Monday, August 17, 2009

14 Days: The Downside of Living with a Young Woman

These pictures, via Cousin of her "Days-Until-School Paper Chain", exemplify our current, collective mood.

Upon seeing Cousin's paper chain, her husband said to her that it was "dissapointing."

In her shock disbelief, she wondered "to whom" to herself.

Then she asked him to explain what he meant, and he said something to the effect of it being dissapointing that their summer is almost over.

I'm with her. I mean, how long can a summer last?

We've done nearly everything that the Twin Cities can offer and they are sick of it all: NOT THE [amazing and extraordinary, filled with super slides, a sandbox and popsicles] WATERPARK AGAIN!!!!

But my exhaustion stems from a different source.

BioMom did a bit of internet searching last night about mood swings in nine-year olds and found the following:

Sara, age 9, had always been a thoughtful and cooperative child. Suddenly she seemed like a different person. She began talking back and flat-out ignoring her mom's attempts to get her to finish her homework, get off the phone, or do anything else. Her mom was bewildered and a little frightened. Who was this rude stranger who was impersonating her sweet-tempered daughter?

What to Expect

Increasingly, preteens are exposed to stress and demands that can lead to moods and behaviors guaranteed to challenge any parent's patience. But because moods actually reflect a state of mind or feeling, it can be hard to identify them as such. What you see instead are the symptoms: being self-absorbed, stubborn, forgetful, or grumpy. It's not always easy, then, to respond in helpful ways.

Moods tend to take hold when your child feels either put out or put upon. When events don't go as planned or as hoped, or your child feels neglected, it's only natural that he may feel humiliated, angry, jealous, or even powerless, and as a result, want to retreat inside himself for a time. The bad behavior that often follows is usually an attempt to regain ground and restore self-respect. You are often the target because your child knows you won't reject him for the behavior, even if you may not like it.

Ugh. This describes our Nine to a tee! I've found myself lately thinking that with us, her brother and her friends, it is her way or the highway. . . And getting REALLY frustrated with her.

This on top of her seemingly careless absentmindedness, one cannot help but imagine it all purposeful.

What do they suggest?

3 Ways to Respond

* Be understanding. Although it can be hard not to take your child's bad mood personally, remind yourself that she may not have intended to upset you.

* Get to the bottom of it. Rather than becoming annoyed or overly cheerful, acknowledge your child's bad mood and ask her about it. Say, "You seem a bit quiet/touchy. It's not like you. Has something happened?" If your child is younger and declines your overtures, encourage her to open up. But if your child is older, realize she might prefer her privacy. You might say, "That's fine, but if you decide differently, I'm here to listen."

* Give more time and attention. It's tempting to steer clear of your child when she's in a bad mood, but that's when she needs your love and acceptance the most.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


We had the best trip to New York City.

More pictures to come, but if you're there, go here for the best bagels ever.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Balloons: Can Helium Improve My Attitude as Well?

So this summer has been the Summer of Cousin.

For those of you that stay home with children 24-7, you know how simultaneously wonderful and challenging it can be.

I have been relishing, for example, this phase that Big is in where the following types of exchanges happen:

Me: Hey [Big], do you want to ride your bike up to the park and go swimming?

Big: Sure! [In this easy-breezy sort of way that tells me that he's just really up for anything I suggest].

In stark contrast is his sister who, just today, sitting in front of a cupcake, afire with a cute little specialized candle balancing atop the melting frosting, awaiting a blow-out from BioMom who turned #*@&Q*(& [number classified] today, with a face that was more cranky than a college student with a hangover sitting in front of a popquiz.

I don't think I have EVER heard "sure" come out of her mouth unless I had said something to the effect of, "hey, could you go answer the door? I think it is Nick Jonas!" and only because I followed that up with "And he is carrying a bag from Sebastian Joe's that looks suspiciously like several pints of ice cream!"

ONLY THEN, I suspect, would a casual "sure!" slip out of her mouth.

The one thing that has transmogrified all of this into the best-summer-ever is that I have been able to commiserate with Cousin in all of this summer-parenting-business.

Oh, and the vodka gimlets mentioned in a previous post.

They have certainly improved my attitude.

In any case, Cousin and I are of the same parenting ilk.

Maybe it was because we were both raised by cranky, overworked, underpaid, prewar parents.

So the other day, Cousin related this story to me, that made me have some hope in our ability to empathize with our young, bored, over-privileged children.

They had gone to Trader Joe's which, for children, is, I suspect, like going to any other grocery story (the culinary equivalent to adult-speak in Peanuts: Bwah bwah bwaa ba bwaah) except that the check out line promises the choice of any color helium-filled balloon.

Big, at his best, will often ask for two: one for him and one for his sister.

Cousin's eldest is a boy of seven who is usually quite composed and mature in a first-kid-living-up-to-parents'-too-high-expectations sort of way. Sure, he is goofy and silly and all that, but he doesn't seem seven.

So they got all the way home, two balloons intact when, upon trying to untwist them in order to transport them from car to home, one escaped out the open door, Cousin jumping and reaching after the slippery ribbon as it curled up into the sky.

Her boy broke down in unexpected tears.

That's when, as Cousin retold the story, I heard level of empathy out of her that I hadn't heard in a while, we parents of the end-of-summer dulldroms.

She said to me "I don't know if he was just exhausted and at his wit's end, or if accidentally letting go and losing your balloon is just that sad, regardless of your age."

Isn't that cute?

I guess there is hope for us yet to make it through to the start of school without wringing their necks (too much).

The Codependent Reader

So, it turns out that I am a codependent reader.

During Angela's Ashes, I was always STARVING.

I could go on (Cousin wrote an unpublishable sentence here that I had to erase, but you get the idea).

So, upon the recommendation of Cousin's mom, I'm reading Julie & Julia. Contrary to what you might think though, I am NOT interested in eating my way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The aspic chapter was enough enough to make me throw up a little in my mouth.

Instead though, I have taken up the author's penchant for vodka gimlets.

And, just like Julia and Eric, to be true, too many vodka gimlets.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Big Armstrong

So Cousin's son passed his little bike on to Big earlier this summer.

It had been sitting around our back yard with flat tires for quite some time when Big showed a little interest and I took a little initiative to see whether my bike pump was shot or whether the tires were shot so we headed up to our darling little local bike shop near the park where they promptly blew up the tires.

I showed the shiny new bike to Big with the fixed tires.

Big: Am I old enough to ride that?

Me: Sure!

So he, literally, got on it and started riding.

And hasn't stopped since!

I was so unprepared for this turn of events that I didn't even have my camera. These are Day Two photos!

And at national night out, a special occasion to ride in the street!