Every year I ask my daughter what she is going to ask Santa to bring her on Christmas morning. Every year I am confused by her requests. This started very early in life. The Christmas before her third birthday she asked for the Hulk. She had a major crush on the big green guy for a few months prior and wanted a 12″ plastic action figure which she then slept with and carried around for months. The following year, she asked for a Catman stuffed animal and Velma barbie doll. Both of these things took months to find and cost more money than the drum set that also arrived Christmas morning.
The nearly unattainable gift requests have continued almost every year. The problem seems to be that my kid, much like her mother, leans toward the unconventional. Last year she asked for a KISS onesie (which do not come in kids sizes), Hocus Pocus dolls (which do not exist) and a hand written note from Santa placed under her pillow (good thing she is a heavy sleeper and I can forge almost any handwriting). I’m not sure if she makes these requests to test Santa’s abilities or if she is just really high maintenance, but at this point I am almost looking forward to the day she no longer believes in the fat man.
I am guessing that day may be around the same age she gets her driver’s license. I believed in Santa for years after my peers gave up. In my defense, my dad was an elfing genius. We took off for midnight mass every Christmas Eve and when we returned home hours later, the tree was packed with gifts. I found out years later that he had some guys who helped with the gifting. I am still impressed that someone was able to get a giant gymnastics mat through the door and into the living room alone.
This year when I asked my daughter what she would be requesting for gifts she exclaimed “a grappling hook and a bullhorn!” without missing a beat. I have no idea what she plans to do with either of these items, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the grappling hook is to climb up to the roof and the bullhorn is to yell at me to bring her things while she is on the roof. Maybe I should get a second grappling hook for my inevitable rescue mission. Actually, I should probably get three so my husband can make the climb once both of his girls are stuck on the roof.
The most ridiculous part of the requests from Santa is that every single year she talks about something she wants for months and then decides she doesn’t really need it at the last minute, but really needs something else (like a KISS onesie). Every year I tell her Santa must be watching her when she receives the Harry Potter onesie she talked about all summer, so I guess it actually helps the cause. This year I was sure she wanted an enormous Harry Potter lego set. I was wrong and I don’t mind being wrong, but it would have been a lot easier to swallow four months ago when I had an additional $400 in my bank account. The good news is both bullhorns and grappling hooks are pretty cheap. But then she did what she does best and informed me that in addition to the two items she already mentioned that she was going to ask Santa for a gaming system and a dozen video games… at least it’s not a pony!
**I’m just elfing around listening to some punk rock Christmas music over here while I simultaneously shop for electronics I know nothing about and try to list a brand new lego set on eBay!!
There are many reasons I send my child to someone else during the day to learn her three Rs. I don’t understand new math, I don’t explain things well, I need to look at a map to tell you where Nebraska is and I can’t figure out which fingers go on which holes on that godawful instrument called a recorder. But at the very top of the list of why homeschooling is not a good idea for this family is because after three days of too much time learning together, we all want to murder each other. Strangely, I am more of the victim in this situation than the instigator.
If I were my daughter’s real teacher, she would be hiding my erasers and writing dirty limericks about me on the bathroom walls. Luckily she isn’t old enough to even think about skipping school or I would be showing up to an empty room by now. I’m fairly certain the last person she wants teaching her anything is me. Second to last is her father. I don’t want to say my child is critical of my teaching style, but she is. Very critical, in fact. So critical that she can find fault in anything I do, down to the pencil I choose to help her with a math problem. When both of her parents are in her learning space with her, she gets even more annoyed. We apparently breathe too loudly. I get it, we are not her teachers, we are her parents. She doesn’t want us to be the ones teaching her math and science. She wants us to be her cheerleaders, not her coaches.
What makes the situation harder is that I feel like I am failing, all day, every day. There is nothing that will make you feel more like a monkey trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle than trying to work through a math problem you have been using a calculator to complete for the last 30 years. With my mini-me peering over my shoulder, it feels like I am trying to defuse a bomb on a school bus full of children. My daughter’s teacher is great about sending the parents instructions to guide us through this process, but even with instruction I feel like I have forgotten more than I will ever know and I am a small step above useless to my kid. All I see on the internet are supportive posts from fellow parents and mommy blogs telling me to be gentle with myself and my child and to let things go, but that is just not my nature. I want to thrive in this situation. I should be good at this. I tutor kids my daughter’s age. I spend time volunteering at her school. I left a job I hated several years ago to spend more time with my kid and now that I have all day every day with her I kind of want to run far far away.
The thing is, everything is weird right now and as humans, we are uncomfortable with uncertainty, which is pretty much all we have today. I am certain about a few things – my kid enjoys me dancing with her to fulfill her PE requirement and she will follow instructions from her dad for music and art, so we have that going for us. I am focusing on these areas more than I am arguing about how to properly add fractions. She is getting more time on her skateboard and piano. She is also cooking and reading like a middle aged single woman.
I am helping when I can, but sometimes I think my child is better off working on her school work by herself. I attempted helping her with her french work but only managed to teach her how to swear in a foreign language. I mean, realistically, it is one of my few areas of expertise, so I may as well pass it on. She gets her musical ability from her father and her ability to say “go fuck yourself” in four languages from her mom. In my defense, the instruction was totally unintentional, just like how she learned to swear in her native language.
If nothing else, my child is learning to be self-sufficient. She is doing more for herself than ever. Since both of her parents are busier than usual, this kid is actually figuring things out for herself. In the past six weeks she has had more training in technology than she will in the next six years. She is trouble shooting problems herself before asking for help which is going to serve her well later on. She has also had a lifetime’s lesson in patience and grace. She is watching her mom be frustrated but keep going and she is doing the same. She is watching her dad come up with new ways to get things done when the old ways aren’t available and she is doing the same. She is being coached by her cheerleaders in unexpected ways. Most importantly, she is being gentle with herself and with her parents. She has yet to swear at me in french or any other language for that matter. And as always, I am learning much more from her than she is learning from me which I think is kind of how parenting works.
**I wrote this while listening to NOFX who are masters of making me laugh when I want to be outraged.
We cut our cable a few years ago and haven’t really missed it. Well, the adults in the household haven’t missed it. Our 8 year old thinks we are torturing her by depriving her of 30 channels of cartoons. Nevermind that we have a hard drive connected to our television so she can watch one of 500 movies and television shows at any time. The only time the cable ban really becomes an issue is when a new movie is released on the Disney channel, which is exactly what happened last week.
When I picture myself in prison (thanks to Orange is the New Black) it’s usually for murder or drug smuggling, not pirating movies on the internet or stealing cable. Needless to say, last weekend we figured out a legal way to watch the movie mini-me wanted to see without the FBI showing up on our porch. We spent Friday night at my parents’ lake house and watched the movie there. They, of course, keep the cable on at the house they spend less than 40 days a year at. This is one of the many reasons we love going there. We lounge, eat junk food and stay up late watching all of the television shows we have missed since 2016. Plus, it’s a lake house, so the views out the window next to the TV are pretty spectacular too.
My parents decided that they would watch the movie with us, so instead of it being just the three of us lounging in our pajamas, five of us lounged and stuffed ourselves with popcorn and candy. Every get together is an event for my mom and a family movie is not an exception. Her coffee table looked like the candy counter at MJR complete with little buckets of popcorn. I am still working off the 40 lbs. of raisinets I consumed and picking the popcorn out of my teeth the water pick didn’t wash away. Disney does their best to capitalize on a new movie so they played in back to back to back that night – just in case any seven year olds were ready to watch it at midnight. Our little one fell asleep halfway through the second viewing after a massive swedish fish induced sugar crash.
In the morning my parents came back out to do some work around the yard. The joy of owning two houses is getting to work all day every day on one of the houses. Did I mention my parents are insane? Every week my dad goes down to the beach and rakes up the seaweed. He and my husband were also going to till the beach to make the sand nice and soft. As my dad was walking back to get a rake he said to my daughter “come help us rake up the seaweed.” As she lounged in her giant swing she looked at him with her big doe eyes and said “I didn’t come out here to work. I came out her to watch a movie!” She was clearly offended that he would ask her to work.
My husband was standing by the hammock I was lounging in so I shooed him down to the beach telling my kiddo to go help him. I mean come on, I didn’t come out there to work. I came out there to lounge around in a hammock reading a book! I was hoping my daughter would acquire my husband’s work ethic, but alas, she is not cut out for manual labor. At least the hammock fits two people comfortably and we had a great view to supervise the workers on the beach.
At the beginning of the summer I had all kinds of plans for my child. Some of the plans were just for fun, like spend a day at the zoo and check out the zip lining place that we’ve been meaning to check out for two summers. Other plans were more practical, like teach my kid how to tie her damn shoes already. Sometimes I am amazed at my laziness as a parent when it comes to the little things. My husband likes to remind me that our child has been cooking since she was four and reading a year later. But I still cringe when I think about the things she can’t do, like tie her shoes, ride a bike unassisted or roller skate.
As part of some unseen action plan, my dad took mini-me out to buy a bike last weekend. I’m pretty sure this is his way of telling me I am slacking as a parent. He bought her a baseball glove last year and a scooter the year before. This is also coming from the man who put a fur hat on me as a helmet when I was a toddler and padded me up to shoot hockey pucks at me when I could hardly walk, so I’m not going to read too much into it. She got a pretty little white Trek with lime green flowers on it. Her last bike was also white and looked as new the day we got rid of it as the day we bought it. She walked it around the block on occasion and spent many hours packing and unpacking the cute little purse on the handlebars, but even with the training wheels on it, she was terrified to ride. When we forced her to go for a trip around the block she stopped at every corner dismounting her bike to turn it. She was afraid turning the handlebars more than a millimeter would topple the whole package and she didn’t want to get run over by her own bike.
She is behaving much the same with her new, bigger bike. She sits in the driveway ringing the bell and walks it up and down the sidewalk. At least now she actually straddles the bike while walking it instead of standing next to it like it’s a puppy she’s taking for a stroll. Her dad had to cover the pedals with washcloths and duct tape to prevent them from scratching her legs. I’m not entirely convinced she will ride the bike even after seeing her balance on it while coasting for about 50 feet. All I can picture is the episode of Friends where Phoebe is finally learning to ride a bike as a 30 year old.
My child can be great at 100 things but the 3 things she can’t do will take a sledge hammer to my self-esteem. I feel like I am a total failure as a mother when my kid can’t get the little bunny to go through the hole with her shoe laces. Or maybe the bunny is supposed to go around a tree. Or maybe it’s just bunny ears that are supposed to be tied together. I’m not even sure, which is probably part of the problem. Regardless, my kid might still be wearing Minnie Mouse velcro shoes in high school if I don’t get it together and teach this kid how to loop, swoop and pull. This is the stuff that keeps me up at night and keeps my therapist in business.
After realizing summer is already half over, I have been attacking my to do list like a sniper in a bell tower mowing down college students. I have been knocking off trips to the zoo and the movies while reading multiplication tables out loud and picking up books from the library. We spent the morning at our local historical museum where we walked from building to building with no indoor plumbing or electricity and antiques like chamber pots and looms. In a log cabin a woman dressed as a pilgrim demonstrated a toy that essentially taught children the motion to milk a cow. It was a little monkey that climbed two ropes when you pulled them. As my daughter struggled to get the monkey all the way to the top all I could picture was myself lounging on a hay-stuffed couch crying to a pioneer therapist about how my family would probably starve because my daughter was never going to master her milking skills. Luckily there were no sheep shaving games or carrot harvesting challenges or we probably would have been asked to leave due to gross incompetence. We would never have survived as settlers.
I have decided that I need to put a few things on my own to-do list and the first thing is quit freaking out about insignificant shit that I won’t remember worrying about five years from now. I like to put things in perspective by thinking about how I will look back on them in a year or five years. It helps me realize what is worth focusing my attention on. Instead of wasting my time worrying about how I am going to find shoes for my daughter to wear to gym next year, I’ll daydream about her attending Harvard or Yale. Of course she will be wearing her velcro Hello Kitty sneakers as she pushes her bike to class, but she won’t starve!
My daughter had her first communion last week. But first, she had to complete her first reconciliation. She had been talking about this event all year and, of course, I had a few questions for her about the process. Namely, when she needed to confess and what atrocities she had to confess.
I recall going to confession as a child and debating about what to tell the priest and what to keep to myself. It wasn’t necessarily that I was such a bad kid at the age of eight that I thought my sins were unforgivable, I just didn’t want to admit I was wrong about anything. Telling the school priest that I had been mean to my mom or lied to a friend seemed like a not so smart thing to do. I was always a skeptical child, so I was pretty sure the priest was going to blab all of my dirt to my teachers. I pictured them sitting around the lunch table gossiping about what the kids said to their moms and each other. I didn’t want anyone to have any dirt they could hold over my head.
A month ago when my mini-me and I were talking about confession she asked what kind of things I had talked to the priest about when I was her age. I told her it was mostly me being sassy with my mom or not being as nice as I could be to friends. “What do you do if you don’t have anything to confess?” she asked with a straight face. I told her I could give her a list if she needed one. She sounded just like my Dad who jokes that he has nothing to repent for. Unfortunately, she wasn’t joking. In her mind it was a totally valid question.
The day before her first communion was spent preparing for the big day. The kids practiced the readings, found their places in the chapel where they would sit with their families and tasted the wine. I had learned earlier that they give all of the kids a sip of the wine the day before so nobody spits it out on their dress at the main event. My daughter had a rather lengthy discussion with a saleswoman at the shoe store about this as we picked out a pair of white heels. She talked animatedly about how disrespectful it would be to God to have some kid spit out the blood of his son all over the floor. She had already talked to me repeatedly about the church wine. She was scared to drink it because she thought it would taste bad. I wouldn’t go so far as to say she was obsessed, but the wine was on her mind much more than her weekly spelling words or current lego project. I was happy to know it would be put to bed after her retreat.
When she came home from school that day she had two things to share. The first was that she did make a confession and it was that she made me crazy in the morning (which is true). She was not given penance with the rosary, but was instead told to cut it out. She of course shared this information with her grandparents, but did not want to divulge the conversation to me. Smart kid. The second piece of information she shared with her dad (again, not with me). She walked in and promptly told him “Dad, I loved the wine. It tasted so good!” He immediately texted me to let me know that fear was coursing through his veins. Well, that seems about right – my kid worried about the wine for a month and we will now worry about it for the next twenty or more years.