"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." (Aldo Leopold) Apparently, I cannot.


The Orange Rhino Challenge: Update #1

If you missed it, last week I took up The Orange Rhino’s no-yelling challenge and shared the beginning of my journey with you in my first post: I’m In: The Orange Rhino Challenge. I was so excited to start this, and even got the rest of the family in on it.

My goal: 365 days. I made it 7 with absolutely no yelling. Really, none. But then I started slipping on the 8th day. I still wasn’t yelling, but I was talking through clenched teeth a lot of the time, and I wasn’t always talking so nicely. I wanted to regain my traction, so I decided to start over yesterday; rewind to Day 1. And I didn’t even make it through that day.

What set me off? Trying to get the kids out the door for a special treat and being met with a ton of fussing and whining from the 3 yo. He didn’t want to leave the house. He didn’t want to stop playing with his dinosaurs. His shoes felt funny. He hit his sister. It’s the same damn thing EVERY time we try to leave the house. And I lost it. “Why are you fussing so much when I’m trying to do something nice for you?” “Why can’t we get out the door without you pitching a fit?” “Why do you have to do this every time we try to leave the house?”

It’s painful for me to admit this and to read back what I said. Because you know what? I KNOW this happens every time. My son is 3–he doesn’t always deal well with transitioning from one thing to the next. And he doesn’t have the emotional maturity to handle his feelings and frustration during these times. So, he pitches a fit. AND I KNOW THIS. I know this so much that I usually help prep him for outings or any other seemingly abrupt change in scene. If I know we’re going out, I’ll start the day by going over our schedule–what we’ll be doing, where we’ll be going. And then when we need to go somewhere, I start about an hour out reminding him that we’ll soon need to stop whatever it is we’re doing so that we can start getting ready to leave. You get the picture. Usually this works, but not always. AND I KNOW THIS, TOO.

So really, the problem wasn’t with my son at all. It was with me. He was being a normal 3 yo experiencing normal 3 yo emotions, and dealing with them in a normal 3 yo way. Instead of asking why he was behaving the way he was, I should have been asking myself what I needed to do to calm myself down so that I could re-approach the situation without the anger and frustration. Because I’m the adult. But I didn’t, and I yelled. And we were back to square one.

So, here I sit feeling a bit defeated. And sad. But I am trying. And so are the kids. And we will keep trying. This in itself, I realize, is a huge step.

Today is a new day. Day 1. Again. We can do this. No matter how many times we need to start over.

Until the next update . . .

To keep up with my journey, please feel free to check out my Orange Rhino Challenge page. For more information on the challenge, please visit: http://theorangerhino.com. And if you’re on the challenge, too, let me know. We can support each other and hold each other accountable. Go Orange!



Lost in Translation: What I Say vs. What They Hear

lost in translation

I need a translator. Even though my kids and I speak the same language, apparently we don’t speak the same language.

What I say: “Let’s go, please, we’re running late.”
What they hear: “We have all the time in the world. Yes, you can watch 6 more shows. And please, definitely take an hour to pick out your clothes. While you’re at it, don’t forget to dump your milk on the table, ask for three more breakfasts, and tell me you have to poop as I’m opening the front door to leave. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “It’s time to clean up.”
What they hear: “It’s time to play and make an even bigger mess around here. Don’t worry, I’ll clean it all up later when you suddenly develop a sick tummy and a leg that feels like it’s going to fall off. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Please be quiet for 2 minutes while I’m on the phone.”
What they hear: “Please scream at each other in voices that should only be used if you’re being chased by a bear, and use this time to ask me 101 questions about why we have fingernails. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “What would you like for lunch?”
What they hear: “Please tell me everything in the entire world that you do not like to eat, and make sure that you include everything that we actually have in the house and that you liked yesterday on that list. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “We’re going to the store to pick up a few things for dinner.”
What they hear: “We’re going to the store so you can run around like crazy people and beg me to buy you everything you see because even though we just had lunch I know how incredibly starving you are so a donut sounds like a great idea. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Oh you look so cute, please hold still so I can get a picture.”
What they hear: “Immediately stop that cute thing you’re doing and make the most horrendous faces you can think of while wiggling and jumping around and looking everywhere but at the camera. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “The baby is sleeping, it’s quiet time.”
What they hear: “It’s time to get out all of the toys that make noise. And be sure to drop everything imaginable on the hardwood floors and slam all of the doors in the house. And yes, now is the perfect time to pretend you’re in a rock band. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “I’ll be right back, I need to go to the bathroom.”
What they hear: “Grab your food and all of your toys and come with me. I love having company in the bathroom. The more the merrier. Please also take this opportunity to ask me how it is you came out down there and unroll the entire roll of toilet paper. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Quickly, please go get me a burp cloth from the closet.”
What they hear: “Please walk around the house at a snail’s pace looking in every possible closet but the one where we keep the burp cloths and then get distracted by a shiny object and never bring me anything because I like it when spit up seeps into the carpet and dries on my clothes. It makes for a nice aroma. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Please play nicely.”
What they hear: “Yes, you two are mortal enemies and should treat each other as such. Everything in the house actually belongs to just you and no one else, so I completely understand why you’re screaming bloody murder and acting like that toy you haven’t played with in 4 months is your most prized possession. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Let’s try to keep those new clothes clean.”
What they hear: “New clothes make the best play clothes. Yes, you should absolutely go paint me a picture and then go outside to search for worms in the mud. And if you can manage to get some ketchup and chocolate on them, that’d be just swell. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”

What I say: “Goodnight, sleep tight.”
What they hear: “It’s party time! After you throw all of your stuffed animals off your bed to make room for all of your jumping, please make sure you get out of bed no less than 5 times each to come and tell me that you are hot. Or cold. Or hungry. Or thirsty. Or have to go to the bathroom. Or that you hear a witch outside. Oh, and why don’t you go ahead and throw an epic tantrum in there.”



I’m In: The Orange Rhino Challenge




Enough with the all caps already, right? Well, if that annoyed you just reading it, can you imagine how my kids felt hearing me scream those things? How I felt after losing my cool and screaming at them? This happens in my house more than I’d like to admit. Which makes my kids feel shitty. Makes me feel shitty. So I’m going to do something about it.

I love my kids. Fiercely. And I tell them that so many times a day they often roll their eyes at me. I’m the first to admit, however, that I have very little patience. This is something I’ve known and dealt with my whole life and something that I actively work on. I didn’t say successfully work on, but actively. I’m trying. Really. Or so I thought I was until I read The Orange Rhino’s “10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids.” (If you haven’t already, I highly suggest you read her post. It so precisely describes, in my opinion, probably every parent’s struggle with the guilt associated with yelling at your kids.)

button5This amazing woman made it her mission to stop yelling at her kids for 1 year. A whole mother-loving, freaking year. (And as of today, she’s made it 418 days!) And she didn’t just say she wasn’t going to yell, she actually came up with a plan for how to meet her goal. Like an actual plan, with guidelines for what constitutes yelling, a yelling meter to distinguish various levels of yelling, tracking resources, rules for counting days . . . And then she turned her plan into a challenge. A challenge for other parents to stop all the yelling, too.

After reading all about The Orange Rhino Challenge, I realized that my “efforts” to work on my patience and stop yelling weren’t efforts at all. They were just thoughts that didn’t translate into meaningful actions. The conviction in my head and heart was there, but what good is that if I’m not following through with my actions? “Actions speak louder than words,” I always say. Say. Words. I wasn’t doing. “Aww hell!”

But now I am. I am going to take the challenge. I am proclaiming that as of today, April 1, 2013, my goal is to make it 365 days without yelling at my kids. And then, like The Orange Rhino, I want to keep going. And going, and going. I want to stop feeling shitty when I break down and yell at my kids. I want my kids to stop feeling shitty when I break down and yell at them. I want to stop breaking down and yelling at my kids! I want to learn new methods for dealing with my anger and lack of patience. This problem is all on me. Not my kids. I want to do better by them. I want to be a good role model for them because, quite honestly, I am already starting to see a lot of this yelling behavior beginning in them, and it breaks my heart. I want it all to stop.

It’s a lofty goal, I know, but I’m in. For my kids. For me.

Who wants to join me? (If you do, I promise we can hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.” But quietly. Didn’t you hear there’s no more yelling around  here?) 🙂


Keep Calm and Let Your Son Dress Like a Princess if He Wants

I’m at a point in parenting where a lot have come before me and many will follow, and I’m left with a ton of questions and am not sure why it has to be so hard. This post is my way of trying to sort through these questions. I warn you now that this post does not take a straight path to its conclusion. And I don’t have any grand revelation at the end or a lesson that I learned. For I am still looking for answers and grappling with how to deal with all of this . . .

My husband and I have three children: 1 girl and 2 boys. As such, we have all manner of toys and whatnot in our house: We have princesses and ponies, dinosaurs and matchbox cars, dolls and trains. Not to mention an entire wardrobe of dress-up clothes. We have tutus and dresses, superhero capes, and firefighter and police officer uniforms. So pretty much a good mix of everything stereotypically “girl” and stereotypically “boy.”

But, as I know is the case in many houses, there are no rules in our house about who can play with what. There is no rule that only my daughter can play with the toys meant for girls and only my sons can play with the toys meant for boys. (The fact that I just had to write about toys being “meant for” one sex or another is so very irksome to me!) Same goes for dress up. Although they do tend to stick to gendered norms, they don’t always. Sometimes my daughter wants to be the male superhero and sometimes my son wants to be a princess. My daughter likes to put on makeup and paint her nails like mommy, and so does my son. And we’re ok with that.



What I’m struggling with now, however, is the double standard our society places on even our youngest members–namely, that it’s ok for girls to play with “boy” toys and dress up in “boy” clothes, but not ok for boys to play with “girl” toys or dress in “girl” clothes. Why is it more acceptable for my daughter to wear her hair short, get dirty playing sports, and dress up as Spider-Man for Halloween than for my son to wear his hair long, take ballet, and dress up as a princess for Halloween? Why is it when a girl does anything traditionally male she is considered tough, but when a boy does anything traditionally female he is considered a sissy?

I ask these questions in earnest because I don’t know the answers to them. Is it because our culture respects men more than women so that a girl dressing as a boy would be considered an “upgrade” in status, whereas a boy dressing as a girl is considered a “downgrade”? Is there a worry that boys playing with girl toys and dressing as girls might mean there is a question about gender identity? That these little boys either are already showing signs they are gay or might somehow turn gay if allowed to continue playing or dressing in this manner? And why aren’t these same concerns raised for girls? (Not that I’m suggesting in any way that they should be!)

Most importantly, how the hell are we supposed to address these issues with our children?

I like to think that I have a pretty open mind about things, and we preach equality to our children in all things–we are all people first and should be treated equally no matter what. Period. End of story. “Do what you want kids and don’t worry about what others think!” I’d like to practice what we preach here, BUT unfortunately, it’s just not that easy in real life. I’m learning that just because our family holds this belief, that doesn’t mean everyone does. We do not live in a bubble, and as much as I wish everyone felt the same about it as we do, they don’t. How do we teach our kids to be themselves and not worry about what anyone else thinks when there are so many people out there ready to tell them exactly what they think?

What do we do, for instance, if one day our son wants to wear a princess outfit out of the house? Part of me couldn’t care less what the kid is wearing as long as he’s not naked. But the other part of me knows that there are bullies and haters and people around every corner just waiting to tear down anyone who thinks or acts differently from the societal norm. The thought of my kids being subjected to ridicule or hate, even, makes me ill. All this mamma bear wants to do is protect her precious little cubs.

I can say with great conviction, for instance, that I’m going to allow my kids to be themselves and do and wear whatever the hell they want and f#ck the rest of the world if they don’t like it. But it’s hard to actually do that in real life. In an ideal world, no one would blink an eye if my son went to the grocery store in his princess outfit. But we don’t live in an ideal world. How do we deal with the looks? The snickers? The teasing and taunting? The suggestions that maybe we need to get our son some more masculine clothes? And how do we explain all of this to our kids?

Do we teach our kids that there are societal norms that they need to follow in public, but they can do whatever the they want in the privacy of our own house, or does his somehow promote hiding their true selves or shame them into following the norm if they are inclined not to?

Do we use this as a lesson that people have different opinions about everything imaginable, including gender norms, and that even though we don’t care, for example, what our kids do or wear, other people might? And they might make a big deal about it?

Do we instill these lessons early on, or do we go along minding our own business, doing our own thing and try to protect their innocence as long as we possibly can?

As much as I want to shout, “Keep calm and let your son dress like a princess if he wants!” do I actually have the courage to heed my own advice?

keep calm image