Sandra Tayler

Masks

Online friendships are backwards. When I meet a person in “real life” (As if all the living that people do online these days is somehow fake. It isn’t.) the very first things I find out are what they look like, their approximate age, and their gender. All of that before I’ve even spoken with them. Within minutes of speaking I’ll probably find out thier name, where they live, and the names and ages of their spouse and children if any. All of this information gathered within minutes of meeting.

Online those bits of information are only revealed later in the friendship. We all wear masks. But wearing masks makes us feel safe and so we say and do things we wouldn’t otherwise dare to say or do. Those of you who read this journal almost certainly know more about my thoughts and my life this week than any of my neighbors even though I count my neighbors as friends and enjoy visiting with them.

There are good things and bad things about being masked. The mask allows a shy person to step forward without fear, to make jokes, to tease. The mask allows us to vent. The mask also allows the angry person to flame and spread vitriol. The mask allows us to pretend to be something else, sometimes harmlessly, sometimes dangerously.

Do I like the masking? For myself I’ve chosen a limited usage of a mask. Mostly I mask for the protection of others in my care. I do not parade the real names of my children, perhaps in some subconscious belief that like in the fairy tale rumplestilskin the knowledge of a name brings power. Someday they will be strong enough to defend their names, for now I do it for them.

I’ve so many more thoughts about masks and online friendships, but they seem to be jumbled in my head and I can’t pull them out in any organized fashion. Unfortunately I need my mental energy for other things this week, so an organized essay won’t be forthcoming. Oh well. The thoughts will roam my head and bump into each other spawning new thoughts quite possibly on entirely different subjects. And then I’ll spill them in here as a way to capture the shape of them before they mutate yet again.

“whys” and haircuts

I think it is cosmically unfair to inflict two children in the “why?” stage on me at once. Someone somewhere has to be laughing. I don’t mind Link asking why. He is usually honestly seeking information. There are just so many subjects on which he is less than fully informed as yet. Gleek’s “why?” is a different story. It seems to be some kind of an instinctive automatic conversation extender. I’m not even sure she hears the answers or cares to process the information. She’s only been doing it for 2 days and it’s already annoying. And then I look down at the little face with the big trusting eyes and I realize I simply have to feed this hungry little mind no matter how frustrating the process may be.

Kiki created the first major challenge to the New World Order just recently. She cut her own bangs. Normally this kind of offense is cause for much scolding and upset. This time I just looked at the bangs (a picture of which could have served as the definitions of “crooked” and “hacked”) and realized that SHE was the one who would have to live with them. So I merely said “Did you cut your hair?” She came nigh to denying it, but didn’t. I then ascertained that the scissors hadn’t been left where Gleek could get them and made Kiki clean up the mess. She was pretty relieved not to be scolded and then asked if I would help her cut them straighter. Had she not asked, I would not have offered. I seriously considered making her go to a professional haircutter and pay for the haircut out of her own money. But she asked so nicely, that I did help trim them. Now they’re shorter than we’d like, but they aren’t crooked anymore. And look at all the stress and crying I sidestepped. I feel pretty good about that.

New World Order

Well I’ve survived the end of school. Tomorrow begins the first week of summer with attendant non-schedule. My kids are in for a little surprise. I’m changing the house rules for the summer. On school mornings if we can get kids up, fed, and out the door I’m happy. Beds made and teeth adequately brushed are a nice bonus. This summer I get mean.

Before they can turn on any form of electronic entertainment or go to a friend’s house they have to do their 5 morning things (Eat, dress, make-bed, brush teeth, fix hair), one chore (I get to pick it), and their room needs to be clean. I figure, during the school year their work is to go to school. During the summer they need to learn how to help around the house. When they are on the ball, this requirement takes 30 minutes or less, when they’re not, it can take all day long.

I’ve also instituted a stress relieving system for me. I’ve decided I’m not responsible for taking care of their things. I hadn’t realized how much energy I spent preventing damage to beloved items for fear of upsets and replacement costs. I’ve decided that I shouldn’t be stressing that stuff. If they damage a toy beyond repair, my job is to sympathize and wipe tears and find something else for them to do. If the item needs replaced, then the child who did the damage can pay for the replacement out of allowance or money earned doing chores. (Money chores can only be done AFTER regular chores.) If I child wants to take a toy or blanket to a public place like a grocery store, then the child needs to keep track of it and carry it, not me.

Oh and if they leave their stuff lying around the house. I’ll ask them to pick it up. Once. If they don’t pick it up, then I will. I will put it in “Jail” (a box in my closet) and it can only be bailed out by an extra chore.

Told you I was getting mean.

The good news for the kids is that I’ve already begun some of these changes and the resultant lower stress level has turned me into a mom who is more willing to play. I’m not shouldering so much of the work and so I’m not tired and resentful when the work is all done. I think that once they get used to it the kids are going to like this as much as I do.

My day

It’s funny how people run on auto-pilot, talking without even thinking. At the grocery store today, only moments after overhearing me loudly scolding my kids, the clerk said “And how are you today?” I was also on auto-pilot and answered “Just fine.” then I thought for a moment and added “No, actually I’m not. I’ve had a really lousy day.”
She then expressed sympathy and I made sure she was aware that I didn’t blame her. It’d feel better if I could blame someone. That’d give focus the anger and frustration (which have faded to a lingering grumpy) But sometimes it really isn’t anyone’s fault.

I’ve decided that I’m allowed to have lousy days. I can have all the lousy days I want as long as I don’t try to lay blame elsewhere just to feel better. If I’m having a lousy day, I need to face up to the fact that it is MY lousy day and if I want it to be not lousy I am the one who needs to do something about it. In a weird way, just sitting here and laying claim to the lousiness of this day has made me feel alot better.

Now if I can just keep the kids from getting sick. We’ve had 10 doctor’s appointments and 12 prescriptions in the last month. Even with good insurance that starts adding up. Not to mention the costs in energy and lost sleep.

Anyway, I’m off upstairs to go kick the lousy out of the rest of my day. He’ll have to go find somewhere else to camp.

Not about the kids . . . mostly

I just skimmed back through my journal and realize that it’s all full of kid-stuff. This mommy gig has really taken over my life. In fact in a recent conversation with Hawklady she asked about my hobbies and all of my aswers were in the form of: “Well I used to ( ), but I haven’t had time for it lately.” I was going to put a metaphor here that used the phrase “tendrils creeping through my life and taking over” but the metaphor engine seems to have seized up. I think you get the idea anyway.

I guess I’m just most comfortable talking about the kids. I know I can spin the words right to make things funny. It also helps that I have lots and lots of material to draw on. Finding other things to say is harder. For in-person conversations I can follow the lead of the other person or people. My preferred mode is to lurk and people watch. It’s one of the reasons (far from the only one) I find being married to Howard so nice. He does “outgoing” better than I do.

Anyway the point of all of this is that I intended to write an entry about something besides children. I guess I kind of did, but I think talking about being Mom is only just this side of the line.

So, um. . .Fandemonium! It’s coming up this August and I’m really looking forward to it. It’ll be my first chance to meet in person some of the friends I’ve made online. A fact which will no doubt have me really nervous as the event gets closer, but right now it is comfortably 2 months off and so I can be excited without stress yet. Howard and I will be bringing along our Star Munchkin cards in hopes of rounding up a small group of people to play with. It is a really fun game. We may also bring along Falling and Give Me The Brain neither of which we’ve really had a chance to play yet, but which also look like lots of fun. Cards anyone?

Delving

I’ve begun prepping for our family vacation which begins one week from Saturday. Mostly I’m making lists. This trip is to a family camp where the kids run off with counsellors all day leaving parents to their own activities. There is even a day care for Patches. So what I really need to do is figure out what I’m going to do with myself with no kids around. I had the same problem when we attended the camp last year. Who am I when I’m not Mom?

The question has been underlined by some conversations I’ve had lately. One was a really nice online chat with Hawklady. She was kindly interested in my hobbies and I found myself saying many variations on the them “Well I used to do this, but I haven’t had time for it lately.” I’ve also gained the impression that some of you who have friended me, veiw me as some sort of uber-mom or mecha-mom. Someone who Has It Together, what ever “it” is. There are certain days I’d agree with you. It’s the other days and hours and minutes that don’t get elaborated into this journal in detail. The times when I just want to hide from the children. When I over-scold because I’m stressed about something entirely different. Those are the moments when I long to have something besides being Mom.

I have no major regrets about the choices I’ve made in my life. Perhaps I’m unusual that way. I don’t know. I love where I am. I love my life and my family. And the larger part of me feels that I’ll get back to all those things that I haven’t had time for lately. But there is a small voice in the back of my head that wishes this Mom busines hadn’t threaded it’s tendrils so thoroughly through my whole existence. Who would I have been? Who am I now besides Mom?

I’m not even sure it is a fair question. I don’t think I can dissect the peices of myself to get a clear picture of what the whole is. Taking out the parts of me that are Mom would surely destroy me. Something might rise from the ashes, but she would be changed, not the Me that I am now. I don’t wish for that. I don’t wish to be Not-Mom. Even though that may seem to contradict what I’ve said above it is very very true. Perhaps what I really wish for is more time and energy. I wish I could be an even better mom than I currently am and still have time and energy to write stories, or draw, or sew, or do something else that is just for me.

Here is my assignment. During Aspen Grove I have to write a story, with pictures. A short story and I need to finish it.

Movie night!

All the kids are abed and Buffy Season Six came in the mail today. I know what I’m going to do right now! Night all.

No Buffy Spoilers please! I haven’t seen this season yet.

Field Day

For those who are unfamiliar with this tradition, Field Day is the day at the end of the school year where the teachers herd their young charges out to the fields around the school to play games. They do tug-o-war, and relays, and 50 yard dashes, and basically run the kids around until they’re exhausted. Then during the “lunch” break the PTA raises funds by selling the kids sugar. Lots of sugar. All of it highly refined with artificial colors and flavors added. There is one hell-food that doesn’t even pretend to be anything else. It is colored, flavored sugar powder in a straw. Then with the kids so wired they can’t see straight, they run a few more games to work the sugar into the system and send the kids home for the parents to deal with.

My kids had a great time at field day. Kiki’s team won the tug-o-war. Link got to show off his newly missing tooth to all and sundry. Gleek got to run around in large open spaces and climb on things that weren’t meant to be climbed. Even Patches had fun. He got a lollipop which he applied in a sticky layer all over his face and hands. Then he got cheetos which adhered to the layer of sticky creating a substance previously unknown to man. He added a second coating of sticky from a ring pop as a kind of varnish. He loved it. (Note: I don’t think Patches actually ingested any of this sugar in measurable quantities, smearing was the game of the day.)

And then there was the aftermath. Patches crashed into a nap during the five minute drive home. I also discovered he acquired his first ever facial sunburn. (Bad mommy, forgot the sunscreen) Gleek also crashed into a nap, but only after the sugar high had worn off. I think she’s a little sick as well, she had croup last night. Now she’s up and I hope tonight will be better. Link seems to have suffered no ill effects. Kiki, on some kind of not-thinking-things-through sugar high, played a game out back which involved stripping all of the petals off of all of the in-reach roses from all 10 rosebushes. There were multicolor petals strewn all over the backyard. She topped it off by accidently breaking a branch off of one of our Silver Maple saplings. Fortunately it was a branch that we were going to have to eventually cut off anyway, it was too low. As restitution Kiki had to trim the rosebushes correctly so that in about a month they’ll all bloom again. That’s the nice thing about plants, they survive and grow back.

Anyway, we survived field day. There won’t be another one for a year. And my kids will have no more sugar for the next month at least.

Kid logic

Children have very different perspectives from adults. The other day I heard giggles and shouts of “boo!” from kids in the kitchen. As I usually do with auditorily unidentifiable behavior, I went to check on them. Link and Gleek were taking turns scaring the fly that had come into the house. I went for the fly swatter since lunch was obviously not going to get eaten until the intruder had been eradicated. The kids met the sight of the swatter with loud protests. “Mom! Let’s keep him! He’s funny!” Pet flies. To avoid major upsets, the fly got a stay of execution on the condition that the kids Sit And Eat. They did. But when they ran off to do something else . . . no more fly.

It amazes me sometimes the mental and physical contortions I go through to appease the four small dictators in my house. Last Monday I had to walk back inside Gleek’s gym class to retrieve the imaginary dog that we’d forgotten. Her teachers were highly amused. Gleek was amused too. As soon as I got back into the car she informed me that I hadn’t brought “the other one” I tried to convince her that I had “See honey, it’s right there in your lap.” With a who-do-you-think-you’re-kidding look, Gleek said “No it isn’t. Go get it!” I was willing to retrieve the first dog because she was honestly upset and in tears that we’d left it, but the second dog seemed to be an exercise in making-mommy-do-stuff. I said “Oh look it’s coming to us. It’s jumping through the open car window! Here he is. He jumps into your lap! Isn’t he a funny dog?” Apparently this was satisfactory because she immediately manufactured a third dog whom she wanted to have me jump through the window. I informed her that we were only allowed to have two dogs and it was time to go. After a pause for thought, she deemed that I’d done sufficient appeasement and we drove home without further incident.

The sad thing is that I do stuff like that all the time. Or maybe it is a glad thing. Because the worlds my children live in are such different places from the one I inhabit. I think in their worlds the colors are brighter. There is a soundtrack for Gleek’s, I’ve heard bits of it. I know that Link’s world is full of special effects. Kiki’s has fairies and unicorns and a sea dragon named Sarah. I remember living in a place like those once. I remember being able to pretend so well that I could actually see what I was pretending. It’s been a long time, and I’ve forgotten how to get there on my own. But my children guide me to places I’ve forgotton how to go by myself.

Frog sitting

I’ve discovered a new parenting tactic. Like many of my favorite tactics it happened on the spur of the moment. I came home from the trip to my brother’s house with a sense that I need to be doing a better job of making my kids accountable for their own choices. I also need to be doing a better job of requiring them to help make our home a nice place to be.

So Sunday night after our three hour car trip, the kids were showing me brownian motion in action and I needed a way to quell them enough for them to pay attention to me. If you can control the hands and feet of kids it is very difficult for them to move the rest, so I said in a loud voice. “Sit down and put your hands on your feet.” The novelty of this command was such that they did it instantly. Quiet. Motionless. It was amazing. I then informed them that this position was called the frog sit. (I’ve no idea where I pulled the name from) And if they didn’t follow my next instructions or got distracted, they would have to frog sit for 3 minutes to think about not getting distracted. I then ordered them into their pajamas. They ran upstairs and did it.

It works really really well on Kiki and Link. Kiki has yet to have to frog sit. Link has had two sessions because of distractions. It doesn’t work so well on Gleek. I have to stand right over her to keep her frog sitting which is time consuming. The true art of parenting is applying consequences to your kids which don’t punish you even worse than the kids. Patches is too young for frog sitting to even begin to work.

I figure the consequences of frog sitting only apply during the brief periods of the day when I’m giving multiple instructions to multiple kids and I need them to keep themselves on task. Times like bedtime or chore time. Hopefully it’ll keep on working. If it doesn’t I’ll have to get creative AGAIN.