Antique Mommy 1, Easter Bunny 0

I always think I should make Sean an Easter basket or fill a Christmas stocking.

But I never do.

I think the last time I made an Easter basket for Sean, he was four or five.

That was the year I had the bright idea of filling Easter eggs with coins instead of candy.  I am still finding quarters in my flower beds.

Every year, I think that making (or even buying) an Easter basket for Sean is something I should do because all the good moms make awesome Martha Stewart-Pinterest worthy baskets and they post pictures of their happy faced Easter-basket-holding kids on FaceBook.  But by the time I remember it, which is like the day before, I don’t feel like going to the store.

And then after it’s all said and done, I would be left with plastic stuff that I don’t want in my house or candy which I don’t really want him to eat.  And Easter grass with it’s Velcro-esque properties that sticks to everything including air is evil.  Like glitter and those little green bits that shed Christmas greenery, Easter grass is insidious, it gets everywhere — once it enters your house, it NEVER leaves, never decomposes. It is FOREVER.  When the world perishes in a big ball of fire, and God sweeps up the remains, in the dust pan will be glitter, Easter grass and green Christmas bits.

So on Good Friday I was starting to feel something that resembles guilt over depriving Sean of this childhood memory, of not having what all the other kids have, so I said to him,  “Sean, I’m sorry that I don’t have an Easter basket for you.”

To which he replied, “What’s that?”

“You know,” I said, “An Easter basket, plastic eggs filled with stuff, candy? Coins? Stuff?”

“Oh. Yeah. Whatever.  That’s kind of lame.”

So then, I cancelled that order of guilt and went on my merry no-frills parenting way.

Score:  Antique Mommy – 1, Easter Bunny 0

Wherein I Am Omniscient With The Help Of Amazon

As many of you know, Sean is now a 10-year-old boy and as such, I have had to learn to lengthen the leash, to give him a bit more freedom.

I have had to carefully calculate how much to lengthen the rope by the severity of the consequences that could befall any unfortunate decision he might make in this new space and then recalibrate and test the rope again just to make sure.

When he was little it was much much easier.  I could allow him to roam to the other side of the playground where I could see him. I could let him ride his bike in the cul-de-sac where from the windows of the house I could see him. This arrangement was a win-win for both of us.  He felt un-tethered and I felt tethered.  He got to practice freedom and I got to practice letting him have a little freedom in laboratory conditions.

But now Sean is ten and lengthening the rope to allow him to go across the street or around the block seems like nothing compared to the internet.  The stakes seem higher, but maybe they are not. Maybe they are just different stakes.

So, yes, I have of course done all the prudent things to lock down the internet, and we have had frank discussions about the dangers of the internet and made clear to him what he can and cannot do on-line, and why.  But still.  Nothing is fool proof and I am always on high-alert on this front.

So the other day, I told him that whenever he watches anything on Amazon Prime that I get an email, and that is true.  I didn’t really know that until I got an email the other day from Amazon reporting that someone in our house had watched Square Bob Sponge Pants.

Let me say here, that Square Bob is not evil, I just don’t think he’s all that worthy and I have discouraged that he be viewed as such.  So when I brought up the Amazon Big Brother email with Sean, Square Bob was really all I had in mind.  And for all I know, AD had watched it.  Although, I might have to rethink my marriage vows if that were true.

So when I told Sean about the Amazon email,  he looked down at his shoes and said, “Well.  Then I guess you know my secret.”

Opportunity knocked.  At this point, I had not mentioned any specific show.

“Yes. Yes I do,” I lied as I dangled my unbaited fishing line in the water.

“I’m really embarrassed,” he admitted.

Now I was starting to wonder if maybe he had watched some other sort of lurid shape of pants, not square, and I panicked just a bit.

“Well,” I said, and then paused not for dramatic effect but because I could not think of one thing to say.

“I know,” he sighed, “Power Rangers.”

And then he scrunched up his nose like he had eaten something green, like a vegetable.

“It’s a baby show, I know, but I like it.”

“You know,” I said, “You can watch Power Rangers if you want.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I’ll be honest, I still love Captain Kangaroo.”

I reminded him that he knows what is acceptable and what isn’t and that we trust him.

And I also reminded him that Amazon would be sending me an email documenting his viewing whereabouts.

Like Ronald Reagan, I will trust and I will verify.

And then I may or may not have left the impression that anytime he does anything anywhere I get an email.

Chore Charts, Eggs and Other Opportunities

The other day I was out of eggs, which as a person who adheres to a Paleo diet, is a crisis.

So I said to Sean, “Hop on your bike and run to the store and get me some eggs.”

“Yeah, right,” he said dryly.  And then we both slapped our knees and laughed heartily.

It was funny because the thought that I would send him the half mile to the store and across a busy 4-lane road on his bike was ridiculous.

It wasn’t ridiculous because he’s not capable, because he is — he is more than capable.  It’s not ridiculous that I would trust him to get the job done, because I am convinced he could.   It’s ridiculous because there is no way under the sun that I would let him go.  I have calculated the risk and it’s not one I’m willing to take.

After I quit chuckling, I felt everything from resentment to heavy heartedness that I couldn’t provide him such an excellent opportunity to practice responsibility in so many different ways from navigating his way there and back to managing the money to figuring out how to get a dozen eggs home without breaking any.

All throughout history, life has provided children with opportunities to practice being responsible.  They tended to the stove and garden and helped care for younger siblings. Boys learned to chop firewood and hunt and girls learned to wring the neck of a chicken and then clean, butcher and cook it up for dinner — all real life jobs that contributed to keeping the body and soul of the family together.

As a Babyboomer, I of course didn’t do any of those things, but I did occasionally ride my bike to the store for a loaf of bread or something for my mom.

And now we can’t even do that.

Today we have to invent responsibility, like chore charts with stickers.  Not getting a sticker or losing iPad privileges is not exactly the same as being the person responsible for not having enough food on the table. (Not a slam against chore charts or those who choose to use them. I love chore charts!)

I’m not saying we can’t raise responsible children in this day and age, I’m just thinking I’m going to have to be more creative in finding real life opportunities for practice.  Maybe the next time I’m out of eggs, I will drive to the store, drop him off with $5 and see what happens.

If he comes out with candy then I’ll start raising chickens.

From The Little Gym To The Big College

Today Sean and I are heading to a local community college so that he can take a math test which, if he passes, will allow him to do more challenging math type stuff this coming school year, which if my calculations are correct, is 4th grade.  (GULP!)

The reason Sean is taking a math test at a college campus instead of an elementary school, where 4th grade is generally located, is because through a red-tape snafu accounting error — or his mom wasn’t on top of the calendar — we missed the deadline for the spring testing.  And so, because we, meaning me, missed the deadline, Sean now has to take a math test in a college testing center with college people who have beards and cars, of which he has neither.  And there is more good news!  Sean’s mother has to pay $100 to have the test proctored instead of $18.  If ever there is an opportunity to pay more money for something – sign me up!

So as you can see, Sean not only has to be super smart at math, he has to develop a lot of other skills to offset the ineptitude of his mother.  But that will serve him well in life, because that’s pretty much how the world works.  So there’s that.

As I’m getting ready for this big day, for some reason I’m thinking back on when Sean was like two, and I felt like I had to sign him up for activities, because all the other moms and kids did activities, and I desperately wanted to do this mothering thing right and all I really knew about mothering was that I didn’t know ANYthing about it and therefore I should see which fork the other moms used for salad and do that.  But the fact of the matter was this, all we both really wanted to do was stay home and play on the floor in the den and pretend and read books.

So in an effort to do it right, I signed him up for a class at a little gym type place and I paid $100 or something ridiculous like that.  And every week I would take him, and he would not want to go, and I would not want to go, but I paid $100 dangit, so we went. And he would want to play with the water fountain, but he did not want to run under the parachute that was flapping up and down and he did not want to swing from the tiny little pull up bar.  And I would spend all my time trying to keep him out of the water fountain and redirecting him back to parachute (all for the low low price of $100!!). It was a great workout FOR ME.

And I was sort of blind to the fact that we were different, Sean and I.  We were happy doing our own thing just the two of us and the little gym thing made us both a little cranky when we were supposed to be having an Instagram moment.

So now I’m nine years into this gig, and once again, I’ve paid $100 for him to do something and at times in the past few weeks, I’ve had to push him to prepare for this test when he’d rather play on the iPad, and I’ve wondered if maybe this is one of those “little gym” scenarios.  Maybe he doesn’t want to run under the parachute, maybe it’s me who wants to run under the parachute.

I don’t think so, I think he wants this.  But we’ll see.  I’ll be waiting outside the testing center.  Near the water fountain, just in case.

Whining Is Not A Strategy

There is an old saying that we all know:  The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

In other words, those who complain the loudest and the longest and in the most annoying repetitious way possible —  get what they want.  Except from me, then no, they get nothing.

My policy is this:  I don’t negotiate with terrorists or toddlers. Or those who behave as such.

At the House of Antique, if you are whining, the answer is automatically NO.  If you continue whining, you will get the Antique Mommy fish eye, which has been known to stop a charging rhino in it’s tracks.  And if you still insist on whining, well let’s just hope you’ve got your salvation plan worked out.

It would seem that whining is built into children, as a survival mechanism, as all children try it out at one time or another.  Which, now that I analyze that, it would appear as though I am devoid of the instinct to see to the survival of my child.  Yet?  So far, so good.

Some people are gifted in their ability to tune out annoying noise, and those people become teachers.  I can’t think or have a conversation if the TV is blaring, and the leaf blower makes my eardrums ache.  But I would take 1000 leaf blowers over one 40-pound child whining PleasepleasepleasePLEEEEEaaaasssee-PUH-leeeze-Uh!

Sean is a super bright boy and he figured out early on that whining and saying “please” in various intonations four hundred times in a row was not going to work with me.  I think he tried it out once or twice, and after he fully recovered from the sting of the fish eye, he moved on in search of other more civilized candy-getting tactics.  Back in the day, when he was my grocery store boyfriend, we’d pass a kid who was whining and he’d just keep licking his Tootsie Pop and shake his head as if to say, “Whining – what an unsophisticated strategy.”

Last year, I was doing a project in Sean’s classroom and this one particularly energetic boy jumped out of his seat and ran up to me and started jumping up and down waving his hand in my face (which is a good way to lose a hand) and started in with the PickmePickmePleasePleasePleeeeeezPrettyPleasePickMe!  Sean came to my rescue (or maybe he came to the boy’s rescue) and nudged him and quietly said, “Dude.  She won’t respond to that.  If you’re whining the answer is automatically no.”

I gave the boy a my crazy lady half smile-half fish eye and he slunk back to his seat.


Boundaries have become the issue lately — geographic boundaries.

Some families in our neighborhood are of the free-range philosophy.  They have chosen to let their children roam unattended.  AD and I have decided that is not a good choice for Sean right now.  Some of the reasons behind our decision have to do with Sean and where he is in the process of proving himself as responsible, reliable and of good judgment.

Other reasons have to do with us; our perceived risks and rewards that come with allowing him to roam beyond the reach of my eyeballs.  And really, what more important thing do I have to do than to keep track of my kid?  I can’t think of anything.

Sidebar:  For those of you who will accuse me of hovering, I would like to point out that there is a huge difference between hovering and keeping track of your kid. I do not hover.  I do however spy.  I watch him make mistakes from a distance and only intervene if it means I might have to make a trip to the ER.

Nonetheless, when he sees a boy a full year younger riding his bike down the street, he bristles with injustice.  “Why does he get to ride his bike all over and I don’t?  He’s younger than me!  Everyone gets to ride their bikes by themselves except me! That’s not fair!”

And to this I say, “That is the choice his family has made for him.  Life is not fair.  We never make choices based on what other people are doing. Never.”

He sighs.  He huffs. But he accepts it because he knows he would have a better chance of moving the Great Wall of China than to budge me an inch on this issue.

The fact of the matter is, not everyone is doing it.  Some families let their kids roam unattended and out of sight, but many other families like ours, do not — and those are the boys that Sean hangs out with, boys from families who share our parenting philosophy and that makes it a little bit  easier when we can counter with, “Bryan doesn’t.  Nathan doesn’t.  Aaron doesn’t. Reagan doesn’t.  Clayton doesn’t….”

I know that at some point I will have to let him go off on his bike and out of my sight, but I think he has some proving to do.  I want to see him demonstrate good judgment over time.  I want to feel like if he found himself in a tight spot that he would have the physical and mental resources to get out of it.

It’s a different word than when I grew up in the 1960s.  My mother seldom knew where I was. I would roam on foot or bike for four or five miles away from the house by myself and be gone for hours.  One time I got so far way from home that a policeman brought me home in a police car. I was about nine.

Some might say that those experiences were good, that I learned how to manage in the world. That may be true, but I think more so than that, that God placed hedge around me to protect me from my own stupidity, one that covered me many times well into adulthood. The hedge may have protected me from stupidity, but unfortunately not from the lingering embarrassment from stupidity.

Does Sean have a hedge around him too?  Yes. For now, it’s me.

The Value Of A Good Coconut Tree

Sunday was a slow and rainy day, very much welcome as we have not had rain here since 1996.  It’s true, ask my lawn.

Rain brushed against the windows and falling acorns made the sound of popcorn popping as the wind shook them from the trees onto the roof.  Football noise filled the house and AD dozed on the couch in front of the TV.  Which left Sean and me with a wonderful afternoon of nothingness to fill.  It was a perfect day for artsy people like us, so we called up our inner-Picassos and sought out something creative to do.

I recently found a box that had been stashed away for years, and inside was a bunch of artsy crafty things like markers, craft wire, beads, fancy papers and four small blank puzzles among other things.  I handed the bag to Sean to dig through to see what elements would inspire him. He chose the blank puzzles.  He wanted to make a puzzle to give to his dad to solve at such time as he awoke from watching the game. . .

Before I even handed Sean the puzzle, I knew exactly how it would play out.  He would make three or four marks on the puzzle and then heave a big sigh of regret and slump his shoulders and hang his head – the posture of tragedy and lamentation.  He had messed up, nothing could be done to salvage the project.  It was not perfectly executed. There was no hope, none.  It was hideous and must be destroyed and hidden from view of the world.

I remember doing the very same thing when I was about his age.  I would sit down with much creative energy and an artistic vision in my head, one about seven clicks beyond my skill level.  I would make a few marks on the paper and then feel disgust at what I saw.  It was not perfect.  Not even close.  Then I would wad up the paper and throw it in the trash, wanting no one to see.

I would wad up paper after paper as I sought artistic perfection which never came.  And my mother let me.  Maybe she didn’t care about the wasting of paper or the environment, not very many people did in the 60s.  Or maybe the wadding and tossing of paper kept me busy which meant she could keep reading her book.  Nonetheless, I remember the frustration of not being able to perfectly transmit my idea to the paper and the dissatisfaction of never completing a project, never having anything to show for my time and effort.

Unfortunately for Sean, I am not as easy going as my mother.  I don’t allow wadding and tossing.  I make him finish what he started.  He doesn’t like that I make him do that, but he lives under a momocracy and Queen AM decides the fate of all paper and art supplies around here.

So I knew before I even handed Sean the puzzle that this is how it would go. That he would make a few marks and then heave breath and hang head and beg for a do-over.

Therefore, I  preemptively gave my little speech on how he needed to think through and consider what he was going to do before he made one single mark.  Oh yes!  He knew exactly what he was going to do! He didn’t need a sketch or a thumbnail!  That is for amateurs!  He had an artistic vision! I said that was awesome that he was so far advanced, that even DaVinci made thumbnails.  I reminded him that this was a one shot deal, no do-overs, that he was required to complete the project no matter what.

He decided that he would make a tropical scene, a palm tree with coconuts.  Unfortunately, about 63 seconds into the project, he decided that the coconuts didn’t turn out as he had hoped, which set off the heaving, hanging, slumping and lamenting.

He looked up at me with the practiced expression of hopeful, yet sad watery eyes.  Might he please, possibly, please have another blank puzzle?

And do you know what I said? I said No.

I said you figure out some way to make the composition work – that is the creative process – figuring out how to make your mistakes work.  No one makes perfect art.  But those who make good art, have learned how to do so by working through the failures.  Those who keep wadding up paper and throwing it in the trash hoping the next effort will be better, never get better.  Art is about making something good out of your mistakes.

Or maybe I was talking about life.  I don’t know.

He didn’t like that I made him finish his coconut tree puzzle.  He said it was a terrible coconut tree and he frowned a sad frown.

I don’t really enjoy making my child frown sad frowns (although it is kind of cute) but I know that some day, because I insisted, he will grow up to make good coconut trees, and you can’t really overestimate the value of that.