Friday, August 30, 2013

The Truth About Show and Tell

I want to address a topic that is causing me some distress lately. 

School has started and we are all getting adjusted to a new routine, figuring out teacher expectations, and trying to never forget important things such as signing our young students' homework journals each evening. 

I have been a little resentful that my children got adorable new outfits and shoes when I am the one who feels like I am carrying most of the responsibility since they are still in lower elementary school. I mean, seriously, who's REALLY in charge of making sure homework gets done and memory work gets memorized when your kid is in second grade?

That would be YOU, Mom.

This week, I had to remember to give my oldest daughter $5 for a recorder for music class. Oh, heaven help us all...WHY do we WANT children to learn how to play plastic flutes?! Seems a little cruel to the audience, especially when the concert will be in a large activity room with painted cinder block walls and a painted concrete floor, just perfect for very loud echoes. Forty some 10-year-olds playing high pitched toys is rather hard on the old ears. I reminded myself every night for several nights to give her the money the following morning, yet I still ended up forgetting and our kind carpool buddy loaned her the five bucks. Sheesh.

Since school began August 7th, I have re-learned all the continents and oceans, memorized several catechisms and Bible verses, studied the four layers of soil, memorized some Latin vocabulary words, and made sure my kids wear the appropriate clothing for PE days and chapel days and such. 

I've remembered to pack lunches and snacks and water bottles every day so far. 

I've remembered to turn in field trip permission slips and to attend the volunteer orientation.

And yet, as is bound to happen with me, I was met dead on with something I had forgotten last week. 

Something BIG. 

It was a typical school morning of running around and making sure everyone at least kinda resembled a well-groomed child who had definitely NOT eaten brownies for breakfast because I'd baked some the night before and left them in plain sight. I gave the usual hugs and kisses and "have a great day" smile to them as they made their way out of the house. I was thinking I had made it another morning and everyone was on time and I was really doing pretty great at all this remembering stuff. I actually even considered volunteering to be room mom for my older daughter's class. I could totally handle that. I LOVE delegating and sending emails and actually am pretty good at administrative tasks. I could be the room mom all the teachers wish they had! I reminded myself to send an email to the teacher right after the kids left. I was feeling good. Competent. In control of the chaos. 


My daughter came bursting back in the door with a look of anguish on her face. 

She pretty much looked nothing like this in that moment, but if her mother had remembered show and tell, this is what she WOULD have looked like.

"MOM!!! It's Friday! I need something for show and tell!!!" 

Well, crud. There went my perfect record of remembering. And to a second grader, this was a

BIG deal. In her mind, it could definitely ruin her entire school year. You remember show and tell. You NEVER wanted to be the poor schmuck who had nothing to show OR the resourceful but unsuccessful kid who resorted to showing the class his plastic pencil sharpener he kept in his desk.

I looked around frantically for something, ANYTHING she could take to school. Her ride was waiting and we did not have time for this crisis. Her teacher had requested that the students bring something they had made or gotten on a trip or anything that had special meaning. 

My mind raced...what to grab? What would work? 

I was seriously about to raid my dish towel drawer to find one that she could say her parents got as a wedding gift 13 years ago. I could feel the sweat starting to prick my forehead. She would be the dish towel girl for the rest of the year. You don't live this stuff down easily, you know. I could just picture her trying to sell a ratty, plaid towel that had seen better days as an article of mystery and fascination. She would be the kid who everyone pitied, shaking their heads sadly because her mother clearly forgot to help her prepare for this, the most important event of the week.

And then, just as I was pondering if the Christmas tree stand in the garage would work, my daughter had a brilliant idea. 


She made this little flower craft this past summer at cousin camp with my parents. It was sitting right by the door to the garage because I haven't quite figured out what to do with it. Yea for procrastination! It saved the day! She scooped it up happily and the world continued turning, the universe back in proper order with this crisis narrowly averted.

I breathed a sigh of relief as she climbed into the waiting car and thanked my lucky stars for super grandparents who actually did crafts with my kids. I also made a mental note to put a show and tell reminder on my phone. 

Still haven't quite remembered to actually DO that when I'm holding my phone, but you know, in theory it will work.

Good luck this school year with all your remembering, mamas. This is serious business and there will be a final exam in the form of end of the year parties, field trips, projects, and general random mayhem during the month of May. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Things They Don't Tell You

When you become a mother, there are certain skills you expect you will need. 

For example, if you are a mother it's probably helpful if you know how to do things like make sure bottles are an appropriate temperature for babies, how to comb hair without major battles, and how to make sure different foods on the same plate do not touch one another. 

I expected all this as I held each of my newborns in my arms. I understood the requirements and felt up to the challenge.

Or so I thought.

Ten years into my career as a mother, I still find myself woefully lacking in one very critical skill:


 Labor classes are all well and good, but what we REALLY need is a class dedicated to teaching mothers how to reason with miniature people, how to make deals with five year olds, how to play on the emotions of their children to negotiate acceptable outcomes.

I negotiate all the time around here, but the one area I find most challenging is when trying to talk an extremely hostile child into taking medicine of any kind. I mean, really, it gets ugly enough, tense enough, that I could call in an FBI professional negotiator and within fifteen minutes they'd be throwing their hands up and walking out the door. If there were actual hostages they wouldn't stand a chance of survival.

There is no shaking this kid. She ain't gonna budge.

Just tonight I was wishing I had gone thru official negotiation training. My middle child stepped on an anthill yesterday. Throughout the day today, we watched as her ankle continued swelling. Around noon, I gently suggested she might want to consider taking one teaspoon of Benadryl. 

You can imagine how that was accepted. Gasping. Shrieking. Running to her room to hide.

Afternoon rolled around, and her ankle continued to swell. Again, I meekly mentioned how Benadryl would likely help the situation. We had neighbor children playing on our trampoline, gleefully jumping and having a blast. I reminded her that little girls with swollen ankles do not get to jump on trampolines. She just crossed her arms, reclined on our patio furniture, and silently watched the fun happening without her.

When her daddy arrived home from work, he took one look at her ankle and demanded the Benadryl be taken. Somehow daddies seem to get the attention of children easier than mothers. But even so, it was a no go. 

Throughout the years, we have tried EVERYTHING with this child. Promises of dessert, an extra book at bedtime, a surprise from the dollar store, discipline, a million dollars...she is tougher to break than a kid strung out on a cartoon marathon.

It was looking dire. I was having visions of an imminent trip to the ER for a shot of Benadryl (to the tune of $400 or so). At this rate, my daughter was going to look like she had elephantitis if she didn't take one lousy teaspoon of medicine.

And then, like a glorious angel of mercy, our neighbor walked in. Sensing the situation, this brilliant mother of four suggested we mix the medicine with a little bit of Coke.

"I don't like Coke," our daughter announced. This from the child who any other day would be fine if Coke were the only beverage she had for the rest of her life. 

"But Lauren," our neighbor said,"your medicine is cherry flavored. It will be cherry coke!" 

And that was it. That was the ticket. My child's eyes lit up and she couldn't wait to get her hands on that magic concoction. We watched in amazement as she drank it down and enjoyed the accolades of our neighbor and her children. It baffled me to be honest. I've tried mixing her medicine in Sprite, orange juice, anything I could think of in the past and it's all been rejected. 

I felt rather silly at that moment. A good negotiator would know his subject's favorite things, his weaknesses, his passions. I've had eight years with this kid, after all. I should've known cherry coke would get the results we needed. But then I remembered that the tricky part is that the likes and dislikes of children change faster than Taylor Swift's latest boyfriend. It's always a guessing game as to what will work.

The good news is that she took the medicine. She didn't cry hard enough to make herself throw it up, and we didn't even have to double team her to get her to take it. Success. My husband and I shared a look of relief, leaned back in our chairs (after removing the gummy treats stuck to the seats), and congratulated ourselves on a job well done. Another one for the books. The negotiators had won in the end.

And I could've kissed my dear neighbor's feet.

 So what are your secrets of negotiating, mothers? What's been the magic element to persuade your little darlings to cooperate?
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