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A Fly Will Poop on Your Lip... and Other Parenting Lies

October 22, 2014

Someone once said, “I believe in being honest with my kids, 101 percent.”

That someone wasn’t me. I lie to my kids all the time. I’m not just talking about the trifecta of deception: Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. I don’t creatively bend the truth. I straight up lie like Pinnochio. Am I ashamed? No. Lying to my kids saves my sanity, not to mention time and money. And sometimes, it’s just fun to eff with them a little.

Here are seven of my go-to’s:

1. Your face will freeze like that.
In a few years, my kids will be old enough to understand that a few tears or even an all-out DEFCON 4 meltdown won’t cause their face to freeze mid-wail. But for now, this little lie has a better than 50 percent chance of getting my crying kid to shut it.

2. A fly will poop on your lip.
This is a hand-me-down. Every time I stuck my bottom lip out when I was a kid, my mom would scare me with the possibility of fly poop on my face. Technically, could be true, I guess. It worked for me and it works for my four year old bottom lip sticker-outer. Fly crap is scary to a little kid, I guess.

3. That’s broken.
This is reserved for every annoying automatic pony ride thingy that camps out in the entrance of the grocery stores. There’s a time and a place for shit like that: it’s called Chuck E. Cheese in my neck of the woods. Taking time out of my errands to feed coins in to a pony, car or airplane that jiggles and bounces for all of eighteen seconds only to be met with cries of “more, more”? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Easier just to breeze by and announce in a mock-regretful tone “sorry, darling, That’s broken.” Occasionally some “fun mom” will trip me up by actually letting their kids ride these things. If that’s you, knock it off, k? People like me need to get in and get out of the store and don’t have time to indulge in a mini carnival.

4. No, you can’t have a bite, that’s spicy.
This is reserved for anything that my kids want that I don’t feel like sharing. Being a mom, I’m usually resigned to going halfsies on anything that looks like it tastes good, but some things aren’t shareable like Klondike Bars and anything made by Dove. I’m not above sneaking in to the bathroom to eat stuff like this, but when I get caught, I tell my kids with a straight face that its way too spicy and that it would burn their mouths.

I know this kind of lying has a limited shelf life. Pretty soon they’ll be worldly enough to know that no ice cream is spicy and that if I’m eating something in the bathroom, it means it’s extra good and that they definitely want a bite.

5. Go away, I’m pooping.
When I’m behind the locked bathroom door, it means I need my special alone time. I recently discovered that there’s a Pinterest app on my smart phone (I’m not an early adapter) and I might be busy oohing and ahhing over recipes that I’ll never make because they’re beyond my skill level.

Being behind a locked bathroom door might mean I’m having some chocolate I don’t want anyone to know about. I might have a -glass- bottle of wine in there. Being a mother in a large-ish family means alone time is pretty much nonexistent, unless I’m claiming to be on the crapper… and even that isn’t a guarantee. I might be eating, drinking or stalking people on Facebook, or I might just be soaking up a few minutes of blissful aloneness. My payback will be the mess that the kids have made while I’ve been locked in my she-cave, but it’s usually worth it.

For now, my family believes my little lie about Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I’ve got a good thing going with “I’m pooping, kids” so I’m gonna milk that as long as I can. You would, too.

6. If you don’t go to sleep, Santa won’t come.
What this really means is “if you don’t go to sleep, mommy and daddy are going to crack open that -second- third bottle of wine.” It means we’re going to get well and truly blitzed while we’re waiting for you to pass out so that we can assemble your junior Batmobile, or whatever piece of crap we’ve decided to blame on Santa.

Confession: there’s no “we” involved in assembly of Christmas toys. I’m a supportive wine-drinking couch potato who periodically mutters things like “looking good, honey” or “they’re really going to love that.”

But Santa will come, no matter how late you stay up, kids. The Christmas toys might be put together with chewing gum and hot glue and mommy and daddy may be a little bleary eyed on Christmas morning, but it’s all good.

7. I’ll take that iPad away.
I’ll freely admit to using electronic entertainment as a babysitter from time to time. Okay, -several times a week- daily. When my boys get out of hand, the first thing I do is threaten to take their iPads away. Sometimes I even stalk over and act like I’m going to grab it from their sticky little hands. Pul-leeze.

Sometimes I need my small humans to be engaged in something besides pulling on my shirt and whining for Fruit Rollups. Maybe I want to blow dry my hair without fear they’ll burn the house down. Judge me if you want to.

In all seriousness, I don’t believe in lying to kids about important stuff, although I am a never say never kind of girl. I’ve told lies to my kids in the spirit of self-preservation and personal comfort levels, but in general, I believe the truth is easier when it comes to important stuff… except stuff like what I’m really doing when I’m locked in the bathroom.

Jill likes running, wine and sarcasm (sometimes all at once) and pretending to be the grammar police. She writes about adoption, midlife and being the oldest mom at the playground, at the pediatrician, and pretty much everywhere else on her blog Ripped Jeans & Bifocals. The best way to get on Jill’s good side is to end all questions with ‘and would you like wine with that?’ You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

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Is Social Media Changing You?

October 21, 2014

After an early morning family walk and outing, I came home, showered, put away the groceries and posted the following on my personal Facebook page:

"Early morning family hike around east Town Lake Trail (beautiful rowing on calm waters!), explored new buildings/architecture downtown and enjoyed tacos at Galaxy in Clarksville, all before ten a.m. – it’s amazing what can happen when you rise with the sun!”

A short while later, I felt off, slightly sick to my stomach and sensed a strange, almost ‘warning’ sensation roll through my body.

During lunch with my husband and son, I asked, “Why did I just do that?” Was I feeling lonely and seeking acknowledgment? Was I wanting to look cool and hip with the family set (yes, we spend a lot of time downtown-look at us!) or was I slipping into a new habit of mindlessly hopping on Facebook more than I ever have before?

Dr. Sherry Turkle, former WIRED cover girl and author of “Alone Together,” studies the social and psychological effects of technology. One point Sherry made – that I can’t shake – is that social media/technology is not just changing how we interact, it’s changing who we are.

There’s a danger with us only showing the ‘shiny’ versions of ourselves. The hip highlights of our lives. This way of being with each other is affecting how we perceive ourselves, and how we perceive one another. We’re messy, peanut-butter-covered, sometimes irritable, and often awkward, inappropriate and raw humans – not Pinterest pictures.

In the airport traveling earlier this summer, I picked up the Atlantic Magazine issue, “Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?” No, I don’t think Facebook is making us lonely, but we may be making ourselves lonely by substituting surface-level, virtual high-fives for real time, heartfelt, ‘warts and all’ conversation. Social media can give us the illusion that we’re connecting, but we’re going broad, not deep. And it’s leaving many of us (whether we realize it or not) void of real connection.

Social media can be a great tool for the self-employed, community organizing and keeping in touch with old classmates or colleagues in NY or Munich, but it isn’t a substitute for real friendships.

Last summer, I spent almost a month researching what overuse and misuse of technology (TV, Internet, iPhones, video games, social media) is doing to our hearts and spirits, and how it’s affecting our emotional health. The findings (particularly around boys and video games and Internet porn) were alarming.

I also explored how our habits are affecting who we are, and how we connect when we’re not online. Many shared that they feel speeded up from always being ‘plugged in,’ and they’re finding it harder to be present and just ‘be.’ And when I asked, “What derails your family’s sense of peace and well-being in everyday life?” more than 100 respondents chose overuse and misuse of technology as their number one saboteur.

Last week, I attended a content strategy meeting for entrepreneurs. The speaker said our businesses should each be disseminating 403 pieces of information annually to our target audience. As I watched the 55 attendees furiously adding this ‘to do’ item to their iPhone task lists, I felt a chill go down my spine and quickly calculated what this tidal wave of tweets, posts and articles would look and feel like if every business owner on the planet took this counsel to heart.

Why is all this so triggering for me? (Yes, I admit it is!) As a life balance teacher, I spend a lot of energy helping women/men around the US discover how to tether and anchor within themselves – how to find their center in the midst of chaos and uncertainty – and I believe our growing addiction to social media is contributing greatly to feelings of disconnection and unhappiness.

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with these tools. I don’t think the answer is unplugging completely (although I applaud those who have the courage/ability to do this), but my recent experience and observations made me want to ask myself (and sit with) some big questions. To pause before I post (or even go online). And to observe how I feel before and after I enter the Facebook circus.

Recently, my friend Leah told me she had a rare ‘girls’ night out’ dinner with her neighbors. After being seated in the restaurant, everyone at the table picked up their iPhones and started texting their husbands, taking photos, tagging one another and updating their FB status, while Leah sat quietly in disbelief. Napkin in lap, wine glass full and candles flickering, she was ready for heartfelt conversation – but it seemed the allure of connecting with a larger party superseded connecting with the small one that was meeting in that moment.

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

Renée Peterson Trudeau is an internationally recognized life balance coach/speaker and author of The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life and Nurturing the Soul of Your Family. You can connect with Renée at her website Renee Trudeau.

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Oh My Gourd! The Things We Do for Our Kids

October 20, 2014

At the end of kindergarten last year, my oldest daughter Anna (known around here as Anna Banana, or "AB") brought home a biology project: a little plastic cup half-full of dirt with a few tiny leaves poking through. She told me she had planted a pumpkin seed and – to my shock and dismay – the damn thing had actually started to show signs of life. I dismissively told her we could plant it in our garden, fully expecting it to die. When planting day finally arrived, AB lovingly transferred her little seedling to the far corner of the garden where it wouldn’t interfere with the real vegetables.

I learned quickly that a pumpkin vine is quite a commitment.

Over the course of the summer, AB’s pumpkin went from adorable seedling to Little Shop of Horrors vine-from-hell that slowly took over our little garden. First, we redirected it around the other plants, and then out of the garden entirely and into the yard, where its tacky leaves began to crawl toward the back door. Every day we would check the garden, and every day this menacing vine would be just a teeny bit closer to the house. Uncomfortably close. I fully expected to wake up one morning and find this damn plant enjoying a cup of coffee in my living room.

After three months of terrorizing our yard, this monstrous plant produced a grand total of one (1) fruit, which made my little girl squeal with delight when we finally hacked it free. She insisted – nay, demanded – we do something with it. “Let’s make pumpkin pie!” she exclaimed.

If left to my own devices I would have just yanked the thing up and thrown it out. But I’m a mom and this is my precious baby’s stupid plant she brought home from kindergarten and I can’t just throw it away because motherhood. AB ran to the garden almost every day to dote on that orange ball and if I just threw it out, I would be callously discarding her hopes and dreams. Only a lazy asshole would do that.

So I Googled it and, sure as my toddler drinks his own bathwater, that is a thing you can do with a real pumpkin. That cattle-ranch chick on Food Network gave idiot proof instructions, akin to roasting a winter squash, and it will only take an hour, start to finish!

Carving pumpkins is one of the few operations my husband performs, so I am not trained in gourd surgery. I stabbed my sharpest kitchen knife into this thing and blissfully tried to wiggle it sideways. As any pumpkin-carver knows, this is an utter exercise in futility. Once you knife a pumpkin, it grabs a hold of your weapon and will not let go. It’s like there’s a tiny gnome in the center playing tug-of-war with your blade. I hacked away at this impenetrable pumpkin for a good half-hour and narrowly avoided amputating several of my fingers. When I finally got the thing quartered, my reward was scooping and scraping seeds and pulp out of this f*#%ing fruit until my arms were numb up to my elbows.

This chore reminded me of conversation I had with my mother-in-law over the summer. She grew up on a farm in Iowa and has sobering stories of how she spent her childhood: snapping buckets full of beans for hours so her family could eat in the winter; drinking unpasteurized, warm, straight-from-the-teat milk; plucking feathers from boiled chickens that her own mother had just decapitated on a stump in the backyard. No microwaves! A wringer-washer (whatever that is)! Being literally henpecked while gathering eggs from the coop! Outdoor plumbing!

Perspective.

The Great Pumpkin Experience of 2014 seemed manageable by comparison. I always tell my kids they have to manage their own morale, and now it was my turn. Once I finished scooping and scraping and got the pieces into the oven, I went about looking up recipes and formulating a game plan for what to do with this thing. First up was pureeing, which is easy when you have a souped-up food processor with the torque of a riding lawnmower. Then I set to work on no less than three different recipes.

My husband and kids checked on me regularly throughout the weekend and occasionally threw me some food while I converted this one pumpkin into two pies, four loaves of bread, and 60 delicious muffins. Oh, and, just because I love my husband, I raked the seeds from the pulp, washed them, dried them, stared affectionately at them for twenty-four hours and then roasted the shit out of them.

It took me a sweet forever – or two full days – to move this gourd through the circle of life. At some point my husband asked how much the equivalent amount of canned pumpkin costs. I guesstimated that I had harvested about sixty ounces of pumpkin puree, or about five bucks’ worth. Obviously, this wasn’t a money-saving exercise.

I had this rather grandiose fantasy that my little girl and I would do this together. We would wear aprons and lovingly share tasks and I would let her crack all of the eggs and work the mixer and scoop the batter and she would beg me over and over to lick the beater and I would tell her no until the very end when I would hand it to her (along with a raw egg disclaimer) and send her off to slobber all over it as her reward for being mommy’s little helper and she wouldn’t drive me absolutely bat-shit crazy in the kitchen.

The truth is that she ditched me to binge-watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But that was okay, because once I finished baking all this shit, she proudly reminded us that we were eating her pumpkin, and wasn’t it delicious and weren’t we so happy that she brought that little plant home so we could have all this wonderful food that she made?

Um. Excuse me, what?

Mackenzie is a SAHM to five beautiful, albeit annoying, kids. She worked so super hard in her twenties to get an MBA only to retire and become her kids’ bitch. She spends her days dashing into the fray and taking power naps. You can catch her ranting and swearing on her blog, Mommy Needs a Swear Jar and Facebook. She’s still trying to figure out Twitter.

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Spending Date Night Lamenting Your Youth

October 19, 2014

I’m in a flurry. I’ve put on Madeline for my three year old while I sit at my vanity so that I can apply eye shadow and lipstick. I give myself an asthma attack spraying on drugstore perfume that I’ve purchased because it claims to be French. I’ve just returned from a mad dash to Walgreens in which I’ve also picked up some sort of “blurring” cream that is supposed to erase 20 years of hard living and make me ready for photos (the paparazzi forever plagues me) because oh my god, I have a date tonight!

My three year old has a party to go to tonight. It is from 6 to 8 pm, and it involves singing, dancing, pizza and cake. We almost never have a sitter and this is an opportunity that has fallen from the sky like a platinum-encrusted spaceship that will deliver our child to toddler paradise and my husband and me to a table for two.

It’s Friday night at 6:01. My husband and I emerge onto the avenue and… well… we haven’t really thought this through.

I want to go to an old-time New York diner. It’s homey and it makes me think of 1980s movies and the food is good and reasonably priced and they even have wine. My husband looks murderous when I suggest it.

He wants to go on a date. He wants to go to a dimly lit bar where you hear the murmur of people trying to get into each other’s pants and you feel very young and not at all like tired parents there. Besides, he says, the diner’s clientele is all old people leaving lipstick marks on the napkins and yelling about Israel. I couldn’t choose a less romantic spot if I had tried, he protests.

So we do what we always do when a rare opportunity for time alone presents itself. We wander and argue like an old couple about how to spend our time like a young couple. I accuse him of thinking I am a boring old hen for choosing the cozy diner; he tells me that on the contrary, he thinks I look far too pretty and smell too nice not to be wined and dined at a fancy restaurant. I tell him I am an old hen and my hearing hasn’t been good since they took my adenoids out when I was three so the background noise at a bar would prevent me from hearing him try to get into my pants, anyway.

He asks me to walk two more blocks. Maybe we will spot just the right place. I tell him I am the oldest young person he will ever meet and he knew that when he married me. He tells me I am selling myself short. I tell him I am not, that in fact, I think highly of myself and besides I get a kick out of the old people with lipstick on their teeth arguing about Israel.

It is now 6:30. We have perused a few menus along Columbus Avenue. Wow, we forgot how expensive a Friday night in Manhattan can be. We get nostalgic about a time in our lives when we could wander for an hour until we found the right place. Now the clock is ticking. We are hungry and cold. No one is going to win tonight. If we go to the diner, my husband will be annoyed. If we persist in our quest for a romantic, candle-filled bar, it could be pick-up time before we have a chance to order our food.

Two hours. Two hours. It seemed like so much time.

My husband says, “Let’s go to the diner this week and next time we will find a romantic place where you don’t fit in and you can’t hear anything and the candles are covered with paper bags and the appetizers cost so much that we have to split an entrée."

“Will you secretly resent me for ending up at a diner tonight?” I ask.

“No," my husband assures me. “Not secretly.”

We go to the diner. The bartender is out tonight and the man standing in for him doesn’t know how to make a Sea Breeze. My husband looks up the ingredients: vodka, cranberry juice and grapefruit juice.

The man says, “Sorry, I can’t make that.”

Man, I really screwed up date night. Blur cream, fake French perfume, little black dress and here we are at a diner. “I’m sorry,” I mouth to my husband.

He asks the substitute bartender to mix orange juice and vodka. I glug half a glass. It’s been a while. The walls begin to swirl in a nice way.

It’s 7:30. We wander out onto the street and my husband puts his leather jacket over my shoulders because I am cold and I fall down on the sidewalk, my knees weakened by laughter because he said something funny and I am drunk. I am wearing his leather jacket, I am wearing snazzy boots and hairspray and I am drunk and laughing inappropriately and falling into my husband’s arms on the sidewalk.

We’re back!

It’s been so long. And just like that, we’re back. I knew we were in there somewhere. Now we never sleep and I am always promising roast vegetables and vacuumed floors and household perfection but we usually end up with pizza from the local shop with a side of peas (for guilt maintenance) and more often than not those crumbs on the floor go one more day because getting a vacuum cleaner out of a Manhattan closet is like wrestling a T-Rex and anyway, vacuuming is boring.

It is 7:45. We sit outside with the other parents awaiting their kids. I look forward to the look in her eyes when our daughter sees us. I can’t wait for the leap. The toddler leap is one of complete trust: of course Mommy and Daddy will catch me.

It is 8:00. There she is! Her face is illuminated with the joy of reunion after her prison sentence of pizza and trampoline jumping.

“Why did you leave me there,” she asks. “Why is Mommy so fancy tonight?”

“We didn’t go anywhere fancy, love,” my husband says, “We just ate some mashed potatoes at a diner.”

I knew there was a good reason to pick the diner. We don’t have to tell the kid we do “fancy” things only when she isn’t around. Someday, when she is older, she will be fine with this, but our child is still at the stage where she is mystified by her exclusion from anything we do.

We pile into a cab as she tells us they bobbed for apples at the party. I look at my handsome husband. He is smiling at our daughter.

Next time, we’ll be returning from a romantic corner booth in a dimly lit bar. But I doubt we could have any more fun than we did arguing over every little thing tonight.

Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor living in New York City. She was a nanny for a decade before having a child of her own, who is now nearly three. She writes (of course!) at her blog Hungry Little Animal.

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Your Daughter Might Be a Mean Girl If...

October 18, 2014

While talking to a friend the other night, she told me a heart-wrenching story about how a group of 7th grade girls got up from a lunch table and moved when her daughter sat down. They certainly had a good reason to do it… after all, an 8th grade hottie asked her daughter to the dance and (gasp) she said yes.

Unbeknownst to my friend’s daughter, the boy was verbally taken and off-limits. Yes, I know this sounds like Mean Girls, Part Deux but in fact it wasn’t. It’s just another day in a garden variety middle school in a small New York town.

As much as the girls’ vile behavior upset me, it’s what my friend told me next that really got my blood pressure boiling. When my friend called one of the girls’ moms — someone she has known for more than a decade — the response was this: “Oh, I don’t think it was a big deal. I just don’t think they are as close anymore. I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding.”

Um, what the what what?

I get it. It is a hard thing to imagine that your sweet little girl can also be Regina George but are we really that naive? Are we so blinded by the love we feel for our kids that we refuse to believe they are capable of unkind behavior towards someone else’s child, someone else’s little girl?

I worry sometimes about my own three girls. Although I know their hearts are kind, I wonder, are their minds strong enough to know right from wrong in a moment of weakness, jealousy or rage? Or when they see someone they admire acting cruel, will they have the courage to act appropriately? It’s a lot to ask of a young girl, and it’s crazy to think they won’t make mistakes.

To be clear, I do not believe that one bad incident does a mean girl make. There is a difference between a child who makes a bad judgment call, and one who out-and-out torments another kid. But, I do believe the more excuses we make for our children, the more likely they are to do it again. And again. And again.

I read somewhere that children need to be raised not managed. This is so true. If you hear yourself uttering one of these phrases below, ask yourself, is this how I really want my child to act?

Then take a moment to close your eyes and imagine it’s your child, your little girl. How would you want another parent to respond? How would you feel if your child was ostracized and one of the following was the excuses you received:

  • “Your daughter doesn’t seem to be interested in being part of the group anymore, so my daughter and the rest of the girls just don’t talk to her as much. Not everyone has to be best friends.” Oh, the classic passive aggressive, “it’s not me, it’s you” defense. That will work well when she grows up and is expected to actually get along with people “outside of her group.”
  • “My daughter said it really wasn’t that big of a deal, and really, shouldn’t the girls work it out on their own?” What if the police said that to Charlie Manson’s cult? “I know Charlie is a little crazy, but really, can’t you guys just figure out how to get along with him?” Seriously, when did we get so lazy as parents that we can’t take 15 minutes to talk to our kids about the difference between right and wrong? Why will we drive them hours across state lines to sports tournaments but we can’t spend 10 minutes to sort out bad behavior? Yes, kids need to learn to work it out, but there are also times when parents need to step in and course correct. All it takes is one parent to be brave enough to actually, well, parent their kid. It can make a huge difference.
  • “It’s not my daughter’s fault your daughter is so sensitive.” Seriously?!? There are millions of documented incidents of girls out-and-out traumatizing other girls — some of which are supposed to be their best friends! Don’t automatically blame the other girl. Make your daughter take at least a small portion of responsibility. Reflecting on one’s behavior, and understanding your role in a situation, is a pretty important life skill.
  • “It wasn’t really my daughter being mean, it was her friends.” The innocent bystander excuse. Lovely. Because as long as you don’t participate, you’re not really doing anything wrong.
  • “Girls will be girls.” This is the one that really gets my pants on fire. Since the dawn of time we have been saying girls will be girls. As women, are we not tired of this? As parents, haven’t we all had enough? Wouldn’t it be nice to take the negative connotation off of this phrase and turn it into a positive? This phrase should be abolished. Sometimes a girl is just mean, but most mean girls are created, not born that way. We should never use this excuse for bad behavior.

My friend’s daughter will be okay. Fortunately she had other friends to fall back on, and she learned a tough lesson early on in life. But that doesn’t mean every girl treated poorly will have the same happy ending.

Let’s stop making excuses for our girls. Let’s start raising them up by not accepting excuses for putting others down.

It starts with one brave parent.

Whitney is the mom to three tween-ish daughters, a communications consultant and blogger at Playdates on Fridays. She is trying to break out of the mold of being a typical suburban mom despite that she is often seen driving her minivan to soccer tournaments or volunteering for the PTA. Follow her on Facebook or on twitter.

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