Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Just Don't Be a Jerk

When you're out in the world, interacting with society, this should be the absolute bare minimum:

Just don't be a jerk.

This could be online. It could be with strangers in the store. It could be with neighbors. It could be with family.

We've all got our own stresses, our own buttons that can be pushed. Sometimes, we make an active decision to be a jerk, because selfishness gets in the way of good sense, or someone was a jerk to us, so we feel we can go ahead and toss it out. Sometimes, we lose ourselves and our focus, and we're an accidental jerk.

But honestly, neither is ok. It's just not. You're not going to get anything good, not long term anyway, from being a jerk.

Maybe it's parking. Your neighbor parked in front of your house, blocking your mailbox, and you feel the need to pay them back in kind and block THEM in. Or maybe you don't do a direct retaliation, but when the opportunity comes up to be neighborly, you opt out, choosing to make their life a little harder. Payback, you might think. Or maybe it's a stranger in a crowded lot, at the height of holiday shopping. They squeezed their car in next to yours, and now you can barely get your body inside. So you decide that if they decided to be a jerk parking, you can give them the ding on the door they so obviously deserve.

Maybe it's online. Yeah, people tend to be super jerky about big topics - politics or vaccines or (ironically) bullying, but sometimes it's the little ones, topics that no one should feel all that passionately about, that attract jerky behavior. It's the time of year when seemingly calm parenting groups get all flush with arguments about the Elf on the Shelf. If you go all in, or if you don't do it at all, chances are you've either been a jerk, or you've had to deal with one. You feel like it's ok to be a jerk online, because it's an obvious right/wrong, and the other side is probably being a jerk right back.

Interesting anecdotal evidence - it is almost always the anti-Elf parents, not the over the top ones, who are behaving like jerks. The judgy, superior, smug, doesn't matter whose feelings I hurt, even a preschooler is fair game, attitude, usually the domain of the "sanctimommy", is taken on in a big way by anti-Elfers. They will mock, they will post hundreds of anti-Elf memes, they will let it be known that they are making the obvious "right" choice, and they judge you hard if you don't join in with the mocking. They might be totally normal and judgement free from January to mid-November, but those last six weeks of the year they go full jerk. Yes, I know. Not everyone. But still, I've found far more jerky bullying from the anti-Elf contingent. 

Really, it could be anywhere, with anything. You feel stressed, you feel wronged, you feel like if you AREN'T a jerk, you'll be taken advantage of, so why not?

But here's the thing.

Even if it works for you in the short term - you feel like you got even, you feel like you got what you deserved, you feel like you proved yourself right....you didn't really win.

Because people remember. 

Negative energy, put out into the world, will create more negative energy. Maybe it'll come to you directly, maybe it'll come to you indirectly, but jerky behavior invites more.

I have found that the most powerful "revenge" is turning it backwards.

Your neighbor blocked you in? Shovel their sidewalk when you're out doing yours.

Someone tries to start a fight online? Take a deep breath and scroll by. Or defend someone (in a non jerky way) who is being attacked.

Someone is rude to you? Be extra kind back to them.

No, it probably won't be Disney movie experience, where the jerk immediately apologizes and you become best friends. But jerky behavior can't thrive in an atmosphere of positivity.

So just don't be a jerk.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Tried and True, Something New

There are some parenting hacks that work so well for me that I see no need to mix it up.

Girls lusting after something in a store, and I can tell the begging is near? We take a picture and add it to their "wish list".

Arguing over turns? Set a timer.

I like that I've settled on solutions that work for us. I know how to keep my kids - mostly - running pretty smoothly.

But then, I've noticed that sometimes, mixing it up with something new is exactly what I need.

For example, I feel pretty confident with long drives. The girls are accustomed to 1-2 hour trips - we make them to visit family, we make them for homeschool field trips, we make them for dance. This is standard, and we're all pretty good at knowing exactly how to make the drive go smoothly. We know what to pack in the girls' bags, we know what snacks we'll need, we know how to handle rest stops.

But when something changes, I need to adjust. Maybe it's what time of day we're driving, maybe it's distance, maybe it's why we're traveling, but something needs to change to make the trip go smoothly.

We hit into this the other week. It was super early in the morning and we were driving the full length of the state. Just me and the girls, since it was for a dance thing (shocking, right?) It was the worst drive we'd made in ages. They bickered over chargers and who needed which cable more. They didn't have water. They didn't have anything they wanted to eat. They needed bathroom stop after bathroom stop (which was bizarre, considering the beverage situation). They were asking how long until we got there. They were just feeding off of each other, and I was completely unprepared and annoyed.

So, while they danced all day, I hit the local shop and I mixed it up. I got snacks. I got color coded cables. I even hit the dollar spot and got some new trinkets, which I packaged "blind bag" style to add excitement and novelty. I mapped out when I'd be willing to stop. When they climbed into the car that night, I filled them in on the changes, and, whether in spite of, or because of them, the ride home was easy, and they were happy.

Tried and true is the way to go, but when something changes things, don't fight. Time to go with something new.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Navigating New Waters

We're entering the tween years. Madison is growing up faster than I ever imagined.

Mostly, her personality is consistent with who she's always been. She's empathetic and compassionate, she's a good friend, she's cautious initially, but fearless once she feels comfortable.

But now she gets irritated more easily - her sister being the prime target, but I'm in that line of fire as well. She wells up and cries at music, movies, even discussions of emotional topics. Sometimes she doesn't understand WHY she's crying, and I want to singsong, "I know why!"

Her interest in boys has been peaked. She's not in school where she has a plethora of young men to choose from, and dance, as well as many of her other classes, tends to be female dominated, but she has focused her attention on one particular boy in her art class, who (hold me), has focused HIS attention on HER.

In fact, his little brother told Reagan that he does have a girlfriend, and that girlfriend is Madison.

(Man, gossip is adorable when it's innocent and whispered between siblings in the under 10 crew). 

Does that mean anything? Nope. They play together, with others, at the end of art class, and they usually sit NEAR, but not NEXT to each other at the art table. And she wants to get him a Christmas gift. Do they call each other? Arrange (play) dates? No. Not yet. It's the innocent, elementary school style "relationship", but still...it's a change. And while I'm blinking and wrapping my head around reciprocated first crushes, Adam doesn't know WHAT to do with this information.

Although I know, logically, that it's still a few years away, based on the passage of time, I fully expect to blink and find myself bringing her for her learner's permit. Or looking at colleges. Or packing up her room.

It happened with nine. The halfway point of childhood. Eight year old Madison was all kid. A mature kid, sure, but ALL kid. Giggles and bubbles. Nine year old Madison has plenty of kid left. A kid who plays with American Girl dolls and builds with LEGOs, but also a girl who listens to music while she works, obsesses about her outfit each day (even though we mostly stay home), chats with her friends on the phone, and takes pictures with her Instax Polaroid.

She's riding the wave of the tween...little girl one moment, teenage wannabe the next. She's mature and responsible one moment, then getting distracted by her toys the next. She's giggles and emotional tears and then giggles again.

It's new waters, and I'm new at this too. Hopefully we'll navigate as a team.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Trying Something New

We've had some good times this fall. Some of it has been the traditional apple/pumpkin picking after a soccer game (can you get more New England cliched than that?) Some has been visiting corn mazes, or hiking through gorgeous foliage.

But this fall we're also having fun in other ways, and a big thing we've done this fall is exploring a few breweries together.

Trust me, it gets me a few raised eyebrows from some (although none at the actual breweries, who often have their own kids with them), but no one seems to bat an eye when kids accompany their parents to a football game with a tailgate beforehand, so I'm not overly bothered (well, most of the time).

Are breweries adults only? Or SHOULD they be?

I'm actually not a big beer person. Actually, over the past few years I'm not a huge drinking person anymore. Not for any reason other than my stomach and head are more sensitive than they were when I was younger, so one glass of wine, or a fun cocktail, or a mug of hard cider is usually enough for me. So when Adam first started saying that the girls and I should join him at a local brewery, I was skeptical. WHY? I'm going to have one beer, and the girls will have nothing.

But breweries are actually the wholesome, traditional, family fun I've been craving.

First off, they tend to be big open spaces, with comfy tables scattered around.

There's always food - usually a food truck or two with ridiculously delicious stuff to eat. One brewery has a pizza area that has plenty of tempting items. AND you can bring your own food most of the time. We usually load up on snacky stuff when we'll all be together, and we'll munch on chips  or cheese and crackers.

And of the breweries we've visited together, only ONE has had a TV. It's not like a bar or restaurant with a wall of screens to distract you. It's a social scene.

What they have instead are games. Table games with balls to roll, or dice to throw. Card games. Board games. Games for two, games for a crowd, games for adults and games for kids.

And so instead of vegging out in our living room, with the TV on and everyone doing their own thing, we can eat lunch and play a marathon game of Monopoly. The girls can bring their water or juice, or we'll get them a hipster artisan soda if we're feeling generous. We can start talking to the table next to us and get everyone involved in a game of Uno.

And yeah, there's beer. And don't get me wrong, the beer is good.

But for us, the beer is secondary to the family time we've had together.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Best and Worst of the Fall

I'm a full on Anne of Green Gables when I think, "I'm so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers".

I am an unapologetic, go ahead and call me "basic", fall lover. It's always been my favorite season. As seasons go, it's nearly perfect. No temperature extremes, just colorful beauty. You can find fresh flowers and pass gorgeous foliage on your way there. You can eat a perfect crisp apple in a t-shirt and jeans, and a sweater is all you need against the chill.

I want to do all the New England things. I want to visit a farm stand, picking out the perfect fruits and vegetables. I want to wander through the orchards. I want to come home and make soup and bread. I get that urge to "winter prep" in my twenty-first century suburban way, which means getting the cozy blankets and slippers ready.

It's perfect outdoor sports weather - none of that March and April chill and rain and mud, none of the deathly August humidity. You can enjoy a perfect soccer game on the sidelines, and the players aren't dying of heat. Everyone is comfortable.

And while the craziness of September has passed, everything still feels fresh. No one (well, in our house, anyway) is dragging their feet about school or evening activities and being exhausted. It's still new enough, it's still LIGHT enough outside, that the backpacks still have the shine on them.

But I won't be as naive so say that things are perfect in October. Driving can be a pain. The sun glares into your eyes, wildlife is trying to run into your car, and wet leaves can rival ice when it comes to slick surfaces. It's tricky to dress for the day, knowing it'll be chilly in the morning, warm by afternoon, and then cold again at night. You fight with yourself about whether or not to give in and turn the heat on. At night and in the mornings, you feel like you need it. But during the day it's so warm that you feel ridiculous.


If I had to pick a favorite month to live in New England, I'll pass on the summer heat and the winter snow, and it's all about Octobers.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Doing Your Research

There is nothing more irritating to me than someone who has read some little blurb on Facebook and has now fashioned themselves an expert on something, usually in the context of sounding informed in an argument.

This happens a lot in parenting groups. People claim "expert status" in everything from car seats, to the safety of various cars, to school options, to nutrition, to sleep, to, well, pretty much everything. Usually, this is to justify whatever they're doing and why they are right and everyone else is wrong.

Homeschooling has been a HUGE one. And I don't want to act like the homeschool parents are the innocent victims. I mean, historically, yes, they've had to defend their choices an awful lot. I've been there, I get it. But I had to leave a conversation because a mom was absolutely slamming anyone who "cared so little about their children that they would decide a public school education was good enough", and posting inflammatory article after article "proving" herself right. She had DONE her research and actually said she considered herself an "educational expert".

Shockingly, she got a lot of comments, but didn't seem to get any converts, despite all the memes and articles she posted.

I've always been a research person. Maybe I'll go with the majority, maybe I won't. But I firmly believe that if you want to feel comfortable with a choice, it's not the validation from others that will do it. It's the fact that you've really looked into whatever you want to know more about.

And honestly, I'd rather know that I can look at my sources, instead of the "something I read on Facebook".
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