Friday, July 23, 2010

The 'Tude

Since when did 7-year-olds have the sarcasm, negative attitude and indignation of a teenager? Some gnarly teen took my sweet little boy, and I want him back (my son, not the gnarly teen).

I can say little without Alex giving me attitude, or rolling his eyes, or flat out telling me no, he will not do what I asked. And then there are the tantrums, with tears so forced he can turn them on and off like the kitchen sink. Just the other day he was crying on the way to day camp, but stopped as soon as we got there. In a completely normal voice, he asked, "Mom, do I have any tears left on my face?" What had been sob-worthy two minutes before was suddenly forgotten.

Alex's sarcastic tone is complemented (worsened?) by his use of air quotes. I did not think I used them very often, but apparently I do--he said he learned the technique from me. Oy. Part of me is infuriated, and the other part realizes his way with words (and air quotes) is another indication of his advanced thinking. He makes me believe it truly is possible for a kid to be too smart for his own good.

We had somewhat of a trying weekend. Alex's down-and-out tantrum at his great-grandparents' house meant I did not take him to the pool. Faced with several hours of no swimming and no TV (he lost that privilege as well), he asked me to play with him. We enjoyed a game of Scrabble, but I decided we should take a break when he came up with "sexy" for his turn (I really need to keep my magazines out of sight--even Redbook is not safe!). He later admitted that an afternoon of playing with his toys and hanging out with his mom was not so bad, although I'm sure he would deny that statement today.

Later that evening, we went to the Olive Garden. Alex ate three breadsticks and a little pasta, and declared he was full. But then he had the nerve to ask for a milkshake, because he was only full of "certain foods." I refused, but said maybe later. He tried to convince me there was no difference between now and later and declared I was going to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for making the most nonsense.

I see so much of myself in Alex. He's smart, he's cute ... seriously, though, I know I used to be argumentative (and still am sometimes). I like to get my way. I don't like to be wrong. Alex is exactly the same. I just hope that as he matures, he will realize that arguing, negativity and sarcastic comments will not help him get what he wants. Until then, I might buy us matching muzzles.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Brown Squiggly Sacrifice

I recently wrote about the sacrifices we make for our children--for me, it was going to a water park. I thought that was going to be my "big" sacrifice of the summer--until I stupidly suggested we go to Black Moshannon State Park last Sunday.

Silly me--I thought that Brian and I would lounge on the beach while Alex and Lauren played in the sand and waded in the water. Notice I said WADED in the water. However, I underestimated my son and his newfound swimming ability. He wanted to go to the "deep end," and wanted me to go with him. Considering he just learned to swim this summer, I could not turn him down.

So I slowly entered the water, cringing with each step. Alex wanted to go out to where it was five feet deep, but we compromised with four. He had brought a beach ball, and wanted to play catch. He didn't do so well with throwing the ball right into my hands, which meant it either hit the water in front of me and splashed my face, or went behind me, forcing me into deeper water. I'm still not sure whether he kept "missing" on purpose. I tried to keep a smile on my face, but it was one of those "Mom, are we finished taking the picture now" smiles. In other words, forced.

There were quite a few people in the water. People who were totally submerging themselves in the water. Kids in goggles diving down to the murky depths. I was cringing internally the entire time. Until I got out of the water--and cringed for real.

Alex and I both had little brown squiggly things--for lack of a better term--all over our bodies. They were not moving (FORTUNATELY!). I have no idea what they were, but we had to literally scrub them off. Some hard scrubbing was required. I'm lucky I didn't throw up. Thank goodness there were showers there. Of course I could write another post about the condition of those showers, but I don't want to make anyone sick.

Alex did not really think much of the "squiggles" until we discussed them later. Thank goodness he agreed they were gross. Lauren, of course, did not care a bit. Take her to a beach and she's like a pig in slop. For some reason, she did not end up with many of the squiggles.

After our, uh, refreshing swim, we headed to the little camp store for a snack. The store that is open Memorial Day through Labor Day, but is filled with Christmas decorations. On the windowsill by our table, there was a tiny wrapped box--faded from years in the sun--with a quarter inside. On the bottom of the box, there was a price tag that said $.25. A bargain--for a quarter, we could have gotten a different quarter AND the box!

Ah, central Pennsylvania. We have beaches, we have great shopping, we have ... actually, we have a lot. I love it here. Brown squiggles excluded.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reality Show

If I did not very clearly remember giving birth to my children, I would often question whether they were mine. The things that come out of their mouth make me feel like I'm living in a sit-com. I don't think I was a boring kid, but I'm pretty certain I was not bursting with personality like my two little angels. Er, heathens. Er, smart-alecky yet adorable kids.

A couple weeks ago, Alex was talking about a friend's sister who was allowed to stay home by herself when she was 11. He asked if he would be allowed to stay home alone at that age. So as not to start an argument, I told him that MAYBE he could, for brief periods. Without missing a beat, he asked, "Can I have a party?" I burst out laughing. Trying to save face, he claimed he meant a party with himself. Uh, I don't think I want him having a party with other kids OR himself, if you get my drift.

Last week, Lauren begged me to snuggle on the couch with her. I obliged, of course, and as soon as I sat down she twisted herself around so her feet were in my lap. "You can rub my feet," she stated in her sweet little voice. Again, I burst out laughing. It's not that I'm opposed to rubbing her feet (my husband's feet are another story). It's just that foot-rubbing does not occur in our house--unless you're rubbing your own--so I couldn't figure out where she even learned about that little pleasure. I'll blame one of those insipid "tween" shows on the Disney Channel.

Here's another Lauren classic: We were walking around the People's Choice Festival on Sunday, and Lauren kept asking me to carry her. I kept telling her no. So she said her knees were broken. I said that if her knees were broken, she could not go to her friend's birthday party. "My knees are all better now. Let's go to the party!" she exclaimed. Of course I have heard this type of thing before from Alex, but Lauren is only 3. I can't decide if this type of advanced thinking should make me proud--or scared.

Speaking of advanced thinking ... Alex can turn just about any conversation around to meet his needs. He stops just short of outright lying. I have to choose my words very carefully to ensure there are no loopholes Mr. Manipulation will use to his advantage. He was being his typical argumentative self recently and I warned him not to "talk back." He claimed he could not "talk back" when I had not said anything to him in the first place. It was true I had not said anything to him right before I told him not to talk back. Oy. In my case, having a smart kid means having a smart ass kid. According to my mom, this is payback ...

I recently took Lauren to a birthday party where all the children were, fortunately, very well behaved. I talked to some of the other parents about the differences between our kids' behavior at home and in other settings. At home, our kids let it all hang out--the good, the bad, and the ugly. Someone pointed out that the "experts" say kids who act out at home are also the ones who feel the most loved. If that's true, then my kids feel REALLY loved.

And that's the way it should be. The feeling loved part, at least. I could do without the smart-ass comments and sibling squabbling, but I've accepted that it's a package deal. Here's hoping we all make it through the weekend intact.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Chlorinated Sacrifice

Being a parent means making sacrifices. Having the title of "mom" or "dad" means you often do things you really don't want to do, from letting your son eat the last bit of your secret stash of ice cream to giving up the job promotion that would take the family overseas. I recently made the biggest sacrifice in my parenting life to date--I went to a water park.

Water parks are gross. No amount of chlorinated water can make up for the perpetually wet bathroom floors that reek of more than pool chemicals, or the lounge chairs where thousands of almost-naked bums have perched.

And then there are the bodies. All shapes, all sizes, all wearing close to nothing. I saw a few modest men who kept their shirts on (and even one with socks?!), but for the most part, people let it all hang out. I never thought going to a water park would be an ego boost for me, but there were plenty of "mom bods" in far worse shape than mine, as evidenced by the stretched-out tattoos no longer quite in their original locations.

My family does not spend much time at pools, so the kids are not used to seeing so many unclothed bodies. Alex wasn't fazed by it, but Lauren had some choice comments. What do you do when your 3-year-old points and laughs at one man's rather large belly? She had already told her dad she thought his belly looked funny. Glad I wore a tankini instead of a bikini. I probably spared myself the scorn of my appearance-conscious daughter.

As if the general skeeve factor were not enough, at water parks there is the added problem of what to do with your stuff. We saw many teenagers entering with just a towel around their necks and flip flops on their feet. There were cubbies near many of the slides where you could leave your shoes and towels, and it seemed like people were generally respectful of other people's stuff. But parents need to lug around towels, snacks, money, car keys, change of clothes, LOTS of antibacterial wipes, et cetera. The park we visited had lockers to rent, but they were tiny. Fortunately the skimpy hotel towels we "borrowed" did not take up too much space.

So I spent an entire day in a bathing suit, walked through a public bathroom with no shoes on (OMG, I still can't believe I did that), saw lots of not-so-heavenly bodies and ... I still had fun. Unlike amusement parks, where Brian and Lauren often go off on their own to ride the rides (yes, Brian and Lauren--Alex hates to ride, just like his mom), we did most of the water park activities together. There was minimal squabbling between the kids, and they had a great time playing in the fountain areas. We all enjoyed the lazy river and bobbing up and down in the wave pool. The kids wore life vests the entire time, which cut down on my nervousness (Alex is still learning to swim and Lauren just started lessons).

We got to the park around 10:30 a.m. and I was looking at my watch by 11:30. At that point, I realized I just had to relax. And then I started to have fun. The kids had a blast, and I know they will remember their water park visit for a long time to come. I will remember their smiles--and the scalding hot shower I took as soon as we got back to the hotel.