Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

We’ve been kind of busy here in the ‘Hood lately, doing some really awesome stuff.

I somewhat reluctantly accompanied my friend to see her favorite band, Kasabian, when they came to D.C. I was reluctant only because I was so very unfamiliar with their music. What little I’d heard was a bit too . . . ethereal for my taste. But I love this friend dearly, and no evening out with her is ever bad, so of course I was on board.


Serge, just being Serge.


We had a really, really good time, and not just because the show was fabulous and my friend was reduced to little-girl squeals of delight and she got to meet members of the band. No, the best part for me is what I always experience when this friend and I get together: a return to myself.

As mothers, our world often becomes our children. That is as it should be, as far as I’m concerned, (though that’s not a universally-held belief). I love being a mother almost as much as I love my children themselves, and I would not change my status as full-time mom unless I had no other choice.

But the fact remains that we are not only mothers: we are still women; still citizens; still wives and volunteers and professionals and writers and neighbors and learners and many, many other things as well. It is easy to get so wrapped up in our children’s lives and caretaking that we — I forget about the rest of me. Worse, I often remember the real me but relegate her to lowest woman on the totem pole.

Going to these clubs and concerts with my friend makes me not just honor those parts of me that are so often shunted aside to make way for parenting; it makes me feel as though all my parts are whole again. (more…)


Party, Party, Party!

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Aengus, Noah, Parenting

We’ve had a relatively uneventful week around here.

Last weekend was all about sleepovers and parties: I went to a baby shower — I haven’t been to one of those in ages! My friend found out on her fortieth birthday that the birth control she and her husband had used all through their marriage failed. Her kids are eleven and thirteen; she was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Part of me is jealous of her: it would be nice to have a baby now, now that I know a bit more of what I’m doing. But I also know the reality of parenting; as easy as Aengus was, I still don’t think I’s want to go through all that again. Although, I loved being pregnant and would totally do that part of it again in a heartbeat; I’ve even tried over the years to talk Jason into me being a surrogate. That’s when his Catholic upbringing reared its ugly head.

I’m happy for my friend. She’s an amazingly kind and gentle person, and her kids are lucky to have her. All three of them. But I’m glad it’s her and not me.

Also last weekend, Noah got to spend time with his girlfriend for her seventeenth birthday. They went to dinner, saw a magician, raised hell at Books-A-Million, and saw Inception. Then Noah went to his buddy’s house to play video games, eat junk food, and shoot Mountain Dew with the guys two nights in a row (double sleepovers FTW).

Aengus went to a laser tag party for a new friend one night, then slept over after his bff’s birthday party the next night. And on his way home from James’s house, he convinced me to stop by WallyWorld . . . where he bought a gun. (>.<) It’s just a BB gun, and he already has two rifles, but this one is different somehow. It’s a handgun, and he just sits around and looks at it. Caresses it. Times himself taking it apart and putting it back together. I think he loves it the same way Noah loves his guitars.

I am in distress.

I can’t deny that he is who he is and has interests of his own, completely outside of my influence. And we’ve known since he was six months old and wielded anything he could like a sword that he has an unusual interest in weapons. I also know that my kids have a particular sensitivity to forbidden-fruit syndrome, so I believe in my head that I need to just keep my mouth shut (other than stressing safety) and let him be who he is.

But this obsession with guns is way beyond my comfort level. Those who knew me when Noah was young know how adamantly opposed to violence in any form I was. Noah wasn’t even allowed to shape his fingers into pretend guns or play “fighting” with his friends. I’ve become a very different person, and Aengus has had a different childhood than Noah had. He plays the violent video games and runs around “shooting” his friends. My consolation has been that his enjoyment of violence never extended into real life. In real life, he flips out when I kill a bug and is disturbed by the plight of animals at the hands of humans.

But he really, really likes guns. I am disturbed, but I can’t find any logical reason for this to bother me. It’s just my instinctive, knee-jerk reaction. And that’s not a good place to parent from, so I’m biting my tongue.

But if he signs up for sniper school, I’ll put my foot down.

In Which Bedtime is Banished

Posted: August 26, 2010 in Parenting

When Noah was little, he was an early riser. I mean early : he never let us sleep later than six a.m., no matter what time we put him down.

In the ramp up to puberty, which started around age ten for him, Noah began sleeping later. He also began having trouble falling asleep (something that we still don’t know whether to attribute to puberty or heredity, as his father still sometimes suffers from it). I figured that since his body had started letting him sleep later than the roosters, it knew what it was doing. We dropped his bedtime and simply let him decide when he was ready to sleep, and let him sleep pretty much as late as he needed to.

For several years now, that has meant he’s up til four, five, or six in the morning and sleeps until three, four, or even five in the evening. He’s responsible about getting up early if he needs to and plans ahead for those mornings. I know my mother worries that he’ll never be able to hold a job with a “normal” schedule if he’s allowed to live like this now. I wholeheartedly disagree, but I suspect the point will be moot: musicians aren’t known for keeping bankers’ hours, after all.

But my thinking on the subject of bedtime has always been: if he’s getting enough sleep — and if he’s not interrupting my sleep — he can keep any schedule he wants to. It’s not like he has to get up for school or anything.

Nighttime has since become Noah’s favorite time of day. He gets uninterrupted access to the XBox, peace and quiet, personal space, alone time. Like his mother, I think he savors being alone to do his thing.

But all that’s about to change: his little brother has apparently hit the puberty on-ramp now, too.

Aengus (who desperately wants to be like his brother) has been asking for ages now that his bedtime be dropped as well. My concern with that thus far has been that no matter what time he goes to bed, his body gets him up between seven and eight in the morning. Sleep is vital to good health, I’ve explained, so until his body starts letting him sleep in, it’s important that he go to bed a bit on the early side. I promised Aengus that once he’s able to sleep late any time that he’s stayed up late, we’ll drop his bedtime.

But even so, I think we’ve been pretty laid back: his bedtime, at nine years old, is ten o’clock. And not rigidly ten: as long as he’s up in his room before Jon Stewart, I don’t bat an eyelash.

The last two weeks or so have become difficult, though. He’s been having trouble getting to sleep and, in fact, now experiences a burst of energy when he “should” be settling down for the night. Were he younger, I’d say he’s getting a second wind that could be avoided if we got him to bed earlier. But, knowing what puberty does to a body, I’m pretty confident that would be fighting a losing battle at his age.

He’s also been sleeping correspondingly later in the morning, not getting up until after ten for a few weeks now, and not until almost noon for the past week. Though he hasn’t asked me to keep my promise, I knew it was time.

Today, we banished forevermore “bedtime” in our home.

Aengus will be given reminders, of course, about listening to his body’s cues and settling down when it shows signs of being ready for sleep. And we’ll have to talk a lot about going to bed earlier than usual when we have places to go the next day. And he most definitely will be lectured about the dangers of waking mom in the middle of the night. But being given responsibility is the best way I know to learn how to handle it. And so it’s time.

Noah is not going to like this.

In Which I Seek Rhythm and Rhyme

Posted: August 5, 2010 in Parenting

Last week I vowed to return our days to the slightly more structured form they took before the XBox entered our lives. Not that I have much against the XBox; there are many, many ways in which both boys have benefited from it, both academically and socially.

But its entry into our lives made such an impact that I now think of our home life in terms of its appearance. Our lives pre-XBox were relaxed, certainly, but had a rhythm to them, an easy routine. Post-XBox? Not so much. We’ve devolved into a kind of quiet chaos.

I’m not looking for the authoritarian structure of our early homeschooling days; I will never again make my kids say the pledge of allegiance before I “let” them start their schoolwork. But I think our family has, in the absence of a framework in which to live, very quietly and slowly spread apart. Our routines once held us together, and I miss that closeness.

I announced our return to a more rhythmic existence to my friends and family on Facebook, of course — where pretty much all discourse happens these days. With the announcement I also promised a return to blogging. And that we’d be starting the next day.


Although that didn’t happen — I had a conference one day and both boys had sleepovers, which always means we do nothing else that day or the next, while they recover — I am ever the optimist. I did manage to do some planning and make a bit of progress in adjusting my own routine, which is key to implementing a family-wide routine. But I cannot deny the long, long way we have yet to go.

Not that I’m striving for anything extravagant: just a little more framework to our day, a bit of daily practice with whatever skill each of us is working on, a little goal-setting and -achieving. Just a little consistency.

Consistency’s not something I’m known for, though, so we’re taking it in baby steps. One itty-bitty movement in the right direction at a time.

So, my baby-step goal for Aengus: a bit of reading and math practice each and every day. For Noah, a bit of math and sunshine. And for me, some exercise and development of a routine (since I seem to need it more than they do, plus I have a lot more that needs to get done!).

Longer term, I’d like to see us each exercising and reading, the boys working on math and another subject (they’ve chosen Spanish for now), and us each working together more around the house. I have lofty goals for myself that include regular blogging and putting together scrapbooks for each of the kids, among other things. Our old homeschooling co-op has re-formed, so the boys will be able to get some science and community work every Friday, and I suspect that that outside influence will bring good things to this process.

One thing at a time, though. To achieve our baby step goals (reading, math, and exercise), I’m focusing this week on us each simply doing them each day, no matter when we get around to them. Once these activities have become a part of our daily lives, I plan to take the next step and form a routine (a kind of loose schedule). Then (and only then) will I add the additional activities.

And that’s as far as I’m planning right now. 😀

Aengus and I have spent hours poring over Google Earth [geography], searching for military bases. Specifically, looking for aliens in Area 51 and zombies in Germany.

So, as a mother and educator, I have to ask myself: to what extent do I enable/support this interest? I mean, theoretically at least, I support any interest that my kids fancy; if it’s important to them, there’s value in it, even if I don’t value it myself.

But seriously — aliens? Oh, okay, maybe I can get on board with that one a little. I have no doubt that if life could happen here, it most likely has happened somewhere else in this ginormous expanse we call the universe. But zombies?! I think the kid actually, truly believes Nazis were able to create zombies, and that the government is just hiding the evidence from us.

How long do I support such a crazy idea? I know he’s young and will likely outgrow this (good lord, I hope so!). But if I support him too much, won’t that just set him up for the inevitable fall when reality bites? And then what happens to our relationship? It’s one thing to discover at six years old that your parents lied to you about Santa. But to find out at ten or twelve that your parents knowingly guided you through deceptions . . . well, that just seems cruel.

For now, I’ve tread the line that divides passionate interest and crazy belief very carefully: I let Aengus know that the Nazis did, in fact, do a lot of psycho experiments, and that the government does actually know a lot that they don’t tell us. But I’ve also told him that zombies cannot physically, scientifically exist (despite the recent Zombie Apocalypse).

He doesn’t believe me.

In other news, the boys had sleepovers this weekend: Noah had his buddy Nick over for much gaming, and Aengus went to his bff’s house for . . . well, much gaming. Noah’s also been pulling apart some XBox controllers [mechanical engineering?], and Aengus has been diligently searching for and counting change. There’s a new map pack for Modern Warfare 2, you see, so he’s been counting his change . . . adding what he found in the sofa . . . working to earn more . . . subtracting what he has from what he needs . . . dividing the cost to come up with a fair portion for his brother to pay . . . negotiating with me to loan him some cash . . . adding 4.5% sales tax . . .

All thanks to video games.

Though Noah would claim that I spoil Aengus as the baby of the family (and he’d be partially right, I admit), I would say that my mothering style simply relaxed quite a bit from one child to the next.

Case in point: I scaled back on Noah’s academic work at the same time that I stopped giving Aengus time outs and worrying that the Legos be put away in the right (read: color-appropriate) bin. I relaxed across the board, not just toward Aengus.

Noah wouldn’t notice that, of course, given the self-centered nature of the stage of development he’s in. So I bite my tongue whenever he dishes the parenting advice, hoping that one day he’ll come asking for mine.

But this super-relaxed atmosphere we’ve got going in da Hood has its downside: the jolt of culture shock when the law is eventually laid down. And Aengus is starting to experience that now. I’ve always just let him be himself, with some gentle guidance whenever the shit hits the fan. Well, it hit the fan in a big way this week, so I’ve started being more proactive in guiding him.

PMS has nothing to do with it, I assure you. Maybe.

Aengus and his bff got into a huge fight during a game of Nazi Zombies earlier this week. Aengus took the game as seriously as any competition he ever becomes involved with, which is to say COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY TO-THE-DEATH SERIOUS. His bff . . . not so much.

When he felt abandoned and unarmed (and therefore left to die/LOSE) by his friend, Aengus went ballistic. This is a typical reaction that I always figured he’d eventually grow out of, but it has become clear that he’s going to lose friends before he figures it out on his own. Time for me to step in, big time.

So the next morning, he received a message from his friend that made it clear they had to actually talk this one out; they weren’t going to be able to just shake it off and move on this time.

So Aengus and I had a very long talk. We talked about the importance of keeping our cool or asking for a minute to collect ourselves, which led to a discussion about tone of voice and word choice when expressing ourselves.

We also talked about loved ones’ quirks that might get on our nerves, and loving our friends in spite of those eccentricities or helping them overcome them (such as extra encouragement for someone with low self-esteem). And taking responsibility for our own annoying quirks.

And how important it is not only to apologize when we’ve done wrong but  also to try to understand how we could have handled things differently. And how important it is to see things from our friend’s point of view, which is neither right nor wrong but simply different from our own.

I guided him through sending an apologetic reply to his bff, and they were friends again in no time. Luckily, his bff is a very good friend.

I’ve also been on Aengus more this week about taking care of his things and cleaning up after himself. He’s always been helpful around the house when I’ve asked it of him, but now I’m upping it a notch: he needs to start taking care of his own messes of his own accord, at least some of the time. My god, he’s nine years old; by the time Noah was his age, he was doing his own laundry and straightening up at the end of the day without being asked.

Needless to say (though I will anyway), Aengus thinks I’m a mean mom this week. He feels like he’s constantly being nitpicked or yelled at, and I feel bad about that. But once he’s gotten used to my new expectations, he’ll be fine.

Noah? I’ve hardly seen him this week. He’s had quite a few sleepovers, and on days he’s been home, he’s been catching up on sleep. Because one does anything BUT sleep on a sleepover.

But I hear him now, upstairs, playing his baby: the acoustic named Fender. Shelby‘s hanging out with him, so he must be a happy guy. I’m running on that assumption, since the only thing he’ll probably say to me for the next 24 hours is, “What do we have to eat?”