Smart or a “Smart Mouth”?

The other day, as my son was idling away on the couch, my husband asked him to help emptying dishwasher, which is our son’s chore. A longer while later, he finally got off the sofa with an announcement. “This is the last time I am doing it!” My husband decided to reason with our young rebel, saying that such threats don’t make much sense. “What if mom never again made your favorite French toast for breakfast?” But our son was not really done with his verbal ping-pong. “Think about all this bread that we would waste!” He pointed out.

Another time, as my son was looking for a TV remote, he tried to engage me in the search. I had better things to do so I told him that I never knew where the remote was and he should keep looking for it himself. He chose to motivate me instead. “Mom, just believe in yourself and then you’ll find it.”  (And I thought he never listened to my pep-talks!)

I think it goes without saying. My son is a back-talker. A witty one, but still a back-talker. Now, what do I do? I don’t want him to argue with teachers at school when things don’t go according to his plan. I guess talking back is better than throwing fits, but is it really? Tantrums seem more likely to lessen with age, whereas sassy talking can only get more sophisticated or arrogant with time. What clever retort is he going to come up with in a few years to avoid setting out trash?

Anyways, just wondering what your thoughts are on the topic. Smart or a “smart mouth”?How do you handle your child’s verbal attempts to get their way?  I’m still quite inconsistent. It’s easy to tell a child off for mockery or bad language, but it’s hard to keep a straight face when they just crack you up with their hilarious responses. I do try, though. After all funny or not, back-talking is bad-talking. Or is it not? And here we go again…

The Nanny Nightmare

Whether working or stay-at-home a parent, the truth is, we all need help with our children from time to time. Ideally, it would be the grandparents. Often times, though, the person we’ll call will be a paid care giver: nanny or babysitter. I actually never complained about the latter option. It gives me freedom to choose a person profile and the hours. But I never liked the name babysitter.  It suggests passiveness. Someone who just sits. I like to hire a nanny, that would take care of my children in an active way, while I need to run an errand, clean the house or have a few minutes of piece and quiet.  My ideal nanny is a responsible, flexible and reliable college student or twenty-something, who likes little children. For a long time I was really lucky finding the right person. But that was in Ohio, where moms usually stay at home and child care is more of a casual job for many young people. In California everybody works or works out and nanny is a full time job for all kinds of people. At first, I thought I was in a nanny paradise, but then I started my search…

I noticed that there are two types of nannies in the Bay Area. One is the full time nanny/housekeeper, seemingly a very dependable person and dependent on regular income immigrant, whose own children are, sadly, taken care of by someone else. I would love to help them make a decent living but I just could not ask another mom who obviously misses her own children to watch mine. Besides, I don’t need full time help. I need a part-time, flexible  nanny and those are  just few and far between. Out of those that I did find,  I noticed that some were just bogus nannies, who thought that watching other people’s kids is an EASY way of making money (no, sitters don’t just sit and watch a child), some lived too far (can’t call them last minute) or didn’t drive (unreliable), or refused to smile (how to leave a baby with a grouch?). Finally, it seemed I’d found my Mary Poppins. And that’s where my nightmare began.

I’m going to call her MandM. Not that she was sweet and tiny like the candy. She did have artificial sugar coating, though, with which she was able to trick me for while. She lived close by, appeared bubbly, seemed into games with my older son, smiled to the baby… With time however, things started looking different. She would come late, she would rather chat with me than watch the boys, she would take long tea breaks (complementing me on my good manners = offering refreshments). One time, as she was telling me some sensational story and my son asked her to come and play, she scolded him: “Wait a minute. Mommy and me are talking now.” ????? Another time, another chat, and the baby crawled outside.  I was glad to catch him in time. She started being moody about the activities. One time she would teach the boys a rough game, then she would forbid it, because the boys would play too rough.  Then there was the 100 times too many of “You’re so smart!” with which she indulged my son for whatever reason.   She rarely made time for cleaning up after play, even though I clearly asked her to engage the boys in the tidy-up activity. Even worse, she  would play TV or videos for the boys, and even work on her computer in the meantime.  Oh, did I mention that she forgot to come when I had an important meeting at school? Or that she fed the baby with nut pralines, after I had told her about his nut intolerance?

Enough was enough. I didn’t want to sound emotional during a conversation, so I emailed her, asking not to play videos when working with the boys, coordinate the clean-up after play and engage the baby more effectively. If she found it too hard, I would understand and look for another person. Was I unreasonable?

Now, you’d have to see her reaction. I would have quoted it in full (that’s how hilarious it is), but it’s just too long. To give you the gist, in her response,  she “released me” as her client.  Her reasons, among others, were that my older son was a “poor loser in games” (Argument Nr 1?), that my sons “physically abused” her and caused her “injuries” and “anxiety”. (Did she mean rough play?)  As far as TV and such, these are “electronic interventions” and solutions for meltdowns.  Cleaning after play is, in her opinion “maid-service” and “counterproductive”. (How counterproductive is a lazy sitter?) Plus, my pay was too low. (I think $30/2hrs was average and agreed upon.) On top of all that, my boys apparently need more discipline, time-outs and I should show more empathy for her oh-so-stressful job.

Don’t I feel sorry for the poor thing! For various reasons though.  And I feel sorry for myself! I need to resume my help hunt. Isn’t that tough!

Is My 5-Year-Old Burnt Out?

Or does he just like to give me a hard time?

It was yesterday. I was driving my son to his TaeKwonDo practice. I was about to ask him if he was ready for his upcoming promotion test, when he suddenly had a question to me. “Mommy, when are you going to sign me out of TKD?” I was confused. What? Sign him out? He can’t wait from one belt to another, he is actually testing for the blue belt this weekend and I know he likes the sport and is good at it. Why is he thinking about signing out? I double checked  if he really meant what he said, but, sadly, he confirmed. “Yes, sign me out, forever.” The reason? He simply said he was too tired  after school. He’d rather play dodge ball or tag with his friends. (Who can’t come to the park because of the million classes  they take!!!)  I don’t know whether I was more disappointed, sad or embarrassed. Not because my son decided to quit what appeared to be his favorite sport, but because my son appeared to be burnt out!  I agreed to take a break from the sport and resume when my son was ready. Or not to resume at all.

I was supposed to write about something and someone else this week, but then my own family filled my head with thoughts that might be worth sharing with you, my fellow parents. Especially now that you start thinking about your children’s summer camps and next year’s after-school classes. In my mind, my son’s days were filled with minimum burden and maximum fun:  school in a.m., Spanish (play)school, in (one) p.m. and two hours of TKD per week. Apparently, I was wrong. Regardless of how much fun it is, there is only as much as a little 5-year-old can handle. 







I Have No Excuses. I Have Other Priorities, Though.

You might not have seen the original post, but you must have heard about the storm that it has recently created all over the www. Actually, by now, it has even gone beyond the digital media and reached the printed press. The post was basically a selfie (apparently this term has also recently made its way outside the computer and into the English dictionary) of a super fit mom of three, provocatively titled “What’s your excuse?”

As I was reading about what controversy the post had triggered, my first thought was: “Really? Don’t we have anything else to worry about? Is it even thought-worthy? Leave the woman alone.” My second thought was a bit longer: “Congratulations, Fit Mom! You do look fantastic, indeed.  I hope that one day my abs will look like yours. For now, my belly is perfect otherwise, a.k.a. round. Even though I am generally fit and thin, my post-baby bump sticks out. I have even recently been asked if I was expecting again.  Well, it was a bit embarrassing and  I don’t have an excuse.  I don’t go to the gym, I don’t exercise on the mat. I walk a lot, often carrying 25 wiggly lbs of my toddler, but unfortunately this doesn’t pay me back with brick-hard abs but with a backache and sore legs. Don’t try to make me feel bad about my long overdue curves. I have other priorities.

Getting back to life after having a baby is a challenge for many of us, moms. But it is  a different challenge for each of us. In my case, the challenge was my mental fitness. I like books, but after having my first son, it took me a year (!!!) to resume reading. Glossy magazines were all I had time and energy for. Even worse, it seemed like in the first months after having a baby, my brain didn’t generate a single creative thought. I felt like a robot. Second time around I was more prepared and as hard as it has been, I do make time for reading, writing and a bit of working.  Even if it takes just a tiny part of my days, it makes me feel better. It keeps me in mental shape. Keeping my creative brain active is MY priority. Along with keeping my sons safe, cooking healthy dinners for my family, going to the park with my sons, having some time to chat with my husband, keeping in touch with my friends…

Other moms have their priority lists. Getting an MBA, finding a decent job, starting up a company, getting published, getting famous, getting some sleep… And guess what, lot of us succeed in those areas. Do you, Fit Mom, want us all to start brandishing our Harvard diplomas, fat paychecks and other proofs of fulfillment and success on our websites?  Besides, if I am not mistaken, you do fitness for a living, right? You must have a gorgeous body or look for a different a job. Your body is your CV after all. But it isn’t ours, so why are you trying to bully us with your irrelevant question? Of course, keeping our bodies healthy is very important. Besides, exercise stimulates the production of endorphins, which make us happy. However, don’t you think that obsessing about it is more unhealthy than a few extra pounds?”

As my lengthy second thought indicates, it was a thought-worthy post after all. I am dedicating it to all the moms, who, due to the unfortunate post or regardless of it started looking for excuses. Most likely you don’t need any.  You’ve got other things to worry about. And other priorities.