Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Happy Birthday-You're Grounded!

I'm in a bit of a pickle.  What started as a simple disagreement analyzing the meaning of the phrase "Please turn off the TV now," escalated into a full blown conflict with Jack.  At one point, he left the house and climbed the maple tree in our front yard and I calmly talked him down using my innate intuitive senses and experience with children. 

Just kidding.  I stood down by the trunk with my neck craned back, looking at the tips of his shoes peeking through the leaves and yelled irrational things like, "If you don't come down right now you are grounded for four days!" 

Has this ever happened to you?  In the heat of the moment, you open your mouth and offer a completely unrealistic consequence?  Now what?

The pattern in our house is to backpedal.  Usually I go to Jack and tell him I'm sorry and that after a glass of wine and a good night's sleep I have decided that the punishment does not fit the crime.  Then, we all hug and say sorry and there ends up being no consequence at all. 

Now I know that grounding Jack for four days is not effective parenting.  But neither is giving him a consequence and then not following through on the consequence.  So that is my pickle.

I think part of the reason this occurs is that Jack is an amazing kid in so many ways.  His good behavior, kind heart and happy disposition is the norm, so we end up surprised and unprepared for moments of occasional misbehavior.  Today is his 12th birthday and we are so proud of him. 

I know that with the teenage years approaching, this will not be the last Mother-Son conflict.  I think we'll need to sit down when we're both calm to talk about realistic expectations and consequences together.  And then we'll need to be consistent and fair in following through.  Someday soon, we'll have this talk.

But today, I'm going to eat my pickle.  Today I will tell Jack that the punishment was too harsh, and ask him to think of a different, more appropriate consequence.  'Cause what mom wants her son to remember the year he was grounded on his birthday?

Monday, June 27, 2011

How was your trip?

Sometimes I wonder about people who return from a trip and say that it was all fabulous. 

First of all, I wonder if they really have better vacations than I do.  Or maybe they have lower expectations than I do and it is fabulous just to be away from home.  Maybe they have such a positive outlook on life that they actually had a week chock-full of fabulous days.  Or maybe they are scared to admit that the trip didn't meet their expectations because gosh, they paid all this money and so they talk themselves into believing it was more wonderful than it really was. 

I find that my adventures are just like the rest of my life--some parts are wonderful and some parts are challenges.  So here's how I got through my trip to NYC with a grin, some grit and a bit of grace.

Heading to New York with 12 Girl Scouts means travelling on a budget.  So we took the bus and stayed in a hostel.  The bus was actually rather comfy and the girls had a lot of fun...for about the first 5 hours.  Then we hit the traffic jam to get into the Lincoln Tunnel.   After a total of 7 hours on the bus, we finally unloaded amidst the swirls of people and cigarette smoke in front of Penn Station's Friday night rush hour.  Yes, travelling to our destination required more grit than we first thought.

Getting the girls to the hostel was our next challenge.  We navigated our way through the crowds to the subway, and managed to get everyone on the right train together.  As we began to disembark at our stop, the doors began to close with only 11 girls on the platform.  I looked through the grimy subway doors at the other chaperone's eyes filled with panic.  She reached in the doors and pulled a Superman move as she pried them back open and slipped out.  The fact that we did not lose anyone on the whole trip was definitely a gift of grace!

The hostel was clean and friendly (despite Katherine spelling it hostile) but it was hard to sleep with the thin walls.  In the morning Katherine said, "Now I know why New York is called the city that never sleeps!"

Up bright and early, we were in New York and ready for our day! In the morning we headed over to Broadway to attend an interactive workshop designed to teach us about the show we would see later in the afternoon.  We had great seats and several members of our troop were volunteers on the stage.  I learned a lot about Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana and had a fun morning.  We walked over to Mars 2112 for lunch on the red planet with the aliens.  The girls loved posing for pictures with every Martian that wandered by.  Then after lunch it was off to Radio City Music Hall for the big performance.

I must say, the sets were unbelievable.  The costumes were incredible.  The circus feats were astonishing. The clowns made me laugh out loud.  Radio City Music Hall is lush and amazing.  I really loved the show, despite the fact I'm still not sure what in the world it was all about.

After the show, we did the whirlwind tour of Central Park in 20 minutes, followed by the super whirlwind tour of Times Square in 5 minutes and then walked back to the bus.  Whew.  Did I have fun?  Absolutely.  Was it all fun?  No, but that's OK with me.  Part of having an adventure together is remembering how we survived the challenges as well.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Plan For Fun

This morning it dawns on me: Plan for fun.

I should have thought of this yesterday but what's that expression?  Hindsight is always 20/20. 

I'm thinking we'll start the summer off slow.  You know, we don't want to have to get up early to rush off somewhere on the first day that we can actually sleep in.  Besides, we have accumulated piles of stuff all over the house over the course of the school year.  The first day of summer seems like the perfect opportunity to clean it all out and start fresh. 

Yes, I know--a ridiculous idea--remember what I said about hindsight?  While I am perfectly content to toss junk from a drawer, excited about the thought of organized shelves and the thought of an organized closet makes my heart beat a bit faster, the kids....not so much. 

Which is why, after being left to entertain themselves, they get into a fight.  I'm not sure about the details but it has something to do with hairy necks and plastic forks.  Then I yell at them and they call me mean. So we leave the house and head to the pool where I run into some friends.  They are all reporting similar incidents with their own children.   "It's only day one!  How will we survive the summer?" they wonder.

This is when I realize that our children are probably thinking the same thing about us.  I can only imagine the conversation down at the other end of the pool.  "And then she told me I had to read a book and make my bed before I could play with my DS."  "You think that's bad?  My mom tried to make me clean out my room and walk the dog." 

Today I am planning on having some fun with my kids.  Maybe a family game, maybe a movie.  But I'll clean out those closets when they're not around.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Year of Allison

The Year of Allison begins.

No drumroll, no fanfare--just me lugging a dozen boxes from my classroom to the basement.  The thought crosses my mind that my year should certainly include cleaning out and organizing their contents.

Mental note: Add that to the list.

There's some pressure--partly self imposed--about choosing not to return as a full time teacher next year.  "What are you going to do?" is the standard question when people hear the news.  At first, that question stumped me.  I made lists of ideas such as these:
  • train my dog
  • improve my posture
  • take guitar lessons
  • become an affectionate, sexy wife who never nags
  • cook amazing well balanced meals for my family
  • pursue my doctorate
Then I realized that "The Year of Allison" is not about big changes.  I am still going to be a wife, mother, daughter, granddaughter, teacher and friend.  I am still going to be a Girl Scout leader, Sunday School teacher and running coach.  I'll still be the chauffeur, cook, accountant and house manager.  I'm still going to love to read a great novel, ride my bike and listen to Paul play the guitar.  I'm still going to clean up and mess up and dream of a well behaved dog.

Just because I won't have a salary, it won't change who I am and what my goals are.  "The Year of Allison" won't make me perfect.  So, what will I be doing?  Living my life, I hope, with a grin, some grit and a bit of grace.