Ten Things *Only Parents of Boys AND Girls Will Understand (*or any other enlightened individual)

I don’t have ten things. I don’t have a list for you at all.

These “only parents of boys understand” blogs just keep getting dumber and dumber so I had to address it.. I spend my day with as many as 5 little boys, and as the youngest sibling 3 brothers, I feel like I always have. There was a time, though, when I spent my days with girls, so often and so many I felt like Carol Burnett in Annie. Let me tell you, most of the points made in these blogs are not gender specific. Not only that, many of them simply don’t pertain to my life at all, with boys or girls.
These articles are are all about their specific type of parenting, not gender. You do not have to pick between Marvel and DC unless you choose to pick one. (Marvel, obviously, but we’re raising the kids with both.) Goldy loved Star Wars and boys’ sandals because they were more functional for climbing and even their jeans had better pockets and those legs that zipped off. Beauty loved getting dirty and covered in slime. Both girls knew how to bite a sandwich into the shape of a gun by the time they were five. My sons like wearing pretty wings and having “tea” parties with water, but, because of their dad’s influence, they are more into superheroes than my daughters were. Not because of their penises, I promise. Do you know how I know? Goldy and I both love watching superhero movies with them. (I grew up with them, she did not.) ALL of my kids, even the ones I watch, are or were, “noise with dirt” as one blog admits “might be true of some girls.” (Emphasis my own, because eyeroll.) I have no idea where anyone got the notion only boys should or want to get dirty. (See photos below.) Some kids love it and some do not, but most get dirty whether they intended to or not. At least, they do if you’re doing it right.

Maybe there are some universal truths, all boys might be one way and all girls another, but I haven’t found that truth in any blog post yet. What I have found, is that parents who think boys want trucks will buy them trucks, even though there is an age when all children want toys that roll. Hot Wheels, Barbie’s convertible, they don’t care, they just want to roll them. It’s part of their development. Parents who think boys will be boys will allow some wrestling and dirt play while they park their jealous little girls in front of Sophia The First because she is a good role model for little girls. I have encountered, and often, men that won’t let their sons roll the pink Barbie car or paint their nails. That is why these blogs annoy me. They perpetuate that idea that kids should be one thing or another, and they shouldn’t. They should be kids. They should do what is developmentally appropriate. All kids need big body play, not just boys. (Mothers of daughters, click that link!) All kids need art and the resources and opportunities to express themselves. All kids need to snuggle.

I don’t know where these women are getting the idea that little boys don’t want to cuddle and why they are so shocked when they do. I know, some kids aren’t as physical, but it does not seem divided by gender lines. As a young child Beauty reserved hugs for close family only. (She’s over that now, judging by her Instagram photos.) I’ve watched many children that only like to snuggle when they are hurt or feeling needy, boys and girls, but eventually, they all cuddle.

I’m cutting the authors some slack, assuming they only have boys and don’t realize their experience is limited. Also, I get it, it’s a blog. They’re trying to be whimsical and attract more clicks.

But this offends me, “Boys love unconditionally. The anal retentive in me screamed to stop this list at nice, round, even #10, but this is by far the most important thing I have learned about raising boys. Boys love unconditionally. They love unabashedly. They love with their entire little bodies. When your little girl stomps her foot and tells you to leave her alone, your son simply loves you. When your tween daughter is sullen and sulky and hates you, your son simply loves you. When you teenage daughter gives you the silent treatment, your son simply loves you. Their love is solid. Their love is strong and consistent from the start. And it sticks around for the long haul.
From: 11 Things Only Parents Of Boys Understand By Shannon Ralph/The Next Family

I don’t know anything about her family, though I could probably check her blog. I prefer to imagine she doesn’t have girls so this is an idea the media (social or mass) has put in her head. I wish I had video of my sweet, loving son, the one that says I love you a hundred times a day, stomping his tiny foot at me and yelling, “Bad Mommy!” He gets just as pissed as my girls ever did. In fact, at 15 and 19, I’m pretty sure I’ve only had a handful of, “I don’t like yous” from each girl, but I get that many a week from Sharkboy. Not that my daughters and I haven’t argued. Wall shaking, cat scaring arguments. But never, for even a sulky,sullen minute, did I think that my daughters didn’t love me unconditionally. I get mad at them. I’ve stomped my foot. We’re fierce. In this family, we all love unconditionally and unabashedly, even the females. I’m a girl. My love is solid. It’s strong and consistent from the start and it will damn well stick around for the long haul. Don’t sell my daughters short and don’t sell me short.

My baby BOY

Beauty, breaking gender stereotypes since 1998

ninjas

Goldy and Beauty

rainbows

my unicorn boys, Little S, Sharkboy and a playschool friend

real men wear pink

On Wednesdays we wear pink.

Naptime Is For Ranting

If there is any question I hear frequently from fathers it is, “How can I help? I know she wants my help but I don’t know what to do.”

Guys, I’m not falling for it.

You can’t hear your kid asking for a drink right as your wife (girlfriend, boyfriend or whoever the second parent is in your home) finally sits down to enjoy her book? You don’t hear your child saying she needs to go potty for the hundredth time right as your wife sits down to eat? You don’t see the mountain of dishes or the pile of books or the floor that needs vacuumed or your underwear in the bathroom or the jelly on the counter or your wife busting her ass to take care of all of that? You can’t smell that diaper!?

OR. You do see and hear all of that but you think you help enough by bringing home the bacon? Maybe your wife makes a few less pounds of bacon? She’s still working, she’s still contributing and parenting is still a full time job for both parents. From changing diapers to potty training, from reading just one more story to listening as they struggle through those first sentences on their own, from the first day of school all the way to graduation, and beyond, parenting is 24/7 for both parents.

Maybe your wife doesn’t “work” at all, maybe she stays home with your sweet little tax credits all day while you do the manly chore of chair warming in your cubicle. Actually, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you work hard at a demanding job, IF you give her the benefit of the doubt that staying at home with children all day can be mentally draining and emotionally challenging. It can be physically intense. It can be every bit as exhausting as working outside the home. It has it’s perks, many, and I have addressed that before, and those perks are beneficial to you, as well. If having the person that you chose to have children with home with them, raising them, isn’t perk enough, remember she is also saving you money. Cha-ching.

I’m not done. This may come as a surprise to a lot of men and even some women, cleaning isn’t parenting. Cleaning is cleaning. Everyone in the house makes messes so everyone should be involved in cleaning them up. (In an age appropriate way, obviously.) Cleaning is not a mother’s duty, it’s just a part of life and happens even in houses that don’t have mothers or children.

So you say you want to help, then do it. It’s that simple. It’s not a mystery to decode, chances are she has told you, and loudly, exactly what she needs. If not, you have seen it, heard it and smelled it yourself, so get up and do it.

But don’t stop there.

Acknowledge her hard work. Show her appreciation for what she does manage to get done and realize her “to do” list is most likely longer than your Netflix queue. Show her respect, because your children learn from you, and because she deserves it. Remind her that she is more capable than she is aware and still beautiful in every way. Be her ally. Be her advocate. Be her friend. But above all else, be a parent, because you are not helping, you are parenting your child.

 

 

No one is ever just anything.

It was sunny and warm on Friday, but not so hot and humid I had to swim through my yard. It was one of those perfect spring days that Icould be outside all day, letting the sun ease my tension and the fresh air detox my lungs. I felt amazingly lucky for my job as a childcare provider. We went outside at 9 am and didn’t go back inside until nap time. I was spending time with my own children, watching them enjoy the same benefits of nature and play with their friends, a group of kids I truly enjoy working with. I love my job. Friday was one of those days that reminds me why, because just like everyone else, some days I need a reminder.

daycare3

If I had a dollar for every time someone said I was just a babysitter or preschool teacher, or referred to my job as easy or didn’t understand why I couldn’t drop what I was doing to do what they needed because, you know, I’m home all day doing nothing, well, I wouldn’t need a reminder about why I love my job because I’d have all those extra dollars to remind me. I’m not complaining about my job because I am doing exactly what I want to do, but I want to paint a picture of my day that helps you understand I’m not just a daycare provider. No one is ever just anything.

If someone else’s job seems that simple and undemanding to you, I suggest you give it a try. I don’t want to flip burgers and clean bathrooms at McDonald’s. I don’t want to drive a cab or a school bus or stock shelves. I do not want to stand on my feet all day and cut hair. I don’t want to sit at a desk and crunch numbers or enter data. Those jobs all sound incredibly difficult to me. I don’t understand comments to the contrary. Most of the people that I have heard make disparaging comments about those jobs probably couldn’t do them. They are all worthwhile jobs, though. They all pay the bills and put food on the table. They are all important. Consider the cab driver that takes an elderly woman to the doctor or drives your drunk ass home from the bar. How can he be “just a cab driver” when he is potentially saving lives? Not just anyone can give you the amazing feeling of a new haircut and I don’t want to know what public bathrooms would look like without the cleaning staff. Every job needs done and every job takes some amount of skill and effort.

daycare2

Sometimes it probably looks suspiciously like all I do at work is sit in the sun and play Duck, Duck, Goose… and sometimes that is all I do. (Don’t tell me you never get down time, unless maybe you’re a nurse. I’ve never seen a nurse not busy.) But if you are a parent and you spend any amount of time with your children and put any effort into their upbringing you can admit it’s one of the most stressful things you do. Add a few more kids and consider you are getting paid and evaluated by more than just the society that is already judging your every move. At least sometimes as a parent it feels that way.

daycare

As a childcare provider I have to weigh my words and speak carefully so I don’t damage, or overfeed, developing egos. I guide verbal children to express themselves with words and not harmful actions, and help non-verbal children learn the words to express their feelings. I help them learn appropriate ways to express anger, sadness and disappointment. I answer questions about complicated topics, like, “is peanut butter good for you?” Today a little boy asked me if I had a big penis. Death is a hot topic here lately, too. Luckily the focus is mostly on cats right now but I know the time is coming when I have to answer harder questions. Sometimes I do all of that, and make breakfast and change diapers, before 9am. Even in those pleasant moments when I can sit still and enjoy the sunshine I am still on duty. I break up more fights than a hockey referee, and I can’t just shout, “knock it off, you two!” They might actually knock each other off the play equipment. I have to physically intervene and model the appropriate way to handle their frustration and anger. My job isn’t just breaking up the fight, but helping them learn to prevent the fight. I’m not just trying to get through the day, I’m helping these children learn to get through the rest of their lives.

daycare4

I prefer the term provider over teacher because I think my job is to provide them with opportunities and experiences, not to teach a specific lesson. I do a little of that but it takes up a minute percentage of my day. I provide tools and resources and the guidance to use them. That all sounds simple enough, but not everyone knows and understands what children really need from them. They need choices and chances and lots of paint and mud and water, tons of water, and so much more. And someone with enough patience to give them all of that… and clean it all up afterwards.

daycare5

If that doesn’t impress you just imagine how much screaming I listen to each day and how many diapers I have to change.

No one is ever just anything. Your job is valuable and important and so is mine. Make an effort to recognize that in others.

Know Better, Do Better

 

 

 

ad·vo·cate

 [v. ad-vuh-keyt; n. ad-vuh-kit, -keyt]  Show IPA

 

verb (used with object), ad·vo·cat·ed, ad·vo·cat·ing.

1.

to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly: He advocated higher salaries for teachers.
noun

2.

a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc. (usually followed by of ): an advocate of peace.

Image

 

I spend too much time on the internet. I have three tabs open right now so I can check my email, watch my Facebook notifications rack up and shop for new band shirts for the boys… while I blog. I run into a lot of characters online, and before I get started you should know, I like them all. Minus the trolls. Trolls divide us further and waste our time. But I like the rest of them, even the well meaning advocates that completely miss their mark.

Have you met these people? They have a cause and they are passionate about it. And I mean passionate. Their Facebook timeline is filled with daily memes and quotes and articles about the miracle of their chosen cause, or causes. For example, I post a metric shitton of stuff about coconut oil, vinegar and avocados. (A metric shitton is an actual unit of measurement I just invented equal to “many”) I threw out all of my store bought cleaners and hide the new ones The Barkeep keeps buying. I have spray bottles of vinegar water everywhere instead. I put it in my laundry. I take a shot of apple cider vinegar to clear my sinuses and use it to make salad dressing. I have coconut oil in my bathroom cupboard, the medicine cabinet and, of course, the kitchen. And I just really like avocados. They keep me full. They replace cheese when I’m doing well about skipping dairy. I am an advocate for these things. I want to inform other people about their benefits. You may recall I also love my cloth diapers (currently sitting unused thanks to all the chlorine in our water right now) and Baby Legs and wearing my babies. I feel strongly about these things and when they come up in conversation I try to control myself as I explain why.

I discovered most of these things online from other advocates. Advocating is a good thing. Sharing your passion is the best thing. I am an advocate for advocating. Do something. Spread the word, teach someone, show someone, just come down off of your high horse first and remember that you most likely weren’t born with this knowledge. And if you were, remember that not everyone came from your background, your income bracket, your side of town, your way of life. We are all learning, even as we advocate, and we should all be accepting of others who are learning at a different pace.

There are some things I feel strongly about that I’m not completely comfortable writing about in such a public format… yet. Sometimes when I present people with the facts about these things and they seem unimpressed, impassive or completely reject the facts, I want to pull my hair out. Then I remind myself, there was a time I was the same way. It’s hard to accept bold new information. They may have to hear it many times from many trusted sources. They may need to see it with their own eyes. They may just need time. They may never agree. This doesn’t mean a person is ignorant or uneducated. I mean, it doesn’t always mean that, I’m not trying to suggest you haven’t met some truly ignorant people, because I have. But not everyone who disagrees with you, no matter how “right” you are, is stupid. Wasting your time trying to convince them that they are is stupid.

I saw a lovely picture online of a father folding laundry while wearing his baby in a carrier. I went to comment and was shocked by the hateful comments before mine, referring to his carrier as a “crotch dangler” and calling him an idiot and a terrible father. Not only was this attack alarming to me, but so was the news that my carrier was actually a crotch dangler and could be harming my children. A “crotch dangler” is basically any forward facing carrier that makes the baby hang in front of you with it’s hips spread apart. This can overstimulate the baby and possibly cause medical issues. Many of the women commenting were claiming to be advocates of baby wearing, but I have to admit they turned me off of the idea for quite awhile. Something I once enjoyed became yet another reason to judge each other and call names. It made baby wearing seem complicated and only for a certain type of person, specifically snarky, know it all bitches. Thankfully I was added to a local baby wearing group on Facebook and discovered that was not (always) the case. I met actual advocates of baby wearing that would happily teach other parents what carriers worked best and how to use them.

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An advocate is a person who speaks for a cause, not against others. An advocate should be inclusive and strive to make others feel welcome to their cause, not alienate those with less or wrong information. That’s not advocating, that’s judging. Which is fine, do your thing, just call it what it is. You feel superior because you were informed first. Own it, just don’t call it advocating. It turns people off. If you want other people to join your cause, don’t be a jerk.  Now you know better and when you know better, you do better.

we’re all a little weird

Sharkboy and Little S are only 2 and 3 years old but I think about my school options often, especially this time of year. Public school, Catholic School, Montessori school, home school, there are so many choices and it is all so overwhelming. I keep coming back to the idea of homeschooling and wondering if it’s something I really want to do. I have the usual hang ups: Am I qualified? How will we afford to eat? Will it make my kids weird?

That last question always brings me back to a family I used to work with when I taught preschool. They seemed like a pretty normal family at first but as Mom became more comfortable with me she started to ask a lot of questions about her son’s behavior and the general idea was always, “is he normal?” This is actually a fairly typical concern and a question I hear often. She began to ask it so frequently and fervently that it stopped being normal.

Her family, her friends, the internet, they all had her convinced she had to do things one certain way or her kid would be weird. The problem is everyone has a different opinion about what that one certain way is. It’s enough to drive a concerned mom bonkers.

“If you adhere to a strict schedule your kids won’t have any flexibility.”
“If you throw out the schedule they will have no structure.”
“If you force them to eat healthy foods they will have eating issues.”
“If you never make them try things they’ll be picky.”
“If you co-sleep they will never sleep alone.”

It’s giving me a stress headache just coming up with examples. So, I’m going to put your mind at ease. Yes, your kid is weird.

Think about your friends growing up. Think about their families. How many of them did you think were kind of weird? Be honest with yourself. I only had brothers growing up, and a handful of them, so I was outnumbered by boys. My best friend had an older sister and their house was always amazing (but weird) to me. Clothes piling out of the closet, tampon boxes in plain sight, curling irons everywhere. And so much make up.

Wait… that sounds like my house now. That’s not weird.

I had another friend with a single mom (which was really weird at the time) and their cupboard was filled with generic brand groceries. I have no idea when generic brands became more readily available but at the time they were fairly new to me and a lot of my friends, so we thought that was super weird.

That also sounds a little like my house now, though.

I’m sure I can think of someone really weird. Like the family with the 4 (!!!) kids all close in age that ran around on rooftops and played in the creek and had a poker table in their downstairs that alternated between a very elaborate Hot Wheels Land and a Dungeons and Dragons table.

That was my house then. And I’m certain a lot of people thought we were weird.

Looking back at the families I have worked with in childcare I could tell you something “weird” about every single one of them, making weird an obsolete term in this context. If we’re all weird then that makes us normal.

In an online discussion about schooling options a complete stranger asked me what everyone asks, “but aren’t you worried they’ll be weird?” Just like that *poof*  one less concern. We’re all a little weird. I can’t go through their life trying to protect them from that or from the people who will notice, in fact, I’d do well to remind them at every chance.

Magic

Place your bets: Cyrus versus Syria

If you have a TV or computer or even just walk among the living during somewhat normal hours you have probably heard about Miley Cyrus at the VMAs on Sunday night.

You can narrow social media response to a few main categories.

The die-hard fans: Mostly tween and teenage girls… and their mothers. They either don’t care about how unusual her performance was or they loved it to pieces so just leave Britney alone already.

The turncloak fans: Mostly tween and teenage girls and definitely their mothers. These are young girls who didn’t realize that the lyrics to the song they loved were about drinking and drugs. I feel for these girls, not so much for their mothers. Were you really fooled by that wig? You thought Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus were the same person? She is a grown woman, if you are going to get your panties in a Miley sized wedgie over their music then maybe you should listen to it before you let them buy it on iTunes. These are the actual lyrics to the song, referencing dancing like you are in a strip club and doing lines in the bathroom. She did not sneak these lyrics in for the VMAs. AND if you are letting your children listen to Blurred Lines and watch that ridiculous video then don’t cry foul about Miley’s performance.

The slut shamers: Many of these are the same moms mentioned above and unfortunately their daughters are following their lead. Some of them are grown women with no children (of that age) that have no business watching the VMAs. I mean, do what you want with your Sunday night, but I was only watching it because Beauty turned it on. I personally don’t care what Miley was wearing or even that she was twerking her cute little booty off. I was more upset about the teddy bears and the horrible choreography than her wardrobe. Okay, those panties were a little weird and the simulated rim job was not my taste. (pun not intended but left for amusement) She is an adult now and as she says in her song,

It’s our party we can do what we want to
It’s our house we can love who we want to
It’s our song we can sing if we want to
It’s my mouth I can say what I want to
Yea, Yea, Yeah

So, yeah. Take that. It’s MTV. If you were looking for reserved try The Cooking Channel. I’m just guessing, I don’t actually watch cooking shows.

The clueless: This is mostly older adults with no teenagers or young parents with young children who only knew something happened at the VMAs, or that the VMAs still exist, because on Monday morning their feed was flooded with updates. If they posted about Miley at all it was to ask, “what is twerking?”

And last, but not least, in fact, the focus of my writing,

The “what about Syria” crowd: For every two Miley posts like the type above there was at least one “all you people are talking about Miley Cyrus while meanwhile in Syria…” post.

Show of hands (via comment), did you actually forget Syria existed while you were talking about Miley Cyrus? If so, and be honest, did you even know something was happening in Syria before the twerk scandal?

Here’s my opinion. You may not agree and you may not like it but don’t pretend it’s not what you came for. I don’t report the weather here, folks.

If anything, a well known white pop star licking and smacking black people, dancing provocatively on another controversial pop star, and saying, “hey, we do what we want and you can’t stop us, we can’t even stop ourselves” is exactly what we need, especially to draw attention to Syria.

I have seen more conversations online about racism, slut shaming, the state of our music industry, the direction our daughters are headed and rape culture in the past few days than I generally see in a whole year. (And that is saying a lot because I follow a lot of left leaning pages and my friends are the kind of people who care about this stuff.) These are conversations we need to have. We should be having them daily.

Now that we understand and agree that discussing Miley Cyrus’ tongue and twering is important, back to Syria. No one who knew there was conflict in Syria forgot about while discussing these other, also important issues. Maybe they prefer not to discuss it online. Maybe they were talking about both and Facebook does that thing it does where it hides the stories getting less comments. Maybe they were discussing it in private groups. *raises hand* But I assure you, no one forgot Syria existed.

However, people who have previously been hiding under rocks or forced to watch Dora all day, and the percentage of teenagers that just don’t care about things outside the halls of their high school, were suddenly bombarded with “what about Syria?” posts, and asked themselves, “yes, indeed what about Syria?” They may have even looked it up or asked someone or read the posted article.

So, come down off your high horses friends, and discuss Miley Cyrus with us. I bet her horse Blue Jeans gets high, too. (Wait, that was Miley Stewart. Her multiple personalities get so confusing!) We promise not to forget about…. that one place…

Just kidding. In case you have no idea what all the Syria talk is about: this should be easy to understand. 

How I Know My Family Is Out To Get Me: Kitchen Edition

Recently I was informed that my family insisting on three solid meals a day AND snacks is not actually proof they are out to get me. Fair enough. Surely this list will convince you.

  • Wet, bloated macaroni noodles hiding under a plate in the sink. If you didn’t want to touch it when it first fell out what makes you think I want to pick it up the next day? It looks and feels unnatural.
  • Lettuce. Lettuce is my nemesis. That my family continues to consort with my sworn enemy is proof that they are not on my side. It falls on the floor and apparently becomes invisible. It sneaks into the dishwasher and adheres to plates so thoroughly I have to scrape it off with my thumbnail. Ick.
  • Wet meat. I want to hurl just typing that. That little pile of goop caught in the sink drain catcher is bad enough with a bloated noodle, but wet meat? Gag. You don’t do that to someone you love.
  • Standing water. It stands to reason if wet meat and a bloated noodle turn my stomach then reaching into water someone else left sitting with any possible combination of disgusting mystery ingredients is not going to please me.
  • Dirty sponges. This is just evil. Sponges are gross. No really, sponges are gross.

A sponge that’s been in use for no more than two or three days in a kitchen will harbor millions of bacteria,” said Elizabeth Scott, co-director of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in the Home at Simmons College in Boston. That’s a problem, she said, ”if you pick up the pathogen or a pathogenic E. coli, salmonella or campylobacter on the sponge.”

She added: ”That means that any time you use the sponge to wipe up a surface you are potentially spreading those pathogens.”

  • Dishes Jenga. When I walk into the kitchen and the dishes are piled haphazardly in the sink, likely to fall at any moment, I just walk back out again and hope it was a bad dream.
  • The set of measuring spoons tethered together by a ring. I find it suspicious that this is the only dish ever thoroughly rinsed, therefore I have to wash each spoon because I have no idea which one was used.
  • The glob of jelly on the counter. The paper towel is right there.
  • The last smudge of something leftover from last week. I open the fridge, delighted to realize there are leftovers I can serve instead of cooking again, only to discover not only is there not even half a serving left, but now I have another dish to rinse and clean.

That’s how I know. 

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