Sometimes the mama-razzi gets the best of me. This was one of those times.
Category Archives: Monkey
Tonight I found myself thinking about how much better a mother I seem to be when I am not working 40+ hours a week.
I don’t mean I am a better mother because I am spending more time with my children. I think working mothers can absolutely spend enough quality time with their kids and quite often do a better job of focusing on that than I do when I am home all the time. I mean that I am more patient with my children when I am not thinking about three gazillion things waiting out in the other room for me to deal with.
I came to this realization tonight when I started to get impatient with my sweet baby boy at bedtime. He had developed the “flying hand syndrome”, that bedtime things kids do to stay awake when you finally get them to lie down and be quiet. Otter will lie still and tap his finger rhythmically on the pillow, or pull at his forelocks, or fly his hand slowly back and forth across the backdrop of his comforter. Monkey did it too, this litany of sleep preventatives invented by brilliant children with too much “letter of the law” in them to outright rebel at bedtime, thereby necessitating an arsenal of subversive sleep avoidance behaviors.
These behaviors drove me crazy when Monkey did them but hadn’t bothered me with Otter until very recently. Tonight I figured out why.
When Monkey went through her subversive sleep resistence phase I was in college and would wait until she had gone to bed to whip out my books and study for hours on end. Every time I put her to bed there was this looming list of “to do’s” waiting for me. Each tap of the finger, every rhythmic tick of the foot, each little hum drove me into a state of intense frustration as I analyzed exactly how much less time I had to get back to my school work.
With Otter I just giggled at his obvious attempts to stay awake. I found them charming and cute. I enjoyed them until I went back to work full-time and began depending on the post bedtime hours for my law practice. Then suddenly each baby hand flight path chopped off valuable time from my night’s billable hours. I began to get cranky and frustrated and unhappy with our normal bedtime routine. This impatience resulted in less quality time at bedtime. It resulted in a less comforting and comfortable mommy presence helping the little ones drift off to sleep.
To be completely honest with myself I should be cherishing these little moments. I should love each minute spent snuggled against a soft baby body awaiting the even uninterrupted ebb and flow of sleeping baby’s breath. I know how fleeting this time is. I am completely aware of how soon he will leap up and get too busy to snuggle his mom, I have already undergone that transition with my daughter.
In reality my days dealing with this problem are numbered. Time will march on and my baby will find new and creative ways to delay bedtime that don’t include soft snuggles. Why am I letting myself view these precious times as impositions? The soft dusky moments spent at bedtime are the times I have been working for. I should be viewing the things that take me away from them as the impositions.
So my goal is to let go of the sense of urgency and simply enjoy my time with little Otter as he tries all the weapons at his disposal to delay bedtime. I am lucky that most of them involve sloppy baby kisses, soft pats, and quiet giggles.
This weekend Monkey was a part of something that made me very disappointed in her. She and a friend wrote a snarky little note and gave it to a girl much younger than they at a birthday party.
When I found out about the note I came to Monkey and asked her if she and her friend had written it. She took responsibility for her share in the smallness and said yes.
Then I asked her to imagine being a little girl at a party. I asked her to imagine trying so hard to play with the bigger kids and being so excited when they gave you a note. Imagine clutching the note in your hands the whole way home, proud of it, excited to hear what it says. Maybe it’s your first note ever. Imagine handing it to your Daddy to finally learn what it says only to see his face fall as he reads it. Imagine learning it’s not nice.
Then Monkey did something that made me so proud of her. She teared up, jumped out of her seat, and said “I need to write her an apology right now.”
Monkey was very upset that she and her friend had hurt this little girl’s feelings and cried when she thought about how disappointed and upset she must have been to learn the cherished note had been a mean trick instead of a welcome.
We designed a nice homemade card, picked out some stickers to give the little girl, and Monkey wrote out a lovely apology in her own words, ending with “I hope you can forgive me because I would like to be your friend.” Then she and I had a good long talk about how everything we do has an affect on someone else. I told her that each decision we make can make someone else’s day better or worse and that the best thing you can do is just be kind to people.
I am so proud that my kiddo was able to put herself in this little girl’s shoes and genuinely feel for her. I am still upset that she chose to behave in such an ungenerous way but I am pleased she was so ready to do her best to fix it. It makes me feel as though we are on the right path.
Here I was, just working too much and running around like a crazy person, when this little baby girl I once knew grew forty feet, entered the third grade, joined the band and got GLASSES!! Now she is playing the flute, reading everything she can get her hands on, playing chess on the computer in her downtime and borrowing clothes from her Aunty Mop. (Granted my dear friend is a very small woman, but STILL!)
Here is a look at the new Monkey. (Monkey 8.0)
Monkey had her pirate party yesterday so Saturday morning found Margot, one of my closest friends, and I knee deep in cardboard and duct tape building a pirate ship for the party. We began the plan for the ship with a fair amount of trepidation, certain that we were as likely to create a giant mess as we were to create a ship. However, we bought poster paint, we bought a used sheet at the Salvation Army, we got empty moving boxes out of the basement and we got our creativity on. Surprisingly we managed to create a rather respectable ship, for a pair of landlubbers.
This was the result:
It was a hit with the kids, just enough of a ship to provide them with fuel for their imaginations. There were bits of ocean lying about, bits of shark and alligator, whale and fish. During the party they ran on and off the ship, which served as a great center piece for the party. The ship only took an hour to put together and paint. We even managed the sail with a rake, an old mop handle, some tape, and the sheet. We laughed and schemed, worked and plotted, talked and taped. We drank water and worked in the sun, painted bits of ocean or bits of plank, and throughly enjoyed ourselves.
I had more fun building the ship with Margot and decorating for the party than I did at the party. It was like being kids again ourselves, putting that silly ship together. I felt relaxed and energized in a way I haven’t for a long, long time. It didn’t feel like work, it felt like play, actual play, kid style play. Best of all, when we were done with our play, the kids got to have theirs:
The party was a huge success for all attendees, parents and children alike. The generous flow of beer and margarita allowed the parents to relax and chill while the large expanse of backyard ocean allowed the children to play and scream to their hearts content. We provided each child with a pirate hat, eye-patch, ear-ring, and weapon of their choice and encouraged parents and children to dress in costume. Everyone arrived in colorful attire and shared hot dogs and hamburgers, chips and fruit, and sea serpent brownie cake with good cheer.
By chosing to make our decorations, Margot and I got to spend some really special time together. I think it is easy to forget how much joy can be derived from problem solving and how much simple fun can be had in creating something new out of something old. Birthdays have become such a huge money sink in our culture, and so much of the time parents are relegated to the role of money lender, grill master, and kitchen slave, while their children run around on someone else’s creation. We got to skip the money sink this year and join in the play, just by taking the time to make our kids party decorations, something I hope to remember for the years to come.
Monkey turned eight today. We celebrated with small gifts from Otter, Daddy, and me, as her large gift and party are next weekend to accommodate out of town guests she wishes to have at her party.
Otter got her a CD Player, and a card. He picked the card out on his own, a fire engine that made real siren sounds, and wrote on both the card and the envelope with no help from his parents.
I made her a mix CD of some of my favorite songs, and some of her favorite songs, so I could stand to listen to them played ad nausem.
Lee got her the worlds largest Journal, and some really cool color pencils to write with per her request. Then we all went out to Earl’s on the 16th Street Mall for a steak dinner on the patio. It was surprisingly fun, as was the climbing of the addresses on the way back to the car.
Then we came back to the house, munched ice cream, and got ready for bed. A pretty mellow birthday, saving the madness for the pirate extravaganza to come.
I am amazed, awed, and surprised at the person my girl has become. I found this picture from our camping trip to Kansas:
To me it speaks so clearly to the patience she has mastered over the past two years. She rarely has a harsh word for her brother, even in high 90 degree heat and sweat pants. Even when she is tired and cranky she will often be the one to take his hand and provide the extra care that makes his life a little sweeter than it would otherwise be. I do not always acknowledge how lucky I am to have such a patient young woman in my house, easing the way for all of us by taking the hand of our youngest family member, and calming him down. While I am quick to notice when her behavior causes problems for me, I am not always quick to notice when it eases the way, and for that my dear, I humbly apologize. You have made the past two years much easier by entertaining your brother upon many an occasion, by providing extra love and support for him, and by being his friend.
She has grown more caring in other ways as well. When our dog Bella was sick, Monkey brought a book into the office and read stories to her to keep her company, so she wouldn’t be lonely and scared. It was very sweet.
She is daring and brave and is not afraid to ask for what she wants in life. She wants to be a singer, for example, and ended up helping the band performing at my Inn of Court end of year party in exchange for a chance to sing with them. She helped the drummer set up and then got to sing “Old MacDonald” with them during their set. She was a little nervous and told me after that it was a lot harder singing into a microphone in front of so many people, but she got up there and did it, and never once faltered.
She catches ladybugs and lets them crawl on her hands, frees drowning butterflies and places them safely in high up flowers so their wings will dry, rescues worms from rain puddles when we are out after a storm, and is generally good about relocating spiders to the outdoors when they surprise her in the bedroom or bathroom. She is becoming aware of the delicate nature of other things and seems eager to take care to preserve them. I am proud of her for being this careful about the world around her, even when I huff in frustration sometimes at the extra time these actions can often take.
We have had our issues this year for sure. She is stubborn and I fear I may need to have her hearing checked, or maybe clean her ears out more, or have my vocal chords checked, for she often seems to lack the ability to hear what I say.
However, despite the growing pains of seven, as my dear girl turns the corner towards eight she does so bearing the makings of a capital little woman. I am proud of who she is and I am proud of who she is becoming. What mother could ask for anything more?
I love you baby, Happy Birthday.
“Your Dad is on the phone with a client, so I am going to need you guys to play quietly in your room and the living room please.” I instructed the children, as I set out a basket of oranges, graham crackers, grapes, and cheese slices, placed “Over the Hedge” on their little t.v. screen in their room, and provided them with juice and two different colors of clay, with various implements of clay creation to entertain them with.
“Sure mom!” Monkey said “I will keep Otter in our room and play quietly!”
Otter smiled, sat on his chair, grabbed a piece of cheese and the play clay knife and began industriously sawing away. Pleased that my plan to entertain the children seemed feasible, I went to the bathroom.
As soon as my pants were down, literally, both children were screaming their heads off in the kitchen, mere inches from the office door and Lee’s phone call with the all important client.
Rapidly interrupting and cleaning up from my heretofore necessary, but now less important, bodily functions I sped out of the bathroom and hustled everyone back into the kid’s room.
“What on earth is going on?” I demanded from Monkey, exasperated that my careful providing of snacks and two distractions had failed so quickly and dramatically. “Didn’t I just finish telling you that Daddy is on the phone with a client and you both need to play quietly in your room?”
“Well, Otter was fine until he took some of my yellow clay and ran off with it so I decided to go get it back and make him play with his own yellow clay but he didn’t like that so he ran to the office to get daddy but I knew you didn’t want him to so I stopped him in the kitchen and yelled at him so he yelled back. ” Monkey replied, in one breath.
“Okay, let me get this straight. Your brother, who is two and doesn’t really understand the whole your clay/his clay concept, ran off with your yellow clay. Instead of simply letting him go and taking his yellow clay, you chased him into the kitchen, where you weren’t supposed to go, and took it back, thereby making him yell and cry. Then when he wanted to go get Daddy, you yelled at him outside the office door, making him yell and cry again. All this right after I explained to you that Daddy was on an important phone call with a client and needed the house to be quiet. Do I have that right?”
“Yes” Monkey responded, hanging her head. “Sorry mom. I won’t do it again.”
Oh, but she will. For you see, mere minutes after I deposited the children in the bedroom with new snacks, a restarted movie, new play clay, the option to paint with the “no mess” paints and paper, and NEW instructions to play quietly because Daddy was on a phone call, Monkey engaged Otter in a game of “Who can scream the loudest.” (Otter won by the way, he has a scream that can break glass.)
Then, when I blocked access to the kitchen off with a baby gate and locked the bathroom door in an attempt to at least keep them physically further away from Lee, Monkey thought she and Otter should ride around the dining room, nearest the baby gate, on Otter’s loud new scooter, singing loudly into the volume enhancing microphones they bought with their allowances yesterday. The microphones I am now the proud temporary owner of.
I told her to get off the scooter, that she wasn’t allowed to ride it until her Dad was off the phone. She pushed it over and loudly stomped into her room yelling about how unfair it was. Then, when I followed her into her room, she screamed her head off, horror movie style, because “I scared her.” I asked her if she would like me to lock her in her room for the rest of the day and cancel the day’s activities, because I had just about had enough of her unwillingness to listen, follow instructions, and behave like a sane person. I then told her to remain in her room, on her bed, silently watching her movie until I came and told her she could do otherwise.
Of course, when I told my husband about the trials and tribulations I suffered while providing him with some semblance of peace for his phone calls this morning, he told me that my mom and dad were probably high fiving it and laughing hysterically upon reading this, well revenged for some of the shit I had pulled on them growing up.
I informed him that statements like that were only wise if he was attempting to have a long and happy marriage with my mother.
I sat in my office, reading over the client ready rough draft of a Will, when Monkey asked me for more veggie chips. I answered with an exasperated “No!” as she had been told nearly a dozen times in the preceding twenty minutes that dinnertime was nigh and no more snacks could be enjoyed. Especially since dinner was hot dogs, and therefore not remotely healthy. Today Mommy was really phoning it in.
She sighed and removed herself from my rather grumpy presence and I went back to reviewing secondary contingent clauses.
How do I password protect this thing before sending it out on the internet?
Save as… Export….Security….C’mon where is this stupid thing? Wait a min….. what is that sound?
crinkle crinkle…. crunch
“Monkey!” I yelled, as I leapt off my office chair and rushed to the kitchen, preparing to confront my little chip theif red handed!
As I turned the corner I found Otter, standing on top of the kitchen stool, bag of veggie chips in hand. He was munching away happily, carefully choosing a chip at a time, thrilled he had mastered the art of junk food procurement. When he saw me he smiled, and kindly offered me a chip. Monkey came around the other corner to see what I was yelling about and she and I giggled as we watched Otter ruin his dinner, and gain a little independence.
I guess it’s time to stop automatically assuming Monkey is the culprit, and to stop leaving meat cleavers on the countertops.
Sometimes I feel as though my girl gets the raw end of the deal. As the older child she is often relied upon to take care of her own needs, if not sometimes her brothers. I try really hard not to use her as an in house sitter, but Otter is fascinated with his big sis and really follows her around everywhere.
Luckily for all of us, she is pleased with his attention and her increasingly responsible role as the much older sib.
Yesterday Otter reached out and held her hand. She was instantly teary-eyed, awed that he was holding her hand. When he let go she said “Now I can’t ever wash this hand again, or the baby love with wash off.” It was pretty sweet.
Amazingly, she has been able to sing him to sleep when there is a baby sitter, get him breakfast in the morning sometimes so we can sleep in a little more, and get him to try new foods by simply eating them in front of him. She has also taught him several new games, and given him some basic piano lessons. All in all she is a font of information for this young man.
This morning, as I attempted to snooze on the couch to recover from a late night and very early morning, Monkey woke me up with a peanut butter and honey sandwich. She had made me breakfast! I thanked her profusely for such a nice gesture, and ate a filling and delicious sandwhich. Of course, Otter helped me out by eating one half himself, a proud smile on his face all the while.
I am feeling pretty lucky to have kids with such a great personality. There are so many other ways this could have gone, but happily they are forming strong bonds and becoming friends.