Home Alone

Yes, yes, we totally live in Vancouver, and have for years, but A) I am not over Denver yet and B) for the purposes of this post, we are from Denver. Someday, I'll actually move here all the way.

We are from Denver. Not 'just outside Denver in the 'burbs' Denver, but Denver Denver. LoDo. Cap Hill. The city of. 80206 has always been the kids' zip code. And when you live in 80206, there are things you do like walk to school and ride your bikes to the park and there are things you don't do, like any of that alone.

Right before we moved to Vancouver, we were just starting to toy with the idea of letting the kids be home alone. We'd give them 10 minute spurts alone while we ran to Sevies for milk, but not much more, no matter how ardently they plead for it. Because Denver is awesome in the same way god is; you totally dig him, but you're kind of scared shitless of him at the same time.

Case in point? A year after we moved, our old next door neighbor shot and killed a 2 year old right in front of the house we lived in. Like, on our old front steps. Like, right here.

July 4th, 2005



And we lived in the really burbish, hippy neighborhood. A few years before that, one of our neighbors decided he would go rape a bunch of the women in our neighborhood. Like, 80 year olds and 20 year olds. At the same time. And he lived at the end of that block I lived on, and two houses to the right. But at the same time, we had mom & pop ice cream parlors and yarn shops.

My point is that, for the most part, we kept our kids within arm's reach, just in case.

But since we've been here in sunny Vancouver, the boys have gotten used to a little more freedom, mostly because my neighbors actually scolded me for hovering over the kids too much. We were reminded that this wasn't Denver, and that in our little community the kids enjoy and appreciate a bit longer leash.  That it is good for them, and I ought to relax.  So we gave this whole pre-teen freedom thing a shot, since they are quite a bit older now, and they're quite a bit over being smothered, and so far my neighbors have been proven correct.  At first we'd let just them go outside all by themselves, and then we tried leaving them for 30 minutes or so while we ran out for something. And then I started coming home just a little bit after they'd get home from school.  And then I upped it to an hour.  And then we left the boys for one whole evening.  And then we let 1of3 babysit for a night, and it's all gone beautifully.  Viva la Canada, yo.

They lock the extra locks when we're out, they know to not answer the door or the phone unless it's mom or dad on the caller id; they get it.  They like it, and they don't want to blow it, so they've been really careful to abide by all of our rules while we're not here.  Or at least they were.

When I told them about the BlogHer get-together we had on Sunday, their eyes did Gold Medal Worthy backflips into their heads and they said there was no way in Bikini Bottom they were coming to that thing. We agreed that they'd stay home and do some last minute chores (which have yet to be done, for the record) and that they could each have one friend over.  Two neighbors were put on mom-alert to peek in my windows occasionally and make sure they weren't burning the joint down, and 3of3, Angella and I headed off without them for the whole day.

We came home to a fairly decent house, two living, breathing sons who were fed and didn't smell like anything I'd want to put on a petri dish, and two smiling neighborhood kids.  I counted the day a success and told them both how proud I was of them, even if they hadn't answered the phone when I'd called, but erring on the side of caution is always a good choice in my book so high fives all around.

The next day, my sister in law called.  She asked if 2of3 had told me she'd phoned, and he hadn't, and then she giggled and told me about the call they had.

He told her I wasn't home because I was at a work thing.  He told her dad was at work, too.  He told her that he was trying to not watch tv because it would rot his brain, and that he was duelling Pokemon cards while his brother was downstairs on the computer.  He told her he was going to skateboard out front in just a little bit, and then he'd have a snack. And then he asked her just one, simple, little question...
Um, who is this?

Needless to say, they're coming to the next everything ever again with me.

Swing Away

I've talked before about the craving we as parents have to mold our children into little mini-me's, to see some glimmer of ourselves behind those big, beautiful eyes.  I've talked about how hard we both have strived to avoid doing just that thing, for the sake of our kids' sanity.  We were both pushed and pushed perhaps a bit too hard as children.  We both spent most of our lives trying to live up to some unattainable ideal of perfection that our parents had laid out for us.  We both had an absent parent who we alternately tried to garner the love of and spite with our over-achievement.

We both have parent issues.  We try to not share them with our kids.

For me, not pushing them to be me is simply a matter of not letting them slit their wrists and not pushing them to get straight A's all the time and reading them something other than Douglas Adams.  For The Donor, it's a bit more complicated.  He was that kid.  I have scrapbooks on scrapbooks full to the brim with newspaper clippings and accolades.  I have cases of ribbons and pins and trophies in my basement.  I have a wall full of plaques and a closet full of uniforms waiting for a child who needs them.  For a child who will follow his father's footsteps.  And I have a very tired father here, too, one who never got his childhood because he was too busy being pushed to be the fastest, the hardest, the leanest, the best.

And so I've read them other stories (thank you, Dan Brown) and he's let them dip their foot in a pool with an instructor rather than with him, and he's put them in soccer lessons with any other coach, and he's sat back and waited.  I've seen him dream.  I've seen the hope well up inside of him like a fire and I've seen that flame extinguish time and time again, mostly because he's an athlete and I'm a nerd and nerds don't push their kids to hit balls for a living and athletes don't buy their kids Mensa Mind Challenge books for fun.  Our kids will be neither of us, it seems.  At least not by our doing.

He's actually been trying his hand at their sports of choice a little lately, and let me tell you that a 37 year old man on a Ripstick is damn near the funniest thing you've ever seen in your entire life.  Especially when he does a double-backwards-aerial-somersault and lands flat on his ass.  That man was never a cat, in any life.

Our boys are both athletic in their own rights.  1of3 was born with Perfect. Fucking. Balance. The kid walked at 8 months and rode a 2 wheel bike, without training wheels, at 2.  Not kidding. 2of3 has an arm, oh my god does he ever.  He's buoyant enough to swim well, but not focused enough.  1of3 is like a brick in the water, just like his momma.  They both love to skateboard and ride BMX bikes and I think one of them may be eyeballing motocross, which should make their godfather about explode with pride, but none of that does their father a whole lot of good.

See, I think dads really crave that thing they can share with their kids, maybe more so than moms do.  My bond with them is easy; I can close my eyes and still feel them stir inside of me, I can feel the measure of their brand new bodies wrapped around mine, suckling themselves to sleep, if I just concentrate enough. But it's not so easy for their dad.  He didn't carry them and he didn't nurse them and now that they are growing away from us, now that we're struggling to hold on to the last little bits of them before we are gone and they are complete, I see how he yearns for something of them them, something uniquely theirs, something he can share with them and give to them and be with them.

And then this happened:

Good Form



They've always played golf with him.  They've always had clubs and they've always gone to the range with him and they've always watched the Master's in his lap, but they've never truly learned to play his game before.  And it just turns out that my little 2of3 has found his authentic swing.  He is a golfer.

The Donor was there with them for the first half of their lessons, and I met him at the course for the second half. He kept saying to me, "Honey, just look at him.  Watch this..." and I saw the flame begin to spark in his eyes.  I watched my 2of3 focus, I watched him swing away and I knew that he'd found something that spoke to him.  This is kind of a rare thing in his world.  Before his dad left us to head off to work, he leaned into me and whispered in my ear with stifled excitement, "He's our golfer."After The Donor left, I was busy chasing 3of3 on the other side of the fence, trying to watch my sons and failing miserably.  I mean, really, can you blame me?

Lost



And then I heard it.  I turned and looked through the fence and I saw his teacher, all of his fellow golfers, his brother even, and they were all silent and still. The sound was still resonating through us, and for a moment we were all speechless, helpless against it.

I don't know if you follow golf, if you play or watch or understand it at all, but there's a point in everyone's golf game when you find it.  Yourself.  Your core. There's a point in your game when you let yourself go and trust your own intuition and you swing that club and it hits the ball exactly perfectly and you feel it like lightening running through you.  You feel your center.  The sound the ball makes, the sound the shaft of your club makes, it's not just impact...it's perfect balance.  It is a sound that anyone who is near you when it happens feels, too.  The vibration, the wave, the ping, it comes from inside of you and for one perfect second, time stands still as the ball soars out from you.

If you think I'm overthinking things slightly, you've never hit a ball like that.  Try it.

Seeking



We all stood and watched my son's ball tear though the air.  It was like watching Monet paint, or Beethoven compose, but mostly it was like watching my husband swing his clubs.  And my son, he felt it.  He turned to me with his mouth wide open in awe of himself.  His instructor looked at me, looked at him and just said, "Wow."  And all I could do was smile.  My son, he has it.  He has a piece of his father, a piece unique to them that none of the rest of us truly have just yet.  It's the most beautiful thing in the world, seeing the man you love in the child you love.

The next day, the two of them sat outside together, just the two of them, and they talked as they scrubbed their clubs.  They came upstairs a whole lot later and together they barbecued for our whole family.  My son forgot his DS for the day, my husband forgot his Sunday afternoon Sports Channel shows, and they remembered each other instead.  Later that night, 2of3 came up to me and said, "Mom, me and Dad cleaned our clubs together all day today, just us!"  Even later that night, as The Donor and I sat on the porch in the dark of night, he looked at me and said, "I can't tell you how much I've wanted something of ours, something to share with them."

And what I didn't say is that I couldn't tell him how much more it makes me love him to see that now he has it.

Oh, and yeah. FlickR has the rest of the day's pictures, if you're into that sort of thing.

I Give Myself Very Good Advice.....

Speaking of being over-protective:

My son came walking across the bridge the other day exactly when I'd asked him to so that we could get out the door for an appointment.  I shouted down from the deck that it was time to go and he should get a clean shirt on, and when he looked up at me I saw that he was almost but not quite crying.

He came upstairs and we sat down together and I asked what was wrong.  He said that Older Liam had called him 'kid who plays with Barbies' in front of all the older kids.  And then the tears came a'pouring down.

Older Liam lives across the street.  Older Liam used to come over for sleepovers and dinners last year, but then he hit grade 4 or 5 or whatever he's in and decided it was high time to become an asshole.  He doesn't come over anymore.  One of his little thugsta' friends lives in our neighborhood and so he's around occasionally, riding his skateboard with all of our neighbor kids.  He's a jerk, but a harmless jerk, and I don't worry about him too much because he knows that I have his mom's digits, so if I tell him to knock it off already, he usually listens.

He does, however, like to pick at my 2of3.  Most thugsta's do.  He's kind of easy pickings.

I have countless times had the talk with 2of3 about how some people have brown clouds around them (not to be confused with brain clouds, which are incurable except by long rides at sea on luggage and sex with Meg Ryan) and some people have rays of sunlight around them, and the people with brown clouds like to block out the sunshine, so it's best to just keep your sunshine as far away from them as you can.  I have countless times told him that the only way he's going to get Older Liam to get off his back is to stop caring, that when he reacts, he makes Older Liam act more.  I've explained to him a bazillion times that people who call names do so because they don't have any better weapons in their arsenal, and that smart people have much better ones, like intelligence.  Like the ability to laugh at stupidity and walk away from it.  Like the ability to look over their shoulder and say, "It must really suck to be so obtuse" and then go somewhere else.  Because god knows, the nany-nany-boo-boo kids have no fucking clue what Obtuse means and the most fun way to stop an asshole in his tracks is to make him think for a second.

I'd much rather have an intellectual snob for a kid than a bully.  Personal preference.

I decided when I saw 2of3 crying for the upteenth time over something Older Liam did that it was time for me to stop coaching and start fixing.  So I got my shoes on and off we went.

I always bring him with me when I have to put out his fires.  When he got mugged at the bus stop and the school did nothing to fix it, I let him stand right next to me when I found the kids who did it and scared them so bad one almost peed in his pants and the rest started out all, "Whatever, bitch" and ended up all, "Sorry, ma'am" because I want him to see that I will protect him, and I want him to see how to stand up to a jerk.  Because god knows, no one ever showed me how to do it.  So he and I started walking across the bridge together to go find Older Liam and Let. Him. Have. It. when I paused for just a second, thought really hard about what I was about to do, and for whom, and then asked him, "Dude, how about you tell me the whole story before I go do this."

He swore he had.

I glared at him.

He said No, really.

I said he better start in with the whole truth.

He sighed and said okay.

And then he told me his whole story about how some little "chubby" girl was riding her bike and Older Liam was making fun of her because she was wobbling on it and that he told Older Liam to stop teasing her and then Older Liam told him to shut up, kid who plays with Barbies, right in front of everyone.

Fair enough; time to put and end to this once and for-all.  After much ado we found Older Liam across the street at the tennis courts with, you guessed it, Kid Who Mugged 2of3 Last Year.  That explains a lot.  So I call Older Liam over and he came over and I said, "Dude, you see that neighborhood right there (points to mine)?  2of3 lives there, you don't.  You cannot come into his neighborhood and call him names and make him cry.  Go find somewhere else to play from now on."  And he starts in with the whole But he's and the I didn't's and I put my hand up and said, "Stop.  I know what happened and you're not talking your way out of this one.  This is our home.  You can't play here anymore." And then he said, "But he chased me with a skateboard."

Enter the slow, painful glare of death towards my son.

You. Did. What?

No I didn't, mawwwwwm!  Yes you did, 2of3!  Nah uh!  Uh huh!

And then Older Liam told me his whole story.  That he'd been teasing the chubby girl on her bike and 2of3 told him to stop and he told him to shut up, kid who plays with barbies and then 2of3 came at him.  With a skateboard.

Enter blue-screened, Matrix style head explosion.

And that's when I let 2of3 have it. Right in front of Older Liam, right in front of Kid Who Mugged Him at the Bus Stop, right in front of every neighborhood kid, because god knows they'd all gathered around to watch the mom get all up in the thugsta's grill.  I may or may not have rather loudly informed him that I didn't appreciate being made to look like a asshole in a public forum, I may or may not have reminded him that dirty little self-serving liars get grounded until they go to military camp, I may or may not have had my finest parenting moment ever in front of a suburban tennis court.

I may or may not have over reacted slightly.

The other kids from our neighborhood chimed in that, in fact, Older Liam had initiated the whole thing and that he's always mean to 2of3 and that he totally had it coming.  They backed their little dirty liar of a buddy up and said that Older Liam was the instigator, and that 2of3 was just standing up for himself the best he could.  I don't think they much like Older Liam.  So I turned back to Older Liam and said that I was sorry, that I thought I'd had the whole story, but that now that I do my argument still stands, that he just can't get along with 2of3 and since 2of3 lives here and he doesn't, he needed to find somewhere else to play from now on.  He said okay with a very, very demonstrative eye roll.

And for the better part of the rest of this week, I am on possession of one shiny Nintendo DS that my kid can't so much as breath on.  And I'm thinking it's high time I start following my own advice and letting him sink or swim all by himself.

The Land Of Expectations

First things first: The American Idol recap from last night is up at Mamapop.  And I was up until 3 am writing it.  So I wouldn't cry if you go read it.  

Second things second: My son came home from school on Monday with his spelling test.  Which he scored 100% on.  Every week, they color in their spelling tests and hang them on display in the classroom.  This week, the test was a coloring sheet that had the face of a woman on it, and he'd drawn a wart on her nose, spots on her teeth and Frankenstein scars on her neck.  He used three tones of crayon and some nice shading techniques and it actually looked pretty good in the end, for a 9 year old.

Stapled to the back of it was a note that said the teacher had a discussion with my son about appropriateness and pride of work and respect and that I should continue this discussion at home, sign the sheet and return it the next day.  He handed it to me and said that I HAD to sign it or he'd be in trouble.  I read it, I looked at the sheet, I re-read it, I re-looked at the sheet.  I had no clue what either one meant, other than that he got 10/10 on his spelling test.

Which is awesome.

So I asked him what this *talk* he had with his teacher was about and he said that is was about him having to get that paper signed or he'd be in trouble.  I asked him if they talked about "appropriateness" or "pride in work" and he said no.  Then I got mad.  The sheet said they did, and he tends to lie, and I didn't feel like doing the '83 degrees of separation from the truth' talk I usually have to with him.  And then he started to cry.

Which is not awesome.

I had him tell me everything and the long & short is that he had a substitute, and she had the students color in their spelling tests after they were graded so they could be hung in the room.  There was no direction other than Color Them In.  So he did.  He drew what he saw and what he saw was a crazy old witch with rotten teeth and a scar on her neck.

What. The fuck.  Ever.

Apparently, 10 other kids or so also took the creepy old woman route and they all got pulled aside on Monday when the teacher returned and were given these notes to bring home.  Because elementary school teachers have nothing better to do than to censor the harmless scribblings of goofball 8 and 9 year old.

So my kid who has struggled all year to merely stay on one task, who has to battle with himself to complete anything in school, my kid who has come from starting the year getting looked at for ADHD and is now wrapping up the year getting 100%'s and finishing all of his work and has finally made some friends, he's crying and I'm kind of pissed because really, this is who he is and it wasn't wrong or dangerous or even disconcerting, just different and I have a very low tolerance for teachers who try to stifle my kid anyways.

So I did what any good parent would do; I told him his teacher was full of shit.

Not entirely true.  We sat on the curb outside while the neighborhood kids played and he snuggled into me and I explained Expectations to him.  I explained to him that so far, he's had *this* tier of expectations from his teacher, and that now he's nine, he's almost done third grade, he's maturing and now he apparently has a whole new, sub-tier of expectations to meet.  Now, it's not just enough that he does the coloring he's asked to do; he needs to know that his teacher expects that coloring to be shiny and happy.  Just like it's not enough now that he just washes his laundry; I now expect him to sort colors before he washes them.  Just like it's not enough that I take the trash out of the car when daddy says, "Dude, clean your car out already" but that he really means "Dude, get the old milk out, vacuum it, windex the windows already and scrape the motherfucking rotten peach out of the trunk before you grow a penicillin colony back there."  And that maybe I won't realize this the first time, but the next time he has to "gently remind me" he'll make sure I know what he means.

I explained to him that sometimes, people create those new sub-tiers of expectations on the fly, and that it's our job to try to recognize those as quickly as we can and work with them as well as we can.  Like when 3of3 is wrestling with him and he decides he's done, but she has no idea that suddenly no actually means no.  He still expects her to stop, even if it takes her a minute to figure that out.

I explained to him that sometimes it can be really confusing when people, especially people in authority like a teacher or a mom or a spouse or a boss, spring these new sub-tiers on you, but that you have two choices in life....let it get to you or realize that sometimes, people are just dumb and sometimes, the only thing you can do is to nod and smile and waaaaaay back, in the back of your brain where no one else can see it, hidden in a thought bubble, you just have to say, "Whatever, dude" and get on with your day.

And he giggled.  Which is awesome.

The next morning we were packing his bag for school and I showed him what I'd written in reply to his teacher.  I said, "I had a long talk with 2of3 about expectations and he assures me that he will meet yours in the future."  He looked up at me, smiled and said, "You just said whatever in your thought bubble, didn't you?"

I did, indeed son.  I sure did.

This Week In Rockstar Childrearing

Offered without much comment. Because really, there's no excuse.

That's quite a sneeze.



I'm not entirely sure antibiotics will clear that up. And speaking of sick...

Can We Build It?


Yes We Can.


Thwap



Yes, we make our sick three year old build our furniture. Don't worry; it gets worse.

World's Best Dad



That would be a direct quote taken from Ms. Bob the Builder earlier that same day.

See all of Sarcastic Mom's Terrible Parents Weekly Winners here.  And more color glossies to be used as evidence against us at my Flickr page.