Saturday, February 9, 2008

You Know You're a Mom When......

  • You're driving home from work in your new Cadillac and you notice small human footprints going both up and down your front windshield.
  • All of your children run into the house and disappear into a bedroom down the hallway. One of your sons immediately comes out to inform you that “there IS NOT a frog in Natalie's room." Two days later, you discover that the odor coming from her closet is a makeshift tadpole pond.
  • You find cat poop in one of the kids' rooms but you don't own a cat - at least not one that you know about.
  • You hear the sound of tiny reindeer on the roof but it's not Christmas, so you go outside to discover your two young sons on the roof...playing with butcher knives.
  • The thing that went bump in the night was the sound of two boys throwing poop on their ceiling.
  • You discover the all too familiar odor of urine in the carpet is the result of your boys' contest to see who could pee the farthest from the top shelf of their closet.
  • You can’t find your favorite food storage container because your son just gave a dead rat a proper burial in the back yard. It didn't have a family of its own to give it a funeral.
  • Your fifth and final child finally starts Kindergarten, and after a week you get a call from the Principal informing you that he is being suspended for three days for punching another student in the stomach.
  • The good news is that you no longer have to buy diapers...The bad news is that your grocery bill has now tripled.
  • All five of your children have a science fare project due on the same day - tomorrow - and you just found out about it ten minutes ago.
  • The fridge door was left open and you can't find your three year-old son. Ten minutes later you find him hiding near the front door eating a stick of butter.
  • Your husband calls you on your way to work in a panic because he can’t find your four-year-old son anywhere in the house. He has combed the house twice and has knocked on all of the neighbors’ doors for two streets over. Although you are 30 minutes away, you drive home to help search for him. As soon as you walk through the front door, you call down the hallway “do you want some ice cream?” - And your son calls back from inside his closet with a “yes.”

Monday, February 4, 2008

Combat Pay

Most girls grow up playing some version of dolls or house. We act out our fantasies of what we think grown-up momying is going to be like. Its usually all glamour and no grit. I played out all of those scenarios myself. But never in my wildest five-year-old dreams did I imagine it would be more like one of those army commercials that ends with a voiceover saying "We do more before 8:00am than most people do all day."

As a working mom with five kids - three boys and two girls - sometimes I feel like "an army of one." Everyday is a new battliefield but there is no combat pay.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Old Woman And The Shoes

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children she didn't know what to do.......

OK, I forgot the rest of the story. Does anyone know what happened to her? Here is my verson of it:

As a full-time working mother of five kids, I often feel like I've given birth one too many times. The problem is that I don't know which one it is. It seems to change periodically. I've discovered that I can only pay attention to four of them at a time, and sometimes I think they are conspiring against me. Not in a "me being paranoid" kind of way but in a "how bad can we be without mom finding out" kind of way.

One morning while I was trying to get the kids out the door for school, I noticed that Natalie, my oldest daughter, was wearing flip-flops with her school uniform. I promptly told her to go back to her room and find a different pair of shoes, reminding her that school policy did not allow open-toed shoes. As the other children kept me distracted, we all finally made it out to the car. Natalie arrived last, complaining that she had to change her shoes. After some back-and-forth banter on the subject, she informed me that she didn't understand why I was making such a big deal about her shoes. After all, she had worn flip-flops to school several times last week and no-one said anithing to her about it.

Thats when I realized I can only pay attention to four of my children at any given time. There will probably always be one out there flying free in the wind. I just hope at least one of them will still love me when they are grown.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

The Man Who Can't

He was told “no” so many times as a child that, as an adult it became his standard operating procedure (SOP). His parents’ rule was to say no unless they absolutely had to say yes. We will call these the “no parents”. And so, with his own children today, he leads by the same rule of “no”. His life plan does not allow big dreams to become reality. In fact, his life plan doesn’t allow for dreams at all because he knows that somewhere along the way he will be told “no” and he will have no other choice but to stop, thus resulting in a failure. In his childhood “no” meant “do not question my absolute authority or you will face the most severe consequences. Therefore, you will accept no without exception and you will surrender.”

This “no” did not allow for the opportunity to learn because there was no reasoning or discussion allowed at this point. It was the only answer and the final answer, and it was the precursor to a life that would only allow for small dreams, if any at all, and low ambition. Therefore, he would settle for the status quo because it created a lower risk of disappointment and ultimate failure. Who in their right mind wants to be a failure? Why go there if you don’t have to? There is safety and relative comfort in keeping the status quo.

Now he lives in the world where “no” is the default assumption and one can never lose if one never plays the game. Thus he maintains the status quo in his own life. “No” has become his SOP and he will pass this legacy down to his own children unless he can learn to dream and take the risk of acting on his dreams.

I call him “the man who can’t” because he can always tell you why something can't be done, and when you ask him to explain the logic of his reasons the best answer he can usually give you is because he said so. It infuriates him to be questioned. His parents didn’t allow it when he was growing up and he will not tolerate it either. After all, that is the way he was raised and he turned out just fine. (Or did he?) Now that he is an adult, no-one can tell him what to do. He is the captain of his own ship now, and the course he chooses to navigate is the right one. After all, he has his reasons. Unfortunately, the man who can’t is one who is stuck in a bubble. Inside this bubble, he can’t fail if he dosn’t try. The view from the outside of the bubble, however, is quite different. He is self defeating but he can’t see it. He can’t see outside of that bubble to all of the possibilities awaiting him if he would only take a risk and dare to dream.

There is hope. We can take steps to change our way of thinking so we do not perpetuate the “no” lifestyle. We can learn to transform ourselves from “the man who can’t” to become the man or woman who can and will. We can learn to turn our dreams into reality.

This can be broken down into six simple steps that I like to think of as “stupid simple”. These are rules that anyone can use to achieve their dreams.

Step one: Dream
Step two: Write it down
Step Three: Set a goal or goals
Step Four: Risk Assessment
Step Five: Create a map to get there
Step Six: Take Action

These are not complicated rules or obscure business formulas made known only to college graduates. They are just the basic building blocks for success that anyone can use to turn their dreams into reality. They are so simple and uncomplicated that I call them “stupid simple”.

Dare to Dream

No dream is too big or too small. Dream little or dream big but just start dreaming. Give yourself permission to dream. After all, there is no-one who can tell you “no” in this arena. What can it hurt to dream?

Need some help getting started? Think back to your childhood dreams before you let the expectation of “no” shut down your desire and willingness to dream. Most parents – even the “no parents” – tell their children they can be anything they want to be when they grow up. Unfortunately, most of those parents, and especially the ”no parents”, inadvertently teach their children that they shouldn’t dream too big or expect too much out of life because they will only end up disappointed in the end. These parents were also the children of “no parents”, and they are simply trying to protect their progeny from the prospect of failure. As you can see, this “no parenting” is a repetitive cycle that has been handed down for generations. It is a curse that has to be broken or it will continue to plague our lives and our society for generations to come. It will turn your life into the status quo with no hope of escape.

Don’t misinterpret what I’m saying about saying “no”. There are appropriate times to say no (“No” you cant jump off the cliff without a parachute. No you can’t run with knives. No, you can’t throw poop on the ceiling with your brother in the middle of the night.), but when we make it the rule instead of the exception we set ourselves and our children up for a lifetime stuck in the dulldrums – our own self inflicted form of prison with no possibility of parole, no hope, no dreams and very limited possibilities.

Take a moment to examine your own life and ask yourself these important questions. Are you a “man or woman who can’t?” Or, are you a “no parent”?

If you answered yes to either of the above questions, ask yourself these questions: Do you want more than just the status quo for yourself and your family, but you are afraid of failure? What is the worst that can happen if you reverse your way of thinking and start saying yes unless you absolutely have to say no?

Say "yes" because it is the appropriate thing to do and reserve "no" for when it is clearly the appropriate answer that you can express a logical reason for. If you can’t give a clear, logical reason for saying no, consider the alternative “yes”. Ask yourself, “is there a moral, legal or ethical reason to say no?” Sometimes we say no to our children when we really mean “not now”, or “leave me alone. I’m too busy to take the time to interact with your world”, because we are not willing to take the time to explain why it needs to be postponed or done a different way. “No" is often used as a cover for our own laziness or unwillingness to move out of our comfort zones and interact with the world around us.

Start saying "yes" as often as you can and open yourself to the world of endless possibilities.

What's that on the ceiling?

It was past bedtime and I was completely exhausted after 11 mindnumbing hours at work followed by a one-hour commute home in pouring rain. All I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and pass out. However, my children had other plans. I finally climbed into bed when there was a knock on the bedroom door. My three-year-old son, Dalton, wanted a drink of water before he could go to sleep. This was his nightly ritual and I was trying to ignore it, thinking if I ignored it, he would go away. Unfortunately, three-year-olds don't work that way. They are incredibly persistent about getting what they want. Dalton wanted a drink of water and he wasn't going to go away until he got it. So, I relented and got out of bed to get the water.

Now, back in bed, I could finally get some sleep - or so I thought. My husband, Will, worked at night and I was outnumbered by the children four-to-one. For the next hour and a half there was an endless parade of children at my door - crying, complaining, tattling and one nasty nosebleed. All I wanted to do was get some sleep so I could go to work the next day without looking like a zombie or falling asleep at my desk. So, I decided to lock my door and not answer it unless I heard what I call the "blood cry". Mothers know the different kinds of cries their children produce, and I don't spring into action unless I hear the one that indicates the shedding of blood. In my book, everything else is just crying wolf.

It was 1:00am, and although I could hear the faint thud of something bumping the wall, the kids were all now in their rooms and the house was relatively quiet. Knowing that I only had five hours left, I turned on a small box fan to block out the noise and drifted off to sleep.

6:00am arrived too soon and my alarm went off like an unwelcomed explosion. I reluctantly rolled out of bed and decided to get ready for work without waking up the kids before leaving the house. My mom was on her way over to babysit so Will could get some sleep after working the night shift. She arrived just before 8:00 and I was ready to walk out the door when I decided to check on the kids to make sure they were all still alive. Walking quietly down the hall, I carefully opened the door to the boys' room. They were both sleeping like angels. These were my favorite moments of any day - watching their angelic faces as they slept. It gave me a feeling of quiet serenity and hope that they would grow up to do great things.

On this morning, as I watched them sleep, I took one last look around their room. The blinds were down and the curtains were closed so it was dark, but I noticed something unfamiliar on the ceiling. Straining my eyes in the dark, I noticed that it was in several places on the ceiling. This seemed very odd, so I decided to turn on the light, despite the risk of waking the boys from their sleep. It took a moment to figure out what I was looking at because it was completely out of context, but then it dawned on me. It was poop! My two beautiful angel-faced boys had been up during the night throwing poop on the ceiling. (That probably explained the bumping sound I heard during the night.) These were not small poop stains or remnants of poop. They were full-blown three-inch logs hanging from the ceiling. I couldn’t begin to imagine what they were thinking at the time. How do two small boys decide to throw poop on the ceiling in the middle of the night? What goes through their minds that motivates them to do something like this? Did they have a contest to see who could poop the biggest and make it stick, and more important - did they wash their hands when they were finished?

Whatever it was, I didn’t have time to stop and think about it or to clean it up. If I didn’t leave now, I would be late for work. So, I turned off the light and decided to let sleeping boys lie. Will was on his way home and he could clean it up before going to bed. I was off to work – for my mental health.