By: Ann Brown
So, what’s new? Not much.
Oh wait. Right. Robin got his driver’s license suspended.
It’s not what you think, and I know that you are thinking DUI.
Robin was nabbed for speeding. And running a red light. And for totally being a dick to me when I was in a bad mood a few months ago and just needed to be left alone. Well, okay, he wasn’t pulled over for that, specifically, but I felt the police officer who gave him the speeding ticket should know what I go through. So I told him.
You’d think that a person who had his license taken away would be the contrite one in the car, right? And you’d think that person would refrain from giving helpful driving tips to the person who is giving up her valuable time to schlep him around town, and who has pretty much made her way in the driving world for, oh, forty years without his helpful tips and suggestions such as, “when you accelerate, you want to blah blah blah…”.
I can’t tell you how his sentences end because by then I am usually looking for the closest bridge from which to launch us both into the Willamette. The man cannot shut the fuck up about my driving.
The other week, after I did not accept his helpful suggestions on parallel parking, and after he pointed out that he is pretty much an expert in parallel parking and really, in all aspects of driving, possibly all aspects of life, and I pointed out that one of us who is not an expert still has a valid driver’s license and one of us who is an expert needs to have me drive him to Safeway because he is out of Preparation H wipes, and he pointed out that speeding and running red lights are not evidence of being a bad driver whereas my acceleration technique is a major red flag about my road skills, and, really, about my ability to navigate the world at all, and then I pointed out that I hate him and I have been faking my orgasms, he said indignantly to me, “I am going to get a new driver!”
And he looked at me as though he had just told me he was going to get a new wife. Which shook me about as much as if he said he was going to get a new driver.
And then I slammed on the brakes because I was about to run a red light and we both stopped fighting due to our instantaneous commitment to whiplashes while saving the Trenta iced tea I had just gotten from Starbucks, which was the topic of the helpful tip Robin had been giving me (“TWO dollars? For iced tea??? This is why we have no retirement savings”) right before the parallel parking thing happened.
Only there wasn’t really a red light. I just wanted to slam on the brakes. I like to fuck with him.
By: Ann Brown
Sadly, once again, we have been faced with terrible and frightening incidents in the news. The bombings in Boston came has a huge shock to all of us and many parents learned about it, or had to process it, in front of their children.
It can be difficult and confusing to navigate how, when and if to tell our children about the scary things that can happen around them. There is no one formula for this, of course, but there are some foundational and philosophical guidelines that can help.
Young children need to know, first and foremost, that the world is a good and safe place. They need to have that bottom layer be built of trust, security and predictability. When our kids are babies, that’s pretty easy. When they are preschoolers and older, it gets trickier because they are exposed – inadvertently, at times – to the realities of life. We can find ourselves in the position of having to explain the inexplicable to our children: that bad things happen.
It’s my opinion that we do not need to discuss terrible current events with children. This, of course, is different from how to respond when personal tragedies happen in a child’s life – for example, if a child says to me, “my dog died” or, “my grandma is very sick and is going to die soon,” I express compassion and validate how that might feel. If other children want to participate in the conversation, I carefully allow a conversation that focuses on validation and appropriate emotional literacy.
If your child had heard about what happened in Boston, there are ways to help him/her process it.
Endeavor to answer only the question asked. When a child asks us a question for which we were not prepared, we can fall into the habit of giving them the entire story. This is rarely what the child is asking, or what s/he needs to hear. For example, if you child asks, “what happened in Boston?” You can say, “there was an accident” (to a young child) or “people got hurt during the Marathon” (to an older child). Then wait. Sometimes that is all the answer your child needs because s/he had heard buzz words about it and wanted to know what it was all about.
Stress the idea that people were there to help. If your child has heard enough about it to ask specific questions, be sure that you include in every statement something about the fact that this is why we have police officers and fire fighters – to help us when there is trouble. You can also add that many people came to help who were not necessarily official first responders. It is comforting to children to know that when there is a problem, there are people who know what to do about it. In the same way we tell them that if they get sick, doctors know what to do or if there is a fire, firefighters will come, we need to reassure them that they are not on their own in a disaster.
Do something constructive with the fear. If your child has heard about the bombings (or the fire in Texas, or any of the many tragedies…) suggest doing something that helps the victims, like sending care packages or drawing pictures to send them. It is amazing how therapeutic it can be to take our own fear and sadness and help someone else.
And finally, be vigilant about keeping media away from your young children. Having the news on TV or the radio while your children are playing nearby can affect them. Kids pick up on ambient sounds, on seemingly mindless noise, and definitely on our reactions to something we see or hear on the news. They don’t always come to us for explanations so we often have no idea they are grappling with something unfathomable to them.
As children grow older, they will be exposed to more scary and difficult realities in life. With a strong foundation that the world is good and safe, they will more easily be able to handle the unfortunate exceptions.
By Ann Brown
I hate this kind of shit. As if I don’t have enough to worry about already.
According to an article in Huffpo, by the age of 50, women should know how to do all the things listed below. This, of course, is complete bullshit; all a woman needs to know by age 50 is the adage, “you choose your face or your ass”, which means you can be thin (i.e. choose your ass) but your face will look gaunt and creepy and small children will run from you, or you can choose your face (eat all your want and grow your ass the size of Texas) and be gorgeous.
And by 59 (in a few weeks), all a woman needs to know is that even if she cannot see it, there is a whisker growing out of her face somewhere that is, like, four feet long and thick as a Sequoia. A whisker that was not there yesterday but is most certainly there today.
Huffpo, however, has a different list.
And therefore, below, my rebuttal:
Say “no” without feeling guilty – Yeah, um, unless you are Jewish. I even feel guilty when I say “yes”.
Book their own travel – do they mean make dozens of reservations on Alaska Airlines until the code letters you get spell out something that is a good harbinger and means the plane won’t go down? Then, yes. I do that.
Say “I’m sorry” and mean it – I totally mean it. On the surface. Where it counts.
Get around in a foreign country – Well that’s just stupid. Nobody needs to go to a foreign country anymore. Not when there is the Travel Channel. And legalized weed.
Mix at least a few classic cocktails – and by “classic”, do they mean drink tequila straight from the bottle while looking at photos of themselves when they were young and happy? Then, yes.
Make themselves and their own needs a priority – I feel I excel at this. I asked Robin if he thought I was too much of a martyr, always thinking of others, and if I need to make myself more of a priority and he laughed so hard he coughed up a tooth.
Defend themselves against an attacker with at least one signature self-defense move – I have one signature move. It’s a kind of pelvis sway and shimmy thing I learned in the 70′s at Disco Disco. You should see how fast men run away when I do it now.
Carve a turkey – I only carve it if the CPR didn’t work.
Choose their own wine – Easy. The one that’s open. And closest to me so I don’t have to sit up. Or roll over.
Examine their own breasts – Well, now, this can be problematic. What with my fifty-nine year old eyes being so near-sighted and my breasts being so much further away from my face than they used to be, a lot of visual acuity is lost. So I generally just ask random strangers to examine them for me. Sometimes I add my signature move.
Graciously accept a compliment – Yeah, okay. When I fucking GET one, I’ll let you know how graciously I will accept it.
Flip their own breaker – if that is a euphemism for masturbating, I am not going to answer.
Plunge a toilet – Hah. That would be a really gross euphemism for masturbating.
Walk away from a situation or relationship when it’s not working – No problem. Ask the myriad personal trainers, nutritionists, therapists and leg-waxers in my wake.
Say what they really want in bed – Easy: SLEEP. And, every once in a while, some privacy to, um, flip my breaker.
Apply makeup without a mirror – I can do better than that. I can apply make up WITH a mirror but make it look as if I applied it WITHOUT a mirror.
Ask for a raise – Yes. Wait, without offering sex first? Then, no.
Unclog a drain – yet another euphemism? Well, that one kinda makes sense.
Tell which direction they are facing – Don’t need a compass to tell me I am going to Hell. In a handbasket.
Make small talk with just about anyone
Know when to reveal personal information — and when not to – I consider revealing personal information and small talk to be indistinguishable from each other and essential at cocktails parties. You open a conversation with, “yikes. I did not expect to be faking orgasms this late into my marriage”, and you are pretty much guaranteed to be left alone. Score.
Paint a room – Please. I did that at five. Only without my parent’s permission. And with crayons.
Buy the right-sized bra -I am still saving up to buy the right size boobs.
Beautifully wrap a present – see above, about the bra.
Reach out to an old friend – who is falling? Yes, I would totally do that.
Show love with actions and not just words – Eeeeew. WORDS? Yuck.
Put together a real retirement strategy – You’re reading it.
Look good in a photo – Fuck you.
By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant
Poor, Poor, Pitiful You
Every once in a while I kinda wish we could all just sit down and discuss these parenting articles. Sitting together, maybe a little wine, talking face to face, instead of me sitting here all alone (with a little wine; it’s the weekend; don’t judge), so far away.
If you know me personally, you are rolling your eyes right now. It is no secret that I eschew most human contact outside of my job. I hide behind sofas and hit the lights when I see someone coming up my driveway. I look at my ringing phone and go through all the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. I am a wee bit protective of my solitude.
Still, this is one topic that warrants discussion because it can easily be misunderstood. Although as I sit here, it does occur to me that the clarity of my writing might be a factor in the misunderstandings. Hunh. Maybe I should have lain off that third glass of wine…
I want to write about rejection.
I am going to be stereotypical here by referring to the parent who is typically (oh wait. STEREOtypically) home with the kids. Please don’t give me any crap over this. I am not politically incorrect or misogynistic or chauvinistic or reactionary; I am merely lazy and it’s easier to just write “mom” instead of “mom or dad” or “mom or dad or grandma” or “adult caregiver who spends most of the day with the child” or even “ACWSMOTDWTC”.
First, a quiz:
1. When your child yells, “GO AWAY!” at you, do you feel:
C. Happy and FREE because the last thing you wanted was to have to deal with that obnoxious kid.
2. When your child prefers your spouse to you for bath time, bedtime, playtime, eating and everything else, do you feel:
C. Happy and FREE
3. When you walk in the door after being gone all day at work and your child looks up for a nanosecond, barely gives you a nod hello and returns to his/her activity, do you feel:
C. Happy and FREE
Are you beginning to get the picture? I want to talk first to those of you who answered either “Sad” or “Mad” to the three questions. The rest of you, those who checked off “Happy and FREE”, may be excused. You are not miserable so we don’t need to look at your happy and free faces right now. Shoo. Begone.
Okay. Let’s look around the room. You. The parent who is gone most of the day, the parent who only gets to spend quality time with your kids at night when they are exhausted or on the weekends, when you are exhausted. You. Les Miserables.
It can go like this: You finally get home from the cold, cruel world and you walk into your warm safe haven, brimming with love for your family, and you say to your four-year old, “I’m home! Give me a big hug and a kiss!” and your kid says, “GO AWAY!”
Or you make a huge Saturday morning breakfast for your child because you haven’t been able to spend much time with him/her and you make all his/her favorite foods, you even draw a picture with blueberries on the pancakes – a picture of Leonardo, your kid’s absolutely favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle – and you present it to your child with a flourish. And s/he says, “YUCK. I HATE pancakes. I like the breakfasts Mommy makes!” (Which, by the looks of the wrappers in the car is pretty much turkey jerky and Capri Sun) And then your kid adds, “Also? Leonardo is NOT my favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, anyway! Go away!”
Yeah. Rejection blows.
But here’s the thing: it’s not exactly the same rejection as an adult’s rejection. I know that it feels the same, but it’s not. In fact, I wish there were a different word for it because the word “rejection” brings into it a whole lotta adult stuff that isn’t applicable.
Young children live close to their emotions. And they don’t have well- developed filters yet. They live pretty much in the world of archetypes – you are good if you give them a cookie; you are evil if you don’t – and not so much in the world of nuance and tact.
Plus, they are exercising their right to have some say in their lives.
This is so often where issues and hurt feelings happen, when imagine does NOT meet reality, and we get upset. In our minds, all the drive home, we are imagining a scene out of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, you know, Pa comes in from the fields and all the kids gather around him and shower him with affection.
Uh-huh. And they don’t want to stop what they were doing to get up and give you a hug. And you feel rejected. And pissed off because, let’s face it, what the heck did that kid do all day that was so hard that s/he can’t even get up off the sofa and hug you? Who appreciates you?
I hear you. I feel your pain. I – as my husband likes to say, – I am picking up what you are laying down. But I have some bad news for you: the kind of appreciation you are craving, the LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE kind? Yeah, it generally doesn’t look like that right now when the kids are young.
Please don’t get me wrong – I am not condoning alienation of affection. I am not suggesting we allow our children to ignore us or be rude or blow us off. I am, however, suggesting that we help our kids find a less disrespectful way to tell us what they want.
Saturday morning. You declined an invitation to do something fabulous for yourself because you want (need, feel obligated) to spend the day with your child. You walk into your child’s room and give him/her a big hug and you say, “Guess what? We are going to the zoo today! Just you and me! YAY!”
And your kid says, “Gross. Your breath smells yucky.”
And you bury the rejection and say, “Okay, get dressed for the ZOO! Yay!”
And your kid says, “Go away! I am playing with this piece of used dental floss and a wine cork and I am having fun. I don’t want to go to the zoo.”
And you think to yourself, “Do you know how much I wanted a day to myself? And that I gave it up to be with you? Why are you so ungrateful? Did your mother make you this way? Because I am gonna level with you, she doesn’t appreciate me, either.”
And you wind up carrying yor screaming kid into the car and forcing a happy Daddy day at the zoo on him.
Now, let’s rewind and reconstruct. We’ll go back to the statement about your morning breath being gross. Because, let’s just be honest, it probably is. Your kid isn’t lying. She might be lacking a certain, I don’t know, finesse in letting you know. But she might have a point.
You can say, “Is it gross? Sorry. I will not put my face so close to yours until after I brush my teeth.” And THEN you can say, “Also, can you think of a way to tell me that my breath is bad in a way that is nicer and not so rude?” This way, you are acknowledging her right to not have to smell your funky morning breath but you are also defining the parameters of HOW she says it to you.
Okay. Next. S/he doesn’t want to go to the zoo.
Now I know that you have been planning this. I know what you gave up to do it. But is it possible, just possible, that maybe you are putting a little bit too much on the fact that you planned the zoo trip? That you are letting yourself feel a bit too much rejection over it? I mean, if your wife surprised you by saying she had planned an entire day for you, might you want to have been given the option of being part of the decision?
So, you reach deep into yourself to find the higher road, and you say to your child, “Oh. I thought you’d want to do that. Well, since I don’t have to work today, I want to spend time with you. What would you like to do?”
And then you have a conversation about it. And you share your ideas. And you come up with options and alternatives and compromises and finally, common ground. And you don’t take it personally that your child had initially said s/he didn’t want to go to the zoo with you. Because it really wasn’t a personal rejection. It was how a young child was learning to express his/her opinions.
Well, that brings us to a close. If you have questions or comments, please use the comment section below. You can try to come over or call me, but I will be hiding behind the couch.
By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant
The topic this month in parenting group was crime. Lying, cheating, stealing, taking bribes, racketeering – you know, stuff your little kids do that make you wonder if instead of contributing to their college funds you really should just toughen them up for prison. Switch out “The Little Mermaid” for “Oz”. The HBO one.
I bet no one told you about this when you first had your baby. Oh, everyone is lining up eager to describe how much labor contractions hurt and how to use a breast pump and what the consistency of healthy infant poop looks like, right? Well-intentioned parents can talk forever about their children’s poops, to the point where you – newly pregnant with your first baby – are backing away as fast as you can to get to your car so you can barf, but do people ever tell you about the really scary stuff? That a four-year-old will smile at you with chocolate-covered teeth and swear he did not eat the candy bar? That your preschooler will steal, and not for noble Robin Hood-give-to-the-poor reasons? That your first grader will tell her teacher that the reason she forgot her homework is that her mother went into the hospital and is in an iron lung due to polio?
Oh wait, that was me.
Yeah, that was one of my best lies. And I think I really had my first grade teacher going for a while. I mean, how can you not believe a little girl who can describe in detail the pain of polio and the sound of the iron lung in which her mother is caged?
Well, unless you take into account that the teacher had seen my mother – healthy and energetic. And mobile – only the day before at a PTA luncheon. Oh, and also if you take into account that polio was eradicated, like, fifteen years before I told the lie.
My point is, kids lie. And if it is 1960 and the kids watched the movie, “The Five Pennies” enough times, they can even lie very well with amazing detail and pathos about polio. Especially if the star of the movie, Danny Kaye, looked so much like their own dad that they worried that they would get polio just like Danny Kaye’s daughter in the movie.
But enough about me.
There are a lot of reasons little kids lie. Most of them are benign and temporary. Still, it’s not enough to just sit back, hit the Cabernet and hope it will pass. Although generally, that is my advice about pretty much everything else in life.
The hardest thing to do is to not put your little liar on the hot seat. Picture this: You have just told your preschooler for the gajillionth time that the candy is going up into the very high cupboard because he is having a hard time remembering not to eat it when it is on the kitchen counter. You say this without rancor or threat. Because, you know, you are awesome.
You go to the bathroom.
You come out of the bathroom.
You sense something is wrong. You can’t exactly put your finger on it but the universe has shifted an inch.
You walk by your preschooler’s room. He is very quiet. Too quiet. He jumps up when he sees you. He smiles. Three-quarters of his teeth are covered in chocolate. As are his Leggos. And everything else he has touched in his room.
You say, “Did you eat that candy? The candy I told you not to eat?”
He looks at you as if you have just accused him of murdering kittens.
“NO!” He yells indignantly. “I didn’t eat any candy!”
Okay. Let’s pause here. There are two ways this deal can go down.
You: What do you mean, you didn’t eat the candy? I see it on your teeth. And your toys. Tell me the truth: did you eat that candy?
Perp: I said NO!
You: You are not telling the truth.
Perp: Yes I am.
You: No you aren’t.
Perp: Yes I am!
You: No you aren’t!
Perp: YES I AM!
You: (You can’t say anything more because your head has exploded.)
Now, granted, that scenario allows you the temporary satisfaction of interrogation when you know you are right. But the problem is, you cannot force a confession out of someone who is not gonna give it up. Plus, even if your kid does finally confess, what was the learning moment there? Other than never to let yourself run out of wine again.
So. Scenario Two
You (in a neutral voice, as if reporting a crime scene on local TV news): I see chocolate all over your teeth. And all over your toys.
Perp: I did’t eat it. I didn’t do it.
You: Uh-oh. Those Leggos are going to be ruined. And ants can come into your room. Hold on (and you exit the room).
Perp: I SAID I DIDN’T DO IT!
You return to his room with a towel. Or sponge. Or bowl for the Leggos.
You: I’ll start wiping these Leggos and you collect the dirty trains. Before the ants come (or substitute whatever reasonable thing might happen).
Perp: But I didn’t do it.
You: Mmm….(as you silently wipe down the toys)
Sounds weird, huh? But let me tell you, this way you are OPENING the pathway to communication. In a slightly devious, manipulative way – true – but it’s still better than putting your child on a hard chair, shoving a bright light over his face and demanding a forced confession.
Yes it is better. I see you shaking your head at me.
So, while you and your child are silently collecting the chocolate-covered toys and you are saying casually to him, “Wait, there’s some chocolate near your eye. Let me get it before it gets into your eye”, you do this:
You wait. You let the silence do its work. But silence can only do its work if it is silence without fear or threat in it. So be cool. Be patient. Trust. Do 25 Kegels to pass the time.
Later – maybe five minutes later, maybe five days later – the subject will come up again. Usually it happens during a cuddly moment. Your kid’s in the bath that night, for instance, and he says, apropos of nothing, “I ate the chocolate today when you told me not to.”
And it will be the space you gave him that allowed for his own moment of truth. And that will make it genuine. And meaningful.
And then you can say, “I am so proud of you for realizing that telling the truth was the right thing to do.”
And then you can talk about how hard it is to keep ourselves from eating candy. And how tempting things can be in this world. And how we all struggle with stuff like that. Which will bond you with your child. And model that we need to make a choice in everything we do, that doing the right thing doesn’t always come easily.
And THAT is a lesson well-learned. Honest. I’m not lying.
Ann Brown is available for private parenting consultation. Please contact the office for her schedule and fees
By Ann Brown
I’ve been thinking about Mary, as I am wont to do on Christmas Eve.
Mother Mary and I are of the same generation in that we had our babies between 1 BC and 1982, before epidurals were invented. Or maybe they were invented but I guess Mary and I both had Kaiser insurance and they weren’t springing for it. Mothers of our generation – Mary’s and mine – we had our babies the real way, like real men. Only the actual real men were by our sides, telling us to breathe, telling us they loved us, offering us ice chips and complaining to the nurses that TV in the labor room didn’t get cable and it was possible that today’s game would decide the Super Bowl. Also, real men didn’t want to make a whole deal out of it, but, could they mention that yes, we might be in a bit of discomfort squeezing a baby through us and they totally get that, but they were quite hungry, only having eaten a chicken burrito when they drove us through El Pollo Loco on the way to the hospital that night.
Around this time of the night, so many years ago, Mary was in hard labor. HARD labor – when everyone loses patience with you because you clearly are not buying their horseshit not to think of contractions as pain. Mary probably didn’t use naughty language but I bet she was thinking, oh sweet Jesus, fuck this excruciating pain. Hey, maybe that’s how she came up with the name.
Hah. That means my kids should have been named Give me drugs and Get away from me.
I was not a fan of having my husband in on the labor. Poor Robin. He wanted so badly to help. He even prepared for my labor by having casual hippie VW van sex with a bunch of midwives in Santa Cruz and Humboldt back in the 70′s. Just so he could know what he was doing ten years later when his own child was being born. What a guy. These days, frankly, I kinda wish he had been having sex with endodontists and orthopedic surgeons back then. I could really use that kind of expertise now.
Still, say what you will, at least Robin had on his birth coach resume that he is a human. Who was there for Mother Mary? A donkey? Like she was gonna believe anything a donkey would tell her about labor. Endodontics, maybe. I mean, donkeys seem to keep all their teeth and I never saw one cringing in pain when it bit down on a piece of roasted butternut squash hot from the oven.
And frankly, constant braying would have been preferable to constant soothing voices telling me to breathe. BREATHE? Really? That’s the best they can come up with? Don’t die?
Poor Mary. And all that damp hay smell to boot, just when any kind of smell at all makes you want to barf. And the three male interns, all fucked up from smoking frankincense on their journey, poking around all Mary’s wrong places, trying to measure her cervix and cracking each other up by saying the word “fundus” over and over again.
Wise Men, my ass. Someone had a good publicist. It was surely their first labor. Probably the first time they ever even saw a lady’s bare legs, much less her cervix. Let’s be honest about who, exactly, the virgins were in that manger.
Mary, I feel your pain, sister. Plus we both know what it’s like to raise a Jewish son. The pressure.
Speaking of which, mazel tov on your son’s accomplishments. Walking on water is great.
My two sons went to Reed and Georgetown, however. Just saying.
By Ann Brown
There’s this intersection I drive through, like, a billion times a week and every single time I drive through it I remember that I do not know if it’s okay to make a right turn on the red arrow or not.
I’ve been wondering about it for almost seventeen years, since the first time I was at the front of a long line of cars and the signal turned to the red arrow. Cars started honking at me, which spurred me on to immediately step on the gas and GO because, you know, I didn’t want them to think I was a pussy or something. It’s crucial to me that people do not see me as a pussy driver. Or as a pussy anything. Or see me as I truly am.
It’s very difficult to maintain my hard-ass image while I nervously wait out the red arrows in life.
Oh, I know I look all tough and shit, running out onto my front lawn in my housecoat, giving the finger to the world, shaking my fists and railing at the gods and all, but I am actually quite mellow and “whatev” deep down inside. Under all the vitriol. And the Wheat Thins. And all the wine.
There are, however, a few things that bring out the inner ass-kicker in me:
1. People who forget to eat because they are busy. Really? Fuck you.
2. People who believe that America’s middle class is going to do better with Romney as our president. I am going to send my brilliant wonky sons out to each of your homes and make you listen to them. I would go to your home myself but I tend to get fuzzy on the numbers and facts, plus I have a thing about eating food from other people’s kitchens. Presuming you would offer me food. Unless you are too busy to remember to eat. In which case, double fuck you.
3. White people who think they are all that. Actually, I am against white people in general these days. I am sick of us. We are just so…weenie. So….white.
4. Exceptions to the rules of the road, including the dreaded red arrow. I mean, it should either mean STOP or GO. None of this “well, under the following circumstances, a person might choose to…” bullshit. How much thinking can a person do while driving and texting and spreading wasabi on her sushi and trying to remember if it is Brawny or Bounty that is owned by the evil Koch brothers?
I am just one person, for fuck’s sake. I can’t do everything.
Maybe the laws are different in California where I learned to drive. I think that in California a person can make a right hand turn on a red arrow. Or on a blinking red arrow. Or if a classic Lionel Richie song comes on the radio. Or if you really, really want to.
On the other hand, maybe it should be a personal choice. Some folks go on the red arrow, some stay put. Whatev. Just don’t buy Bounty. Or is it Brawny? Ask my kids.
By Ann Brown
I could not remember my age the other day. I was in the middle of a sentence and I wanted to reference how old I am but I just blanked. Later, in the car, I tried to calculate it mathematically (“okay, I was born in 1954, so I was one year old in 1955, and I was two years old in 1956…”) and failed, but that’s a story for a different time.
This story is about the fact that I want to get some things down on paper because my memory is slipping. You know, now that I am, um, er, 57 years old. Or 58. Or 56. Or 73. I have no idea.
I also want to get things down on paper because I have this kickass idea for a parenting flip-book. You know, those books that have each page divided in three sections and you can mix and match, say (in this case), “my child threw a shoe at the kindly old lady when we were at church” or, say, “my child barfed up Count Chocula at the saleslady when we were at Bridgeport Village” and then you can read the other side of the page to find out what to do about it.
I have many other clever ideas. I come up with them during faculty meetings when the topic isn’t ME. I get a lot of time to think. Next time you see me, ask me about my drive-through salad bar idea.
Anyway, so, here are the top, oh, five things I want to immortalize in this article:
- “Everybody has the right to be angry when they don’t get what they want”. I think I have said this in my parenting classes about a bajillion times. I say it in reference to the penchant we parents have for laying down the law to our kids and then, when they understandably react with anger, we then continue to make them “get over it”. Let’s face it, spending the afternoon with a three-year-old who wanted a popsicle and didn’t get one is no day at the beach, but trying to get your kid to be happy about it is like swimming into a rip tide. (I think. I really have no idea about riptides but it seemed a clever analogy.) That said, this does not mean your kid can express his/her unhappiness with your decision by exercising emotional terrorism. Following you around all day long, poking you with an action figure, or disrupting dinner with nonstop whining needs to be addressed, but it’s the behavior that needs to be addressed; this is not the time to yet again tell your kid why s/he should be delighted to not get a popsicle. Personally, if a child wants to hold on to her beef about the stupid popsicle and show me how she feels by, say, quiet, long-suffering sighs every time I walk by her, so be it. Frankly, I’ve held on to more stupid issues with Robin and I’m 57. Or 58. Or 24. I really have no idea. And, let’s face it; you are never going to convince your kid that she should not be upset about it. You might be able to shut her down about it, you might get in some wise words of perspective, but in the end, we all come to closure when we get there. You can say with detached compassion, “I get it that you are angry. I said ‘no popsicles’ and you wanted one.” But it is what you do after you say it that fosters perspective. Which is, go about your business and don’t juice it.
Well, as it turns out, I have already written 661 words (no, wait. 665. No, 666. YIKES. Wait. 670. Whew) and I’ve only made it to point #1. Guess I will tackle another point next time.
One point per piece. That gives me, um, er, three more points to make. Or four. I really have no idea.
By Ann Brown
Liar, liar, pants on fire. That was a big topic on the parenting couches this month. According to a random sampling of dozens of you, it appears as though there is an epidemic of crime among the four-year-olds of the nation. This is particularly troublesome to parents, as four- and five-year-olds appear to be, well, capable of knowing better. They also tend to not buckle under interrogation, resorting to such alibis as crossing their arms over their chests and calling us stupid pooper monkey butts. Your old powers are no good in the land of Fours and Fives.
It takes some new thinking.
When a child lies about doing something, we often fixate on busting them, interrogating them, forcing a confession, and then exacting a promise from them to never, ever, ever do it again. Unfortunately, that strategy – however tempting and well intentioned – does not allow for the teachable moments that really get to the heart.
Most kids will confess their crimes if the spotlight isn’t on them. Days, weeks, later, he might mention, “I took a toy from school and put it in my pocket.” Then comes the inevitable silence in which all things are possible.
Try not to blow it at this point. Like I always did. And like most of us do.
Instead of jumping on the moment, letting loose a tirade of “how could you?”s and “you know better than that”s and “WHY???”s (all of which usually just send a child into dummying up and calling for an attorney), take a breath and say, “I am really glad you told me about it.”
Then…..say nothing. At least for a few seconds. Allow your child to fill the silence with whatever else she wants to say. Practice your neutral face. (Go on. Go to the mirror and practice it. I’ll wait here). Remember that the more you fill your child up with YOUR thoughts and words on the subject, the less you are allowing safe communication to happen, and the less your child will want to come to you to talk about things like this. So, breathe. Listen. Count your teeth with your tongue. If you are a woman, do 25 Kegels. If you are a man, quietly squeeze whatever it is you’ve got going on down there.
Then, say to your child again, “I am really glad you told me.” Ask her if she feels better now that she isn’t holding that secret anymore. Talk about how holding a secret like that can feel heavy, like a big rock, and how the way to not have to hold the rock is to talk about it.
The more you can begin by validating that it feels better to unload your secrets, the more your child will talk to you.
Most times, if we can stay neutral and allow the child to continue talking, he will begin to cry. This is also a teachable moment. You can say, “you know, crying means you know you made a very wrong choice when you stole that toy. It’s good that you understand it was wrong, because that will help you make better choices next time.”
You can also brainstorm with your child about what to do when you see something that you really, really, really want, but can’t have. We all feel that way – we can be a blueprint for our kids for dealing with the draw of “I want it”, which can lead to “therefore, I am gonna take it.”
I know it’s a kinda inside-out way to approach a confession. However, validating the physical feeling of holding a secret and then feeling better when you confess can go a long way in helping your kid get to his moral compass. And in the end, it is your child – not you – who is going to have to read that compass and choose the path.
And that’s the truth.
By Ann Brown
I am in that awkward in-between stage of life: too young to totally let myself go, and too lazy to improve myself.
Maybe I will just end this post at that last sentence. I mean, really, what more can I say about the topic that is going to matter?
Dr. Oz says that all we have to do is focus on one thing and work on that. Which is bullshit, of course. Because you can’t improve upon only one thing without having to up your game on the rest of your shit. It’s all connected.
It’s like when you are just about to take a shower but all the towels are in the washing machine so you have to use, like, ten clean kitchen towels to dry yourself and while you are naked in the kitchen getting the towels, you smell something funky. Which, upon investigation, is the kitchen trash. And you decide to take out the kitchen trash now, you know, so you don’t have to do it after your shower when you are all clean and shiny and all great smelling of Burt’s Bees Sugar and Honey Scrub.
So you throw on a schmatte and tie up the trash bag but some garbage falls out the top and leaves a funky viscous drool on the kitchen floor. So you put the bag back into the kitchen trash can and get a paper towel to wipe up the floor so the new puppy doesn’t eat the funky drool and vomit while you are taking out the trash.
But shit. You are out of paper towels. And the new package of them is downstairs because Robin insists on shopping at fucking Costco even though there are only TWO of you left in the house and he brings home the, I don’t know, four-hundred-roll package of Brawny, which doesn’t fit anywhere except downstairs in the guest bedroom. Which reminds you that Mom is coming next week. And that we aren’t even supposed to buy Brawny paper towels because they are owned by the evil Koch brothers, so you drop everything to write Robin a note that says, “Mom is coming next week. Please remove your porn from the guest bedroom. Also, we are boycotting Brawny. And stop fucking shopping at Costco. The Persian cucumbers always go bad before we can finish them, and let’s be honest – we NEVER actually cut a maple muffin in half and freeze the other half. We eat the whole fucking muffin. Which is why I have to let the seams out of my maternity underpants.”
It will be a stellar note: Robin’s fault that we are poor AND I am fat. I love being a writer.
But all the pens are dry and the only thing you see on which to write Robin a note is the envelope from the library reminding you that you owe approximately eighty two million dollars in overdue fines. Which reminds you – those books you thought you lost were actually in the back of the Toyota! So you run down to the car to bring them into the house. And then you think, “I should really keep them in the car so I don’t forget to return them” which, of course, is exactly the reasoning that you put them in the car eleven months ago.
And while you are out in the driveway, you see that the garbage can is already filled to the top so when you bring the kitchen trash bag out, it is going to make it impossible to close the lid. And then everyone on your street will judge you for being a household of two and having so much garbage like, I don’t know, maybe they will think you don’t recycle or compost – which you do – or that you throw entire contents of linen closets into the kitchen trash – also which you do – when you don’t feel like folding towels and stuffing them into the shelf.
And then you totally forget why you are standing in the driveway.
And then you notice the color of your hair in your car’s side mirror and you decide that – broke or not – you are springing for the non-generic hair color next time because in the sunlight you look like you are wearing one of those multi-colored clown wigs. And then you remember that this is Oregon and there never is any fucking sunlight.
Which gets you thinking.
Do you want to move? Not back to LA, of course, although you do miss your friends and family. And will you ever realize your dream of the commune on Whidbey Island? And how will you ever convince Cousins Adam and Ken to leave New York? What will it take, dear Lord, to get them here? Maybe my hair will be a cry for help that will bring them running to me.
Oh, and do I want a salmon burger for lunch? I think I do.
And where is the spray starch, because I have a lot of shit to iron. I love my JJill linen tops but it’s a lot of ironing. I do love JJill. I wonder when the next catalog is coming…
And – shit! What if Romney wins? I don’t think I have it in me to handle that without a major incident.
And why is Phila running outside carrying a large white pillow case? How adorable.
Wait. That is not a pillow case at all. It is the trash bag that I left in the kitchen. And she has torn it open.
And all the kitchen trash is scattered all over the kitchen and down the stairs and now, on the front lawn. And then it all comes back to you – why you are standing there and what needs to be done.
And you think to yourself, Robin really needs to mow the lawn.