Friday, April 29, 2011

Lighten up, will ya?

Here's a thing I've learned about my daughter.  She'll figure stuff out when she's good and ready. Not a minute before, and there's no stopping her once she's got it started.  It's been that way since she was born, I think.  She walked at 8 months old.  I certainly didn't encourage this.  But there she was on Thanksgiving, at her grandparents' house, figuring out how to spin in a circle by moving only one foot.  It wasn't 10 minutes before she was staggering away.

Same thing happened with potty training.  I tried everything, starting from the time she was about 2 1/2. Bribing with candy: Lame.  Sticker charts: Whatever.  Special Big Girl pants: More laundry for Mama.  Earning a prize: Pssht.  Like she'd notice the absence of a toy she never had in the first place.  But when she was good and ready, she put on some little Tinker Bell drawers, used the toilet, and never looked back.   I never bought another package of pull-ups.  Shoe tying worked similarly: one day she just tied her own shoes.

Some things Hannah hasn't mastered yet include riding a 2-wheeled bicycle and swimming.  I don't tell people that very often, because I'd like to avoid the disapproving stares and whispers.

Is there something wrong with her balance?  My little Timmy's been on a 2-wheeler since he was 4.

She can't swim yet?  How irresponsible.  You know, we do live in Florida.  There's water and pools and things all over the place.  

There's nothing wrong with her.  I just know that when I try to teach Hannah something I get the flopping around drama queen act, complete with "I just can't do it. It's too hard!"

When she's ready, she'll just do it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What did we learn today, class?

My child.  She's smart. And infuriating.  This was the conversation at breakfast:

Me: Hannah, put that down and drink your milk.
Hannah: (not putting it down)
Me: Put it down, I said.
Hannah: (holding it just off the table)
Me: (taking it out of her hand and throwing it onto the table). Why don't you obey when I speak to you?
Hannah: There are so many things I want to learn about.
Me: Do you want to learn about spankings.
Hannah: Nope. (drinks milk in one pull)

Did I say she's smart?  I meant inventive. The object in question was a pot holder.  Not much to learn there, as far as I can tell. That kid can think up a lie and think it up quick.  She and the Grinch are pals. I know very well that asking a child why they disobey is not EVER going to produce an answer that is satisfactory to the parent.  I caution other people about that all the time.  I think I do it just to hear what new nonsense my child will come up with.  Two years ago I found Hannah in her room pouring a glass of water on a pile of pillows nearly as tall as she was.  Her explanation: she was trying to learn about water conservation.  Water Conservation?  What kind of 4 year old uses that as an excuse for bad behavior.  That sounds like something college kids try to pass off as an explanation of why they were skinny dipping in the President of the University's koi pond.  After the obligatory time out for her, and one for me to control my giggles, the truth came out: she was pretending to make a cake.  That would have been some cake, I tell you.

There is usually method to her madness.  Sometimes the object is just to see how far I'll let her go, I can be sure of that. But most of the time, she's actually doing something.  Just not necessarily something I think is a good idea.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wash away your troubles, love.

We love bubbles at my house.  When all else fails at entertaining my daughter, since she was able to sit up on her own, I've resorted to blowing bubbles.  Incidentally, I've been an aficionado of the things all my life as well.  I got a Monster Bubble Wand from a friend as a birthday gift in high school.  We spent at least a half hour at the bubble tables at the Dupage Children's Museum when we went north to visit my mother last month.  It was the best half hour of the trip.  Maybe of the year.  I'm not ashamed.  I love me some soap, water, and glycerin.

We've learned, in Hannah's lifetime, that, given sufficient water and soap solution, gentle hands can catch a bubble.  Now it's a popular bath game for us after a rough day. Blowing bubbles in the bath last night, Hannah was astounded by the enormity of one of my bubbles. 

Hannah: "It's bigger than my head!  It's bigger than your head!  It's bigger than Daddy's head!  I bet it's bigger than God's head!"

In fact, it was an impressive bubble, and really was bigger than my husband's head.

Me: "I'm not so sure about bigger than God's head.  But I've never seen it."
Hannah: "He's God. You know that's a really big head."

My internal dialogue: Yeah. Who does that guy think He is, anyway.  Making the world and stuff.  What a noggin on him, eh?

Unfortunately, the bubble popped as soon as she touched it.  Euphemistically speaking, a head that big can't be expected to tolerate any kind of friction, even from the gentlest and most eager of 6 year olds.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Keep it up

When it comes to parenting, I'm making stuff up most of the time.  It's still astounding to me that, in my professional life, people ask me in all seriousness what to do with their children.  And I answer them. In all seriousness.  I'm awesome at telling other people how to handle their children.  I'm actually pretty good at handling other people's children myself.  They almost never infuriate me.  But with my own child, the stakes are higher.  I don't care so much if your child never wants to see me again after I redirect him for something, but I have very different opinions about my own child.

So I read parenting books.  Then I guess.  And I pray.  And I hope for the best.

Some things I can't get enough of:
Administration of 100 rapid-fire kisses from my daughter
Listening to her cheer for her team mates at soccer practice
Hannah's personal opera
Sleepy snuggles; Hannah smells like baked goods of some sort when she sleeps
Spring afternoons when Hannah takes her personal opera outside for Further Adventures
Walks to school that include botany, zoology, and geometry lessons

Stuff I'm already done with:
Hannah's prefacing every answer to a question with "uh,"
That "tsk" sound at every place you might find a punctuation mark of any kind
The full-on arms folded, head bowed pouting when frustrated at soccer practice
The drama queen act for a blister only when I'm around
The process of getting ready for school in the morning

We're sorry, ma'am, but it's a packaged deal, and you'll have to take the whole thing or leave it.  

Tsk. Okay. I'll take it.  Can I have some extra kisses with that?

Uh, yeah.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Don't tell anyone, but...

Here's my dirtiest little secret:
I never wanted to parent a girl.
Quite honestly, they scare me.  I never had a lot of friends when I was a little girl.  I could tell even then that they had a tendency to be mean-spirited and their acceptance was ephemeral in many cases; for someone as needful of approval as I was as a child, it was a scary proposition. Plus there's all the lip gloss and glitter and crap.

When I was pregnant my doctor did a sneak-ultrasound before the real scheduled appointment for that, and told me she was pretty sure I was carrying a girl. 
Momentary disappointment.
And then amazing recovery.  Once I knew my baby was a girl, I had no further thought of boys.  After all, she was mine, and was therefore exactly as she should be.  Even when she was the size of an apple. I did have LOTS of thoughts on how to avoid the lip gloss and glitter and crap. I set about making a jungle-themed nursery, avoided buying pink layette, and declined to repaint the bedroom that was decorated with green and blue when we bought the house.

Enter Hannah.  Obviously, an infant has no complaints about decor.  And I had that kid all monkeyed up until she had her first sleep-over with my dear friend Amee's daughter.  She came back home, at age 3 maybe, singing the praises of Barbie (cringe) and insisting that there wasn't enough pink in her life.  That did it.  One night in girly town and my monkey girl is ruined. 

I like to blame Amee, because it's funny to me, but the real truth is that Hannah is a girly-girl.  As amazing as Amee and her daughter are, I doubt they could brainwash an unwilling Hannah in less than 24 hours.  Nope. My child loves pink.  And dresses. And fancy stuff.  Hell, she chooses my accessories for me most days. 

So you may imagine my joy when she told me yesterday that she wanted to be the "lady who helps you at the library" when she grows up.  Not a princess. Not a rock star.  A librarian.  Ahhh.  Wear pink if you like, my love, but by all means use your brain.  You are exactly as you should be.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Go ahead. Pull my string.

Once upon a time, I had some energy to hold a grudge.  I would tell you "Oh, I never hold a grudge. Why bother?" But, in truth, I can reproduce half the inane conversations I've had in the past year verbatim, so I could certainly replay anything that really upset me.  Never trust a person who asks "Why bother?" about holding a grudge.  They're trying to lull you into a false sense of security so they can backhand later you with some old dirt. 

The fact is that now I'm just too tired to keep up a grudge for long.  I have a limited supply of energy in any given day, and, although it may seem like it's more than I should have, I still like to apportion it to my own liking.  I can ignore any amount of nonsense and trash talk that people direct to me.  I'm used to people getting angry with me.  It's an occupational hazard, and I chose this occupation intentionally.

So if you can manage to raise my ire for a period of longer than 15 minutes after you're gone from my office, you've accomplished something.  No one's going to give you a plaque for it or anything, but still an accomplishment.  This brings me to today's string puller.

Or, more precisely, the string-puller of 3 weeks ago. That's right.  Exactly 20 days ago I conducted one of the most annoying evaluations of my life.  The actual question-answer portion of the show lasted 25 minutes. That's normal. After that, in a typical evaluation, I anticipate 10 minutes of whining or arguing, 10 minutes to explain the instructions the next steps, and 5 minutes for signing stuff and stomping out of my office.  That leaves me 10 minutes for printing, copying, and smirking after the client is gone.  I'm good with time management that way.

On this particular occasion, 20 days ago, at 1:25pm I found myself faced with a client of unusually infuriating proportions.  She asked the same questions about why I made the decision I made often enough that I eventually stopped answering her and just stared at her.  She took laborious notes about everything I said for that last 35 minutes, and referred frequently to her father and her attorney.  She refused to sign the form indicating that she was refusing to comply with my instructions (it's a real thing), then reverted to asking those same questions again.  She went on in this manner until her allotted hour was over, and I actually got up and walked out of my office in order to get her to leave.

For no logical reason, at 1:25 this afternoon it occurred to me to check this client's record to find out whether she had ever come back to comply with the instructions I'd given her. There is a 20 day deadline to comply with the disposition, and although  I didn't really remember the exact date of the madness, serendipitously, I was right on time.

I reminded the person in charge of reporting non-compliance of the deadline which had expired, so that it would be reported to outside agencies in a timely manner.  I've never bothered to do that before.  Why now? I can only assume that my string is now on a 20 day time-release to allow for maximum vindictiveness.  I'm not proud of it, but there it is. Chatty Cathy on a tape delay. 

Again I say: Go ahead. Pull my string. See what happens next.  It could be fun.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Growing up. Finally.

The truth is, I get older every day, but once in a while I also grow up a little. I first noticed it when I was about 25.  That's when I realized I didn't know anything, and I'd better shut up. 
That didn't last long. But I keep trying.

It happens in stages, and I'm not sure what triggers it, but I'm trying to keep track of some of it.  I've never been one to keep a journal. Because I have brothers. So the obvious solution was to post the whole thing on the internet, right?  It's not enought that one of the boys might read my journal and make fun of me.  I should just let everyone know what a drip I am and be done with it, eh?

So here it is.  Whatever it is.  I'm not sure what the point is, but I suppose I might find out along the way. Growing up is largely about making mistakes and finding out what works and what doesn't. With that in mind, it should all get me closer to wherever it is that I'm going.