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Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

Bill is alien

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When I picked up my four-year-old from school yesterday, he was tightly grasping at a fistful of construction paper haphazardly adhered together with scotch tape.  When I asked what it was he said, “I wrote a book.”

Imagine my pride.

He could not wait until we got home (we live six minutes from the school), so he read the book to me from the backseat as we drove.

So, risking copyright infringement, I’ll share with you the contents:

The Alien that Sneaked

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was sniffing three beautiful flowers.  She was very happy.

All of a sudden, an alien sneaked up on her and jumped out from behind the flowers and said BOO.

The girl jumped!  She did not know the alien was there.

The End.

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Deployment sucks.  And some days are harder than others.

Today, in fact, was a hard one.  So I Googled “surviving deployment” and got a bunch of exactly what I don’t need – mushy crap about being strong and holding on.  Crap that made me cry.  And that’s exactly what I was trying to avoid.  Bleh.

So, today’s blog post is a self-service kind of list.  It’s a way of saying FU to deployment.  And all the crying crap that comes with it.

Here’s some REAL advice.

My TOP TEN Strategies for SURVIVING DEPLOYMENT:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStep 1: DRINK.  A LOT.  I recommend Cabernet.  But whatever.  Your choice.  Just medicate.

Step 2: SWIM.  Well, okay, that’s just for me.  But do what makes YOU happy.  If you like to cook, then cook.  If you like to dig in the dirt or drive motorcycles or dance or color or whatever.  Just do it.  Because YOU have to make YOU happy right now.  The other person in this world responsible for making you happy is oceans away.  So this falls on your shoulders right now.

Step 3: SHOP.   Buy those Manolos you’ve been having wet dreams about.  Or the Pottery Barn shower curtain that is five times more expensive than the one you have now.  Or the smart phone you’ve been dying to get your hands on.  I’m not suggesting you put yourself into debt.  I’m saying pay your bills, then use what is left over for a little RETAIL THERAPY.  You can save a little more when he gets back to make up for it.  Splurge a little for yourself.  You deserve it.

Step 4: DECORATE.  What, he doesn’t like the color pink?  Well, now’s a good time to paint the bedroom pink.  Why?  CAUSE HE’S NOT HERE.  Throw in some fluffy purple curtains with unicorns on them.  Okay, never mind, don’t do that.  UNLESS that is what you want. If it is, then do it.  Just don’t tell me about it, I might throw up in my mouth a little bit.  The point is, you have these decorating compromises you’ve made for him.  (That comfy <butt ugly> chair that he loves.  The futon left over from his college days.) But now you have a year of NO COMPROMISE.  So do whatever the last thing is that you suggested that he shot down.  You can always change it when he gets back.  For now, it will feel like a little bit of rebellion.  And it will make you happy.

Step 5:  BITCH.  Call your girlfriends and tell them how you feel.   Here’s a few suggestions:  Love sucks!  I should have married for money!  You know he has a third nipple?

Step 6:  GET BUSY.  DO everything you’ve thought about doing but haven’t.  Join a gym, take the kids to the park or the pool, take guitar lessons, hike the nearest mountain, boat in the nearest lake.  JUST do something.  You’ll experience new things, meet new people, and the time will fly by.  Basically, LIVE your life.   You knew how to live without him before you met him.  Figure out how to do that again.

Step 7:  GIVE BACK.  I’m gonna get all serious-mode on you now.  Because, let’s face it, there is always someone out there who has it worse than you.  And maybe, the best way to help yourself during this time is to help someone else.  Sign up for a river clean-up, a soup kitchen, something that you can devote your time to, something that can help you keep perspective.

Step 8:  GET DIRTY.  Forget the housework. Let the dishes pile in the sink.  Don’t vacuum that floor until you can SEE the dog hair built up on it.  Neglect the laundry until someone runs out of underwear.  I know, some of that sounds painful.  But here’s the thing – it doesn’t MATTER.  What matters is that you are happy.  And your kids are happy.  And if you have to let the dusting go one weekend because you have a waterpark to go to, well, then, SO BE IT.  Just let it go.

Step 9:  WRITE.  Your feelings are important.  You should write them down.  There are few things more therapeutic than getting your thoughts down on paper.  That’s what brainstorming is, just letting it flow.  Surviving deployment is about just that: surviving.  Don’t avoid the pain, let it out.  Don’t hold it inside, push it onto the page.  Keep a journal that only you are going to see.  If it’s private, then you don’t have to worry about anyone but you when you write it.  No one to judge you or tell you it’s wrong.  Just say whatever it is you want to say.  And you’ll be amazed at how you feel afterward.

Step 10:  FEEL THE LOVE.  Or more importantly, share the love.  The reason this is so hard for you is because you love that man.  Damnit.  Despite his third nipple.  You miss him.  And that sucks.  But it sucks for him too.  So tell him you love him and you miss him.  And you can’t wait for him to come home.  Because I’ll bet he feels the same way.  Then hang up the phone, and go back to Step 1.

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My four-year-old has been adjusting to his father’s absence better than I thought he would.  He’s never been through deployment before, so I was naturally concerned about his inability to understand and/or emotionally handle the separation from one of his favorite human beings on the planet. 

When we drove away from the airport, my guy said “I’m going to miss Daddy,” from the backseat.  Then he said, “Mamas, why are you crying?”

Luckily, he’s like me in that he is willing to talk about his emotions.  And we’ve had some moments when we’ve talked about how he feels and he starts to cry. 

In those situations, I tell him it is okay to feel sad, but it’s also okay to feel happy.  Just because Daddy is gone – temporarily – that is no reason not to feel happy.

That seems to work long enough for his attention span to switch gears to the mighty beans in his bedside table, or the bicycle in the backyard.

And he also hasn’t had too much trouble at school – until yesterday. 

We started him in a Montessori program about two months before my husband left.  He was bored, and he needed to make friends in our new town.  And I wanted to make sure he did not have to go through two transitions at once. 

I wasn’t looking for a Montessori school.  And to be honest with you, even after researching the method, I’m not sure I could explain it fully.  I was just looking for a place I felt good about, for a person I trusted to watch my son.  I looked at almost every school in my small town and the small town just south of us.  And I didn’t find anyone I connected with.  In some cases, the person I spoke with never even asked for my son’s name.  That bothered me. 

It was coming down to the wire and I found this school by Googling “best daycare in Kyle, TX” which I probably should have just done in the first place.

One of the directors of the school asked that I meet her on a Saturday, so as not to interrupt her focus on the other kids.  When we walked in the door, she got down on her knees and greeted my son first, introduced herself and had a small conversation with him before she turned her attention to me.  Then she suggested we speak on the playground so that my son could be free to run around and we could be free to talk. 

She was calm, and warm, and everything flowed easily for her.  She didn’t rush our conversation (even though it was her day off) and she answered my every question as though it were the most poignant ever asked.  By the end of our visit, I wanted to marry her. 

My son took well to the school.  No tears (from him), not even on day one.

And the teachers (or “guides”) often comment on his politeness and his focus on “work” (their word for attentive play).  And when his dad left, they commented about how well he seemed to be handling things.  He even had a talk with another boy there whose father is deployed with the Marines.  And the director said the conversation was not sad, but excited. 

So yesterday, when she called to tell me he’d had a problem, my heart nearly broke.  She said two of the girls had approached her and said he had “spit” on them.  I didn’t understand this at first (she’s Guatemalan and has an accent).  I thought she said “pissed.”  It didn’t occur to me that a four-year-old would not likely come to the teacher and say, “that boy pissed on me.”  (Imagine my relief when I realized he had just spit at – and not peed on – two girls in his school.)

She acknowledged that spitting is common, and that, were the situation different (and had she not told me that very morning how well he was doing), she would have just corrected him and moved on.  But she called because she wanted me to know, just in case this was a reaction to his situation (and also because she’d never seen this behavior from him before).

She also advised that I not bring it up unless he does (so as not to punish him twice for the same offence).  And when we talked last night, he did not bring it up.  But he did say that he missed Daddy.  And he didn’t sleep well.  So, perhaps this is harder for him than he initially let on.

So, parenting gurus/therapists/ladies at the grocery store with comments for everything – what do I do?  Keep hugging him and loving him and distract him with trips to the pool and park?  Or take him to a professional with a degree in “tell me how you feel”? 

This balance thing is hard.

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I haven’t written in a while. I know. I’m sorry, dear readers (all three of you).

A few things have happened, throwing my life a bit out of whack.

In the most dramatic recent change, my husband is being deployed to Afghanistan. As a member of the National Guard, he was always at risk of deployment. But for the past few years, we sailed through life in a sort of dream-like state, as that danger somehow managed not to touch us.

But now, it has.

And I’m pissed off about it.

I’ve actually been angry/grieving about it for a while now and, in a childish fit of emotion, I have neglected my blogging duties.

According to the military’s Emotional Cycle of Deployment , “pissed off” is not technically a phase I should be going through. So I’m not sure what part of the following cycle I’m actually on:

I don’t feel like I fit anywhere on the above graphic. Thus, at the Yellow Ribbon event held this past weekend (in all seriousness, a pretty informative culmination of all things deployment, where I met some pretty awesome people going through the same stress), I came up with my own Emotional Cycle of Deployment:

So, in my own estimation, I’m right on schedule. Stay tuned for the next few phases.

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What’s happening:  the boys are painting on the back porch.

How my OCD responds (internally):  Don’t get paint on the railing!  Not on the porch!  Don’t eat the paint!  Don’t touch anything but your canvas!  No!  Not the dog! 

The silent conversation I must have with myself in order to remain calm:  It’s okay.  It’s water-based paint.  With a little soap and water, it will come right off the railing.  And the porch.  And the children.  And dog.  No one will swallow enough paint to trigger poisoning.

Funny how stressful fun can be.

"Square dinosaur" by my nearly-four-year old.

My one-year-old calls this "aboo" but I like to think of it as "the paint he did not ingest."

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We moved into our new house on Monday (insert happy dance here), and it took a few nights for our preschooler to sleep well in his new room. 

The first night we were optimistic.  We went about the usual bedtime routine and kissed him goodnight.  We left the door to his room open and puffed our chests with the confidence of success.  Moments later, he started to whimper and cry.  We took turns comforting him.  During one of my turns, he said he was afraid of the noise coming from the closet.  I turned off the ceiling fan (the actual origin of the noise) just as he mumbled something.

“What, baby?”  I said.

“No, mamas,” he said.  “I was talking to the noise in the closet.”

This concerned me.  I assured myself this was not the beginning of one of those horror films where the family moves into a new house and the kids start talking to … ahem … prior residents.

“Is the noise … talking back?”  I said.

He looked at me like I was crazy.

“Nooooo,” he said, but it sounded more like “duhhhh.”

Good.

Eventually, we caved into his pleas of letting him sleep with us.  But he screamed out in his sleep every hour or so, jolting us awake in fear and crushing any chance of actual rest. 

The second night we popped a tent on top of his bed (his favorite way to sleep) and insisted he remain in his room.  I was still awakened by a couple of screams during the night, and one time he jumped up and ran down the hall to our room, claiming there was a spider in his bed. 

Certain there was no actual spider, I dutifully shook out the tent, pillow, blanket, and essential stuffed friends who also had been camping out.  I then plucked a little plastic knight from the toy box and assured my son that the knight was a “super duper spider fighter” and would protect him and said friends. 

I climbed back into bed wondering what kind of acute stress causes someone to dream about spiders.  Just a few days before, a friend confessed to having a reoccurring dream about a large spider squatting in her bed. 

Curious, I did a little research on the appearance of spiders in dreams. 

And what I found is this:  nobody knows anything.

One website says that dreaming about spiders is “symbolic of feminine power or an overbearing mother figure in your life.”

Overbearing, eh?  I’ll show you overbearing …

Another site says that if you kill a spider in your dream, then it symbolizes misfortune or bad luck.  In contrast, a blog I found claims that killing the spider, in fact, leads to good luck.

A dream analyzing website hypothesizes that spiders are an indication that you are afraid of something.  (Yeah – like spiders.)  This site also says that maybe your dream has something to do with the Internet, your “personal world wide web.” 

Seriously?

And here’s my favorite – another blog claims that “large black spiders represent very powerful demons.”  It does not say how to actually purge yourself of these demons, but it does say that the demons “must submit to the name of ‘Jesus’.”

So, while I’m certain that the spider dream is not the result of an actual demon (or a noise in the closet) coming after my son, but rather his body’s reaction to stress and change, I still took a small precaution before bed last night. 

I whispered “Jesus said to get lost” to the half-empty closet.

And he slept just fine.

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