Monday, March 29, 2010

Ice Cream is for Wimps, or so I've Heard

I think the temperature was around 104 degrees. Or at least that's what it felt like. I don't remember any kind of breeze at all. It was just miserably hot. As I sat in the uncomfortable, scratchy canvas portable lawn chair, feeling like my skin was literally melting off my bones, it suddenly dawned on me that what I was doing was absolutely ridiculous. Correction--not what I was doing. It was what I was expecting my 8 year old son to do, while I sat on the sidelines and cheered him on, that was ridiculous.

Yes, we had applied the sunscreen and brought more with us to apply at the half since he would surely sweat it off. Yes, we had a cooler full of cold water bottles. And, yes, we were shouting all the positive, motivational cheers. But as he and his team mates huffed and puffed and turned beat red under the blazing sun, I had to wonder if the heat hadn't gone to our brains.

It was my son's first (and last) year playing for a competitive soccer league. He belonged to a small team. There were only 2 subs. Was it a coincidence that on that horribly hot day, only half the team showed up? Were those absent families really on vacation or were they enjoying ice cream sundaes at the air conditioned Dairy Queen?

Anyway, at the coach's discretion, we played two men down. They had six on the field. We had four. I still wonder what kind of win-at-all-cost man coached the other team, seeing as how he could have played with four players, too, but didn't. Our coach explained that he wanted the boys to learn to never give up and never give in. To always give your best. To never walk away from a challenge, no matter how tough it appeared.

At first, the message seemed to be being heard, loud and clear. The boys stepped up and played hard, knowing they were certainly at a disadvantage. But with the opposing team making periodic substitutions so their advantaged players could rest and cool off, our boys quickly lost steam. And then lost heart.

I guess this Roaring Mom believes that sports should be fun first. And on that blistering hot day, my son and his team mates were NOT having fun. The parents were NOT having fun. And even our coach, with all his noble philosophies, did NOT seem to be having fun. We were uncomfortable, cranky, sweaty, and sunburned. At least that's how I remember it.

I've attended dozens of soccer games since, but that one is still one of the most memorable. I still wonder if maybe we all should have forfeited and joined our traitorous teammates for banana splits. Finally, I've decided--yes. That's exactly what we should have done. It would have made for great memories. And maybe even provided great photos for a scrap book page. The important thing is--it would have been fun!

But, as you know, I'm not very experienced in the world of all things boy. Curious for a father's opinion, I called on Manly Man Dad Friend who advises me on these issues. It turns out, Manly Man Dad agrees with our coach. Not only that, but he agrees with the opposing coach, too. Our players who showed up should get to play and the other team should not be penalized because half our team wasn't there. Furthermore, not only did he agree with the coaches, he seemed to think the decision was a no-brainer and that the situation was no big deal.

I didn't buy it.

So today, I asked my son (who is now 11 and happily playing rec league) if he remembered that game. His answer:

"Oh, yeah. It was me and Jake and Cameron and some other kid whose name I can't remember."

"So what do you remember about how you felt that day?"

"I felt great!"

"You did? You didn't feel bad that you were out there having to play with 2 less men than the other team?"

"Nope. I felt great because we were trying our best even though we didn't have enough guys."

How embarrassing! I have roared about the unfair nature of that game more than once in the last three years. I guess sometimes being a parent calls for quiet, especially when learning life lessons concerning things I apparently know nothing about, like how to think like a man. Guess I've discovered another rule for the How To Raise A Boy Manual.

So, how about it, Moms? Am I alone in the universe in my initial reaction? Or are you all right there with me, heading to the D.Q. as fast as you can?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Moms Don't Get Sick

It was either the stomach flu or food poisoning. I can't remember which, but the result is pretty much the same, right? Anyway, so I'm bent over the toilet, violently vomiting, groaning pathetically in between the massive, heaving wretches. (Sorry for the disgusting detail, but I really want you to understand the severity of the scene.)

It's approximately 10:00 in the morning. I've been in pretty much the same position since I woke up three or so hours ago. There is no mistaking the situation. This Roaring Mom was really, really sick.

So Kate (she's about nine years old here) runs to the bathroom and stands in the doorway.


I hold up one index finger in her direction. It's the same sign I give when I'm on the phone or in the middle of something to let the kids know to just give me one second.


Wow. Whatever she needed must be really important. I didn't smell smoke, so the house wasn't on fire. Didn't hear screaming, so most likely, no one had a broken bone.

I risked a quick glance in her direction, still keeping my face aimed over the toilet bowl.

The look on her face was not one of emergency induced panic. It was more like...annoyance.

Up came the next vicious wave of vomit. This time I think my stomach actually dislodged itself from my insides.Finally, I rested my forehead on my forearm on the other side of the toilet bowl. You know the pose..the one taken on those college mornings after you thought tequila shot challenges were a good idea. Yeah, that pose.


"Yes, Katie? What's wrong?"

Huff! "Do you know where my roller blades are?"

Fortunately for her, I didn't have enough energy to chase her down and pinch her little head off.

"No, Katie, I don't. But when I'm done puking my guts up, I'll be glad to find them for you."

Double Huff! "Nevermind! God!"

That experience wasn't my first validation of the rumor that Mom's don't get sick. But it was certainly one of the most memorable. Since then, I've learned that we also don't get tired, frustrated, or annoyed. Or at least, we're not supposed to. And when we do, somehow using that reality as an explanation to our children as to why our own words or behavior might have been less than ideal, does really cut it.

"I'm sorry honey, Mommy's just really tired."

That's when they look at us like we're speaking Swahili.

This morning, nine years after the roller blades incident, I had another realization--that kids never really change, they just get older.

"Kate, I need you to take Sophie to and from rehearsal tonight. The other kids have Battle of the Books after school. Then I'm driving the carpool to track practice and Frank to soccer. After that I have a graduation meeting at the school. I'll give you money for gas, okay?"

"Really, Mom? Why can't you take her?"

"What's the matter? Will this interfere with your social life?"

"Actually, yes."

"Well then, instead of driving her, you can figure out how I can be three places at once. That would work, too."

"You're not funny, Mom."

Actually, I thought it was a little funny. Besides, interfering with a teenager's social life is pretty decent payback for the callous interruption of my barf session just to locate a pair of roller blades.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sugar High

Ripped from the Headlines of Facebook:

"OH yes!...Paybacks are hell!...I just gave my daughter a tube of Liquid Lolly-pop & a Mountain waiting on my Ex to pick-up my daughter."

True status posted on a FB friend's page. I read it and...laughed. It's just funny. But, judging by the comments she got, not everyone appreciated the humor.

This woman was chastised publicly for everything from manipulating her child against the father to committing child abuse. Child abuse? For letting her child drink a Mountain Dew? Give me a break.

Some folks did come to her defense, and I noticed the comments were equally split--men vs. women. Mom vs. dads, perhaps?

I have no idea what her family life is like, but I do understand the idea of payback. Moms, how many times did you prepare a nutritious meal, only to discover that dad had spoiled the kids' appetites with sugary pre-dinner snacks? How many times did you find creative ways to get the kids to choke down carrots and broccoli, only to have dad announce loudly to everyone that he was treating them to Dairy Queen for desert? How many times did you send him to the store for string cheese and whole grain bread, only to have dad bring home Fritos, bean dip, and double stuff Oreos? And my personal favorite--how many times did you specifically forbid any $100/100 calorie per kernel movie theatre treats, only to have him return from the "restroom" with a tray full of the stuff?

Mountain Dew and Liquid lollipops might be considered child abuse! My Aunt Fanny's fanny!

If sugaring up a child is abusive, there are a lot of grandparents with a lot of explaining to do. Most grandparents I know brag about the fact that they spoil the grandkids and then return them to the parents. And some even do it on purpose, just to experience the joy of payback!

My dad is an amazing cook. The kids beg to go to his house, sometimes just for the leftovers, which are always better than anything fresh off the grill in my kitchen. But even with a the luscious buffets he prepares, one of their favorite things about going to Grandpa's is the fact that the pantry is full of soda pop and the freezer is full of individual Haagen Dazs ice cream cups. And they can have as many of each as they want. Grandpa stocks these sinful snacks specifically for the grandkids. He and Grandma don't indulge in them. It's an investment he makes purely for the benefit of payback. And maybe for the hugs and smiles from the grandkids when I say they've had enough and they answer, "But Grandpa said I could!"

Grandpa has been spoiling his grandkids like this for a very long time. His oldest is 20 years old. He drives back from college and sometimes makes a stop at Grandpa's soda and ice cream shop before he even makes it home.

When my daughter was three days old--three DAYS old, Grandpa came to visit. It just happened to be Halloween. All the cousins had flocked to our house to see the new baby and, if the truth be known, because we had the best trick-or-treating neighborhood in the city. There was sweet stuff piled on every horizontal surface. I should have known better than to leave Grandpa alone with the baby. Thanks to him, she enjoyed her first lollipop that night. And when the moms caught him and screamed that he couldn't let a 3-day-old lick a lollipop, he laughed and continued to hold the cherry sucker to her eager lips.

So, did this mom commit mortal sin by sugaring up her child before sending her to Dad's? Well, scientists have been trying to tell moms for years that sugar has nothing to do with hyperactivity. That it's the party atmosphere that those snacks are served in that create the chaos. I never bought it, but if science is on her side, maybe she should embrace the official findings.

In any case, the daughter will soon crash, so maybe Mom did Dad a favor. Maybe he'll be able to sit back with a cold soda and candy bar and watch the game while the daughter takes a nice, long nap. We'll just hope he's not too hyper for her, once she wakes up.

What do you think? Harmless humor or abusive action?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A Good Fit

My nephew was less than three years old when I witnessed his fit throwing, which had his mother quite concerned and frustrated with his misbehavior. I don't remember what was not going his way that day, but I do remember him sliding onto the floor and quietly lying there.

"Do you see how he throws fits when we tell him no?" his mother asked.

I thought she was joking. I looked down at the boy who silently looked up at me...and I laughed.

"That's a fit?"

Mind you, there was some non-compliance in his slouching to the floor. However, I think the act should have been labeled sulking rather than fit-throwing.

I thought of my own kids. I remember Kate throwing her body to the ground, kicking her feet, and screaming. Wait,that was just last week and she's 18.

Seriously though, at three years old Kate would howl,twist around on the floor and stiffen her arms because she did not want to put her coat on. She would cry and stiffen her entire body every time we tried to put her in a car seat. The only thing that stopped the tantrum was to tickle her ribs. She'd go limp with laughter and we'd quickly buckle her in. Once she realized she'd been restrained, the howling would start again.

Then there's my quiet daughter. She may be my most quiet child now, but that's only because she used up most of her allotted noise during the first 18 months of her life. She screamed for a solid 18 months. And this is not simply the claim of an over-tired, frustrated mom. I have witnesses. Grandma, neighbors, friends, and even the older cousin we all referred to as the World's Best Babysitter all tried and failed to calm her. For 18 months! The funny thing is, once she learned to communicate with words and signs, the tantrums stopped. I guess she just had something to say, but didn't have any other way to say it.

I remember my son, at three years old, stomping to his room and slamming the door when he wasn't getting his way. When we didn't follow, he would peek his head out and announce, "Hey, I'm crying in here!" And I would say, "Okay," and his sisters would laugh. And then he would laugh and the fit would be over with. I guess the fact that he was the fourth one helped me not worry too much about three-year-old fits. That and the fact that there wasn't any amount of crying, wailing, and body contortions that could top what I'd already seen with his sisters. Some things, I think, girls are just naturally better at. Fit throwing, at least in my house, seems to be one of them.

Come to think of it, when I look at the men and women in my own life, there does seem to be a pattern. Men seem to be natural sulkers and women seem to be natural fit throwers. I wonder if it is indeed genetic, or if it goes back to that age-old idea that men should not express emotions for fear of looking weak. Or maybe, women are just so good at it, that our men have realized not to even bother trying. So perhaps it's not necessarily sulking, so much as it is self-preservation.

So consider this--If females are naturally so much better at fit throwing, obviously it is an inborn trait, a genetic calling of sorts. So why, do we work so hard to stifle this talent when we grow up? I'm thinking of embracing my natural tantrum tendencies next time things don't go my way. But not in a foot stamping, Kate Gosselin kind of way. Instead, I think I'll go for the mature, adult fit. Think Julia Sugarbaker of Designing Women. Now, that's the way to throw a fit. It might not get me what I want, but if I could find a way to get a studio audience to applaud, I'm sure I'll feel better when it's all said and done.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

She's Back...

Aren't you glad she's finally out of the spotlight? Kate Gosselin is just about the most un-newsworthy person whose face nonetheless constantly appears on every talk show and magazine cover. I am so glad that show was cancelled and we don't have to hear her screaming fits over not using coupons while she parades through her million dollar home or watch her bag on her husband for mis-using pronouns or ending a sentence with a preposition.

And just when you thought it was safe to turn on the television...

She's back! And this time, she's dancing!

There are so many things wrong with the idea of Kate Gosselin returning to prime time, I don't even know where to start.

How about I start with this--It's called "Dancing with the Stars". Since when is Kate Gosselin a star? She's not a star. She's a mom. And kind of a neurotic one at that. I mean the woman wouldn't even let her children walk barefoot on the hotel carpet for fear of germs. Remember that episode? How about the one where she stole the ice cream from her 3-year-old children on a hot day at Disneyland because she didn't want them to get sticky? Or the time she just about blew a gasket because the baby sitter had given her children gum? Documenting her freak-outs over perfectly normal childhood activity on television, does not make her a star.

I wonder what kind of drama she'll bring on herself with this show. I can't wait to see her correct her dancing partner. Because you know she will at some point. I can just imagine the post-dance interview:

Dance Partner: "I feel real badly that we didn't do better."

Kate: "It's really bad, not real badly. And if you would have done the turn and the lift the way I told you to, we would have done very well." She smiles at the camera and brushes her bangs aside. "There are some things I need. If he would just give me what I need..."

And somewhere Jon Gosselin is experiencing a nervous tic because her words aggravate his Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

I just have to clarify that obviously I'm not completely opposed to parents exploiting their children for fame or attention. I mean, just take a look at this blog. Of course, I got my children's permission first. They were all in agreement that being blogged about was no big deal. You see, my oldest daughter is on her way to becoming a stand-up comic. They all know that nothing in their private lives will remain private if it is good for a laugh.

Besides, they all believe that our crazy life would make a more interesting reality TV show than anything Jon and Kate or the Kardashians, or even Gene Simmons can come up with. Because ours is actually real. Real people don't have Emeril coming over to make Mac-n-Cheese. No, real people's children end up catching their Easy Mac on fire in the microwave because they didn't add the water. Real people don't get all expense paid trips to Hawaii. No, real people camp in the backyard because there isn't a single weekend that doesn't have a soccer game or dance recital or church social scheduled. And because there's at least one daughter who will not pee without indoor plumbing. And real people not only let their kids eat ice cream on hot days, but let them eat melting rainbow-colored snowcones at the zoo. Then they wash the sticky hands and spray SHOUT on the stained T-shirt when they get home.

I might be stepping into the Mom Snob role, but I can't help it. I have to announce that Kate Gosselin is not a Roaring Mom. She might be a ranting mom, or even a raving mom. But she is not a Roaring Mom. Roaring Moms guide rather than control. Roaring Moms aren't perfect. And the best thing is, we know it. Kate Gosselin, on the other hand, doesn't seem to.

Still, the network must have known what they were doing when they returned Kate Gosselin to the spotlight. Those who love her will undoubtedly tune in. And those who profess to be a little sick of her, will probably tune in, too. I just can't wait to see her critiqued by the judges. I hope they are as harsh as she was to her husband. That might be a show worth watching.