Wednesday, May 29, 2013

I Pulled a Tick Off Of My Daughter This Morning; How Was Your Day

"Are you almost ready for me to brush your hair, sweetie?"

"Yes," the Girl calls from the other side of the open closet door.  She was sitting on the floor, strapping her shoes to her feet. All I could see from my vantage point were Hello Kitty sparkles winking in the morning light.

She stood, shut the door, and skipped past me toward the bathroom.  Currently, she sports a squiggly crop of hair that defies taming.  Think young Merida, except blonde.

"What do you want today?  Ponytail? Floppy ponytails? Braided bun?" I asked, pulling the brush, detangler spray, and myriad elastics from the Drawer for Such Things.

"Pigtails!" she yelled.

Pigtails it would be.

I liberally sprayed her hair with the detangler, caught up a hank of it, and dragged the brush through it.  She screwed up her face in truly gymnastic ways, entertaining herself as I worked my way through her hair.  Because of the ariadnic (yes, I made that up) way that my daughter's hair knots itself together, I can't get the tangles out in one stroke.  Nope, I have to work at the tangles, layer by layer.  It isn't arduous -- the whole thing takes about five minutes.  But, it is a process.

Anyway, I brushed the hair back from her temples to the fistful that would become the pigtail.  And that's when I noticed the dark spot over her ear. A tick.  And not the cool kind, either.  It was small, and a little engorged, so it had been there for a little while.

This is one of those moments where you know if you freak out or make a big deal out of something, it's going to make the whole removal process much, much more dramatic than it needs to be.  So, I finished with the pigtails.  As soon as the elastic was wrapped around that second pigtail, I said, "Sweetie?  I just noticed something  next to your ear, and it's a tick. I have to remove it, and it'll only take a second, but I've done this before for you* and I'm very good at it."

"Oh." The Girl wrinkled her brow and frowned.  "Is it going to hurt?"

"Maybe a little," I answered. "But it will mostly be a weird tugging.  It'll be okay. Just hang on."

I went to the kitchen and grabbed a paper towel, some olive oil, and a sealable plastic bag. I went back to the bathroom, and my daughter looked even more concerned than she had before. She's only six, so I was kind of surprised that the wailing and the gnashing hadn't started.

"Ready?" I asked.  Before she had a chance to answer, I doused a small portion of the paper towel in oil, pinched it around the tick, and pulled.  It came right out, no problem. I dropped it into the bag, sealed it up, and took a look at it's creepy crawly self.  Which, why was  doing that?  I don't have a database of tick pictures in my head.  I can't tell a deer tick from a deer.

I resolved to compare it to pictures online later.  Lyme Disease, which is spread by the deer tick, is no joke. One of my brothers suffers from it, and his joints are perma-achy.

But, she was a trooper, wanting mostly to inspect the bug and then discuss the traits it shares with vampires.  There were no tears, and only a little flinching when I put the smear of antibiotic ointment on the bite mark.

Sniff.  My little girl is growing up so fast.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Apparently, My Children Think I'm a Drug Addict

The following is a transcription of the conversation I had with my older two children during bedtime last night.  Context:  they were having a 'sleepover.' This means that they bunk down in the pullout couch in the basement and watch kid-friendly Netflix 'til they pass out, which is about twenty minutes after they would normally fall asleep.

Here we go...

Me: [Boy], where's your blanket?

Boy: I don't have one.

Me: You need a blanket -- go grab one from the linen closet in the bathroom.

Boy: Okay.  (37 seconds pass.)  Mom? I can't find one.

Me:  You owe me a dollar if I can find a blanket in less than a minute. (I march toward the bathroom.)

Boy: Oh, I found one!

Me:  (looking at the blanket he selected) Aw, that's the one that Grandmom crocheted for you when you were a baby. I always think that when you snuggle with a blanket that she made for you, it's sort of like she's giving you a hug.

(The Boy skips over to the bed, flumps down, and drapes the blanket over himself.)

Girl (having overheard the conversation between the Boy and me): Mom, I miss Grandmom. But, (shrugging her shoulders as though she is a preternaturally mature teenager in a late-80's sitcom), she got sick because of smoking*, and all of the drugs.

Me: WHAT? (Laughing). Grandmom didn't do drugs. What do you know about drugs, anyway?

Girl:  Well, she drank beer, and alcohol is a drug.

Me: (Wishing Baltimore County Public Schools was a little more circumspect in how they group together drugs, tobacco, and alcohol. And also trying to figure out how to tease out the differences between beer and, say, heroin, without undermining what the kids are learning in school.) Listen, guys, I know that school teaches that alcohol is a drug...

Boy: You do drugs every night!


Girl: You drink wine.

Boy: Yeah, there are like, five wine bottles on the kitchen counter every night.

Me: No! No there are not. There's a bottle of wine. One. Listen, I drink wine, but it's not the same as drugs.

Girl: (Shrugging again) Well, wine is a drug.

Me:  (Sighing. Heavily.) Okay. Good night!

(Hugs and kisses, followed by mama having a glass of wine.)

*I have been honest with my kids that my mother developed lung cancer as a result of a fifty-year smoking habit. I don't want them to smoke. They should know what it does, and the kind of pain it causes.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day Is Hard

Is that title too subtle?  I've been accused of being overly subtle before.  Anyway...

On Thursday, I popped into Target before heading into the office. I needed to pick up a pack of boys' undershirts for my daughter's kindergarten art project, and due to a ridiculously busy work schedule, this was the only time I could do it.  That was the only thing I needed*, but, I ended up snaking through the aisles picking up odds and ends because, well, Target.

After fifteen minutes, I'd loaded my basket with bathing suits for the kids (because they always run out of their sizes by June, no matter what their sizes are), Scooby Doo underpants that I will use as a bribe for the Little Guy (who is showing ZERO interest in using the potty), and some shredded fruit & veggie gummy snacks that I am hoping will appeal to the kids.  They have a serious addiction to the toxic sugar bomb version of fruit snacks, and I can just HEAR the things clawing cavities into their teeth.

The clock was ticking, though, and I had to get to the office. I headed toward the checkout, which is located across from the greeting card selection.  There were a bunch of people buzzing around the section.  Weird, right?

And then it hit me...

Mother's Day.  This is the annual ritual of last-minute card shoppers, elbowing each other away from THE PERFECT blend of flowers and puppies and acrostics.

I don't have a card to buy, or a phone call to make, or a Sunday brunch to plan.  I mean, I do, for my mother-in-law, who is possibly the best mother-in-law to have when it comes to feeling like an adopted daughter.  But the only way that I have of honoring the woman who soothed me when I was sick, who made me my favorite dinners on my birthdays, who hugged me so hard that I didn't think I could breathe sometimes, is to take flowers to her resting place.  And to write this, to make it known how much she meant, and continues to mean, and how much I miss her.

Mother's Day for me, for the next few years (I think) will be longing for my mother. I will bask in the nice things that my kids do for me, and for the cards and the seedlings and the traced hand prints.  But I think, for awhile, there will be this shadow over it, because I will not be doing the same thing for someone else.

*needed = had to be acquired by a certain deadline, not that a child would strut around nude without this particular purchase.  

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Either I've Emotionally Scarred My Oldest Kid, or He's Learned a Valuable Life Lesson

My oldest kid, the Boy, is nearly nine.

Which, by the way: huh?  Am I really on the cusp of buying deodorant for one of my kids?

Anyway, he's not very athletically inclined.  Don't get me wrong -- the kid is lean, and loves to run around, and he's certainly not clumsy.  He just doesn't seem to want to play an organized sport.  

Herm.  Come to think of it, I was the same way, actually.  I never felt a burning desire to go out for a team, but I was capable.  I never embarrassed myself on the field or the court.  Ooh, except for tennis.  My best friend was very good at tennis, and she would beg me to practice with her. I hit the ball out of the gigantic tennis cage Every. Single. Time.  She actually got better practice out of hitting the ball against a wall than she did with me.

He tried theater when he was four (did not enjoy) and soccer when he was six, which was just okay. His soccer friends moved on from the rec league to a travel league, and the Boy didn't want to do that. He didn't want to play baseball or basketball, and we vetoed football because we did not want him to be squashed by the ten-year-olds who can shave.  We've looked at some community college classes for kids, but they seem primarily designed (schedule-wise) for home-schooled kids.

And then!  Then our local rec sports created a youth track team.  Bingo!  He likes to run and, while there's a team aspect to it, the players run individually.  Seemed like a good fit, right?  It would be a time suck -- 3 practices a week, plus the occasional meet.  But it would be worth it, because he would be Out There Doing Something.  The Boy agreed, enthusiastically, to sign up.

He liked it for the first week.  The second week was OK too.  That third week, though?  Oof.  The third week involved a meet.  And waiting, waiting, waiting for his one event at that meet.  So much waiting, in fact, that I did not get to seem him race because after two hours of waiting for his event, I had to bail and the Girl and the Little Guy back home so that they would not continuing torturing the other parents with their (understandable) whining about sitting in the cold aluminum stands.

After the meet, the Boy declared that he wanted to quit track.

This is the first time we've really had to deal with quitting. With theater and soccer, he just didn't go back after he finished out his first season. Track, though, was something he didn't want to spend another night doing. 

Personally, I struggle with the concept of quitting. It was part of the fabric of my upbringing that You Don't Quit.  My mother had deep dark conversations with my father at the dinner table about her work grievances, and she stayed at that job for twenty years. So maybe it's actually part of the fabric of my DNA, and not just my upbringing.

Anyway, I don't want my kids burdened with unnecessary tenacity.  Jobs, and relationships for that matter, are not indentured servitude.  You can walk away from something you don't enjoy. But there's a respectable way to go about doing it.  There are gradations, of course.  You don't quit a job because you had one bad conversation with your boss.  Or maybe you do?  I don't know.  Remember: I am not good a quitting.

The deal was this: he would be allowed to quit track if HE was the one who did the quitting.  I would not quit for him, and his father would not quit for him.  If he wanted to stop going to track, then he would actually need to share this information with his coach.

I didn't make this deal as some passive-aggressive way to get him to stick with track.  Frankly, the administration of my family life is a lot easier without track practice lumped into it.

No, the intent here was for him to learn how to be his own agent of change, even if it means (potentially) hurting someone's feelings. You need to rehearse that stuff in your childhood just as much as you do reading, math, and manners.  Mostly, I don't want him to grow up thinking it's cool to slink away and leave people mystified as to where he went.  Or worse, have authority figures (Mom and Dad) handle uncomfortable stuff for him.

So, last night, and the end of practice, he ambled over to his coach and said, "Um, I want to thank you for being my coach, and for teaching me about running, but I'm not going to come to track anymore."

"Oh," his coach said. "Okay. Are you going to do something else?"

"No," the Boy said, "I just wanted to spend more time at home."

"Okay, well, you're a good runner, and good luck.  Give me a high five!"

They high-fived, and that was it.  I think it should be noted that we did not script this out for him.  He came up with that on his own.

After he and my husband came home, and the Boy ran over to a neighborhood friend's house for an hour.  That's all he wants right now:  unencumbered time. I'm good with that.