Cooling off Period is Universal for Kids

Ever hear of the annual two-week cooling off period? Ask any teacher or parent about the start of school, and you will get the “I’m totally with you!” head nod.

So why is it that every year all children misbehave, have bouts of unexplained crying and/or throw Barbies through the sheetrock in their rooms?

It’s called school is starting so let’s make it worse for Mom by acting demonic just for giggles.

The week before my children went back to school, I developed what I thought was possibly a tumor or a small bowling ball in my stomach. In the past, I’ve dealt with panic attacks but this was much different.

Could it be the box of ice cream sandwiches that I demolished? Perhaps. But I knew in my gut the first day of school was approaching and the infamous two weeks could finally do me in.

Nowhere in any parenting book have I seen why children act insane during the first two weeks of every school year. Why hadn’t generations before mentioned this temporary insanity diagnosis? Was it one of those, “Ah, they’ll figure it out. I finally have time to read War and Peace.”

It wasn’t until my eldest daughter was in kindergarten and I asked the teacher why my sweet child was demonstrating erratic behavior at home. She ought to have had some successful idea on what to do to turn my munchkin back into the kid I had before dropping her off at school. After all, the seasoned educator had taught hundreds of kids over the years.

The teacher informed me my daughter’s behavior at home was perfectly normal. “But you haven’t seen the change at home!” I interrupted. She added that nothing needed to be done but wait for the first two weeks to go by.

“So you see this happening with other kids?” I said shocked.

She admitted every child experiences this annually during the 14-day period of parental torture. After thanking her profusely and letting go of my clinging bear hug grasp, I returned home with an air of relief and smugness.

My kid is fine! The teacher told me so, I thought while patting myself on the back.

For some reason, the next year when I had one child entering kindergarten and the other moving up to first grade, I managed to forget the sage advice from the September before.

Why are my kids driving me crazy? Take me away, Calgon! Why isn’t anyone listening? Somebody please take me away!

Then at the peak of my wits end, the words came back to me, floating like one of those voiceovers in every Hallmark movie.

“They’re all like this for the first two weeks.”

And just like that, the wave of nausea and the tumor in my abdomen went away. My shoulders lowered and I exhaled — it was the beginning of school.

So if you are a parent who is looking haggard, sleep deprived or suddenly talking to yourself in public, please feel free to pass on the wise kindergarten teacher’s advice:

“Your child’s behavior is perfectly normal, and they’ll go back to their old selves in approximately 336 hours!”

But who’s counting, right?

(previously published in The Kansas City Star)

Good Deeds Deserves Bacon

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I’m not searching for signs in life. But after a few days of feeling like I pushed the repeat button on best lessons to be learned, I decided to listen.

It doesn’t take me four times being hit over the head to hear our world needs a wallop of kindness.

It started one day at the public library. My children were finding some reading material for the summer program, when an elderly man stopped me. I assumed he needed directions or to tell me my kids were cute as a button, but that didn’t happen.

He stopped, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “I hope you never lose that smile.”

This, of course, made me blush and smile even more, because when you’re on a summer library run early in the morning, with unwashed hair, no makeup and semi-matched clothing, your self-esteem tends to be a bit low.

After I thanked him or said something dumb like, “I don’t leave home without it,” this gentleman added, “You really light up a room.” Well, if that doesn’t beat all! He’s now coming for Thanksgiving dinner.

My daughter elbowed me as we walked away and said, “Mama that man was flirting with you!” “No he wasn’t!” was my quick reply. Come on! He’s in his 80s and picking up chicks in the library lobby?

“That man was just being nice,” was my firm answer before my mind wandered to Anna Nicole Smith. It’s amazing how rarely we see kindness firsthand from strangers. With just one sweet gift, only taking a few seconds out of his day, he made me feel as if I had never had floating library fines.

Normally I’d be all over a teachable moment as awesome as this. But before the story came out of my mouth, the girls darted to find books so I sashayed around the library, smiling more than any sane person should on a Tuesday morning.

A few days later, my grade-school-aged children let me sleep in. Does anyone else hear the “Halleluiah Chorus” when this happens?

Usually when my girls are letting me sleep, it’s because they’re trying to eke in more electronics time, so I wasn’t expecting more than the glazed-over stare of overly electronic-fied children.

When I landed my caffeine and a section of the paper, I found parked in front of my kitchen chair a grand surprise — a breakfast comprised of reheated pancakes, strawberries and bacon. I was so impressed I initially thought it was from my husband.

My youngest girl popped out, beaming with pride. She had used real plates and silverware and folded a napkin next to my plate.

“Do you like it, Mama? I even ate the burned bacon and gave you the good ones,” she said with a grin. I was blown away. We have called her the bacon bandit for some time.

Every family has a true bacon lover. The relative who you think of, when finding bacon-flavored chewing gum, all the while muffling gagging noises. Our bacon bandit can awake from a deep sleep and trace the bacon smell directly to the pan. What a sweet girl to share her favorite food with her mother.

My last sign was when a friend shared the loss of her 99-year-old grandfather.

She painted a sweet story of how he always said, “The good book says you need to do a good deed every day.” She said he couldn’t go to bed without doing a good act. Whether it’s paying for the person behind you in Starbucks, or complimenting someone, or holding the door for the person with his hands full. After nearly a century, can you imagine how many people this man touched?

It’s apparent that wisdom comes with age.

In one week, two older gentlemen knew the secret to the beautiful life. Being kind to one another. From the surplus of hate on the news to the political insanity, we all could use gentle reminders from a couple of guys who’ve lived long enough to know the difference.

Thank you, gentlemen, for helping me see through the signs.

Previously published on August 13, 2016 in THE KANSAS CITY STAR.

Mom in Doghouse for Baby-sitting Error

 

Wouldn’t you think after 10 years of raising daughters I would have seriously disappointed them?

I thought I had worked hard at that. I’m not bragging because I’m far from Mother of the Year, but I have caused many embarrassing events that surprisingly are a perk of parenting.

Long story short…my children no longer trust me.

There’s a touch of backstory needed. One of my daughters loves babies. Everywhere we go, there’s an infant oohing and awing back at her, and nearby dogs cock their heads while perturbed by her piercing, high-range baby voice.

We’ve called her the Baby Whisperer since she was 3. Years ago at the San Diego airport, our family was once again arguing where to stand at baggage claim — and in 2.63 seconds, our little one was gone.

We couldn’t even exit the airport before one of them is abducted? Great vacation!

Barking at my extended family to drop luggage and split up, I yelled, “Look for baby strollers! If there’s a baby in this terminal, she’s found it.” After the longest two minutes of our lives, we found her talking to her new best friend, a baby girl…in a stroller. Mother does know best.

So, recently when my 9- and 10-year-old daughters were asked to “baby-sit” a friend’s toddler during the older sister’s birthday party, you can imagine the hysterics . I insisted on being at the party in case there was cake, and also to assist my girls with not losing a child. I was a pro at this anyway.

For a month, baby-sitting was all my daughters could talk about. They counted down days on the calendar and spun stories of what might happen on that glorious day. They were positive they were already experts in baby-sitting.

On the big day, I woke up and checked my phone calendar to make sure we got there early enough. The clock dragged on and one o’clock took forever to arrive. But at 11 a.m., the mom of the birthday girl, texted me.

“Are you still coming to the party?”

I should have called her the day before to let her know we were still on.

I texted back we would arrive at one, then set my phone down to keep my girls entertained. At 12:30 I am pulling things together to leave and saw I had another text.

“The party was from 10 until noon,” she said.

After my soul melted into the cracks of the kitchen flooring, I begged my friend for forgiveness. Not only had I disappointed a friend, but also my girls were going to be livid!

I don’t know if anyone can imagine how many ways I varied the speech in my head. It was necessary to let my girls down easy, but there’s no scenario that could fix it. I had to rip off the Band-Aid and fess up.

I went to my older daughter first who hopefully would take the news well. She didn’t.

Tears the size of beach balls welled up, the lip started trembling and a far-fetched story about never being able to baby-sit again in the neighborhood was all she could repeat. I have no idea where this creative drama comes from — probably her engineer father.

Next I slowly approached my youngest, the Baby Whisperer.

I expected an ugly reaction, and true to form she morphed into the teenager I had been and slammed a door in my face.

If they were this angry because the friend had canceled, I wouldn’t have put up with it. But this was my fault. I can’t even blame it on my electronics because this is not the first time I’ve had appointments end up on the wrong day or time.

My only hope was if I could get another baby-sitting gig from my friend that day. I called her and asked if they would like a date night that night. The girls and I would love to watch her children for free hopefully to set things right with all disappointed parties.

Who knew after entertaining 15 excitable kindergartners with loads of sugar and a bouncy house, the parents were relieved to have a break.

My children forgave me as soon as the toddler ran into their arms. The Baby Whisperer was now a professional since she was paid in party favors, unlimited time in the bouncy house and cake.

Even I forgave myself after the cake.

(Previously published in The Kansas City Star on July 22, 2016)

Organized Clutter Society is in Session

“Hello, my name is Stacey and I love cleaning my house!”

(The overcrowded room snorts and sputters, while tucking handfuls of receipts back into their wallets.)

When entering my junk pile I call home, anyone can see I don’t have a gift for the spotless. If it were just I, it would be a bit cleaner; but the people I chose to inhabit my house – husband and kids – don’t appreciate the need for order and I have a deep seeded aversion to picking up after people.

However, from the dining room table’s junk and the charitable contribution piles, to the continual remodeling job of the house, it’s clear the clutter is highly organized. I have an order to the chaos…so hands off the piles!

I must emphasize it is clean though. Not that I’m doing the cleaning, but the people who sanitize my surfaces are saints; and if push came to shove, I might choose the cleaners over some family members if forced to make that decision.

There is a fine line between organized clutter and hoarding. If you can still see the outline of all of your furniture, and your stacks and piles are neatly aligned, you too could be an organized clutter creature.

At the other hand, there are folks who thrive on cleanliness and order. Typically hypercleaners breed clutterful people – it must be from all the bleach fumes.

When growing up, I fondly remember my mother having a faint scent of bleach, Comet Cleanser and latex gloves. I actually love the smell of a freshly bleached home, but I must confess I don’t have a bottle of the wicked cleaner in my house.

My mother baby-sat my children the first three years of their lives while I was at work. During this time I never once cleaned my stovetop. In fact, sometimes I would intentionally leave it a mess to give her something to do while the girls napped. I’m nice that way. My gas range was black and chrome, so every bit of salt, crumbs and toddler fingerprints were magnified to the nth degree; but she could make it shine like the top of the Chrysler building.

The issue is while some children grow up in a spic and span environment, they tend to prefer a sterile home as an adult. Unfortunately, many aren’t capable or willing to put the same type of elbow grease into it as their hyperclean parent. This is a common scenario for many Organized Clutter Society members.

The time it comes to a frightening frenzy is when family or dinner guests are scheduled to arrive. Family members of the OCS member, sit quietly in the corner rocking and waiting for their next order to be barked at them.

As soon as I get done scrubbing the calcium stains off the water dispenser, I need one of you to shake the area rugs away from any sitting area in the backyard! Who’s it gonna be, troops?

I’ve been told more than once I am like a drill sergeant before Thanksgiving dinner. When I look like I am about to explode, the house abruptly gets quiet. They have learned the hard way that yelling or crying will occur within seconds, and it’s mostly me.

I’ve known other Organized Clutter Society members who are older than me, and have said the only way to heal from party angst is to get so old that you don’t care or convince your group to go out-to-eat on big holidays.

No cooking, no cleaning, no after mess … priceless!

I think my OCS treatment may be working. And in a few years, I see in my future a fancy restaurant with a standing reservation for the Hatton party of plenty.

(previously published in The Kansas City Star on July 7, 2016)

 

The Etiquette of Tardiness

As far as I’m concerned, there are two types of people in this world: folks who show up on time and everybody else dreaming to be like them. I jest — a little. Tardiness makes me sweat.

Growing up I thought there was only one acceptable way to behave. If anyone in my family was to be late, they had better be incarcerated, dead or pregnant. Being late is not acceptable and improper for anyone in my limited world.

So to make life challenging, I married into a family that doesn’t agree with this rule of etiquette. They believe it more appropriate to not be early in many situations, and for them, showing up to a party fashionably late is preferable. I’m pretty sure both families will go to their graves standing behind their belief; and since Miss Manners won’t take my calls to break the tie, I’m questioning which is correct.

My husband rarely is bothered by anyone showing up late. How blissful it must be for him. I don’t get it. Maybe I shouldn’t argue that being late is disrespectful and wasteful of other people’s time, but it’s ingrained in my brain.

When children entered our picture, we had an excellent excuse for arriving late to everything. Diaper explosion, spit up on my silk blouse, baby locked in the bathroom by toddler — typical new parent reasons. But I figured when our daughters grew older, they would choose to follow my rules.

I know: When do children ever follow the rules?

Now I’m raising two girls who think it’s fine to walk into church after the welcoming words and a song or two. It’s also not a big a deal for them to arrive at school right as the drop-off lane teacher is closing the doors to the building. It’s stressing me out, people! I’m losing sleep and hair from their tardiness.

But once school starts in the fall, I’m will treat my eye bags, thinning hair, and an impending stomach ulcer to the spa.

Even before I had a family of my own, I had issues with people being late. One time my boss had sent an email to the staff stressing we attend a mandatory seminar. He was a fun and playful boss, but he strongly emphasized how important it was to be there for the entire class. Of course I was there early, with copious amounts of coffee in hand. He, however, didn’t appear until the first session break. Waltzing in so casually, I had to give him trouble.

“Running a bit late are we, Mr. Late-ey Pants?”

We had a snarky relationship, so I expected a return comeback that was snort-worthy. Instead he stared at me with his mouth gaping, unable to speak.

“Oh, my gosh! I said, ‘Late pants!’ Not lady pants!” After my 50 shades of red faded, and I had backpedaled enough, I needed a nap.

So now I’m learning to take things in stride. If I’m going to be late, I just take a deep breath and remind myself there’s no reason to speed. Getting a ticket would only slow me down more.

I’ve also learned that male bosses don’t appreciate being told they dress girly. This morsel of wisdom could save your job in the future.

Don’t worry. You can thank me later!

Previously printed in The Kansas City Star on June 25, 2016.