Monthly Archives: July 2017

Tic tacs 

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Teddy loves tic tacs. Lydia enjoys them, too, but Teddy is actually motivated to do things he might otherwise fight doing if there’s a promise of tic tacs upon completion of said task. For example, he’s a homebody who fights every outing. But I can convince him to get his shoes on and go out the door if I assure him tic tacs will be distributed once we’re on the sidewalk. 

We started out with light green tic tacs, the spearamint flavor. Those are my favorite, and the kids love them, too. Then, for Teddy’s birthday last year, I included tic tacs in the favor bags, but only the white, peppermint flavor ones were available in the tiny size I wanted. 

Teddy did not like the peppermint flavor. (Neither do I.) The peppermint tic tacs were too spicy. The peppermint tic tacs were not motivating. But I couldn’t find the spearamint ones anywhere. 

Then Teddy discovered the orange flavor ones. And honestly, once you discover orange, you can’t really go back. He kept asking why I hadn’t bought more tic tacs, and I kept telling him he was welcome to earn the money to buy them himself. We even priced all the different options. But he was uninterested in actually doing the chore I suggested (shredding documents, which I HATE doing; we have a grocery tote bag full of documents to be shredded). Finally he asked if we could count the coins already in his Thomas the train bank and lo and behold, he had enough for a pack of tic tacs. And that’s even we suggested he get the orange ones. The container lasted two days. He managed to save two tic tacs for a second day. 

And then we were back to the tic tacs no one would eat. I had a few coupons for the citrus mix tic tacs, and I figured if he liked the orange ones so much, green and yellow and red would be fun too. Sadly, he did not like the yellow ones. He proclaimed they tasted like banana. I’m not sure how he’s tasting banana, but regardless, he *likes* banana. Whatever. But now he gets upset if I give him a yellow. And the larger container I have does not lend itself to easily choosing one’s preferred “flavor”. (They’re like sour candies: is there really different flavors, or just different colors?) And I refuse to dump a bunch in my hand for him to choose because then I get food coloring all over my palm. 

But today, it became a thing. I gave him one green and one yellow as we were leaving for the bus, and he flipped out. Screamed and refused to walk with us. We missed our bus and had to wait for the next one. Mike decided he was done with tic tacs and all the drama they created. I was tempted to agree. The problem was, I had quite a few packs of the little candies. What would I do with them? Secretly feed them to Lydia, who never fought going outside and happily accepted whatever color came out? Whatever I decided, if I suddenly turned off the tic tac spout, Teddy would be furious. And it didn’t seem worth my energy to provoke that fight. 

Then I had an idea: I’d pour all the tic tacs into a sandwich bag. Then Teddy could easily pick the ones he wanted while my hands stayed clean. It was while I was pouring the tic tacs into the bag that I noticed there was a hinge on the back of the container. I turned it around and saw the words “press here”. Well look at that: the top fully opens to reveal a mouth the width of the container. No need to pour the candies unto the bag at all. 

And it made me realize, if I can step back from my frustration at Teddy being totally, in my opinion, unreasonably angry, and try to find a solution that works for both of us, more often than not, a solution will present itself, and hopefully I can validate his frustration and teach him to solve his own problems without blowing up. 

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City kids meet tourist season

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Ahh it’s tourist season. That time of year when out-of-towners descend on my city in hordes to see all the same sites I now take my children to regularly. Before I had kids, I was unfazed by visitors. I accepted it as part of living in the capital city of my nation. In fact, I welcome the occasional opportunity to be a helpful local and point the lost in the right direction. But this season, I’m impacted by site-seers in a different way because Teddy and Lydia attract their attention (more so than usual).

We’ve worked hard to teach Teddy and Lydia street safety. They both love to run ahead and jump over “circles” (aka sewer covers and the like). We’ve taught Teddy to stop before the “bumps” (the textured material at intersections to assist blind people) and look for the “person” (silhouette) and accompanying numbers on the crosswalk sign before crossing the street (we’re still working with Lydia on this). He knows to stop at intersections (he knows numbers and a person means it’s ok to walk, but he also knows he has to hold our hand when we cross the street), and I let him run ahead, sometimes quite a ways. And Lydia knows to stop with him.

During the winter, Teddy can run ahead of me down the sidewalk and into the metro station by our house without holding my hand and won’t draw a glance from anyone. The majority of people out on the streets and in the metro are locals, focused on their commute. They aren’t paying any attention to a little kid zipping down the street. But tourists, they’re a different story. Their JOB is to look around! They may be on their way to something, but they’re constantly glancing about to locate landmarks and ensure they’re walking in the right direction. And they’re on vacation, so they’re not rushed (generally). So when  a young child comes careening toward them as they stand waiting for the light to change, they’re understandably a little nervous. They don’t know he knows to stop.

And when Teddy was younger, even when I would run after him, they wouldn’t always connect me to him. They’d see a little black boy running and a white woman behind him and wouldn’t assume I was with him. Instead they’d be quite concerned. I have heard so many people ask Teddy where his mother is! This doesn’t happen as frequently now that I’m pushing a stroller with another black child, although Lydia prefers walking around, too. She’s obviously not as fast as Teddy, so I have to stay behind with her while Teddy runs ahead.

One recent afternoon, the three of us were hanging out in a little green space in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue and the kids were terrorizing chasing the dozens of ducks trying to enjoy the greenery. I was keeping watch a few feet away, to make sure Lydia didn’t leave the area, when a middle aged man walked through the park, eyed Teddy and Lydia, didn’t seem to notice me, and instead gestured toward two black women dressed in business attire chatting on a bench, and asked if the kids were with them. They just looked baffled while I called out that they were with me and waved. 

Which is what I do every time. And that’s what I’ll keep doing every tourist season until the kids are big enough to run ahead without causing alarm. 

Coolax is the new Buddy

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My kid is the king of random thoughts. Sometimes questions, sometimes statements, but always requiring a response. And always apropos of nothing.

“Air conditioner. What does conditioner mean?”

“Where is Heaven?”

“What’s at the center of the earth?”

“When is Mt St Helens going to erupt again?” (For several months, he was completely obsessed with all things volcanos. Over the holidays, Mike even found through social media a volcanologist to video chat with Teddy; he was engaged in the conversation for 45 minutes!)

“What killed the dinosaurs?”

Sometimes I have the answer; many times I’m formulating it as I’m giving it to him because it’s something that’s never occurred to me. I’m considering it on the spot.

As an adoptive mom, I also prepare myself to field the occasional (at this stage–research tells me more will be coming in the next couple years) question about his story. Again, sometimes I’m happy with my answer; sometimes I wish I’d had a little time to think about it.

But the other day, Teddy made a statement that didn’t faze me at all. It was actually one of those statements I could’ve taken personally and been offended by, but thanks to my own experience, I was able to take it in stride.

It was the 4th of July and we were enjoying dinner at our favorite BBQ restaurant with my parents and friends who were visiting from out of town, before heading to watch the fireworks. That morning, we’d spent outside watching the local neighborhood parade, so my homebody son was quite tired, having exceeded his daily quota of one outing for the day. He had achieved an awkward semi-reclined position, legs curled up on his chair, head lain across my lap. Apropos of nothing as usual, he declared, “Mommy, I don’t like my name.”

I betrayed no emotion. “Oh?” I simply said.

“My name is silly.”

My first reaction was actually excitement. “Well, the great part about your name is there are plenty of options for you. If you don’t like Teddy, you can go by Theo or Theodore or Ted, or even Billy or Will if you want to use your middle name.” Mike and I had been very intentional about this when choosing a name for our first child. Give our own common, simple names, we wanted a name for our eldest that was more unique and offered a few obvious nickname options.

This did not satisfy Teddy. “I don’t like any part of my name.”

Oh. Ok. But I still rolled with it. Because when I was a kid, I got sick of my name, too. I don’t remember how old I was–I think it was still single digits–but at some point, I decided I didn’t like Sara anymore. Maybe because it was/is so common. My parents insist they didn’t know anyone named Sara when they chose my name, which can only mean that all the Saras were born that day because I’ve know many my entire life, and in my sixth grade class of 30, there were six of us. Regardless, I was tired of my name. I wanted to be named Mindy. I think this might have been inspired by the board game Mork and Mindy, which we owned, because I don’t think we knew anyone named Mindy, but I decided that Mindy was a beautiful name. After harrassing my parents about it for months, my father had the genius idea to let me give Mindy a whirl. On my birthday, which happened to be a Saturday that year, he declared that the whole family was to call me Mindy all day. Anyone who forgot and called me by my given name owed me a nickel. (My older brother had to give me a penny. He was quite annoyed by even that.) I remember little of the day’s activities– we did make a family trip to the library– but I strongly remember two distinct details: my dad excelled at this game; and by the end of the day, I *hated* the name Mindy. (I don’t anymore, which is good, since I have a dear friend named Mindi.)

So when Teddy said he thought his name was silly and wanted to change it, I wasn’t fazed at all. I simply replied, “Huh. What would you like to be called instead?”

He clearly was not prepared for that response. He looked at me the way I looked at my parents when they said, of course you can change your favorite color! Really? That’s allowed? Obviously I had no intention of actually changing Teddy’s name, but I had no problem calling him a nickname of his choice for a while. But he didn’t not have a ready answer. So I told him to think about it and let me know when he’d come up with something.

A couple days later, I reminded Teddy about his name angst and asked if he’d given it any thought. He, Mike and my mom were playing tabletop crossword (Scrabble without the board) when Mike, out of ideas for his letters, asked jokingly if he could add “ax” to the word “cool”, to make “coolax”. Teddy exclaimed, “That’s what I want to be called! Coolax!”

“Alrighty,” I said. “Instead of Bud, I’ll call you Coolax.”

His new nickname has not grown roots. Sometimes I use it; most of the time I don’t. Sometimes he reminds me; most of the time, he doesn’t remember. But in a stage when so often what he does and says triggers a less than pleasant response, I was proud to have this parenting win.

 

 

Playground politics with the Apostle Paul

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My kids love slides. They generally enjoy sliding down, but they mostly get a kick out of scrambling up. If other kids are waiting to go down, I send mine around to use the stairs. But if my kids’ rambunctiousness is not impeding another child’s sliding pleasure, I see nothing wrong with letting them bound up, pivot, slide down–head first, feet first, on their tummies, on their backs, sideways–and clamber right back up. I’m not alone in this, but I’m definitely in the minority. And I’ve been subject to my share of judgemental stares as other parents direct their children to the variety of “appropriate” access points. Many times, Teddy and another child have dashed to parallel slides, Teddy pounding up the shiny metal (or brightly painted plastic) to a mere nonchalant comment from me — whoa, bud, that was loud — and the other child following suit only to hear a reprimand from their parent — Johnny, we don’t climb up the slide; we go around. Typically, the other child is compliant, and I just have to deal with the judgement from the other parents.

But on one occasion this spring, the other child was not so agreeable. She really wanted to climb up the slide just like Teddy was doing–no matter that her nanny kept threatening her with a time out. And she was a precocious little girl. The first time, she followed Teddy, it was all innocent. Teddy hoisted himself up, and she thought that looked quite fun, so she climbed up, too. But her nanny saw. “Caroline, we go around.” Looking wistfully at Teddy preparing to climb up again, she dutifully hopped off the end and walked around. The second time, it’s possible she’d forgotten the warning. Nanny reminded her, adding the threat of the time out. The third time, she clearly looked to see if her nanny was watching before clambering up. Nanny spied the transgression and called her out. “Caroline, are you not listening? Go around. This is your last warning.”

And I’m watching this play out, wondering what I should do. No one was being blocked going down the slide by the kids’ clambering up. Teddy was doing no harm continuing his hoarding of the slide. But clearly, this little girl was going to get into trouble if she continued doing so. And as evidenced by her initial obedience, without Teddy, she would likely have no problem honoring her nanny’s rule.

In that moment, Philippians 2:4 came to mind. It says we should look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others. In this case, the honorable thing to do was have Teddy go around so the girl wouldn’t be tempted to break her nanny’s rule. I try to take advantage of opportunities to point my kids to Jesus, but in this instance, I did not look forward to bringing Teddy in on my plan. I knew it would not be met with enthusiasm. Nevertheless, I got down to Teddy’s eye level and explained the situation. “Bud, I know you like climbing up the slide. I know it’s way more fun than going around. But this little girl is going to have a time out if she keeps climbing up and she’s doing it because she’s watching you. I don’t have a problem with you climbing up, but I also think we don’t want this girl to get in trouble. So how about for now, you go around, so that little girl isn’t tempted to climb up anymore.” Teddy was most definitely not happy about this plan. If he could shoot fire from his eyes, I’d have been incinerated. But he complied. And for the next 10 minutes, both children took the long way to the top of the slide. And then the little girl left with her nanny, and Teddy, glancing at me for approval, immediately shot back up the slide.

So many parents are truly gifted in applying biblical principles to their discipline strategies, speaking verses over their children as they redirect their energies. I’ve never been adept at this. I never seem to recall the right verse at the right time. But for whatever reason, the Holy Spirit prompted me this time. In all likelihood, neither child remembers it (and it’s not like a five-minute timeout would’ve been so traumatizing). But maybe this was as much for my benefit as it was for my son’s. This was one in hopefully many instances where I’ll be able to help him love his neighbor. And it was a strong reminder that the Holy Spirit wants to be at the center of every aspect of our lives, even at the playground.