/2 hours, but who's counting? This is the first time we have taken a true road trip with with our kids for distances longer than two hundred miles. It's tricky, this road tripping with kids. Here are some things I'm learning as I go.
1. Don't expect too much from your kids. You know your kids. Can they skip a nap and it is no big deal? Skipping a nap in our house means a guaranteed meltdown from 5:30 on. That's no problem if you don't mind doing dinner with 3 kids under 5 at a sit down restaurant at 7:00 p.m. while one screams maniacally. Can your kids share a hotel bed? We learned the hard way that Nate is a light sleeper who wakes if you flip over. Hello, late night and my apologies to the people in Room 208 and Room 212.
2. Stop often. We all know that your father wouldn't stop even for a bathroom emergency. This is your opportunity to be the cool parent who stopped to see the world's largest horseshoe crab or Truckhenge.
3. Be realistic with your travel goals. Calculate time to your destination and then multiply it by 2 if your kids are little. In the days before kids, I would take my total miles to my destination, divide it by eighty and then add 5 minutes for each fill up of the tank. Believe me when I say that eighty was a conservative estimate. Now? We'd be lucky if we average fifty miles an hour on a highway trip.
4. Pushing them too far will cause more problems than you already have. Do not wait for the baby to get too hungry. Trust me on this one. Now you have a very hungry AND very angry baby that will require more than food to feel better.
5. Use absolutely every stopping opportunity to get some energy out. Pick a gas station that has a patch of grass to run relays. Stop at a restaurant with a kid's play area. Stop at a mall. Just having them walk from one end to the other could tire them out enough to buy you some sanity until the next stop. Stay at a hotel with a pool and have swim races. We spent last night in a hotel with a water park inside. They were exhausted by bedtime. Not that they fell asleep in a timely fashion but I like to think it was better than having nothing.
6. Try to get them to bed at a decent hour if your kids aren't car sleepers. Only .00001% of the population has kids that sleep later when they go to bed later. If those are your kids, we envy you. Our were up at 5:30 this morning. Even with all of us going to bed at 9, I still feel like stabbing my eye out with a fork this morning. I think it has something to do with kids getting up during the night because they were in an unfamiliar place.
We are off to the pool and then back on the road. Pray for me. Seriously. And please do regale us with your road trip tips or horror stories in the comments!
I went to the craft store to pick up some things for the trip. It was only when I reached for the glue that I realized I had lost my mind. Glue? In a car? The worst thing that has ever happened to me is getting a minivan. I treat it like it is the living room. Derek freaked out and said, "You can't give the kids a glue project in the car. That is crazy." He is exactly right so I put that glue right back and bought those alphabet stickers in the tub. I think there are about 500 in there and there appears to be an inordinate amount of X's. Whatever. There will be a lot of kisses on paper then.
I also bought those dollar paddles with the ball attached on the stretchy string. I envision getting to the West Virginia border before someone figures out how to bounce the ball so hard that it extends to his brother's seat and most likely on his head.
I proposed an elaborate tubing system between the seats so the boys could send their cars back and forth but then I was reminded of that special on television about people getting impaled in car accidents with things like tissue boxes. I think we'll have to settle for the usual imaginative play instead. When I told Ethan we were going away, the following conversation ensued.
K: Ethan. Did you know we are going on a road trip this week?
E: What do you mean?
K: We are going to drive to Chicago this week.
E: Where is Chicago?
K: About 700 miles away.
E: But we can't, Mom.
K: Why can't we?
E: I'll probably have to go to the bathroom.
K: We can stop if you need to go.
E: Mom. I needed to go to the bathroom for so long today and you wouldn't stop the car.
K: That's a good point. But I promise that I will stop to let you go to the bathroom on our road trip.
E: After a long time?
I'm really going to work on that. No one wants to be remembered as the parent who wouldn't even let the kids out of the car on gas stops (looking at you, Grandpa). Did your parents stop the car when YOU needed to go?
I have a sister (she knows who she is) who once gave me a book that discussed all the ills of reward-based parenting. The book poetically waxed on and on about how children should just be expected to do things that were expected of them. That by rewarding them you were teaching them that they deserved a reward for things they should already be doing as members of a family unit. That life doesn't give you treats if you clean up your room.
I read it. I studied it. Then, frankly, I threw it in the trash. I threw it in the trash because it's cr@p. Your boss does give you a treat if you do your work that you are expected to complete. It's called a paycheck. In some jobs, you get a bigger paycheck if you did better in school. In some jobs, you get a bigger paycheck if you do a better job than everyone else. This salary plan is often called Pay-for-Performance. Pay-for-Performance is a pay plan of which I am all too familiar with from my former life.
I decided to implement Pay-for-Performance Potty Training at my house. One M&M for the easy stuff, a handful of M&M's for the more complicated parts of successful potty training and NO M&M's for peeing on the bathroom wall just because you thought it was so cool that you could actually pee on a wall. It's kind of like getting a good review for peeing in the appropriate place but getting a really great review for pooping in the potty. I think that a reward be given commensurate with your success. I really don't think that doing the bare minimum should earn you a GS-15, a corner office and the right to give out really, really BAD reviews to your employee who had the HIGHEST RECOVERY OF THE YEAR while your preschooler sleeps under the conference table in your corner office because she was too sick to go to daycare but not too sick to come into the office and cough on all the door knobs. Not that I'm bitter.
Another controversial Pay-for-Performance subject, the jury is still out on Pay-for-Performance for high school grades here at my house. My husband says "no" but part of me says "yes." I mean, if your kid gets a 4.0 in high school, it's less money you'll have to pay for his mediocre college education since you won't have the $100,000 a year to pay for his Ivy education (assuming he gets accepted). I don't think you should give a kid a $20 bill for a C, but maybe there is something to giving them an incentive to do well. I'm not saying your kid should get paid for everything he does. I'm just saying it might not be a bad idea to create an incentive to do something that results in good habits being formed. Like not peeing in your Bob the Builders, if you know what I mean. Luckily we have another 10 years to
argue maturely discuss paying for grades.
Now is a good time to tell you that reward-based parenting doesn't work with my kids anyway. Apparently they have a very high price on their personal freedom and decision-making. Sticker charts? My kids spit on sticker charts. They laugh at sticker charts. They draw on sticker charts with rogue Sharpies found hidden away in drawers. Which means I'll be changing diapers until these kids go to college. Hopefully they'll be going with a 4.0 average.
Actually these two did get along. In fact, when all of the cousins were together this weekend, they all got along most of the time. However, it is difficult to navigate the Big Kids/Little Kids dilemma that always occurs. How often do you get together with family or friends and there is a friend for everyone?
The big kids just want to play with each other but their mothers have taught them to be inclusive. Ethan just wants to play with the big kids but he also wants to take a turn at bossing all of them around. They will tolerate his presence and even be kind to him, but I noticed that no one was going to be bossed around by a four-year-old. I understand how they feel completely.
Nate wanted to be with Lucy and luckily Lucy graciously allowed him to do just that. He enjoyed running after her and doing whatever she told him to do. I guess he thought it was a small price to pay to be with her. Nathan is not even remotely complicated. Ethan and Lucy are closer in age but Lucy could not have cared less about the big kids. She was on her own program and perfectly happy.
Lyra kept trying to sit on Mason's head but I imagine that will all change when she is no longer 10 months old and Mason is no longer 4 months old. Clearly Patience was not used to all the "man-handling" because she kept apologizing. Mason just seemed glad that Lyra was only trying to sit on his head and not trying to get him to play catch with a regulation-sized basketball like his brothers do when their mother turns her back for one little second.
I probably should have told Ethan to leave the big kids alone but I didn't do it. Would you have?
Photo by Marmie.
Something happened along the way and now I'm stuck in this crazy place. Three times in a row I promised my kids dessert if they ate all their dinner. Now they are saying crazy things like "can I have a popsicle?" After breakfast.
Um, no. You can't have a popsicle after breakfast. I realize it is summer but a mom has to have her limits. And a chocolate marshmallow ice cream in a waffle cone? Definitely not. Ok, maybe this once.
You are a slacker mom during the summer too, right?
Nothing says the 4th of July like fire. Since becoming a father, my husband's array of fireworks suddenly seem like they fit squarely within the confines of the law. It's not to say that he used to set off illegal fireworks. It's just that I remember years when I thought, "my, that display seems to go awfully high." I also remember going to other people's houses where everyone dove under the Adirondack chairs at the sound of a siren.
My memories of the 4th of July are of cousins who were allowed to light fireworks off of the cap to our well. We weren't allowed to play on that cap but for some reason, the big boys were allowed to play with fire there. It's a fond memory, peppered with slight feelings of gender inequity.
Now that we have kids, I am a mom. People start lighting things and I'm yelling, "YOU ARE GOING TO BLOW YOUR ARM OFF." I never thought I would be that person but here I am. Frankly, I don't care that I am that person. Do you have any idea how many people were in the emergency room today for injuries that could have been avoided? I'm just saying.
So I may have prepped my kids for the 4th of July with stories of getting burned by sparklers. I know, scandalous. The funny thing is, my husband apparently had already scared them with stories about getting burned by sparklers. Who knew that so many people had stories about getting burned by sparklers? I got a hole in my favorite skirt and a burn on my leg from a sparkler. Those things are dangerous. When we finally rolled out our little fireworks display, it was only when the sparklers came out that a hush fell over the crowd.
Nate went running into the house. Ethan held his sparkler until nearly the end, when he dropped it and ran. Me?
Held mine over my head, twirling it as fast as I could. I figure they have all the time in the world to learn to not be afraid of sparklers. It works to my advantage that they are now.
Ethan: Simon says 'stand up.'
Ethan: I said 'Simon SAYS!'
K: Yes, Ethan.
Ethan: Mom, he is NOT doing what I say!
K: I'm sorry, Ethan. But if we are going to get technical, he can't do what you say.
Ethan: MOM!! I am playing 'Simon Says' so Mason is supposed to do what I say.
K: In theory you are exactly right.
Ethan: Not in theory, Mom. For real he is supposed to do what I say. I told him to stand up.
K: Ethan, why do you think he isn't doing what you say?
Ethan: Because he can't really stand yet?
Ethan: Because he doesn't understand what I am saying?
K: I imagine that would make playing 'Simon Says' a little complicated.
Ethan: But he is really supposed to do what I say.
K: Where's Nathan?
Ethan: He doesn't do what I say either.
I know exactly how he feels.